Sunday, April 23, 2017

The...Newness...Of...Life



What has brought about this "newness of life?" Our encounter with the living Person of Our Lord, and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Our faith teaches us that in each and every encounter with The Risen Christ, we are being transformed into being His living presence. This miracle of grace does not happen with just one encounter. It has to be repeated again and again. When you are preparing Easter eggs, you do not just dip the egg once into the dye, right? You dip, and dip, and dip, and then dip some more. We are not transformed, or transfigured by just one encounter with The Risen Lord. The process takes a whole lifetime as we respond to the challenge that comes with the reception of each ritual sacraments. We slowly grow into an ever deepening understanding of what it means to receive the seven sacraments.  And not only to receive the sacrament, but to come to live more fully, the life we are now called to live. We are to be "the contemporary Christ," How often is there time spent reflecting on, who it is we have encountered, and who it is we are now called to be, as a result of this encounter. If there is no intention of being transformed into the living Presence of The Risen Christ, we will never fulfill the great dream, the aisling, our God has for us, and has had from all of eternity. We are no surprise to God.

In The Sacrament of Baptism we begin our initiation into the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, The Christ. It is an initiation into a mystery, that we will live daily, and never quite understand. Our life's experience will lead us into an ever new understanding of our participation in The Paschal Mystery. Again and again, we will be drawn into the understanding that our suffering is the continuation of Christ's suffering. Christ's suffering leads to death, Resurrection, and new life, so too, for us, new life will appear in the same place where death was experienced. This endless cycle of death and rebirth into new life, is the destiny, the vocation, for those who are chosen. The mysterious action of saving grace will keep us in wonderment our whole life long. Wonder leads to prayer. I cannot help but think about all that Henri Nouwen had to go through to be able to write the following? (This is Jesus Christ speaking to you and I):  "I am your God, I have molded you with my hands, and I love what I have made.  I love you with a love that knows no limits, because I love you as I love myself.  Do not run away from me.  Come back to me--not once, not twice, but always. You are my child. How can you doubt that I will embrace you again?  I am your God--the God of mercy and compassion, the God of pardon and love, the God of tenderness and care.  Please, do not say that I have given up on you.  It is not true.  I so, much want you to be close to me.  I know all your thoughts.  I hear all your words.  I see all your actions.  Because you are beautiful, made in my image, an expression of my most intimate love, do not judge yourself.  Do not condemn yourself.  Do not reject yourself.  Let my love reveal to you your own beauty, a beauty that you have lost sight of, but which will become visible to you again in the light of my mercy.  Let me wipe your tears, and whisper in your ear, "I love you, I love you."

                     The only response to those wonder-full words is silence. They are too much for us. They speak the truth, but can we hear, listen, and embrace these radical, life enhancing words?  It is difficult, is it not, they are just too good to  believe?  We are told if something is too good, we are not to be taken in, we are to run away from it.  God knows that and asks us "not to run away" from His/Her infinite, prodigal love.  Now do this.  Go back and read the words again, but insert your name before "I am." You are now going to pray; John, Pat, Pablo, Lupe, Maria…I am your God..." Read the words slowly and allow them to penetrate into the depths.  In the depths where they will encounter The Blessed Trinity Who dwells eternally in those same depths.  The result, a party, a celebration that has no end in this life. This celebration will continue into eternity, and through all of eternity.  As we celebrate in the here and now, so will our eternity be.  Now that is downright scary.  So we need to heed the call of our Initiation.  We must of necessity, seek out and search out all that is ours because of our Encounter with The Paschal Mystery, and allow ourselves to be drawn beyond ourselves. We spend forty days to prepare for this mystery and then spend three full days in celebration.  We are now in the 50 days it will take us to delve into what this mystery means, as we live out our daily lives.

Each, and every action will reveal to you and me, some aspect of the dying, burial, rising, and Ascension, of Our Living Lord. There is no event or action that is neutral.  All have sacramental value.  This will reveal to us a new way of living.  To complete Paschal Mystery, we ask for the Spirit for this new, never before lived life.  This takes us to the land of ever newness.  In this land of "ever newness" the truth of Henri's words will become a lived experience.  There will always forces in our lives that want to prevent this happening.  They are doing the devil's work.  Satan, "the prosecuting attorney," will do all in his power to trigger our denial of who we are in God's love. He has his agents.  They are the ones who are so ready to judge, to condemn, to punish, when we do not measure up to their stringent rules. They are today's Pharisees.  They are encountered both within and outside.  Their voices are never still.  So, we are called to be vigilant, ever vigilant.  Just as The Prophet Jesus had trouble with them, so we too, as followers of Him today, will have the same trouble.  They were nasty then, and they are nasty now.  To make matters worse they give you the idea they are speaking for God.  But it is not the compassionate, mercy-full God of Jesus Christ.  We have met Him above, and He/She is a God of life, not death.  The Pharisee(s) create an array of idols, false gods.  They create idols.  Idols that are made in their image and likeness.  These idols do not give life, they only destroy.  The living God of Jesus Christ wants to bestow life on us, and bestow it in abundance. We have that battle of the voices of negativity each and every moment we are given to live.  The quality of my life will depend on which voice I am listening to and responding to.  We have been given The Paraclete, The Defense Attorney, who never tires of defending us, so we will never have to face any attack on our own, or by ourselves.  May each reception of The Ritual Sacraments lead us always beyond our fears, to the discovery of the newness of the life our God has wished for each one.  May the reality, the certainty of "the beyond" bring an ever deepening sense of awe and  wonder, leading to an ever present excitement for the journey to our God, and with our God.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The...Desert...Shepherd




Lent and "the desert journey" are synonymous.  There is a mystery revealed to us, ever new, as we trudge the days, and the weeks of Lent.  This is a mystery that has been hidden from some, but revealed to those who have been blessed with the courage to leave comfort behind,  and take the risk of entering upon  a desert hike/journey.   As the result of each lived moment we are new.  The grace encountered in each now moment  continues to perfect creation.  We are  all essential parts of this perfecting, while remaining always perfectly, imperfect creation.   With our belief in this process of an ever new creation there comes a great challenge.   We are challenged to leave behind the old.   In more frightening words,  we are challenged to let go, be emptied,  of all that we are certain of, of all that we are secure in, so as to journey into the unknown.   This is a great paradigm for our journey into The Unknown,  and the Unknowable.   All of this newness carries with it a tacit  demand for  a newness within us as well as we enter into, reflect on,  and participate in The Paschal Mystery.   Our Lent 2017 must result in a new way of seeing, that This Mystery we have been Baptized into is not only relevant  but vitalizing, life giving source as we live out, "the here and now."  We will have to reflect on, chew on, become familiar within a new way,  "Now is the acceptable time, now is the time of salvation."   Salvation comes to us as we allow the present moment to be all that it is, nothing more, nothing less.  It is what it is, and it's essential is-ness is hidden and revealed in The Source of all reality.   A moment then, is a sacrament in and through which  all the necessary  grace,  all the strengthening love needed, is channeled into our being.  On our part, we have to develop the trust and faith that IS happening, even though we do not have a clue as to how.   Here is a good place for; " I believe Lord, help my unbelief/disbelief." 

Why then are we invited, not compelled,  by Mother Church to make this yearly journey in faith?   Why is it that once is not enough?   Well, we do not go to school for a day, and then decide not to return anymore.   We have to return again and again so we can GROW in our understanding.   This "growing" is a process, and as such, can be very boring, and uninviting, to say the least.  How many children fight school, and all that it demands of them?   We cannot see the future, so we, as children,  have to trust that what we are asked to do will be beneficial to us in the long run.   Over these many years I have developed a trust in what is taught in The School of Lent.   I have not enjoyed that which I had to go through, but the end result is beyond what one could hope for.   The School  of Lent is situated in the desert.   Not a very inviting place to live in.   Hike in for a limited time, oh! yes, but to live in no.   It is so dry desolate, harsh,  and unforgiving of mistakes.  At the beginning of desert trails, there are a number of warnings posted to draw attention to the dangers that may be encountered.  Yet, how many are drawn to hike, again and again into a place that at first, seems to have nothing to offer?   As a result of constant journeys, hikes, something happens.   The reality behind the desert seems to reach out and embrace us in a very mysterious way.   There is no way to explain it.   Poets, artists, composers,  photographers, have all made attempts, to capture and to convey the essence of the mystery of the desert.   All of necessity have come up short.   I suppose that is why we will continue to read poems, read books, listen to music, take photographs in the vain hope that in some way the mystery of the desert will be at last revealed.   Part of me knows this will never happen.  Yet there is another part that will never stop the seeking and the searching for that which I cannot here describe.   I will, God willing, return again and again to the desert, so as to become more comfortable with the desert within me.   A desert I just do not visit every now and then, but a desert in which "I live and move and have my being,"  My yearly Lenten desert experience somehow offers me that certain something which gives me the courage to journey ever deeper into the all that The Prophet Jesus, was sent to teach.  As I look back on the many, many,  desert journeys again, I shudder, as I have previously shuddered and recoiled from depths of nothingness one is brought to.   

 There is the great consolation knowing that in the desert we are not alone.   In the desert we are NEVER alone.   We read in the scriptures  that Jesus was led, driven, into the desert by the Spirit.  The desert awaited Him to be His place in which He will be tempted.   In the desert, Jesus was tempted to deny His humanity.  In overcoming temptation, Jesus reaffirmed His enfleshment in our humanity.   Our humanity and the humanity of Jesus was the same broken, unredeemed humanity you and I take up each day.  Our Gracious Creator God did not have one humanity for us, but a better and more improved one for His Beloved Son.   We all share a oneness in  having the same humanity.   "Jesus is like unto us in everything, except sin,  and He died because of His love for us sinners.   Jesus was to use His humanity to full fill His appointed mission.   Jesus said that He was to preach good news to the poor.  He was to proclaim liberty to the captives.  He was to proclaim recovery of sight, to the blind.  He was to proclaim, let the captives go free.  He was to proclaim an acceptable year to the Lord."  (Luke 4.  ) All of what He came  to proclaim, and not only to proclaim but to actually physically do,  I need.   That need drives me out to the desert so I can with the mind, heart, and soul of my present being, hear for the first time, that which is from old, and speaks to me in the right now. 

 This Lent I must bring my new found poverty,  which has been revealed through daily living, to Him who embraced all poverty.  To make the necessary room for our poverty The Eternal Word emptied Himself of His Divinity so as to become incarnate in our broken humanity.   He knew from His human experience what it meant to be hungry, to be betrayed, to be beaten, to lose so much as to be existentially broken, and abandoned.   He was so grieved with the loss of His friend Lazarus, that He cried.  Jesus also cried over Jerusalem, because of her rejection of Him.   So go out to encounter anew, He Who is the bearer of good and Is The Good News.  I come not to tell Him anything new, but in the owning, and in the telling I receive a new understanding.   In the owning and revelation of my broken, wounded, hardened heart, which feels  like a death, something mysterious happens.  A new understanding will, in time be given.  This gift in time, leads to a new heart.   It will lead to a less hardened heart.  A less judgmental heart.   A more compassionate heart becomes more of a reality from the encounter with Compassion Itself.  The old fears of not being "good enough," of not being worthy of love, slowly give way to a new and a more, healthy, freeing love relationship.  The reality of being the beloved slowly brightens the horizon bring with it the promise of greater joy.   Not happiness, joy is now a choice. 

 When I prepare to go on a desert hike, I have to make sure I have all that is necessary for physical survival.   Water, food,  sunscreen, proper clothing, map, telephone, hat,  good boots,  etc.  are essential for safety.   For the inner desert journey there must be a different mindset.   I am going to encounter The Desert Shepherd, Who IS my only source of real food, and real drink.   He is a living stream that I just do not visit, but I come to understand is the source of life giving water that springs eternal,  deep within.  I come so ashamed of my nakedness, only to be clothed with the dignity of being a fellow beloved son/daughter.  I can now walk unashamed into a freedom hard to understand or explain.   It can only be lived. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

The...Freedom...Of...The...Light



Light comes and goes. Now we see it, now we don't. But what is our memory of The Light, Whose appearance we celebrated just a few short weeks ago? Compared to The Light, all other lights are like comparing  the flickering light of a candle to the  dazzlingly brilliant, blinding  light of the sun. That comparison falls so short of the reality. We have the same problem when we want to speak of The Light, whose entrance into our world we celebrated, in faith-filled prayer-filled celebrations. What has been, left us with now that The Epiphany is only a memory, and a vague one at that or is it still lighting our way??? What is our understanding now of that great feast of which The Season of Christmas is seen as a "bridge toward?" Where is That Light leading us to, or have we out of fear substituted, substitute lights? Are we now leading lives of greater freedom, or are we enclosed in the security of our self-made prisons? Have we become the victims of accepted behavior rather than the right behavior? Have we allowed ourselves to camouflage our true reality, and surrender our freedom to the hellish practice of people pleasing? What a price we pay for that so readily accepted behavior??? The truth WILL set us free. We in turn will draw others, indeed may force them, into the freeing light, and the safety of the real truth. Illusion is a very lonely place to dwell in. Merton has this warning for you and I: "If I allow myself to degenerate into the being I am imagined to be by other men, God will have to say to me, "I know you not." Prayer from the gut works. It comes the reality God knows and sustains in existence.

            Here is a little something to practice. Before you answer a phone call, respond to an email, or any other communication requiring you to do something, say the following at least 10-20 times:" I release the need I have to be admired." You will be doing a quarter of what you are doing now. Your ego will not like it. You will not be caught up in doing. The true self that will emerge from this practice will enjoy an inner-peace and a sense of well-being that cannot be bought. This is priceless. What do you pay, NOTHING. It cannot be bought. It is pure gift. Yet there are so few who are prepared to do that nothing, which will bestow upon them everything that they need. In the long run it comes down to our trust in the essential goodness of our Prodigal Lover.

         Our inner-truth is hard to face. Our inner-reality we much prefer to either hide or deny. We want to keep ourselves in darkness rather than risk exposing ourselves to the piercing light of the truth. Yet there can be no spiritual journey unless we are prepared to be led into the depths of who we are. Oh how often I have wished this was not so. Thank God, the journey into a healthy honesty is ongoing. We will never have absolute honesty. The goal is to be as honest as one can be in this present moment. Whatever bubbles up will not overcome us. Since God, Higher Power, Savior, is present in fullness we will have what we need to face that which left to ourselves we could not deal with. We have that great certainty that nothing will be revealed that God, Higher Power, Great Spirit and we cannot face and deal with. We will NEVER be tested beyond our strength.(Paul). So when we journey within, we will encounter our innate poverty stemming from our broken humanity. We will encounter a hungry, naked, homeless, wandering, stranger that is in  desperate need of food, shelter, clothing, a comforting home. After the initial shock, the initial desire to reject, something happens. How it happens is none of our business. We are in the mysterious realm of Grace. We are not in the business of understanding, an ego trip, we are drawn to a slow gradual acceptance. An acceptance that will be given, as a gift, to each one of us in a unique way. This gift appears as we, not only encounter, but journey with, as of now, the frightening stranger.

            The gifts we are given, are of necessity, given to be given away. If they are not given away they disappear. "Whatever we keep for ourselves we lose, whatever we give away we keep," This is the danger we have to face. Now we can read, listen to, and eventually hear the words of the prophet Isaiah as he relays to us this command from our God: "Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall be quickly healed." What a great promise is contained in those words. Our wounds will be quickly healed as we make that inner journey of discovery and encounter. As the healing power of Grace-full mercy slowly works, and believe me it is slow, we get an inkling of what is to come. We are now more ready to meet the stranger and are not afraid. Why? May I suggest it is because we have met another, stranger. We have met, and are continuing to encounter the inner stranger. From that encounter and the continuous deepening conversation, through grace, a sense of welcome and hospitality is now replacing the old fear. The life of, and the workings of grace is a mystery. Then we slowly realize "The place of the wound, becomes the place of the gift. The greater the wound the greater the gift." WOW!

                   As we are again clothed with the dignity of being the beloved daughter/son, we recognize more readily the innate goodness of all people, and all of creation. That part of us that we once oppressed is now sensitive to others who are the victims of oppression. They are to be called to the freedom that is theirs because of their belovedness. Belovedness can never be taken away. It can at times be denied but never surrendered. Why? It is not ours to surrender. This is God's gift over which we have NO control. All we can do is surrender to the embrace of The Prodigal God, Who is our Beloved, and is revealed to by The Light. There is a process to that surrender. I/we do not surrender once forever. Nothing in the spiritual life is done once forever. When I found that out, the hard way, I was, and still am a very unhappy camper. Then acceptance is a process, not an event. This, however, is a reality I do not have to like, just accept. So easy to say, or write, yet so difficult in practice.