Saturday, December 22, 2012
"You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience, you are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience." In those words, deChardin, sums up for us, real succinctly, the reality, the inherent mystery, hidden and revealed in the moment we call, "The Eternal Now". Human and spiritual, two seemingly contradictory realities, are to be sought out, and embraced, lovingly, by each one of us. Both, are to be loved in all their pain, joy, light, darkness, until through grace they become a unity within each one of us. This is the only way to wholeness, holiness. This loving is not easy. If it were easy, and we could do it naturally, why does our God have to make it a commandment? This is not easy commandment to obey. It is no walk in the park. It is however, the path we are invited to trudge, the mountain trail we are challenged to ascend. Left to our own selfish way of living we would never choose such a challenge. Yet, there is something inherent within each of us that draws us to seek and to search, endlessly. As a consequence, we are all seekers. We are all searchers. We are all on a quest. For what? We are not certain. All we know is there is an attraction that we respond to. A silent call that beacons us to leave the comfort, and security of where we are, i.e. Abraham. Like Abraham, our Father in faith, we hear, and off we go. Is there immediate success? The answer is a definite, NO. Success is NOT what this climb/hike is about. It is all about perseverance. It is all about putting one foot in front of the other. Ever vigilant to all that is. Why? Because, in the moment we are making that step all the strength I need is being given to me. This strength, God's grace, is communicated, NOT in the way I expect, but in the way our Gracious Father God deems best at that particular time. God's love is always particular, passionate, and persistent. She/He is prodigal, that is reckless in the way He/She lavishes infinite love upon you, and I. We cannot earn. We cannot somehow do something by which we deserve this unconditioned love. It is pure gift. All we can do is be humble enough to accept. We are encouraged not to look for rewards. Success is not what we are to be concerned with. We have to battle with the human need to know we are on the right path. Doing the right thing, doing the next healthy thing is the right path. Our path is not the path of certainty, rather, we are journeying into uncertainty. Who wants that? The answer! Those who have been chosen . Do you somehow have to be a "good person", no. One author points out that God seems to choose habitual sinners to make this mysterious journey. We sinners are graced in a way that is not ours to know. As the scriptures reveal to us that the things of God no man/woman knows. Only the Spirit. (First Cor.2:4). On this quest are many starts, stops, falls, and restarts. Those are a necessary part of the reality we have to face. Each time we encounter a hiccup, we just start up again. From all of our hiccups we gain experience, and knowledge. When we bring all that we are encountering to prayer, then we are gifted, through grace, with wisdom. Unfortunately, that is the only way we can grow in the wisdom, that is life giving. There are, then, many and varied obstacles to be met and overcome. It is not for the faint of heart. It is not for those who are easily discouraged. It is for those who are prepared, or are willing to be readied, for a journey into realities that radically change their perception of reality. As a consequence their perception of themselves, others, the world and God will be radically changed. This change will not be measured by some accepted metric. The change will come slowly, and ever so gently. When does this happen, and how will we know it is happening. It is happening right now, "do you not perceive it"? It is happening in this now moment, and will continue in each and every, "right now" moments of your life. Each moment is complete, yet, at the same time incomplete. To each moment there is the present, and the "yet to come". In this "yet to come" God's creative love, and will be acting, just as it is, right now. This gentle creative love is bring to birth, not who I think I should be, or I am expected to be. God's love is recreating me into the one God knows and loves, without condition or restriction? Amazingly this leads discomfort and to discontent. The reality of who I am in God's infinite love is way beyond my limited thoughts, and ideas. So there is a struggle. It is more than a struggle, it is a war. What I want has to do with my comfort as a human being. I am, in my as yet unredeemed humanity, geared for power, property, and prestige. I am at "my" best when I am winning in the world of control, comparisons ,and competition. Loss, failure, disappointment, these are words not allowed to be part of my vocabulary. They are forbidden to be given the light of day. Darkness is their friend. When this is our reality we are subtly being lead away from our personal Bethlehem, and our encounter with The Real Light. We will have to ask for the deepening honesty that will free us for the encounter. The encounter that radically changes everything. How does this happen? I wish I knew. We must never lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with mystery. A mystery that is beyond our ability to understand, as we are right now. That is why each year we have the celebration of The Incarnation. Each year we are led deeper into the mystery of The Infinite God being revealed to us as a fully human being. Our God Came to be like us in every way, except sin, and what love He, in and through the person of Jesus lavished on sinners. As it was, so it is and ever shall be, until the end of time. The person of the historical Jesus comes to us, again and again, to draw us deeper into the Mystery of God made human. The reason? So, we will be led to discover that within us, in our deepest reality, that same God that once entered this world is fashioning a dwelling place. This dwelling place is to be found in the depths of who we are. We are chosen to be Mary. We have been blessed with an "inner pregnancy". As we struggle with the birthing of who we really, we are at the same time revealing in a new and unique way, the Child Jesus. In The Child, the divine and the human are perfectly revealed and hidden. We are invited to enter the mystery so as to seek out that which will empower us to be instruments of lasting peace. Him who came as The Prince of Peace now relies on us to be instruments of His peace, and confront the hell of war. All war finds it roots within the human heart. We are challenged to imitate the life of Him who was both totally human and divine. In this imitation slowly and ever so gently the split within our so human heart is healed. This is why we again, and again, trudge the road to the Bethlehem within, always for the first time. There is a Christmas song ,that no matter how often I hear it, it stops me. "So this is Christmas, and what have you done...? So this is Christmas 2012 and what am I doing to make this year's celebration a new and a more vital life enhancing experience? What am I doing to discover, in a new way, my personal Bethlehem and there have an encounter with the Mary, the Joseph, the shepherds, the angels, The Wise Men, who are present in my life right now? To complete the Christmas pageant within. I must also ask for the honesty to face the Herod within!!! Now that real courage. If I am not working to enhance the spiritual ten I will be a death dealer rather than a life giver. There is a Herod within our families, parishes, church, and society. A power for destruction that must be faced, and countered. The religious leaders of that time knew the answers, but did not get to Bethlehem. They had the answers, they had the knowledge, but the journey to The Vulnerable One was never made. I wonder that is why is was so easy for them to conspire, with the successor of Herod kill The Man, This Child matured into? The journey to Bethlehem, is a journey of the heart. We are told: if we do not find spirit of Christmas within our hearts, we will not find it under a tree. May you all be blessed with the strengthen, and courage to make that so difficult trudge to The Crib within. May you find there peace, and consolation. May you embrace, without any fear, The Vulnerable Child within. May that embrace release within you all that is necessary for you to come to the belief that the human and the divine are at peace in the depths of who you are. That is your right. That is your dignity. That is the essence of who you are, protect it as if you were defending The Christ Child, which in fact you are. Wonder-ffffuuuullllll.
Monday, December 10, 2012
I recently met a very excited young couple. The reason for the excitement? They were thrilled to inform me that their expectant child is to be born on Christmas Eve. Wow!!! What a gift, for them and for all those who will be participate in that wonder-full event. Each and every birth are moments full of awe, full of mystery. Over these many years I have spoken with many of those special people whose vocation is to assist at births. They have spoken of how each birth is such a unique experience for them. There is a newness about each birth. Why and why not? Each new birth is the emergence of God in a new and different reality. Each child is a mystery. A mystery never to be solved, always to be revered. This new mysterious presence is, the incarnation of the love of mom and dad, and a new manifestation of the God, who is, Love. Each child then, and consequently each one of us, continues The Mystery of The Incarnation. The Mystery, whose reality we are preparing ourselves to celebrate. Preparation is a necessary prerequisite when dealing with the appearance of new life. As it was, so it is ,and ever shall be. The young couple, and their families, are making serious preparations for the coming birth. Their hard work, is a labor of love. Nothing will be left to chance. They have been blessed with the knowledge of the approximate time of this child's appearance. They will not be caught unaware. (Note I have said, "approximate time". New babies have no idea of what time is all about. That burden will be imposed on them at a later date. How blessed are those children not confined with the tyranny of time. How really free, they are. How blessed, their lives.) This begs the question, what form are our preparations taking, so that we will be prepared for The Birth, that is to come. Each year is a new birthing, so each year, we must be prepared anew. Preparation is essential, so that The Birth, which gives infinite meaning to all subsequent births, may not pass us by, unrecognized, and consequently, not celebrated. In the event we choose not to prepare to celebrate, we will slowly loose our reverence for the mystery our life is. We are being exposed to the callous way persons and their life are treated. Left to our own devices, we will slowly loose our connection with The Source, Who gives real meaning to all life. Because of the pain that we are in, we do not think in a healthy manner. All sorts of dysfunction appears. We will strike out at everyone, and everything. We will even go so far as to blame people, places, situations, and even God, for what our inaction brings on us. It is so much easier to blame others, rather than look inside and take responsibility for what is really our own doing. Real growth begins when we stop playing the blame game and grow up. This is a sign we are on the way to growing up, we are taking responsibility for our actions. I did not like to be confronted with that fact. I did not like being in the position where I had nobody to blame, only myself. I had to grow up, and take responsibility. This process of taking responsibility is a life-long challenge. I still like to play blame game, but I am not able to get away with it. Working on becoming healthy has its disadvantages. Honesty can be a real pain. Who really wants to grow up. It is so much fun in being the "puer aeternus". Becoming the "senex" is tough work. There is a lot of death, and resurrections. It takes one deep inside to face the darkness, and beyond that the life giving Light. This is the Year of Faith. A year we are asked to journey anew in the depths of our faith, so as to discover, hidden treasure. Hidden treasures that up to now have been stashed away in the darkness of our depths. It takes reckless courage, (Yeats), a gift of grace, to make that journey. What is discovered is not for ourselves, it is to be shared. It is to be shared so that others may be blessed with the desire to go deep as well. We, in one sense, become beacons of light. This light radiates from within the actions of our daily lives. These actions speak words of encouragement, peace, kindness, mercy, tenderness, compassion, and mutual respect to a world in deep need for such empowering gifts. These gifts empower us to grow in the acceptance of what it means to be human. It also awakens the desire that others may grow into that same gift. The more we become at home within our humanity, the more ready we are to accept the true dignity of who we have been chosen to be. We will more readily accept the dignity inherent of all human beings. This inherent dignity is that The Infinite God, has chosen each and every person to be an essential part of His continuous creation. The Incarnation, creation, continues through each and every so called ordinary, daily action. In our God's world, there is no ordinary. In God's creation, everything is an original. It may appear to be ordinary, but the x-ray eye of faith tells us different. Our inner dignity can only be discovered through inner reflection. In the process of reflection we will come face to face with not only that which brings us peace and joy. It also forces us to face the unacceptable, the unloveable, those parts we recoil from, as we would an enemy. We must not shy away from this so uncomfortable reality. Why? Simply put, but very disturbing, this is our Bethlehem in 2012. This is where the Savior of our deepest weaknesses will be revealed. The weaknesses and brokenness of this year are new and different, are they not? It stands to reason then that our conscious decision to embrace The Savior must be both new and different. We have never journeyed to this Bethlehem, so a new and different understanding of what it means to have a Savior awaits us. We have to make that journey. It cannot be done for us. We are responsible for the individual journey to, encounter. In the celebration of the encounter with The Mystery, we discover we are not alone. All our fellow human beings are on the same quest. May This Year of Faith encourage a deeper appreciation of the knowledge and wisdom that comes to us from the enfleshment of The Infinite One. May His humble, earthly beginnings lead us to a healthy, comforting ,real-life giving relationships. Beginning with ourselves, may we discover, through our reflection on who this Vulnerable newborn Child, a sense that our vulnerability is not to be shunned, but embraced. This embrace will allow us to discover this strange, stunning, and subversive truth. A truth The Incarnate God came to reveal. It is within the embrace of the un-embraceable, unacceptable an indescribable power, which up to now was, unknown is now released within us. Into the darkness of our night, Light has shone, and.........."
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Last week, I ended with facing the challenge that flows from our encounter with "the living person of Christ". On further reflection, this is where hiking comes in, it came to me that I left out a few very important words. It would have been more real, more true, if I had written "an encounter with the living person of the historical Jesus, Who became the Christ of God”. It has been many years since I was introduced to the following challenging reality. In so far as I have a healthy, spiritual understanding of the historical Jesus, will I be able to encounter the real, risen Christ. It is the historical Jesus having passed through His, suffering, death, burial and resurrection, who became, and is The Christ of God. Jesus, before He became the Christ, asked His disciples this question, "Who do you say that I am?". We, as the living disciples, have to answer that question as well. There is no getting around it. How we answer will have such a profound effect on our own lives, and as a consequence, the lives of so many more. This Jesus of history is, The Sacrament of God. He is the fullness of the revelation of The Eternal, The Infinite and The Ineffable One. Within His humanity and as consequence within our humanity as well, is both hidden and revealed the human qualities of The Transcendent God. From our study of The Gospels we will come to know the person whose life was spent, walking, talking, crying, being angry, scared, laughing and feasting. What a wonder-full face of God is revealed to us in the real life of the God made human. To add to His authenticity as a human being, He endured trial, failure, betrayal, abandonment, crucifixion and ultimately, like all us humans death. Yet, in and through, all these events He was The Beloved, just are we are. We will gradually grow in our understanding of the human qualities of our Father God through our ever-deepening knowledge of the Jesus of History. Remember His words to Thomas, "If you have seen me, you have seen The Father”. These qualities are essential for healthy and freeing, living out of the relationship that is ours with our Father God. There is so much unnecessary fear and anxiety when it comes to the relationship that exists between God and Human creation. A fear that is so often based on ignorance, not on the true reality. In order to allay our fears we are invited to enter, ever new, into the mystery off The Incarnation. That is the mystery of the enfleshing of God. When we choose not to enter the mystery of God entering the human condition there are serious consequences. As a result, we will always be settling for less than what our God has intended us to have. We will just eek out an existence, rather than live life and live it to the fullest. We are cheating. We are cheating ourselves, our God and all of His creation. I am not allowing my full potential to be realized. When that happens, I will a life of deep frustration and blame God for that which is. The longer I am around, the more I realize so much of what is said and taught about God is pure heresy. It is false, but it fits into someone's narrow thinking of who they are and as a consequence who their god is. We are always warned not to make God in our image and likeness. The reality is, we are made according to God's image and likeness. Big difference??? There is a whale of a difference between those two realities. As a consequence, so many live a life that God in no way intended any person to live. Yet, that life is embraced so often as "God's will", when indeed it is the very opposite. The sicker our thinking is the more outlandish is the false god that we create. There are so many idols being worshiped leading to a growing skepticism when it comes to religion. I have listened to so many stories spoken by those who have real trouble with God and religion. They open up about the god they do not believe in.. I do not know how many times I have said, "I do not believe in that god either", much to their amazement. Why do I agree? Well there are so many idols that need to be destroyed. This destruction is not a simple process. It demands great effort fortified with great grace. There is great fear in letting go of the familiar, no matter how destructive it is. No one that I know has found it easy to let go of old ideas. Especially when it comes to God and religion. We want certainty not uncertainty. In doing so, we are rejecting the possibility of having a real life of faith. A life that is full of highs and lows, success and failure, joys and sorrows, deaths and rebirths. All these were found in their fullness, in the life of the Jesus of History. He saw what was happening within His faith, and His society. He had to challenge the leaders of His faith. He confronted those in charge of the laws, teachings, and traditions with a new reality. Rather than accept this new truth, they conspired, with the secular powers, to destroy Him. Looking through the lenses of one reality they were successful. Their success in bringing about His so called destruction, only unleashed upon all of creation a new way of seeing, leading to a new way of being. In the death of the Jesus of history, the Christ of faith found life. So that He who was like unto us in all things except sin, has become the source of strength for us, sinners. He, because of His great loss, is now our Way, our Truth, our Life. We face the constant, daily struggle to reflect in our broken, and, as yet, not fully redeemed, humanity the fullness of His humanity. The more often we encounter The Risen Christ in the ritual sacraments the more we are becoming His contemporary reality and so we are fulfilling our unique destiny. This week, I propose the following imperative of Anthony Padavano, and this challenge still rings true for us today, "We must make Jesus human, and make ourselves as human as He was."( Dawn Without Darkness )
Saturday, November 10, 2012
In the last post, I referenced the Pope's resent letter in which he spoke about "the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ". What we are being asked to do, is to become more aware of who we are by our Baptism. In This Sacrament of Initiation, we are anointed by the oil of chrism so as to become sharers in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. That same anointing also consecrates us, calls us forth, to be the ones who are to continue Prophetic Mission of same Jesus Christ. We are called to be, as He was, fearless prophets. We are to be prophets, messengers of hope. We are a resurrection people, are we not? As such, we are all, by our consecration, called to spear words of encouragement to a world that has lost sight of its original blessing. God saw all that He had made and indeed it was very good. That essential goodness was not lost in the fall. Humankind lost something in the fall. The essential goodness of all of the rest of creation was in no way diminished. As it was before the fall, so it was after the fall. Humankind was changed. Nature was not. Fallen humankind lost its vision of real truth. As a consequence, all the rest of creation was, and is, to the present day, in grave danger. All of creation is in danger of being destroyed by those who have lost sight of that which has real and lasting value. We are being called and challenged to look beyond what is seen, to the life that is unseen. We are asked to let go of the certainties, so as to embrace the challenge that is inherent in the new, as yet, unanswered questions. We are never alone on this real journey of faith. The Holy Spirit, the same Spirit Who hovered over the original chaos is with us, and will never desert us. We may, and do question the workings of the Spirit. This is healthy, and good. Prophets do not pay lip service. They question, because they really care. The truth has nothing to fear from questions. The truth is always the truth, and a sacrament of, The Truth, God. Jesus The Christ was sent to us as The Truth. The fullness of the revelation of God. That is why the Pope encourages us to encounter Christ. I may be so bold as to add the encounter is to be with the living Person Of Jesus Christ. You can only have an encounter with that which is alive. In the '60s there was a book called "Good old plastic Jesus”. I kept it close for many years until it fell apart. “Plastic” Jesus, it was pointed, was and is, a thing. We used to see him on the dashboards of cars, not the place for an encounter. An encounter is not just meeting a person. It demands more than a passing conversation. An encounter demands of us time, presence, attention, respect, honesty, mutual trust, leading to shared feelings. Implicit in the encounter is the willingness to continue the relationship even through the storms that will inevitably occur. Storms are part and parcel of every real relationship. Storms, challenges reveal to each of us, who we really are. At times we are not ready of the truth. Life is so much easier when we are in denial. Denial lasts for so long. Eventually we are forced to face our truth. The truth will set us free…..but first, it will tee off the ego, the false self. The result is out and out war. Our greatest ally is truth. From our experience, with encounters we will have what it takes to get gut honest with The Source of all strengths and healing. We will be led to a different, and deeper understanding, of the seven ritual sacraments. They are Sacraments spelled with a big "S". I like to think a Ritual Sacrament as :the opportunity to encounter the living person of Jesus Christ, the result of which change takes place in my life and that change is brought about by the power of The Holy Spirit. The result of each encounter is change. NOT the change we want, or we think is best for us. The Holy Spirit will transfigured and transform into the creation God intended us to be, not who we would like to be, or the person we think we should be, or ought to be. Being who God has created us to be is the source of real and lasting happiness. It will be the cause of great disquiet in our lives. In these tough times, we are to make an act of faith in the Real Presence of our Good Shepherd God. The valley of darkness lasts for only so long. We journey through the valley of questioning and rejection guided by the light of inner and lasting truth. This truth is slowly revealed. The beauty of this inner truth is revealed again, and again, in each mountain top, resurrection experience. With each encounter, we will be challenged to reflect, through a new set of lenses, who the living person of Jesus Christ really is. This will lead to what?
Saturday, October 27, 2012
I have returned from my wanderings and hope my wonder-rings will continue. I have left behind, but carry in precious memory, the wonder-full sights. The sights and sounds of the fountains created by spouting of whales. Those awe-full, mystery filled moments, as I was privileged to walk among the redwood giants. To be almost overwhelmed with the crackling silence that is part and parcel of that experience. How great it is to be able to be immersed in the rain forests, and be caught up in the hidden mysteries their existence communicates. Then there is the symphonic sounds of the surf. There is the gentle adagio of lapping waves which lulls one to sleep. Then there is the majestic, thundering sounds of the angry, crashing surf. Two sides of the same reality. As with nature, so it is with you and I. Reminds one of what it means to be a spiritual being having a spiritual experience. The more we are drawn to the reverence of nature, the more we drawn into an ever deepening reverence for life as we are privileged to live it. We will no longer find ourselves just existing, but having life and "having it to the fullest". So spoke The God-Man, Jesus Christ. In this way, we are entering the life our God has intended us to live, as revealed by His Beloved Son. I have returned to the familiar, yet mysterious desert landscapes. As I return, I find myself more open to their uniqueness, and the new lessons to be learned. Are we ever too old to drawn into mystery? I am now more ready to be taught new lessons in a place which is so ancient and so new. As I hike ancient trails, both here and away from Arizona, I get caught up in a wondering that goes as follows. Who was the first to blaze this particular trail? Was it man, or was an animal? So many of the highways and byways we travel were first travelled by animals. Humans came and followed the trail they had worn from their everyday, and every season wanderings. Did they realize that what was common, and so ordinary for them, was a beginning of something that would have lasting effects. Many of those trails which were so common are now ways that allow thousands upon thousands, to experience places of great awe, and deep wonder. Most of those who have gone before, The Ancients, The First People, remain largely unknown, and so many, are long forgotten. The results of their labors nourish us, as they have nourished all those who followed them. We are the beneficiaries of their efforts and sacrifices. This is, ever and always, the story of all of creation, and in particular, the human race. Into this story has entered The Divine God, and so we now view all history as salvation history. A history story that is "ever ancient and ever new". A story that tells of, the easy it was, the way it is, and the excitement of looking forward to the future with greater hope for ourselves and for all of creation. Not just have humanity, but for all creation. This will only happen on the condition that we are always having our lenses of faith adjusted, so we are able to see The Real, God, The Divinity, revealed in all that is. You and are being asked, no, not asked, challenged, to enter “The Year of Faith” so as to rediscover the hidden beauty, and the rich meanings that are hidden from ordinary sight. We are asked to enter that which is "ever ancient and ever new" so as to find the trigger that will release a torrent of good news. This torrent good news will of itself trigger a new evangelization. A new outpouring of good, revitalizing, revivifying news which will bring new hope and confer deeper meaning to our wounded, and troubled world. We are the inhabitants of world that has lost its sense of the sacred, and its reverence for mystery. We constantly hear the prophets of doom preach their self originating message of hopelessness, and helplessness. To counteract theses efforts we are, not only this year but always, to deepen our sense of the sacredness of all that is. The seen and the unseen has The Creator as their source of being. (Hence, their sacredness.) We are being challenged to sharpen our lenses so the presence of mystery becomes more and more part of all that we do, and are. Where you stand is ALWAYS a holy place. Our ancestors in faith were deeply aware of the presence of the sacred in all of the so called "ordinary' people, places, and actions, of their day. In the deepest sense they were a sacramental people. That is sacrament with a small "s". I like to think that sacrament with a small "s"; Is each and every person, place, event, action that brings us closer to the realities of life, and ultimately to Reality Itself. That Reality is called God. I have always treasured the following prayer of St. Augustine. I hope you will find it to be a direction prayer for this Year of Faith. I read it first back in 1957, just after entering the seminary. "Late have I loved Thee, O beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you. For behold You were within me, and I was outside; and I sought you outside in my ugliness fell upon those lovely things You made. You were with me but I was not with You. I was kept from you by those things….You called out and cried to me and broke upon my deafness, and sent forth Your light and shone upon me and chased away my blindness….I tasted You and now I hunger for You and thirst for You; You touched, and I burned for Your peace. "As it was with St. Augustine so it has been with so many over the centuries, and is true in our world today. Augustine had St. Monica for his journey. We are all called to be beacons of light, bearers of good news. We are asked to respond to the Pope as he encourages us, "to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ”. (Porta Fidei)
Saturday, October 13, 2012
"Climb the mountain and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The wind will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like falling leaves." John Muir one of the wildernesses greatest champion penned this many years ago. Today, more than ever we desperately need to take his advice. We as individuals, families and nation are in great need of a source of peace. A source that will touch our, hearts, souls and minds. A source that will be available to all and at a great price. Mother nature surrounds us with her many, many gifts. These vivifying, transforming gifts are offered to each of us free of charge. Are these gifts always accepted? Unfortunately, no, is the sad answer. As human beings we are endowed with the gift of free will. We for our part , have been given the freedom to enjoy, celebrate or ignore. Why is it that these gifts are so ignored? Very simple these wonder-full gifts have become so familiar, we have lost the ability and the desire to delve into the wonder, The Mystery both hidden and revealed in that which is real. We, as members of the human race ,of our essence, are religious. (Again, this is what I had to learn early on in the priesthood: "You do not put religion into humankind, you create that which will free that which is already within. As it was so it is, and ever shall be.) We all called to encounter The Mystery, The Real. Because of this encounter we are slowly led to an ever deepening awareness of the sacredness of, the real. We will be drawn into an ever deeper encounter with the mystery that lies deep within. If it lies deep within, then it only stands to reason we will have to go deep. Nothing of value will come to us unless the take that risk of plunging into the depths. We will also come to realize we are somehow hardwired, designed, programmed for this inner journey. It is our real destiny and the real source of our peace and happiness. Apart from this journey there is no lasting peace, there is no lasting happiness. I really enjoy the following words of Bishop Desmond Tutu, spoken in 1994. "We were made to enjoy music, to enjoy beautify sunsets, to enjoy beautiful sunsets, to enjoy looking at the billows of the sea and to be thrilled with a rose that is bedecked with dew…Human beings are actually created for the transcendent, for the sublime, for the beautiful, for the truth-full…and all of us are given the task of trying to make this world a little more hospitable to these beautiful things." Blessed Mother Theresa is quoted as saying; "We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature-trees, flowers, grow in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls." All of the above is good news. This is the good news that must be announced, broadcasted to our desperate world. This is one aspect of The New Evangelization we are now being introduced to. More on that in the weeks to come. Our world is desperate, just as we are, for that which will connect the reality of the human experience, with The Sacred, Who The Source of all reality. This connection will release a new sense of wholeness. A new sense of holiness, leading to celebrations that celebrate the presence of The Sacred in all that is. We then will no longer have liturgies, celebrations without soul. These community celebrations will speak to the depths of our being. We will become more and more at home with who we are, what is happening in our immediate universe. These celebrations will foster a faith, renewed belief in the goodness of all that is. We will begin to see our world, and all creation through a new set of lenses. We will accept our dignity, and responsibility to be so-creators, and co-perfectors on an ever evolving creation. This may sound like a dream, right? No this is not a dream. This is the reality that can be ours as when we let go of fear and trust the Holy Spirit as it blows ever new over what we may seem to be chaos. The Spirit, unfettered by the restrictions imposed by the fear-full, works wonders with, and within the chaos. The Spirit has been dealing with chaos since the beginning of time, right? Is it not until we accept, surrender to that terrible reality that we are powerlessness over the chaos of our lives will we ever enter into that place where the Spirit is free to make all things new. Not give us anything new. Our lives will be somewhat the same, only somehow different. It takes time to adjust to the newness, for ourselves, and those who sure our lives. If this process does not happen then that which comes to us from the Cree Nation will become our personal reality and the cosmic reality; "Only when the last river has been polluted, and the last tree has been cut, and the last fish has been caught, will we realize we cannot eat money."
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Into the winter of my memories, the thoughts that spring from the springtime of others, become that which brings about renewal, refreshment and revitalization. This is an experience that is so difficult to express in words. Why? Because words, at least the words I know, are so limited and limiting. All words are limited by definition. Definition springing from the finite mind of human beings. Fr. Rohr says at one time we had the language to communicate the deep reality within, but we lost that language. This is part of our present-day poverty. So for me to communicate, with confidence, that which is my depths I must rely on the thoughts and the wisdom of others. "The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferrable. From them comes silence and awe. It's not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift any vary under your eyes, no, they are not like ant trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time." That is the famous quote of John Steinbeck after his visit to the Redwoods. I followed in his footsteps this summer, as I have done a number of previous summers. I have taken a great number of photos of that place of mystery, awe and wonder. I was wounding why I was never satisfied with any of those pictures. Now I realize, after reading that quote, I was attempting to capture the timeless through an action in time. A fool’s errand. This summer I was privileged to wander through, and wonder at, the Redwoods near Eureka,California. The silence was truly amazing. It was, to build on Steinbeck, awe-full, wonder-full. I described it as “a silence that crackled". That is a contradiction in terms. That is a paradox. How often have we been told that paradoxes stretch us, and bring us to a place we otherwise would never go to. Now add mist and you are really taken to another reality. A reality we in the desert cannot relate to. There is no way to describe the feelings and emotions as one journeys along the trail that leads through the mist shrouded trees. You can only see a short distance ahead. You lose sight of the trail as it disappears into the mist. Look behind you and the trail is also lost as it too is lost in the mist. (A great paradigm for my life.) On each side shadowy, ageless sentinels appear to stand guard drawing attention to the fact this is a sacred place. As one begins to focus on where one is at and what one is doing, a special gift is given. A gift beyond the descriptive power of words. Words cannot describe, or explain mystery. Mystery cannot be explained, or described, it can only be entered into, again, again and again ad infinitum. The redwoods, for me and many others, are places of mist and mystery that keep calling on us to return. The result ,we are mysteriously led, so very gently, into an ever new, and an ever deepening sense of wonder. "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essentials of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived". That is the famous quote of H.D.Thoreau. Another great champion and defender of nature was John Muir. There is a wilderness named after him. He wrote the following, "Keep close to Nature's heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. This one I really like. I have found it to be so true for me. “Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books." (John Lubbock) "I drank the silence of God from a spring in the woods" (George Traki). It is such a privilege to be able to experience that which I am able to experience at this stage in my life. It is a true gift. Because of this I am becoming more aware of The Sacred, The Mystery, in all that is. I am becoming more aware of my Celtic roots. I am now able to understand why ii was so easy for my ancestors to accept Christianity. Ireland was converted without anybody being martyred. It was such an easy step from the religion the Celts embraced and practice. That was a religion based on the sacredness of time, space ,and place. So it was an easy transition to accept and come to believe in the One God, and the many manifestations of His/Her presence. There was a religion in Ireland. It was what theologians call, natural religion Natural religion was practiced by our ancestors for 70.000 years. (O Muruchu) He also points out formal religion has only existed for about 5,000 years and counting. We, then, are part of the ongoing formation and evolution of which has it's origins in the mists of history. This evolution continues within the reality of our being, and within all of creation, wherever and whatever that reality may be. Hence all this is, is vivified with the Spirit, who is bringing all that is into a wholeness. We may not be able to see this new creation as it occurs, but it is happening. As it was in those days of old, so it is today and will be until the end of time. Nothing can prevent the emergence of this new reality. It is happening in and through all the realities of your everyday experience. We, then, must reverence the present. We must also have a deep reverence for that which is past, ancient. We have to again reclaim the reverence for the sacred presence in all of nature. Before it is too late, we have to accept our interdependent. Nobody acts alone. That adage, "What I do is nobody else's business", no longer holds water. It is a lie. We are so interconnected all our individual thoughts, and actions have a lasting effect on the whole of creation. We have the responsibility to nourish, and care for our hearts, souls and minds. We must not only acknowledge but grow in the acceptance of this fact, "As I am so is all of creation". Nature is our mother, our mother will feed us only that which will fulfill our mutual destiny, hers and ours. May you be blessed in all your wanderings and wonderings knowing when you stand will always be a holy place.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
"The natural world is the material source of our being….(it) is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human." So wrote Thomas Berry. Edward Abbey has written, "Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit." I do not understand a great deal of what Albert Einstein has written,but the following I like: "Look! loo! deep into nature and you will understand everything". Forty nines years ago, I know these quotes would not appear on my radar. Today they speak to me. They speak and a part of me can see,understand, and give assent to the truth they so wonder-fully express. So, then, one could rightly say there have been serious changes in the way I viewed, and now view, the world of nature. There has been an ongoing evolution over these many years. It all began when I had to give up golf. Golf was great, but there was something missing from the experience. Yes, one was out in nature, but you were not deeply connected. I was, as if it was by accident, you were surprised by the beauty of your surroundings. It happened now and then. I would be caught up with a ‘wow, that is neat” statement, and then go back to see what had to be done to par the hole. The one golf hole that really caused me to slow down and enjoy the experience of walking the fairway, was the fourth hole, on the south course, in Torrey Pines, San Diego. Even though I have not played golf for many years, I still have fond memories of walking that fairway, which in reality is a bluff overlooking the sea. It was great to have the warm sun in my face, cool sea breeze gently blowing, and a good cigar in my mouth, all was right with the world. It was good to be alive. The cares were all concentrated on hitting a shot that would enable me to get on that tough green up ahead. It is one of the better 400 yard holes I have ever played. Looking back, it was not what I shot on the hole, but the experience of the walk, that has stayed with me over these many years. " Every blessing is curse, and every curse is a blessing." (You see that a lot here. !!! ) When I was no longer able to play golf, like i used to, I was lost. Golf was a great part of my life. It was something that, sad to say, helped to define me. (Even to this day, some people will ask me, "how is your golf game?" ) I started to walk. Had to, my cardiologist demanded it. I was not in good shape, so he asked for an hour a day. Well that “heart challenge" opened a whole new way of living for me. That new way of acting opened me up to a whole new way of thinking. I no longer had golfing holidays. I now had stories from hiking holidays to share. I now belong to the hiking community. This community numbers 60,000,000 here in Americans alone. That is a very large community indeed, and so very diverse. When you begin a hike there is no one looking to see if you are of the right race, the right income bracket, sexual orientation, religion, political party, etc.etc. On the trail, we are all one. Each one is on our own hike, each hiking according to our own unique, God given abilities. On the trail there are no judgements, but there is a lot of concern. On the trail individuality and community have an encounter. That encounter celebrates a certain Presence, in the awe inspiring, wonder-full cathedral, of the great outdoors. There, we become aware of a Presence, that eludes us in so many other places. In the silence of this cathedral something happens that touches, renews, and refreshes us. That is why we can call all of nature a great sacrament. The place where we meet God. There is the danger, however, this can and is, taken a little too far. I saw a bumper sticker this week that stated, "Nature is God". No nature is not God, but because He/She is the creating force, God is IN nature. Nature is a great healer. It is another way God reaches out to each one, as an individual, drawing us all in one great holy, sacred community. I have found out that Joe, like everybody else, does not have to do anything. This is a very big blow to Joe's ego. Just place one foot in front of the other, for as long as you can or want, and don't be a busybody, wanting to know what is happening. There will, in time but not in our time (darn it) come a new of understanding, leading to a new way of acting. We will see changes in our relationships. We will begin to treat ourselves differently, and as a consequence we will have a change in our relationships with others. You gain confidence in your abilities, as well as becoming aware of your limitations. On the trail ,if you are smart ,healthy, you will ask for help and directions. As it is on the trail, so it is with life, all life, wherever we may live and experience it . Our religious celebrations will be affected with this new spiritual awareness. The prayers, readings (especially The Psalms) will speak to us in a new and more vibrant, and life giving way. This will demand more of priests, ministers, and leaders of community prayer. There has to be a better job done of connecting the indoor celebration of the sacred, with the outdoor encounter, with that same Reality. Liturgy is "the work of the people", we will make their work so much easier when we connect their encounter with the sacred in their everydayness. As we demonstrate our reverence for sacredness, their reality, hopefully they will become more open to Sacred's Presence in the reality of word, sacrifice, and sacrament.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
We Irish are, or at least were, introduced to the existence of another world at a very early, early age. I cannot remember exactly when I was first became aware of the existence of a world beyond the world I lived in. I was told stories about the "little people”, "the pooka', leprechauns, the fairies, the banshee, "sacred circles" (seen in fields), haunting ghost stories, stories of haunted places houses and castles, wells, bushes in the middle of fields that will not be cut down. (There was a haunted room in the national seminary, Maynooth.) I was reading about the great legendary, mythological figures of Ireland and their great adventures in the world, beyond. I was enthralled, captured, fascinated with their many, many journeys into the world that is normally unseen. I found myself lost in the world of mist and mystery. I was fascinated with the struggles that took place in those lands that existed before time began. As it was, so it is today. I am have become more and more aware of what I was taught a long, long time ago that "the boy becomes the father of the man”. The knowledge garnered in youth, finds its validity in the living of life. "Myth never was, but always is”. How I have wrestled with that !!!!!!!. Throughout Ireland there are places called "thin places”. These are the places where that which divides the seen world and the world of mystery seem to disappear. There is a great blurring that takes place. These are sacred places and spaces. In those “thin places” one becomes aware there is more here than meets the eye. Here many, not all, become aware of a presence that cannot be explained, only experienced. You can say the world of mystery, is a world that is readily inhabited by the Irish, and that is ever before we have something to drink. Ad poteen (Irish home brew), and you really have a recipe for a real great adventure into the unknown. With that background I was well prepared for the change in sacramental theology that took place. When I was in the seminary there were the seven Sacraments. There were seven and no more. These are the guaranteed presence of our God. Then I heard the word sacrament applied to married couples. After some seeking and searching I became aware of the fact that there were still seven Sacraments, that is Sacrament with a big "S". There were millions of sacraments spelled with a small "s". Each and every person, place, event is a sacrament. Sacrament with a small "s" allows for the POSSIBILITY of the presence of God. There is no guarantee. As you read this you, as a sacrament, are doing sacramental work. All reality is sacramental. All that is real finds it's source of being in Being Itself. St.Francis said,"everything that is, is to be adored". Chardin, “There is nothing profane for him/her who knows how to see." We are always meeting the challenge of dealing with the reality that is unseen. We come to realize there is a world beyond what we see, hear, taste, and touch. I am faced with the whole world that exists in mystery. You and I live a life of mystery, as does the whole of creation. All of creation is seeking, searching, and aching for some sense of certitude. A certitude that will make this journey, as spiritual seeking having this human experience, a meaning-full experience. We have to look beyond what we have come to know to The One who exists in the world of mystery. This is The One, who is not confined to the human, to the finite. He is The Infinite One. We profess, in every mass, our belief in the One Who is "The creator of all things visible and invisible”. He is The One, The Creator who maintains all things in existence (this includes you and I) so "that not even the tensions and tragedies of sin, cannot frustrate His loving plans." We need to keep those hope-full words ever before us. Why? Because we, in our human experience, are constantly being bombarded with the limitations of our humanity. We need, and are provided with an antidote to this sometime toxic existence. That is why we need to be continuously “dipped and dyed” in the celebration of the great mystery that is the source of our strengthening and renewal. This great mystery is The Paschal Mystery. This is the mystery we have been baptized into, live every day, and celebrate in the mystery that is every Mass. In this celebration earth is united with heaven. We are in a “thin place”. In this sacred place where there is a union between who we are, as spiritual beings, and The Source of all that is seen and unseen. In this "union-ing", that, because of the nature of the reality, can only be achieved through the workings of The Spirit, we are nourished, refreshed, and renewed. The process of transfiguration, and transformation continues though, unseen. So then, deep within our lands of mist and mystery there is a living Reality. A Reality that exists, but is never completely known, or understood. This is The Presence that makes the place where you stand a sacred, a holy place. A place where another can encounter the One Who keeps both of you in existence. May you, as the hero/heroine, of your story come to an ever deepening appreciation of the dignity and the sacredness of the mystery you are, and the unseen world of mystery that surrounds you.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
As I approach my 50th year in the priesthood, I have been reflecting on the passage of the years. They have gone so fast. They have been years with pain and sorrow, happiness and tears. There has been success and failures. There have so many deaths, followed by surprising resurrections. This was the life promised to me in my Baptism and proclaimed in every mass I celebrated. In the glow and excitement of ordination, I was blissfully unaware of this foundational truth. I was in for a rude awakening. I was awakened to the Paschal struggle that was such a great part of the life of the disadvantaged. It has taken many, many years of struggle, in this vale of tears to come to grow into an understanding of my personal participation in The Paschal Mystery. What wonder-full gifts are revealed to us in the hindsight of reflection. I came, as the Irish say, with the oil fresh on my hands. In my ignorance, I thought I had all the answers. Just ask me the question. I came equipped with a little green book which was to be consulted in the event a pastoral solution was needed. You could rightly say, I had knowledge, but wisdom, was seriously lacking. I do shudder at the “stuff" I was giving out. I had to learn, in the hard school of experience, a person does not grow in wisdom just from reading a book. Wisdom is not about knowledge. One can be very educated and have NO wisdom. Wisdom comes from the difficult STRUGGLE of applying one’s faith to the question arising from a lived human situation. I had to learn over and over, how to live with the question, so as to live into the answer. (Thank you Henri Nouwen.) I have not been a quick study. We Irish are known to be obstinate, and so the process is still in place. It is a pain-full process. A process that will never end. It is only temporal death that will end the learning process. With death will come the fullness of all knowledge as we will be absorbed back into Him, Who is Knowledge. I came to America to live in the challenging 60’s. Change was happening in both church and society. I had to live out the early days of the priesthood in the midst of great change. My training was in the thought and practice of pre-Vatican 2. Then, everything changed. The fundamentals remained the same and have remained the same over the centuries. What changed was the understanding of those fundamentals in the light, new knowledge coming from the sciences. As theology is, the science of the knowledge of God, so whatever is true in other sciences must be applicable to theology. From the consummated union of the sciences came a "brave new world" and a dynamic new and vital church. I am so sad to see the efforts made to retreat back to the pre-Vatican 2 way. We are losing the vitality which brought so much to the church. Each person was so formed and educated that they were able to embrace with enthusiasm this great statement, "the people are the church”. Each person has the dignity, realized or not, that they share in the threefold mission of Jesus Christ, as priest, prophet, and king. This is each person’s dignity as the result of the anointing with the oil of chrism at baptism. It is well to reflect on the fact that the same oil of chrism that each Catholic Christian is anointed with, is the SAME chrism used in the ordination of a priest. In the early church it took hours to baptize a new Christian, and way shorter to ordain. The excitement of Catholics was something to witness as they began to assume their rightful place in the workings of the church. What expertise, insight and knowledge they were able to bring to enhance and enliven the church. I have been and always will be, amazed at the time and energy American Catholics bestow on their church. It is the same both in rich and so called “poor” parishes. I have been an associate pastor and pastor in both. Once “the people of God” come to the awareness and acceptance of this fact, it is not Father's parish, it is theirs’, then watch out. I firmly believe in “bottom up” approach to leadership. We are to reverence the presence of The Spirit, in each and every person. We must empower each person to speak that person's truth and see that person as a manifestation of the presence of God. Some of what can and will be said to us will be challenging. I love when that prayer, "Voices that Challenge" is sung in the Liturgy. I wonder how many as they sing those words say to themselves "this IS about Me". Those presences that were a source of challenge to my way of thinking and the parishes way of acting, I referred to them as the prophetic voices. Voices necessary for the well being of the church and society. Let us thank the good God who places prophets in our lives to challenge our thoughts and behaviors. We need present day prophets who will shatter our comfort zones and with this shattering will come new knowledge, and, a new awareness. We will be led to places never dreamed of where we will begin to live in "a new freedom and a new happiness”. As with the prophets of old, today's prophets will led us to see, “new heavens and a new earth". The past is past. It is in the living in the present moment, The moment of Presence, that we will allow, (think about that word, allow,) God to do what God does best, "Behold I make all things, new”.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Life can be challenging at times. Then there are those moments when the challenges appear to be just too much for us. That is when we get into fear and the panic button is pressed. I see from my Face Book, "home page" most of the kids are now back in school. Vacation time is now a distant memory and the everyday grind has begun to grind on the nerves of so many. The everyday grind challenges so many in so many ways. Whatever resources, if any, that were built up are now being depleted and fast. We are faced with the question, how am I going to survive and keep my sanity, with all that I have to do? When is there going to be time for me, so I can have some time to breathe and have a chance to recharge the battery? On top of that, I hear announcements asking for volunteers for the many ministries that are so necessary for the well-being of others? You are being asked to be good stewards of your time, talent and resources. It is tiring just to think about all that has to be done. I am getting tired just writing this out! It is good for us to recall the gospel narrative of a few weeks ago. Jesus sees the large crowd. He has a very caring response as He views the many, coming out to see and hear Him. He asks the question "where can WE buy enough food for them to eat?” He is assuming the responsibility of finding something for them them to eat. Again, the caring God-Man is revealed to us. As Jesus is, so is His Father and our Father. Such is the God that is revealed to us through the humanity of His Son and our Brother. We do have a pretty neat family, come to think of it. It is essential for us to take the time to think, to reflect, to meditate, on the challenges of the mission of Jesus. Where this does not happen, we will be under the illusion that just because Jesus, was The Beloved, The Son of God, He somehow got an easy ride. Everything was laid on for Him by His father. When we read the gospels carefully and reflectively we will come to see it was the very opposite. The Gospel of Mark is a great gospel to read. The whole gospel story is about being messy. Not getting the message, The Great Teacher wanted to impart. The disciples are hard of hearing and real slow in coming to an understanding what Jesus was teaching them by word and example. They never truly “GET" the message. We are so lucky to have such a Gospel, and all the people, places and events that inhabit its pages. In John's account of the gospel event we see there is a problem, Jesus wants to feed the people, Philip has been chosen to meet this challenge. He is overwhelmed by it. He is stuck. Then, out of the blue there is a ray of hope. "There is a kid here who has food." " Wow that is great!" Yeah, but it is only five barley loaves and two fish." "Not good." Yet, it is good enough for Jesus. That human act of generosity on the part of the young boy was the catalyst for The Miracle of The Loaves and Fishes. I wonder what was going through the mind of that boy as he heard the adults discussing the challenge. He did not have "two hundred days wages", all he had was the five barley loaves and two fish. To his mind, it was a BEGINNING. "This is what I can do," he must have said to himself. So, the offer was made. What appeared to be an action of little value, turned out to have a tremendous impact on so many. The boys’, so called little offering, built on by divine power did what otherwise appeared impossible. What can we learn from this? We do what little we can and then allow God to be God. No matter what the challenge, there is always something we can do. At times, it may be to just surrender our powerlessness to God. That so simple action so often triggers what for us can be mind boggling. When life becomes so overwhelming, it may be necessary to withdraw to a “deserted place" for some alone with, “the alone time”. Not a great deal of time, just your “five loaves and two fish worth”. Where there are the great challenges to be met, just realize that your presence, not words, will be used by God to be the reality through which His Presence is channeled to the person in need. Many times, the "less" of us, makes way for the “more" of God. That "young boy" in John's Gospel is nameless. We are told by those who know that whenever a person or persons are not named, we are to place our names there. So, from now on, when the challenges appear, it is not about us coming up with the brilliant, earth changing solutions. Let us be imitators of that boy. Let us make a living presence in our daily living. Let him be the inspiration we need in time of stagnation. Let his courage be that which will strengthen us in times of fear. When we are faced with all the messiness of our lives, let us reach out, outside of ourselves, to those in deeper need. Let us offer our little offering and then let God do the rest. No matter how brilliant our ideas, unless there is the guidance of the Creative Power all these great ideas come to naught. I have seen, over these 49 years (as a priest), so many ministries begin with a “simple” thought, idea and empowered by the Hoy Spirit, ended up being the source "of food” for so many. “It is better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness." The Christophers
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
"Just to be is a blessing, just to be is holy" wrote Abraham Heschel. I find it so hard and difficult to just, be. I am more comfortable in "the doings of “life", " in the happenings of life". I have to really work on allowing life to be what it is right now. I have to work on not looking beyond the present, so as to enjoy all that is being given to me in the "right now". I have to work on developing a greater reverence for “the sacrament of the present moment". It is so much easier for me to be scheming and planning. (Feeding the ego. Does it ever die?) Nature has helped to slow me down and that has happened in more ways than one. The energy is not there. I do not have that old, or should I say that younger, "get up and go". That has plain disappeared and is nowhere to be found. The other way is that nature has a way of just stopping me in my tracks and all I have to say is "WOW". I am brought to that place of, wonder. A sacred place. A sacred space. Why? From that place of wonder, all prayer, all philosophy, all theology finds its origin. As I have said before, my Dad is the one who opened my eyes to see the beauty that is nature. He taught me how to be aware of the possibility that in each new place there is a gift to be discovered. My Dad really enjoyed introducing family and friends to places that were a source of awe and wonder. Over the years, I have begun to allow the place, space and moment to speak its truth. Sometimes it is wonder-full. Other times it is awe-full. Then other times it is a place of pain, suffering, confusion, delusion, fear, powerlessness, and disease. These were in my father's life. He was a silent sufferer. He was a man of great prayer. The depth of which I was not privy to until after his sudden death. His heart attack was a blessing, as it saved him from the ravages of brain cancer. He was blessed with a quiet death. He just slipped away before anyone was aware of it. Now, as I become more aware of the life he lived, I am ever more grateful for the sacrament of his life. I have learned over the years that pain, suffering and prayer go together. Suffering not brought to prayer is just plain destructive. Pain by its self has no redeeming value. Pain brought to prayer opens us up to a new way of seeing, acting and believing. Over these many years, I have made, well let me get honest here, I have been forced to make, Thomas Merton's , "Prayer of Surrender" part and parcel of the prayer life I have been given. I do not know how often all I have been able to say are the following consoling, strengthening, words: "God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead, nor do I really know myself." I am consoled with the knowledge that Merton wrote these words at a time he was looked on as the one with all the answers. It must have come as a great surprise to those who looked on Merton as a great spiritual guide and writer. In todays language, he appeared to have things really wired. These honest words tell a different story. Thank you Thomas Merton for your great honesty. Your honesty frees us to be honest with who we are and where we are at, at each and every moment of our lives. We are liberated to be who we really are, not who we are expected to be, or think we should be. This IS the gift the spiritual journey bestows on us. With Merton's words this week, combined with the wisdom of Rahner a few weeks ago, “I am the blind alleys of all your paths…", we are presented with a great freedom. A freedom that has ALWAYS been there, but for one reason or another it has not been present in our everyday consciousness. For it to become an essential part of that consciousness we have a job of work to do. Yes, the spiritual journey does involve a great deal of work. It is our life long job, but it is a different type of job. When we work at a job we see results. We are conditioned to see results. If the boss does not see results, we are in trouble. That is a challenge, unfortunately, that flows over into the church, and has to be faced. There are times that financial, and other resources, must be placed at the disposal of ministries that will add nothing to the borrow line of the parish or diocese. These expenditures are DEMANDED of parish, diocese, and universal church so that those who are an authentic presence of the Gospel message may have the resources to be who they have been called to be. They will be empowered to break the ground. In time, others will come to sew the seed. At some future date, others will reap the harvest. Is it not great that God's time is not our time. Yet so annoying???? Results. Results. Results. What a curse that word is. So many are obsessed with results. Their identity as a person is based on results and rewards. Results are a blessing in one reality and a curse in the reality that REALLY counts. In the real and lasting world it is not what we see, it is what we do not see that really matters. When we journey into the spiritual realm, here too, we are asked to do a job of work. Then, everything changes, to our ego's borrow. In the realm of the spirit there is a constant war being waged and air is all about wages, results and rewards. As we work in the spiritual realm, The Kingdom of God, we are asked to settle for, not being able to see the results. What is happening is none of our business. It is God's . We cannot understand His workings, so we have to be content to do the work we can do. We can do this work, with the help of grace, but we do not like the work. Mistake. The true self sees this as essential, the false self (ego) sees it as absurd. The ego wants no part of the work of The Realm. It will fight it tooth and nail. It ,the egocentric ego, sees this as a battle for survival. The ego has an ally, the ally's name is, pick the one that is fighting, threatening your belief in your belovedness right now. Take your pick of the following names, "the deceiver", “the divider”, "the prosecutor", “the devil”, “satan”, these are all different names for the same reality. Each name, will reveal one aspect of the power that is going to fight you all the way until you enter the safety of The Eternal Kingdom. This work has a name, and it is called, "The Work Of Letting GO". We hear it said “I really struggled at work at first”. Then. over time I found it easier. The work, the job of "letting go" is a daily struggle, and even with age it does not get any easier. As Baretta would say, "You can take that to the bank".
Sunday, July 22, 2012
“I am the blind alleys of all your paths, for when you no longer know how to go any further, then you have reached Me, though you are not aware of it….I am a prisoner of your finiteness, because my love has made Me your prisoner…... I am in your anxiety because I have shared it by suffering it." Words from last week's blog. Since they were written, our world has surely changed. With change always comes a challenge. This is the root cause of so much anger. We were just fine where we were, and in what we were doing. Now something happens that changes all of that. Death and violence, have entered the picture of our reality, and we are radically changed. We will never ever be able to return to the way things were. We can wish, and wish, but we wish in vain. We can pray and pray, for the return of what was. God IS not present in the “was ness”, (to coin a phrase), He is only present in the "isness" of life. He can only be found in the here and now. As long as we are rooted in the memories of the past, no matter how attractive they appear to be, God is not found there. We have to let go of the past, to embrace the present and to prepared to meet our God in whatever the reality is. We have been extended the invitation, "come rest In me". Easy to sing and say. So very, very difficult to do. Why? In order to have the courage and the confidence to “rest" in God we have to face this tough question? What has been our experience when in moments of doubt, despair and desolation, and dissolution, we were able to go to a place of refuge. Even better still we had the welcoming tender, loving, strong arms of a person. In that embrace, we were safe and secure. In that place the human need of all of us human beings is met. Our need to be warm, safe and secure are met. The place we can call sacred. In other words it is a holy place, because of the encounter that tales place there. The person is to called holy, because in and through that person's presence The Presence of a living, life giving God becomes a reality. We have had a deep, authentic religious experience. This life affirming is what has to be brought to the Liturgical celebration. Because we have just had the dying and rising become incarnate for us. With the celebration it becomes intensified and becomes the source of strength for those who will be placed in our path. All we have to do is honestly and truthfully tell our story. Grace will take care of the rest. We have to be eternally thank-full there was a place or better still, if there was a person? It is essential that we have that person or place, or at least have the secure memories of the experience to return to again and again. Why then is this essential? Because as I now know, without a loving, life affirming relationship the possibility of having the living God of Jesus Christ will be very difficult. I have had to learn over the years the following truth; “What we have in our human relationships is that what we have with God.” (The understanding of which, I am not there fully.) How many say there is no God, yet have a great deep love for another person or persons? Their ability to love can only come from God, Who is The Source of all love. We have such a narrow concept of God, that it MUST be constantly shattered. Why? So there is more space for grace to work in. Keep this picture in mind, when we say we are broken and scattered all over the place, we now provided a great space for God to work in. This creative God-worker, we call The Holy Spirit. Just as in the case of the original chaos (read Genesis), the Spirit overshadows our brokenness and brings it all together as a new creation. We are reminded of the scriptures "behold I make all things new”. A creation so much larger than before the breaking. Then we will experience a new Heaven and a new Earth. The old has passed away. We are brought back to seek out and search out in a new way an ancient, eternal mystery of our faith. We are in need to visit again what we learned from our Paschal-Resurrection-Ascension-Pentecost experience, that death is not an end it is a new beginning. The beginning of a new way of seeing and being. A new way of living in the real world without the need for medicators such as, booze, drugs, sex, work, religion, shopping, relationships, food, T.V. sports, exercise, the list goes on and on. We are always challenged to go deeper into the darkness. We all will, at sometime(s), find ourselves lost the blind alleys not knowing the way. We of ourselves will not know, or have the wisdom to find, the way. This is scary. This is fear-full. This shatters us. We face the limitations of our sight and knowledge. Humanly speaking we have come to the end of our abilities to cope. Spiritually speaking we are in the best place possible. These are our moments will reveal to us the real truth about, grace. We begin to understand the saying, “there is no cheap grace”. He who did not intend this earth shattering experience uses it to reveal to us ,in an a new way who He/She is. This new understanding of faith reveals a new Reality (God). This new Reality becomes the source of a new life affirming, creative ,way of living, given only to be shared.
Sunday, July 15, 2012
Summer time is a time for reading and relaxation. People stock up on their "beach books", and "travel books". Some of these books are meant for escape. While others are meant for inspiration. It is good to have that balance. I always encourage the hard working and the driven to read a book, or books, that has no redeeming value whatsoever. Sounds good???? I have always loved the journeys I was, and am taken on, by so many different authors. I have mentioned before, I travelled many Arizona trails, even before I became an Arizonan. Zane Grey has always been, and continues to be, my very favorite author. I now have to think, and for the FIRST time, how much of my reading of westerns went into my decision to volunteer for the old Diocese of Tucson? I always thought, up to now, I volunteered after I read of the ratio of priests to Catholic, one to 12,000. (I read that statistic in 1957 in the library at St. Patrick's College, Carlow.) The mind….when are we ever going to understand it's mystery? Not in our life time, that I know. In my wondering, I have wandered, and for those who have heard me in person you say, "What is new?" So back to where I left off, reflecting on books. Inspirational books are an essential, not just a necessary part of library. We need to be challenged to leave behind our narrow way of thinking. Our unchallenged minds will lead to us that comfortable place where all we do is vegetate. In that place of comfort we will have the audacity to be the judge and jury, of ourselves, and consequently, of those we deem, lesser than us. We become so self righteous and condemning. Let us be gentle and understanding here. We are not acting from a place of real truth, we are acting out of our ignorance. As we are led from there, by grace, into a deepening understanding of the whole truth of who we really are something drastic, mind blowing happens? A change in perception happens. We are led into the truth of who we really are in the freedom of God's love. We are asked, even challenged, to start the journey into the belief of a love that is beyond our limited human, imagination. We have to let go, and this is so scary, all that is familiar to us, and journey, somewhat naked, into the unknown. Is not The Unknown, another name for God???? How awe-full is that??? Worth the pain and the struggle? Nothing in the spiritual life comes to us, without FIRST having to endure a journey into our brokenness, our innate powerlessness and gut wrenching fear. I read this many years ago, and I use it so often myself, and encourage so, so many to make this part of their daily prayer, and reflection. " And now God says to us what He has already said to the world as a whole through His grace-filled birth: I am here. I am with you. I am your life. I am your time. I am the gloom of your daily routine. Why will you not bear it? I weep your tears-pour out your tears to Me. I am you joy. Do not be afraid to be happy forever, since I wept, joy is the standard of living that is really more suitable than the anxiety and grief of those who think they have no hope. I am the blind alleys of all your paths, for when you no longer know how to go further away, then you have reached Me, though you are not aware go it. I am in your anxiety, for I have shared it by suffering it. And in doing so, I wasn't even heroic according to the wisdom of the world. I am in the prison of your finiteness, for my love has made me your prisoner. When the totals of your plans and life experience do not balance out evenly. I am the unsolved remainder. And I know that that remainder which makes you so frantic, is in reality my love that you do not understand. I am present in your needs. I am there and they are now transformed, but not obliterated from my heart. I am in your death, for today I began to die with you, because I was born, and I have not let myself be spared any part of this death….Ever since I became your brother, you are as near to Me as I am to myself." Karl Rahner. What awe-full, wonder-full words these are. Great fodder for thought as one sits and relaxes, by the gentle surf, or by a babbling mountain brook. Words that must be allowed to travel deep and in the depths of who we are, so they can be mingled with what has already penetrated to those depths. Of late we have sung, in prayer, “I will come to you in the silence, I will lift you from all fear, you will hear my voice I claim you as my choice, be still and know I am near." Do we believe that reality? How awe-full is that? We have to wonder, and wonder at those a words and allow whatever to surface and be owned. There is a new country song, at least for me, with the words "I love that you love me” and we can add "God" here to make a personal prayer owning the deepest reality of who we are. It provides us with limited words as we struggle to express the inexpressible. In prayer we are always coming up short. Is not that the reason we have The Spirit within to do that which we desire but of ourselves we cannot accomplish. The desire to pray, IS to pray, is a fact we must always keep before us. Spiritual reading is the great “starter” of prayer. Hence it is called sacramental. The place where we encounter the The Sacred, The Other, The Unknown, The Ineffable, that is why, where you stand you are always standing on Holy ground. “Life has got habit of not standing hitched. You got to ride it as you find it.You got to change with it. If a day goes by that does not change some of your old notions for new ones, that is just about like trying to milk a dead cow." Woody Guthrie
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
"Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future." This is a saying I must keep before me all the time. Every one of us sinners has a future to be lived within the tender, mercy-full love of our gracious Prodigal Father. The way that is going to happen for me is to live this present moment knowing that the mercy-full love of God IS, right now, being poured down upon me, as it is for you. As we open ourselves up to the need of this mercy we follow in the footsteps of some real heavy hitters. I am thinking here of Saints Peter and Paul, whose feast day we celebrated last week. Some of the saints are there "for our admiration, not for our imitation". Some lives are just plain out of our ball park. Peter and Paul are right there, daily, in our lives. When we get discouraged, and which one of us does not?, their lives are there for us, from which to draw strength and courage. Which one, Peter, the first pope, or Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. One, Peter, having promised to go so far as to die with Christ, turned around and denied Him three times? Paul, on the other hand, in his missed placed zeal, persecuted the early Christians, and so persecuted Christ? Tough choice is it not? Paul, aware of his special calling, is not comfortable with this aspect of his life. He sees it as an impediment to the mission he is destined for. So in order to be, a better instrument in the hands of God, he goes to the Lord to be cleansed of what he calls “the thorn”. He goes once and makes the request and what happens….nothing. He goes a second time and makes the same request. Result, the habit of sin still remains? (Sound familiar?) Then he goes the third time. He must have really said something that got the Lords attention and this time he got an answer. I am certain it was not the answer he WANTED, he received the answer he NEEDED. He was told to relax. Change his focus. Get away from the demands of the ego and surrender to A Power far greater than he. In other words let him, Paul, be converted. Let Paul accepted his powerlessness over his "thorn", so as to be open to and experience the power, grace and unconditioned love of Him whom he at one time, persecuted. Life with this God of ours makes no sense to those who want to be rational. Grace cannot be rationalized. God's love is too deep to be analyzed. This love of His, Grace, makes no sense if we use the measuring rod of the “World”. God’s love sets all the criteria we use daily on its ear. All we can do, as Paul was forced to do, is accept. Accept the fact that in all of our weaknesses we only have the strengthening love of God to fall back. It becomes the persistent safety net that is ever and always there to catch us when we fall. God's Persistent Safety Net, (G.P.S.) is ever and always there to catch us. Again and again, when we fall, God's love catches us. This love fills up what is missing. Then sets us back on the way we need to go, NOT in the direction we WANT to go. What a battle that is, right??? We are in the midst of that battle each and every moment of our daily lives. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” We are enfleshed within a broken humanity, the source of our thorn. We each have our own thorn. That thorn will change, in some cases, as we journey through life. The only thing certain is we will have a thorn to engage us, every step of the way. Like everything else in life, "every blessing is a curse, and every curse is a blessing". So the curse of our thorn eventually causes us to acknowledge our powerlessness, so as to experience the power-full-ness of God. That surrender does not happen without a series of battles. Battles we have to loose, so as to gain a peace, serenity and security our ego's or the world cannot provide. We will gradually come to accept that awe-full, wonder-full invitation, “come rest in Me". Therein lies the source of real strength, and lasting peace. It is in that place we are able to listen with open ears, heart, soul, and mind to the following, written by Henri Nouwen: “I have called you by name, from the beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, in you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the each and knitted you together in your mother's womb. I have carved you in the palm of my hand and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look on you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair of your head and guided your every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and whenever you rest, I will keep watch. I will give you food, I will satisfy your hunger and give you drink that quenches all you thirst. I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own, as I know you as my own. You belong to Me. I am your father, and mother, your brother, your sister, your lover and your spouse…yes, even your child..Wherever you are, I will be. Nothing will ever separate us, we are one."
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Usually I write and then come up with a heading. Well this week it is different. The heading came to me first and now I have a blog to write! Between Saturday and Sunday I celebrated five masses. There was a memorial mass Saturday morning. At the beginning of the evening mass we had the first anointing of the Sacrament of Baptism. Reminding us that we are all called to be the continuation of the revelation of our Father-God. In that Sacrament we are consecrated, made holy, to reveal the very Holiness of God. We are chosen, blessed, set apart so we can continue the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ. He Who is, the fullness of the revelation of God, has chosen each one of us to continue the revelation of Mystery. In order for this to happen, we each have been gifted with a unique part of The Mysterious Presence. This unique part of the Infinite has been chosen for us from all of eternity, within. This is the foundation that leads us to believe in the essential goodness, (Godliness) dignity, and sanctity of each and every person. This sanctity, dignity, and innate holiness does not depend on any outside judgement. Our God sees into the depths of who we are. He sees what he has created, and "indeed it is very good." (He sees not the way we see,right?) We have come from His essence, which is infinite love, and we will, without interruption, be sustained with that creative love. We are, beloved daughter/son, and nothing can take that away from us. Even if, and we so often do, stray away, The Good Shepherd is there to hunt us down, and carry us back, on his shoulders, to the security of His sheepfold. There was the blessing for all those who have to face the daily challenge of "fatherhood". Those men and women who have such a mysterious role to play in lives of so many. In some unique, unseen and hence mysterious way our experience of earthly fatherhood has a direct impact on the relationship we have with, our heavenly Father. We are told, "we have with God what we have in our human experience". So our everyday experience, with that presence which is father to us, and for us, for us, plays an essential role in our journey of faith. In the same way, research has revealed, that what we have in the relationship with the mother presence, will have an impact on ourselves and the relationship we have with, mother church. By the time the fourth mass was over I was pretty tired. With the, "being tired", came a inner feeling of, wellbeing. Everything was not just okay, it was way beyond okay. There was a feeling of being full, or even better still, of being satiated. Then the thought came to me, “Joe , why would you not feel so blessed? You were fed at a Father's Day Spiritual Smorgasbord. It was "rich food, and choice wine" indeed.” The following parts of the prayer of blessing resonated with me; Blessed are you, Lord, and Father of all life, Who has given to us the gift of the father of our family.… We thank you for the numerous good things that are ours because of them. Their love……has been a sign of Your divine love and a sharing in Your holy love. Their continuous concern for our needs and welfare is a mirror of Your holy providence….. Bless them this day with your strength and holy power, that they may continue to be a sign of you, Our God, and a parent to our families. I am so well aware there is a dark side to fatherhood, just as there is the dark side of motherhood. I have journeyed, and still journey with those who have been hurt, used, and abused, by that person who was to be the protector. To have a healthy relationship with themselves, with others, and then with God, the tough journey healing must be embarked on. This is a difficult road, hence so very few dare to traverse it. Each person will have to meet head on the issues of anger, fear, and shame. They need to be surrounded by those who are going to "stand by” them, in their agony, and not come up with pious platitudes. “Recovery is a process, and cannot be short circuited.” You cannot rush the birthing of new life. To just,"stand by”, as Mary did with her crucified Son takes immense courage, and deep faith. It is all we can do, as the win is so great and we do not have the words to alleviate the pain. All we have is presence, and in being present we are now a channel through which The Great Healer channels Himself. Let us keep in our prayers all those who have the healing journey to travel that may be gifted with the gift of perseverance. To give up the quest is so easy. To endure to the promised land of health one traverses many deserts. In those deserts wild beasts and ministering angels WILL be encountered.
Saturday, June 9, 2012
We have been exposed to a spiritual tsunami over these last many, many, months. Come to think of it, they were not months, they were seasons. In those seasons, we celebrated the mystery of beginnings and endings. We found ourselves, as individuals, families and communities, blessed with new lenses. In this new "seeing", we are led to the acceptance that in every beginning, an ending that has begun and in every ending there is a new beginning that has begun to emerge. So, we are lead to see life is the continuous embrace of life, and, of death. We are in a constant state of “passing over”. In each and every present moment, there is a passing over from life to death, and death to life. All this happens within the great mysterious adventure we call human living. Our God has shown His desire to be with us on this journey. In doing, so He has transformed it into a mysterious adventure. In the fulfillment of this desire, He became Emmanuel. He, rather than be a distant spectator, is now totally and completely immersed into the reality we call the human condition. As a result, we are presented with and challenged to embrace the mystery of The Incarnation. In the continuous,f aith-filled, Spirit led, contemplation of this mystery wonder-full, awe-full, spiritual riches continuously flow into our hearts, souls, minds. This tsunami of grace brings about transformation, and transfiguration. A new reality takes root within the depths of who we really are. The spiritual journey is our descent into what we most fear and abhor. We are seeking life, a life that only comes to us through many ,many, deaths. In this searching and seeking, we are lead ever deeper into what we know is The Paschal Mystery. We seem to begin with the nonthreatening Baby Jesus and are forced to encounter Him, all grown up, as The Crucified One. We must continue to embrace both realities of our God within us. As a consequence, a new reality takes root within us. That which we have been Baptized into, The Paschal Mystery, is now being lived, revealed and seen within our everyday reality. We are led to believe the truth of St. Paul’s words; "I live, no, not I, but Christ lives within me". What God promised Ezekiel is now ours. We will discover a new heart within us. The old stony heart has been replaced. With this new heart came a new Spirit. When did all of this happen? Without our knowing or sensing it. Without knowing or sensing it, paschal death, and resurrection, happened and continues to happen. The creative work of The Spirit is always in secret. As it was, so it is, and ever shall be forever, and ever, amen. This death/resurrection process happens in the depths of who we are. In order to enliven, vivify, intensify this new life, and new way of living it is ESSENTIAL we bring that reality to each and every mass we are blessed to celebrate. Nothing happens apart from prayer. In this we make the connection between The Paschal Mystery, we encounter within the reality of our everyday experience, and it's celebration within the weekday and weekly liturgy. This does not happen automatically. It demands effort on our part. This is work. This is hard and at times, very difficult work. It is so much easier to be deny our deep, everyday, pain-filled reality. We want to gloss over the difficult and spiritually unsettling feelings and emotions. We are reminded of the warning of Fr. Rohr, "Whatever we do not feel, cannot be healed...Whatever is not transformed, is transferred". How often have we seen and experienced this pain-full reality? It does takes raw naked faith and deep courage to bring ourselves as we really are into The Presence. We must ever and always keep before us this reality we want to deny, is the only reality God knows. That is where He meets us and waits for us to greet Him there. Yes, He waits for us to welcome into the place we are at. When we are NOT honestly present , to His presence, nothing CAN happen. Maybe that is why liturgy is properly called, "THE WORK OF THE PEOPLE".
Sunday, May 27, 2012
There are books that you read. Then there are books that you read and read and read seemingly always for the first time..For me, such a book is “The Holy Longin" by Fr. Roland Rolheiser. I find myself going back to reread that which I have previously read. The result is, I always begin to question my memory. In the rereading there will always be some word, or phrase that will pop up and strike me right between the eyes. I have to ask the question, "where have you come from and where were you hiding the last time I was here?”. Of course I get no answers, I just continue to talk and question myself. That lead to that, which I am not now ready to detail, or discuss. Maybe in my memoirs ??? That will be some book !!!!!!!! The following is an example of that which always carries new insights, leading to a new way of experiencing and celebrating life. I can honestly say it has lead to a new and deeper connection with the Eucharistic Celebration. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is celebrated from a completely different place with the following understanding ....."The Paschal Mystery.. is a process of transformation within which we are given new life and a new spirit. It begins with suffering and death, moves on to the reception of new life, spends some time grieving the old and adjusting to the new, and finally, only after the old life has been truly let go of, is a new spirit given for the life we are already living....We can see that are five clear, distinct moments within the paschal cycle...Each of these is part of a single process, an organic one, and each needs to be understood in relationship to the others to make sense of the Paschal Mystery. Each part is one process of transformation of dying and letting go so as to receive new life and new spirit." (To save space I am combining two diagrams in to one.) 1. Good Friday - "the loss of life--real death" For us ,today, this means we are required to, "name your deaths". 2. Easter Sunday...."the reception of new life ". For us today we are required to, "claim your births." 3. The Forthy Days. "A time of readjusting to the new and for grieving the old". We are required to "Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality" 4.Ascension.." Letting go of the old and letting it bless you, the refusal to cling."We are " NOT to cling to the old, let it ascend and give you it's blessing" (All this results in..) 5. Pentecost..”the reception of a new spirit for the new life that one is already living". Our part.."Accept the spirit of the new life that you are in fact living." ( He then goes on to add.) ' This cycle is not something that we must undergo just once, at the moment of our deaths, when we lose our earthly lives as we know them. (Oh how I wish that were true. Sadly no. He goes on to remind us.) 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 Paschal Mystery is the secret to life. Ultimately our happiness depends upon properly undergoing it." Now here is some more food for transformative reflection: " ..regarding two kinds of death. There is terminal death, and there is paschal death. Terminal death is a death that ends life and ends possibilities. Paschal death, like terminal death, is real. However, paschal death is a death that, while ending one kind of life, opens the 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 paschal death." Ever since I first read that book, it has made it somewhat easier to journey with individuals and families that have encountered loss. Loss comes to each and every human being in many and varied ways. Each loss is unique. Unique to the person, the family, community, nation and the family of nations. We are all affected by each loss, to a greater and lesser degree. We have a common bond as we all participate in the human race. As we go so does the future of our world. We may use every excuse and rational, but there is no denying that truth. If we all lived our lives out of that truth what a different world we would have. Yet, guess what that world vision is coming. The seed has been sown, in the darkness of the tomb. Because new life burst forth from the womb of the tomb, (The Risen Christ), so we now await a new heaven and a new earth that is slowly and inexorable appearing. It cannot be stopped. There is no power greater than God's power. If there was then that power would be God. What we do is install the so called "powerful one" as god. We may go so far as to worship that it's altar. That altar is constructed by the forces of power, property, and prestige. How easily we get seduced into worshipping at that altar and seldom, if ever, at the altar of The Living & True GOD. When these gods of illusion disappear, as they surely will, all is not lost. This loss is in reality a death, a paschal death, though we do not yet know that. God does not depend on our knowledge. The loss of power, any power is a death. The loss of property and prestige is also a death, that must be grieved for. In healthy grieving we will be lead to the understanding of The Paschal Mystery hidden deep within all that has happened, and is happening. (Our God is smooth.) This so called we are experiencing is Not an ending, this is a beginning. Do we believe it? A question we have to answer again, and again, until our terminal death. To sum up ,when I am challenged to enter into despair and begin to see life through the lenses of terminal death, let the above diagram challenge my "stinking thinking". Let me have the honesty to admit" that when I choose to dwell the place of despair and negativity I am choosing to live life grounded in a lie. I am not living out the truth and the freedom of the Paschal Mystery. That is our decision not anyone else's. A decision we make, consciously or subconsciously each and every moment we are given to live. Therein lies the difference between living and existing.