Friday, April 18, 2014

Parameters Set

My Good Friday reflection comes, as most great ones do, from the Green Lantern cartoon. In Season 1, Episode 4 (appropriately: "Into the Abyss"), their ship's AI (named "Aya" by Hal Jordan poorly-pronounced "AI" as a word) has helped them save the day. Aya transferred her program to a collective of small, insect-like robots to help rescue a ship falling into a black hole. Her involvement becomes apparent, as does the risk she took. Apparently, if the robots were destroyed in the rescue attempt, Aya's program would have been destroyed with them.

She's chastised by the two present Green Lanterns, Hal and Kilowog: 
Hal Jordan: It was dangerous to up and leave your post. We need to set a few parameters, young lady.

Aya: A Green Lantern protects innocent life, even at the risk of their own, correct?

Kilowog: Wait. Wait a minute. Aya, you do understand you're a navcom, not a Green Lantern, right? You can't be a GL.

Aya: Why not? 

Kilowog: Well, first off, the ring's got to pick you.

Aya: Why?

Kilowog: Look. Green Lanterns’ positively got to have a physical body to walk around and interact with people, not a bunch of creepy bugs.

Aya: Parameters set.

The “creepy bugs” proceed to reconfigure into a humanoid body. The green energy that powers the rings flows into that body, and she speaks. “A body like this?” There are at least two interesting things happening here. First, she gets a body. Second, she accepts why a body is neede.

She gets a body.  It’s assembled from the “bugs” that she teleoperated. They’re part of the ship, part of the “world” she lives in. Her body is formed from those parts, and then the power (literally, the energy powering the ship) flows into her body. It fills her from the bottom up, like water filling a glass. Aya is formed from the cyber-dust of her world and then filled with the power that gives her life. Though art parts of the ship, and to parts of the ship you shall return.

She also accepts why that body is needed. Kilowog stumbles for an explanation, saying that a body is needed to interact with people. That’s true, but that’s only a partial answer to why she accepts the need for a body. She doesn’t want to just “walk around and interact”—that is not her end, only the newly discovered means.  The end is something she was taught earlier, and she brings it up as her defense—the apologia for why she risked herself. “A Green Lantern protects innocent life, even at the risk of their own”. She needs a body, so she can offer it for others. She needs a body so that body can be put in harm’s way for the sake of others.

Jesus took on a body, as well. He, too, formed his own body from the “parts” laying around—knit together in His blessed mother’s womb. (Ps139:13) He filled it with His human and divine soul.

Why? Why did He need a body? He tells us: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat;  but if it dies, it produces much fruit.... it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.” (John12:24,27b; cf Mt 16:21, Lk 9:22) 

He walked around and interacted, yes, but that was not the reason—not the end—of the Incarnation. The purpose was to suffer and die, to put His body in harm’s way for the sake of others—and not for innocents but for sinners.

He needed a body to be nailed to the cross.

To save us from the abyss of sin and death.

To suffer and die for you.

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We Know Not What We May Be

We know what we are, but know not what we may be. - Hamlet, IV, 5

In that philosophical line from Hamlet, Ophelia is talking about transformation of the body, but it also applies to transformation of the mind and soul. Isn't this true for all of us, for all Christians? We know what we are now in so many ways. Medical science, biochemistry, kinesiology, psychology, and sociology - as well as poetry, art, music, and so on - tell us a lot about ourselves. They tell us about our bodies, our minds, and our souls. We know what we are, but we have no idea what we may be.

Science, psychology, philosophy, religion - none can tell us about the state of our souls. There is no way to measure or calculate out the ultimate choice that we've made, for good or evil, love or disobedience.

John writes a similar line--one I'm sure Shakespeare was familiar with--in his first letter:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2)
What we know is that we are God's children. We know His promises for the future, and we can trust in them.

Moreover, John tells us that "the word does not know us" because "it did not know him."  For the world to know us--to really know who we are, not just as Christians but as humans--they must know Him. That goes for us as well. We're not exempt. We know ourselves better as we know Him better.

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