“Stories within a Matryoshka Doll”
August 2, 2022, 12:07 PM

Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.  Isaiah 1:17

Learn to do good.  Really?  I think I am probably good enough most of the time.  I do seek justice, work to rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and stand up for the widow.  I do these things, EXCEPT when I don’t like the other person.  Herein, lies the problem.  How good am I when I only want to be good to people of my choosing?  Isaiah implies that we do not automatically DO good. but we need to LEARN to do good. 

When we look at the life of Jesus, we see that he was effective in working with people because he saw people in depth.  From the surface of their being all the way to their inner core, Jesus realized that people have layers in their being.  When I think of layered, I think of a Matryoshka doll – a nesting doll where one doll fits in the inside of the next sized doll (often with the same design on the outside). 

Imagine that each one of us has a series of dolls within our being.  The smallest doll in our center is like a child – impulsive, demanding, self-centered, impatient, and unaware of how his/her nature affects others.  If the child does not get his/her way, it screams and yells.  Most of us grow out of this stage, although not all of us.  Jesus recognized this trait in King Herod, and Jesus did not play Herod’s game. 

The middle-sized Matryoshka doll is our perpetual adolescent self who takes cues from others in the same group.  Members feel powerful, privileged, and entitled.  They think that they can define reality.  (Think of the Big Lie.)  Today, we find the same characteristics across all political and religious groups.  Jesus saw these traits being acted out with the Romans and the Pharisees.  Jesus did not play their game. 

The largest Matryoshka doll represents a mature, all-encompassing view of the world.  This doll recognizes the reality of the other dolls within it, but now also embraces a larger world view – one that sees Christ as its center.  This doll is universal, compassionate, humble, merciful, and just.  It does not listen to the voices of those who disrespect the gifts of God in terms of creation or the creatures of creation. 

Most individuals in our culture today are stuck at the middle level of the Matryoshka doll, especially those in religious groups.  Divisions form; fights break out; people leave; parishes split.  It is “group think” at its worse.  And, we wonder why younger people do not wish to attend a “hypocritical church” that preaches love and does the opposite. 

The call of Christ is to move beyond adolescence and self-centeredness.  It requires a real “death-to-self;” and then a resurrection in Christ where old things are passed away and all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).   Death-to-self is not comfortable, nor easily chosen.  It usually comes when we have exhausted all options and have nothing left to lose.  That is when we LEARN to do good. 

When was the last time you had nothing left to lose? 

Prayers and Blessings,

Fr. John