Summertime is a time for relaxation and reading. We need books for travel, for the beach, and for the quiet times. I am most grate-full to be back where I can enjoy reading again. Some gifts can only be appreciated when they are no longer part and parcel of our daily lives. Are not some of the most important gifts taken for granted by us? I am back rereading Henri Nouwen's great classic, "Life of The Beloved." I recently picked up another of his books, which he co-authored, "Compassion." ( Thank God for thrift stores.) It was only when I got into reading both that the thought struck me, they are so complimentary, without compassion we have no chance to live the life of being the beloved. In "Life of The Beloved, "Henri lays out before us on how ESSENTIAL it is for us, not only to know but to embrace this reality. We are, and ever shall be Our Father's beloved daughters/sons. He points out the fact it is not enough to be the beloved, we have to actively claim the dignity of being the beloved. He points out the fact that we must claim our belovedness again, and again. Each and every moment of every day this is our essential task. Let us not fool ourselves, this is hard work. The spiritual life IS hard work. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Why is it such a struggle for us humans? Simply put, the spiritual journey is a journey into "subtraction not addition"(Rohr) , and this offends the ego, big time!!!To be honest, I have never liked that reality especially when I was younger. How could one be successful if one was not accumulating? When you were an assistant pastor, you were waiting to assume the mantle and power that came with being a pastor. Not just being a pastor but a pastor of a big wealthy parish. What an illusion that turned out to be. The Second Vatican helped to destroy that illusion, with the advent of, servant leadership. The illusion is still alive and well. Thank God Pope Francis is renewing that call. He calls for a new way of serving the poorest of the poor. It is in the service of those whom our God has a fundamental option towards, that we will be challenged to see in them their essential belovedness, the same belovedness that is ours, in our depths. So then it stands to reason that we will have to journey into the depths of all aspects of poverty. Our own FIRST, then the poverty of others. We will be drawn into an ever deepening understanding of what poverty really means. With this gradual understanding, we will come to an acceptance of the universal community, and unity of all. When we do not accept this unity and community in poverty and belovedness, we will be suckered into accumulating "power, property, and prestige" only to find out that this NOT the way to a happy, full life. It is just an illusion, and when followed leads to death. We meet so many of these wailing dead on life's journey. Even though they are many, they are not who they think they are. They are so much more. Right now they do not believe it. There has to be a lot of "letting go" of their precious illusions, the product of the false self. So as to journey through the "subtraction," the emptying out into the true self. The Presence of God within. This is the pearl of great price which does not come on the cheap. A great deal of hard work and sacrifice is demanded.
It is one of the blessings of getting old that the "get up and go, has got up and gone. "One is forced to face the limitations of what it means to be human. So much of what was looked on as important has fallen by the wayside. So much has disappeared and all that is left is the memories. Since I have been blessed with the great desire to read, and so I was in one way prepared for what I was to face, but I was not prepared for the toll it was going to have on my Irish ego. I had read "the greater the ego, the greater the crucifixion," but that was for others not for me, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. What a journey it has been to accept the fact that the peace Our Gracious God has in store for us is not "the peace" the world thinks is peace. We are in constant need of lens adjustment. God's ways are not, the non transformed ways of the the world. God's ways, however, are lives lived in union with The Transformed One, Jesus The Christ of God. The transformation necessary happens to us, uniquely through grace, as we follow in the footsteps of The Beloved One. These are not easy steps to follow.
Being The Beloved did not guarantee an easy, carefree life. On the contrary, even though He was The Beloved, He emptied Himself of His power-full divinity, so as to be immersed completely in the human experience. Like all of us He too was betrayed, lied about, bruised, beaten and abandoned. He did this so as to model for us what the human expression of our All Power-full God looks like. We must not just look at the events in the life of The Historical Jesus, and ask why, we must go deeper and ask the question how am I living out these same moments and events right now? What is the connection between my daily encounter with suffering, and the suffering Of The Beloved Son? As Jesus, who through His Paschal sufferings, became The Christ of God, so too, we are immersed in, and connected with the same human condition. And we become today's revelation of Jesus, The Christ as we embrace His model of compassion, and Belovedness. This revelation of God was ridiculed and rejected so we, too must not be surprised when we do not find easy acceptance, even within ourselves. I must have compassion with my own human faults and failings. I have to ask for the grace to be able to "journey with" them, so as to understand compassion. AS you know the deepest meaning of the word compassion is "to journey with." To journey with someone in pain, and not have a desire to change that person is one of life's great challenges. That is why God, in compassion for us left the heavenly throne so as "to be with us," Emmanuel, and "journey with us" so in a fellow human all that we need is revealed through our reflection on His daily living.
"In the midst of this painful reality, we have to dare to reclaim the truth that we are God's chosen ones, even when our world does not choose us. AS long as we allow our parents, siblings, teachers, friends, and lovers to determine whether we are chosen or not, we are caught in the net of a suffocating world that accepts or rejects us according to its own agenda of effectiveness and control. Often this reclaiming is an arduous task, a lifelong work because the world persists in its efforts to pull us into the darkness of self-doubt, low esteem, self-rejection and depression. And this is because it as insecure, fearful, self-deprecating people that we can most easily be used and manipulated by the powers surrounding us. The great spiritual battle begins,--and never ends--with the reclaiming of our closeness.
LONG BEFORE ANY HUMAN BEING SAW US,WE ARE SEEN BY GOD'S LOVING EYES.LONG BEFORE ANYONE HEARD US CRY OR LAUGH,WE ARE HEARD BY OUR GOD WHO IS ALL EARS FOR US.LONG BEFORE ANY PERSON SPOKE TO US IN THIS WORLD, WE ARE SPOKEN TO BY THE VOICE OF ETERNAL LOVE. OUR PRECIOUSNESS, UNIQUENESS, AND INDIVIDUALITY ARE NOT GIVEN TO US THOSE WE MEET IN CLOCK TIME---OUR BRIEF CHRONOLOGICAL EXISTENCE-----BUT BY THE ONE WHO HAS CHOSEN US WITH AN EVERLASTING LOVE, A LOVE THAT EXISTED FROM ALL ETERNITY AND WILL LAST THROUGH ALL OF ETERNITY.-----WHEN LOVE CHOOSES,IT CHOOSES WITH A PERFECT SENSITIVITY FOR THE UNIQUE BEAUTY OF THE CHOSEN ONE, AND IT CHOOSES WITHOUT MAKING ANYONE ELSE FEEL EXCLUDED." ( "LIFE OF THE BELOVED ")
These are words that must not just be read, but reflected on, chewed on so as to be blessed with the recognition of your essential goodness, blessedness, and giftedness. Yes! We are more that we could ever imagine. Do not sell yourself short. Do not, even when tempted, deny that from eternity you have been and are loved with an Eternal love. We are all in the same boat, and it is Not the Titanic.