Sunday, June 17, 2018

The...Long...and...Short...of...It


As you know, I love to compare our journey on "the spaceship earth" to a long, long hike. Each and every day is a “short walk" on the hopefully long journey we call life. We, who have emerged from the mist of The Eternal, are forever and always, in a reality, way beyond that which our limited vision, can see. We believe, the Eternal, the Mystery, the Indefinable, the Ineffable, is a Reality we will never understand, on this earthly journey. As a consequence we will ever and always be seeking, and searching for understanding. Understanding of who we are, and who that source of our being is.
We are in good company.  We need to remember, St. Francis had just these two very basic questions. "Who are you God, and who am I?"
St. Francis had that wonder-full simple faith which kept him grounded in those questions. I have, from my youngest years, admired St. Francis. I had even thought about becoming a Franciscan. In facing it myself I have to admit I love to complicate even the simplest things. So I have had to learn to simplify everything about my life. This is an ongoing difficult, pain-full moment-to-moment, daily struggle. Thank God I found, or was forced into hiking.  Almost from the beginning I became aware, a hike was just about hiking. It was not about putting one foot carefully in front of the other. There was more, much more to this seemingly simple exercise. (I was told many years ago that the more simpler a reality APPEARS to be, the more profound it really is i.e. God). Gradually I came to realize that on hikes some of the basic, essential questions of what it means to be a "spiritual being immersed in the human condition." What this word means has triggered so many thoughts, feelings and emotions.
We are all invited. Though many are not, and never would be, if I had anything to say about it. Which to my horror I have found out I do not. As a consequence I have many, many uninvited guests. Ever notice when you are in a place of quiet, in a deserted seemingly abandoned place, you have even more of these unwanted visitors. You can look and see that there is no one on the trail and you are, seemingly, on your own, but not really. You have many unwanted company crowding your mind, and demanding attention. They are unwanted because they bring to consciousness that which we much prefer was left buried. When this happens to me, I am forced to face my shadow side. This is the side, the part of me I want to live in denial of, the part of me I do not want to share with anyone. I am choosing to live in the hell of denial, choosing my state of denial brings NOTHING but pain, and destruction, for myself. Pain and destruction will also hurt a lot of those who share my life. I am going to have to deal with great upheavals, in my daily living.
Those parts of my reality I choose not to share, the shadow, have been described by some authors as "the past, the primitive, and the inferior." It can be the parts of me that I find "unacceptable, unknown, and not yet developed."  We all have this shadow side as, individuals, couples, families, parishes, diocese, nations, and the family of nations. On my hikes I am forced to face that which I would rather not face. Here, denial comes in very handy. Denial, I am sorry to say is just a stop gap measure. It does not do anything to help in the living into the solution. On the contrary, it just postpones the inevitable, which is pain and destruction. That which I choose to reject or am not ALLOWED to accept, as part of my reality, will REMAIN as part of my reality. This is going to happen whether I like it or not. It is not going anywhere, darn it! I can only embrace it, or as one book encourages, romance the shadow. We of ourselves are incapable of loving the shadow, that is where grace comes in especially particularly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Yes!! That Sacrament is still being celebrated, though not as much, to the detriment of so many who are unfortunately, shadow controlled. The Creative Lover, The Holy Spirit, The Spirit of Wisdom, needs to be invited to bring about reconciliation. A reconciliation between which I would like to be, and the reality of which I am. Reconciliation is a PROCESS, not an event, I have found from sad experience. So I am forced, on a daily basis, to embrace the truth of what Thomas More has said, "The soul is never cured, it is cared for." If the soul is not cared for there is a horrible price to be paid. When the maintaining work, that is spiritual exercises, is not being done there is a price to be paid. The Spirit brings about a transformation, and we are delighted. When the ego takes overhand we get cocky, the spiritual exercises are neglected, and we assume the place of God occupied. The ego has removed the Real God, The Real Higher Power. So now we worship at the altar of pride. This always results in the old patens of behavior returning, and with a vengeance. Remember what The Prophet Jesus said “the last state, will be worse than the first."  It will be the same for me as soon as I stop the spiritual work, I am on the road to places I never, never in my wildest dreams, imagined ever existed. So I have to become more and more aware of what is bubbling up from the depths. Each moment is my encounter with where my life has come to and at this moment my life has peaked.
"By the grace of God I am who I am, and on the way to becoming a more authentic human being. Not becoming in any way perfect but I am growing in the acceptance of the fact that I am perfectly imperfect. The letting go of the ideal, and becoming reconciled with the reality is all through the Loving, Creative, Power of our Gracious Prodigal Father God. Grace has brought me to this moment, and grace will keep me safe, in this moment. After all, does not The Holy Spirit, The Spirit of Truth, say to you and I, “Now is the acceptable time now is the time of salvation.” Right here right now my salvation is being worked out, as I respond, not react to my present reality. In order to reach the end of a hike, I have to take a number of steps. I cannot just wish, or imagine that the hike is made. It takes action. It takes the healthy use of my free will. What an awe-full gift our Creator has entrusted to you and I. On my hikes I am challenged to face the question of how healthy is my use of this precious gift, in a way that other activities do not do. The truth will sometimes hurt, but the soothing oil of God's mercy-full love is always there for me to fall into.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Easter Time


We are in Easter Time, Paschal Time, and will be for some time to come. We are being immersed ever deeper into The Mystery of the wonder-full, awe-full events that took place 2,000 years ago. As we are drawn into the mystery of the Gospel narratives, we are led to the following understanding. The events we read about, though occurring many years ago, are be lived out by you and I, today. As it was with the historical Jesus, Who became The Risen Christ, so, it is with us who bear the name Christian. To help us with this mystery, we must grasp, understand the following; in the spiritual life there is no time, there is no space. God, in spite of our greatest efforts, cannot be controlled, defined, or confined, to anything we may feel, think or say. We can and do, pay lip service to the fact that, "God's ways are not our ways , and His thoughts are not our thoughts." Let's be very honest here, when it comes down to the real nitty, gritty, we want it our way. How often is God told to hit the road in time of pain-full struggle? When things do not happen the way we expect them to happen, there is a serious, volcanic spiritual eruption. A lot of people in our lives are affected, not for the good, when we do not get our way and our expectations are not met. I have to keep before me, it is right in front of me as I do the dishes, "Expectations are planned resentments." I am not always happy to be reminded of that reality. Even though I repeat it again, and again, I still am blindsided. Joe then, is not a very happy camper. The only thing that I can say is, I am now more ready to laugh at myself than I have ever been. I love the following; "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans." I have kept God in great humor over these many years. The Gospel narratives reveal to us how "anxious, shocked, distressed and distraught” the followers of Jesus were, on that first Easter morning. On Friday, their world, as they understood it, had been turned upside down. He, Whom they had followed, and had great expectations of, was not only dead, but His body was not in the tomb. Then, they are told He has risen from the dead, and has even appeared to some the people they knew. What was this all about? It is too much to grasp, to understand. They are afraid confused, bothered, and bewildered. They seem to be, "sheep without a shepherd." With the death of Jesus, who is there now to feed, nourish, guide, and direct them? They are now faced with the feelings of being lost and so alone. As it was with those early followers of Jesus, so it with us today, when we are forced, by life, to encounter death, loss. When they are at their lowest, The Risen Christ appears. Even though He is risen, He has His wounds to show them. The Risen one carries the wounds of His crucifixion. We must always keep that reality ever before us. The Risen one is also, The Wounded one. So, too with each one of us. When we are wounded, not if we are wounded, and in time experience healing and new life, (our personal death, and resurrection) we must always remember the soul in NEVER cured, it is cared for. When we stop doing the caring, then we will revert back into the experience of the crucifixion. We can compound our mistake, by looking for some poor scapegoat to blame. When we get into the 'blaming game" we are on a slippery slope leading to even more serious pain and sorrow. Now we are going to alienate others, when it is the strength of others, the community, we need. We as human beings will belong to the community of "wounded-wounders”, or belong to the community of wounded-healers." That is a prerequisite for belonging to a Christian community, which is a community of wounded-healers. We are following in the footsteps of our Wounded Good Shepherd. As we immerse ourselves in the Gospel accounts of that First Day of a new creation, what a shepherd He shows Himself to be. He is out and about offering reassurance to those who were disturbed, disillusioned and disheartened. He was seeking out and searching out those who seemed to be the most lost. We have the example of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. He was seeking out Mary in The Garden. Then there was Thomas. He was the disbelieving, unbelieving one, not the doubting one. I believe that in calling him, "doubting Thomas" we give doubting a bad name. Thomas was in real bad shape. He was not with the community. He chose to grieve alone, in private he was doing his grieving. How destructive that was and as it was so it is for us today. Even though we want to grieve alone, it is destructive. Look how unfeeling he had become. Look what he wanted to do to Jesus? Read again what he demanded happen in order for him to believe in the Risen Christ. Was that the request of a compassionate follower or who was in the throes of grieving a loss? With the help of Megan McKenna we will delve deeper in the suffering Thomas, and his presence within you and I today.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Lent...Again



"One and done" applies to some things in our everyday life, but not to our spiritual life. "We never do anything in the spiritual life, once forever" are words written by Fr. Rohr.  Words I read a number of years ago, and their truth has become a pain-full reality. The spiritual life is all about going deeper. We do not dig a hole with one shovel of earth, it takes many, many shovels to get really deep. As this is hard work, so is the spiritual hike/journey a great challenge.  It does not get any easier.  It now appears to me the older I get; the harder I have to work. "one and done" has no place in the process we call the spiritual life. It is all about practice, practice, and then practice some more.

Here we have Spring training. The Season of Lent is seen by many as our Spring training. Whether one is a rookie, or a veteran you end up in Spring training, that is if you want to keep your job. Lent, our Spring training is not about keeping one's job, but seeing how one grows into one's calling, one's vocation. Baseball fundamentals are about hitting, fielding, and catching. Lent introduces us to the triple play of prayer, fasting, and works of charity.  There will be time when the baseball player will not return to Spring training, we will never be able to avoid the training process of Lent. Spring training is the preparation necessary for a successful baseball season.  Lent is essential for us to have "life, and have it to the fullest."  The fullness of life however, will come to us through our successes, through our looking good. On the contrary, growth seems to take only through loss, some death, some failure, some great pain.  This is why we must return, again, and again, to and ever deepening understanding of The Paschal Mystery.  The mystery we have been baptized into, but spend our whole lifetime coming to grips with what it means for us as we life our earthly existence. The Latin word for earth is "hummus," so our earthly existence, is our human existence. Not just any human existence. For we are spiritual beings immersed in this human, fleshy, existence.  Lent then, is a process by which we are lead into an ever fuller understanding of who we are, who we have been called to be, and who does the calling.

              "We are born human and we spend our whole lifetime coming to understand what, human, means."  This is, as you may well know by now, one of my favorite quotations from Metz's classic "Poverty of Spirit."  I have come to a slow understanding that it is in and the journey through Lent, and the subsequent celebration of The Paschal (Easter) Mystery that the mystery lying deep within is revealed.  This revelation, for me, has not been accompanied with the appearance of angels, warm fuzzy feelings, wonder-full emotional experience, the very opposite has been the case. This journey is a trudge, into uncertainty. "We journey to Him we do not know, by a path we do not know," has been a source of great encouragement on the trudge.  Merton's prayer, "God I have no idea where I am going..." (Google for the rest), is a constant source consolation and courage. It seems that the fuller growth has to be proceeded by an emptying out. This required "emptying out" has been modeled for us by Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He emptied Himself of His divinity so as to be enfleshed in our unredeemed humanity. We are asked to surrender our humanity, and a broken one at that, so as to be filled with the Divine life, The Fullness of life. What a swap?  As usual God comes out at the short end of the exchange. Jesus surrendered everything so as to take on our nothingness.  We are asked to surrender our nothingness so as to be transfigured and transformed into the very presence of God.  What is required of us is that we be willing to allow this miracle of grace to happen. If we are not willing, all we have to do is pray that we become willing to be willing.  This is so simple that it appears to be profound!!! The workings of grace will always take place in such a way that we have no idea of what is happening, or when it happens. It is none of our business.  All we have to do is allow it to happen. Will our egos allow that to happen?  Of course not. The ego wants to know what is happening, how it happens, how LONG it is going to take. The ego wants to confine this miracle of birthing to a reality that can be measured, quantified.  This is NOT going to happen.  We get what we need, when we need it, and at a time that is best for us. It is The Wisdom of God, The Caring Mother, who directs all things in accord with the universal plan of The Creator. A plan that has been hidden, but has also been revealed. Our lives, each one is an essential play, an essential part in this great revealing.  This is the inherent dignity that lies within and revealed through healthy spiritual living. Of ourselves, we are incapable of healthy spiritual living, this gift is bestowed on those who are prepared to pay the price.  We are reminded, again and again, each and every year prayer, fasting, and works of charity take us out of our narrow, ego driven world into the broad, and so wonder-full creation. A creation we have been called to be co-creators of, by The Creator-God. If we are to be creative creators with The Real Creator God, the false gods of our creation must be destroyed. These gods of our ego creation do NOT die easily, so we have been given the Lenten triple play.

              "We fast to unite ourselves with the poor-to taste their empty lives, to weep over their sad and hungry children, to feel their helplessness. By fasting and giving alms, by sharing our bread and sheltering the oppressed, we stop "turning our backs on our own." Fasting then unites us with our true family.  We the orphan find our way home. Home is God's family of the entire human race where the MAJORITY GO TO BED HUNGRY.  Along this way the poor, the hungry and the oppressed lift a yoke from our back.  We have been weighed down with the yoke of pride, self-assurance, security and excessive needs. We have been hounded by diets and wasted foods and yet, we are never satisfied.  We carry the yoke of never of always wanting more and needing more....Fasting, by uniting us in the family of the poor teaches us the true value of home life. To be united with the poor is far superior to the most advanced education and certainly to the most elegant entertainment.  Trough fasting the poor lift these yokes of false values off our shoulders...As the poor share with us their sorrow…the poor lead us home mysteriously enough to Jesus. In the desire of Jesus, a new love is born, and love always unites and begets new life. "Biblical Meditation Foe Lent" by Carroll Stuhlmueller.  These are challenging words. Gospel spirituality cuts right to the core of things. That is why we must again and again return to the scriptures of Lent so as to reclaim our original dignity. That dignity as beloved daughter/son may be and is lost to our sight. But NOT from the sight of our Gracious Beloved Prodigal Father.  We are invited to "Come back to Me with all your heart...do not let fear draw us apart...we will live DEEPLY our new life"  A selfish, self serving fear, the opposite of faith, can and does keep us from an ever new, and ever evolving relationship with our Beloved.  We need lent to challenge us to be honest. To face up to the times where we have given into the temptation to follow, and worship at altars of false gods. The creation of our selfish, and self-centered egos are confronted with The Truth revealed in the scriptures. We have so many false gods that we could not confront them all just in one Lent. So we journey again, and again, not alone, never alone into our deserts. We journey to meet our Desert Shepherd who awaits. He awaits us to guide, guard, nourish, and strengthen us as we journey WITH Him to the dark valleys.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

A...New...Year...



We are bringing another Christmas-Epiphany to a close. We have spent these many weeks in the preparation for, and the celebration of The Mystery of The Incarnation. Once again we, as individuals and communities have set aside time, so we could be led ever deeper into profound Mystery. We are again challenged to let the past be the past, so as to be drawn ever new in today’s meaning of, The Word has been made flesh.  In this flesh making, God has become a human being, so the human beings can forever, and ever know the closeness of their God. We human beings can now be blessed with the confidence that there is God.  There is a God, a Holy Other, Who is not only in heaven, but is right here with us.  Emmanuel!!! Not only is He with us, He makes His dwelling within each soul. Each soul IS the dwelling place of God.  A place chosen from all eternity to be the dwelling place of The Presence, which the whole universe cannot contain.  Such is your dignity, and the dignity of each human person.  We can only stand in awe-full-wonder of such a reality.

This reality is too great to be understood in any one minute.  We are given a lifetime to reflect on The Mystery of The Incarnation.  With each encounter may you be brought into ever deeper reverence for the dignity of the human person, and the life that person is living.  We must allow ourselves to be drawn, sometimes kicking and screaming, into a new vision of the essentiality that God has become a human being.  That human being is right here, right now. O come, let us adore.
When God became a human, in the person of Jesus, He was not given a warm welcome. When we respond to our vocation to the contemporary Christ, we, too are not going to be greeted with bells and whistles. As Jesus, Who became the Christ, through His Paschal Mystery had to suffer, we, too will follow in His footsteps.  Footsteps that ALWAYS leads to Calvary.  There is no side trail to be taken.  Jerusalem is our destiny. May we embrace our many crosses, seeing in them our unique way, to unity with all human beings and ultimately with our Creator God.

These are tough times.  For us to be the incarnation of the good news we must of necessity, be prepared to suffer.  In that suffering there will be a death.  Death to the old way of seeing and believing.  We must be the ‘new wine’ for a jaded world.  We must bring intoxication to a lifeless world.  We must bring a new hope, because without which what is there? May you be enlightened, so that your light may shine. May your light be a beacon of hope to those who suffer from hopelessness. May you be today’s shepherds, who were the first bearers of Good News. For this reason each of you has been chosen, from eternity.  You have been uniquely blessed.  Each of us has suffered brokenness. Now, through grace, let us be the bread of life for lives starving for some source of life giving nourishment.  Be whom you always have been.

Life is a journey into uncertainty. It is the journey of dark faith. Please keep me in your prayers. I have a few challenges to face. Not the least of which is dealing with Joe, on a daily basis. Talk about welcoming the stranger?? Summer was quiet. Went to Durango, and promptly got lost on my first hike, at 10,500 feet.  Thank God for, "search and rescue.” Not going back that way again.
To all who have been so faithful over the years thank you.  You have been, and are my bread of life, for this life. May you constantly be enlightened into the mystery of who you are. You are the continuation of The Incarnation. You are an epiphany that is celebrated every moment of every day. Blessings to and on all.
Grandpa Joe