Saturday, January 14, 2017

Peace...Joy...Love




As The Christmas-Epiphany Season, moment by moment, draws to a close, I take this opportunity to wish you the peace, joy, and love this time is designed to bring to you and all of creation. The peace, joy, and love of God is coming to you uniquely, in a one of a kind way.  So, we have to look closely at each moment, each person, each event as the vehicle of our God’s Epiphany. That is why each moment is so SACRED, as each person has the innate dignity of being the revelation of God, in other words, an epiphany.  We are in a time of looking and watching, with understandable concern, as change works its way slowly through our lives.  Changes over which we have so little control, which in turn leads to a deepening fear.  The opposite of fear is faith.  It is demanded of us to develop the lenses so, as to see this unchanging fact.  That is the uniqueness of each moment we are privileged to live, we are blessed with an ever new revelation of the unknown.  Each person we meet reveals to us some aspect of the reality of The Invisible God.  We really have to prepare ourselves for that unique encounter.  When we take people, places, and events for granted.  We deprive ourselves of an encounter with The God of Surprises.  At this stage in my life, I am becoming more reconciled with that description of God, The One WHO Surprises. Our God is The God of the unknown, the incomprehensible, the effable, in other words a God that cannot be boxed, and neatly packaged.  How our egos hate this reality. Thank God for Pope Francis, who is taking us, some kicking and screaming into the newness of understanding. This, as we sadly see, has led to angry opposition by those who want things to be left as they were. Not a chance. Where The Spirit is, there is life. Where there is life there is change and growth. A growing dynamic faith challenges to surrender to the gently prodding of the Spirit as we explore the unknown, the unfamiliar, and enter into Mystery.

            Oh !! how a part of us, the ego, aches for the certain, the familiar, the known, that which we can control.  All we get, on the spiritual journey is the very opposite. We are asked to slowly embrace a journey into uncertainty. We are stepping very gingerly along the path of dark faith.  A faith that is guided by The Inner light, that somehow brightens our paths, and guides us along a path that is right for us. We cannot, and must not, compare paths. Each one is unique. Given by our God, taking into account our own uniqueness. We, then have to reverence the uniqueness of who we are. We must also develop a reverence for the uniqueness of each, and every manifestation of our God, in creation. To deny the sacramentality of any person is to reject the plan of God for all creation. We are all part of an unique tapestry.  Each one of us, living our unique lives contribute our own preordained color and design. The Mystery of The Incarnation, is God entering into His own creation to be our teacher in the true ways of living an authentic human life. A life that is grounded with relationship with A Power that is greater than ourselves. May this coming year be an exciting one for you. There will be new challenges to face.  There will be challenges to our Gospel values, which can lead to us asking here to never asked questions. ”To question is to care." Listen with open hearts and minds to the question. Then in God’s time, you will be lead into the answer, into your truth.  This is where the rubber really hits the road.  May you be strengthened to follow your truth, and reveal your unique understanding of The Truth, which the world is aching to receive.
   
Please keep me in your prayers. I have some medical challenges to face.
May the gifts of peace, joy, and love be manifested in your daily living so, the Christmas-Epiphany season becomes a continuous DAILY reality.
Prayers and blessings,
Grandpa Joe.
P.S. I hope you are taking note I am stretching the season to the limit!!! Right up to the last day, The Baptism of The Lord. Super Seniors do NOT rush!!! You were all remembered at Mass on Christmas. GPJ.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Advent...Ever...New




Advent 2016, never before, never again, has come 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.
             

            

Monday, November 7, 2016

Autumn...Reflections



The seasons we observe in Mother Nature are used as a paradigm for the seasons of our hearts and souls. As we reflect on the physical realities we are brought to the understanding, that  behind all that we see is a far deeper reality.  In all reality is perfectly hidden, and perfectly revealed, "The Real." What we see only touches the surface. To see beyond that surface we have to have the x-ray eye of faith. As we reflect on the vast treasures bestowed upon us by the combined reflections, of the artist, poet, writer, composer, and mystic something happens. We, as the result of these gifts, receive an invitation, or maybe a challenge to see, feel, experience, and celebrate the hidden spiritual realities which up until now had remained hidden. The autumn season had had great wonder for me, this year Autumn has come with a twist. Twists do add that something, like a twist of lemon in a cocktail?  I have read about that!!!

             Autumn this year for me is different, it has come with that twist which adds a certain something.  I am now having to deal with the reality  the challenge, of seeing and living this Autumn through the lenses of my personal Winter season. ( In the golfing parlance it is called, "playing the back nine" I just hope that when I am on the 18th green I will get a hint when lining up that "final putt.")  This is a whole new sacramental experience from which gifts will flow. Some will be welcomed, others will come as a challenge.  From each and every new experience I have been lead to believe something new will bubble up from within.  There will be a new understanding, a new little insight that was not there before. This/these insight(s) when accepted, and reverenced always results in change.

         I must wait for that bubbling up, which always happens.  This bubbling up is not on a timer, and so cannot be scheduled into the pattern of one's life.  Now I am being challenged to accept the reality, my Autumn has passed. I, also, have to own the fact there was no celebration in its passing. One can, and does allow one's self to be so caught  up in "the doing of life" that the  richness behind "the being of life" is never really seen, known or reverenced. What a void that leaves.  A void that sooner or later has to be filled up.  It will be filled up with  a deeper sense of gentleness, kindness, empathy and compassion. These are mysteriously bestowed as the  result of healthy grieving.  On the other hand, the void can and will be filled up with all kinds of dysfunction when the healthy grieving process is not experienced.  Then we are angry, cynical, vindictive, just to name a few. The grieving process is not easy. However, it is essential for a healthy, whole, holy life. There are no short cuts.

                   Being in the process,  I came across the following, and it spoke to me of one aspect of Autumn:  "A moral character is attached to autumnal scenes; the leaves falling like our years, the flowers fading like our hours, the clouds fleeting like our illusions, the light diminishing like our intelligence, the sun growing colder like our affections, the rivers becoming frozen like our lives--all bear secret relations to our destinies." de Chateaubriand. Then here are some other reflections of the same reality:  "Delicious Autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive Autumns." George Eliot. "No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face."  The mystical poet, John Donne.  "Autumn...the year's loveliest smile." William Cullen Bryant. "I love Autumn, the one season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it." Lee Maynard. "Fall colors are funny. They're so bright, and intense and beautiful. It's like nature is trying to fill you up with color, to saturate you so you can stockpile it before winter turns everything muted and dreary." Siobhan Vivian, Same Difference.

                            As in all things in the spiritual life it is not about the either/or, it is about living in the tension of the both/and.  Living the autumn reality was and is definitely exciting. In Autumn one is invited, challenged to see the beauty there is dying.  Not a very popular reality to reflect on, but necessary. Here is a sacramental experience that happened some years ago. Yet, that event still presents ever new insights which color today's acting and living.  I was hiking Missoula as the leaves were turning. There was this trail I was on and on both sides the leaves were wonder-full shades of red, rusts and the other colors of Autumn. Then it hit me. Here I am traveling through, what was either dead or dying and I was feeling so alive. Alive, and caught up in wonder at the contradiction right there before my eyes. That slowed me down. I was not ready to rush on, as I was prone to do back then. Not so anymore.  ( When one walks WITH Mother Nature that happens.) That experience began an ongoing reflection on the terminal aspect that lies beneath all of its richness and vitality of life.  I/we have to face the uncomfortable fact, all life is terminal.  From the moment we are born we are dying.  In that dying we are called to live life, and live it to the fullest.  We are  also told that we cannot live life fully or freely until we have made our peace with death.  In making our peace with death we are able to live life in a different way.  Autumn reminds us, and invites us to celebrate that mysterious reality of living, dying, only to be born anew.  Autumn has such great wisdom to impart.  A wisdom that will impact our lives and hence the lives of others.  These days, which are my days of winter.  I am finding that memories of Autumns past, are triggered by this autumn season of 2016.  Memories that bring warmth, soothing comfort, and a sense of well being. The same feeling one gets when one is close to a wonderful open fire all wrapped up in a warm blanket.  Autumn memories sure warm and repel the cold, cruel, harshness of winter.