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.

 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A…Journey…Sans…Ego


     Summertime is a time for relaxation and reading. We need books for travel, for the beach, and for the quiet times. I am most grate-full to be back where I can enjoy reading again. Some gifts can only be appreciated when they are no longer part and parcel of our daily lives. Are not some of the most important gifts taken for granted by us? I am back rereading Henri Nouwen's great classic, "Life of The Beloved." I recently picked up another of his books, which he co-authored, "Compassion." ( Thank God for thrift stores.) It was only when I got into reading both that the thought struck me, they are so complimentary, without compassion we have no chance to live the life of being the beloved. In "Life of The Beloved, "Henri lays out before us on how ESSENTIAL it is for us, not only to know but to embrace this reality. We are, and ever shall be Our Father's beloved daughters/sons. He points out the fact it is not enough to be the beloved, we have to actively claim the dignity of being the beloved. He points out the fact that we must claim our belovedness again, and again. Each and every moment of every day this is our essential task. Let us not fool ourselves, this is hard work. The spiritual life IS hard work. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Why is it such a struggle for us humans? Simply put, the spiritual journey is a journey into "subtraction not addition"(Rohr) , and this offends the ego, big time!!!
     To be honest, I have never liked that reality especially when I was younger. How could one be successful if one was not accumulating? When you were an assistant pastor, you were waiting to assume the mantle and power that came with being a pastor. Not just being a pastor but a pastor of a big wealthy parish. What an illusion that turned out to be. The Second Vatican helped to destroy that illusion, with the advent of, servant leadership. The illusion is still alive and well. Thank God Pope Francis is renewing that call. He calls for a new way of serving the poorest of the poor. It is in the service of those whom our God has a fundamental option towards, that we will be challenged to see in them their essential belovedness, the same belovedness that is ours, in our depths. So then it stands to reason that we will have to journey into the depths of all aspects of poverty. Our own FIRST, then the poverty of others. We will be drawn into an ever deepening understanding of what poverty  really means.  With this gradual understanding, we will come to an acceptance of the universal community, and unity of all. When we do not accept this unity and community  in poverty and belovedness, we will be suckered into accumulating "power, property, and prestige" only to find out that this NOT the way to a happy, full life. It is just an illusion, and when followed leads to death. We meet so many of these wailing dead on life's journey. Even though they are many, they are not who they think they are. They are so much more. Right now they do not believe it. There has to be a lot of "letting go" of their precious illusions, the product of the false self.  So as to journey  through the "subtraction," the emptying out into the true self. The Presence of God within. This is the pearl of great price which does not come on the cheap. A great deal of hard work and sacrifice is demanded.
                             It is one of the blessings of getting old that the "get up and go, has got up and gone. "One is forced to face the limitations of what it means to be human. So much of what was looked on as important has fallen by the wayside. So much has disappeared and all that is left is the memories. Since I have been blessed with the great desire to read, and so I was in one way prepared for what I was to face, but I was not prepared for the toll it was going to have on my Irish ego. I had read "the greater the ego, the greater the crucifixion," but that was for others not for me, right? Wrong.  Wrong. Wrong. What a journey it has been to accept the fact that the peace Our Gracious God has in store for us is not "the peace" the world thinks is peace. We are in constant need of lens adjustment. God's ways are not, the non transformed ways of the the world. God's ways, however, are lives lived in union with The Transformed One, Jesus The Christ of God. The transformation necessary happens to us, uniquely through grace, as we follow in the footsteps of The Beloved One. These are not easy steps to follow.
 
     Being The Beloved did not guarantee an easy, carefree life. On the contrary, even though He was The Beloved, He emptied Himself of His power-full divinity, so as to be immersed completely in the human experience. Like all of us He too was betrayed, lied about, bruised, beaten and abandoned. He did this so as to model for us what  the human expression of  our All Power-full God looks like. We must not just look at the events in the life of The Historical Jesus, and ask why, we must go deeper and ask the question how am I living out these same moments and events right now? What is the connection between my daily encounter with suffering, and the suffering Of The Beloved Son? As Jesus, who through His Paschal sufferings, became The Christ of God, so too, we are immersed in, and connected with the same human condition. And  we become today's revelation of Jesus, The Christ as we embrace His model of compassion, and Belovedness. This revelation of God was ridiculed and rejected so we, too  must not be surprised when we do not find easy acceptance, even within ourselves. I must have compassion with my own human faults and failings. I have to ask for the grace to be able to "journey with" them, so as to understand compassion. AS you know the deepest meaning of the word compassion is "to journey with." To journey with someone in pain, and not have a desire to change that person is one of life's great challenges. That is why God, in compassion for us left the heavenly throne so as "to be with us," Emmanuel, and "journey with us" so in a fellow human all that we need is revealed through our reflection on His daily living.

             "In the midst of this painful reality, we have to dare to reclaim the truth that we are God's chosen ones, even when our world does not choose us. AS long as we allow our parents, siblings, teachers, friends, and lovers to determine whether we are chosen or not, we are caught in the net of a suffocating world that accepts or rejects us according to its own agenda of effectiveness and control. Often this reclaiming is an arduous task, a lifelong work because the world persists in its efforts to pull us into the darkness of self-doubt, low esteem, self-rejection and depression. And this is because it as insecure, fearful, self-deprecating people that we can most easily be used and manipulated by the powers surrounding us. The great spiritual battle begins,--and never ends--with the reclaiming of our closeness.
LONG BEFORE ANY HUMAN BEING SAW US,WE ARE SEEN BY GOD'S LOVING EYES.LONG BEFORE ANYONE HEARD US CRY OR LAUGH,WE ARE HEARD BY OUR GOD WHO IS ALL EARS FOR US.LONG BEFORE ANY PERSON SPOKE TO US IN THIS WORLD, WE ARE SPOKEN TO BY THE VOICE OF ETERNAL LOVE. OUR PRECIOUSNESS, UNIQUENESS, AND INDIVIDUALITY ARE NOT GIVEN TO US THOSE WE MEET IN CLOCK TIME---OUR BRIEF CHRONOLOGICAL EXISTENCE-----BUT BY THE ONE WHO HAS CHOSEN US WITH AN EVERLASTING LOVE, A LOVE THAT EXISTED FROM ALL ETERNITY AND WILL LAST THROUGH ALL OF ETERNITY.-----WHEN LOVE CHOOSES,IT CHOOSES WITH A PERFECT SENSITIVITY FOR THE UNIQUE BEAUTY OF THE CHOSEN ONE, AND IT CHOOSES WITHOUT MAKING ANYONE ELSE FEEL EXCLUDED." ( "LIFE OF THE BELOVED ")

              These are words that must not just be read, but reflected on, chewed on so as to be blessed with the recognition of your essential goodness, blessedness, and giftedness. Yes! We are more that we could ever imagine. Do not sell yourself short. Do not, even when tempted, deny that from eternity you have been and are  loved with an Eternal love. We are all in the same boat, and it is Not the Titanic.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The.....Antidote......To... War.....Violence.......Solitude.

As this is being written, I am so very conscious of the violence, pain, suffering, abuse, that is being endured by millions of our fellow human beings. Would it be better if I had written, "by our brothers and sisters"? After all we are all children of the same Father, are we not? We do not pray, my father, we pray rather Our Father. We have to keep before us, even when it causes discomfort to bubble up, we are all brothers and sisters. There are no exceptions. We cannot choose who belongs to the Family of our Creator God, and who does not.  From the streets of Chicago, to the cauldron at the borders of Arizona, to the harsh and heartless deserts of Iraq, Iran, and Syria, Palestine, there is a great bloody reenactment of Calvary, and the Crucifixion. These above mentioned are just a few of the places where The Crucifixion is reenacted in the same bloody manner. This Crucifixion is revealed to us, through the events of each and every moment of every day. So many are entering their own personal version of hell on earth, a hell so awe-full for us to contemplate.

        So as a defense, we shut tight our eyes to the horrific images that appear in the many sources of communication. We can, and do offer deaf ears to the pain-full screams of those who are the contemporary Suffering  Christ. Yes we can, and do have hardened hearts, and closed or blinded eyes, and minds. The awe-full result is that those suffering will continue to endure their pain in loneliness and isolation. How can we ever leave our place of so called comfort and security to embrace the pain and suffering of our sisters and brothers? Where am I going to get in touch with that which will empower, enable us, to "to be Him, Whom we have been called to be," and reach out in meaning-full, transforming service. How can we expand our narrow view of what it means to be a "Contemporary Christian?" A Christian who will go beyond the confining limits of religiosity, and instead be a living example of the universal love of our Gracious Creator God? In other words, when are we going to stop being sheep, and instead become shepherds? Shepherds that will continue the universal outreach of The Good Shepherd. A sheep does not become a shepherd without radical transformation. Radical transformation is not something the ego will choose. There is too much to let go of. Becoming the living presence of The Good Shepherd demands that we let go of everything, and enter the place of abject poverty and powerlessness. This was modeled for us on Calvary, and we are called to enter into the same reality. This does not happen in a vacuum. Grace is operative in each step we take. The Crucified Shepherd now journeys with us, and in us, and continues to live through us. The same Spirit that was with The Historical Jesus on His transformation to be The Risen and living Christ is the same Spirit that brings about our transformation.

                     We are told it all begins with our journey into our inner being. There will be those who will recoil from journeying within the depths of who we are. Solitude is a necessary prerequisite for this great adventure. But solitude like all blessings brings with it great pain. Here is what Thomas Mann wrote:    

                    "Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous- to poetry. But also, it gives birth to the opposite: to the perverse, the illicit. the absurd."

           In solitude we are asked, forced to meet, and embrace all of the pain, all of the suffering, all the isolation, all the loneliness, all the powerlessness that another can experience. In other words, I meet my sister/brother in the depths of who I am discovering myself to be. That is why the journey into the depths of being an authentic human being is not readily embraced. For me it seemed to begin without I being aware of it. It was not until I was led to the blessings of solitude that I began to get just an inkling of what I needed to learn most. It has been a long, long process. It is not false self enhancing, it is about the false self destruction. The false self, the self of my creation, does not die easily. This process  has been going on for some time.  When will it end? only end with my final breath. So I do not know when my journey will end. Today, tomorrow, next week, next month ??? All I know is that it will happen.

                             Getting away from the noise and busyness of life is both a blessing and a curse. As long as I am busy I do not have to listen to, or pay attention to all that bubbles up from within. So much of what bubbles up does not lead to peace serenity or peace of mind. What bubbles up results in disquiet and discomfort. It is great to know this is not just my experience alone. It is shared by all who are exposed to silence and solitude. It was with great relief that I  read, many years ago what Fr. Rohr wrote in his book, everything belongs that when we enter solitude we have to face our personal issues of addiction, negativity, fear, and control. Each time one enters solitude these issues, for me, are always there. I must also admit that it does not get any easier to face the above issues. My shadow comes to the foreground and must be embraced and become reconciled with. If the my shadow is not embraced, made friends with, then I will project the guilt, anger, and resentment to some unfortunate I meet. All war has its origin within the depths of the human heart. When I am responding out of fear and anger that is my false self. No matter how I dress it up prejudice, bigotry, rash judgment, all begin with me and how I deal with my shadow. The only answer is that I grow in the understanding and acceptance of reconciliation. Reconciliation is a process darn it!!! I have found, and do find great difficulty with this process. I want reconciliation and acceptance, and I want it now. I want everything to be perfect, so I can a life free of stress and discomfort. This is not going to happen much to the disgust of my ego centered ego, the false self. If there is going to be peace and harmony in our time it has to begin with each one's journey into the depths. Nothing will happen until we make that journey. If we do not choose to make it, then life will force us to make it.

                           "Lord make me an instrument of Your peace" but first lead me to that place of peace where You dwell in a Love Community of Father, Son and Spirit. Gift me with the grace to love all that I fear and detest. Strengthen my faith that it is in those places I recoil from Your Compassionate Love, and mercy will be revealed. Give me then, the courage to carry this gospel to those who have not heard it, and if they have have found it difficult to believe. It is so hard at times to really believe in Your Infinite mercy-full love. "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." Why have you not made it so? I guess the journey continues!!!

 

                       

Monday, July 7, 2014

Our…Unique…Presence

"Summertime and the living is easy" are words from a wonderful musical, "Porgy and Bess." There is a wonder-full haunting melody that goes with those words which does the soul good. It pretty well stops you in wonder, just as Summer is supposed to do. I am just speaking of the ideal here. Reality is something completely different as we well know. For the millions that find peace, freedom, spiritual enlightenment, refreshment, rejuvenation, there are millions more living out the tragedy that is, the human condition. We are challenged to live within an inclusive lens. There is the great temptation to think our little world, and the little vision that comes with that, is all there is. We must work on developing an attitude of gratitude for the gifts, that are always gifted, in the sacrament of the now. There is no moment that in some way we are encountering the self revelation of The Mystery, God, and a gracious God at that. As we are unique by reason of our creation, we are also unique through grace, in our relationship with The Great Spirit. 

                     As I look at the many, many photos posted on Facebook, I become aware of how different are the ways individuals respond to the reality lived in each moment. Each photo is a person's way of communicating a depth of awe and wonder at this aspect of creation that is being experienced right now. There are photos of the ocean in its many moods. We are invited to join the presenter their wonder of mountain lakes, rivers, and sprightly streams. WE are caught up in the communal joy that is part and parcel of family gatherings, that is again the ideal. We are welcomed to enter the feelings of the mystery that accompanies the setting of the sun. Is there not something awe-full, and wonder-full, that is an essential part of a setting sun. We in Arizona are spoiled with the frequency of awe inspiring sunsets. We can take them for granted. When I used to travel,  I used to look forward each evening to the gathering that would take place, without fail, and at the bluff, the water's edge.  Individuals, couples, families, seem to be drawn by some unseen force to stop their individual doing, so as to share  their being in this now, communal event. Sunsets have a way of transforming us from human doers to human beings. Sunsets are an everyday ordinary occurrence, yet why is it that this particular sunset triggers both awe and wonder? I cannot put into finite words the answer. Your individual, unique will bubbles up from within. One can see couples getting closer. Hands are held, or wrapped around to trigger an even deeper closeness. Families gather as one. It is awe inspiring to see a family standing as one, cuddling together into a deeper unity, so as to enjoy, and capture within their depths, the mystery they are sharing. On year in San Diego, I was driving at sunset when I saw, what was a musical group playing their music as their tribute to the setting sun. Does not nature have a wonder-full way of communicating the presence of Creator Spirit? She does so in an endless manner. As She did, She does, and  She will do, forever and ever. In nature there is the union of time, and The Timeless. This is a spiritual experience that can and  will lead to a deepening of our unique prayer life, reflecting our unique relationship.

                          Each one of us is gifted with a unique relationship with The Mystery, The Great Spirit, The Great Unknown and the Great Unknowable. No two prayer lives are the same, because no two relationships are the same. We each  have  been blessed with a unique path to trod, or trudge. So we are never to compare our prayer life to anybody else's. They have theirs we have ours. Nothing will be missing from our prayer life. We will be graced with all that is necessary for our special relationship. We will get what we need, not what we want. Our prayer life is no better, or no worse than anybody else's. We grow in the acceptance of what is offered to us in the here, and now. Our God cannot short change us so that someone may be more blessed. So in this moment, all that we need is being gifted to us. Moments can become so ordinary that we take them for granted. As we take each ordinary moment for granted that take every "ordinary person" in the moment for granted, by this we choose to live a life empty of Mystery, and meaning. We live without actually living. We are the walking dead that need to be awakened through the power and the mystery of grace. We need a so called "ordinary moment" to rise up and kick us in the butt so as to awaken us to all that is hidden, and yet, present in a mysterious way right here, right now. It will always be in "the right now" that this will happen. It cannot happen otherwise. This is the way The Mystery has chosen to communicate. So it has to be God's way not our way. How long does it take to learn this lesson? A whole lifetime is required to be spent in the hard school of spiritual growth. In this school it is not about learning it is about unlearning. There are no diplomas handed out. Who wants a diploma that recognizes our growth in failure? Where would that go on our walls? We have a deep need to be recognized for our successes. Our secret, or no secret failures are our own. Now if you are blessed to be in a Twelve Step program it will take an honest communication of those secret failures to enter recovery. NOT to be cured, as "the soul is never cured. It is only cared for."(Moore) This daily caring is not easy. As it is a journey into honesty, rigorous honesty is the goal.


                           Whenever I am on a journey "with nature" that spiritual experience for me, can be summed up in the following verses from the hymn, "How Great Thou Art."
         O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed: Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee; how great Thou art! how great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee: How great Thou art! How great Thou art!" It is these following words that  really triggers something within.  "When through the woods and forest glades I wander And hear the birds sing sweetly in the tree,  When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur, And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:  then sings my soul the wonder and majesty of my Creator God."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A…Journey…of…Trust

"It is foolish to think that we will enter heaven without entering ourselves," are the great challenging words of St. Theresa of Avila. This is not easy. It is  downright scary "to delve into the depths of who we are," for this journey we "need reckless courage"( Yeats). Today there is more and more written about the challenge of that inner journey. This journey into our innate poverty, and absolute powerlessness, which is the opposite of today's popular gospel of prosperity. The journey into what it means to be human is a hard and difficult one. On this journey, we will become afraid, disheartened, discouraged,  and depressed. All these things must be encountered, embraced, and brought to prayer. No pious words will get us through this our dark night, or desert experience. It will be prayer from our agonizing gut that will see us through to transformation. We will slowly, and reluctantly grow in the acceptance that this is the only journey worth taking. Without this journey, we will never discover who we really are as authentic human beings. We will be led to embrace the harsh reality that we are, and ever will be perfectly imperfect. We will be led to our absolute dependence on grace. Through this our own personal hell, we will  discover the source of our  serenity, real happiness and true freedom. Without plunging the depths of our nothingness and powerlessness, we will never discover The Treasures hidden deep within, each and every one of us. There are no exceptions. We are all called to "trudge the road."

             This is not a short one moment, one day or one year trip. It is our life long journey, and so, to use the words of Neil Diamond, this journey into the true and real self," is the longest journey of all."  We must not give into fear, or worry about what is ahead of us. We do not make this journey on our own, or by ourselves. From all we have been exposed to over these many months, we know we are following in the footsteps of Our Good Shepherd. This Good Shepherd will never leave His flock unattended. He cannot desert or abandon us. It is a physical  impossibility. His guaranteed faith-full-ness is ours because of the covenant relationship we have been gifted with by our Gracious God. Covenant love is  not earned, deserved, or qualified for. It is our everlasting gift that is not dependent on our goodness but on the infinite goodness and mercy of God." It is not that we love God but He loves us.  It is not that we give love but that we accept it." (John)  It is hard for some of us to accept a gift so great that we cannot match its value in a return gift. All we can say is "Thank you." I must always remind myself of this fact, when I am in gratitude then I cannot be in resentment.

                            Resentment is the killer of joy, and all that is offered in this present moment. It makes it so difficult to enjoy the blessings that come with each sacramental now. When I am caught up in resentment, what is being offered to me in this moment is ignored. We will begin to live lives of unease and disquiet. Peace of mind, and the possible serenity we have chosen to reject. Eventually, I will come up with this question, often asked in anger, Where is God? Why do I feel so alone and abandoned. Is there anybody out there that cares for me, or is concerned about me?  Yes, there is a God, a Great Spirit of Love, Who forever and always wants to communicate infinite, endless love to each soul, His masterpiece of creation. Each person is reached out to uniquely, and so each relationship with The Great Spirit is unique. We can learn from the spiritual journey of others, but we have to live it uniquely. WE must never allow ourselves to compare our journey with the journey of any one else. All we can do is reverence the mystery that is their journey, as we grow in reverence of the mystery into which we are being led into. God, Great Spirit, The Ineffable, Who is The Mystery, is ever and always present in the mystery of the right now. The Great Mystery is always being revealed in "the right now." The fullness of His love is being offered to you and me, right now. We are being brought into an ever deepening relationship through the love Spirit that has been poured into our hearts, right. Our Beloved is ever and always in a creative mode, and that creative Spirit is being creative, right now. 
 
             "This Beloved of ours is merciful and good. Besides, He so deeply longs for our love that He keeps calling us to come closer. This voice that is so sweet that the poor soul falls apart in the face of her own inability to instantly do what He asks of her. And as you can see, hearing Him hurts much more than not being able to hear Him...For no, His voice reaches us through words spoken by good people, through listening to spiritual talks, and reading sacred scripture. God calls us in countless ways all the time. Through illness and suffering and through sorrow, He calls us. Through a truth glimpsed in a state of prayer, He calls us. No matter how half hearted such insight may be, God rejoices whenever we learn what He is trying to teach us." St. Theresa of Avila. She later warns us of the following: "the devil frequently fills our thoughts with great schemes, so instead of putting our hands to do what we can do to serve our Lord, we may rest satisfied with wishing to perform impossibilities." So we need to be grounded in the reality of who we are, and where we are at. It is in and through the concreteness of life, our God connects with us and we with God. This extraordinary relationship is grounded in the ordinary. In this encounter the miracle of Grace happens, and we are led ever forward to live our destiny. Our destiny, our vocation, our calling is to be a sacrament, a life giving presence, of a gracious God, Who is awakening in us all that He has called us to be. We(I) need that constant reminder of the challenge. We (I) can and do become complacent. We can get lost in the routine of our daily living, and so the mystery of who we are, and Who we have been called to be is lost to consciousness. We are on automatic pilot, on cruise control. It is necessary to stop and claim, again and again who we are. We have to "name our deaths, and claim our births." So we can be the source of hope for those who will be placed in our lives. This is an endless process, and how often have I wished that this process was not necessary. Of all the books I have read, tapes I have listened to, I have never read or heard of a short cut to transformation. Jesus, to become The Christ, did not have any short cuts. He knew what was before Him. While in His humanity He recoiled from the oncoming agony, He was able to mutter "Not my will, but Your will, will be done."  Where He has gone we are to follow right behind. The more we enter the fullness of the totality of the Paschal Mystery, we are  being fashioned into the likeness of Him, Whom we have been baptized to be. Deeper and deeper we go not by choice. It is grace Who called us and it is grace Who will free the life of The Risen Christ that lies deep within the depths of our nothingness.

                 As I started with a quote from  St. Theresa so I might as well end with this, one of her most familiar words.   "Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks (with) compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, YOU ARE HIS BODY. Christ has no body on earth but yours." So when pain and suffering comes to us with the living of life, God does not intend the agony. In time we will see this is our participation in the sufferings of Jesus The Christ. In this participation, in His suffering,  we will come to see and slowly accept, as the necessary purgation is necessary for unity to happen.