Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Everyday Living is the Pascal Mystery

I came across the following story in Thomas Keating's book, The Mystery of Christ,

"A Sufi master had lost the key to his house and was looking for it on the lawn outside, running his fingers through each blade of grass. His disciples came along and asked the master what had happened. "I have lost the key to my house", he said. "Can we help you find it", they asked. "I'd be delighted", he replied. With that the disciples got down on their hands and knees beside him and started running their fingers through the grass, too. After some hours, one of them asked, "Master, have you any idea where you might have lost the key?". He answered, "yes, of course. I lost it in the house." The disciples looked at one another in astonishment. "Then why are we looking for it out here", they exclaimed. The master replied, "Because there is more light here".

This parable speaks to the human condition. We have all lost the key to happiness and are looking for it outside ourselves where it cannot possibly be found. We search outside because it is easier or more pleasant; there is more light there. There is also more company. If we look for happiness in emotional programs that promise happiness through symbols of security/survival, affection/esteem, our power/control, we can find plenty of help, because everyone else is trying to do the same thing. When we look for the key where it can be found, we may find ourselves, abandoned by friends and relatives who feel threatened by our search. Lack of support for the spiritual journey, not to mention possible opposition, is one of it's heaviest trials."

I do not have anything original to say. All I have to say is repeating what has already has been said by so many others in a much more eloquent way. I see this space as a place of reminding, a place where you and I can remember who we have been from the beginning of time, who we are now in the love of our Prodigal Father. To keep before us we are journeying as pilgrims back to our original home and the eternal presence we have sprung from.

Easter Sunday was last Sunday. I hope you and your loved ones had a wonder-full celebration, which continued on to a day of ease and peace. Our spiritual reality was celebrated last Sunday and is being encountered again and again in each and every moment of this day and every "today". The whole mystery of the death-burial-resurrection-ascension-and the gift of "a new spirit for a new life" is so vast, so deep, so encompassing, it takes us 40 days [Lent] to prepare ourselves for the celebration. It takes us three full days to celebrate the mystery. It will now take us another 50 days to reflect on how this mystery is our life. The life we live every day as we deal with the reality of being "spiritual beings having a human experience". Our everyday connection with the Pascal Mystery does not come automatically. We cannot think our way into what the mystery offers us. We must act our our way into being open to the fact that in all of my everyday reality we are encountering the love of God and His transforming love in every moment of life. In doing we are offering the limitations of our human efforts to the transfiguring, resurrecting power of our God. The result is a new way of seeing, believing, and acting. Transformation is a process we must allow to happen. It is to this we will come to believe in the saying "I will not think my way into a new way of acting, I will act my way into a new way of thinking". This the only way we can, with God's grace, be freed from the old patterns of thinking and acting. I want to make it very clear this is not easy. It is very difficult to act our way into a new way of thinking. It takes practice, practice, practice.

During the closing weeks of Lent, I had the privilege of celebrating Reconcilation with a good number of people across the whole spectrum of age. This year, like every other year, I heard the confessions of "I was angry with my husband/wife/sister/brother/employer/employee---when the penetant finished, I would ask this questions, "and who else are you angry at?". Ususally the answer is "nobody else". My next question is, "Are you sure". There is usually no answer, just silence. Then I ask the million dollar question, "what are you angry at yourself about?". There is a look of surprise and I hear, "Oh, I never thought of that". Then we get into a conversation about where the anger is directed to themselves and in what area does the person themselves need forgiveness and compassion in their own life. There is a great deal of anger and resentment, but is there a willingness to forgive? I have asked the person, "have you ever said, I forgive you, to yourself?". The ususal answer is, "no, I have never done that". I now ask the person to say, "John/Mary, I forgive you". In some cases, the person is able to say it, in many many cases, there is silence. There is the welling up of tears, sometimes, many many tears are shed. "Father, I cannot say it" or "I cannot say it because I don't mean it". I then ask them to say, "You do not have to mean it in the beginning, all you have to do is say it. Because of the spiritual principle, I will not think my way into a new way of acting. I will act my way into a new way of thinking". In many instances there a continued inability to say "I forgive you". I then ask them to say, "I release shame, I release shame, a number of times". And following the "I release shame", I ask them to say "John/Mary, I forgive you". Now, as those wonderful words are expressed, tears dry up and smiles appear. Resurrection has just happened. We know that only God can forgive sin, but if we do not forgive ourselves, we can never enjoy the forgiveness of God. St. Thomas Aquines has said, "Grace builds on nature". God takes what we give Him and through His transforming grace, His transforming love, that which is impossible for us, becomes possible through His grace. With God all things are possible. All we have to do is surrender.

What I have just described is repeated and repeated with so many individuals when I ask them to say simply, "John/Mary, I love you". I hear the objections, "Father, I cannot say that", or "I can say, I love others, but I cannot say it to myself". We have to remember the command of Jesus, when He tells us, "we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves". There are many times in my life if I was to love people the way I was loving myself, they were in serious serious dodo! Now I am in the uncomfortable position of when I start criticizing and judging others I am reminded that what I see that I don't like in them is exactly what is present within myself. "If I see it in others, I got it myself." It takes practice, practice, practice to accept the freedom that is ours because we share in the risen life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the mystery we have been baptized into, and you and I live it out every day.

We have to actively claim our new life in each and every moment of each and every day. In each day is the pain and suffering of Calvary [Good Friday], in each and every day we have to deal with some kind of loss, terminal death, Pascal death. In each and every day we must wait in the tomb of emptiness and nothingness. From the womb springs new life and new beginnings. Each day we must claim these new lives and new beginnings. Each day is resurrection day. Each day we must ask for the grace, the help, the new lenses to see the ever newness of God's revelation in every new moment given to us. Each moment is given to us to live, to experience, to celebrate so then every day life is our daily living out that mystery we take 40 days to prepare for, three days to celebrate and 50 days in which we work to grasp the reality of new life and a new way of living. This is not just something we read about in the Bible, hear preached about in the Church, rather, it is your reality and my reality in the here and now. Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ comes again and again and again to you and I in the wonder-full mysterious awe-full reality of this present moment.

"I believe Lord, help my un-belief - or - I believe Lord, help my disbelief."

New life is always being offered to us. The risen life of Christ is being offered to you and I right now, exactly where we are at. Where we are at, God promises to meet us and He promises to always be with us [Emmanuel]. God is always faithful to His promises, He is faithful to His covenent with us, He is faithful to us, not because we are faithful to Him. God is faithful to us because He is good, not because we are good. God is faithful to us and He will not abandon us like He was abandoned because we are His Beloved. Again it is always good to remind ourselves, we do not earn, deserve or qualify for this love. It is unconditioned, unlimited and unrestricted. We cannot make any sense of God's love. All we can do is relax and enjoy it. This of course, is easier said than done. In our world, where there is so much emphasis on productivity and results, it is so very difficult to fathom that what we are striving for is really already present within us. What is behind all of our efforts and striving is already given to us freely. It is deep inside each one of us. For us to come to this realization and the enjoyment of the free gift, we must learn to give ourselves permission to be human beings, not human doers. Over the years, I have asked stressed out moms and dads to take some time for themselves. I ask those who have the feeling of being over-whelmed to set aside 20 mintues for themselves to do nothing. I am then asked the question, "What will I get from doing nothing?". The answer is "Nothing that you will see right away. The change will come slowly from the inside and will become apparent to others before it will become apparent to us". One young mom said to me, "My husband thinks he has a new wife and my kids think they have a new mother. All that is happening is I'm taking time for me." There is another example of Pascal Death and Resurrection. We have the words from Psalms 46:10, "be still and know that I am God". In the stillness, our God is always present in us, and through us. I would offer the following for your reflection, which is part of my favorite Celtic prayer:

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in every heart of every man/woman who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouths of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I hope and pray this will help you, encourage you on your journey to resurrection and new life. I hope and pray that these words can be a source of strength for you to continuously look inside rather than outside for your strength for the journey. This is an effort to emphasize we are never alone, even in the darkest times. We may feel deserted, abandoned, but our God is always reaching us in the place we least expect it.

"I am the blind alleys of all your paths."
"For you no longer know how to go any further, then you have reached me......thou you are not aware of it."
"I love you."
"You are precious to me."
"You are the apple of my eye."