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?

Monday, March 28, 2016

The...Gift...Of...Transformation



We all have been brought together by the power of God's spirit to be again "dipped and dyed," in the Paschal Mystery.  Each year, we come to an ever deeper understanding of our daily participation in the Paschal Mystery.   It is so essential for us to remember, it is a daily participation in the suffering, death and burial, resurrection and ascension of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Our daily journey is our Paschal Journey.  Our daily experience of what is means to be human is our encounter with the cross.  It is in and through the events of our daily journey, our God uses to bring about the transformation and transfiguration necessary for us to become more and more the contemporary presence of His Son, Jesus Christ.  He is the potter, we are the clay, and the daily events are the tools in the hand of The Master.  You will now notice, where before there was garbage, walls, and dullness, now we see wonderful gifts that have come to us.  These gifts are spread out among the community.  The emphasis is on the living water, the fountain of water, that is flowing so very freely from a place of mystery. 

The place of Mystery is within us.  It is out of the midst of our uncertainty, fears, and disillusionment, that somehow the living waters of life, of Christ, come flowing into our deepest consciousness and our daily living.  That is why we have to be constantly "dipped and dyed," so we can be exposed in each liturgy to the life of Christ, the light of Christ and the love of Christ.

Easter transforms and transfigures.  It allows us to have the hope at this time, and at this stage of our journey, that death is not "the final word on life or despair the final state of human beings."  (Boff)  as we make our journey in the light of the resurrection, we know that out of all pain, sorrow, and the brokenness comes new life and wonderful gifts.  The greater the wound, the great the pain...the greater the gift.  Because of the Resurrection, we experience in our lives the following: 
Where before there was Guilt, now there is Forgiveness, Where there was Anger, now there is Compassion.  Where there was Resentment, now there is Understanding and Gratitude.  Where there was Boredom, now there is Wonder.  Where there was Anxiety, now there is Excitement.  Where there was Greed and Envy, now there is Sharing and Generosity. 

So, we see then our Garbage is turned into treasure, and gifts, to be shared.  It is by the power of God, not and never by our power, this is accomplished.  Like the Risen Christ, we carry, and will carry, our wounds with us.  We will learn over and over again wounds brought to prayer, brought to reconciliation, brought to Eucharist, become sacred wounds.  These wounds become the place of encounter with faith for those who share a common experience.  As a result of this encounter, courage and faith is shared, leading to a greater belief and trust in the transforming love of our Heavenly Father. 

We, also need to remember it is when the disciples are most aware of their failures and shortcomings, they are given the power to forgive sins.  I have always said, I would like to go to reconciliation with St. Peter, because he would be the one most aware of his humanity and his vulnerability.  From his experience, he would have been given the gifts of compassion, understanding, and empathy.  We need to be showered with these gifts.  These are the gifts we need to shower on ourselves so, we can enjoy these self same gifts when they are offered to us by our Heavenly Father.  "Grace perfects human nature." (St. Thomas Aquinas)  It is in and through this experience, we come to believe and know the Risen Christ.  It is in the awareness and celebration of these gifts, we come to know the joy of the Risen Christ.  We, too can testify, "The Lord is Risen," and His risen life is a life we now share and experience.  We will come to believe in the Risen Christ not because we have seen Him, rather, we have experienced His risen presence in our lives.  I like what Thomas Keating says, "This,  of course, is an important message for us.  It tells us that it is far better to relate to the Risen Christ on the basis of pure faith that rests not on appearances, feelings, external evidence or what other people say, but on our personal experience of the Christ-life rising up and manifesting its fruits within us.  This is the living faith that empowers us to act under the influence of the Spirit - the same Spirit that Jesus breathed upon the apostles on the evening of His resurrection."

Here are some further thoughts from Fr. Ronald Rolhheiser's book, "Holy Longing."  "The Paschal Mystery is a process of transformation within which we are given both new life and new spirit.  It begins with suffering, and death, moves onto the reception of new life, spends some time grieving the old and adjusting to the new, and finally, only after the old life has been truly let go of, is new spirit given for the life we are already living."  

Theologically, looking at Jesus' teachings and especially at his death and resurrection and what follows from them, we can see that there are five clear, distinct moments within the paschal cycle: Good Friday, Easter Sunday, the forty days leading up to the Ascension, the Ascension, and Pentecost.  Each of these is part of a single process, an organic one, and each needs to be understood in relation to the others to make sense of the paschal mystery.  Each is part of one process of transformation, of dying and letting go so, as to receive new life and new spirit. 
In caption, the paschal cycle might be diagrammed as follows:
1.Good Friday..."the loss of the life-real death"
2.Easter Sunday..."the reception of new life"
3.The Forty Days..."a time for readjustment to the new and for grieving the old"
4. Ascension..."letting go of the old and letting it bless you, the refusal to cling"
5.Pentecost..."the reception of new spirit for the new life that one is already living"
Put into a more colloquial language and stated as a personal, paschal challenge for each of us, one might recast the diagram this way:
1."Name your death"
2."Claim your births"
3."Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality"
4."Do not cling to the old, let it ascend and give you its blessing"
5."Accept the spirit of the life that you are in fact living"

This cycle is not something that we must undergo just once, at the moment of our deaths, when we lose our earthly lives as we know them.  It is rather something we must undergo daily, in every aspect of our lives.  Christ spoke of many deaths, of daily deaths, and of many rising and various pentecosts.  The Paschal Mystery is the secret to life.  Ultimately our happiness depends upon properly undergoing it.

May the peace and joy of the Easter Season be yours, today and all the days of your life as you make your journey through life.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Stones...



As I focus more on my inner life, I sometimes perceive a big wall of stone within that I have carefully built over the years to protect myself.  Now though it seems as if the Spirit living in me is removing some of the stones from my wall.  This is very scary and hurtful for me, but I keep trying, to let it happen.  As I am emptied out, I feel grateful that I can receive more people into my inner space.  There seems to be a sort of cave inside that is  gradually opening out into a safe dwelling place with God and with many others.  Instead of saying, "These stones belong to me and I do not want you  to remove them,"  you are being invited to say, "I am very afraid to let go, but because you are my Father, I trust you and with your help, I will cooperate with you."  Meanwhile, God is saying, "Le me remove your stones and blockages and learn to be grateful, because it will provide more space in your life."  Gratitude is believing that when stones are taken out of your your wall, God is building a place where you can receive others and really experience true family and true community.  A grateful life is when you give thanks, because what is happening to you politically or socially, or in your family or in your personal journey, is the molding hand of a loving Father, transforming your heart by love.  "Although it is uncomfortable at times, Lord, I want to be shaped according to your love."  (From Fear to Love-Lenten Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen)

We are entering the week we call "Holy."  We will begin to reflect more fully on the "The Mystery of our Faith," which we proclaim during each Eucharistic Celebration, Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.  This is also the mystery we have been baptized into.  This is a mystery of Jesus' suffering, death, burial, Resurrection, and Ascension being lived out in us, and through us.  Life then, is not a problem to be solved, rather it is a mystery to be lived in faith.  Faith is a gift of the Spirit which allows the soul to stay attached to its own unfolding. (T. Moore) When we allow ourselves to be drawn into the mystery of the Paschal mystery, the fruits of the Resurrection will revealed in us and through us.  We then will life and have it to the fullest, which is the Lord Jesus' wish and the purpose of His mission and ministry to, for us.  That is why he has come, so the scriptures tell us.  

 Greed and Envy transformed by God's grace turns into a life of generosity and sharing.  Again, Hildegard of Bingen warns us against the deadly presence of envy when she writes:  "Envy drives out all greening power!  When the greedy do not get what they want, they fall into a depression from which they are not lightly lifted.  The day hurries quickly by, they say, "It is always night."  If happiness should stand outside, just beyond their door, they say, "I am accursed."  Should it go well with all they undertake, still they would say, "It goes badly!"

John O'Donohue in his wonderful book, Anam Cara, has the following to say, " To the greedy eye, everything can be possessed.  Greed is one of the powerful forces in the modern Western world.  It is sad that a greedy person can never enjoy what they have, because they are always haunted by that which they do not yet possess.  This can refer to land, books, companies, ideas, money, or art.  The motor and agenda of greed is always the same.  Joy is possession, but sadly possession is ever restless, it has an inner insatiable hunger.  Greed is poignant, because it is always haunted and emptied by future possibility; it can never engage presence.  However, the more sinister aspect of greed is its ability to sedate and extinguish desire.  It destroys the natural innocence of desire, dismantles its horizons, and replaces them with a driven and atrophied possessiveness.  This greed is now poisoning the earth and impoverishing its people.  Having has become the sinister enemy of being."  What a powerful statement it is when he says "because of greed,"  we can never engage presence.   We can never enjoy what we have.  We can never enjoy where are presently.  We can never enjoy who we are.  We are so caught up in seeking out the next possession, we are lost to the present of the present moment.  We are, so caught up in the belief that we are, is  what we have, and unfortunately, who we are and what we have, is never for the ego.  It is then without God's grace,  that it is impossible for us to accept the fact that we are unconditionally loved and accepted by our Prodigal Father, as beloved daughter, as beloved son.  But for God, it is completely sufficient.  We must always be open to the development of our understanding, under God's grace of what it means to be generous, what it means to be charitable with ourselves and others.  In order for this to happen, we need an ever deepening conversion.  What it means to come to know and understand what Matthew says in his 25th Chapter.  "I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was naked and you clothed, me, I was sick and I was in prison and you visited me."  What it means to be kind and generous to the poor and broken, part of who we really are, we must apply Matthew 25 to the suffering Christ in each one of us.  In short, we must be Simon of Cyrene and Veronica to the suffering Christ we meet without ourselves on a daily basis.  

This will lead us t believe when we reach out to meet the needs of the least of the brethren, we are meeting the needs of Christ.  To fulfill this challenge, each of us will need to reach out beyond our greed to be sensitive to the needs of Christ present in the "least of the brethren."  This will enable all of us, but especially the "least of the brethren," to understand that God is a God of generosity and He will always take care of our needs, but not our greed.  Let us pray for the gift of accepting who we are and where we are presently, knowing in this our God is displaying His generous love for us.  We do not have to live of a life of envy, a life of jealousy, a life of resentment, and/or a life of unhappiness.  Our faith tells us that in His love for us, God has blessed us to the point of being an extravagant God, and a prodigal Father.  The more we come to an appreciation and acceptance of the mystery of God's reckless love for each one of us, envy can become less of a challenge for us.  We will journey beyond envy an jealousy into a people well disposed to enjoy all that life has to offer us in each and every moment of our lives.  This Holy Week, let us bring ourselves as we are to Him who knows well the workings of the human heart, the human person.  It is in the acceptance of our poverty, our humanity, that the Resurrection experience can be ours.  It is true, it is only in dying, we are brought to eternal life.  Let us enter into the heart, this mystery of our faith, to discover the mystery in our Heart. 

Jesus on the cross teaches to us that it is in failure, rejection, and nakedness, the power of our God of gentleness, compassion, and faithfulness is revealed to us.  May you have a transforming and transfiguring Holy Week as you prayerfully enter into your personal and our communal understanding of the Paschal Mystery.