Thursday, December 19, 2013

From...Our...Stumps...A...Beauty

"On that day, a shoot shall spout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. Not by appearance shall he judge nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the Lord's afflicted." These words from Isaiah chapter eleven were a message of hope for a people broken, bruised, battered, and afflicted. They, the chosen ones, were far from looking like being "chosen." They could even say "If this is what it means to be Your chosen, please do not do me any favors." Being the chosen of God has NEVER meant, nor does it do so today, that somehow life is going to be easy if you are one of the chosen. I was going to say a walk in the sunshine, but then the chosen people did have a long walk in the desert where the sun does hang out a lot. It lasted forty years. It was not an easy stroll; rather it turned out to be a long slog. (Kind of like our lives at times?) The account of that journey is a great source of comfort, encouragement, and wisdom for us as today as we make our journey as individuals, as families, and as a community of faith. It is so reassuring to know that no matter how far off, and to where "The Chosen" strayed, God as it were strayed with them. They acted as if He was not present for them, but that was their illusion. Over a period of time they were guided back to the right way and right relationship, and not always with their willingness intact.

        God does not need us to be perfect, in any way, for Him to accomplish His mysterious work.  He does His best work when we get to that place, in our desert journey, where we are forced to accept the fact that we are, ever will be perfectly imperfect. We will NOT get away with just mouthing the words. This acceptance of our innate imperfection has to be pain-fully drawn from the depths of who we are. This is the beginning of our faint, and often frightened "Yes" to our stump/stumps. The most convoluted "Yes," on our part is enough for the miracle of His grace to become operative in us. We are now becoming aware of our stumpy-ness. How many stumps we are faced with will be in direct proportion to our honesty. WE must also keep in mind this wonder-full reality, the more stumps we own the more blossoms and fruits our garden eventually will produce. Is it not great to see a root slowly produce its unique, wonder-full harvest? The place where once, to the naked eye, there was nothing of any value to be seen, now everything has changed. There is beauty, to enliven and delight us. There is nourishment for body, soul, and spirit. An abundance of life springs from those stumps. It is The Lord who has done, and will do that which to the human eye seems impossible.  A caveat, a warning, all that is now and has been bestowed on us is not for ourselves. Pope Francis keeps that hard, and for some, a very disturbing reality constantly before us. He is not too popular with some individuals who are not familiar with Catholic Social Doctrine. The Pope is NOT saying anything new. What has been said in the past has either been forgotten or was, at the time, ignored. WE are in constant need of being reminded of who we are, a chosen people whose origin is the womb of our Creator’s infinite love. Love is our origin and it is also the reason for our existence. We are to be DISTRIBUTERS of the gifts we have been entrusted to our care. We are not going to take anything with us. "There is no U-haul behind a hearse" (Graham) All is given, to be given away." All that we keep, we lose, and all that we give away, we keep. "I do not have to tell you what that is!”

              Honesty with who I really am in not easy. Thank God we are told that we grow into being honest. My journey into honesty began, the day I was able to own my dishonesty about being honest. My honesty was a little stump, so my ability to grow spiritually was frustrated. Honesty is a pre-requisite for growth. The presence of The Truth is essential for us to grow into our real truth. Our real truth the true self, is the person who God created and keeps in existence. When I am living a lie there is no God connection, hence we wander and wander as did The Chosen of long ago. It took a long time to grow into a willingness to be honest. "Once we admit we are honest about dishonesty, we are being, wait for it, being honest." This is a great paradox, meant to stretch us, as do all paradoxes. Ouch!!! I am at times willing to forego this stretching. I tell God “enough is enough” I am willing to stop, but somehow God chooses to ignore this willingness. Like a parent ignoring a child's unreasonable request!!! So the question has to be asked, will this stretching ever end? The answer, I am sad to say is, "as long as I am alive, I am and will be stretched." We know that stretching is essential for good health. We are encouraged to stretch for at least five minutes each morning. Whatever is healthy for us physically of necessity is essential for our spiritual health and growth.

                 This season of Advent is intended to sharpen our lenses. Advent is meant to provide new insights into old truths. Truths that have shrunk into unattractive and somewhat meaningless stumps. God will take flesh anew, as He does within each and in every moment of our daily living. The Angels will sing a familiar word that our Pope has given new meaning to. We are again to encounter the shepherds, the outcast within, sent to see and then become broadcasters, proclaimers of "The Good News of The Gospel." To proclaim the Reality which they saw, and then CAME to believe in. WE are asked to discover again, but in a new way, all those we encounter in the Gospel narratives. These are not places and events in a book; they are living realities within the depths of who we are. They are there, resting, in the patient expectation of being discovered. Some WILL appear as unattractive realities, but exposed to the transfiguring power of grace they reveal a beauty that is incomprehensible to the mind, but known to the spirit. There are no words to describe the happening mystery. Words are useless, what we can offer is reverential silence. It appears to be nothing. It is everything our true self wants, desires.