To those who are new to this blog, we are now in the second year. In an effort to not repeat myself, (which as you know, I do real
Well), I am going to ask you to please go back and reread the blogs of this time last year. That would be the weeks beginning March 4th, 2009.
During this season of Lent, we are made very much aware of three realities. The reality of sin, the reality of God's compassion, and our need for ongoing conversion. Many times we get so caught up in the sin part, we do not focus enough on the compassion part. We are so inclined to believe the bad, and fight the good about ourselves, and the duty of our deepest reality. I like that saying, "God help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how BEAUTIFUL it is."
The wonder-full, beauty-full, mysterious compassion of our God is constantly being revealed to us. This revelation takes place in our ongoing, deepening understanding of who our God really is. This reality is revealed to us, in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the enfleshment of the compassion of God. He came to reveal, to model for us, the real compassion, which will confront our imagined concepts of the same. These will always sell God short. Nobody can forgive us the way our God forgives. His is, an infinite Compassion, and Forgiveness. The experience we have of the forgiveness of others, no matter how good it is, is still limited. God's compassion is unlimited, unrestricted, unconditioned and infinite. Jesus having assumed our humanity, was able, through His mission and ministry, to encounter real people, in real human experiences. In that encounter was able to reveal the mystery of God's unconditioned love for us. He met the people as they were, doing what was their lot in life. They were greeted with no judgment, no condition. "You are who you are, and I love you. Will you allow Me to love you?”. This to my mind was the approach of Jesus, and nothing has changed in the meantime. That was his approach to The Samaritan Woman, to the woman caught in adultery, to Zacchaeus (up a tree), and Levi collecting taxes. All were, in the minds of the many, people to be condemned, avoided, and shunned. Jesus, as the mind and heart of God, sees the essential goodness. As it was, so it is, with you and I. Thank God we have those consoling words of scripture, "not as man sees does God see, because man see the appearance but God looks into the heart." When he looks into our hearts, all he sees is the indwelling of His family, the Holy Trinity. In that loving gaze, into our hearts, all our God sees is, LOVE.
Fr.. Rohr points out this amazing fact, 75% of the parables of Jesus were all about mercy and compassion. And people say I repeat myself?.
My favorite, it the Parable of The Prodigal Father. In that gospel we meet THREE people we encounter each and every moment of our spiritual journey. They are present in each and every one of us. It has been pointed out, the younger son, the rebellious one, is us in the first half of life. The resentful one is you and I, in the second half of life. We as the prodigal father/mother must grow in our unconditioned love of both. We must grow in reconciliation with both so we can life a fuller, and a more joyful life. This reconciliation process involves a change.
Change. Who likes change? We all like certainty, we all like the familiar. To change, we have to let go of something, and wait for, as of yet, the unknown. That is what Paschal death is all about. That is why we celebrate that reality year after year, because it is our reality day after day, moment after moment -The change, the new life that comes to us, from death and loss. There are times we have to take responsibility for the death, and or loss. Other times we are caught up in the reality of life, and the pain that life brings with it.
The rebellious son, brings it on himself. In a desire to after an apparent good, he brings hurt to his family. When he asks his father for his inheritance. What he is actually saying is, "I cannot wait for you to die to get the money coming to me, so i want it now". Wrong, he had no right to the money. It was the fathers’ to give, after his death. The prodigal father gives him the money. Off goes the son. Away from his home, to a far off land. He leaves home. He turns his back on the place where he was the beloved, and all that it meant to be the beloved. We, too, leave that place where we call home. As we are caught up in those voices that trumpet, oh so loudly, the praises of power, popularity, pleasure, and prestige, we leave home. Henri Nouwen points out, anger, resentment, jealousy, desire for revenge, lust, greed, antagonisms, and rivalries are obvious signs we have left home. He goes on to say that happens quite easily. Rather than focusing on being the beloved, I can be caught up in finding myself brooding about someone else's success, my own loneliness. I can catch myself daydreaming about becoming rich and famous. I get caught up in the fear of not being liked, blamed, put aside, passed over, ignored, persecuted, and killed. This will lead to constantly developing strategies to defend myself and thereby assure myself of the love I need and deserve. With that frame of mind we are in deep doo-doo. We are deep, in the manure of the pig sty. When all seems to be lost, it is then things begin to change.
The gospel say the rebellious one, "coming to his senses", came to remember the truth about who he really was and where he came from. In that moment of conversion, he was on the way BACK, to where his true home lay. [That is what conversion is….turning around and going the opposite direction.] That memory of the place where he was the beloved, started him on the journey homeward. As it is so easy for us to leave home we need to constantly be vigilant of where our thoughts are, and where they are leading us to. Lent is the season when we are asked to face that which we allow, to force us from our true home. Lent affords the opportunity to reclaim, who we are as the Beloved (son/daughter). Lent provides the great opportunity to rethink what is of lasting value, rather than concentrating on that what is of its nature , transitory.
It is in our pig sties, our Good Shepherd finds us, or can I say, catches up with us. In that pig sty we are weak, hungry, and discouraged. We are lost in our guilt, fear and shame. In that place of “lostness”, we are found. Our GOOD Shepherd gently lifts us out of that place of torment, places us on his strong shoulders and carries us home. On that journey home, we come to realize, the Good Shepherd is not only the one who carries us home, he is FOOD for the journey as well. How generous our God is. In that return journey, there is a radical change brought about, by grace. We come to realize and gradual accept, we are never lost. There is no place, where our God cannot find us. There is no limit to His compassion, His love, His forgiveness, or His relentless search for us. The only limit, is the limit, that we impose. Let us look deep inside, and honestly accept that part we shun, avoid, condemn, and persecute. We have created our own pig sty. We must invite the Good Shepherd to come and work the miracle of his reconciling, transforming love.
"Out of the depths I cry, I cry to you O Lord, Lord hear my cry",
"A humbled and broken heart you will not spurn",
"As far as the east is from the west so far have your sins been placed behind you"
Next week….. "The tough one"