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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

In...God's...Time...



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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The...Journey...Of...Self...



As a consequence of my being, "a spiritual being, immersed in the human experience," there are zillions of questions seeking answers. Why does it we seem to never get a satisfactory, complete answer? All the answers I seem to get just lead to another new question, which leads to another new answer, which leads to another new question. Duh!!! I get tired, and very frustrated. I want it to stop. That "I," who wants this to stop, is my ego, my false self, not my true self. My true self is always seeking and searching for who it is, in the unconditioned, unlimited, unrestricted love of A Prodigal-father-God.  What the "I," the false self is, is an end to that endless moment to moment battle, fought in the depths of our souls.  It is a battle which the false self cannot win, but goes down fighting every inch of the way. Joe has to become reconciled with that endless searching, seeking, and ever deepening journey into the "beyond" of everything, and everyone. I have come to the realization that as it is, in the sacrament of the now moment, so it was, and ever shall be, a journey into the ever mysterious, Beyond. This Beyond exists outside time and space, and outside the ability of words to communicate such a Reality. Thomas Aquinas reminds us "whereas we can come a knowledge of the existence of God, we will never come to a knowledge of the essence of God."

          So many of us are drawn to the ocean, and its many looks, voices, and moods. Our journey into the mystery of God, is like a person entering an ever receding sea. The endless, mysterious ocean, is a common metaphor used by the spiritual writers. Even at this stage on my life's journey the ocean still stirs within me something in which I fail miserably in my efforts to communicate. There is a certain reality which is deep, deep within, and aching to be expressed. The desire is there but, for some reason the vehicle, the language to express  such  reality, I am sad to find out, has been lost. In the past, the ability to communicate at such deep levels was present within humankind, what a gift we have been deprived of and why? So we settle for conversation about the accidentals of life, and never wonder why we are not satisfied. The restlessness we all experience will be with us until we hear those words of welcome to our eternal home," Come you who are the blessed of my Father inherit this eternal kingdom..." We will then find eternal rest, and peace in that place, from which in reality, is our place, of origin. What a mysterious circle we are called travel.

             "You are never too old and it is not too late to dive into your increasing depths where life calmly gives out it's secret... (so) Deeply I go into myself. My God is Dark, and like a webbing made of roots that drink in silence." So Rilke writes. He also writes that we: "Believe in the love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have Faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so LARGE that you can travel as far as you wish without stepping
outside of it...the only journey is within." Despite what my ego wants, to stop all this journeying into uncertainty, the true self will be restless until it rests in its, True Home. This true Home we are given just an introduction to, on this part of the journey. We get a taste of what is awaiting us, so as to encourage us to continue 'our trudge," through this "vale of tears."  We call these moments, our moments on The Mount of Transfiguration. 

Remember how the prophet Jesus, before His "passing over," revealed to The Big Three, Peter, James, and John, His inner light, on The Mount of Transfiguration where His divinity shone through His humanity. Was this to show off? Of course not. It was done so that they would have an inner, deeper, understanding to strengthen them so they would be able to face the coming apparent disaster. Jesus wanted to reveal to them that He was so much more than what they thought, saw, or understood. It was through a long, pain-full process before those Apostles came to understand Who this Prophet, Rabbi Jesus really was. They had to move beyond their relationship and understanding of the historical Jesus, The One who was "WITH THEM" daily as a fellow human being. What an authentic human being that Jesus was. WE do not place enough importance on the humanity of Jesus, through which Our Gracious, Mercy-full, God is revealed to us. Jesus is God in human form.  They too, had to endure a death and resurrection so that they could grow into a new enlightening, and enlivening relationship with the Risen Christ. What agony those early disciples, our ancestors in faith had to endure so that their understanding of the historical Jesus, Who was with them, could give way to the birthing of The Christ, "WITHIN THEM." I wonder how often did the Big Three return in memory to those sacramental moments on their Mount of Transfiguration? I wonder what part that played when question and doubt invaded their hearts, soul and minds?

   The Big Three had only one visit to the Mount, of which we know. We, on the other hand, have many, many visits to that sacramental place, and space. But are we aware of that which is happening to us? Yes, we are privileged to journey again, and again to the place of transfiguration. Jesus "took with Him, Peter, James, and John" up the mountain.  The spirit of that same Jesus, who became the Christ, is with us as we enter our moments of encounter with transfiguration.  These are the sacramental moments when the hidden Presence, breaks through, and we are not able to say anything, but, WOW!!! We, like Peter are tongue tied.  We have no real words to express that depth of feeling welling up from deep inside. We are in those "wow" moments caught up in the wonder, the mystery, The Presence of that which is beyond, thought, feeling, and emotion, it is The Beyond. Is it not very sad when people, places, events, actions, enter into the realm of the familiar? There is no sense of the sacred, the holy. Then we see that person, place, etc. as something we take for granted. We are then well on our way to our own private hell. We are condemning ourselves to dwell in that heartless, soul destructive, life destroying, awe-less, place we call, The Land of the Ordinary, and the Familiar. These two lands do not exist in God's creation. They are illusions we ourselves create, or are forced by the circumstances of poverty, and violence to inhabit. Unless we break free we will just exist, not live. We will die, without ever having lived. How sad is that?