Saturday, January 29, 2011

Blessed Are The Poor...Are You Kidding???

In a short while, the race for President of the United States will begin, again. Each candidate will have to reveal his or her platform. This will give us an idea what kind of a leader this person will be, or would like to be, for our country. We have the freedom to accept that candidate or reject her/him. It is the same with Jesus. In this week-end's Gospel, we have the platform on which Jesus was going to base his mission and his Ministry. We have the freedom to accept or reject this platform, this vision of The God-man. His revelation is The revelation of The Father as well. Everything Jesus speaks has been given to Him by the Father. He in turn, has been blessed with the self same message. This is a vision we must not keep to ourselves, but share with those who will be placed on our path.

Last week we were told to repent, to adopt a new way of seeing. This week in the Beatitudes we are provided with the lenses with which provide a new way, of not just looking but actually, seeing. We are asked to repent. We are to not just told to look, but actually to see what action must be taken so we can know we are on the right path and have the proper lenses to provide us with good, orderly direction. The first Beatitude provides you and I with an underlying message of hope and encouragement. In saying “How blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is the Kingdom of heaven", we are being told when you get to that place in the looking and seeing, you get discouraged, and or disappointed with what you have to face about yourself, listen to this. In that place where your weakness, failure, and brokenness is revealed, you are in the best possible place. This place where we would never allow anybody else into is the place where the fullness of a God of mercy and compassion is revealed to you and I. For entrance into The Kingdom, is not and I repeat NOT based on world, or society values but on the spiritual value of powerlessness. Power, success, control will allow us to advance in the estimation of the world, but in the realm that really counts we are slowly regressing into our own made hell. We will end up in that place where there is no real love, no real peace, and no lasting joy.

We will eventually get to that place where the question will be asked, and listened to, "Is this all there is, there must be more to this in life?”. We must all pray for that question to surface in our lives, otherwise we will live not life but an empty, existence. That question hopefully will lead to a reflection on what has real meaning, and what has lasting value. We will have to take the necessary step of getting to that place where we will face our limitedness, our humanness, and be lead forth to a place of real freedom and real happiness. A freedom that cannot be taken away, only surrendered. We make that surrender when we deny the true Gospel value of, “poverty of spirit”, and be seduced again by the attraction of power, property and prestige. The battle is life-long. It is an everyday, and an every moment battle. It is a battle we do not enter alone, we grow in the knowledge that the tougher the going, the harder the slog, the closer our God is to us. So, it is in that weakest moment, when we feel most lost and most abandoned, the closer our God is to us and in the holding of us. What a blessing then weakness is. How blessed we are, that our God knows that in that place we spend so much of our life's journey He has chosen to make His dwelling place. I am not suggesting we rush to that place of weakness, failure and poverty, but when we arrive in that horrendous place, we will find it to be a place of transformation, and transfiguration. A place of blessing, not a place of cursedness.

The following is a quotation from The Little Flower. I introduced her last weekend as St. Theresa of Lisieux. She has written the following;

"I understand why Peter fell...He was relying on himself...I'm sure that if St. Peter had said humble to Jesus; ‘Give me the grace I beg you to follow you to death’, he would have received it immediately...And Jesus could have said to St. Peter, ‘Ask me for the strength to accomplish what you want’. But no, he didn't because he wanted to show him his weakness and because, before ruling the church that is filled with sinners, he had to experience for himself what man is able to do without God's help. Before Peter fell, Jesus had said to him, “And once you're converted, strengthen your brethren’. [This means; Convince them of the weakness of human strength through your own experience.]"

So as it was, so it is, and so it shall ever be, until the end of time. We all have a story of hope, and healing. The story is not for ourselves, it has been given, to be shared. In the telling we will again and again be brought to that opening plank of the platform we are called and chosen to implement, "How blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs IS the kingdom of heaven".

Saturday, January 22, 2011

God's Aisling....For Us

God has, not had, a dream, an Aisilng, for you and I. His dream is that we would have life and have it abundantly. We would be able to share in His joy, and so bring our joy to completion. We would be offered a life to be lived out in freedom, not fear. Happiness was going to be a reality for us. Obviously we are not there yet. We are part and parcel though of it's becoming. We are the instruments through which this grand plan, which is also called, The Coming of The Kingdom, becomes a reality. There is a struggle within each one of us to allow this reality to happen, just as there is a struggle within society, and the church. We as it were, to use the scriptures, are all groaning as we await the reality. The tragedy of Tucson points out how far we have to go. Yet the prayer in last week's blog points to the power of God, who watches with care. He does not just watch, He watches with care. This not just care, this is infinite care. We all have been aware of the care the victims of the shooting received, and are receiving. Each caregiver has only a limited amount of physical. and psychic energy. There comes a time when everybody has to rest and sleep. The caring presence is not there. With one who is Watchful Care, he does not rest, he does not sleep. His is eternal, vigilance. How reassuring it is to know that He who created us out of His Infinite love, continues to love us with the same infinite love. A love we do not have to earn, deserve, or qualify for. No wonder we do not believe it. How can anything that is free be any good. Are not told to be careful of anything that looks too good?

That is why this week’s prayer is so great. We will pray, or have prayed,

"Almighty Father, the love you offer ALWAYS exceeds the furthest expression of our human longing, for you are greater than the human heart. Direct each thought, each effort of our life, 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."

Last week it was the power of God that was presented to us, this week we are informed this is not just power , it is the power of love, infinite love. Why do we need such great love? Simply put, we are too darn good at pointing our faults and weaknesses, and constantly harping on them. We keep on picking at them, and harping at them that we move from a healthy guilt to toxic shame. Guilt is, I have made a mistake and need to change, or to use this weekend's Gospel we need conversion. Guilt is about what I do. Toxic shame is about who I am. Guilt is I made a mistake, and so can change. Toxic shame is I am a mistake, and it take a great deal of hard work to release the shame and embrace the unconditional love always and ever being offered to us.

It seems God does His best work with the good sinner. St. Theresa of Lisieux tells us, "God has two weaknesses that make Him lovable. He is blind...and He doesn't know arithmetic. For when the greatest sinner on earth repents at the moment of death and dies in an act of love, God does not count either the numerous graces that the sinner has abused or his crimes but counts ONLY his last prayer and receives him without delay into His merciful arms. She again has written the following, "God's justice..seems to me to be clothed in love. What a sweet joy it is to think God is just ,i.e., that He takes into account our weakness, that He is perfectly aware of our fragile nature. What should I fear then?" The following is the one I like the best, I wonder why? "Sometimes it happens that despite our best efforts, God allows some souls to remain imperfect because it would be to their spiritual detriment to believe they are virtuous". What great hope there is in those quotations. They with the opening prayer, and being complimented with last week's prayer, will be a source of strength for us who are weary, discouraged, and losing sight of the promises given to us at Baptism.

We need to recall to mind that wonder-full smile of Christina-Taylor Green. In that smile, she is telling us- I have not forgotten, yet, where it is have come from. I still hold bright the light that has been entrusted to me. I am here to remind you of who you really are, and who we are all called to be. You like me are to be the contemporary Christ. We are to reach out to those who have become dispirited, alienated, and discouraged. We all must be a beacon of hope so that all can say our God does watch over us all, is caring for us all. Just as His Son has to enter the shame and darkness of Calvary, so as to enter His new life, we too will follow in His footsteps. Footsteps, that will of necessity, lead to the place where there is no death, only the fullness of life.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Reflection....On a Life

"Isle of hope, isle of tears,
Isle of freedom, isle of fear,
But it's not the isle I have left behind."

These words are taken from a haunting Irish-immigrant song. These words are used to describe the land of promise, America. For this immigrant, these words also describe the America I have come to experience and know. It was shortly after my arrival in 1963 when President Kennedy was killed. Those were dark says of uncertainty. They were the precursor of other days, of fear and struggle. Which one of us will ever be able to leave behind us that bleak, and disastrous day of September 11th, 2001? Yet, into that darkness came a little light, and a glimmer of hope. Christina - Taylor Green was born on that fateful day when the world as we knew, ceased to exist, so a new world had to be encountered and lived in. Christina's birth was God's way of saying despite what may happen, I am still involved in my creation. I have not lost confidence in humankind, see…I am sending a new source of My Presence. I am sending this new creation to be a reminder that there will always be goodness entering into creation. My creation will continue. On that day when 3,000 died, a new life began. A life so full of energy, enthusiasm, hope and dreams that has now, too, come to a sudden end. This ending has begun a new way of living for Christina, and for you and I. Christina has returned to the infinite love she was sent forth from nine years ago. We have to live dealing with her absence, and the questions surrounding her death. Death, because it is a sacrament, will trigger questions about was is true and what is real. Death will always make us question the reality of our own existence, and the values that shape our life. Christina was able to point to the fact that on the day of tragedy, when so many died, her life began. What a life she shared with her family, friends, school, parish, and community. She had already set her eyes on a life of service, and leadership. We, as a church, a state, a nation, have been drawn into her life, and are left with a sense of awe, and wonder. Did not St. Irenaeus say many centuries ago: " The glory of God is the human person fully alive"?

We have been gifted with God's presence in and through the life of Christina. That is the reality hidden and revealed in each and every life. Christina made God look really GOOD. We will have to rely on that same God of goodness to become our living Savior at this time. There was a great opening prayer in this week end's liturgy, we prayed as follows: "Almighty and ever present Father, your watchful care reaches from end to end and orders all things in such power that even the tensions and tragedy of sin cannot frustrate your loving plans." We need to make that prayer our daily prayer. We must ask for a real deepening of our faith in what that prayer says. It is a prayer of confidence in the fact that God's power is, and I repeat is greater, than all the forces of hatred, prejudice, bigotry, and cynicism. The same Spirit that was the source of Christina's vitality is the same Spirit that was imparted to you and I the day we were Baptized. Christina was the model of what could happen. We have the opportunity to continue the good she has begun. As we do so, we will continue the mission and ministry of Jesus who became the Christ. Then death is not an end, it is the beginning of a new and different way of living.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

We Are The Reason...For The Season...Not Jesus.

We all know what it is to look and not see, to hear but not listen. When it comes to what the past season has to say, and point us to we must take the plugs of fear and complacency from our ears, and remove the blinders from our eyes. We must become keener listeners, and ever deeper seekers. Why? Because, otherwise the fact that God became a human being will be just another birth. Another ordinary birth with no special meaning, just another ho hum event, in the history of our world. We who believe come to know and understand there is mystery in The Birth. We come to accept the reality of the seeming harsh words of Meister Eckhert "What good is it that Christ was born 2,000 years ago if he is not born now in our hearts". With each and every Advent/ Christmas/ Epiphany celebration, we allow the meaning to seep deeper and deeper into our hearts, souls, and minds. If not? Why Jesus just wasted His time and efforts. We do not obey our Father when he says to us "This is my beloved Son, LISTEN to Him". Do we look and listen, or are we afraid to see the real truth, hear the real message, and be converted on and on going to a deeper level? With conversion comes a new and more dangerous way of living. We enter the living of a life that offers no security, no certainty, only a life that is lived and journeyed on, in dark faith. We will make the words of Thomas Merton our own, "God I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me. I do not know for certain where it will end, nor do I really know myself". All we can hang on to is by our Baptism we are mysteriously called, blessed, and uniquely gifted for journey. We are in the words of the Gospel, "The beloved" in whom our God is well pleased. It does say was, or will be, the word is, IS well pleased. Here and now our God takes great delight in our reality. A reality as God sees it not the way we, see it. The more we claim our belovedness, and live our lives accordingly, we will have life and have it to the fullest. We will slowly come to know there is never anything missing from a life that is lived in the mystery, and the sacredness of the present moment. We have that awe-full freedom to live in the freedom of the beloved, or live out our lives in fear, guilt, and shame. WE live our lives as victims of "the toxic trinity" rather than to live our lives in the wholeness, the holiness of The Holy Trinity. This a decision you and I make every second, every moment we live.

Jesus to my way of thinking is not the reason for this past season…..we are. If we say Jesus is the reason, and not us, we will never be free to hear, see, and listen to what The Infant has to say. His birth says to you and I, I reveal myself to you in the place you least expect to find me, and in ways beyond your imagination. The Vulnerable Child says to us, I am to be found in the powerless, the place of powerlessness. It is to those who are nothing in the eyes of the world, it is those who I have set, my eyes and heart on. It is much easier to keep that Child as as infant rather that allow Him to grow up, and become the crucified One. The one that is broken, bruised, and beaten out of love for us. From the cross He speaks to us, you want power? Accept a powerlessness like mine. You want property, I offer you a share of all that is mine, emptiness, abandonment, desolation is all I have to share with you. When you come to know and accept what appears to be a void you will discover a treasure beyond your wildest dreams.

Jesus says to us, it for you I came. I came to reveal what is really real, and what has lasting value. The world hated me, even wanted to kill me as a child, so it wants to kill the innocence within you. My life was spent in the outreach to those who were the outcasts, and I joined them as an outcast. Can you do this for me? Now we really want the Infant to be the reason for the season, this message is so hard, and too difficult to respond to. Lately, I have been wondering what would happen if on Christmas when we entered the church we saw not the Crucified Christ, but Infant Jesus on the cross? Are we ready for such a radical statement? Yet is not that what we do each time we persecute ourselves, and then of necessity one another? This killing will stop when we listen truly to what The infant wants to say to us. we will then become life givers, and not death dealers. We will be able to continue to be, not only the voice, but the very presence in action of Him, who has called from eternity, to be who we really are.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

In Wonder Gaze....

I just love when, as I eat breakfast and read the paper, I get the start for the week's blog. This happened again this week, thank you God. The thought for the day was the following: “If a child is to keep alive his/her inborn sense of wonder, he/she needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him/her the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in" (Rachel Carson, Biologist).

We are in that time when resolutions are made. We tend to make resolutions that will enhance our physical well being; lose weight, go to the gym, take a walk, etc. etc. We will also take steps to be better organized, to be physically responsible, and the list can go on and on. How many of us will take to heart what Rachel said? Not only to take it to heart, but take concrete steps to actually do something about it. We all have that child within, who is in constant need of a source of encouragement so as to be able to continue it's journey into wonder. The child within each one of us is in the constant need of an encouraging presence, force, to enable it to achieve the intended goal for which it was created. Our prayer life, our spiritual health, demands a sense of wonder. If there is going to be the continued presence of art and science in our world, we must be aware wonder is the source of both. When was the last time, we made the cultivation of wonder, our New Year's resolution, if ever? We must make the conscious effort to be guided to see beyond the ordinary and the obvious to discover. There lies a great excitement in the discovery of the seeds of mystery in all that is . Whatever the reality, hidden waiting to be discovered, is mystery.

With those set of lenses, what a new year lies open before us. There will be no moment, and I repeat no moment, that will not have within it the on-going revelation of the mystery of God. We will have to have that person in our lives who posses that which enables us to speak the truth of our excitement. This is very much like the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth. So then, who is going to be the Elizabeth for your Mary? Who will be the one that you can trust to have the maturity to recognize the Sacred dwelling within you, and the life you have been given to live? Who will be the one you can take the words of the opening prayer of the Feast of The Holy Family to and explore all the depths of meaning contained in the following words; Teach us the sanctity of human love, show us the value the value of family life". What power-full words those words are.

We cannot be taught unless we allow the questions to surface. Others have asked the questions and have lead us to the greatest of gifts, the understanding of sacramentality of sexuality. As far back as the 13th Century, St. Thomas Aquinas saw the connection between the celebration of sexuality and prayer. We need to discover, anew, the sanctity, the grace filled action that is human love, and in its expression. Read again and again the Song Of Songs in the Old Testament, and be shocked, as so many have been shocked, at the imagery and the passion. We are told God's love for us is Eros. In the reading of The Song Of Songs keep in mind you are the one The Lover is seeking and searching for. Our final union with God in this life can only be expressed in the awe-full, wonder-full, out of this worlds experience of ecstatic love. That is the imagery which comes from St. Theresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross. Within the mystery of human love is perfectly hidden and revealed, The mystery of God, and His love for us. The ecstatic love experienced in human love is ultimately what on experiences in the soul with God. The joy of that union cannot be described only alluded to.

Let us all ask for a new set of lenses as we gaze upon family life. Within that which is so ordinary, so mundane, God choose to both hide and reveal His son, His revelation of who He is. For those who looked at the family of Mary, Joseph and their son Jesus what did they see? People who walked around with halos on their head? Did they not have to work in order to eat? There were no angels being sent with special food, for The son of God. Whatever food Mary was able to purchase at the local market, with what Joseph, and later Jesus, was able to earn is what The Infinite Son of God ate.

How ordinary, yet how extraordinary both human love and family life is. Both are sacraments, in the broad sense, in which the sacred, The Mystery, is both hidden and revealed. So when we are lost in boredom, it means we have lost the lenses God has provide us with. We are choosing to see through the lens of what is tangible, rather than that which is mystery. We are lead to grasp at that which is apparently real, only to find out it is an illusion. It will leave, it will change, it will not last. It is that which we receive from that which we cannot see, yet experience at our depths that stays with us and lasts forever.