Monday, March 31, 2014

Lent...... Journey.......To.... Reconciliation......&....Renewal


"What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," is a catch phrase we are all now familiar with. It is not the whole truth, however. For the last couple of years, I've enjoyed putting this twist on it. It goes as follows:  "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, until it shows up in Reconciliation (Confession), to be dealt with." We now know nothing that has ever happened to us has actually disappeared into thin air…The effects of each and every word that has been spoken to us, whether life affirming, or death dealing, is carried deep within us. Everything that has happened to us, for good or for ill, has left a residue in the depths of our souls. We have to keep before us this very challenging reality, "what our mind has forgotten, our souls remember." Those memories will have to be dealt with. We can, and do deny, the uncomfortable realities, what is sometimes called the shadow self, namely "the past, the primitive, and the inferior." We will be able to continue in our denial, but only for so long, until one day in some way we will be forced to confront those fear-full, frightening realities, as they are acted out in some destructive act or actions. That which we deny, suppress, sublimate will take a terrific toll on our psychic energy. It takes twice the energy to keep all this "garbage" bottled up, than to engage in the process of confession, reconciliation, and transformation. We must always keep before us that what we have been led into, by grace, is a long progress of reconciliation. This reconciliation process is the journey of whole life long. For us to be spiritually healthy we must accept, not like, this reality. The more we recoil from the honesty required, the greater the price we will have to pay. The choice is ours. Only we, as individuals, can accept, or refuse the priceless gift of liberation which is bestowed upon those who accept the invitation to the ongoing process of confession, reconciliation, and transformation. During these days of Lent there are more opportunities for the celebration of this  Sacrament  which gifts us with peace, and liberation. We are all in desperate need of both.
                          Years ago, I was lucky to be blessed with pearl of wisdom from Fr. Rohr, "it is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, not the Sacrament of obliteration." What a difference that makes as we reflect on the realities of our lives. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation nothing is destroyed, only transformed. This transformation is a new creation of grace. Mercy is at work in the depths of our being, bringing about a new reality. This is a good time to remember the Scripture saying,"behold I make all things new," and we must take the time to reflect on how in the mercy of our Prodigal, Mercy-full, Prodigal father what once was death dealing, is now life giving. We see that "new creation" of which the Scriptures are about, as now part of our reality. We do not know how or when this miracle of grace  happened. All we need to know is that it has happened, the rest, is none of our business. To make it our business is to engage on an ego trip. The more we give into the ego's demands, the deeper we will have to experience purgation. Purgation, the emptying out process of our egos, is never pleasant. It is downright pain-full. It is our lived experience of Calvary, and the Crucifixion. It is our journey, a journey we make again and again, to that place where we cry out: " My God, my God, why have you abandoned and forsaken me." These word of Jesus were the last He spoke, before He experienced the process of resurrection, As it was with Jesus so it has to be with us. That is, if we so choose to be a real disciple, a true follower, our destiny. This is a great place to stop, and reflect on that wonder-full prayer-hymn "Jerusalem my Destiny." (When I first heard "Jerusalem My Destiny" prayed, I fell in love with it. To the chagrin of some I wanted to have it prayed all the time!!! Obviously I am not a liturgist!  A reality that has triggered some real creative conflicts in my years of ministry. I am delighted to say the adventure continues!!!
           Nothing, absolutely nothing, in our lives is outside the realm of God's judgment and mercy. By hiding parts of our story, not only from our own consciousness, but also from God's eye, we claim a divine role for ourselves; we become the judges of our own past and LIMIT MERCY TO OUR FEARS. We disconnect ourselves not only from our own suffering, but also from God's suffering for us. By lifting our pain-full memories out of  the egocentric, individualistic, private sphere, Jesus Christ heals our pain. We connect them with the pain of all humanity, a pain He took upon Himself and transformed. To heal, then, does not primarily mean to take pains away but to reveal that our pains are a part of a greater pain, that our sorrows are part of a greater sorrow, that our experience is part of a greater experience of Him, Whom has said, "But was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into the glory of God." ( Henri Nouwen) As it was with Jesus, Who became The Christ so it will be for us, so we can become the sacrament of the Risen Christ. This is what it means to be Baptized. In this Sacrament we are anointed, twice, as an outward sign of the inner reality of our consecration. Our being called, our being and set apart by The Living God to to be the living presence, the living reality of His Son. In this becoming, we are slowly becoming, the reality chosen for us from the beginning of time. It will be insofar as we embrace life, and live it to the fullest in a healthy manner, will we live a life of creative love. We will be "life givers" not "death dealers."
                        The Sacrament of Reconciliation is our ongoing encounter with The Enfleshment of Mercy, The God-man Jesus Christ. Encounter is  of the essence of the seven ritual sacraments. I like to think of a ritual sacrament in the following way. A ritual Sacrament is, an encounter with 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. That word encounter seems to be a favorite of Pope Francis, and it must also become a word we are becoming more aware of. In the celebration of Reconciliation we encounter "the living Person of Jesus Christ." There is so much to be reflected on in these five words. Who is this "living Person" you are encountering. How would you describe Jesus as a person, in whose personhood is revealed the Unknown, and the Unknowable? In order to have an encounter there, first of all, must be a living person. That is we have to construct, create a living, walking, talking, laughing, crying, angry, hungry, beaten, broken, betrayed etc. etc., human being. A human being who was "like unto us in every way except sin, and oh how He sought out and loved the sinner. We must keep before us that  the human qualities we attribute to The Historical Jesus, will be the same qualities we will attribute to Our Heavenly father? If we see our God only as an absent God, a transcendent reality, it is incumbent on us to bring about a change in how we see, accept and relate to the human attributes of His Revelation. The words of Anthony Padavono from the 60's ring even truer today "we must make Jesus human, and make ourselves as human as He was.' This of course will take time, and work. A lot of time, and an equal amount of hard work. But, on the other hand, with each Sacramental encounter comes with it this guarantee. Each Sacramental encounter  graces us with necessary grace  needed at that time to be Who we are called to be. We will get all that is needed to be, and be Who we are called to be. We need creative wisdom so as to develop an ever new  understanding of Jesus'  humanity. With this evolving understanding there will appear an ever new, and refreshing relationship not only with our own humanity, but with all of humanity. We will be drawn ever deeper into The Paschal Mystery, and the mystery of our life that is ever and always emerging from our encounter with death. In Reconciliation our ego dies, a pain-full death, when we express our powerlessness over so many aspects of our lives. In that expression of our powerlessness the way is prepared of Him, who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. The stones of the toxic trinity, guilt, fear, shame, are rolled back so that the fullness of The Resurrection and it's new life may be ours.