Saturday, April 30, 2016

Shalom...



We are still in Easter time. That time between Easter Sunday and The Feast of The Ascension. It is now looked on as the time spent in adjustment. These are the days and weeks we visit each year so as to reflect and be taught anew  by  The Risen Christ. We learn each year something new from the events of the time spent time by Christ with His disciples. He spent 40 days, a long time, providing them time  to adjust to His new way of relating with them. It was a time of letting go of the old, so as to embrace the new. This is hard work.  The disciples had to let go of their old way of thinking, and their old way of relating. This Jesus, whom they knew in His mortal life, is now present to them in His risen reality. A reality that is beyond anything they could ever imagine. He appears and disappears. Closed doors are no obstacle  to The Risen Christ. They encounter Him on the road. He is with  them when they are fishing. The Risen One eats and drinks with them. He even cooks for them. Things may in way be the same, yet in another reality essentially different. It took some adjusting to, and in the end the disciples did not really get the whole picture. We are told in Mark's Gospel how, on The Mount of The Ascension, the disciples worshiped the Risen Christ, but "they still doubted." How consoling is that. Those who were personally called, and formed by Jesus The Christ, did not get it. It is still more amazing that Jesus left them in their doubt. He went off up to heaven, and left behind a bunch of doubters. Yet these were the ones who, in time, were going to take the Gospel message to "the ends of the earth." Many were to lay down their lives as a testimony to the truth of what they were taught. How could this happen? What they saw or thought as an ending was actually the beginning of a deeper journey with The Risen Christ. He was no longer with them; He was to be within them. As it was with the early disciples so it is with us, His present day disciples. We, because we are alive, have to face the consequence of death. For who follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ will over time, come to see and believe that this death we are so afraid of is not an end but an actual beginning. This death, leading to new life is called, Paschal death. As long as we are alive we are constantly in the process of deepening our understanding of this mystery. The opposite of Paschal death is temporal death. There is death, and then there is nothing. Where do you see the reality of this Paschal death in the life you are living right now? Where is Easter time, that time you are forced to let go of the old ways of relating, and there is now a new reality to be encountered and accepted? We must always keep before us this hard fact, acceptance is a process to be entered into. When we enter a process we never know where it is going to lead to. So we need faith. Our Gracious Lover has provided us with a model that is to be lived out uniquely by each one of us. The journey of the prophet Jesus, becoming the Christ of God, is the model we follow. So we will not be caught up in fear and trembling.  We have been blessed to have The Spirit of The risen Christ deep within the depths of who we are.

                       What does it mean to have The Risen Christ journey within us? How do we know that the life we are living is the life  of The Risen One? It helps to remember one of the first appearances of Christ. The disciples are scared. He, Who they thought was going to do so much, left them with so little. Their expectations were crushed. They were dejected and very much alone. They were living behind closed doors. Closed to keep them safe, but not safe from the reality of The Risen Christ. Into that room, despite locked doors Jesus, now The Christ appears. We can  guess at  the thoughts, the feelings, the contrasting emotions coursing through their hearts, souls, and minds. These, His chosen ones, were so well aware of their limitations as followers. When the going got tough, there was no toughness to be seen. Fear and flight was their answer to disaster that was Good Friday, and the crucifixion. When they were most needed, they were shown to be wanting. Wanting in empathy, compassion and courage. The weakness of as yet unredeemed humanity became oh so self evident. What weaklings they were, when the chips were down. Even the favored ones, Peter, James, and John were not able to provide companionship and support when Jesus in His agony most needed them. They were unable to "watch one hour with the Suffering Servant." Peter, who prided himself in his loyalty, became a cropper when it came to crunch time. He, who was ready to die with Jesus, was unable to admit that he was a follower of The Prophet from Galilee. When it came to Good Friday, how many were around? It was the women, with the beloved disciple who showed any willingness to be identified with The Crucified One, and they "stood at a distance." Those in that room, who are our ancestors in faith, were left with nothing when brought face to face with The Risen Christ.

                        How did the Risen One greet them? With words of recrimination, and judgment? No way!! That is our human way of dealing with denial, and betrayal. Not so with Jesus The Christ. He, Who is the incarnation of the mercy of God, was mercy-full to these broken ones. He did not call anyone out. He did not let the ego gloat by saying "I told you so." No His greeting to them was "Shalom." Shalom is not just peace. It is so much more. Shalom has about 15 different levels of meaning. I found the following on the internet. "According to Strong's Concordance shalom means completeness,  wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety,  soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. "Now that is a real mouth full!!! It appears to be too much for my little brain to handle. There is nothing in this world that we can compare shalom to. No human being, that I know of, has all those qualities. There are some who we can say have some of what shalom means but not all. We are all perfectly imperfect. So what is left, the desire to grow into a fuller understanding, and an ever deepening embrace of the full meaning of shalom. This will happen the more we encounter Christ in our everyday living. The spirit of Shalom is the Spirit of Christ, constantly reminding us of who we are, and Whose presence we are to reveal in our gospel hike/walk/journey.

                           The disciples were offered shalom in their moment of weakness, and absolute powerlessness. It is essential to remember that it was when they were most aware of their weakened, broken humanity, it was then they were given power to forgive sin. What great confessors Peter, and the rest would be. He, who was to be the successor of Jesus Christ, denied that he ever knew him? God seems to choose the little and the least to proclaim that which is beyond human belief.  As it was with those early followers, so it is with you and me. The way it seems to me that in order to be open to, and I am speaking just for myself, I have to journey into, and take up residence in the reality  which is the opposite of living in shalom. I remember how things changed for me when I read of the connection between being, whole and being holy. You cannot have one without the other. So my journey is into wholeness, into oneness. Oneness with myself, others, Creator God and with all of creation. Wholeness is a gift to be desired. Wholeness comes at a great price. Wholeness comes as the result of an endless war that is waged in the battlefield of the soul. Shalom wants to call us to recognize  our essential goodness that is not harmed by sin and human frailty. It is ONLY through the acceptance of our humanness, with all of its weakness and brokenness, can we begin our journey into the fullness of The Risen life. This is where we ask for the gift of humility. On our own personal Emmaus journey we need of the constant appearance of The Scripture Teacher Who will rekindle from the embers, the fire of The Divine  Creator Spirit. We and all of creation will be strengthened and renewed. We will be given the necessary grace, "our daily bread, which will strengthen us to pick up our cross and journey into the constant process of renewal.