There are, and were, great challenges afforded to us in this weekend's scriptures. It is the job of the scripture readings to deepen our understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. That challenge comes from The Table of The Word. The strength to face the challenge, comes from The Table of The Eucharist. The two Tables compliment each another. We need to have both to lead a truly Christian life, and lead an authentic spiritual life. In the first reading from Isiah, we are exhorted, we are encouraged to do the following. The prophet, speaking the word of God, counsels us to: " Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own". Now if that is not enough, he goes on to speak the following, as the mouthpiece of God, "Remove from your midst, oppression, false accusation and malicious speech”. We may well say, "this is hard work”, and we are right. The spiritual journey, the spiritual hike, IS a hard and difficult task. That is why we can never journey alone. Alone we will be destroyed.
The spiritual journey is a difficult ego busting journey. We are led on a journey into who we really are, as authentic human beings. We are led to that place where we have to face, honestly, who we are in our limitedness, and our brokenness. Until we accept that place where we have nothing to rely on, or any resource to fall back on, we will be living in the world of fantasy. We will have our existence in the fantasy world of religiosity. To blast us out of that cozy place, we will have to face some shattering event that rocks us to the core of our being, the old trite answers do not work ant more. We now have new questions, for which new answers must be found. We get that place, which in the words of Karl Rahner, is a blind alley. This so called "blind alley" is not really what it appears to be, but is in reality a new deeper, and quite different understanding of God. A new understanding coming in a way that we least expect, or would plan on, given the choice.
I have found the following words of Fr. Adrian van Kaam, C.S.Sp to be both consoling, comforting, and challenging. These words are from his book, On Being Involved,
“Religion and life are not separated. My daily task and it's religious meaning, my worldly and religious commitments sustain one another. I can encounter God in the realities of daily life and face all events in. ("In Him we live and move and have our being")...Commitment to God which excludes a commitment to the world will lead to a FALSE RELIGIOSITY. In a make-believe religious commitment spirituality may degenerate into an egotistic search for sentiments and fantasies. A split spiritual of religious sentiment and imagination can be maintained only when I withdraw emotionally from my commitments. I tell myself foolishly that as soon I get involved in my study and in the people for whom I care, then I have to leave behind that sweet world of religious dreams and sentiments in which I want to indulge.
"If, with God's grace, I find the courage to give up this self-centered world of religious sentiment, I may be able to develop a true spiritual life. I may find God where He is: in the needy people around me, in the difficult hours of exhausting study, in the collaboration with humankind for the building of a better world. I find Him in the asceticism of the laboratory where I dedicate myself, together with my brother and sisters of the human race, to discovery of the concrete scientific aspects of the truth of His creation."
"Present to God, in struggling and suffering humanity, I may grow to a spiritual life which replaces that fantasy life that I previously called "spiritual". The main difference between my own imaginary life and that of other withdrawn people was that my fantasies were religious while theirs may have been aesthetic or sensuous. We rejected the challenge of God's reality and sought refuge in the shelter of pleasant feelings and imaginations." We will then find ourselves visiting "the land of tears and the land of fear." Again and again we will shed our tears. Physical tears, and emotional tears. We must then always keep before our mind’s eye the wonder-full words of this week’s opening prayer we prayed to our Gracious Father that in His mercy and love He allows no tear to go unheeded. There are no Kleenex moments with God. The is nothing not connected with the whole. There are no garbage can in The Kingdom. All of our tears are taken by God, when offered, and re-returned to us as pearls of wisdom. Not for ourselves, religiosity, but for the hungry, the thirsty, the prisoner, the homeless, the immigrant, or whichever is the "least of the brethren" you will encounter in your daily living. St. Paul reminds us as well, " What we have been given is NOT for ourselves, but for the building up of the common good." This can only be, a WE JOB.