Saturday, January 30, 2010

Our Weakness...God's Opportunity

This is the continuation of the reflection of the opening prayer, of the Third Sunday Of Ordinary Time, begun last week. This week, we pick up the prayer, was we pray,

"So that the limits of our faults and weaknesses may not obscure the vision of Your Glory or keep us from the peace you have promised."

Our Father-God is Always faithful to His promises. God never reneges on His promises. We as human beings, on the other hand, come up short again and again. We are told what we have in our everyday experience that is what we have with God, we therefore expect God to do the same. He cannot. God has to be forever faithful to his promises, because He has to be faithful to Himself. We are His Beloved forever, and, for always. We are His 'delight', and nothing we can ever do, will be able to change that. We may forget, or better, we will forget who we are. God can never forget who He is, and who we are, in His love. The scriptures are given to us, to remind us remind of the fact, "it is not that I love God but that he loves me, it is not that I give love, but that I accept it. We then, need to be reminded, again and again, our faults and weaknesses not only do not get in the way of God's love for us, they actually reveal how deep and mind-blowing that love is. Yes, indeed it is, mystery. Each and every time we are drawn into the mystery of our God's gracious love and mercy, we are further enlightened, and enlivened, for the continuation of the journey. We are forced to ask the question, "can it really be this good?" The answer is "yes", and what is more amazing, it is better than we can ever imagine. That is the reason I like to repeat, over and over the great words of Henri Nouwen:

"God's mercy is greater than our sins. There is an awareness of sin that does not lead to God but to self-pre-occupation. Our temptation is to be so impressed by our sins and failings and so overwhelmed by our lack of generosity that we get stuck in a paralyzing guilt. It is the guilt that says: "I am too sinful to deserve God's mercy." It is the guilt that leads to introspection instead of directing our eyes to God. It is the guilt that has become an idol and therefore a form of pride. Lent is the time to break down this idol and to direct our attention to our loving Lord. The question is: "Are we like Judas, who was so overcome by his sin that he could not
believe in God's mercy any longer and hanged himself, or are we like Peter who returned to his Lord with repentance and cried bitterly for his sins? "The season of Lent, during which winter and spring struggle with each other for dominance, helps us in a special way to cry out for God's mercy."

So then, our sins, faults, and apparent weaknesses are actually the
opportunities we afford God to be the God Jesus Christ came to reveal to us. Our God has a great love for us. A love we will never realize until and unless we begin to grow in the acceptance of our faults and weaknesses. A love that is freely offered, and a love that waits to be accepted. Is it always accepted? I am sorry to say, no. We make the mistake of keeping our eyes on the sin , fault, weakness, and never lift our eyes to the merciful, compassionate gaze of our Lover.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

New Freedom...Deeper Happiness

The opening prayer of this weekend's Mass, can be seen as the continuation of the thought of the opening prayer of last week's celebration. Last week's prayer was an expression in the belief, as all prayer is, "that even the tension and tragedies of sin cannot frustrate the loving plans of our Father God". (We must always remember our God ONLY has loving plans for you and I. Because of the nature of God, because of who He is, it cannot be otherwise). This week, that thought is taken further. This week we express our belief in the fact that the love our Father God offers to us always, that is ALWAYS, exceeds the furthest expression of our human longing. Why is this so?

Because our God IS greater than our human heart. Yes, that is a fact, a reality, we must always keep before us, and never lose sight of. Easy to say, but so hard to do. Whatever we think, whatever we say, whatever we feel, even whatever we know, is NOT God. God is always more.

"Direct each thought, each effort of our lives.." This is where the Holy Spirit comes in. The Holy Spirit will give us the strength, the guidance, to make good decisions, to do good deeds, but will not do the action for us. God's love for us is so great we are always free to say yes or to say no. God is...


Yet we are always free to respond, with or "yes" or "no", otherwise we are not human. We then will have to do the footwork, we will have to put forth the effort, but in the long run we want God to be God. We will have to surrender to the good orderly direction, and so become who Our God has chosen us to be from all of eternity, the co-creators ,and co-perfectors of His creation. What a dignity has been bestowed on us. In order to fulfill our vocation we will have to make good healthy decisions, for ourselves first, so we can have healthy relationships with those who share our journey. Last, but in no way least, we must have a healthy respect and reverence for the creation we are privileged to be the guests of. That is right, "we have not here a lasting city", this is our temporary home. Just because it our temporary home, this does not afford us the right to trash, use, and abuse it. WE must keep before us this is going to be the dwelling place of our Beloved sisters and brothers, yet to be born. In spite of our best efforts, and our best intentions we come up short again, and again. You and I will be found wanting. Around the 30 year mark we have to face some difficult home truths. We are not the best at anything. To make matters worse, all of our plans have either come up short, or have not worked at all. That is GREAT, (spiritually speaking) because we are forced to accept ourselves as regular human beings, and in doing so, discover for ourselves a Savior. A Savior who was ever and always present, but never called on, or welcomed into our daily living. That has to change.

The change begins, in our 30s. It is then we wake up to the fact our plans have not worked out the way we expected them to work out. We can become angry and resentful, as the result of our expectations. They are after all just PLANNED resentments. Is that the only choice we have ? Thank God it is not. We have another choice to make. This choice, I have to warn you, is not made without a great deal of struggle. That is why this choice is the result of grace, not human effort. Through the journey of the 30s we are GENTLY lead, to the realization we are after all, what God intended us to be, wait for it, spiritual beings having a human experience. We will slowly come to this acceptance, and so be lead to a new and deeper freedom, enjoying a level of happiness we never thought was possible. God's way is definitely, not our way, and our way is not His way until there is that great change of heart, we call conversion. Conversion is, a new way of looking at the same reality. Our new vision comes to us through the lens of God's love, revealed to us through the life, mission, and ministry of Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of God's love, within the human condition. He has come to set the captive in each one of us free. This will not happen without our help, permission and

Here are the questions we all need to face:

What is the part of us we have placed in prison?
What is the part, you and I are punishing?
What is the part that is hidden away in the prison of guilt, and shame?
It is to that part of us, to that person in each one of us, to that place in each one of us that the Jesus Christ, of Luke's Gospel, is speaking to this weekend. Not only this weekend, but each and any every moment we, as spiritual beings continue on our journey within the human condition.

Next week will be a continuation of the reflection on the prayer, as we deal with so called human faults, and weaknesses.

"In my deepest wounds, I see your glory and it dazzles me." St. Augustine.

A dreamer's journey continues.......

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Our First Love...

Whether we want to call it, two thousand and ten, or twenty ten, a new decade, and a new year, is here for both you, and I. We will make the choice, again and again, each day to live, to celebrate this new time given to us. We will make this new time, Kairos time. We will learn to live life , not just survive life. Pope John 23rd, once said "We are not on earth as museum keepers, but to cultivate a flourishing garden"

That which will help us cultivate a colorful, vibrant, vital, verdant
garden, is a positive response to the council of Henri Nouwen, that we claim this fact, again, again, and again, "I am the beloved". Yes, this very simple practice IS, life changing. Then in time, you will find yourself being led to the understanding, that love is not just, an idea, or concept, rather love becomes for us a 'lived experience'.

Nouwen prays as following, "O,Lord....We can only love each other because you have loved us first. Let us know that first love so we can see all human love as a reflection of a greater love, a love without condition or limitation." (Our first LOVE)

The great challenge for us then, is to love as we have been loved. IN this we always are coming up short, we are not divine, we are human, and by nature limited. To love as we have first been loved, we must be connected to that FIRST LOVE. That is why we have the sacraments of Word & Eucharist and Reconciliation.(Confession). These sacraments are offered to us, so we can have life, and have it to the fullest. When we either avoid, or deny ourselves this Source of Life we should not be surprised, when we find our lives empty, disconnected, and lifeless. We are now left to depend on second love, which by it's very nature cannot do what The First Love has already done.The memory of The First Love is always with us. It cannot be replaced, no matter how hard we may try. To expect that to happen, is, to court disaster. We all have gone down that path, and the result is addiction, alienation, discouragement, and entrance into many, many other places of darkness.

This can look and sound very bleak?? Yes!! It does. This is where the great gift of faith comes in. You see we have to learn, and what a difficult thing it is to learn, faith IS not faith until and unless it is the only thing we have to hang on to. This brings me to the opening prayer of this, the second week in Ordinary time. What great encouragement, what great hope, what great strength is offered to you and I, in these words.

'Almighty and ever present Father, your watchful care reaches from end to end and orders all things in such power that even the tensions the tragedies of sin CANNOT FRUSTRATE your loving plan. Help us to embrace your will, give us the strength to follow your call, so that YOUR truth may live in our hearts and reflect peace to those who believe in your love.'

The tragedy of Haiti is so present before us. These, our suffering sisters and brothers, must be uppermost in our thoughts, and in our prayers. We must also bring to prayer the parts of our world that have crumbled, or are beginning to crumble.
God does NNNOOOTTT intend this to happen. What will He do? He will take the rubble of our lives, and through His power, and our cooperation, give to us things we could never imagine. Okay, let us all say together,


The dreamer's journey continues....

Saturday, January 9, 2010

From Fall --- to Beloved

Did you by any chance see last Sunday's Family Circus ? It was really great, actually it was wonder-full. It was not only a great cartoon, but within the pictures presented, there was, both hidden and revealed, one of the essential messages of the spiritual life. A message once accepted and believed in, changes our whole outlook on life. It is a belief we grow into over time. It is a belief we are never too young, or too old, to learn, and begin to PRACTICE. The cartoon begins with a little girl falling and hitting her chin on the ground. There is a look of amazement on her face as she looks around. (Which one of us is not surprised when we take a fall?) There is no one around so she gets up and heads out. There is a little bit of speed indicated here. She reaches home, goes in the door, looks around the kitchen, again there is no one there. She then heads up the stairs. She rushes into the bedroom, where her mother is making the bed. The little girl, with OPEN ARMS reaches out to her mother. The final picture is priceless. We see the mother bending down to the child's level. We see a great look of concern on her face, as she
reaches out to place one of her arms around her child. What happens next ? Well it is then, and ONLY THEN, that the child let loose her great big howl!!!!!!! What a picture to treasure. How many times have we been in that same situation, in that same reality? What has been the lesson, what has been the gift received from "the fall'???

That last picture also describes our understanding of God, because of His incarnation. In the incarnation, God becoming human, God has come down to our level, the fully human level. He has done so, so we will always be able to experience His constant presence, so we can experience the constant hugging of our God. Our God has taken up residence, and has made His residence in our humanity. So, when we come home to what it means to be truly human, there our God is waiting to embrace us.

To my mind's eye, those series of cartoon pictures captures a reality, which is essential for us to have, so, we in turn can have a healthy spirituality. As human beings, we fall again and again. Falling, and failing IS part and parcel, of our human experience. In many, and various ways we encounter the great pain that accompanies failure. What is essential for us is to have a place where we feel warm, safe, and secure. A sanctuary, as it were, where we can express our sorrow, shed our tears. We all are in deep need of that place where we receive the welcoming embrace, the caring arm around our shoulder, and if you are not an affects person, you are reached out to with a reassuring, strong hand. Such a place is essential for you, and I for our spiritual, and psychological health. We each must have that place, we must have that person, that sanctuary, where we are embraced in our
tears, and fears, without question, restriction, or reservation. It is okay that you are hurting, and in that hurting place you are received without condition. In that warm embrace we can cry some more. Many times it is ONLY within the secure embrace, can we too, like the little girl of the cartoon, really begin to howl. What relief there is. It is okay to be sad, angry, disappointed, teed off, (to put it
politely), and there is no one to say "you should not feel that way". Instead you receive the message, you are not alone, you are here, you are safe, and above all, you are loved. You are loved as you are right now. You are not a stranger, an alien, rather you are loved as you are and where you are at. In other words you are the BELOVED, His beloved. We are always asked to remember, it is not about how we see or feel about God, rather it is about how GOD, sees us and feels, about us, they will never be the same. We will ALWAYS sell God short. As Saint John says" it is not about us loving God, it is about God loving us. It is NOT about giving love, it is about RECEIVING love. The beloved does not earn, deserve, or qualify for the love of the BELOVED, all that can be done is, SURRENDER to the loved offered. A lifelong process.

So I ask you to again visit last week's blog ,and reread the second last paragraph. Read it SLOWLY, LET it sink deep down into the depths. When you are finished, then, and only then read the following:

"Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply. It is like discovering a well in the desert. Once you have touched wet ground, you want to dig deeper. I have been doing a lot of digging lately and I know that I am just beginning to see a little stream bubbling up through the dry sand. I have to keep digging because that little stream comes from a huge reservoir beneath the desert of my life." -Henry Nowen

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Gift of Homeless Child

Christmas Day has come and gone. Well not completely gone. Some of us are carrying around an extra pound or two, as a result of the festivities which accompany the celebration of the birth of The God-man. We celebrate, and now continue to celebrate, that fact that Love became a human being. He became like us in all things, except sin. In this wonderful mystery of Love becoming human, we come to realize, our first love has caught up with us again. First loves, are always special, and are never forgotten. As we live in that reality, therein a challenge for you and I. We have come from the love of God. A love experienced in The Community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Would it be fair to say that that really is the original Holy Family? All of us have left the place where we were one. We were one with God, and we were one with one another, in the love of God. We have left that place, which is our original and permanent home, to enter into our second and transitory home of our human experience. Like all exiles, what we carry with us, is a memory of the first home, and our first love. Being in exile is not easy. I can tell you that truthfully, from my own experience, of living a life, in exile for 47 years. The memories of home, and loved ones, are always with you. From time to time your heart really aches for the familiar. The familiar home voices, accent, streets, neighborhood, and above all countryside. The exile is an exile forever until a home, a sanctuary or the spirit is created. That creation like all creation is an ongoing process. The process demands of us to connect again and again with the Aishling of God, the dream of God, for us. For us as individuals, as family, and as the family of humankind. We must allow the light, life and love, of God to guide us as we make this journey, all the while a sanctuary is being created. This creation is the work of grace, God’s love in action. This is a journey, this is a process, we make one moment at a time. A journey we take one step at a time. It is our mysterious, sacred hike.

A few times on a hike, out of state, I have come across fellow Irish-exiles on the trail. It was the sound of the accents from our greetings that led to the question, “And where are you from?”. This led to a long conversation. Why? Because it takes an Irish person at least five minutes just to say “hello”, and “how is it going?” There is joy and laughter in the conversation. A conversation always tinged with a sadness. One knows as good as this is, it is going to stop. There has to be, “the moving on”. Because of the encounter, you move on a little lighter in your step, your spirit has been brightened by the meeting of a fellow exile.

“The savage loves his native shore, though rude the soil and chill the air, well then may Erin’s sons adore. Their isle, which nature formed so fair.” [James Orr.]

Exiles need fellow exiles. To my way of thinking, our Father must have looked down on us, His exiled children, and what He saw moved Him to compassion. He saw us at times being lost, dispirited, scared, lonely, disconnected, being battered by feelings of alienation and abandonment. So, He sent His son into exile, with us. A son, who came, emptied of the trappings of divinity so he could be immersed and be able to embrace all that it means to be human. Jesus, God in exile, embraced your humanity and my humanity. He embraced it to the point where He too, knew what it was to be lonely, abandoned, betrayed, scared, hungering for human companionship. He not only drank from the cup of our humanity, He drained it to the last drop, to the bitter end.

So we would not be threatened, God comes to us as a vulnerable baby. It is as if to say to you and I, “I am not here to scare you, to threaten you, to trigger feelings of guilt, fear and shame. I am here to remind you of the love which you are loved from the very beginning. The love from which you came from and the love to which you shall return. Of all my creations, there is no newborn more vulnerable than the human child. Here I am-I am with you. That is why I am called Emmanuel. I am here to live with you-to suffer with you and to die for you.” The following is a quotation from Henry Nowen, the quotation which we can imagine the Christ-child saying to you and I;

“I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, in you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted your together in your mother’s womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair of your head and guided you every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch. I will give you food, I will satisfy all your hunger and give you drink that quench all of your thirst. I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own, as I know you as my own. You belong to me. I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover, and your spouse. . . yes, even your child. . . Wherever you are, I will be. Nothing will ever separate us, we are one.”

As we begin to listen, as we begin to accept the reality of what that tiny voice says to us, our home, our sanctuary is being constructed. We will now have a place to call home, here on earth. What a gift this homeless Child bestows upon us, this gift is given to open hand, not, clinched fists.

A dreamer's journey continues....