Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Chapters of our Life....

Last week there was the suggestion that each one of our lives is a Bible. Now the Bible is not ONE book, it is a LIBRARY of books. Each book was written at a unique time to tell an unique story. What is this unique story? It is the story about God dealing with humankind, and His creation. This relationship was lived out in a particular time and space. Yet, the reality of what is described has a life way beyond time and space. That which we read about in The Bible is a living description of my life today. Our lives are a continuation of The Bible story. John Shea, “We are God's story". When it comes to understanding God, we have to let go of the restraints of time and space. We are dealing with That which is beyond our control, no matter how much, or how deeply, we desire to control. We cannot define God, and so control God. In Africa, there is this saying "to define is to kill". This is a necessary, pre-requisite for a deep understanding of all things spiritual. "With God all things are possible.....with God nothing is impossible." Must be a constant mantra for each one of us, as we tell God's story by the life we lead.

The Bible is a very long story. It is the story of all human beings, their lived, real, relationship with their Creator. The means of telling the story are many and varied. In this library, we call the Bible, we read history, poetry, mythology, wisdom and theology. A whole book of prayers is given to us, as models for our prayer. Each book and sometimes books within the one book, are placed before us to meet a need. All are presented as The Source of
Encouragement and counsel. It isThe Source of information, leading to formation. Through this formation, we will then be lead to understand that formation is NOT enough. We need contemplation, so as to be led into The Mystery, lying patiently, waiting for us to discover. That Lived Life, which is beyond what we read and see will be revealed, but in Mystery's time. This time we are called to live in, is Kairos time. Many feel that this stage is the last step. How dangerous that thinking is. This way of seeing can and does lead to all sorts of unhealthy thinking and action. Contemplation, of necessity, leads us to action. "Contemplative action" is the goal of all Catholic Christians. K. Rahner has said that there will be a time where you will have only two groups left in the world, contemplatives and atheists.

"How then, are we to approach The Bible and as a consequence all spiritual reading. Henri Nouwen has written the following; “Reading often means gathering information, acquiring new insights and knowledge, and mastering a new field. It can lead to degrees, diplomas and certificates. Spiritual reading, however, is different. It means not simply reading about spiritual but also reading about spiritual things in a spiritual way. That requires a willingness not just to read but to be read, not just to master but to be mastered by words. As long as we read the Bible or a spiritual book simple to acquire knowledge, our reading does not help us in our spiritual lives. We can become very knowledgeable about spiritual matters without becoming spiritual people.

As we read spiritually about spiritual things, we open our hearts to God's voice. Sometimes we must be willing to put down the book we are reading and just listen to what God is saying to us through its words......Spiritual reading is food for our souls. As we slowly let the words of the Bible or a good spiritual book enter into our minds and descend into our hearts, we become different people. The Word gradually becomes flesh in us and transforms our whole being. THUS SPIRITUAL READING IS A CONTINUING INCARNATION OF THE DIVINE WORD WITHIN US. In and through Jesus, the Christ, God became flesh long ago. In and through our reading of God's Word and our reflection on I, God becomes flesh in us now and makes us into living Christs for today. “Let us keep reading God's Word with love and great reverence"

Have you ever reflected on the library of books your life is? There is your history book, now seen as the continuation of salvation history. Your story IS God's story. What is The Wisdom book you have within which is yours because you how your God had taken the pain and challenges of life and revealed gifts beyond measure. These gifts are, in part; patience, kindness, empathy, compassion, sensitivity, the ability to understand and not stand in judgement. These gifts, I am sorry to say, can only come to us from bringing our angers and frustrations to prayer. By this action, we are surrendering, accepting defeat, accepting our inability to cope. This is NOT LOSS, this is the way it is in the spiritual life, in these moments of loss, and surrender and allow God to transform that which we definitely do not want in our lives. You have the mythology of your dreams, to take you where your reality really is. You have the book of sacred prayers written by your daily actions directed by The Holy Spirit. You have your unique theology. This theology is formed by that which has come to you through The Spirit within revealing a unique knowledge of God. In the history of the church we had what was known as the “Teaching authority of the people". Were not many of our saints declared by the people, and accepted the universal church? There is your inner authority, as well as there is the outer authority. You have The Book of Music to be shared and The Book of Poetry. Each day, event, season, has given us that song, that poem which will console, gladden the hearts of those who listen to the language of the heart. We need more "heart to heart” encounters so this journey through the "vail of tears” may be one of growth and discovery, leading to a life of Joy.

Reverence then your story, and the story it tells. In that which lies behind your life, dwells Life Itself. You are the dwelling place of Mystery.
Your life then is...???????

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Good News Lived....Is Gospel

I am back from Mass. As I reflect back on the scripture readings, they appeared to be more appropriate for the season of Lent, not for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Then again, on second thought, the encouraging message offered is timeless. We, because we are human, are in constant need of this reminder. In the sacred readings, the prophet Jesus encourages us to "repent and believe in the gospel". In other words, we are to repent and believe in The Good News. This is a call to perform two actions. We are to first of all, repent, then we are to believe in the good news of the gospel. In practice we are to turn around from the direction we are going in, and go the opposite way. In other words, make a u-turn. Our spiritual journey demands many, many, u-turns. When we make such a turn, we are admitting "I am going in the wrong direction, and must change direction". We make the turn because of some new information that was revealed to us. To keep going in the old direction would not get us to where we intended to go. With the new information came a new direction. As we travel in this new direction, we gain confidence that we will reach our destination. The attitude has changed as well. There is that great inner feeling, which I cannot describe, knowing you are on the right path, the right trail. With that feeling comes a great sense of freedom and enjoyment.
When I hike in a new area I always have a map. Even with a map I can get lost. (I can get lost in a bath tub.) There is real fear in being lost. That fear is relieved when someone appears who knows the right direction and takes the time to share that knowledge in a way I can understand. Small words in short sentences, is my preferred way to hear 'the good news' of new directions. So often, the new information demanded I double back and go in the opposite direction. This act of faith is both humbling and freeing. So it is with the "good news” that comes to us from The Gospel of Jesus Christ. All "good news", in any form, is intended to direct us safely home . This results in that great feeling one gets when after enduring a troublesome, challenging part of a hike one sees clearly where one is to go. There is a deep need to shout out in joyous freedom. "WOW….WOW….WOW, I MADE IT." I would like to suggest this is a paradigm to help us communicate the experience of the spiritual reality, both hidden and revealed, in that which we call, life.
By our birth we have been placed on a path to travel, a trail to hike, that will eventually lead us to,"the fullness of life”. This 'fullness’ is also called The Kingdom of God. This is, as you well know, NOT a temporal kingdom. It is a spiritual kingdom of justice, love and peace. It is an eternal kingdom, which we cannot earn or deserve, because it is a gift. Because of this gift we can freely choose to enter into The Kingdom of, peace, joy, and love, or not. Well, to be very honest, there is a catch, (I can hear you say, “I knew it, this is too good"). We have to ALLOW it to happen. Our egos will fight us tooth and nail on this one. We have become so used to earning, deserving, and qualifying for what we receive, so when such a great gift is freely offered we balk. We begin to calculate what do I have to give in return? What is equal to the gift i have been gifted with? The gift is eternal in its origin. It is "the pearl of great price".
To make it easier for us to get our arms around this “Good News", our gracious God sent His Beloved Son to Incarnate this Good News. He choose our humanity and our everyday living as human beings, as the instruments through which this great mystery is revealed. Jesus came as the lived reality, of that which is offered spiritually. We will be challenged to turn from one way, our selfish, self-centered way of existing, so as to live another, centered way. This u-turn, this turning around frees us to live a life that is truly human and truly free. St. Irenaeus has this wonder-full saying, “The glory of God is the human person fully alive". That is what our God’s plan for us is. We do our best to mess it up. We need to repent from our self-centered way, which leads to a life lived in guilt, fear and shame. We need to turn to a new way of acting which is appropriate for those who are called to live the life of free daughters/sons of a Gracious, merciful God. In this turning, this acting, a wonder-full reality appears. We begin to think of ourselves as the beloved daughter/son. We begin to believe in our beloved-ness and so are lead to live life and live it to the fullest. We begin to live out the reality of the good news. We are fulfilling our God given destiny. It is for this you were born, for this you were created, for this you were anointed, consecrated, to be revealers of that great secret which our world so desperately needs. You then are the contemporary “gospelers", spelling out in your life today what Jesus Christ taught and lived. Your lived everyday life may be the only bible some people will ever get to read. See how much faith our God has in each and every human being, as well as in all of His creation. Want to shout out, “WOW….WOW….WOW”, now?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

We Are All Beachcombers!

As we look at our calendars, which measures every day, cronos time-the annual spiritual tsunami has passed. The waves of grace which washed onto the our shores of our souls during the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany, have accomplished their mission. They have come and receded back into the original ocean of infinite, eternal grace. These waves of grace have washed onto the shores of our souls, with what results?

After an ocean storm, you have the beachcomber who searches the beaches. They are seeking, searching for “treasure" left behind, as the result of the storm. It must be so exciting when she/he is surprised by some "gem" washed up on the shore. So at this time, I would like to suggest that each one of us don the mantle of beachcomber. We, too must take the time to seek out, and search out those life giving gifts, treasure that has been deposited on the shores of our souls by the recent "storm". The beachcomber has no shopping list. What she/he discovers is looked on as a gift from the ocean. There is gratitude for what has been gifted. As they can have no expectations, and hence with no expectations, the beachcombers must have an attitude of gratitude for the gift right there before them. They are in gratitude and not resentment. We are here taught the lesson, gratitude and resentment cannot coexist. That is a great lesson to learn. We cannot be grateful, thank-full and resent-full, at the same time. So, there is a choice to be made, by us, and we are responsible for that decision. We are placing ourselves in either gratitude or resentment, nobody else can be blamed, or held responsible. How often I have wished it was healthy to be able to blame somebody else.

Grace, will wash upon the shores of our souls, all that will ever need at any given moment. Our needs are always met, but not in the way we want, or expect. Our needs are always GUARANTEED, our selfish, self centered greed, no way. Our God is so healthy, He will never give us that which is spiritually unhealthy for us. There are times, I have wished, no wanted, my God to be a little more codependent, just a wee bit. It is only when we look back at our lives we see the wisdom of our Father/Mother God in not giving us what we so desperately wanted at the time. Remember that old song that brought this point home? Did it not say that God's greatest gifts were prayers that were NOT answered.

Life, we are told is lived, looking forward, but understood, looking backward. In order to look backward, we have to take the time to stop, look, listen. This process will lead us to
discover the lessons learned, and that which we still have to learn.
This so necessary time is provided by the liturgy, which " is the work of the people." Yes it is work. It is a struggle to let go of all those outward demands so as to pay attention to what our minds, souls, spirit demands of us. This demand is met as we celebrate the community prayer, we call, liturgy. In the time we set aside to celebrate liturgy we celebrate the now moments, we call time. In the celebrations, different layers of meaning are revealed, for us to give reverence. As a consequence, we are led into the ever-deepening mystery of God present in all time. There is NO ordinary time. All time is sacred, all time is holy.

To be connected to The Mystery of The Incarnation as any everyday experience, what must happen? We must allow the lenses of faith to be adjusted by The Optometrist . Through the adjustment, the action of grace, we will become aware of the gifts of The Holy Spirit is placing in our lives. That is what happens in each liturgy. Our ability to see enhanced. We do not just have one adjustment, we need constant adjustment. There is always something new happening in our lives which triggers anxiety and fear. We need a place where we are assured that all of this "stuff" is now being worked into the pattern of our life. We need to be reminded it is this "new life” that God will use to reveal who He is. That trauma, conflict, upheaval is not intended by God, He is not that sick. The moment, that very second that pain, loss, tragedy becomes part of our lives, The Holy Spirit is working it into a new pattern. In this new pattern , which we have created, The Incarnation continues becoming a reality, in this mysterious way "creation continues". We have added our unique touch to God's masterpiece. Try that one on for size!!!

Already, in a recent scriptures this has been made this known to us. In times past, God spoke to humankind in fragmentary and various ways, through the prophets. Now in the fullness of time, God has spoken to us through His Son, His exact representation. How did This Son "speak " about His Father-God? Was it through “two bit words”? No, to teach The prophet Jesus, took from the ordinary events and made the eternal connection. He came as a human being to challenge us to see in all that is authentically human His ongoing presence. The events of Advent/Christmas/Epiphany are alive and well as we continue to discover, ever anew, the living, daily presence, of Mary, Joseph, The Shepherds, and The Angels. Where can they be found TODAY living within you? "The crib within" is a reality. It is a lasting, eternal presence, not a temporary scene to be looked at and forgotten. Just because the visible, physical, cribs have been packed away that does not mean their spirituality has ceased to exist. If that happens, then The Holy Family lived in vain. All they endured was for naught. It was a waste of time. So, let us set aside some time to "waste" in silence, so we can come to discover the many and varied treasures washed upon the shores of our souls. Through the eyes of wonder, we will discover what we need, not what we want, is right there in front of us. So until we meet again good beach combing.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


There was a touch of sadness as I journeyed through last Sunday's Liturgy. Something was missing. For the last number of years we celebrated the Feast of The Holy Family on the first Sunday after Christmas. This year we did not have that feast on a Sunday, and it was truly missed by me. I especially missed the old opening prayer. This opening prayer placed the following words in our mouths, minds, and so came into our hearts. Every year it provided an opportunity for each and every person to reflect, anew, on that which is most essential for a healthy, happy, wholesome and holy life. Our deepest wish, then, must be that as we pray this prayer, what we pray for, becomes an ever-deepening reality. We have prayed these simple words, never stopping to reflect on the wonder-full, enlightening, transformative message hidden within.

"Teach us the sanctity of human love, show us the value of family life."

Such simple words? Yet, how profound they are. We ask to be taught ‘the sanctity of human love”. We ask to be taught that this wonder-full, mysterious gift, which we are ever and always wanting to understand, is sacred, is holy. We have to be taught what so many use and abuse is the place where our God encounters us. Where love is, there our God is. Where there is no love, there is no God. We are told the way we are loved is the way we allow God to love us. Is not that scary? How often is imitation “love" used to control and manipulate others. This is so abusive. Why? It is saying to that person, "since God is love, I am asking you to believe the way I “am loving you” is the way your God loves you. [Of course, this is a LIE!] “As I am treating you, expect God to treat you in the same way". Pretty sick!!! But, we have with God, what we have in our human relationships. Yes, this IS the lived experience of so many who want nothing to do with God. They are not denying the True God, they are rejecting the false god, which they are lucky enough to intuitively know to be false. They ARE NOT ATHEISTS. They believe in the true God. These are in fact the prophets who challenge us to get healthy, and so reveal a life giving God that they can be believe in. They have only been exposed to abusive relationships, masquerading as “loving" relationships. Experiences such as this make it so difficult, but not impossible, to have healthy and so a holy life-giving relationship with a living God.

This involves real hard work. It takes the willingness and the courage to really leave home, and leave behind that which is
familiar. We are grounded in our family's way of seeing, acting and believing. When that is not right, or healthy it still takes time and guts to dare move away. It tales real courage to start the development of that which is healthy, and of its essence, life-giving. It is so hard to break away from the old familiar ways. This does not occur in a day, week, or month. That is why there is that “spiritual principle". “We do not think our way into a new way of acting, we act our way into a new way of thinking.” “The longest journey begins with the first step.” The first step is to acknowledge that innate desire to become healthy, and as consequence have a healthy, loving relationship with the real God. We will always receive and become that which is the healthy object of our desires. Deep down we are aching to be once again united with The God Who is our origin and destiny. This Living, Loving God, sees each one through the lens of infinite, patience and kindness. It is a love that does not take offense, and has no resentment to direct at us. Who in our life accepts us like this?

A healthy love of self leads to a healthy celebration of our sexuality. I read that sexuality is not so much about what I do, it is about who I am and who I am doing it with. Way, way back, St. Thomas saw that in marriage, prayer and sex are one and the same. Now how many have ever made that connection? When I used to prepare couples for marriage, I asked the following, "would you put sexuality and prayer in the same sentence?”. Some would not see it in the same paragraph, others not in the same page, while others would not see it in the same chapter or book. There has been a lot written about the sacramentality of sexuality. (A sacrament, with a small “s": is each and every person, place and event which brings one in contact with the deeper realities of life. Ultimately with Reality Itself, that Reality we can call God). We need to recapture the holy, the sacred aspect once again of human love, of human sexuality. As we see so many being abused in grade school, not to mention high-school, it is essential the God centered reality of sexuality must be embraced. It must be embraced by parents, who, because they see, and enjoy the mystery, have an authentic voice with which to speak and share with their children. So much misinformation comes to our young from locker room talk or from sleepovers. Where will the sacramental nature be in those conversations. John Bradshaw in one of his books equates lack of sexual information, is tantamount to sexual abuse. I am saddened to say over the years, I have found this to be so true.

Human love is then the sacrament, which in the Wisdom of God, has become the reality through which God has chosen to reveal who He is. As there are so many layers of understanding when it comes to human love, there are as many layers to be searched through, so as to come to the ultimate goal, a healthy love of ourselves, others, and God. This has been taken from Bishop Morneau, of Green Bay. The Packers are not the only good thing to come out of Green Bay.

My wish for the new year, is that you have the courage, or ask for the courage, to dare to do what it takes to experience the sanctity of human love. This will further expand your understanding of the sanctity of all that is authentically human. Let us journey deeper so we can understand the great connection between a healthy spirituality and the ever-deepening celebration of sexuality.