Friday, November 25, 2011

Advent....To See More Clearly

Another Advent Season is with us. I was thinking on a hike recently, after 48 years, is there anything new to be said about Advent?
There is not much new to be said, however, there is so much newness, to be experienced. This will be our FIRST Advent as we are, right now.
We, as we are today,have never experienced this season of patient expectation.There will be a newness. this newness will not happen in a vacuum. This newness will be in direct proportion to the effort we will make so we can encounter the newness as it breaks into our everyday living. We will have to make the effort to look beyond the familiar, to that which is hidden, and exists beyond the familiar. Let us ask to see the people, places and events of the Season through a new set of lenses. Let us allow faith and wonder to lead us to a new Bethlehem. Let us make the effort to this year to take the risk of leaving the familiar behind. Why? So we can have a new vision, a newer, more vibrant, life-giving understanding of how each person, place and event of this Season is within us, right now. What we read in the scriptures is not just about what happened 2,000 years ago. This season challenges us to encounter all the above, in our everyday living.

Here is a suggestion to make this Advent a newer, and more life-giving reality. Take one person, place, or event and reflect on where that reality is within you. Where do you find Bethlehem within, this year? Where in your life is the place you are certain God is not there? What is the part of you that you look down on and resent? Who, for instance, has been Angel Gabriel for you? Who have you been an Angel Gabriel to? Who has been Elizabeth for you as you struggled with the reality you are the bearer of The Christ. That in itself is a challenge, but we have to give birth to that reality. A birth that will take place in a very hostile world. Not unlike Mary and what she and Joseph had to face. Now the next one is real nasty, where do we find Herod in our lives? Who is it that makes the effort to destroy the Life of THE INFANT within us? Who is it we are persecuting so that The Mystery of The Incarnation within is prevented from taking root and developing? When we are being tough on ourselves now we can encounter the shepherds within. The outcasts of society we the first to hear the Good News, and become proclaimers of said good news. God's ways are definitely our ways. Take, then, this year an unfamiliar person, place, Advent, then, is NOT a once a year event. It is an every MOMENT event. What we are doing in this season is taking an in depth, faith led look at an age old, but ageless event. This ageless event is an encounter with the infinite, hence it's meaning can never be
exhausted. There will be new insights because of the ever newness, of our human journey as spiritual beings. We will be challenged to see the connection, an ever new connection, between what is presented to us in the Gospels, and how we are living that gospel reality in the reality of our daily living. However, let us be honest, and own the fact we are all imperfect bearers of the Good News. But, let us never lose heart. The real good news is that while we are on this journey Our Gracious Father/Mother God is ever and always molding and fashioning us to be more like Jesus Christ. He was , and ever will be, the ONLY perfect manifestation and revelation of God. The rest of us are following perfectly imperfect, always in need of the strengthening, transforming grace which will allow us to fulfill our eternal vocation.

Each moment we live then is another moment in which The Holy Spirit is molding and fashioning into who our God wants us to be, so we can be more authentic bearers of the Good News, His Son was the incarnation of. We then each day continue make the Mystery of The Incarnation an ongoing reality. That is the God given dignity of each and every person. No matter where he or she is living out their reality. Being faithful, and true to their reality, is the necessary conditions for God's plan to work. When we are not true to who we really are, the original plan is frustrated and God now has to work with plan "B". Plan 'B" is challenge we give to God as the result of our egocentric egos being in control, rather than the healthy true self. It takes a great deal of purgation and purification for the true self to surface and the false self be put in its rightful place. This battle royal is the battle, we have to experience, and endure, within the depths of souls. There is no let up. That is why our Good Shepherd God never sleeps. He is the vigilant One always there to defend, nourish and gently guides us.

In this season we again look through the eyes of faith to the approach, the appearance of God. He appears in the most unlikely places. He approaches us in the personhood of the vulnerable, the outcast, the “least ones", in the estimation of the world. As the world sees that is not how our God sees. May we all be gifted with a deeper insight, so we can see more clearly as God sees.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Kingdom For The.......Powerless

We are coming to end of yet another Liturgical year. Another year in which you and I were invited to deepen the connection between what is the experience of our everyday living, and what we celebrate in our liturgical celebrations. When there is no connection between the two, neither is there a connection between us and 'the celebration". Where there is no connection, then we have "liturgies without soul", and we leave without soul nourishment. I like to believe that all liturgy is a celebration of life. It is a celebration of a life that is fully human". In so far as it is fully human can the presence of the divinity be revealed. It is in the imitation of Him who became, The Human Being, can the divinity placed within us come to be revealed. This revelation is not just for our benefit it is given to be shared with all those who our God WLL place in our path. We do not become imitators overnight. There has to be much purgation, much illumination, so that the union of wills can take place. Our self will dies a very slow death. It's desire for power, and control does not die easily.

The ego does not wish to share moments of loss, disappointment, and weakness. Our egos drive us to look good on the outside, while we are going to hell on the inside. The lie is " you to look good, no matter what". Living that lie brings so much pain, death, and destruction to so many. The sad thing about it is, this lie is passed on from generation to generation. Perfectionism is a great cover up for " the lie”. Behind that desire to be perfect is the individual, or family secret which must be defended at all costs. The cost is many times the loss of knowledge of of who one really is. The soul is lost. There is no loving, creative spirit. The only power being tapped into is the destructive power of the lie. It takes a serious earthquake for the true person to emerge. Thank God for Twelve Step programs. In the safety of the fellowship the truth can be spoken. The real truth is spoken for the first time. In speaking the truth there is that immediate connection with THE TRUTH. This Truth is the power that will set us free. The toxicity of shame is now replaced with hope, and courage. Not only that but there is a gradual growth in faith in a Benevolent God who does care about individuals well being, as well as all of His creation.

All this was always present but it took that awe-full journey into the hell of powerlessness, for The Truth to be revealed. When the false image of who we are supposed to be, is replaced with the truth of who we really are a miracle takes place. It is the miracle of grace. As we begin to pray from this new place of honesty there is a certain something that is now present that was not there before. We are not to analyze or examine this new gift. It is a GIFT and is given for us to enjoy. So there will always be a great struggle. There will be an ongoing hostility between the real self, the one God's knows and listens to, and the false self whose prayer is not heard because does not know of its existence. That is why gut prayer, prayer from the depths is always heard. "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and from all their distress he rescues them.” As long as we are alive there will always be that war between the opposing wills. That war is waged on the battle field of our souls.

In our liturgy the ideal is revealed to us. As we look at this ideal, which is presented for our imitation, we have to admit we sure do come up short. We are not to be discouraged. As one wag put it; "We are all here, because ,we are not all there" Pretty good?? We always approach The Sacrifice, and Sacrament because we are accepting more and more the truth of the scriptures; "Of ourselves we can do nothing, but we can do all things in Him Who strengthens us". "With God all things are possible.” It is only in and through my weaknesses God's power is revealed. “Our weaknesses become our strengths, the source of compassion for others, and the basis of our awakened nature.” (Halifax)

I think that prayer from Lent is appropriate here; " May our faith hope and love , turn hatred to love, violence to peace, and death to eternal life”. Now The Kingdom of our God has a place to be revealed. In this milieu, “A Kingdom of truth and life, a Kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice peace and love becomes a reality”. Not through our strengths but only through our weaknesses. Is not This Kingdom an awe-full mystery? The acceptance of the reality of who you are, in all its messy truth, is the threshold over which we must cross so as to gain entrance into God's Kingdom.

“It is only through our weaknesses and brokenness, can we have an audience with a God of faithfulness and compassion." (Stuhmiller)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Grace and Free Will......Real freedom

The Liturgy for last week-end contained a prayer for health of mind and body. The prayer asked for health to continue the work of Jesus Christ, which is asking for the health to do what our God has planned on us to do. He created us with a plan in mind. Each one of us has been created uniquely. Each one of us, no matter how we see ourselves, or are seen by others, is uniquely gifted destined to be a unique contributor to the totality of creation. When we find ourselves questioning our value, our worth-whileness, we need to remind ourselves all that is my reality is being woven into the whole of creation. Yes, even these moments of doubt and uncertainty have been woven into the totality of my life. As a consequence all that I have and am now experiencing in part of the totality of creation. What we think are throw away moments, moments to be denied, or if possible destroyed have become a part of living creation. All of this happens through the miracle of grace. Nothing goes to waste in our Creator's Creation. What we judge as worthless , or even shame-full, is not how God see the same reality. All, what we judge as good or bad, is woven into the total reality of creation. In our Creative Creators there is nothing that is not used. "There are", as one author has so wisely said, "no garbage cans in God's Kingdom". Nothing is denied its existence. Everything is woven into a living whole. Everything is woven into a wholeness. Everything is woven into holiness. This is the work of The Creative Power of God, which is also,The Power of Love, Who is, The Holy Spirit. Wherever there is love, there is, of necessity, creation.

In all of these mysterious workings, no one is doing anything by themselves. Co-operation, collaboration, is required. God relies on humankind to bring about the continuation of the perfection of His creation. He in us, and we in Him continues the perfection of a creation that has been in process for millions of years. This ongoing creation will not stop with our passing. As we have built on the efforts of so many, so many will come after us to continue the work we have been a part of. Each person, in every generation will be given the unique gifts, and grace necessary for their unique contribution. So, we are ever and always given a choice. We are given the choice to say yes, or no. That is how much our God loves us. He, the Ultimate Lover loves us into freedom. There is no force, there cannot be. It is intrinsically impossible for our God to force us to do anything. God does not make us do anything. He is not a puppeteer, pulling the strings, as we move on command, with no self control. There is that image of God in some people’s minds, that is not the living, loving, gracious God of a healthy spirituality.

When a person is healthy, personal boundaries are respected. Since our Father-God is the essence of health, our boundaries are always respected, and safeguarded. Sometimes, no, a great deal of the time, I wish God was not so healthy. A little dysfunction on His part would make my life so much easier. At times, it tees me off that God will not do for me what I can do for myself. I like things to be done my way, and on my terms. Not healthy thinking, so I am told!!!!! Such thinking leads to real dysfunction. When my little agenda allows no questions, and no opposition tolerated, this eventually leads to dictatorship. That old saying about absolute power corrupts absolutely, needs to be kept in mind! Even when it is more convenient to deny that particular wisdom. Will, can an ego trip like this last? Of course not. Eventually there comes, in all of these scenarios, painful collapse. This leads to apparent destruction, as the so called powerful one is overthrown. The false- self created, paper mache kingdom, is destroyed. This can, and will happen sometimes fast sometimes slow. The towers built will crumble. All that has constituted the kingdom turns to rubble. This is where faith, hope and endurance comes in. This is not the end, however. This is the beginning of a new creation. The first was the creation based on ego. The second is the creation is brought about by grace. The chaos brought about by the fall of that created by self, will is in direct contrast with the peace, joy, and love experienced in that new creation of grace. What has really happened is that our Creator God has taken the rubble of our kingdom, and created His Kingdom with it. (Rohr) That is why we have a sense of familiarity, yet we know something has changed. These changes are slowly, and gently revealed to us.

Thomas Merton has written the following about the above mentioned cooperation, and collaboration, " ....if I hope in God, I must also make confident use of the natural aids which, with grace, enable me to come to Him. If He is good, and if my intelligence is His gift, then I must show trust in His goodness by making use of my intelligence. I must let faith elevate, heal and transform the light of my mind. If He is merciful, and my freedom is a gift of His mercy, I must show my trust in His mercy by making use of my free will. I must hope and charity purify and strengthen my human liberty and raise me to the glorious autonomy of a son/daughter of God.

Some who think they trust in God actually sin against hope because they do not use the will and the judgment He has given them. Or, what use is it for me to hope in grace if I dare not make the act of will that corresponds with grace? How do I profit by abandoning myself passively to His will if I lack the strength of will to obey His commands? There, if I trust in God’s grace, I must show confidence in the natural powers He has given me, not because they are my powers but because they are His gifts. If I believe in God's grace, I must also take account of my own free will without which His grace would be poured into my soul to no purpose."