Saturday, April 23, 2011

Your Mystery...within...THE MYSTERY

"Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again." Words we know, and can repeat without thinking about them.
We can repeat them so easily, from the top of our head. Here is a hard question, “are they a real expression of what is our gut feelings?”. It is only when we pray from our gut, that our prayers are heard. We have to own our reality for there to be connection a with our God. When we do not pray from our reality, we are not known to God. Our God IS reality, and the closer we are to our reality the closer we are to God. As Metz says so very disconcertingly,
"Sinful flight from God begins with sinful flight from self, return to God begins with a return to self". That is to the person I really am, as God sees me
not as others see me. What a vast chasm lies between those two realities??? Honesty, with who we are in God's oh so gentle, loving gaze allows us to slowly embrace and accept who it is we really are.

That is our who spiritual journey. We never have to be anything more than we already are, the beloved daughter/son of our Heavenly Father.
A love revealed to us, in and through the Life and ministry of His Son, Jesus Christ.

We have that saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt". We can and do become indifferent to our everyday life, and all of it's happenings. We will then lose sight of the Mystery that is being encountered, and lived out in our so called ordinary, familiar lives. We can become so indifferent to the people, places and events and never realize that it is in them we encounter the reality of what we say at Mass, “Christ has died, Christ is risen and Christ comes again”.. and again, ever new. What a mystery, no wonder we have no repeat it so often? We have the expression in Ireland, “When you throw enough mud at a wall some of it is bound to stick". We then need to ask for the faith to see beyond the ordinary and familiar so as to grow in wonder, and in awe of the mystery that is hidden within us. As we grow in reverence of what we see, hear, feel, taste, and touch, we will be brought to the realization, and oh so slowly, that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ DOES come again, again , and again. We also pray that our lenses be cleared of all the garbage which prevents us from enjoying the freedom that is ours, because Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. This is the real truth of who we are as we live out our part in The paschal Mystery.

This life, this source of truth is aching, is demanding to be set free in our lives.

We must remember there was an earthquake before the Resurrection, and so it is with us. For us to really encounter the depths of the Paschal Mystery we must have our lives shaken. There will be an earthquake or earthquakes in our lives. Because of this, what we have built will be shaken to its roots and foundations. Maybe in some cases, there will be serious loss. This is not real loss, it is our encounter with temporal death, the loss of the illusion, so that Paschal life can be for us an ever deeper reality.

On my hike I see new life struggling to be revealed and add beauty to the harshness of the desert. That beauty will struggle to break through the hard-pan of the desrt floor. That emerging beauty will not be denied. The following is a quote I like, "If Easter says anything to us to-day it says this; You can put truth in a grave, but it won't stay there. You can nail it to a cross, wrap it in a winding sheets and shut it up in a tomb, but it will rise". Pain, betrayal, brokenness, weakness of all kinds, and the resulting unnecessary guilt, endless fear, and toxic shame are the caves, the tombs from which we arise. We arise to a new and better life. A life beyond our wildest imagination, feeling of freedom and happiness we have no words to describe. We come to discover the place of our wounds, is the place where our greatest gifts are revealed to us. There is great consolation in knowling, " the greater the wound the greater the gift”.

To paraphrase the words from The Exultet, "oh happy sin of ours that reveals to us such a faithful God. It is He who transforms all of our brokenness and betrayals, into the revelation of his abiding love”. Bonhoffer said, "guilt is the hardest idol to break down". This Easter allow ourselves, and I mean ALLOW, to be raised from the depths of despair and abandonment, that is where fear can lead us to, to the place where peace joy and love is ALWAYS ours. This is our share in the resurrected life. This is what it means to be risen with Christ, as the beloved daughter/son. A reality we must claim, and reclaim, because we can so easily lose sight of that reality.

The same power that raised the bruised, beaten, broken, betrayed, and abandoned Jesus, is the same power that is awaiting our fearful selves to surrender to our powerlessness to. We will say always with some reservation, “let it be done to me according to your will”.

The prayer of the crucified Jesus in time will also become ours, "Father into your hands I commend my spirit". It is here we join with Jesus Christ, and enter the blessed mysterious place we call the risen life.

What is this new risen life you will claim this year? Where are the places of brokenness that have revealed to you and we have discovered a strength you never thought you had or was even POSSIBLE. Claim all of that, as a real revelation of the abiding, faithful love of Your God. Where it sessms not possible, but the desire is there, why not say, "I believe Lord, help my un/disbelief”. Then love yourself enough to allow the Spirit of Wholeness to work mysteriously within you.

Would this be complete without some saying of Henri Nouwen? Here it is; “Our life is full of brokenness, broke relationships, broken promises, broken expectations. How can we live with. How can we live with the brokenness without becoming bitter and resentful, except by returning again and again to God's faithful presence. "

There is something very consoling at the end of this Sunday's Gospel, speaking about the disciples of Jesus we read the following, “Remember, as yet they did not understand the Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead". So when we are in that place of not understanding how all of this is going to happen, or has happened, we are in real good company.

"The Lord has done great thing for us; we are filled with Joy. Those that sow in tears.......shall reap rejoicing." What a guarantee???
A Wonder-full, awe-full, Blessed Easter to you all.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Who Do You Find....Within?

We are told that the Gospel story is not just “The Story" of Jesus, it is OUR story as well. We are every person in the Gospel story. We are asked to take a look at our lives and see how each character we meet, in the reading of the Gospels IS already present, within each one of us. Yes, you read right, each and every person of the Gospel, is waiting to be discovered, and accepted, within you and I. It takes a great deal of honesty to face that reality. Some of the Gospel heroines/heroes we are more than happy to embrace. We only too welcome the faithfulness of Mary, as she stood resolutely by the cross of her son. She who was promised so much must be one of the most deceived persons of the whole scriptures. She becomes for us, the example discipleship. We have the example of the crowds who so loudly cheered the entrance of the Rabbi Jesus to Jerusalem, and we just as loud in His condemnation. How easily we can cheer the contemporary presence of the Christ in His resurrected life, how easily we condemn that same Christ when He appears to us in his wounded, bruised, and broken self. How convenient it is become blind to the Present Day Suffering Jesus in the poor, the outcast, the immigrant, all those polite society turns it's back on, but in reality they are the apple of our God's and Father's eye. There is a terrible fate awaiting those who abuse, "the widow and the orphan”. These are the ones our God has chosen as His own. We in turn, must develop the same lens that God has, and to see these persons in the same way as God does. This takes conversion. This takes us being granted a new set of lenses. There are there for, take the risk and ask for them. With those new lenses we will see ourselves more clearly in some of the not so acceptable characters of the Gospel story.

We have to discover both the Peter and the Judas within. Yes they are both there. Both betrayed Their Lord. Peter repented, he cried rears of sorrow. Judas was not able to and committed suicide. We have the same decisions to make. When we sin, and we all sin, we now have a choice. To have a healthy sense of guilt, and say " I made a mistake. I am sorry. I will do better, with grace, the next time.” Then we move on. Judas was on the other hand unable to make this his own. He then was caught up in toxic shame, was not able to bring himself to the acceptance of God's love. That is what toxic shame does to us. It takes away the right we have to be loved without condition, restriction or reservation. We are asked, because of our sin or sins to surrender ourselves into the unconditioned love of our Prodigal Father. We go through that process again, and again ad infinitum. As we experience the mercy of God then we are lead to a place of deeper compassion. Rather than judge the sin of another, we pray they will encounter the same mercy and compassion we have been blessed with. We can even go so far as to say what a blessing our weakness is, when it brings us so much closer to the God of Jesus Christ. Our sin(s) have allowed us to fall deeper and deeper INTO grace. OUR FALSE GOD OF FEAR AND CONDEMNATION MUST DISAPPEAR. Then we can rejoice in the reality of us being beloved daughter/ son of our Gracious God. Judas killed himself fast, he hung himself. There are so many, many who are committing suicide slowly as they live their lives in the belief they are not lovable, or can ever be loved. Where they cannot sew the necessary love, then we are bound to carry that Gospel message, the message of good news. What is that, that they always have been loved, always will be loved, as long as they allow it to happen. For those who have been hardened by living loveless lives this is hard work. I am sad to say I have come across so many, many, you children who already have been hardened. They can only be tenderized through the miracle of grace. Their journey from the tomb of guilt, fear and shame is a long and difficult one. Let us not lengthen the journey or make the process more difficult by our self righteousness and judgmentalism.

On the road to Calvary the suffering Jesus met two very significant people. He met Simon, who was FORCED to carry the cross. He had no choice. Veronica responded out of compassion to reach out to the suffering one. Where are you encountering Simon, within yourself. Name the suffering Christ, that life has chosen to be the reality of The Suffering One in your life right now. Do you, or can you make that leap in faith to see the broken, bruised, beaten, and betrayed of the historical Jesus alive and so very present in what is so very difficult for you to handle. Reach beyond to seen, to the unseen and ask for the grace you need to be a source of consoling strength. God has chosen some very difficult and a truly amazing disguises. When we are brought through that process of grace, we will find ourselves being more and more like Veronica. We do not know her story. I would love to be privy to her conversion story. When did the transformation happen? What was the tragedy, and subsequent graced moments that that allowed to brave the crowds, and the Legions of Rome, to minister to a condemned prisoner? Where is the struggle going on in your own life, your family's life which is your process of transformation. The challenge is, of course, what do we as individuals, as couples, as families have to let go of, so that the same spirit who raised the historical Jesus from the dead can work the miracle of transformation and transfiguration. This again is temporal death leading us to the an ever deeper understanding of The Paschal mystery.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Temporal Death......Paschal Death.

Next Sunday will be Passion Sunday, and with it will begin our celebration of the week we as Catholic Christians call, Holy. We will for the first time, as we are right now journey into the Mystery we have all been baptized into. Connecting that reality to the reality of our daily living is a great ongoing challenge. To make our journey with The Suffering Servant an ever deepening one, I hope and pray this will be of some help.

The Pascal Mystery transforms, transfigures and leads an always and new and different way of living. It bestows on us the great gift of hope, that death is not, “the final word on life or despair the final days of human beings”. [Boff] As we make our journey into the light of the resurrection, we will be led again and again to the understanding that out of all of our pain, sorrow, and brokenness, comes new life and wonderful gifts. We will be led to the belief that the “greater the wound, the greater the pain…the greater the gift”. That is why each year, we are “dipped and dyed” in the Pascal Mystery to be awakened and to celebrate the new life that has come to us from what we thought was death. Death is never the end, it is always the beginning.

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.

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 life...is 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 diagrammed 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.

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 Divine 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 Hallelujahs 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."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Our Ongoing....Process

This Sunday is called Laetare Sunday. It is to be a weekend of rejoicing, in the midst of our season of penance. Looking back, what have we heard, read, proclaimed and prayed that calls to rejoice? The opening prayer, for starters, offers us some wonder-full food for thought, leading to us being nourished. Then, as we are nourished, we share the strengthening which we have received with those our God has chosen for us. They come into our lives in the most ordinary and very extra ordinary circumstances. They do come however. What we have been given, St. Paul writes is not for ourselves, but for the common good. We do not know what has been given, until it is given away. What surprises lie in store for those who take the risk. We prayed: "God our Father, your word, Jesus Christ spoke peace to a sinful world and brought humankind the gift of reconciliation.....Teach us the people who bear His name, to follow the example He gave us: may our faith, hope and charity (love), turn hatred to love, violence to peace, death to eternal life.”

This process of transformation is a life-long process which we must endure. It is also a very painful process, because, it is a birthing experience. Some of us would much prefer to do anything else rather than embrace that, which of necessity, has to take place. What adds to the difficulty of embracing this mysterious process is we do not know what timeframe we are working with. We are dealing here with God's time, Kairos, which is way outside clock time, cronos. Kairos cannot be measured. We are assured, however, God does not allow us to move on until we have received all the wisdom He intends us to receive, from what this life brings to us. Great??? We are told in the Scriptures that it is by patient endurance we are saved. On the spiritual hike there are no quick fixes. As a matter of fact Jesus only guarantees us rest, when we rest in Him. This is why we have to reach out in faith filled prayer to a Loving Power far, far greater than ourselves. We have to accept, sooner or later, (for most of it is always later) that we cannot do it. We have to accept, or be brought to acceptance we are powerless, but we have One who is all powerful. We will discover our gracious Father knows us better than we will ever know ourselves. He will act accordingly. That does not make it any easier to bring our hatred towards ourselves and other and surrender it into His always outstretched hands. Hands that have been pierced, out of love for us.

We have to admit, and bring to hope filled, the anger and to the seeds of violence that dwells in the depths of each one of us. Without prayer it will be too much for us to handle. The result will be and has been war and untold destruction. We will go to war with ourselves, and with those who have the misfortune of being in our lives. All wars begin within the human heart. What I do not like in me that I see in you…I will want to go to war with you. I am led to the understanding, I am not going to war with you, I am going to war with the "me" which I have found in you. How is it in family life the two people most like each other are always at each other’s throats? Does the aforementioned truth help to explain that which is the experience of so many families? Anger brought to hope filled prayer, is transformed into a compassionate peace within, us. We will then be ambassadors of peace, bringing the gift of reconciliation to our homes, and eventually to the families of, humankind. There is no mess too big for our God. All our deaths must be brought to loving prayer, especially to the great expression of God's love for us, The Eucharist celebration. There we will be led to see, and eventually believe the great connection between temporal death and Paschal death. We will be led deeper into this great mystery, all deaths are not endings but real beginnings. Temporal death, the losses we endure in this life, the loss of a job, a dear friend, a spouse, child, a pet, a home, a reputation etc. The list is endless as are pathways leading us to an ever deepening understanding of the Paschal Mystery in our everyday life. All of our little deaths are our preparation for the final death which leads us to the new transfigured life which will be ours in the resurrected life. All temporal death leads to a new way of seeing, and a new way of living. It is in the plan of our merciful God, that this is so. Otherwise evil, death, destruction wins. This CANNOT happen where The Kingdom exists. What a reason we have to rejoice? "How can I keep from singing?"

Yes, this is not easy. It is essential we keep all this truth before ourselves and when we are brought to wisdom we share the treasure that we have found buried deep within. The following is what I read at Mass and promised to post. It from Merton's book, Faith and Violence, "Popular religion has to a great extent betrayed man's inner spirit and turned him over, like Samson, with his hair cut off and his eyes dug out, to turn the mill of a self-frustrating and a self-destroying culture”. The clich├ęs of popular religion have in many cases become every bit as hollow and as false as those of soap salesmen, and far more dangerously deceptive because one cannot easily verify the claims made about the product. The sin of religiosity is that turned God, peace, happiness, salvation and all that man desires into products to be marketed in an especially attractive package deal. In this, I think, the fault lies not with the sincerity of preachers and religious writers, but with the worn-out presuppositions with which they fare content to operate. The religious mind today is seldom pertinently or prophetically critical. Oh, it is critical all right; but too often of wrong or irrelevant issues.... But I wonder if we have not settled down too comfortably to accept passively the prevarications(lies) that the Gospels or the Prophets would have us reject with all the strength of our being. I am afraid the common combination of organizational jollity, moral legalism and unclear crusading will not pass muster as serious religion. It certainly has nothing to do with "spiritual life"