Monday, May 30, 2011

The Loving Eye...Frees

As you know, or at least have guessed, I am Irish. We, as a people, have had a great struggle to achieve real freedom. We spent four hundred years in bondage. The struggle was, therefore, a long and arduous one. It came at a great price. Freedom, we are told today, is not free. It never was, and never will be, that reality we must always keep ever before us. As the result of our struggle, us Irish, have always been on the side of those who are enmeshed in their own struggle for freedom. Sometime check the number of Irish who fought in Washington's army? The Irish have great passion for what is right and just. Patience, on the other hand, is not what we are known for. We who have known enslavement, bondage and every kind of injustice, when we see people confined in any form of "prison”, we do not keep very quiet. There is something inside that forces us to speak out. We must speak and name the source enslavement. In the spiritual life that which enslaves us is guilt, fear, and shame. These are what I like to call "the toxic trinity". We will never be spiritually free until these forces are faced head on in our lives.

This takes tremendous courage. A courage that is provided, free of charge, by our gracious, ever-kind, and merciful God. All we have to do is desire to be free, and the process has begun. The ride to real spiritual freedom is one scary wild ride. We have been called, by our Baptism, to that freedom. We have to ask the hard question, “Do I really want to be free?". Do I want the freedom that requires of me that I no longer live in the expectations of others? I risk telling the unvarnished truth, naming the lie. Speaking out loud what has ever and always been the family secret. We are no longer going to carry the burden of that secret. We have to realize our unhappiness, our life lived in the prison of addiction and compulsion, is actually our struggle with the family secret. Real spiritual comes when we name the family secret and expose it to the transforming power of Love.

This love, like all healthy love, is creative, not destructive. This Power of Love unifies, not divides. This love transfigures, and transforms. This Power of Love will ever so slowly, and ever so gently bring us to spiritual health, wholeness, and holiness. Yes, wholeness and holiness ARE the same. They are interchangeable words, just as God and Healthy love are. We have to express our desire for that love of all loves. We can paraphrase the words of Robbie Burns, "Would that God the gift to see me as God Himself sees me". We are thereby asking that the lenses of God become our lenses. Are we willing to let go of the old way of seeing, so we can be lead into a new way of living? It is scary to let go of the familiar. A great number of people I have met know in their hearts of hearts the old way must be surrendered. The old behaviors cannot continue, do they let go? I am sad to say the prisons of “the toxic trinity" are chosen, rather than risk real freedom. Bondage they can handle freedom, no. They will continue to analyze, criticize and brutalize themselves and as a consequence others. This is their comfort zone. Here is where they will stay rather open themselves to a new way acting. A new way of acting is THE only way we can reach a new way of thinking. When we do not risk the new way of acting we are then frozen. We are drying up, and will eventually crumble. These words of Rousseau I like, "Man was born free, and everywhere I look I see him chained".

We all have to face the decision to choose life over death. Here is what I promised to give you, so you at your ease can reflect on what it says, and so be lead to a place where you can rest, and be the beloved you are called to be. The "resentful eye" has got to go. Why? John O’Donoghue has written, "To the resentful eye, everything is begrudged”. People who have allowed the canker of resentment into their vision can never enjoy who they are or what they have. They are always looking outward towards 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 poverty and forgets its own inner harvest. As regards "The Loving Eye " he writes "To the loving eye, everything is real”. This art of love is neither sentimental nor naive. Such love is the greatest criterion of truth, celebration, and reality. Kathleen Raine, a Scottish poet, says that unless you a think in the light of love, you do not see it at all. Love is the light in which we see light. Love is the light in which we see each thing in its true origin, nature, and destiny. If we could look at the world in a loving way, then the world would rise up before us full of invitation, possibility, and depth.

The loving can even coax pain, hurt, and violence towards transfiguration and renewal. The loving eye is bright because it is autonomous and free. It looks lovingly on anything. The loving vision does not become entangled in the agenda of power, seduction, opposition and complicity. Such vision is creative and subversive. It rises above the pathetic arithmetic of blame and judgment and engages experience at the level of its origin, structure, and destiny. The loving eye see through and beyond image and effects the deepest change. Vision is central to your presence and creativity. To recognize HOW you see things can bring you self-knowledge and enable you to glimpse the wonderful treasures you life secretly holds.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Now, a Second Casserole!

New ideas, thoughts come as I hike. These thoughts lead to new ideas. New ideas lead to new material for new homilies. (I can hear the chorus, “It is about time”.) Since I do not write out what I am going to say, what is said is very fluid, to say the least. The heading in the Sacramentary for these Sundays reads The .......... sunday of Easter. Then it appeared to me that there was something missing. What was missing was the word, "celebration”. We spend over 40 days in preparation. Preparation to once again celebrate, The great Mystery of our faith. This preparation is to provide us with new lenses so we can see in a new and more vibrant way, that which is our daily reality. We spend three days in the celebration, The Easter Tridium.

We now we are spending 50 days to see where our lives are centered within what we celebrate. With each such celebration the is new meaning given to the life we so many times call ordinary. We only have ordinary lives when we do not take the time to stop and reverence the Mystery dwelling within each and every, person, place, and action. These 50 days are saying to you and I, “stop and allow The Holy, The Sacred, The mystery to bubble up from within your life”, leading us to a depth of meaning which is way beyond what we ever could imagine, on our own. “This is what the Lord has done”, is doing and ever shall do, until the fullness of The Kingdom is revealed in and to this expectant world of ours.

As I mentioned last week, when I introduced the idea, that these weeks were a spiritual casserole. A casserole from which Mother church doles out to us, people places, events, and actions, intended for our nourishment. Intended for our encouragement. Once we have been nourished and encouraged it is OUR SACRED duty, OUR Sacred obligation to become bearers of this good news. We are to be the place of encouragement and hope for those who our God will certainly send our way. Watch for the contemporary suffering Christ, who will appear under many, many, different and unusual disguises. We have to have desire The Heart of God to be able to see beyond fear, hatred, prejudice, indifference, to the presence of His suffering Son ever before.

I was at the intersection at 44st. & Ray when the thought came, or should I not say, the question came what about our own personal casserole? How is this a reality in the life I am presently living? Well, my life is a casserole. In it, are many different ingredients. Some I have put in place, other ingredients are placed, or sometimes forced into the mix. In the kitchen casserole, that which holds all the ingredients together, is the canned soup. In the spiritual casserole that which holds it all together is the power of The Holy Spirit. There are so many thing in our life's casserole we wish were not present. We cannot deny them. They are part of our reality. To deny is to place ourselves, and as a consequence others, in real danger. Acceptance of our reality, in struggled prayer, allows the process of integration and reconciliation to happen. This Power at work is the Power of Love. This love has so often been described as fire. Well the casserole on the stove needs fire, heat to cook and so the ingredients are integrated, they are blended. The Fire, that is God's love, brings about integration, transformation, leading to reconciliation and freedom.

This is not a fantasy of mine. Here is what deChardin has written, “Love is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves". Wow! Isn’t that something to ponder, and ponder. So, then the power of LOVE is ever and always at work. It is at times like this we are given the opportunity to stop and reflect on the process at work within the casserole we call, everyday living. I will leave you with my second favorite saying of the above author, “Someday, after we have harnessed the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then the world will have discovered, for the second time fire".

Let us all then conspire together to bring this about. I have the belief, that with all of us uniting in this wonder-full endeavor it will happen. Our belief united with the Aisling, the dream of God, nothing can get in the way. Uniting the strength, the power of the two casseroles within each of us will be the source of that which otherwise would be impossible. With God, all things are possible. Let us give His love, His plan a chance. The opposite has not worked, has it?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Spiritual....Casserole

"I set before you life and death--therefore choose life", Deuteronomy 30:20. These words of scripture are words we must ever keep before us in order to enjoy the dream, our gracious God has for each one of us.

This is not a sometime dream. A dream that is in place, not just when we are good and obedient, but all the time. This dream, aisling in Irish, is always and ever in place for you and I. God, we are able to say, is the great dreamer, The Eternal Optimist. His dream for us is that, we choose to live. He has sent His Beloved Son down here to model for us just how to do it. Jesus, The Christ, entered into the fullness of what it means to be human, so as we enter the process becoming human, we will begin The Great Encounter. We will not encounter what we expect, but what is unexpected, and sometimes in a very, very upsetting way. It is, however, only, and I repeat only, upsetting to our false-self, our as yet unredeemed ego. It actually allows the true self, the one that our God both knows and has loved, from all of eternity. His infinite loved is the source, and the root cause of its existence.
"In the womb, before the day star I have begotten you."

That is why we are eternal in our origin, and our destiny. When was the last time you have reflected on that? What a great mystery each one of us is. It is in our isness, that we are able to connect with that great mystery. To more we become authentic human beings, and not just exist as human doers will that mystery be slowly revealed to us. It is in our being, NOT our doing, that we allow this great revelation to happen. Each year, we are provided with a new, and never before experienced opportunity. We are drawn by grace to experience ever anew this wonder-full, awe-full mystery. Each moment of every day of every year we are provided with a new opportunity to reflect on this Mystery. Our God wishes us to see how we are living a life that His
Son has already lived. His wish is that we accept and embrace this mysterious reality, as a reality that is now living within us. Really?

The Mystery is called The Paschal Mystery, or it is also called The Easter mystery. It is THE mystery of our faith. We proclaim this mystery in each Mass we co offer, with the priest, as we celebrate our common priesthood. As we are baptized into the Paschal Mystery, so are we baptized into the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Each and every baptized person is consecrated with the same chrism that a priest in anointed with, on the occasion of his ordination. We have been chosen to participate in the ongoing revelation and celebration of The Mystery. Each mass and our daily lives God uses to teach us, and through us, others; that "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again". This is a truth we have to be brought to accept. We have to be brought to the truth that, it was through His cross AND resurrection Christ set us free. We will be further led to the realization that is what is happening to each one of us right now.

True freedom comes as we embrace the dying and the rising hidden and revealed in the living out of every moment, of every day. There is NO moment that Christ is not suffering death within us. There is no moment that new resurrected life is not breaking through. As we are drawn ever deeper in to the celebration, our eyes are slowly opened. We will see ourselves and our lives centered in that Easter/Paschal mystery. We will be led to see we are never alone. We never suffer alone. We now believe that our lives are really hidden, with Christ, in the caring, persistent, infinite love of God. The same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the tomb of death is the very same Power that will bring to us life, liberty, and freedom. I see all the events of Holy week, Easter Sunday and the following 50 days as a great spiritual casserole. A mother, a cook, places so many different ingredients into a casserole. Then some soup, my favorite is mushroom, is poured in to make the whole mess a nourishing meal. It does taste good, most of the time. Well we are to do the same thing. We see our daily living as a giant casserole. We see all the people, events, and places of the Paschal Mystery within us. We are called to love and accept all of them. Without this acceptance of all, we will not be whole. We will never be a holy person. Wholeness does not come from holy feelings, on the contrary. The process of integration, and transformation is anything but pleasant. It is right up there with a root canal, and giving birth. The Holy Spirit will, and I repeat, will provide all that we need to allow this to happen. The dream of God, the aisling, will not be denied. Frustrated, unfortunately, yes. We all have people, places, and events we would much prefer not to have in our lives. It is up to us to ask for the gift of acceptance. Through this gift we are able to open ourselves to the mystery of grace, the mystery of God's love. Slowly, but surely, the following will happen, this is from John O Donoghue; “When love awakens in your life, in the night of the heart, it is like the dawn breaking within you. Where before, there was anonymity, now there is intimacy; where before there was fear, now there is courage; where before in your life there was awkwardness, now there is a rhythm of grace and gracefulness; where before you used to be jagged, now you are elegant and in rhythm with yourself. When love awakens in your life, it is like a rebirth, a new beginning”. These words truly sums up God's dream. Is it not a perfect description on the experience of the totality of the Paschal/Easter mystery. In the kitchen the casserole is made, in the realm of the spirit it happens. It cannot be rushed. Again patient endurance is our greatest friend, and our ego's worst enemy.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Wounds Are To Become....Sacred

I guess by now you know or can guess, I like to read. I was blessed with this gift at very early age. My mother's love was the romance novel. My dad devoured the daily paper. As he was reading the paper he was not aware of anything else. My mother was unable to penetrate that concentration, much to her annoyance, from time to time. I began my reading adventure with a picture book only named "The Beano". I then graduated to “Adventure" and I have not looked back. There were no pictures in that magazine, only all written words. I was hooked, and have been ever sense. Life has been, for me a real great adventure. It was easy then to connect with the statement I read recently, "Our journey in Faith IS also, an adventure”. We can say then, that our faith journey is that which lies above, beneath, beyond, and permeates every step we take on this great adventure we call life. I have read of so many heroes as they made their way through success and failures. The hero was always wounded. The wounding was a very important, if not essential event in the development of the hero. You are the hero of your own story. As it happened to the heroes of old so it will be for us. In that wounding we are transformed, not for our benefit but for those who will be placed in our lives. So, it is with the hero we have come to know, Jesus Christ.

We all know how harshly He was treated. He was beaten, bruised, broken and betrayed, but unlike all the other great heroes, He was killed. Just like all the other heroes when all seemed lost, He returns to His own. When does He return? He returns the moment of their deepest need. When all seemed lost The Historical Jesus returns as The Risen Christ. He as the Risen one is sometimes goes un recognized . Even those who had the deepest relationship with Him, such as Mary, failed to recognize Him. She did, however, come to know Him when He spoke his name. There was those who did accept the fact that HE was risen, then there was Thomas. I disagree with the fact he is called, "Doubting Thomas". There was nothing doubtful about “I will not believe", he is here, "Thomas The Denier". He gives doubting a bad name. Questioning and doubting are an essential part of our faith journey. I really like that definition of faith, it is doubt grounded in Hope. As regards questions. In all questions is ALREADY sewn the answer. The only difficulty with the answer is that it contains the seeds of a new question, and so the process continues. It will NEVER stop, in this life. So the we are a community of Questioners. Living the questions so as to live into the answers. (Nouwen) As we reverence, respect, and develop patience with our own process, so we will have with those who are the same path as we are on, and ever will be.

We read how The Risen uses His wounds to bring Thomas to Faith. Yes, THE risen Christ does carry the wounds of His crucifixion. He still has the wounds in His hands, and side. His sacred wounds become a gift for Thomas. It is the very same with you and I. From our everyday life experience we are wounded. We too are beaten, broken, bruised and betrayed. After all, we are the heroes, of our stories. As it was with the heroes of old, so it is with us. Now we can take it one step further as it was with Jesus Christ, so it is, right now with you and I. We are contemporary Christians heroes. We, too, are asked to share our wounds with those who have questions about life and the value of life. WE are given fellow human beings who are discouraged because of some failure, disappointment and or, loss. We can only be of help when we are able with, sometimes brutal honesty, share our experience of crucifixion, and in most cases crucifixions. We have as Christians an ever deepening journey into That Mystery we have been baptized into, The Paschal.

Because of the work of The Spirit, The Historical Jesus, is now The Christ of God. We, too, at each Mass, and in our prayers surrender all the brokenness, all of the betrayals, all the losses, and all the deaths to the self same Power, the self same Spirit that brought about the Resurrection. Yes!! The very same. We are reminded that suffering of itself has no value. We have to bring all that we suffer to prayer. It is ONLY, and I mean Only, then that our wounds become, Sacred Wounds. As sacred wounds, they now have within them the strength, hope and encouragement, our fellow human beings are so desperately in need of. But, it takes courage to tell, honestly our story. Come to think of it, it is not our story, it is the story of God within us. What faith our God has in us. He, who is Omnipotent, has confined Himself to the limitations of our life. He awaits to be revealed only through our authentic human actions. He is in other words, a Prisoner .

The question begs to be asked, when will I free THE Prisoner, so in the freedom of our human actions the world will continue to be transfigured and transformed. So, too many who have lost hope, just as the early disciples lost hope, will be brought to a RENEWED faith. Their faith will, of necessity be deeper. This faith will be a life giving faith , freed from judgment and condemnation. From the apparent, seeming, death new life has sprung. "By The Lord this has been done , and it is marvelous in our eyes." We can then proclaim from the depths of our nothingness, and emptiness, Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ comes again and again within the everyday adventure, we call life. That is why; life is not a problem to be solved, it is a mystery to be lived. So now, when somebody says to you, “I do not understand you”, just say, “I know that, so just reverence me, my questions and wounds, no matter how deep they are”. See and be utterly amazed at what is revealed to you.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Shalom....Is Way Beyond Peace!

The Paschal Mystery is "THE" mystery of our Faith. We proclaim this mystery again, and again. We are being brought back, as it were, to a well that has no bottom, but offers endless refreshment with mystery we are led, always, to a deeper understanding of what we thought we already understood. There are layers upon layers of meaning to mystery. The challenge of The Paschal Mystery is, we have to deep inside so as to be brought to and ever new realization, we are this Mystery. All this happens through grace. It cannot be hurried. It is a very slow process, taking place in God's gracious, ever so gentle time. We will be brought gentle, and slowly to an encounter with all that Jesus endured. We are called to be like Him. We are called to follow Him , so that where he went we are destined to follow.

To be a disciple means, that whatever Jesus and those first disciples we through, that is the journey which we , of necessity, we will always be on. The journey we read about in the Scriptures will be enfleshed by us, in the world we are given to live in. The same joys, and sorrows will be, as they have been , our every day experience. This is the process of, soul making. Here is what May Sarton has written, "It is only when we can believe that we are creating the soul that life has meaning, but when we can believe it-and I do and always have- then there is nothing we do that is without meaning and nothing that we suffer that does not hold the seed of creation in it". Pretty power-full stuff???

So in every death IS sewn the seeds of the Resurrection. Just as in every success is sewn the seeds of loss and disappointment. In every success we must be aware Calvary is now our Destiny. This is our spiritual journey, and there is NO moment we are not on that journey. On this journey there will be times when we can be glad we are on this very mysterious way. We can join the Palm Sunday crowds and recognize, for a time, who Jesus is. Life is so good when we are aware of His presence, and His ready worse of advise. It is all together when we can identify the disciples hidden away in that room, with the doors locked. He who they followed is now no longer present. He has let them down. Their expectations have not been met, consequently resentment has set in, as it always does in cases like this. May I suggest some of the feelings which those 'lost" men and women had to deal with on that first Easter morning. From the scriptures we see, the following, helplessness, confusion, bewilderment, hopelessness, disconnectedness, frustration, guilt, fear, shame, anger, hurt, all leading to excruciating, and paralyzing pain. That is the same with all of us who as spiritual beings, who are having this oh so human experience. When we are honest, and honesty is a necessary prerequisite for the spiritual journey, we can say there is not one feeling on that list that has not been part of our human experience. Now admitting, and owning those feeling is something all together different. That is another process to speak about. (Go back to the very beginning of the blog and there you will find some insights, and also something to practice, practice, and then, practice some more.)

Is all lost then for the disciples, and us? Of course not, that is what the skeptics say. When all SEEMED lost, then the Risen Christ appears. What are His words to those who had betrayed, abandoned and deserted Him? Were words of disappointment, and resentment uttered? Did He bring Peter to task for his denial? A denial that was foretold. There was no, “I told you so”. Jesus came to reveal that God's ways are not our ways. They are way and beyond what we can imagine. So there is no condemnation, "For in God there IS no condemnation". Rather, The One who was so cruelly treated offers the gift of Shalom. Shalom is the greeting of the Risen Christ. For the longest time I thought that shalom just meant peace. It does mean peace, and so much more. Shalom means ALL of the following; Contentment, harmony, rest, completeness, soundness, wholeness (holiness), health, safety, prosperity, tranquility, the absence of agitation and discord, last but not the least shalom means peace. What a great gift offered to those dispirited men and women? That gift has been with the disciples of Jesus Christ through the centuries, until it reaches you and I, as we live out our lives in 2011.

For each one of us, again when we are honest, there will one, two ,or three or even more of the gifts of shalom we are need of right now. What do you need of the Risen Christ that will make life a little more bearable? What is the darkness that is our present life experience which is need of THE LIGHT, so we can discover in that darkness our tomb experience. We ask to be lead to the belief this is where we are buried with Jesus, and just as He was risen we too shall enter a new and different way of living. This is the GUARANTEE of our faith. Let us not hesitate to claim this reality. Yes, Christ has died, and I have died with him. Just as Christ has risen, I too shall experience the same joy, the same freedom of The risen Christ. All that Shalom means, can be ours. All we have to do is really claim who we really are. I forget who wrote the following, I like it.

“Make ready for Christ, whose smile like lightening, sleeps in your paper flesh, like dynamite." Wow !!! Are we ready for that ???