Tuesday, March 17, 2009

From Fear to the Freedom of Faith

In our journey in faith, there are no mistakes. God takes all of our so called mistakes compensates for what is missing with His transforming and transfiguring grace. This new creation of grace is gifted back to us, resulting in a new understanding and a new compassion. "Behold, I make all things new", says our God. He does not make new things. This past summer I was on a hike in Colorado for what seemed to be a long long time. I met nobody along the trail. Then I saw three people approaching me. When they saw me, they began to smile and one of them said, "Oh we were beginning to think this was an abandoned trail". None of us wants to hike an abandoned trail. It means there is some danger involved, otherwise it would not be called abandoned. You and I are on a trail which is not an abandoned trail rather we are on the trail to abandonment. Being on this trail is the scariest experience, of the many difficult experiences we suffer on our human journey. Many of us are afraid of being alone, being left behind by our friends, being deserted by by those who once said they loved us, cared for us and said they would never leave us. On the other hand, how many times will we want to hang onto to disfunctional relationships because we are afraid of letting go? We are afraid of a future that is devoid of a presence we have gotten used to and are afraid to do without. These are issues we have to deal with because of our experience with abandonment.

To identify with us and our issues of abandonment, God has sent His son to journey to the place of abandonment, so when we find ourselves in that desolute place, our God is there to meet us, embrace us, encourage us and strengthen us. Jesus on the cross uttered those searing agaonizing words, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?". In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus dies having uttered those words and we have no answer in Mark's Gospel to the question. Even in His Gethsemane moments, Jesus was able to pray to the Father that the cup He about to drink from would pass from Him, so that He would not have to drink from it. On the cross of abandonment, there is no such Presence, there is no such relationship to call on, so He cries out His prayer of abandonment.

Over the years, I have come across so many individuals who have been abandoned by their fathers and their mothers. The subtlety lay in the fact that there were two people in the house, a man and a woman, but they were not parents, there were no parents in the home. Thank God there is a great amount of literature available and counseling available on the issues of abandonment. In particular, literature for daughters without mothers. Because someone has given birth to a person that does not necessarily mean they are a mother to that person. You can have a man in the house who can be so caught up in work addiction that there is no nurturing time for the life entrusted to him to be cared for and nourished. Abandonment issues result in people fearing letting go. And as a result I have come across people who will stay in disfuctional relationships long after the realization that they are in an unhealthy environment.

The opposite of fear is faith. When we have issues of fear and anxiety, the scripture offers us many words to be prayed at the time;

Out of the depths I cry unto you oh Lord, Lord hear my prayer.
Oh God, come to my aid. Oh Lord make haste to help me.
Father in your hands I commend my spirit.
We have the great consulation, the Lord is close to the broken-hearted and from all their distress He rescues them.

True intimacy with God will only be real when we walk through raw, naked fear. You know from your own experience real intimacy comes when you leave fear behind and you reveal yourself to another person as you really are, knowing that they love you and accept you just as you are right now. I strongly recommend that wonderful little story The Velveteen Rabbit. Skin Horse has gifted us these wonderful words, "You are not really real until somebody really loves you".

"When love awakens in your life, in the night of your heart, it is like the dawn awakening within you. Where before there anoynmity, now there is intimacy; where before there was fear, there is courage; where before in your life there was ackwardness, now there is a rythm of grace and gracefulness; where before you used to be jagged, now you are elegant and in rythm with yourself. When love awakens in your life, it is like a rebirth, a new beginning. The human body is born complete in one moment, the birth of the human heart is an ongoing process. It is being birthed in every experience of your life. Everything that happens to you has the potential to deepen you........[Patrick Kavanagh "Praise, praise, praise/The way it happened and the way it is.]" Anan Cara

This trusting faith is what builds within each one of us from many many journeys into the realm of fear. There is an old old song "Put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee". Here are two little instances which happened to me on trips. In my younger days I used to love to take the kids to Disneyland. One year I was on that paddle steamer looking out across the water, I felt a hand reach into my hand, then I looked down and saw two eyes looking up at me. I didn't recognize the two recognize eyes, they didn't recognize my two eyes. So the hand was withdrawn and the kid ran away - hopefully to his parents. Another year I was at Mass there was a little girl next to me. When it came time for the Our Father, she put our her hand and clasped mine. Then after a little while, she withdrew her hand, picked up her little doll, extended one of the doll's arms to me and kept the other arm linked to her and we completed the Our Father that way. The little girl, the doll and I prayed together. As we prayed the Our Father, I had never had the same feeling before or since then. There are two choices we can make. Will we either hold onto the hand of God or ithdraw and run away in fear. Prayer is always bringing ourselves as we are and entrusting all of ourselves, the good and the bad, the successes adn the failures, the joys and the sorrows, and entrusting them into the caring hand of Our Father who is our God.

To have a real trusting faith, a deepening of honesty is required. To journey from our fears of abandonment to trusting faith, we must be reassured and reassure ourselves that our God meets us, greets us and loves us just as we are. Both faith and love demand trust.

The season of Lent is a season into progressive honesty. It is forty and forty nights. One evening I was speaking to the kids in prison and I mentioned how Lent is for forty days, one young person piped up with "It is forty nights as well". When I said to her, "It is the nights that are the toughest", all she was able to do was nod her head in agreement. It is within darkness, especially the darkness of the night, where our greatness fears surface and haunt us. It is then we encounter the wild beasts and our own personal demons. It is in the darkness the wild beasts of guilt, fear and shame seem to roam at will resulting in a night of tossing and turning, a night of restlessness and turmoil. Lucky for us, God has given to us Psalm 23 where He reminds us He is our shepherd and the dark valley will hold no fear for us. It is also helpful to repeat, "I believe Lord, help my unbelief, I believe Lord, help my disbelief". Do not be afraid appears in the scriptures 365 times. I wonder why our God in His infinite wisdom and mercy would want to remind of about this fact over and over and over again? On our journey through life we have to deal with the uncertainties of life. All we have is right now, this moment, with the rest, there is no guarantee. We do however have the guarantee there is no moment our God will not journey in us and through us and with us. No matter what we feel, no matter what we think, no matter what we are told, our God does not and can not abandon us. "He has to be faithful to us because He has to be faithful to Himself." He loves us not because we are good, He loves us because He is good. A belief in His love is an act of faith which will enable us to live life and live it to the fullest.

Yes, His eyes are watching through the lense of His love for us.
Yes, His ears are listening ever attentive to the outcry for His love.
Yes, His lips are speaking, "I love you", "You are mine."
Yes, He is our friend ever by our side,
Yes, we are His beloved,
Yes, He is our lover.

Fear knocked at the door. When faith answered, there was nobody there.

God Bless,
Fr. Joe