Monday, April 20, 2009

Letting go of the past, to live a new life

We are now in post-Easter time according to the Liturgical calendar. Many will still find themselves, because of the reality of their lives, being in the pre-Easter events of Jesus. Our relationship with God is best understood not in ordinary times-Cronos, God’s time is Kairos, God is always best understood outside of time and space. In this post-Easter time, we are given for our reflection, the events as they happened in the relationship between THE RISEN CHRIST and his frightened and doubting disciples.

The days after the resurrection were challenging times for the followers of Jesus, who was the historical Jesus. These were challenging times for the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. This historical Jesus was the one they followed in hope but whose life ended in death. He died not just any death. He was crucified. He died the horrible death reserved for run-away slaves. His followers were keenly aware of what the Hebrew scripture said about how cursed is he who hangs upon the wooden cross. As we reflect, we see something new has happened, which is beyond the comprehension and understanding of these followers who are disillusioned and fearful.

Now something has happened which is beyond their comprehension, their understanding. Startling events have happened which are way beyond their expectations. The one whom they knew suffered a horrific and public death. Now they are told He has risen from the dead. He has not just risen, He is appearing to people. He is not just appearing. He is sharing food with His former disciples. He is not only sharing food, but is appearing in their midst when they are locked away in door-locked rooms. This will take getting used to. This is exactly what the risen Christ does. He spends 40 days with His disciples so they can get used to a new way of relating to someone they knew and is now living a new life. The Risen Christ wants to lead His followers away from the past, which is past and gone, into a new way of living and relating to the Risen life. Over the next few weeks I hope to share some reflections on the Scriptures relating to what happened between the Risen Christ and His disciples.

I think it is fascinating to reflect on what was going on in the minds and hearts of His disciples locked away in fear. Even though the door was locked, Jesus appears to them. I have many times wondered about the thoughts and the feelings of those gathered in that room. What was going on in their minds, what were their private thoughts, what was the content of their conversation? It more than likely was about what has happened and the startling news of His resurrection. In the midst of all of this the Risen Christ appears.

Uhh ohh, He is here. What will He have to say to us? We really blew it. When it came to crunch time there were not too many of us that hung around to be with Him and His family as He hung in crucifixion. We are happy John stuck it out on Calvary and gave Mary support.

Peter's thoughts,
"Boy, am I in for it now. In my usual blustery way I promise way more than I could deliver. I cannot believe I went back on my word to stand by Him. Not only did I not stand by Him, I even denied I ever knew Him. He picked me out to be a leader and all I did was deny Him. I did not deny Him once, but as He told me ahead of time, “Peter, you will deny me three times, and so I did”. When He told me that, I was so offended, I was angry. I am so grateful for tears, when I had shed enough tears, I was somehow able to remember what He said in the past, "Anyone who comes to me, I will not reject." He also said, "Come to me all who are weary and find life burdensome and I will give you rest". What His visit in my memory was the woman brought to Him caught in the act of adultery, everybody was ready to stone her. In a quiet way, He turned everything upside down. When He was finished there was nobody there to condemn her. And He said these wonderful words, “Neither will I condemn you”. I also remember Him saying, “In God, there is no condemnation”.

I will never forget that day when we were in the boat and a storm came up, He had forced us to get into the boat to cross the lake while He Himself went off and prayed. He did that a lot. We were in that boat and it was scary. We were being tossed about by the winds and the waves, then out of the storm He appeared. Would you believe it? He was walking on the water! Being very impulsive I wanted to get out of the boat. I was going to walk on the water, to join Him. He called to me and I got out of the boat. In the beginning I was just fine-I was focused on Him. Then, the splash of a big wave hit me and I realized where I was. I got into immediate fear, lost my focus on Jesus and began to sink. I cried out for help, He reached out and took my hand, saved me and together we walked back to the boat along the water. I was safely seated before I became aware I still had a death-grip on His hand. That sinking feeling is with me now. I also know what happened to me before. That same rescuer is standing in front of my again. It was though I would like to run and hide, there is no place to hide for "the big Fisherman".

Would I have been better off to do what Judas did and commit suicide? Those tears that I shed, somehow soothed my soul. I decided to rely on the mercy I heard Him speak about day after day after day. I wonder what is He going to say to us, and me in particular? I know myself I would have a field-day sending people on a guilt trip. He is beginning to speak and what is this I am hearing? He has nothing to say but “Peace be with you”. For myself I was expecting “Hi Peter, remember how brave you were when you promised to die with me? But, when it came to crunch time, what happened to you? You chickened out?”. With this person there were no recriminations, there were no paybacks. All He is offering us is peace, Shalom.“

What is this wonderful, something new, that is taking me over? What is this new sense of oneness and togetherness that is filling this room and all who are in it? Is this what He means? Is this what it means when He says “Receive the Holy Spirit”? There is s calm, a serenity, a peace of mind I have never felt before. I, who am a restless, always on the go person, all I want to do now is to be here, to be with the rest of the group. We together have been through so much. We have been in so much guilt, fear and shame. Now, there is peace, joy and a great feeling of love. I said this before, on the mountain, when He was transfigured before my eyes, “It is good to be here”. It is good to be here right now.

Now what is He saying? You have got to be kidding, He wants us to forgive sins? His timing is impeccable, as it always has been. No way am I ever going to allow somebody to speak to me about their sins and remain in the guilt and shame of their sins, and remain in the guilt and shame of it. My sin has been the worst. I denied I knew Him. At the time, He needed someone to stand by and stand up for Him, I was not there. Now I have been given this peace from my troubled and rebellious soul. I have experienced not His judgment, not His condemnation, but the gift of His peace. I want everybody to experience what has just happened to me. That guy is smooth! He knows us as we are right now. I remember one Him saying that He never had to be told what was present in the hearts of human beings. He knows where we are and how we feel. At this moment we are most aware of our humanity, of our weaknesses, our powerlessness. He gives us the power to forgive the sins of others when we need forgiveness most ourselves. He is saying to all of us, and me in particular, “As I have treated you right now, this is the way I want you to treat others when they come to you beaten, broken, bruised, with feelings of abandonment”. Wow…does it ever get better than this?

Right away! I do not see Thomas here, I wonder where he is? Oh there is a knock at the door! Thomas, I’m so glad you have joined us. You are not going to believe what has just happened.

A reminder just because the calendar says resurrection has happened, this does not mean it has happened for some individuals. Some are still in their Good Friday agony. Theirs are the feelings of being bruised, beaten, battered, betrayed and abandoned. There are still millions in liminal, in between, time of Holy Saturday. The death has taken place, a loss has happened, but the new life has not yet immerged. For them it is the belief, the hope, the certainty that is theirs in the face of all the odds against them. This year, they are being asked to celebrate what can be rather than what is. There are some lucky ones not experiencing the joy, the freedom, exaltation, of the new life which has burst upon the horizon of their lives. The dazzling light of the resurrection has definitely penetrated the previous darkness. It is Allelujah, Allelujah, Allelujah.

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."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Pascal death-The Highway to Radical New Living

This week we are celebrating the greatest mystery in the greatest week of the Christian calendar. It is the week we call Holy. In our understanding of the events and Liturgical celebrations of this week, we are empowered to journey into the Pascal Mystery. This is a mystery we experience every day of our lives. Our participation enables us and empowers us to journey into a mystery which is part and parcal of our everyday lives. This mystery is hidden and revealed in every moment of every day enabling us to participate in the life, suffering, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Most importantly, the final event we celebrate is the descent of the Holy Spirit. For some of us it will be an orderly celebration. For others because of today's life experience it will be about the possibility rather than the reality of resurrection. The Liturgical calendar says we can journey from suffering death to burial and resurrection in three days of celebration. In the reality of life, this does not happen in nice 24 hour increments, which is Kronos time. When we see ourselves participating in the reality of the Pascal Mystery, we are in the realm of God's time, which is called Kairos. There are no measuring instruments when it comes to God's time. There is nothing about God that can be boxed, controlled or measured in time and space. In the spiritual life there is no time, there is no space.

The Pascal Mystery is first and foremost a mystery. This mystery teaches that with every beginning there is an ending and with every ending there is a new beginning. It is a mystery dealing with the deepest working of God's grace. A mystery dealing with death, burial and new life. A spiritual mystery such as this cannot be explained, it can only be entered into and treated with reverence. I would like to suggest this year, more than ever, we need to open ourselves up to what this week offers in the way of hope, consolation and the promise of radical new life. This will come to us through the power of honesty, honesty about our everyday experience. There can be no spiritual growth unless we are developing a progressive honesty which is about embracing what is real. Where there is no honesty, there is no reality. So, there is no God. When we want to get a grip on reality and the Pascal Mystery within us, here are a number of words you and I cannot have in our vocabulary, the following are many words which have no connection with reality:
could, would, should, what if, if, if only, when, ought, try, interesting, or any similar words used to deny our real feelings and our real emotions.

On the otherhand, here are six words that help us to face our reality and they are:
yes, no, I did, I didn't, I will, I will not. In these words, the REAL which is God will be revealed to us. Resurrection is not just "an intellectual promise or an historical event, but a daily experience by the person who knows that his/her faith might not be in remembering but in living here and now". Eugene Kennedy. We must get out of our fantasy world, our fantasy world of denial, the world of illusions, so we can encounter the living God. So we can encounter the Pascal Mystery as it occurs in our everyday reality. This makes every moment of everyday Holy, a place of encounter and hopefully an everdeepening encounter with both the suffering Christ and the Risen Christ.

A number of years ago, I read a book by Fr. Ronald Holheiser which enabled me to enter into a new and better life-giving understanding of what the Pascal Mystery is all about. In his book, The Holy Longing, he explains the difference between terminal death and Pascal death. "Terminal death is a death that ends life and then possibility. Pascal death, like terminal death, is real, however, Pascal death is a death that, while ending one kind of life, opens a person undergoing it to receive a deeper and richer form of life. The image of the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying so as to produce new life is an image of Pascal death. Then resurrected the reception of a radically new life... The Pascal Mystery is about Pascal death and resurrected life."

Continuing on, in the same chapter entitled "The Spirituality of the Pascal Mystery", we read the following:

The Pascal Mystery might be diagramed as follows:
1) Good Friday...The loss of life-real death
2) Easter Sunday..."the reception of new life"
3) The Forty Days..."a time for readjustment to the new, and grieving the old"
4) Ascension..."letting go of the old and letting it bless you, the refusal to claim"
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 personal Pascal challenge for each one of us, one might recap this diagram this way:
1) "Name of your death"
2) "Claim your birth"
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 we must undergo just once...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 risings and various Pentecosts. The Pascal Mystery is the secret to life. Ultimately, our happiness depends upon properly undergoing it... Unless we die in infancy, we will have many deaths in our lives and within each one of these we must receive new life and new spirit. Daily we must undergo the Pascal Mystery.

We all know what BFFs are...and the drama that occurs when BFFs become enemies rather than the best friends. I would like to suggest that what we think are our greatest enemies are in reality God's BFFs. That is the secret. That is a paradox we have to encounter and deal with on our spiritual journey.

God's three BFFs and our worst nightmares, which are failure, rejection and nakedness. Fr. Richard Roar uses those three to describe what the cross is for each one of us. Each one of us on our journey into the resurrected life will have to deal with what it means to fail, what it means to be rejected and deal with who we are without any the many masks we wear to hide who we really are. Honesty is not only necessary but is is essential for us to journey through the reality of the Pascal Mystery so we can not only claim but enjoy the new life that is ours because of the journey we are on right now. For those who are in Twelve Step programs, they know that recovery is dependant on honesty, open-mindedness and willingness. Where there is no honesty there is no recovery. To sum up, honesty makes it possible for us to journey from death to new life.

The celebrations of Holy Thursday are rich with outward signs of celebration. Good Friday, the atmosphere is an atmosphere of the startk reality [no bells and whistles]. Then we come to the time between Good Friday and Holy Saturday. This is a time of an emptiness, devoid of any movement. This time can be called "tomb-time" or "womb-time" and is also called 'in-between time". There is something happening in the womb of the tomb which is going to result in an explosion of new life. The only thing that we have to do is what most of us are very poor at doing, is to wait. We have to wait for the new birth that is going to come from the death that has taken place. A seed does not germinate quickly in the darkness of the earth (human), it is a slow process which must be endured. We, too, must enter into the darkness which comes to us from being human and patiently await the slow transformation and transfiguration which will occur through the power of God's grace. The resurrection is all about transformation, transfiguration and the birthing of new life. We believe the same God who raised Jesus from the dead is the same God who is present in all of our dying, in all of our deaths, and is slowly and uniquely bringing us to a new level of living, to a new level of being, a freedom as his beloved sons and daughters. We believe as it happened to His Beloved Son, our brother Jesus Christ, so too, will it happen to us who are loved with the same love. Whatever has happened to The Beloved will also happen to each one of us. The tomb-time, the womb-time is called by Fr. Richard Rohr "liminal time", it is the in-between time. The time that between that death we have experienced and what has not yet appeared to take the place of what we have lost.

For myself, I find it a very difficult and anxious place to be in. We have said goodbye to something or someone that was a part and partial of our everyday life. We must enter a new way of living not knowing what is going to occupy that place and space. How many millions of people have lost their jobs and are now searching for new ones. For others it is even more difficult because their search is not being rewarded so they have to live in a deeper darkness. How many people have seen their IRAs, bank accounts, college funds, not only take a deep hit, but in some cases disappear? What is the future holding for them? The families and love ones who have had to deal with sudden disasters are in their womb-time, tomb-time, Holy Saturday time. We see this as a time of true darkness. There seems to be no felt-sense of God. Our sense of God somehow dried up and disappeared. We are now being forced to see a God that is beyond our feelings, our thoughts, our imagination. To again quote Fr. Rolheiser, "when you feel agnostic, even atheistic, because we can no longer imagine the existence of God. God seems non-existence, absent, dead, an fantasy of wishful thinking'.....when we get to this reality, we are in deepest faith. Faith begins exactly where atheism assumes it ends."

For those of us who have endured the desert of Lent, the journey is almost over. We are ending the journey into the depths ourselves where the demons were encountered, where the limitations of our humanity were experienced. This resulted in a cry for help out of the depths of our emptiness and nothingness. Easter Sunday is a time of celebration, it is a time when we rejoice and celebrate in the felt-presence of God, who is revealed to us as loving, caring and faithful. Because of His faithful care and compassion, we are led to the acceptance of His gifts of Light, Life and Love. Light enables us to journey out of the prison of the guilt and shame into the freedom of being Beloved daughter/Beloved son. God's Life enables us to journey from being at war with ourselves and others to a place of peace and serenity. God's love enables us to journey from our Pascal death to resurrection and to a radical new life lived in real freedom. That is the ideal. Reality is altogether different. I expect many will come on Easter Sunday only to be brought to the understanding that in reality they are still in the fear and anxiety of Gesemane or the abandonment of Calvary or in the darkness of the in-between time in the tomb. What we pray for is that by this participation in the celebration in Easter Sunday, they are awakened to what is their destiny.

Again in her book, Little Pieces of Light, Sister Joyce has this to say, "Being able to let go and let God take over one's life demands a tremendous amount of trust in this Devine Companion. Thomas Merton writes that, 'True love and prayer are really learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible and your heart turns to stone'. It is in within the hour of our greatest darkness that we discovered that we are never really alone. It is a time when we learn to trust as Gods love is much more than we ever imagined." This gives us the great freedom to be able to sing our Halleluahs with real gusto. Death has turned into life. Christ is risen and is alive within you and me.

"O happy fault of Adam that has revealed to us such a God."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Light always overcomes darkness, but we have to make the decision

From our everyday experience we know that both the windows of our homes, and the lenses through which we see through, must be kept clean and clear. We know these must be kept clean and clear so we can see the reality of what is both in us and in front of us. We must have the windows of our homes clean so that we can see out and light can filter in. When we enter into the storm of guilt, fear and shame, our windows and our lenses are splattered by dirt and grime which make seeing difficult and darkness appears. I came across the following, which I used last Sunday, from a wonderful book by Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.. She tells us, "darkness is a natural part of life, but I have fought this reality for years. It has taken me a long time to recognize that darkness is an essential element for personal growth. No matter how 'right things' I do, darkenss still comes unannounced and uninvited because it is an essential part of life. Without darkness I cannot become the person I am meant to be." Sister Joyce continues;

Darkness comes in many forms and is not an easy visitor. Our life experiences when 'dimness and disorder hold sway' are as many and as varied as we are. The Webster's Dictionary definition for darkness includes: "closed, hidden, not easily understood, obscure, gloomy, hopeless, entirely or partly without light." This description hardly touches the human experience of darkness. The darkness in the human heart also includes: lonely, shattered, dead, anxious, forlorn, bereft, despairing, discouraged, numbed, grief-laden, damaged, empty, bleak, fearful, traumatized, stumbling, aimless.

The land of darkness might be any or all of the following:
-a time in which the energy and focus of life is almost completely funneled into physical, emotional, or psychic pain
- a discouraging and empty inner sojourn when nothing seems valuable or worthwhile
- a stage of spiritual desolation in which there is no sense of God's presence and little or no desire for things of the spirit
- a battle of indecision and struggle, when the unknowns and fears of the future press painfully upon decisions to be made
- a fog-like state when life is confusing, unclear, and seemingly impenetrable
- a situation with evil and atrocity which threatens to overpower or annihilate
- an excruciating time of helplessness in which one feels paralyzed or powerless to alleviate the pain of another
- an on-going siege of negativity which brings with it constant frustration, irritation and dissatisfaction

This list of general descriptions of darkness could go on and on."

I want to encourage you to take these different states of darkness and see which of these states of darkness is overshadowing your life right now. I see, for myself, there is more than one right now. This is our sharing in the Pascal Mystery right now. This is why we have Lent and the journey with Jesus into the desert. This year's experience of Lent is so different for so many people. Not only do we have to journey into the powerlessness, desolation and darkness of the inside, but we also encounter powerlessness, darkness, frustration on the outside. This year, more than ever before, our everyday life is a real reflection of our inside journey.

"The Battlefield of My Soul" was posted earlier today. What is going on in "The Battlefield of My Soul" and so of all of our souls? We see there are two opposing forces, the force that is offering us the Aisling of God, God's dream for us, which is the life of being at ease. There is also the force that wants to not only to sabotage and but distroy that dream. When we are in darkness of guilt, fear and shame, we will be more inclined to deny God's dream and so live in disease. We must always then be on guard, be the alert, be aware of the constant need to continuously open ourselves up to the light of God which is faith, the life of God which whole, and the love of God, which reveals to us the loving presence of the Holy Spirit. So those who struggle with addictions and compulsions this is called serenity recovery. So we are now no longer death-dealers but life-givers to ourselves and consequently to the others that will enter into our life. We will now be wounded-wounders rather than wounded-healers.

I remember many years ago, I began to read the book by John Powell, Happiness is an Inside Job, I came across the following quotation, "Growth begins when the blaming ends". There and then, I threw away that book for five years! When we are using the escape hatch of blame, we will never hold ourselves responsible or anybody else responsible as well. Being responsible is part of growing up. Growing up is painful and in the process we have to face the disease, the darkness that can prevent us from having a life that is full and free. God's dream for you and me. We have been given the awesome gift of free-will we make a personal choice and so we no longer have the freedom to blame anyone or anything, not even God. God has become a wonderful scapegoat on whom we can lay blame for lack of responsibility on our part and the part of others. One of the classic God-blaming states is "God did this for a reason" when it was first and foremost the abuse of our freedom or us being the victim of other acts committed from their disease. When something painful happens in our lives, God does not cause the pain, but is hidden within the pain so he can journey with us from that pain into a new life, a new freedom. That is what Calvary, "Good Friday", Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday is all about. It takes time for the gift to appear from the transformation of the pain, but it will happen. All of our suffering, all of our darkness brought to prayer, always and I mean always, are thresholds leading to resurrection and new life.

So then it is not only necessary, it is essential to keep the windows and the lenses of our life clear so we can enjoy the Sunlight. The Sunlight that is always shining on each one of us each on at every moment of every day. No matter how dark the clouds are, the sun is shining above those clouds. When the clouds roll by, and for certain they will, we will be reminded of this fact. A reminder of this fact, light will overcome darkness. In these moments of change, transfiguration and transformation we will come to believe that light is permanent, darkness is transitory. Because we are believers in the Pascal Mystery, we can now see that in every failure is already sown the seeds of the resurrection. In every success, there is sown the seeds of failure.

We cannot build a tower to the sky, all of our towers crumble at some stage in our lives. All we have to do is look at our society and see the towers that were built on ego and disease have now crumbled. What happens next is God takes the rubble of our fallen towers and builds his Kingdom within us. These moment are our Gethsemane moments. The falling of our towers and the pain and the darkness of loss are our Gethsemane moments. It is our Calvary moment when wee cry out "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why have you foresaken me? Why do I feel so alone?" Our faith leads us to surrender in faith, "Father into your hands I commend my spirit". The resurrection, transformation, transfiguration has now begun. I love the prayer, "May our faith, hope and charity turn hatred to love, violence to peace, death to eternal life."

"The human eye in selective what it wants to see and also evades what it does not want to see. It is a startling truth how you see, what you see determines how and who you will see....When you really look deeply at something, it becomes part of you...To look at something that can gaze back at you or that has a reserve and depth, can heal your eyes and deepen your sense of vision." Anam Cara