Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Floatation Mat of Faith

Each season brings with it, its bounty, its own gifts. We are heading into summer, where "living is easy." What are the gifts of summer we can look at through the eyes of wonder, through the x-ray eye of faith? What are the sacraments, what are the sacred events that allow us to encounter God's presence? What has become so familiar to us that they have lost their deeper meaning, their inner mystery, their wonder-full beauty? What are the sacraments of summer?

In Arizona, we love to swim. When I came to Arizona I discovered a wonderful invention -- the floatation mat. On it, you can lie, relax and soak up the rays of the sun (of course you haveput on at least an SPF 30 protection). With that comes a great feeling of being supported as you gently move around the pool.

Many times over the years, I have recommended the use of the flotation mat to any number of people. I recommend it to people who find it difficult to rest, relax and let go of life for a time. To others, who have difficulty with surrendering, trusting God, this too is recommended. What better way to imagine God as the mat? Just as you can trust the mat to support you, you can trust God's support while you relax. You can train yourself, allow yourself to just be, just chill, to live in this moment -- all the while being supported.

That is the way it is with us and God. In faith, we see that He is our mat. Always there with His love, His care, His persevering faithful love. When we fight Him -- as we do on a regular basis -- like the mat, He does not move. We can slip off the mat, but the mat is there for us to reconnect with again. Yet, we can make it an act of faith when we connect a simple act of gliding on a flotation mat to our willingness to surrender.

Our willingness to surrender our lives unto Him. It is He who has the power to support us and transform us as well. This gives new meaning to the scripture passage, "In Him we live and we move and we have our being."

When we move to the ocean, that mat can be used in two ways. We can lie on the mat and rock slowly and gently to the gentle movement of the waves. The relentless movement of the ocean seems to still the restless spirit within us.

The ocean can change just as life changes. When the waves grow from little to big, then our mat enables us to ride the rough waves. What a great feeling it is to move at speed, as we ride the waves and come safely to the shore. To do what? Well, to go out again and again. We have the security within each of us knowing that the mat will bring us safely back to shore. As long as we hang on, this will happen. In the rough waves of life, we have the safety of the mat of faith to carry us safely to the shore, to security and to home.

Our journey continues…

Friday, May 22, 2009

Why Open Your Eyes?

"The eye is the body’s lamp. If your eyes are good, your body will be filled with light: if your eyes are bad, your body will be in darkness. And, if your light is darkness, how deep will the darkness be?" Matthew 6:22:23.

"Beginning in the eye, when it opens, is like the dawn breaking in the night. When it opens, and new world is there....yet, in a wonderful way, the eye makes us wonder at the mystery and otherness of everything outside us. When you really gaze at something, you bring it inside of you...when you look deeply at something, it becomes part of look at something that can gaze back at you, or that has a reserve and depth, can heal your eyes and deepen your sense of vision...An interesting question you ask yourself at night is, ‘What did I really see today?’ You could be surprised at what you did not see...The human eye is always selecting what it wants to see and also evading what it does not want to see...It is a startling truth that how you see and what you see determines how and who you will be...To recognize how you see things can bring you self-knowledge and enable you to glimpse the wonderful treasures your life secretly holds." Anam Cara

Why have I selected the above quotations? It is to emphasize the fact that our whole life is sacred, our whole life is mysterious. That is why the last writing effort ended with a prayer which asks for the gift of sight. We need these x-ray eyes of faith to see what is hidden and revealed in all we see, hear and do.

"All of creation is charged with the wonder of God," according to Hopkins. All is mystery, all is Holy, that is what we must be reminded of, otherwise our lives will be dull, lifeless, death-dealing and boring.

I love the following story which I first heard on a Richard Rohr tape. "There was a researcher who placed a walleyed pike into a fake glass tank. He then placed minnows into the tank. The pike gobbled up the little minnows. After a time, the researcher changed the configuration of the tank. He placed the glass wall in the tank. He then placed the minnows behind the glass wall. The pike made effort after effort to get at the fish. Each time, all he was able to do was bump up against the wall. That went on for some time. Eventually, the researcher removed the glass wall, the minnow swam all around the pike. It starved to death with food all around it."

This is a heart-wrenching story. This is the life story of more people than we can ever imagine. We must be reminded that "our daily bread" -- like the minnows -- is always around us, surrounding us. Whether the food is claimed or not, is our decision made one moment at a time. Our daily bread is always around us, but is not there something of that defeated pike in each one of us? We have been disappointed, rejected, betrayed, as we reached to what we thought was food. We were deprived of life-giving sustenance for our bodies, souls, spirit. This is where a radical change has to take place within each one of us, or else, the quotation from the Irish poet Yeats becomes true, "A heart too long neglected a stone becomes." This is victim language and needs a radical change into a survival mentality. This is difficult to achieve, but this radical change can come about one moment at a time. This change comes about as we open our eyes to each moment as a nourishing moment for ourselves and consequently those who share our lives.

Our journey continues…

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

From the Ordinary, Into the Excitement of the ExtraOrdinary/A Choice

Keeping our focus is really difficult. Coaches and teachers have to be constantly reminding their players and students, to “be focused”, to stay focused. We know the hardest thing we can do is to do what we are actually doing, to be where we are really at without giving away to distractions and mind wandering. Our minds, thoughts, feelings move about so quickly, it is so very difficult to concentrate on what is happening in the here and now. Why is this so important, so necessary? Because without being attentive to where we are at. Without being attentive to what we are doing, who we are present to, we will not be led into a new way of seeing, acting and believing. We will rather say, “our life is boring”, it has no meaning. We will buy into the concept that life is to be survived rather than lived. When we are attentive to where we are at, what we are doing, who we are with, we will be led from the ordinary into the sacred extraordinary. We will be led from seeing life as boring to seeing the hidden reality behind what we are seeing. We are then caught up in the excitement of a life charged with the presence of the divine, God. Yes, God is Emanuel, He is with us forever and ever.

De Chardin, in one of his great quotations tell us, “by reason of creation, and still more reason of the incarnation, there is nothing profane for him/her who knows how to see”. St. Francis of Assisi also tells us, “everything this is, is to be adored”. This leads us to an understanding that all creation is a sacrament. You and I are sacraments. Last week, I wrote of the sacramentality of sexuality, that got some people’s attention! Love obviously is a sacrament, so is a kiss, an embrace. So is light, so is darkness, so is birth, so is death. Shared meals are sacramental, a family vacation, despite the struggles, are sacramental. A sacrament in this sense, is a sacrament with a small “s” as opposed to the Seven Ritual Sacraments, spelled with a capital “S”. I like to think of sacrament with a small “s” as;

Each and every person, place, event, action [all that is real] that brings us in contact with the deeper realities of life, ultimately with Reality itself, that Reality we call God.

This is meant to stir your imagination. Be subversive, seek the person behind the person, do not settle for the profane, the ordinary, when the extraordinary, the mysterious is being offered to you. “What is seen is transitory, what is unseen lasts forever”, so the Scripture says.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation In a World Action writes the following;

“Imagination is the creative task of making simple, joining things together in such a way that they throw new light on each other and on everything around them. The imagination is a discovering faculty, a faculty for seeing relationships, for seeing meanings that are special and even quite new. The imagination is something which enables us to discover unique present meaning in a given moment of our lives. Without imagination…life can be extremely dull and fruitless.” In other words, life is boring.

My Celtic ancestors believed everything charged with a presence of the divine. The ancient Celts, and, also the pre-Christian Celts had a great belief in the spirit of a place. They believed in the spirit of the trees, birds, fish, animals, all of creation. How similar then is this spirituality with the spirituality of the Native Americans? The late Pope, speaking in Phoenix, shocked a good number of people with the statement, “there was nothing in the spirituality of the Native Americans that contradicted Catholic teachings. So then as we reclaim the sense of reverence for all of creation we will see that this reverence is not only necessary for physical survival, but for a healthy spirituality as well. I would like to suggest the opposite of the sacramental view of life, is to be bored, and to see life as boring. We have the awe-full vision, a wonder-full vision, or we have the bored or indifferent sightless, lifeless vision of reality. We completely miss out from the light giving presence of the sacred.

Jesus tells us He has come, “That we have life and have it to the fullest.” So what has happened to our life of excitement? What has happened to the excitement? What has happened that has caused us to lose our zest for life? Why then do our Eucharist celebrations lack vigor and vitality? What has caused us to see life, and our relationships, through the eyes of indifference and boredom? Why then do we go about with feelings of boredom, masking anger? “Anam Cara” page 64 says, “To the indifferent eye, nothing calls or awakens. Indifference is one of the hallmarks of our times. It is said that indifference is necessary for power; to hold control one has to be successfully indifferent to the needs and vulnerabilities of those under control. Thus indifference calls for a great commitment to non-vision. To ignore things demands incredible mental energy. Without even knowing it, indifference can place you beyond the frontiers of compassion, healing, and love. When you become indifferent, you give all your power away. Your imagination becomes fixated in the limbo of cynicism and despair.”
To help us get a handle on this, we need to stop and develop an understanding of time and the sacrament of the present moment. There is “chronos time” and “kairos time.” Chronos time is clock time. Kairos time are those moments which our God uses to break into our lives as we stop, are still, and listen (a real difficult thing to do). Kairos time is the time when Reality, God, breaks through into our understanding and change is brought about. We are no longer blind, we are beginning to see. Kairos time is actually each and every moment of our daily lives.
We need then the gift of faithful sight. We need the gifts of faith and wonder to see in each and every moment of our existence, the presence of God. The scriptures tell us, “Now is the acceptable time.” There is No Other Way (N-O-W) except in the wonder of this “now” moment to encounter, to meet our God. This Kairos time is a time of intensity. It is a time of mystery. Our full participation in the church’s liturgical calendar and the celebration of its season offers us an opportunity to celebrate, and so intensify, the God presence in each one of us and in every moment of our lives. This participation allows us to celebrate the sacredness of time.
It allows us to celebrate our own individual sacred journey through time even as we celebrate within a community of faith. This is the opposite of being bored.
The paradox is, we always need our individual spiritual journey to be celebrated within the communities journey. Our lives are only boring then when we fail to stop, see, and experience in each moment, each event, each person, as the place of our encounter with the living God. Our whole life then becomes sacramental, our whole life becomes a sacrament. Where there is life, there is God. Where there is love of life, there is God. Let us take the advice of John of the Cross, “Where there is no love, so love, and you will find love,” and life. Where there is no love, no life, no wonder, no awe, no mystery, no wonder, we say there is no God because there is no zest for life. Saint Irenaeus says, “The Glory of God is the human person, man and woman fully alive.”

We have to constantly ask for an ever deepening faith to see all creation as the reality of God. “Heldegard of Bingen” says, “Good People, most royal greening verdancy, rooted in the sun, you shine with radiant light. In this circle of earthly existence you shine so finely, it surpasses understanding. God hugs you. You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God...and as human persons view creation with compassion, in trust, they see the Lord. It is God which humankind is then able to recognize in every living thing. Does not humanity know that God is the world’s creator? Just as it occurred to God to create humankind, so it occurs to God to save those that trust in him.” We ask for the deepening faith so we can meet God in all the moments of our lives, not just the moment we choose. We ask for the deep faith, see our God not only in happy and joyous moments, but also in the sacramental moments of pain, suffering, and loss. We can pray with the blind man, “Lord that I may see.”
John O’Donohue, in “Anam Cara“ has these challenging thoughts. When we become bored with life, in all of its forms, I hope the following will enable you to come to a deeper understanding of who you are and the mystery unfolding in each and every moment of your life.
“The awakening of the human spirit is a homecoming. Yet ironically our sense of familiarity often militates against our homecoming. When we are familiar with something, we lose the energy, edge, and excitement of it.” Hegel said, ‘”Das Bekannte uberhaupt ist darum, weil es bekannt ist, nicht erkannt”- that is, “Generally, the familiar, precisely because it is familiar, is not known.” This is a powerful sentence. Behind the façade of the familiar, strange things await us. This is true of our homes, the place where we live, and, indeed, of those with whom we live. Friendships and relationships suffer immense numbing through the mechanism of familiarization. We reduce the wildness and mystery of person and landscape to the external, familiar image. Yet, the familiar is merely a façade. Familiarity enables us to tame, control, and ultimately forget the mystery. We reduce the wildness and mystery of person and landscape to the external, familiar image. Yet, the familiar is merely a façade. Familiarity enables us to tame, control, and ultimately forget the mystery. We make our peace with the surface as image and we stay away from the Otherness and fecund turbulence of the unknown that it masks. Familiarity is one of the most subtle and pervasive forms of human alienation.

Oh God, help me to use your gift of imagination, to seek beyond the familiar, the so-called ordinary.
Open the eyes of my heart to your wonder-full presence in each and every person I meet.
In each and every place I will visit.
In each and every action of my day.
I will never be alone, even though, my thoughts and feelings want to tell me so.
You are Emanuel-You are God with us,
As you are always with all of your creation.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Motherhood - The Neighborhood of the Sacred

I was on vacation. It was Sunday and I was at Mass. As I sat in my pew, a family of four plus a little little baby came and sat in front of me. Everything was fine, that is, for a while. Then the baby, as babies do, began to fuss. Then a process began. As the fussy baby became too much for one person, it was handed on to the next. That appeared to satisfy and calm the little one for a while. Then it all began again. Each person was able to provide some peace and calm to the little one, if only for a time. It eventually ended up in the arms of the last person. She just laid it on her chest. The child rested, became quiet and went to sleep. The journey was over. It had found its place of rest, security and nourishment, the child had found it’s mother.

What an awe-full, wonder-full, mysterious, sacred vocation, is motherhood? All of these words have such deep meaning. We will always have to look at motherhood through these lenses and so we can be caught up in it’s awe and mystery. To be caught up in the understanding of the holy, sacred, and sanctified mission, which women are so privileged to be invited to journey on.

When we approach the sacred, when we deal with mystery, which is the essence of motherhood, we must always be prepared, otherwise so much will be missed. So much will be missed because we will be so caught up in what is seen, we will miss the unseen. Why has God chosen a human being to be the place for the reception of His new revelation? That is what each and every child is, a new revelation of God. In each child, the incarnation continues. Each and every child in the womb is a part of God never before revealed to the world. God has chosen this woman to provide flesh for the human existence of a new unique revelation of who He is. Motherhood is the entrance path into a neighborhood called the sacred, it must be approached with awe, reverence and respect. This neighborhood must be approached with awe, reverence and respect. If not, God’s intention of invitation to co-creation, to say the least, is either missed or ignored. The result is the dark side of motherhood which so much is experienced in the world of loveless existence. The entrance key to the mystery is itself, too, a mystery. It is sacred. It is holy. The key is, the celebration of the sacrament of human sexuality. In the sacrament of human sexuality, the divine is encountered. New life is created. When sexuality is viewed through the lens of God’s intentions we are then able to see in the celebration and encounter with the sacred, with the divine, with God. We are caught up in wonder, we are caught up in awe, we are caught up in the mystery, and in that place, we experience prayer. Yes, what I am saying is a happy, healthy celebration of your sexuality is an essential part of your prayer life. How often is human sexuality seen through the lenses of love laden mystery, a God-centered mystery? I like when we pray at Mass that “we may be taught the sanctity of human love”, “be shown the value of family life”.

I came across the following quotation, in which I have found food for thought over many years;

“Mothers beauty infinitely surpasses the glory of nature. It is an unimaginable beauty, the only one that you can imagine this woman attending to stirrings of her infants. Christ never speaks of beauty. It is the only company He keeps, but under it’s true name: Love. Beauty comes from love, as daylight comes from the sun. As the sun comes from God, as God comes from a woman exhausted from childbirth. Fathers go to war, to the office, sign contracts. Fathers are in charge of society. That is their business, their great affair. A father is someone who represents something other than himself in his relationship to his child, and who believes in what he represents: law, reason, experience. Society. A mother does not represent anything in relationship to her child. She does not stand in relationship to it, but is around it, inside, outside, everywhere. She raises the child up at arms length and presents it to eternal life. Mothers are in charge of God. That is their passion, their sole occupation, their loss and their empowerment at the same time. To be a father is to play the role of father. To be a mother is an absolute mystery, a mystery without reference point, a absolute that is not relative to anything, an impossible task that is nevertheless fulfilled, even by bad mothers. Even bad mothers stand in their nearness to be absolute, they have an intimacy with God that fathers will never know……. Mothers have no rank, no pull. They are born at the same time as their children. Mothers grow up in life at the same time as their child and as the child is equal of God, from the time of its birth, from the beginning mothers are inside the holy of holies, fulfilled by everything, ignorant of everything that fulfills them. And if all true beauty comes from love, where does love come from? From what matter does it matter derived, from what nature its super-naturalness, beauty comes from love. Loves comes from attention. Simple attention to the simple: humble attention to the humble things: living attention to all lives, and surely to that of the little cup in its cradle, incapable of feeding itself, incapable of everything but tears. The first knowledge of the newborn, the single possession of the prince of the crib, is his gift of complaint, his claim on the love far away, his screams in the direction of a life too distant-and it is mother that gets up and responds, it is God who wakes up and arises, responding every time, every time attentive above and beyond weariness. The weariness of the first days of the world, a weariness of the first years of childhood. Apart from that, there is nothing. There is no greater holiness then that of mothers exhausted by diapers to be washed, formula to be heated and baths to be given. Men hold the world. Mothers hold the eternal element that holds the world and men.” [Bobbin, The Secret of St. Francis Assisi]

God says to you and I, “from the beginning I have loved you. I now love you, and I will love through all of eternity. I love you so much I want you to have life, and life to the fullest. I love you so much I have chosen this special place within this special person where you will learn of my love. Where you will find a place of new beginning. I love you so much I will always be with you. I have chosen this person to communicate that reality to you. That is why she will gaze into your eyes and you will gaze into hers. Through that gaze you will come to know my love for you.”

That is what I see when mother and child are caught up in “the gaze”. When I am at Mass on vacation, I get caught up so often in the interplay between mother and child. When I celebrate Mass, I also have to admit I get caught up with that same wonder-full interplay. There is something going on with that interplay. Whatever I have to say is being ignored. There is something more satisfying, more full-filling being offered in that interplay for the mother and child than what I have to offer. Of that I am certain.

Another day, when I was at Mass. In front of me was a mother and child. The mother placed the child in front of her at arms length. They gazed at each other for some time. The child gazed at his mother was a steady silent gaze. Then its face broke into a wondrous smile, from its lips joy is screeched and its little hands began to clap happily. The child rejoiced that it was loved and the face of the young mother shone with a beauty that no artist could capture. From then on, whenever I hear a screech at Mass, that is my vision. I am jealous.

There is also the dark side of motherhood, there are many books written about those who have birth mothers but not life-giving mothers. There is a vast difference between giving birth and giving life. Not to have a mother’s nourishing, loving , caring presence has to be grieved for by an every growing number of people. There are men and women who have to come to terms with the fact that the nurturing presence is missing from their life, in fact, it never existed in their lives. This terminal death, then, becomes a Pascal death, leading to a new and richer life than they have at present. The feelings of anger and resentment must be processed. I was told a long time ago that the word feel can be spelled out feel, experience, express, let go. I have dealt with a great deal of people who just want to feel and then pray about it. The result, nothing changes. On the other hand, when you write out, not type out, your feelings in honesty. When you write out your feelings, not sugar-coating anything and express all the pain of loss and abandonment, wonderful things happen. There is a welcomed feeling of release and relief as God is welcomed into the emptiness caused by the release of the feelings. I always encourage those who write out the feeling of anger, resentment, shame, betrayal, etc. to always end by writing “God you can have all of this. I do not want it anymore. Please fill up the emptiness this has caused, with your love.” You sign your name and then BURN it, not tear it up! In the prison I had the kids write and rip on the condition that when they were released they would write and burn . We must always remember that there is nothing in the spiritual we do once forever. We have to repeat it over and over and over.

Each year on Mother’s Day, I always make an effort to women who became mothers yet they were never able to experience the physical touch of their child. These mothers were never able to engage in the sacred gaze, these mothers were never able to experience the joy, wonder of what nursing at the breast means. Their child lived but was not born. I always make a point to congratulate the great men who see the vocation of motherhood in their beloved. They make sure that their motherhood is respected, reverenced and celebrated. Some great men do this with such energy and vitality, they are uncommon men who walk among their fellow men.

To all the men who to fulfill responsibility of motherhood, you too, are to be saluted and honored on this day. To all the foster mothers, adopted mothers and step-mothers who give so much of their essence to be the living presence for their daughters, I salute you. To all who qualify for the wonder-full title of MOTHER, have a great day. It is not going to happen again for 364 days. Your children give you one day so you can give of yourself to them for the rest of the year. I say not! “If mama ain’t happy…ain’t nobody happy!” Mothers you come first. Your husband comes second. Your kids come third. [In dad’s case, he comes first, mom comes second and the kids come third. The kids always come third.] This is the recipe for a healthy family. Bishop Morneau, from Green Bay, has this to say, “A healthy love of God and the healthy love of another person, begins with a healthy love of self”. Single moms, you first of all have to take care of you. You have to be healthy, so you can model for your children what it means to be healthy. What it means to be able to choose happiness and so come to be whole people, holy people.

May the Holy Spirit guide and direct you through the neighborhood of motherhood.

May the Holy Spirit strengthen and energize you on your journey through the neighborhood of motherhood.

May the Holy Spirit grant you perseverance so that one day your journey through this neighborhood is ended. You will then enter into that GRAND NEIGHBORHOOD of Grand-Motherhood.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Wounded Healer Meets Wounded

Oh God, help to me to believe the truth about myself,
no matter how BEAUTIFUL it is.

This morning I was having my morning cocktail with breakfast. My morning cocktail Total, cheerios, All Bran, Craisins, banana and soy milk. Added to that is the “thought of the day” from the morning paper. Today it read, “The world does not require so much to be informed as reminded”, Hanna H. More, English religious writer. That is exactly for the reason for this effort. It is not designed to tell you anything new but to remind you, “to be who you already are” [Merton].

“Life is not a problem to be solved, it is a mystery to be lived.” How often do you and I hear that expression? Is it possible then my life is “a mystery story” which can best be understood, only, through the lenses of the whole life story of Jesus, who became the Christ. The historical Jesus, became the Christ of God, through His Pascal Mystery. We too, can become Christian, only when we follow the same path, the same way. There is no Christianity without crucifixion . Through the process of suffering, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, we are led to ask for a new spirit for our new life. This new life is yours and mine precisely because of our experience in participating in the above mentioned mystery. Because of our experience we see we are now opened up to a new way of believing and active living. We also open ourselves up to the never-ending quest for answers to the mystery of love, life, death and rebirth. We are encouraged to embrace, to live with the question so we can someday, through some very ordinary event, be awakened to the beginning of the answer. Is this the end? No. The reason why every answer will itself lead us into a new question, or questions. The more we know, the more we want to find out. “The nearer we get to God, the less we know about God.” This process continues our whole life long. It is endless, sorry, my mistake, it is not endless. The questioning is only endless in this life. In the next life, the questioning ceases, because St. Paul says, “We will know as we ourselves are known”.

There is great comfort in the following quotation from Carl Jung’s essay, “Stages of Life”. In this he tells us,
“The serious problem in life, however, are never fully solved. If they should appear to be so, it is a sure sign that something has been lost. The meaning and purpose of our problems seems to lie not in the solution but in our working at it incessantly. This alone preserves stultification and petrifaction.”

In the last posting I began the introduction to Thomas the Apostle, who was not present when the Risen Christ appeared to the rest of the disciples. He is told by his fellow disciples , “we have seen the Lord”. He wanted none of that. So he said to the, “Unless I see the marks of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” To me this appears not to have anything to do with doubt. This is not about doubt, this is about disbelief. To my way of thinking, Thomas has given doubt a bad name! I’ve heard so many sermons about “Doubting Thomas” and to be honest, given a few myself. All of this was a mistake. I like the definition of faith which defines “faith as doubt grounded in hope”. That provides us with a positive understanding of doubt. George Hermes states the following, “The starting point and chief principle of every science and hence of Theology also, is that not only methodical doubt, but positive doubt. One can believe only what one is perceived to be true from reasonable ground. Consequently, one must have the courage to continue doubting until one has found reasonable grounds to satisfy their reason.”

The following is a quotation from the book, Living Liturgy. The Gospel story is usually called the story of “Doubting Thomas”. Indeed, this characterization of Thomas effects the translation of verse 27: “Do not doubt, but believe”. [NRSV] Read in this way, the story describes Thomas’ movement from doubt to faith and leads us to set up doubt and belief as opposites. This creates two problems.
First, doubt is NOT the opposite of faith and one does not preclude to the other.
For example, the Gospel of Matthew, the disciples the Risen Christ in Galileh, just before His ascension. Matthew says of the disciples, “When they saw Him, they worshipped, but they doubted.” [28:17] Apparently, they believed enough to worship the Risen Christ, but doubts persist. Doubt and faith CAN coexist.

The second problem with the traditional reading is this: it misrepresents the theology of the Evangelists. Our Lectionary accurately reflects what the Evangelists wrote: Jesus responds to Thomas assertion, “I would not believe” [20:25] by chiding him, “do not be unbelieving, but believe.” [20:27] In other word, the issue is not that Thomas doubted, but he did not believe.”

The Risen Christ carries in His body the results of His crucifixion. He has wounded hands, feet and side. In the above encounter with Thomas, He uses His wounds to bring Thomas to faith.

As we look at our life journey, we encounter the same reality that Thomas encountered. It is happening today through many people who minister to those who are suffering inside and outside the Church environment. When we suffer a loss of any kind, we need to hear the story of someone who has gone before us, and experienced the same trauma, person or persons who are now alive, healthy and well. Survivors who are living life and living life to the fullest. We need transformed people in our lives who have been to their Calvary. People who chose not to stay in their crucifixion, who chose life, and a new, richer way of living. We need people in our lives who chose life over death, people who chose to be survivors rather than the victim, people who are now living the transformed, transfigured and consequently richer lives.

A number of years ago, I met a young girl, let’s call her Patricia, who was a junior in high school. Later I had the privilege being the celebrant at her marriage. One day she called me and told me she had lost a baby. Over the next few of years, I received the same call two more times. When she had lost her third child, I said to her, “Patricia, I don’t have a clue what to say to you. I can’t even guess what you are suffering, but I will have Julie Gonzales call you.” A curt question came back, “and how many babies has she lost?”. “Five in one year”, was my answer. (Julie was pregnant with quads and lost all four babies. She then got pregnant with twins and lost one of the twins and eventually Erica was born. She is now serving in the Armed Forces.) I journeyed with Julie through the grieving process. I never allow individuals who have gone through the grieving process not to share the wonderful gifts that have come to them from their crucifixions and resurrection. They were the suffering Jesus, who are now the living presence, of the Risen Christ. It is their vocation now, their calling, to be the ones who will allow the suffering person to enter into their woundedness.

It is in this encounter that the presence of the Risen Christ becomes a reality. Because of their experience of the Pascal Death they are now a source of transformation and transfiguration. This encounter happens in the thousands upon thousands of support groups and 12 Step Programs throughout our country and throughout the world. We have the support groups for parents who have lost babies, and groups for cancer survivors. This is what happens in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gambler’s Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, etc, etc. In the fellowship of the 12 Step Program, stories are told in brutal simplicity and sincerity, thereby exposing the deepest wounds. From this encounter, between the wounded healer and the wounded, hope is exchanged. “Heart speaks to heart.” St. Augustine has these wonderful words, “in my deepest wounds, I see your glory and it dazzles me.”

Suffering of itself has no redeeming value. When it is brought to prayer, when it is brought to Eucharist, it is transformed and we are transfigured by God’s grace, and are slowly transfigured into the living person of the Living Christ. As I look back on my life, like everybody else, there is pain and suffering. My experience, however, is that after each painful experience a person is placed in my life with whom I can identify and to whom I can offer hope and understanding. This hope and understanding would not be present in my life had I not gone through that particular pain and suffering. This is a result of God’s transfiguring and transforming love. It is pure gift, grace.

You also will find there will never be anything you have gone through or will go through that God does not take and weave into the pattern of your life. “In God’s world, there are no trashcans,” [Rohr]. God is the great recycler. Because it is woven into the pattern of your life, people will be placed in your life who will learn from you. From telling your story, which is revealing your woundedness, they too will experience hope renewal and resurrection. In God’s mercy and compassion, “Death is not an end, death is a beginning.” Your wounds brought to prayer have become sacred wounds. A place for wounded people to be admitted to, so they can encounter the light, life, love of God, which is now present in your wounds. Their wounds no longer are a place of guilt, fear and shame. Their wounds reveal to them what was been revealed to you, which is the light, life and love of a Prodigal God, or a higher power. Now they too, have a story to tell. Now they too, have good news to share. Now they too, become good news. Now they too, become Gospel. Now they too, are beacons of faith, hope and love, in a world of darkness. Yes, in their lives, that place of death, is exactly where the fountain of hope springs up. Yes, Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ lives within you and me right now.

“Life then is not a problem to be solved, it is a mystery to be lived.” We are living out that mystery right now. “Behold, I make all things new. It is springing forth. Do you not see it?”