by Garry Richmeier, C.PP.S., Kansas City, Missouri
“I entrust this charge to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophetic words once spoken about you. Through them may you fight the good fight by having faith and a good conscience” 1 Tm. 1:18.
St. Paul gives this encouragement to Timothy in a passage instructing Timothy to fight against blasphemers, transgressors, and others who teach something different than Paul. With these words and others which express the same sentiment, Paul helped to establish “battle between opposites” as a main focus/activity of Christianity.
Examples of battle imagery in our tradition are everywhere. We have Michael the Archangel fighting for us against Satan. We have the Blue Army and other such groups. The Church Militant and the Church Triumphant are traditional titles for our church. We tell our young people that they are “soldiers of Christ” at Confirmation.
This militaristic self-image is accompanied by corresponding actions, of course. In all areas of life—religion, politics, economics, human relations, nature, human qualities, etc.—we are required to identify what/who is good and what/who is bad. Then we must try to eliminate (fight against) the bad. Of course it is a losing battle because the “bad” is part and parcel of ourselves and the world, and it can never be completely eliminated. So we sentence ourselves to a life of perpetual battle, fighting against an enemy that can’t be defeated, having to endure all the collateral damage. In this view, our only hope for finding peace and rest is the end of the world when Christ comes. This is the hope of some fundamentalist movements who look forward to the day that humans destroy themselves.
Is this the life humanity is destined to live till the end of time? Are the battles between religions, races, nations, sexes just the way it is and always will be? Is there no way out; no possibility of a different reality?
In her book The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three, Cynthia Bourgeault attempts to describe how humanity can find a way out of perpetual battle. She expands and adapts G. I. Gurdjieff’s theory of the Law of Three to this end. Very simply put, the Law of Three proposes that any creation of something new in the cosmos is always a result of three interacting forces. A simple example is the art of sailing. The wind is one force that pushes, the sail boat is the second force that resists the wind. Nothing really happens until the third force is introduced, the person at the helm. What is then created that didn’t exist before is the movement of the boat in a desired direction. Many other common examples can be cited. In a rather complicated theological/philosophical treatise, Bourgeault proposes that the cosmos itself came into being as a result of the three forces of the Trinity.
At our Provincial Assembly, Joyce Rupp spoke of Compassion as it relates to Reconciliation. She described true compassion as a necessary ingredient in bridging the gaps that separate us as human beings. In the language of the Law of Three, reconciliation (a new relationship) is what is created when the three forces of you, me, and compassion come together. It is the third force of compassion that enables the two, sometimes conflicting forces/people, to create a new reality, a new relationship—something besides battle.
Also at the Assembly, David Kelly described the work of reconciliation using examples from his ministry in Chicago. A number of times he said that reconciliation requires us to “stand in the breach” between perpetrators and victims in order to facilitate restorative justice and healing. It is this “third force” of standing with the victim and perpetrator with compassion that creates something new, something other than pain, anger, hurt, and retribution.
David also explained why the justice system in our country doesn’t work well. At first glance, it would seem that it follows the Law of Three and should create something new. There is the victim of violence, the perpetrator of violence, and the court system. But the court system simply adds doses of violence to the situation through incarceration or capital punishment. It adds nothing new to the equation and continues to mire society in the same old embattled “Law of Two.”
Part of our mission as Precious Blood Missionaries is to renew the Church. This implies creating something new. According to the Law of Three, we are able to create something that hasn’t existed before in the Church and the world, and eliminate the need to fight against ourselves. This is possible only if we are able to resist joining in the popular move toward polarization (the Law of Two) and somehow provide a third energy. As David Kelly and Joyce Rupp said, this third force/energy is nothing new to us, but it is often forgotten. It is Compassion, which leads to reconciliation, which can create a new world.