One of the things I like in the name Cristianisme i Justícia is that it contains an insight that seems to me very precious and true: the way in which we organise our relationships –political, economic, social– has a direct impact on our experience of God, and vice versa.  

I believe that it is clear to everyone –believers or not– that gratuity is the source of revelation. When we experience it, something significant – even very important and decisive – is revealed to us about how life is or what it is destined to become. A religious person can then take a leap and speak of the Kingdom, of God, of whichever of those categories or realities that emerge with gratuity. For this reason we derive so much help from analyses that show us how we are organising our relationships, or from what part of us we understand them, to comprehend to what extent we are making room or not for this experience. 

If we agree that the revelation and the experience of God are experiences of Gratuity, it seems logical to think that a system –allow me the abstraction– which emphasises interest as the basis of relationships between people will tend to conceal or underrate such gratuity, perhaps even ridicule it. Because of this we cannot resign ourselves to accepting that our experiences of Gratuity –secular or religious– have nothing to say to a system that laughs at them: up to a certain point, they depend on such a system. What is more, if the experience of Gratuity is concealed or rendered difficult, we are going to pay the consequences in the centre of our being. Let’s take an example.  

Let’s imagine that I interest somebody as a potential buyer of a toaster, and this somebody starts to give me reasons why I should buy it. This is not, of course, about speaking badly of toasters, which allow us, among other things, to enjoy a tastier breakfast; nor is it about buying or selling, such an ancient and, up to a certain extent, venerable practice. But it is about being aware of how I am being introduced into a relationship of interest: he or she who tells me how good and intelligent I am if I buy a toaster has every interest in doing so, and this is logical: I am cherished as a potential buyer of a toaster.  

This is obviously a banal example but I believe that its logic is decisive, because the relationships that we establish are those that go on gradually revealing our identity, and it is in the midst of them that a person can become a believer in something or in Someone (rounding this identity off, up to where it is healthy to do so). If I am cherished as a potential buyer of a toaster, I am cherished for an interest –a small interest withal, because a toaster will never have enough of a dimension to encompass the whole of me– not for being who I am, and I believe that it is clear to everyone that the relationships that build our identity with more joy and truth are those in which we are cherished for being who we are, gratuitously. That is why the experience of no longer being loved is so painful:  it is not only about losing a partner, for example, but also about no longer knowing, for a moment –or, who knows, for a long time– who I am, as I dwell in fear and hopelessness. As Simone de Beauvoir related so well in The Woman Destroyed.  

Let us come back to the issue and bring it to a close. For a system of relationships that tends to tell me who I am according to interest –and let us be quite clear that this is not simply limited to the word capitalism– one day I am a potential buyer of a toaster, the next the seller of fantastic toasters, the next the government official with access to new toasters in exchange for a little “help.” And so many other things. In the midst of this reductive logic of interest it is not easy to experience a Gratuity that leaves us glad for the simple fact of being who we are. It is fine that a space exists for selling and buying toasters, but it is troubling when all of reality becomes drenched in such logic. 

In the final scene of The Woman Destroyed, Monique looks in fear and hopelessness at the closed doors, that of the study of her husband who has abandoned her, and that of her double bedroom. After suffering so much from her story, we wonder: whom shall we allow to tell us who we are? And we return to this small consideration: shall we let Interest be the one who tells us, or these miraculous spaces of Gratuity?  

[Image by 愚木混株 Cdd20 from Pixabay]

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Jesuit in training. He studies the Licentiate in Fundamental Theology at the Pontificia Facoltà Teologica dell´Italia Meridionale in Naples. He collaborates with the association Figli in famiglia in the neighborhood of San Giovanni a Teduccio.
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