Saturday, March 27, 2010


Last week we left off with the younger son, the rebellious one, back safe and secure, in the home of his prodigal Father. His dream for you and I, is to live a life that is grounded in the reality of His love. A love, that to the calculating eye, makes no sense. (Thank God, our God is like that.) This son has returned, not as hired hand, as he wanted to be, he has come back to his inheritance, as son. He did not earn it, actually, far from it. He did not deserve it, he was just given it. There is a little battle here. The son wanted to be as, "one of the hired hands",. Hired hands come and go, a son, has to remain. He has also the responsibility of growing up to be, a father. To be a responsible father to himself, and to future generations. What a wonder- full example that son had to model his fatherhood on. This goes for women as well. Women have to be responsible mothers to themselves ,first, then becoming healthy mothers, of the coming generations. All of what has been just written demands, a great deal of hard work. Giving birth to who we really are, is never easy. This birthing cannot happen, without grace. It is grace that calls us to this new reality. A reality that emerges from a place , and at a time we least expect. This birthing is a NEVER ending process.

So, the party is going on. A celebration, that is going on to celebrate the return of the son, safe and sound. A celebration, the father said "has to happen". He had no choice but to celebrate. Because of this, there is one very unhappy camper-the eldest son. Brother of the rebellious one. Up until now he has been the hardworking, obedient one. That is up to now. Now when he sees what has happened, he goes ballistic on the father. He is so caught up in his anger and resentment he does not address him as father. He does not recognize
his relationship with his brother. He calls him "that son of yours". The father must have been taken aback by the appearance of this aspect of this son, who up to now, appeared so respectful. He now appears to be full of anger and resentment. He will not go into the party. His resentment is preventing him from joining the celebration. How sad that picture is. The standoff between the father who is celebrating, and the son standing there, seemingly unmoved by what has transpired. There we have the confrontation, between thanksgiving, gratitude, and resentment. The battle that rages in your soul, and mine. These two realities cannot coexist. They are mutually exclusive. We have to make the decision, are we going with the desire to be the prodigal mother/ father, or are we going to live out our lives in resentment. We have the choice of showing compassion to the rebellious, just like the father, or turn our backs and live our lives in isolation.

John'O Donohue has written the following, in his great classic 'ANAM CARA",

"To the resentful eye, everything is begrudged. People who allowed the canker of resentment into their vision can never enjoy who they are or what they have. They are always looking outward others with resentment. Perhaps they are resentful because they see others as more beautiful, more gifted, or richer than themselves. The resentful eye lives out of its own inner poverty and forgets its own inner harvest."

In order to enter the great celebration of, death and resurrection, let us bring both the rebellious, and the resentful parts of us to the reconciling love of our Prodigal Father. We die a little each time we acknowledge the fact this reconciliation is not the result of anything we can do. The reconciliation will come in God's time not in our time, nor unfortunately, according to our schedule. We will have to spend way more time with our rebellious and resentful selves that we really ever wanted to. (At least that is my experience.) This dying is a Paschal Death, bringing with it new life. With this new life comes the experience of a new freedom. A new vitality has entered our lives.

Again O'DONOHUE writes,

"When you awaken to your incredible freedom, the walls of your inner prisons gradually become the thresholds of your new life, your place of new growth".

This new life of real freedom, is God's Ashling, God's dream for you and I. His dream for you and I, is a live to be loved in His reality. "In Him we are to live and move and have our being”. Let us then entrust ourselves, without reservation, to the loving, compassionate embrace of our Prodigal Father. It is real scary to say "not my will, but your will be done". He will take us at our word.
Through the desert of our weakness, and our brokenness, we will be guided ever so gently, to that Promised land were all things, are being made new. In this new, and unfamiliar land we are in the process of becoming, one. We are in the process of becoming, whole. We are in the process of becoming, holy. Yes, it is a painful process. Yes, we enter this experience of dying and rising again and again (Lent is every year). Each time we experience the abandonment at an ever deepening level. We will cry out from a different place , "my God, my God why have toy abandoned me". We enter the fullness of our participation in the dying and rising slowly. We have to gradually prepare for the ongoing immersion into the Paschal Mystery. We must also be prepared for a deepening of the celebration, and all that comes with that. The peace, joy, and love that is beyond our expectation, and our ability to understand. There is a radical
transformation, and transfiguration taking place in us. What that is, is none of our business. Ours is to enjoy, to celebrate, and so fulfill Our God's fondest dream for you and I. We are to be the ongoing, living, breathing, contemporary reality of His BELOVED son, Jesus, who is the Christ.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

R...Radical Change

To those who are new to this blog, we are now in the second year. In an effort to not repeat myself, (which as you know, I do real
Well), I am going to ask you to please go back and reread the blogs of this time last year. That would be the weeks beginning March 4th, 2009.

During this season of Lent, we are made very much aware of three realities. The reality of sin, the reality of God's compassion, and our need for ongoing conversion. Many times we get so caught up in the sin part, we do not focus enough on the compassion part. We are so inclined to believe the bad, and fight the good about ourselves, and the duty of our deepest reality. I like that saying, "God help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how BEAUTIFUL it is."

The wonder-full, beauty-full, mysterious compassion of our God is constantly being revealed to us. This revelation takes place in our ongoing, deepening understanding of who our God really is. This reality is revealed to us, in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the enfleshment of the compassion of God. He came to reveal, to model for us, the real compassion, which will confront our imagined concepts of the same. These will always sell God short. Nobody can forgive us the way our God forgives. His is, an infinite Compassion, and Forgiveness. The experience we have of the forgiveness of others, no matter how good it is, is still limited. God's compassion is unlimited, unrestricted, unconditioned and infinite. Jesus having assumed our humanity, was able, through His mission and ministry, to encounter real people, in real human experiences. In that encounter was able to reveal the mystery of God's unconditioned love for us. He met the people as they were, doing what was their lot in life. They were greeted with no judgment, no condition. "You are who you are, and I love you. Will you allow Me to love you?”. This to my mind was the approach of Jesus, and nothing has changed in the meantime. That was his approach to The Samaritan Woman, to the woman caught in adultery, to Zacchaeus (up a tree), and Levi collecting taxes. All were, in the minds of the many, people to be condemned, avoided, and shunned. Jesus, as the mind and heart of God, sees the essential goodness. As it was, so it is, with you and I. Thank God we have those consoling words of scripture, "not as man sees does God see, because man see the appearance but God looks into the heart." When he looks into our hearts, all he sees is the indwelling of His family, the Holy Trinity. In that loving gaze, into our hearts, all our God sees is, LOVE.

Fr.. Rohr points out this amazing fact, 75% of the parables of Jesus were all about mercy and compassion. And people say I repeat myself?.
My favorite, it the Parable of The Prodigal Father. In that gospel we meet THREE people we encounter each and every moment of our spiritual journey. They are present in each and every one of us. It has been pointed out, the younger son, the rebellious one, is us in the first half of life. The resentful one is you and I, in the second half of life. We as the prodigal father/mother must grow in our unconditioned love of both. We must grow in reconciliation with both so we can life a fuller, and a more joyful life. This reconciliation process involves a change.

Change. Who likes change? We all like certainty, we all like the familiar. To change, we have to let go of something, and wait for, as of yet, the unknown. That is what Paschal death is all about. That is why we celebrate that reality year after year, because it is our reality day after day, moment after moment -The change, the new life that comes to us, from death and loss. There are times we have to take responsibility for the death, and or loss. Other times we are caught up in the reality of life, and the pain that life brings with it.

The rebellious son, brings it on himself. In a desire to after an apparent good, he brings hurt to his family. When he asks his father for his inheritance. What he is actually saying is, "I cannot wait for you to die to get the money coming to me, so i want it now". Wrong, he had no right to the money. It was the fathers’ to give, after his death. The prodigal father gives him the money. Off goes the son. Away from his home, to a far off land. He leaves home. He turns his back on the place where he was the beloved, and all that it meant to be the beloved. We, too, leave that place where we call home. As we are caught up in those voices that trumpet, oh so loudly, the praises of power, popularity, pleasure, and prestige, we leave home. Henri Nouwen points out, anger, resentment, jealousy, desire for revenge, lust, greed, antagonisms, and rivalries are obvious signs we have left home. He goes on to say that happens quite easily. Rather than focusing on being the beloved, I can be caught up in finding myself brooding about someone else's success, my own loneliness. I can catch myself daydreaming about becoming rich and famous. I get caught up in the fear of not being liked, blamed, put aside, passed over, ignored, persecuted, and killed. This will lead to constantly developing strategies to defend myself and thereby assure myself of the love I need and deserve. With that frame of mind we are in deep doo-doo. We are deep, in the manure of the pig sty. When all seems to be lost, it is then things begin to change.

The gospel say the rebellious one, "coming to his senses", came to remember the truth about who he really was and where he came from. In that moment of conversion, he was on the way BACK, to where his true home lay. [That is what conversion is….turning around and going the opposite direction.] That memory of the place where he was the beloved, started him on the journey homeward. As it is so easy for us to leave home we need to constantly be vigilant of where our thoughts are, and where they are leading us to. Lent is the season when we are asked to face that which we allow, to force us from our true home. Lent affords the opportunity to reclaim, who we are as the Beloved (son/daughter). Lent provides the great opportunity to rethink what is of lasting value, rather than concentrating on that what is of its nature , transitory.

It is in our pig sties, our Good Shepherd finds us, or can I say, catches up with us. In that pig sty we are weak, hungry, and discouraged. We are lost in our guilt, fear and shame. In that place of “lostness”, we are found. Our GOOD Shepherd gently lifts us out of that place of torment, places us on his strong shoulders and carries us home. On that journey home, we come to realize, the Good Shepherd is not only the one who carries us home, he is FOOD for the journey as well. How generous our God is. In that return journey, there is a radical change brought about, by grace. We come to realize and gradual accept, we are never lost. There is no place, where our God cannot find us. There is no limit to His compassion, His love, His forgiveness, or His relentless search for us. The only limit, is the limit, that we impose. Let us look deep inside, and honestly accept that part we shun, avoid, condemn, and persecute. We have created our own pig sty. We must invite the Good Shepherd to come and work the miracle of his reconciling, transforming love.

"Out of the depths I cry, I cry to you O Lord, Lord hear my cry",
"A humbled and broken heart you will not spurn",
"As far as the east is from the west so far have your sins been placed behind you"

Next week….. "The tough one"

Sunday, March 14, 2010


"God of all compassion, Father of all goodness....when weakness causes discouragement, let Your compassion fill us with Hope.....lead to the beauty of Easter joy. Let us keep that in mind, we are praying for Easter joy. That is a particular joy which comes, from us being immersed in the Paschal Mystery. We enter Easter joy, as we leave behind the suffering, and death of the false self. This is a real crucifixion. A crucifixion, where we join The Crucified One, as He went from 'My God my God why have you abandoned me" to “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.” There is no Easter joy apart from that journey with the suffering, historical Jesus. That is how the historical Jesus became the Christ of God. We cannot become Christian, unless we follow Him, whom we have been called to be, to that place of suffering, and death. This suffering like all suffering, is a mystery.

This mystery has a name, it is called the Paschal Mystery. It is an essential part of us, who are called Christian. This is what Our Baptism call really means for us, on a daily basis. It is only on a daily basis we can enter into and gradually understand this mystery. This will lead us to gain a personal insight as to how we are living out this mystery. You have heard the saying "Life is not a problem to be solved, it is a mystery to be lived". This why we have Lent. This mystery is so vast, and personal, we spend 40 days (LENT) preparing ourselves to celebrate the Paschal mystery. We will take three full days to celebrate [Tridium]. Then we will have another 50 days to come to a new, and more life-giving understanding, as how we encounter that reality, in the reality of our everyday living.

The Paschal Mystery is about death, dying, and entering NEW life. In is not the same as terminal, death. In terminal death, there is death, once, forever. Paschal death, on the other hand is a death we enter again, and again. The pain goes deeper, and the new life we are led to becomes more and more joyous, not necessarily happier. That sounds weird? I have had a great deal of trouble becoming reconciled with that one. I have come to the belief, that it is true. All our pain and suffering, is actually the suffering of Christ, within you and I. Our God suffers in us, through us, and with us. We NEVER suffer alone. We may think it, we may feel it, but at our deepest reality, it is God and us who are doing the suffering. The suffering of the MAN-GOD, led to a new life so our association with Him, and our participation with Him leads us also to a new and transformed life. The pain of death gives way to new life. The pain is not really a death pain it is a life giving pain. It is the birthing pain of you and I, as we enter into the reality of who we really are, in God's plan. This is the pain of the desert journey. The pain of the desert journey leads to the far greater pain of Gethsemane. It was there that Jesus in His loneliness and fear asks that the chalice he will have to drink of, would be taken from Him. We were there in that suffering. We were also present in His body in the excruciating pain of the abandonment of the cross. We were there in His body, so now as we continue the suffering of Christ as His body, He suffers with us. Where He was, we are, where we are so He is. Mystery, to be not understood, but entered into with reverence.

The prayer of this week provides us with the strengthening hope necessary for this journey. Our journey into death, dying, and rising to new life in and with our Savior, Jesus Christ. For me, this is one of the greatest prayers of the whole year. Type it out, and place it in a place you can see it on a daily basis. Say it and reflect on it each and every day. Why? Because it is in our everyday living we constantly encounter the reality of the mystery, so it is each and every day we need this great reassuring gift.

"May our faith, hope, and love, turn
Hatred to love, conflict to peace,
death to eternal life.

This then is the other, "E", of desert. This “E” stands for EFFECTS. Our desert journey brings about, a radical change within you and I. It is a real encounter, with all that it means to be a limited human being, in the crucible, of our every day living. This can and does, when allowed, bring to you and I a peace which is beyond all understanding. We are led through the many deaths, we endure in our daily living, to the real life of our union with Christ. This life reveals a new light into the sacramentality of every moment. This daily encounter with the sacred in each and every person place and event (sacrament) will bring home to us, the great love our God has for us. This love will come to us, not in the people, or places we expect, but in the persons and places we least expect. The Spirit of The RISEN blows where it wills, and we will gradually, and oh so gradually, come to see and accept that reality.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

S... Selfishness...Self-centeredness

“Let us pray for confidence in the love of God and the strength to overcome all our weakness. Father, you have taught us to overcome our sins by prayer, fasting, and works of mercy. When we are discouraged by our weakness, give us confidence in your love.”

This is the opening prayer of this weekend's Mass. How appropriate for this time of Lent when we will be led, by the scriptures, to face the fact that all of us, yes, all of us, are sinners. We have sinned and will in the future sin, again and again. We are in constant need of conversion, and renewal. That is why we have this season of Lent, every year. In Arizona, we have that rite of Spring-Spring Training. Is it because the players have forgotten how to play the game? Of course not. This is the opportunity to get back to basics and practice them again, again, and again, until they become automatic. Then in the heat of a pressure game, they do not have to think of what to do, it comes automatically. That triple play is practiced over and over. We, in the spiritual life, have a triple play as well, it is called prayer, fasting, and alms giving. This triple play is given to us so when we will face the triple threat of "the toxic trinity" (guilt, fear, and shame), we will not have to think, we will have the inner strength, to respond in a spiritually healthy way. In prayer, we will be led, by grace, to an ever-deepening belief that we are the beloved. Nothing that we can or will do, can change that reality. This is a gift that is offered to us, let us pray for the acceptance of that gift. It is in this acceptance our lives have changed by God’s grace not by us.

Lent leads us beyond the guilt, fear, and shame of our sins. We will be led from discouragement to the confidence in the prodigal, extravagant, reckless love our gracious God has for you and I. That is a choice we have to make, not each and every day, no, that choice is made each and every MOMENT. Yes, each and every, NOW moment we are going to be life-givers to ourselves, and a consequence to others. We can also, by our now decisions, be death-dealers to ourselves, and others. We will always see others through the lens of our reality, just as others do not see or cannot see us, except through their reality.
That is very freeing. This brings to the Question, through what lens does God see us? I go back to this prayer of Thomas Merton again, and again;

“Oh great God, Father of all, Whose infinite light is darkness to me, Whose immensity is to me as the void, You have called me forth out of Yourself because you love me in Yourself, and I am a transient expression of Your inexhaustible and eternal reality. If I could not know You, I would be lost in this darkness, I would fall away from You into this void and if You did not hold me to Yourself in the Heart Your only begotten son. Father I love You whom I do not know, and I embrace You whom I do not see, and I abandon myself to You…because Your love in me Your only begotten son. You see Him in me, You embrace Him in me, because He has willed to identify Himself completely with me by that love which has brought Him to death, for me, on the cross…You have willed to see me only in Him, but in willing this You have willed to see me more really as I am for the sinful self is not my real self, it is not the self You have wanted for me, only the self that I have wanted for myself. And, I no longer want this false self. But now Father, I come to You in your Son’s self for it is in His Sacred Heart that He has taken possession of me and destroyed my sins and it is He who presents me to you. And where? In the sanctuary of His own Heart.?”

That prayer is, for me, a great source of hope and encouragement as I face those tough, confronting words of,1JOHN:8,10,
" If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us...If we say we have not sinned, we make HIM a liar, and His Word is not in us.”

In Lent, we also pray this prayer, “We are to master our sinfulness and conquer our pride". Easier said than done. During our Lenten journey, we have to face the facts that we are selfish and self-centered. We are caught up in what the "I" wants, rather than what God wants for us, and from us. Sin is saying "NO" to God's love and yes to the love of self, which is opposed, and in conflict with God's love for us. We get caught up in control, comparison, and competition, and lose sight of the fact that which is essential, is FREE. This is the "S" of DESERT. It is a real encounter with our powerlessness to do anything that is good. We ALWAYS need grace, and apart from grace nothing of any spiritual value can be accomplished by us. The ONLY thing we have to offer to God, which is all of our own doing is, our sins. This is hard to accept. Acceptance is essential for spiritual growth.
Peter van Breemen writes the following,

"A life without acceptance is a life in which the most basic human need goes unfulfilled. Acceptance means that though there is need for growth I am not forced. I do not have to be the person I am not. Acceptance liberates everything that is in me. Only when I am loved in that deep sense of complete acceptance can I really be myself."

For myself, I do not find acceptance very easy. For me, acceptance can be summed up in my accepting of the fact that I am not accepting, and, that will be on a good day! I have to grow in the acceptance of the unconditioned, unrestricted, unlimited love I am loved with as the beloved. Why? Because NO ONE PERSON in this life, no matter how they wish or how they try cannot make that happen. I will through grace, that mysterious love, of our LOVER GOD can become a deeper reality in our hearts, souls, minds. Henri Nouwen reminds us of what Christ is telling us;

"You have a home....I am your home..claim me as your home....I am where you your innermost your heart."

This then must be or Lenten focus. Not on our faults and failings, but on God's faithful love for us. Acceptance of this love will allow us to be at home. At home in our reality, so when the Lord comes and knocks, we are going to open the door of our soul to the Good Shepherd who has come to claim one of His lost sheep.

“The Lord IS my shepherd, I shall not want, I shall not fear, I will be lead to green pastures, where I will find rest.”

A peaceful rest which comes to me to me when I stop the struggling for power, property, and prestige and surrender to all that is offered, without cost, in that sacred place we call the, "right now'.