Saturday, June 18, 2016

The...Challenges...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.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Triune...



Birthdays are times of gift giving. We, as the church, are having a birthday which is contained in a fuller understanding of The Feast of Pentecost. Will you have a conscious celebration of this ever new event in your life, and in the continuing life of The Body of Christ? When we do not have a conscious celebration of a significant event then we are not drawn into its deeper meaning. When that is our modus operandi we will not see our lives through the lenses of awe, and wonder. We will never see or come to appreciate the life that is both hidden and revealed in the mystery we call daily living. We will then complain how dull and boring life is. There will be nothing to trigger the awe and wonder that is essential to living life and living it to the fullest, which is our Father-God's dream for you and me. This is a dream we have had to claim again, again, and again.

Religious celebrations allow us to celebrate the deepest reality within us. The purpose of religious practice is not to give us religion, rather it is intended to help us celebrate that which is already present. You do not put religion into a person, it is our challenge to provide the opportunity which allows the person to come to an awareness of what our Gracious God has already placed within each and every person. Regardless of how we see, or what we see in an individual, that is the reality hidden deep within all human beings. This is the in-depth reality which is hidden within each human being. We have at this time of year, three celebrations which provides us with an ever new awareness of this reality.

Pentecost Sunday is the first of three celebrations that reveals to us our great calling, our deep mysterious reality. The celebration of Pentecost is followed by two celebrations of equal mystery and majesty. They are The Feast of The Blessed Trinity and The Feast of Corpus Christi. In the celebration of Pentecost, we will celebrate The Spirit that has descended, has come to bring the new Spirit leading to a new way of living for a community that was discouraged, and doubtful. They needed a new unique spirit to live the new life that was now theirs. This Spirit was to be the living, vitalizing presence of Him who loved His own, and loved them to the end. He left but promised not to abandon them or leave them orphans. That promise is directed toward you and me, as we are their successors and the inheritors of that same promise. "As it was, so it is, and ever shall be." This Spirit will lead us to all truth, as has been promised. We will not ALWAYS like or embrace the Truth. Real Truth will always challenge us, to reach beyond what is easy, and comfortable. I personally do not like this. Then I am told, I do not have to LIKE it. However, I will be led in time to the wonderful promised land of acceptance.

In the celebration of The Holy Trinity, we are drawn into an ever deepening understanding of who is The Family that has chosen our bodies, to be their dwelling place. The Family of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have out of their Triune love for each one of us, have chosen us to live within, "the prisoner of our finiteness." We have within us here on earth, here in our earthly existence, what is present in the life of Heaven. We are temples of the living God. A God who is in reality, a family, living in loving unity. They live within us, so we can make our dwelling with them, as they dwell within us. In that way, we can have here on earth a taste of the life of Heaven. Pretty neat!!! There is this Celtic prayer that has been around for many, many centuries:

"I arise to-day
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of
the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
of the Creator of Creation."

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Shalom...



We are still in Easter time. That time between Easter Sunday and The Feast of The Ascension. It is now looked on as the time spent in adjustment. These are the days and weeks we visit each year so as to reflect and be taught anew  by  The Risen Christ. We learn each year something new from the events of the time spent time by Christ with His disciples. He spent 40 days, a long time, providing them time  to adjust to His new way of relating with them. It was a time of letting go of the old, so as to embrace the new. This is hard work.  The disciples had to let go of their old way of thinking, and their old way of relating. This Jesus, whom they knew in His mortal life, is now present to them in His risen reality. A reality that is beyond anything they could ever imagine. He appears and disappears. Closed doors are no obstacle  to The Risen Christ. They encounter Him on the road. He is with  them when they are fishing. The Risen One eats and drinks with them. He even cooks for them. Things may in way be the same, yet in another reality essentially different. It took some adjusting to, and in the end the disciples did not really get the whole picture. We are told in Mark's Gospel how, on The Mount of The Ascension, the disciples worshiped the Risen Christ, but "they still doubted." How consoling is that. Those who were personally called, and formed by Jesus The Christ, did not get it. It is still more amazing that Jesus left them in their doubt. He went off up to heaven, and left behind a bunch of doubters. Yet these were the ones who, in time, were going to take the Gospel message to "the ends of the earth." Many were to lay down their lives as a testimony to the truth of what they were taught. How could this happen? What they saw or thought as an ending was actually the beginning of a deeper journey with The Risen Christ. He was no longer with them; He was to be within them. As it was with the early disciples so it is with us, His present day disciples. We, because we are alive, have to face the consequence of death. For who follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ will over time, come to see and believe that this death we are so afraid of is not an end but an actual beginning. This death, leading to new life is called, Paschal death. As long as we are alive we are constantly in the process of deepening our understanding of this mystery. The opposite of Paschal death is temporal death. There is death, and then there is nothing. Where do you see the reality of this Paschal death in the life you are living right now? Where is Easter time, that time you are forced to let go of the old ways of relating, and there is now a new reality to be encountered and accepted? We must always keep before us this hard fact, acceptance is a process to be entered into. When we enter a process we never know where it is going to lead to. So we need faith. Our Gracious Lover has provided us with a model that is to be lived out uniquely by each one of us. The journey of the prophet Jesus, becoming the Christ of God, is the model we follow. So we will not be caught up in fear and trembling.  We have been blessed to have The Spirit of The risen Christ deep within the depths of who we are.

                       What does it mean to have The Risen Christ journey within us? How do we know that the life we are living is the life  of The Risen One? It helps to remember one of the first appearances of Christ. The disciples are scared. He, Who they thought was going to do so much, left them with so little. Their expectations were crushed. They were dejected and very much alone. They were living behind closed doors. Closed to keep them safe, but not safe from the reality of The Risen Christ. Into that room, despite locked doors Jesus, now The Christ appears. We can  guess at  the thoughts, the feelings, the contrasting emotions coursing through their hearts, souls, and minds. These, His chosen ones, were so well aware of their limitations as followers. When the going got tough, there was no toughness to be seen. Fear and flight was their answer to disaster that was Good Friday, and the crucifixion. When they were most needed, they were shown to be wanting. Wanting in empathy, compassion and courage. The weakness of as yet unredeemed humanity became oh so self evident. What weaklings they were, when the chips were down. Even the favored ones, Peter, James, and John were not able to provide companionship and support when Jesus in His agony most needed them. They were unable to "watch one hour with the Suffering Servant." Peter, who prided himself in his loyalty, became a cropper when it came to crunch time. He, who was ready to die with Jesus, was unable to admit that he was a follower of The Prophet from Galilee. When it came to Good Friday, how many were around? It was the women, with the beloved disciple who showed any willingness to be identified with The Crucified One, and they "stood at a distance." Those in that room, who are our ancestors in faith, were left with nothing when brought face to face with The Risen Christ.

                        How did the Risen One greet them? With words of recrimination, and judgment? No way!! That is our human way of dealing with denial, and betrayal. Not so with Jesus The Christ. He, Who is the incarnation of the mercy of God, was mercy-full to these broken ones. He did not call anyone out. He did not let the ego gloat by saying "I told you so." No His greeting to them was "Shalom." Shalom is not just peace. It is so much more. Shalom has about 15 different levels of meaning. I found the following on the internet. "According to Strong's Concordance shalom means completeness,  wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety,  soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. "Now that is a real mouth full!!! It appears to be too much for my little brain to handle. There is nothing in this world that we can compare shalom to. No human being, that I know of, has all those qualities. There are some who we can say have some of what shalom means but not all. We are all perfectly imperfect. So what is left, the desire to grow into a fuller understanding, and an ever deepening embrace of the full meaning of shalom. This will happen the more we encounter Christ in our everyday living. The spirit of Shalom is the Spirit of Christ, constantly reminding us of who we are, and Whose presence we are to reveal in our gospel hike/walk/journey.

                           The disciples were offered shalom in their moment of weakness, and absolute powerlessness. It is essential to remember that it was when they were most aware of their weakened, broken humanity, it was then they were given power to forgive sin. What great confessors Peter, and the rest would be. He, who was to be the successor of Jesus Christ, denied that he ever knew him? God seems to choose the little and the least to proclaim that which is beyond human belief.  As it was with those early followers, so it is with you and me. The way it seems to me that in order to be open to, and I am speaking just for myself, I have to journey into, and take up residence in the reality  which is the opposite of living in shalom. I remember how things changed for me when I read of the connection between being, whole and being holy. You cannot have one without the other. So my journey is into wholeness, into oneness. Oneness with myself, others, Creator God and with all of creation. Wholeness is a gift to be desired. Wholeness comes at a great price. Wholeness comes as the result of an endless war that is waged in the battlefield of the soul. Shalom wants to call us to recognize  our essential goodness that is not harmed by sin and human frailty. It is ONLY through the acceptance of our humanness, with all of its weakness and brokenness, can we begin our journey into the fullness of The Risen life. This is where we ask for the gift of humility. On our own personal Emmaus journey we need of the constant appearance of The Scripture Teacher Who will rekindle from the embers, the fire of The Divine  Creator Spirit. We and all of creation will be strengthened and renewed. We will be given the necessary grace, "our daily bread, which will strengthen us to pick up our cross and journey into the constant process of renewal.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Risen...




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?