Sunday, May 27, 2012

Two Deaths........Terminal........Paschal........

There are books that you read. Then there are books that you read and read and read seemingly always for the first time..For me, such a book is “The Holy Longin" by Fr. Roland Rolheiser. I find myself going back to reread that which I have previously read. The result is, I always begin to question my memory. In the rereading there will always be some word, or phrase that will pop up and strike me right between the eyes. I have to ask the question, "where have you come from and where were you hiding the last time I was here?”. Of course I get no answers, I just continue to talk and question myself. That lead to that, which I am not now ready to detail, or discuss. Maybe in my memoirs ??? That will be some book !!!!!!!! The following is an example of that which always carries new insights, leading to a new way of experiencing and celebrating life. I can honestly say it has lead to a new and deeper connection with the Eucharistic Celebration. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is celebrated from a completely different place with the following understanding ....."The Paschal Mystery.. is a process of transformation within which we are given new life and a new spirit. It begins with suffering and death, moves on to the reception of new life, spends some time grieving the old and adjusting to the new, and finally, only after the old life has been truly let go of, is a new spirit given for the life we are already living....We can see that are five clear, distinct moments within the paschal cycle...Each of these is part of a single process, an organic one, and each needs to be understood in relationship to the others to make sense of the Paschal Mystery. Each part is one process of transformation of dying and letting go so as to receive new life and new spirit." (To save space I am combining two diagrams in to one.) 1. Good Friday - "the loss of life--real death" For us ,today, this means we are required to, "name your deaths". 2. Easter Sunday...."the reception of new life ". For us today we are required to, "claim your births." 3. The Forthy Days. "A time of readjusting to the new and for grieving the old". We are required to "Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality" 4.Ascension.." Letting go of the old and letting it bless you, the refusal to cling."We are " NOT to cling to the old, let it ascend and give you it's blessing" (All this results in..) 5. Pentecost..”the reception of a new spirit for the new life that one is already living". Our part.."Accept the spirit of the new life that you are in fact living." ( He then goes on to add.) ' This cycle is not something that we must undergo just once, at the moment of our deaths, when we lose our earthly lives as we know them. (Oh how I wish that were true. Sadly no. He goes on to remind us.) It is rather something we must undergo DAILY, in every aspect of our lives. Christ spoke of many deaths, of daily deaths, and of many risings and various pentecosts. The Paschal Mystery is the secret to life. Ultimately our happiness depends upon properly undergoing it." Now here is some more food for transformative reflection: " ..regarding two kinds of death. There is terminal death, and there is paschal death. Terminal death is a death that ends life and ends possibilities. Paschal death, like terminal death, is real. However, paschal death is a death that, while ending one kind of life, opens the person undergoing it to receive a deeper and richer form of life. The image of the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying so as to produce new life is an image of paschal death." Ever since I first read that book, it has made it somewhat easier to journey with individuals and families that have encountered loss. Loss comes to each and every human being in many and varied ways. Each loss is unique. Unique to the person, the family, community, nation and the family of nations. We are all affected by each loss, to a greater and lesser degree. We have a common bond as we all participate in the human race. As we go so does the future of our world. We may use every excuse and rational, but there is no denying that truth. If we all lived our lives out of that truth what a different world we would have. Yet, guess what that world vision is coming. The seed has been sown, in the darkness of the tomb. Because new life burst forth from the womb of the tomb, (The Risen Christ), so we now await a new heaven and a new earth that is slowly and inexorable appearing. It cannot be stopped. There is no power greater than God's power. If there was then that power would be God. What we do is install the so called "powerful one" as god. We may go so far as to worship that it's altar. That altar is constructed by the forces of power, property, and prestige. How easily we get seduced into worshipping at that altar and seldom, if ever, at the altar of The Living & True GOD. When these gods of illusion disappear, as they surely will, all is not lost. This loss is in reality a death, a paschal death, though we do not yet know that. God does not depend on our knowledge. The loss of power, any power is a death. The loss of property and prestige is also a death, that must be grieved for. In healthy grieving we will be lead to the understanding of The Paschal Mystery hidden deep within all that has happened, and is happening. (Our God is smooth.) This so called we are experiencing is Not an ending, this is a beginning. Do we believe it? A question we have to answer again, and again, until our terminal death. To sum up ,when I am challenged to enter into despair and begin to see life through the lenses of terminal death, let the above diagram challenge my "stinking thinking". Let me have the honesty to admit" that when I choose to dwell the place of despair and negativity I am choosing to live life grounded in a lie. I am not living out the truth and the freedom of the Paschal Mystery. That is our decision not anyone else's. A decision we make, consciously or subconsciously each and every moment we are given to live. Therein lies the difference between living and existing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When I Choose....Healthy....Love....

There was a great deal of love in last weekend's Liturgical celebrations. It was Mother's Day. The sacred scriptures chosen for the celebrations were an excellent choice. In the Gospel we heard the command of Jesus,"to love one another". In the second reading we were reminded by The Beloved Disciple," that God is love". We must always keep in mind it is not love, that is God, but it is God who is love. There is a whale of a difference between the two. We are further reminded by St. John of the fact it is not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us. William Johnston adds, "it is not that I give love, but that I receive love". This will result in we being able to love in the way we have been loved by God. God IS the source of all healthy love. When we are not connected with the source of real love, then we will end up being the source of another's unbelief/disbelief. Tough words to swallow. To my way of thinking that is true. We are told today we have with God what we have in our human experience. (For better or for worse.) When I am told I am loved by someone am I not entitled to think and expect the following. "Love is patient, love is kind, love takes no offense, and is not resentful." Now that person who says that they “love me" does not reflect that in the reality of their actions, then confusion sets in. They become the targets of "the loving person's" impatience, prejudice, rash judgments, resentment, and they find out that this “loving person" is easily offended. They is no connection between the "inward belief and the outward actions". I have found this not only does this lead to confusion, but to the rejection of God, and in some cases to the possibility of the existence of a God. We are ever and always working on integrity. That is matching our outward action with our inward beliefs. That is the ideal, and we are always coming up a little short. So it gets back to us doing what we can do, and surrendering what we cannot do into the mercy-full hands of our gracious, and so understanding Father God. This allows us to be driven and shepherded, to the, oh so mysterious land of grace. We will each travel our own unique trail to that place of mystery. It is not an easy journey. We do not need the journey to be made more difficult, than it already is, by the “false prophets”. These "false, self righteous, prophets" place imaginary obstacles in the way. I say, imaginary, because they are the result of their uninformed minds. What they are saying and projecting has nothing to do with the reality of the God of Jesus Christ. I have met with literally thousands of people who have been in inner conflict because they take as “gospel” the uniformed "garbage" of these so called, “good catholics”. I have also encountered so called Christians who "cherry pick" the gospels to satisfy their prejudiced position. The spiritual garbage that is loaded onto the victims of this baloney; if, guilt, anger, resentment, boredom, anxiety, greed and envy. Pretty serious stuff. How can any person have a healthy relationship with ones’ self, or anyone else with all of that “stuff". This negates a healthy relationship with God. A codependent one ? Oh YES!! A healthy one no!!! Conversion must happen, and it will not be easy. The god of the false prophets, once given a footing, is not easily exorcised. This false god ,or gods have our egos as an ally. This is the war that is ever and always being waged in the depths of our souls. Are we doomed? Of course not. What is the antidote to all that poisonous, death-dealing, garbage? The presence of a healthy person, who themselves are seeking, and searching for that which will lead them to wholeness, to holiness. We are the need of one with an open heart, and an open mind. A person who instead of telling what to do, shares with us their story. In the telling of their story there comes to us the great gift of hope. so we come to believe, as it was with them, we begin to trust in the fact, so it can be with us. There is the foundation of trust leading to belief. We experience a love that is unconditioned, unlimited and unrestricted. A love that can only have the life giving God as it's source. The miracle of grace happens. We are in the beginning stage of being birthed into a new way of acting, thinking and living. It is in that order , and not in any other, that this great miracle of grace happens. "When love awakens in you life, in the night of your heart, it is like he 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...The human heart in never completely born. Though the human body is born complete in one moment, the birth of the human heart is an ongoing process. It is being birthed in every experience of your life." John O'Donoghue in his spiritual classic, "Anam Cara" the Gaelic for Soul Friend.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Wounded...Risen...Good Shepherd, Part 2

Each morning as I eat my breakfast, I read the paper. I, as you may well guess, go to the sports page first. Then, I look at the inside of the first page to see what the thought of the day is. I prepare myself for weighty thought by reflecting on the chuckle proposed for that day. Quite a beginning? This last Saturday, this was the thought for that day. It was a quotation from the great Albert Schweitzer, "In everyone's life, at some time, our inner flame goes out. It is then burst into flame again by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who kindle the inner spirit". It quickly dawned on me that this fits right into this ongoing reflection on the post Easter experiences of The Risen Christ and His followers. They were disturbed, disillusioned and disheartened. They were at this stage very lost “as sheep without a shepherd”. (We all know that feeling, even though we may not want to admit it, or speak about it.) It is then Good Shepherd time. It is now not just the Good Shepherd who seeks them out, it is the Wounded Good Shepherd who is seeking and searching for the lost and lonely. He is able to show those in the throws of grieving, that death is not an end, it is a beginning of a new way of seeing, believing, and being. This is not going to be easy. That is why, in some Gospel accounts, Jesus who became the Risen Christ, spent such a long time to allow this new way of seeing, believing and thinking to occur. He made effort after effort to ease this transition, but was He totally successful? He had to leave them on the Mount of The Ascension while they were still in doubt. The followers were able to worship The Risen Christ and still doubted. Who says we have to have it wired for God to be able to with us, in us and through us. Those worshipping doubters were sent forth to preach this new, revolutionary, Gospel, and change the world??? Thomas, the unbeliever, would have been on that mountain. I do not call him “doubting Thomas", that would give doubting a bad name. (Yes, I do repeat myself.) He was unbelieving or disbelieving, not doubting. I like that definition of Faith as, "doubt grounded in hope". Megan McKenna, in her book, And Morning Came, expresses these thoughts. She begins with John 20:24-25, and then continues, " Two lines and the truth is told. Someone was missing. The community was not whole or together. Thomas absented himself. Why? Perhaps his reason is hidden in his name twin. When people are living in fear and insecurity many want to be with others and some, who have other opinions, an alibi, prefer to go out on their own. Thomas had an out. If he was recognized as one of Jesus' disciples, he could always feign ignorance and say, “oh you must mean my twin brother”. Has he gone back to the old way of life, before he met Jesus and went off as part His company? Has he parted company with them now there is persecution and the possibility that he may be arrested? It would seem so. The other ten disciples who have traveled with him and Jesus, prayed, eaten, learned, and been His followers, all try to tell him the same story: “we have seen the Lord!”. And he steadfastly refuses to believe any of them. He flat out rejects the community's word, hope, and the passing on of Jesus' command. He won't listen, obey, or believe them. He might, but he has his own criteria for belief--very callous, insensitive, and violent criteria, impossible in his mind to fulfill. He wants to see for himself and then he wants to open up the wounds of Jesus again, sticking his fingers in the nail holes and thrusting his hand into his side, to see if He bleeds and is really Jesus? It is insulting, degrading and horrible to think about. So, a week later, none of them has moved. His refusal, his selfish response to their hope and newborn belief is to kill it dead, abort it. Thomas, one of their own, is the reason fear prevails and none of them obey Jesus' Word. A week goes by, seven days, signifying a lifetime, an entire cycle of life, and this time he is with them. McKenna next quotes John 20:26-29, and then goes on to write, "This is the third peace, the peace of the Spirit, breathed upon them, the Spirit that forgives and holds bound those who need to be held bound. It is given to all, this peace that is forgiveness, but now Jesus shows the disciples how to hold one another bound. Thomas has paralyzed the community his disbelief and refusal to obey the word that was brought to him, seeking to obey Jesus’ command to them. He has insisted on impossible personal attention because he wasn’t with the community, a decision he made by his own free will. Now Jesus turns towards Thomas and singles him out, call his bluff repeating his own words back to him, holding him bound to actually try and do what he claimed for his criteria. He tells him, in this translation, “Do not doubt but believe”, but so many other translations read, "Do not persist in your unbelief, but believe". This is not doubt, this is stubbornness and hardness of heart that has hurt the whole community. This often happens in community and is not to be tolerated and allowed to go “unchecked". As it was with the first followers so it is with us, his followers of today. How often have we met disbelieving Thomas within ourselves, our families, our places of work, our Faith communities and our church. It is at this time and in that place of loss we find ourselves, that we need the presence of The Wounded risen Shepherd. Our needs are always met. Not in the way we expect them to be met, but in the mysterious ways of God. He whose appearance brought Thomas to faith will make His presence known to us in and through an encounter with the transformed wounds of another human being. In our pain and struggle another human being is placed in our path as the contemporary Wounded, Risen Good Shepherd. (That is a mouth full???) That living person will convey life to us as their story is told. They have been given the courage to share with us their pain of disbelief, disillusionment, disconnectedness and discouragement. They will tell us of the struggle to pray, to have any connection with a Higher Power, to have trust in a God that really cared for them in their screwed-up-ness. Somehow, in some mysterious way, the scales of fear are lifted. We begin to see in a new way, and begin to live a new life. It will be a contemporary Easter story. The Wounded Risen Good Shepherd is alive and well, aching to reveal Himself to us in a very personal way, and through us to all of His creation.