Saturday, December 13, 2014

The... challenge......for ...new.... lenses.....


Advent 2014, never before, never again, is coming to us, here and now, with an eternal newness. A newness that always challenges us to put on a new set of lenses so we will have the faith and courage to let go of the certainty and the security of the past. For what purpose? So we can free ourselves to be lost in The Mystery that is "ever ancient and ever new." A mystery we are celebrating, anew, this Advent season, but the question has to be asked are we ready for the newness? There is an eternal newness to our living God. As we participate in this newness there must be a newness that is revealed in us and through us, for others. What we are given is never for ourselves. (St. Paul)This newness is presented in the every ordinary, yet, ever new moment, we are given to live. It is in the living of each moment that the living God, of Jesus the Christ comes to us and through us to all of creation. This is The Great Advent which is forever happening, in the sacrament of eternal now. The coming, this advent of God which is a moment to moment reality, is the mystery we spend four weeks reflecting on each and every year. The purpose of this reflective time is to a deeper our faith in the newness of our God. Because of the newness of our God there must be a newness within each one of us, since in Him/Her "we live and move and have our being." How exciting, how challenging that reality is??? Are we ready to embrace the challenge, of leaving behind comfort and certainty so as to journey into the great unknown of faith?


“We are driven blindly along a path we have never seen or heard of, unable to venture any other. Divine action never follows the same course; it always traces out new paths. Those whom it leads NEVER know where they are going; they will not find the way through or by their own searching. Divine action for ever opens the way which we are compelled to take." J-P De Caussade. My ego wants no part of this insecurity and uncertainty. My ego wants the security of certainty, and when that certainty disappears, which it will; there is serious fear-filled panic. On the other hand, my spirit wants to fly free into the unknown. To be blown this way and that way by the breath of The Creative Spirit of Love. The Holy Spirit is the creative power of our God, creating and recreating us ever anew. The Creator God is forever molding us and shaping us into the person we are meant to be, not the person we want, or wish to be. The Model we are modeled after is coming to dwell among us. He is coming to be enfleshed within our flesh, which is The Mystery of the Incarnation. Through this mystery we are provided with a living, and so an ever evolving model to follow. We cannot enter a newness of life being modeled after some dead inanimate object. When we make this error we pay a terrible price. Our Eternal, Living God comes to live among us so as to lead us to live lives way beyond anything our imagination could ever imagine. Lives that are only possible through the action of Grace. Grace, we know, is the love of God in action. That action is always within the reality of the here and now. Once we go outside the reality of the here and now God cannot reach us. We are not disposing ourselves for the only encounter that really matters. For that we are responsible, the gift of free will can be such a blessing, but it also can be such a curse. All gifts follow the same pattern.


This Spirit, then, blows where It wills, and in the way of its own choosing. Darn it. This Spirit cannot be programmed to fit our little narrow agenda. This requires of us a constant state of awareness and alertness to the battle that, of necessity, will, and does, ensue. It is happening right now in the depths of who we are. It is a moment to moment struggle which results in the old passes away, to give way to the birthing of the new. This too, in time, will lead to a newness which we must make room for. So, in every life is sown the seeds of death, in every death there is in potency, the reality of new life. This new life will be nourished into the fullness of life through the miracle of grace, not by anything we may say or do. I am beginning to appreciate more and more the words of St. John of The Cross, “We journey to Him we do not know, a path we do not know.” Our journey, in faith, is then a journey into the darkness of insecurity, and uncertainty. A journey that somehow is guided and guarded by a power beyond our understanding and comprehension. A book, I find both challenging, and unsettling, is 'The Sacrament of the Present Moment" by Jean-Pierre De Caussade. Writing about this journey into the darkness of faith he has this to say “Those who find themselves this way are often afraid, like the prophet, to follow it afraid of running into danger when walking through that darkness. Have no fear faithful souls! That is where your path lies, the way along which your God is guiding you. THERE IS NOTHING SAFER OR SURER THAN THE DARK NIGHT OF FAITH. Following in any way when faith is so obscure and darkness obliterates everything and the path can no longer be discerned, for a path cannot be lost which does not exist. But the soul cries out: "Every moment I seem to be falling down a precipice. I know I am surrendering myself to God that I can achieve nothing unless I cease to act on the strength of my own virtue.....I cannot see that it is guiding me in the right direction, but I cannot prevent myself from believing that it is"...The state of pure faith is the state of pure suffering. All is dark, all is pain.... The more pitfalls there are, the more darkness, danger, mortification, dryness, fear, privation, trouble, anguish, despair, persecution, suffering, and desolation there is on our way, the more our faith and trust will be strengthened...We will forget the way and all its twists and turns, we will forget ourselves and totally surrender to the wisdom, the mercy, and the power of our guide.


This Guide is coming to us, disguised as a helpless, vulnerable baby. We are on an endless searching journey. A mysterious journey that will take us beyond that which is seen into the realm of mystery and the unseen. This Advent let us look beyond the familiar so as to get in touch with the great unseen. This unseen is our deepest and most sacred reality. Let us take the familiar characters of the Gospel story, and see where each makes a dwelling place within us. As you place the figures of your crib scene, search your inner space for the place where they are now dwelling. They are patiently waiting, and have been waiting in your depths, so as to be discovered and become living realities. In this way you as individual, couples, families, will have the lived experience of what it means to be, the living continuation of The Mystery of The Incarnation.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

" NOT... in... clock...time...."



"Look not backward in anger, forward in fear, but around in awareness," is something I read many years ago. As we approach the end of the Liturgical Year it is good, no necessary, to keep these words front and center. Why? Well as we listen to the scriptures, about the end of time, we can lose focus on "the here and now." When we lose touch with "the here and now," we lose touch with reality, and so with The Real. All we will ever have is "the here and now," and is here, in the right now, our Gracious God is reaching out to us. We, for our part, must be ready for the gifts that  are offered to us, in each and every moment. There is no moment that we are not being offered that which we need for a healthy, and whole (holy), life. These gifts come to us disguised as, "everyday living," which unfortunately we can, and do take for granted. We begin to see them as a right, rather than as a gift. A gift that is not intended for ourselves, but for others. Thank God, we are challenged to see beyond our little agendas, to a vision of the greater picture, the coming of The Kingdom. This kingdom is where we will encounter, and also be the place of other encounters, with that which is essential for healthy, human dwelling.  I speak here of peace, justice and love. These are the three  essentials we need for  lives of peace and harmony with ourselves, and as a consequence with others. Let us remind ourselves that the state of the individual soul, decides the state of a family's reality, and by extension, the state of the nation and world. There are times then when the peace of the world is in serious danger, because of the war within our depths.

           I guess that is why our Pope is placing so much emphasis on healthy spirituality. A healthy spirituality is concerned with making us aware of the fact that our God is encountering us where we are, not where we would like to be, or where we are supposed to be, or expected to be. That covers an awe-full amount of space. We cannot live a healthy spiritual life in the illusion of expectation. That is not living in reality, the place where The Real, has its dwelling place. Reality is all about the here and now, and this is the place of our encounter with our Prodigal Father/Mother God. This is always a new experience, because we are ever new in our becoming. Through the action of grace we are always in the process of becoming that which our God has intended us to be. We are to be the living and active presence of His Son, Jesus Christ, who is in turn, the revelation of The Living God. Each one is a sacrament of God, a dignity that must ever be cherished, and celebrated. As we read the many encounters between The Prophet Jesus and those in need we become more aware of the readiness of Jesus to meet the person or persons in the reality of their situation. There was never a question of qualifying for the gift that was to be offered. Jesus was able to see the essential goodness of His creation standing, or lying in His presence. He was able to see beyond the narrow vision of religious law, to the all embracing acceptance of The Prodigal God, He came to reveal to us through His life and ministry. He came to model, for those who were called to be His followers, how life was to be led. Thank God, we have begun a return to an ever deepening understanding of the Gospel's good news, and how it applies to our "here and now."


As it was in the '60s so it is today, we face a battle, a struggle between the forces of rigidity and compassion.  As it was, so it is, and unfortunately will be until the end of time. Through all of the struggles, we have to have that confidence that the Holy Spirit is making all things work together for the good of all. History just keeps on repeating itself. It will take a real change in consciousness to change that pattern. From what I have read there seems to be a new consciousness emerging from the present struggles of a broken humanity ever emerging into a wholeness, a oneness.  There is a new creation on its way.  Let us then be instruments of healthy change, reflected in us being spirituality healthy.  We can do this by adopting the following way of living the life given to us to live. Let us "leave our yesterday to the mercy of God, tomorrow to the providence of God, so we can line in and enjoy the love of God today." Easy to write, easy to say but so difficult to do. There is such a difference between the "saying" and the "doing."  I guess that is why we do not think our way into a new way of acting, we must act our way into a new way of thinking.  Right??  I have to learn that lesson, over and over, and over again.

             This leads us to have to face the harsh reality which comes with us being spiritual beings immersed in the human condition (Chardin). We are always coming up short.  No one has it wired.  That is why the parable of the wheat and the weeds is so essential for a gentle understanding of self and others.  Spiritual living, that is healthy spiritual living, will eventually challenge us to admit the following, what we thought was a strength, was actually a weakness, and what was seen as a weakness is now the place where the transforming power of grace is encountered. Because of this encounter a newer and a deeper understanding of what it means to be loved, as the beloved is revealed.  This is a slow process.  It is done in Kairos time, in other words, in God's time.  God's time cannot be measured.  I guess heaven, like Las Vegas, has no clocks.



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Trust…In…The…Wonder

At the end of the last blog there was an effort made to encourage the slow reflective reading of the quote from Henri Nouwen. Why? Because within those words there is contained so much of what we seek, and yearn for. They convey to both you and me, who we are in the love of our Gracious, Prodigal and always surprising God. Pope Francis recently reminded us that our God Is a God Who surprises. Our God breaks into our lives, as scripture warns us, “at a time we least expect.” I think you will agree that our God not only comes when we least expect, but in disguises that blow us away. God is the God of uncertainty, not certainty. What we all must accept is that we cannot box God into a neat package. A package that we construct with our finite minds. A lot of pride there. The Indefinable we decide to define. There is a warning that comes to us from Africa, “To define something, is to KILL it” Have we not borne the brunt of pain brought about by the narrowing of the understanding of The Incomprehensible. When efforts are made, as our Pope is doing, to broaden the horizons, there is war. We see that played out every day now. The Pope is slowly guiding us to a newer and a more inclusive understanding of God’s love for all of His/Her creation. This means we have to change our old ideas, let them go so that a newer and a fuller understanding may be ours. The Rabbi Jesus had real difficulty with the rigorists of His day, just as Pope Francis has today. The only way we can be the church Pope Francis envisions, is for us to embrace his vision. This vision of a church of mercy, a church of welcome, and hospitality for all, begins within the human heart of each one of us. The same human heart that beats within the breast of The God-man, beats within you and me. Jesus did not have one model of heart, and us a lesser model, a more vulnerable one. If that were so then, The Incarnation was a waste of time. The Prophet Jesus did not allow Himself to be boxed in, and fit into the expectations of others. Just in the same way our God, The God of Jesus Christ, refuses to be boxed in. Therein, lies the challenge of the spiritual journey. “We journey to Him we do not know, by a path we do not know.”(St. John of The Cross.) Our journey is a journey into uncertainty, and into the certainty of God’s unconditioned, unlimited, and unrestricted love as our Good Shepherd.
That is why we need to connect ever and always with the fact that we are the beloved. Every day we are given 86,400 seconds to listen to The Voice that says to me “You are my beloved.” Fr. Nouwen goes on to say: “Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear the voice longer and more deeply. It is like discovering a well in the desert. Once you have touched wet ground, you want to dig deeper. I have been doing a lot of digging lately and I know that I am beginning to see a little stream bubbling up through the dry sand. I have to keep digging because that little stream comes from a huge reservoir beneath the desert of my life. The word “digging” might not be the best word, since it suggests hard and painful work that finally leads me to the place where I can quench my thirst. Perhaps all we need to do is to remove the dry sand that covers the well. There may be quite a pile of sand in our lives, but The One who desires to quench our thirst will help to remove it. All we really need is a great desire to find the water and drink from it.”
There goes that word “desire” again. According to the spiritual writers, to have the desire is all we need.” We become what we desire. Remember what Thomas Merton wrote that if we have the desire to do what is right, and just, God’s will, we will be led on the right road, though we may know nothing about it at the time. As long as God knows we do not have to worry, just trust in His love for us, not our love for Him. But we, at least, I do not trust easily. Where there has been abuse, and betrayal in our life experience, trust is a hard commodity to come by. There has to be, and has been, a great refrain, “I believe Lord help my disbelief/unbelief” “out of the depths I cry to You O Lord, Lord hear my cry.” “O God come to my assistance. God, make haste to help me.” The response is not always immediate. The response will come. Many times the response just reinforces we have a God of surprises, and a weird sense of humor.
While I was on my Summer trip, I received calls from some friends wanting to hear my voice. They had heard that I had died, and wanted assurance that the news of my death was over exaggerated. It was one of those Ah! Ah! moments. I had time in the High Rockies to reflect on “what if it were true?” What has been left unsaid? (This did not matter as my voice was only a whisper). What are the things that must be said so the others do not have to go through without some warning, and a source of hope. One person has written “write like you are dying,” and what a challenge that is. We are all on the road to death, and the return to Eternal Love from which we all have sprung. That Source of our existence is so easily forgotten, and so our life is a hellish journey. We must, moment to moment, call to consciousness the following; In His love we are one, ever and always. There is no moment that we are not present to His creative love. It is Not as we love ourselves, or the world loves us that we are loved in the depth of our being. We are all held in His compassionate love. Compassionate Love has been incarnated, revealed to us in His Son, Jesus Christ. He came to “suffer with us.” To be compassion. Let us make compassionate living our great goal, the great defining desire of our lives. Then we will be led to the reality of the “law of graduality.” It is only gradually, we are led to discover the reality hidden and revealed within each step of each hike. There is revealed The God of surprises Who is to be discovered as we make our hike through the mountains and the valleys of life. We now appreciate in a new and different way the fresh water we drink from from the trickling streams, and hidden wells. The life giving properties of that water corresponds to the life giving water that springs up from within us. This fountain, Is The Fountain, the source of Eternal life. That has been my experience, and the experience of others with who I have accompanied. Make this law of graduality the lens through which you always look at life. God Is loving you. This I do not want you even to think, or question. His creative love is molding you, forming you, ever so slowly, darn it, but ever so gently. Ever so slowly and ever so gently the living presence of the Risen Christ is revealed, in you and through you, always for others. The historical Jesus did not become the Risen Christ without first having to endure what you are suffering right now. So???

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Who...are...you...as...the...Beloved....???


          Another birthday has come and gone. I am now looked upon as an old-old, that is according to an article I just read. To use John Denver's words "I have become what I never thought I would be." It is so appropriate those words are from "Some days are diamond, some days are stone," which describes perfectly the reality of my life. It is not either/or,  but/and. On reflection, there was a time I did not see life beyond the 30's, because, anyone over thirty was not to be trusted.  So Joe, "you have come a long ways baby." Now the obvious question is, "What now"? How is life different, and what are the challenges to be faced? How prepared am I to become aware of, and accepting of, the gifts that come with the aging process? Aging is not all about loss. There are gifts to be recognized and accepted, celebrated, and shared. What are the responsibilities I have to those who have yet "to trudge the road of happy destiny"? So the truth of the matter is that as one gets older one loses, and one gains. The physical prowess slowly ebbs away. I cannot do now the hikes I was able to do. I found out, this week, that what was once seen as an easy, level hike, is now a slow ascending climb. It was once, so easy, I had the impression it was a level trail, now I see that reality in a different light? I cannot change the topography, so Joe has to accept, and adjust to this new reality. The revelations of the limitations of my humanity is more and more part of my daily living. Yes, while reflecting on this journey, this hike, through life one sees so much disappear, caught up in a Paschal Death. This means, thanks to the mercy of a gracious God, where loss, death is a reality, there appears a new, and a more spiritual understanding of the real realities of life. In Paschal death, death is not the end but a beginning of a new way of living. We become, no, that is not right, why? I have, just now, forgotten the words "of ourselves we can do nothing, but we can do all things in Him Who strengthens us." I must remember, and daily renew my belief in the creative power of The Higher Power. The power, the miracle of Grace strengthens us ever anew. We are ever new because of what we lose, or surrender, whether forced or of our own volition. The whole spiritual journey is all about letting go, surrendering. How I detest those words, surrender, let go. I, my egocentric ego, wants control, and is not a happy camper when it has to surrender, let go. Learning to let go is a process. It is made just a little easier sometimes, when we are faced with a lack of energy."The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak," and weakening. There is now a greater reliance on a gracious God Who never leaves us. That Power of creative is ever active, often in ways we will never understand. We do not need to understand, just accept, and have gratitude. Where there is gratitude there cannot coexist resentment, and bitterness. When we surrender to those latter feelings then the way out, to serenity, is gratitude. This does work.
                    Neither the physical world, or the spiritual world can tolerate a vacuum. Something must fill the space created by loss, and that is ALL LOSSES. There are no exceptions to this rule. The loss, that creates this vacuum, may be the death of a pet gold fish, or a child, a beloved, a friend, a lost job, a lost school, a lost parish etc. etc., the list is endless. Into the vacuum created ,must be welcomed The Creative Spirit. Why is that necessary? It is necessary, no, essential so that the miracle of new life may be revealed in us, to us, and through us, to others. The miracle of new birth may happen within us but it is NOT for us alone. It cannot, must not stop with us. That is for our benefit and others. "The gifts we have been giver are NOT for ourselves but for the building up of the common good"(Paul).  That is the opposite of "What is yours is mine, and what is mine is my own." There lies the cause of so much unhappiness, war, and mayhem. This is true of our own lives, our family's life, and is being revealed to us in the struggle between nations. We must always be reminded that the line between war and peace runs through the middle of the human heart. Yours and mine. War begins with me, peace is a gift to be chosen and it lies deep with.

                We are part of a greater picture, a greater story. Life is not about me, I belong to a greater reality. My story is part of a greater story. Our story is the continuation of the story first begun many million and billions years ago. The story of creation is about 14 billion years old. The story of our world is now about 4.5 billion years in it's telling. What is so awe-full, so wonder-full each person adds a unique flavor to its telling. Each and every thought, each and every actions adds a new word, a new sentence, to the ongoing mysterious story of God both hidden and revealed in the history of creation. We will be "life givers or, death dealers," dependent on the everyday actions of our every day life. This gives each action, each event a value that must come to appreciate, and reverence. This is a process that happens when life is lived, and lived to the fullest. For this we have been called. For this mysterious journey we have been chosen. For this we have been taken and set apart, as the beloved. You the beloved. In so far as we claim and live that reality will we live our lives in union  with, The Beloved. The Beloved has loved you and me from eternity.  A reality we must claim each and every moment, of each and every day. In this claiming we not only come to believe we are the beloved but we begin to live our lives reflecting that reality.
 
Here is what Henri Nouwen wrote in his book, "The Life of The Beloved" page 36. This is our Beloved speaking to us:
                       "I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother's womb. I have carved you in the palm of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness, and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair of your head and guided your every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever, I keep watch. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will satisfy all your thirst. I will not hide My face from you. You know me as your own and I know you as my own. You belong to me. I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover and your spouse...even your child…wherever you are I will be. Nothing will ever separate us. We are one.            

              
                   There is so much love, tenderness, mystery, hidden in these words. They cannot be rushed through, as one may do with a novel. This is food for the depths. So read slowly. Maybe a word at a time.  A part of a sentence at a time. Let it seep into the depths of our consciousness and there awaken........

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A…Spark…To…A…Flame

Life can be challenging at times. Then there are those moments when the challenges appear to be just too much for us. That is when we get into fear and the panic button is pressed. I see that most of the kids are now back in school. Vacation time is now a distant memory and the everyday grind has begun to grind on the nerves of so many. The everyday grind challenges us  in so many ways. Whatever resources that were built up are now being depleted and fast. We are faced with the question, how am I going to survive and keep my sanity, with all that I have to do? When is there going to be time for me, so I can have some time to breathe and have a chance to recharge the battery? On top of that, I hear announcements asking for volunteers for the many ministries that are so necessary for the well-being of others? You are being asked to be good stewards of your time, talent and resources. It is tiring just to think about all that has to be done. I am getting tired just writing this out!

It is good for us to recall this  gospel narrative. Jesus sees the large crowd. He has a very caring response as He views the many, who are coming out to see and hear Him. He asks the question "where can WE buy enough food for them to eat?” He is assuming the responsibility of finding something for them to eat. Again, the caring God-Man is revealed to us. As Jesus is, so is His Father and our Father. Such is the God that is revealed to us through the humanity of His Son and our Brother. Come to think of it, we do have a pretty neat family.  It is essential for us to take the time to think, to reflect, to meditate, on the challenges of the mission of Jesus. Where this does not happen, we will be under the illusion that just because Jesus, was The Beloved, The Son of God, He somehow got an easy ride. Everything was laid out for Him by His father. When we read the gospels carefully and reflectively we will come to see it was the very opposite.

The Gospel of Mark is a great gospel to read. The whole gospel story is about being messy. Not getting the message The Great Teacher wanted to impart, the disciples are hard of hearing and really slow in coming to an understanding on what Jesus was teaching them by word and example. They never truly "GET" the message. We are so lucky to have such a Gospel, and all the people, places and events that inhabit its pages. In John's account of the gospel event we see there is a problem, Jesus wants to feed the people, Philip has been chosen to meet this challenge. He is overwhelmed by it. He is stuck. Then, out of the blue there is a ray of hope. "There is a kid here who has food." "Wow that is great!" Yeah, but it is only five barley loaves and two fish." "Not good." Yet, it is good enough for Jesus. That human act of generosity on the part of the young boy was the catalyst for The Miracle of The Loaves and Fishes. I wonder what was going through the mind of that boy as he heard the adults discussing the challenge. He did not have "two hundred days wages," all he had was the five barley loaves and two fish. To his mind, it was a BEGINNING. "This is what I can do," he must have said to himself. So, the offer was made. What appeared to be an action of little value, turned out to have a tremendous impact on so many. The boy's so-called little offering, built on by divine power did what otherwise appeared impossible.

What can we learn from this? We do what little we can and then allow God to be God. No matter what the challenge, there is always something we can do. At times, it may be to just surrender our powerlessness to God. That is such a simple action it often triggers for us something that can be mind boggling. When life becomes so overwhelming, it may be necessary to withdraw to a "deserted place" for some alone time with, “the alone time." Not a great deal of time, just your "five loaves and two fish worth." Where there are the great challenges to be met, just realize that your presence, not words, that will be used by God to be the reality through which His Presence is channeled to the person in need. Many times, the "less" of us, makes way for the "more" of God. That "young boy" in John's Gospel is nameless. We are told by those who know that whenever a person or persons are not named, we are to place our names there. So, from now on, when the challenges appear, it is not about us coming up with the brilliant, earth changing solutions. Let us be imitators of that boy. Let us make a living presence in our daily living. Let him be the inspiration we need in time of stagnation. Let his courage be that which will strengthen us in times of fear.

When we are faced with all the messiness of our lives, let us reach out, outside of ourselves, to those in deeper need. Let us offer our little offering and then let God do the rest. No matter how brilliant our ideas, unless there is the guidance of the Creative Power all these great ideas come to naught. I have seen, over these many years (as a priest), so many ministries begin with a "simple" thought, idea and are empowered by the Holy Spirit, ended up being the source "of food" for so many. "It is better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness." The Christophers.