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.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Peace...Joy...Love




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

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Advent...Ever...New




Advent 2016, never before, never again, has come to us, here and now, with an eternal newness. A newness that always challenges us to put on a new set of lenses so we will have the faith and courage to let go of the certainty and the security of the past. For what purpose? So we can free ourselves to be lost in The Mystery that is "ever ancient and ever new." A mystery we are celebrating, anew, this Advent season, but the question has to be asked are we ready for the newness? There is an eternal newness to our living God. As we participate in this newness there must be a newness that is revealed in us and through us, for others. What we are given is never for ourselves. (St. Paul)This newness is presented in the every ordinary, yet, ever new moment, we are given to live. It is in the living of each moment that the living God, of Jesus the Christ comes to us and through us to all of creation. This is The Great Advent which is forever happening, in the sacrament of eternal now. The coming, this advent of God which is a moment to moment reality, is the mystery we spend four weeks reflecting on each and every year. The purpose of this reflective time is to a deeper our faith in the newness of our God. Because of the newness of our God there must be a newness within each one of us, since in Him/Her "we live and move and have our being." How exciting, how challenging that reality is??? Are we ready to embrace the challenge, of leaving behind comfort and certainty so as to journey into the great unknown of faith?

                                  “We are driven blindly along a path we have never seen or heard of, unable to venture any other. Divine action never follows the same course; it always traces out new paths. Those whom it leads NEVER know where they are going; they will not find the way through or by their own searching. Divine action for ever opens the way which we are compelled to take." J-P De Caussade. My ego wants no part of this insecurity and uncertainty. My ego wants the security of certainty, and when that certainty disappears, which it will; there is serious fear-filled panic. On the other hand, my spirit wants to fly free into the unknown. To be blown this way and that way by the breath of The Creative Spirit of Love. The Holy Spirit is the creative power of our God, creating and recreating us ever anew. The Creator God is forever molding us and shaping us into the person we are meant to be, not the person we want, or wish to be. The Model we are modeled after is coming to dwell among us. He is coming to be enfleshed within our flesh, which is The Mystery of the Incarnation. Through this mystery we are provided with a living, and so an ever evolving model to follow. We cannot enter a newness of life being modeled after some dead inanimate object. When we make this error we pay a terrible price. Our Eternal, Living God comes to live among us so as to lead us to live lives way beyond anything our imagination could ever imagine. Lives that are only possible through the action of Grace. Grace, we know, is the love of God in action. That action is always within the reality of the here and now. Once we go outside the reality of the here and now God cannot reach us. We are not disposing ourselves for the only encounter that really matters. For that we are responsible, the gift of free will can be such a blessing, but it also can be such a curse. All gifts follow the same pattern.

                     This Spirit, then, blows where It wills, and in the way of its own choosing. Darn it. This Spirit cannot be programmed to fit our little narrow agenda. This requires of us a constant state of awareness and alertness to the battle that, of necessity, will, and does, ensue. It is happening right now in the depths of who we are. It is a moment to moment struggle which results in the old passes away, to give way to the birthing of the new. This too, in time, will lead to a newness which we must make room for. So, in every life is sown the seeds of death, in every death there is in potency, the reality of new life. This new life will be nourished into the fullness of life through the miracle of grace, not by anything we may say or do. I am beginning to appreciate more and more the words of St. John of The Cross, “We journey to Him we do not know, a path we do not know.” Our journey, in faith, is then a journey into the darkness of insecurity, and uncertainty. A journey that somehow is guided and guarded by a power beyond our understanding and comprehension. A book, I find both challenging, and unsettling, is 'The Sacrament of the Present Moment" by Jean-Pierre De Caussade. Writing about this journey into the darkness of faith he has this to say “Those who find themselves this way are often afraid, like the prophet, to follow it afraid of running into danger when walking through that darkness. Have no fear faithful souls! That is where your path lies, the way along which your God is guiding you. THERE IS NOTHING SAFER OR SURER THAN THE DARK NIGHT OF FAITH. Following in any way when faith is so obscure and darkness obliterates everything and the path can no longer be discerned, for a path cannot be lost which does not exist. But the soul cries out: "Every moment I seem to be falling down a precipice. I know I am surrendering myself to God that I can achieve nothing unless I cease to act on the strength of my own virtue.....I cannot see that it is guiding me in the right direction, but I cannot prevent myself from believing that it is"...The state of pure faith is the state of pure suffering. All is dark, all is pain.... The more pitfalls there are, the more darkness, danger, mortification, dryness, fear, privation, trouble, anguish, despair, persecution, suffering, and desolation there is on our way, the more our faith and trust will be strengthened...We will forget the way and all its twists and turns, we will forget ourselves and totally surrender to the wisdom, the mercy, and the power of our guide.

                           This Guide is coming to us, disguised as a helpless, vulnerable baby. We are on an endless searching journey. A mysterious journey that will take us beyond that which is seen into the realm of mystery and the unseen. This Advent let us look beyond the familiar so as to get in touch with the great unseen. This unseen is our deepest and most sacred reality. Let us take the familiar characters of the Gospel story, and see where each makes a dwelling place within us. As you place the figures of your crib scene, search your inner space for the place where they are now dwelling. They are patiently waiting, and have been waiting in your depths, so as to be discovered and become living realities. In this way you as individual, couples, families, will have the lived experience of what it means to be, the living continuation of The Mystery of The Incarnation.