Monday, March 28, 2016

The...Gift...Of...Transformation



We all have been brought together by the power of God's spirit to be again "dipped and dyed," in the Paschal Mystery.  Each year, we come to an ever deeper understanding of our daily participation in the Paschal Mystery.   It is so essential for us to remember, it is a daily participation in the suffering, death and burial, resurrection and ascension of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Our daily journey is our Paschal Journey.  Our daily experience of what is means to be human is our encounter with the cross.  It is in and through the events of our daily journey, our God uses to bring about the transformation and transfiguration necessary for us to become more and more the contemporary presence of His Son, Jesus Christ.  He is the potter, we are the clay, and the daily events are the tools in the hand of The Master.  You will now notice, where before there was garbage, walls, and dullness, now we see wonderful gifts that have come to us.  These gifts are spread out among the community.  The emphasis is on the living water, the fountain of water, that is flowing so very freely from a place of mystery. 

The place of Mystery is within us.  It is out of the midst of our uncertainty, fears, and disillusionment, that somehow the living waters of life, of Christ, come flowing into our deepest consciousness and our daily living.  That is why we have to be constantly "dipped and dyed," so we can be exposed in each liturgy to the life of Christ, the light of Christ and the love of Christ.

Easter transforms and transfigures.  It allows us to have the hope at this time, and at this stage of our journey, that death is not "the final word on life or despair the final state of human beings."  (Boff)  as we make our journey in the light of the resurrection, we know that out of all pain, sorrow, and the brokenness comes new life and wonderful gifts.  The greater the wound, the great the pain...the greater the gift.  Because of the Resurrection, we experience in our lives the following: 
Where before there was Guilt, now there is Forgiveness, Where there was Anger, now there is Compassion.  Where there was Resentment, now there is Understanding and Gratitude.  Where there was Boredom, now there is Wonder.  Where there was Anxiety, now there is Excitement.  Where there was Greed and Envy, now there is Sharing and Generosity. 

So, we see then our Garbage is turned into treasure, and gifts, to be shared.  It is by the power of God, not and never by our power, this is accomplished.  Like the Risen Christ, we carry, and will carry, our wounds with us.  We will learn over and over again wounds brought to prayer, brought to reconciliation, brought to Eucharist, become sacred wounds.  These wounds become the place of encounter with faith for those who share a common experience.  As a result of this encounter, courage and faith is shared, leading to a greater belief and trust in the transforming love of our Heavenly Father. 

We, also need to remember it is when the disciples are most aware of their failures and shortcomings, they are given the power to forgive sins.  I have always said, I would like to go to reconciliation with St. Peter, because he would be the one most aware of his humanity and his vulnerability.  From his experience, he would have been given the gifts of compassion, understanding, and empathy.  We need to be showered with these gifts.  These are the gifts we need to shower on ourselves so, we can enjoy these self same gifts when they are offered to us by our Heavenly Father.  "Grace perfects human nature." (St. Thomas Aquinas)  It is in and through this experience, we come to believe and know the Risen Christ.  It is in the awareness and celebration of these gifts, we come to know the joy of the Risen Christ.  We, too can testify, "The Lord is Risen," and His risen life is a life we now share and experience.  We will come to believe in the Risen Christ not because we have seen Him, rather, we have experienced His risen presence in our lives.  I like what Thomas Keating says, "This,  of course, is an important message for us.  It tells us that it is far better to relate to the Risen Christ on the basis of pure faith that rests not on appearances, feelings, external evidence or what other people say, but on our personal experience of the Christ-life rising up and manifesting its fruits within us.  This is the living faith that empowers us to act under the influence of the Spirit - the same Spirit that Jesus breathed upon the apostles on the evening of His resurrection."

Here are some further thoughts from Fr. Ronald Rolhheiser's book, "Holy Longing."  "The Paschal Mystery is a process of transformation within which we are given both new life and new spirit.  It begins with suffering, and death, moves onto 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 new spirit given for the life we are already living."  

Theologically, looking at Jesus' teachings and especially at his death and resurrection and what follows from them, we can see that there are five clear, distinct moments within the paschal cycle: Good Friday, Easter Sunday, the forty days leading up to the Ascension, the Ascension, and Pentecost.  Each of these is part of a single process, an organic one, and each needs to be understood in relation to the others to make sense of the paschal mystery.  Each is part of one process of transformation, of dying and letting go so, as to receive new life and new spirit. 
In caption, the paschal cycle might be diagrammed as follows:
1.Good Friday..."the loss of the life-real death"
2.Easter Sunday..."the reception of new life"
3.The Forty Days..."a time for readjustment to the new and for grieving the old"
4. Ascension..."letting go of the old and letting it bless you, the refusal to cling"
5.Pentecost..."the reception of new spirit for the new life that one is already living"
Put into a more colloquial language and stated as a personal, paschal challenge for each of us, one might recast the diagram this way:
1."Name your death"
2."Claim your births"
3."Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality"
4."Do not cling to the old, let it ascend and give you its blessing"
5."Accept the spirit of the life that you are in fact living"

This cycle is not something that we must undergo just once, at the moment of our deaths, when we lose our earthly lives as we know them.  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 rising and various pentecosts.  The Paschal Mystery is the secret to life.  Ultimately our happiness depends upon properly undergoing it.

May the peace and joy of the Easter Season be yours, today and all the days of your life as you make your journey through life.