Saturday, November 27, 2010

A New lens......for.. a never before... Advent

We are once again invited to enter into and celebrate The Season of Advent. With this season, the new Liturgical year begins. Like the Celtic calendar, the liturgical calendar begins in the world of winter and darkness. The upon is not that where ALL life begins. We all emerge from the darkness of our mother's womb. Jesus, who became the Christ, shared the same journey as each one of us, and was born in the darkness of the night. He arose from the dead in the darkness before the dawn. Somehow, God has chosen that connection between darkness, birth and life and presented to us for our ongoing reflection. We can be sure that wherever there is darkness, then it contains the promise of new life, and new beginnings. This wisdom will not come to us in a day, a week, a year, we will be led to that by those who have gone before and left the promise, as their legacy. A legacy for you and I to claim, enjoy, and celebrate. A legacy whose value will not show up on our bank accounts. It is a legacy that enables us to live life and live it to the fullest. We are empowered to live our lives in love, and freedom. Is not this the deepest wish of all human beings?

So, we are again invited to enter this mysterious Season of Advent. We are gifted, again, with the invitation to enter into this time of longing, preparation, expectation, and, anticipation. We are asked to take the ordinary events of our lives, and see in them the means which afforded to God so He can prepare us in our own unique way for The Revelation. This Revelation, is our God taking on the human condition, so as to reveal to us in a very personal way, He is a God that is not a distant God. On the contrary, He is a God that is with us, He is Emmanuel. As He is revealed to us, so our God depends on you and I to reveal Him to those He will place on our paths. In that way, the Incarnation will be everlasting. It will be, as it is, eternal. This is all, mystery. A mystery that can never be solved, only entered into again and again. With each new encounter we are gentle led into an ever deepening knowledge and understanding of that which will never be understood, in this life. This life affords us the opportunity to enter, ever anew, the Mystery of God becoming fully human. He entered our humanity to the point of suffering and death, so we would have a God that knows from His own human experience, what it means to be powerless, vulnerable, and alone. Beginning with the announcement of His birth, through the events of His birth and life we are drawn always closer to Him who came for the purpose that we would have life and have it abundantly.

Abundant life for Jesus, is not about the bottom line. His abundant life does not show up on our bank statements. Abundant life is not about having the right house in the right neighborhood with the kids attending the right school with the right kind of kids. Abundant life if not even about giving you or your family the right stuff. Stuff will never be enough. The life that is offered to us for our reflection during this Season of Advent is wonder-full and beautifully captured in the following poem by Jessica Power entitled:

I live my Advent in the womb of Mary. And on one night when a great star swings free
From its high mooring and walks down the sky to be the dot above the Christus i,
I shall be born of her blessed grace
I wait in Mary-darkness, faith's walled place,
With hope's expectance of nativity.

I knew for long she carried and fed me, guarded and loved me, though I could not see.
But only now, with inward jubilee,
I come upon earth's most amazing knowledge;
Someone is hidden in this dark within me.

This Advent let us pray for, and be prepared to receive new lenses. Let us let go of all that has come to in Advents past. T his Advent is new, never before experienced. Let us prepare for the appearance of our God, not in the places and people we expect to find Him. He will come to us in the people he came for, the poor, the outcast, the prostitute, the leper, the blind, the lame, the wanderer. All those people we will meet, when we realize they are all within you and I. We are in reality a great community, wounded, and broken waiting in patient longing for Him who will transform the so called darkness in the birthing place of our God. As G.K. Chesterton once said, “Jesus came to turn the world upside right”. So, let us journey in dark faith, not knowing what is before us, but having the conviction God is faithful to his promises, "you are my friends" and "I am with you".

A very happy New Year to all of you. May all your celebration lead you ever deeper, until you meet that Someone who is hidden in the dark within you. A wonder-full, awe-full season of anticipation, and patient longing is my wish for you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy New Year?

Happy New Year - this is Sunday is the beginning of the new Liturgical Calendar!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Family Tradition....

We are coming to the end of the cronos year - 2010 will end in about seven weeks. The Liturgical Year, on the other hand is ending in just two more weeks. The changing of the leaves and the cooling temperatures signal that we are at the beginning of the end of the year. The liturgical readings provides us with the annual readings which confront us with the challenge of facing our own life's end, and the end of our world, as we know it. This is the time for the fear-mongers. Emphasizing death, destruction, leading to untold, unnecessary worry and spiritual turmoil.

How many of these fear-mongers will take the time to emphasize those last few words of this week’s Gospel; "Yet not a hair of your head will be harmed." There will that upset all around, yet our God is the God of life, not the God of death and destruction and He is our Good Shepherd. The darkest valley is not dark for Him. As a matter of fact, it is those terrible and dangerous times, when we have given up does our Faithful Prodigal Father reveal Himself as He truly is, all powerful, merciful, and gracious. For us who have to journey to the place where we ourselves thought, this is the end, it is all over, light and love breaks through. With this newer and deeper understanding of what is real life and real love, we will have the necessary strength to persevere. It is in and through that God given of perseverance, we, as Jesus in the Gospel, will save our lives.

So, then we see, the future holds no fear for those who have seen their worlds crumble. Their plans not realized. The towers they spent so much time and energy to build, they to their horror saw them fall, and crumble. All there was left was rubble. Was that the end? Of course not! It never is, for those who believe in the spiritual journey. That ending is THE BEGINNING of a newer, and better life. A life not caught up with the demands of this world, but with eyes directed towards the demands of that life which will never end. Over these many years I have seen individuals and families in a matter of seconds have one world end a new way of existence forced upon them.

While I was vacation, I was able to see the History Channel's documentary on the horrors of 9/11. It was a documentary that compiled the actual video recordings of individuals as they journeyed through that seminal day in the history of our country. It began with a wonderful sunny New York morning, with people beginning to go about their morning chores, in preparation for just another day. All that changed when those planes flew into the Twin Towers. What followed was at times very, very difficult to view. I do not go to horror movies, but what was that TV set was beyond any horror movie. This was real. To see the thousands of people running in panic before on-coming clouds of dust, that they were unable to escape was really unnerving. I was looking at real people, running scared, running for their lives. Then you were presented with the picture of firemen either going into the twin towers, or preparing to go in. You saw the faces of those who would never be seen again. There was a look of steady resolve on their faces as they moved towards their destiny. No looking back, just straight forward. They were formed and trained for that day. They did not shirk their duty. They will always be remembered. How could they ever be forgotten? Their physical lives ended on that day, but their efforts and heroism will last forever. The lives of their loved ones have been forever changed. The sun did rise on the September 12th, and the process of living continued on a new and different level. Death, and evil can never win.

That is the message of this week’s Gospel. We will be prepared, strengthened, and trained for whatever may come our way. We will not be overwhelmed. Jesus Christ by His death and resurrection has provided us with that guarantee. When we are caught up in fear, and which one of us has not, we are forgetting we have been provided with the gift of faith for such occasions. This is the truth that comes to us from the words, actions, and life of our Savior, Jesus Christ. John's gospel chapters 14-17, are a great antidote to the fears generated from just living life. We need always to remember we have been created by Love for a life to be lived in freedom, not cowering in a corner out of fear.

We have a Good Shepherd, who states pretty bluntly that what has been given to Him will not be snatched out of His hand. With our desire to be in lasting relationship with Him we will we guided safely the many, many, many dark valleys of our lives. We will not always know where we are being led. We do know by faith, there will never be a place where The Good Shepherd does not only have us in His sight, He has us wrapped up in His loving presence. Where ever He is, we are, wherever we are, he is. After all, it is all about the here and now. In this NOW moment, we are ever and always safe. Do we not ask Our Lady to pray for "now, and at the hour of our death"?

We have Jesus Christ as our brother. We have His Mother as our Mother. This tells us we are very well connected, both put the devil in his place. Let us do the same, 'It is a family tradition". A tradition we will always be empowered to continue.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Every Mass...Trick or Treat?

This past week, as you well know, was "trick or treat" night. Well, I experienced a little of a trick that evening myself! As I left my home in Sun Lakes, I was all prepared to reflect on what I had written here. I was going to deal with the fact that our God not only talks the walk, but He came to walk the talk. In doing so, we have a model to follow. A model that challenges us to walk the same path he has laid out for us. We will then be a people that will really walk the path our God-Father, has intended for our wholeness and happiness. Such was my intention, when the thought flashed through my mind, this is "trick or treat" night. Then the question, "will those who come to Mass lose out on anything? The answer came, of course not! Then the thought process began to expand. Here are some of the thoughts, which are also pretty much what I shared at Mass.

On Halloween, those who go from door to door, always begins with an empty bag or bucket. There is then room for the goodies to be received, into the emptiness. The greater the emptiness the more room there is for gifts, to be received. The gifts that are received will come from the generosity of the giver and cannot be earned or demanded. What happens at each mass we attend? We bring our emptiness to each celebration. Life empties us out. Living life reveals to us our powerlessness, our lack of control, our essential loneliness, all those things that force us into the admission we are after all just a regular human being. We are not the exception to the rule. We begin each celebration with the admission, we are sinners. That is we have said no to God's love, and went in search of an apparent good, only to be very disappointed, eventually. We come to recognize, where we have said no, and the place of the ensuing pain, needs to be handed over to the infinite, prodigal, mercy of our Gracious God. This then is the place of emptiness. This is our empty that will be filled up with what we need, not what we want.

I have been so culturally deprived. I never went trick or treating. So you have to forgive me if I make some mistakes. I have been on the giving end, not on the receiving end. As you look on the faces of the little ones, especially the real little ones, there is a great sense of expectation. When you produce some goodies that meets that expectation there is the familiar, "oh wow". Skittles, M&Ms, Kit Kats will trigger such a response. There will be a rush to tell their friends the good news of what is awaiting them. Then you have to face this new group who has these great expectations. Now let’s switch things up a little.

How about this scenario? What if, instead of the expected treats, a plate of celery, carrots, raisins, and other vegetables was produced.
Would not there be a response like, first of all dead silence, followed with "What gives?”, “Who are you , my parent?”. They would not be very happy campers. They would not be consoled with the trite statement, "vegetables are good for you". They expected candy and will not settle for anything less. Veggies do not provide what Skittles can provide. (Personally a dark chocolate Kit Kat will do the trick.) We want what tastes good, not necessarily what is good. We want that good rush which comes with instant satisfaction. We do not want to wait for the process which allows serenity, and peace of mind to flow into us, or should I not say, to bubble up from WITHIN us. We want religiosity, not spirituality.

How often do we approach the Liturgy of The Mass with the expectation of coming away feeling good. If that does not happen, then there is something wrong. We attended the celebration with the expectation we will hear that which will confirm some pet idea , which bolsters our sense of our own perceived goodness. That did not happen. Instead we were confronted with a message that confronted our preconceived ideas, and smug self righteousness. In other words we wanted candy and got veggies. Here is the question, “Will we be as enthusiastic about spreading the good news of veggies received, as we are in letting everybody know of the "candy" that is waiting for them?”. Our God always gifts us what is good for us, not what we think, or feel is good for us. Lastly, what steps are you going to take to make sure the bucket of the soul is empty, so as to be filled with that which really nourishes us, not just gives us a cheap high. How blessed are you when you are responsible and responsive, and share that gift with your fellow travelers.

Those who attended that Halloween mass were given THE TREAT. The Treat which is essential for healthy spiritual living. The Treat, that comes to us as bread and wine is in fact that which we all seeks as we go about seeking out, and accepting what life has to offer us. That Real God, is behind all of our seeking and searching. We will find ourselves knocking on many doors, only to be disappointed with what is offered. Eventually we will be lead to the peace and quiet that is always within our own souls. On that journey, we will not survive on candy, nor on just pious religious feelings. We will find our strength from that which comes from the same source as we do, namely the earth. It is from the earth, the humus, the human, comes our real nourishment for the journey into reality. That journey we name, the spiritual journey. Let us rest in The Real, and not be seduced by the candy of fantasy, of unreality. Let us not be so tricked that we lose out on “THE TREAT”.