American culture is reeling: Roe v. Wade has been overturned, gun violence has become a pervasive news item, the war in Ukraine is cranking up shortages and egging on inflation. History has a messge for us in all of this: Americans are as we have always been: restless, contentious, angry and outspoken. There is fervor and ferocity in the ways we are grappling with the polarities among us, and there is an urgency about perceptions, impatience with process and conflicting purposes and perspectives. As a Catholic, living through this and through this tumultuous time period for the insitutional church and its representatives, there is so much to think about, to consider. After all, St.Irenaeus’ ancient intimation about “fully human, fully alive” resonates with relevance.
To be fully human is to experience the full depth and breadth of our selves: the continuum of emotions, the variegated choices, the inevitable flaws and foibles. It demands the fullness of who we are intellectually, socially, spiritually and emotionally, to live with the sense that who we are matters and what we do, how we do it and when we do it makes a difference for self and others. It means recognizing strengths and weaknesses, and discovering over and over that options do exist and choosing wisely actually can happen. Most of all, it means allowing acknowledgement that we are all only human and created of those same fibers of emotion, spirit, heart and intellect. We all live within the frameworks of time and circumstance and struggle to do the best we can with what we have at the moment. To be fully alive, then, is to embrace the wisdom that human experience offers and dare to see with clear vision, to hear less and listen more, to speak with openness and question with a kind curiosity, to touch with tender care and support with trustworthy fortitude.
Facing the floodgates of social change and battling age-old institutional fragilities, to be “fully human, fully alive” is more important than ever. Facing fears, implementing ideas, designing processes and taking steps are viable when we realize that we are called, by virtue of being, to be fully human and fully alive. The two are meant for each of us and all of us; no one is in this alone. We were born for freedom, and the readings for this week point out that we are meant to serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement,namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. In a time quaking with uncertainty and vested in violence, there is also the warning: But if you go on biting and devouring one another,beware that you are not consumed by one another. History captures the stories of those who have been devoured and consumed, made the ultimate sacrifice and suffered the greatest griefs. But there are other threads of history: the triumphs that suggest that the chance to be fully human and fully alive is afforded to each of us. Look around: young mothers pushing baby strollers, fathers fishing with a child, grandparents celebrating new births, mourners finding comfort in the arms of friends, new relationships and shared harmonies, avid discussions, intellectual exchanges, tough questioning, defined ideals and wrestling with the real. We are like the generations before us who dared to bring us to this point. It is ours to recognize our freedom, choose to serve and become fully human, and fully alive.