Sunday, July 22, 2012

Out of....Our....Dark Alleys....Gifts.

“I am the blind alleys of all your paths, for when you no longer know how to go any further, then you have reached Me, though you are not aware of it….I am a prisoner of your finiteness, because my love has made Me your prisoner…... I am in your anxiety because I have shared it by suffering it." Words from last week's blog. Since they were written, our world has surely changed. With change always comes a challenge. This is the root cause of so much anger. We were just fine where we were, and in what we were doing. Now something happens that changes all of that. Death and violence, have entered the picture of our reality, and we are radically changed. We will never ever be able to return to the way things were. We can wish, and wish, but we wish in vain. We can pray and pray, for the return of what was. God IS not present in the “was ness”, (to coin a phrase), He is only present in the "isness" of life. He can only be found in the here and now. As long as we are rooted in the memories of the past, no matter how attractive they appear to be, God is not found there. We have to let go of the past, to embrace the present and to prepared to meet our God in whatever the reality is. We have been extended the invitation, "come rest In me". Easy to sing and say. So very, very difficult to do. Why? In order to have the courage and the confidence to “rest" in God we have to face this tough question? What has been our experience when in moments of doubt, despair and desolation, and dissolution, we were able to go to a place of refuge. Even better still we had the welcoming tender, loving, strong arms of a person. In that embrace, we were safe and secure. In that place the human need of all of us human beings is met. Our need to be warm, safe and secure are met. The place we can call sacred. In other words it is a holy place, because of the encounter that tales place there. The person is to called holy, because in and through that person's presence The Presence of a living, life giving God becomes a reality. We have had a deep, authentic religious experience. This life affirming is what has to be brought to the Liturgical celebration. Because we have just had the dying and rising become incarnate for us. With the celebration it becomes intensified and becomes the source of strength for those who will be placed in our path. All we have to do is honestly and truthfully tell our story. Grace will take care of the rest. We have to be eternally thank-full there was a place or better still, if there was a person? It is essential that we have that person or place, or at least have the secure memories of the experience to return to again and again. Why then is this essential? Because as I now know, without a loving, life affirming relationship the possibility of having the living God of Jesus Christ will be very difficult. I have had to learn over the years the following truth; “What we have in our human relationships is that what we have with God.” (The understanding of which, I am not there fully.) How many say there is no God, yet have a great deep love for another person or persons? Their ability to love can only come from God, Who is The Source of all love. We have such a narrow concept of God, that it MUST be constantly shattered. Why? So there is more space for grace to work in. Keep this picture in mind, when we say we are broken and scattered all over the place, we now provided a great space for God to work in. This creative God-worker, we call The Holy Spirit. Just as in the case of the original chaos (read Genesis), the Spirit overshadows our brokenness and brings it all together as a new creation. We are reminded of the scriptures "behold I make all things new”. A creation so much larger than before the breaking. Then we will experience a new Heaven and a new Earth. The old has passed away. We are brought back to seek out and search out in a new way an ancient, eternal mystery of our faith. We are in need to visit again what we learned from our Paschal-Resurrection-Ascension-Pentecost experience, that death is not an end it is a new beginning. The beginning of a new way of seeing and being. A new way of living in the real world without the need for medicators such as, booze, drugs, sex, work, religion, shopping, relationships, food, T.V. sports, exercise, the list goes on and on. We are always challenged to go deeper into the darkness. We all will, at sometime(s), find ourselves lost the blind alleys not knowing the way. We of ourselves will not know, or have the wisdom to find, the way. This is scary. This is fear-full. This shatters us. We face the limitations of our sight and knowledge. Humanly speaking we have come to the end of our abilities to cope. Spiritually speaking we are in the best place possible. These are our moments will reveal to us the real truth about, grace. We begin to understand the saying, “there is no cheap grace”. He who did not intend this earth shattering experience uses it to reveal to us ,in an a new way who He/She is. This new understanding of faith reveals a new Reality (God). This new Reality becomes the source of a new life affirming, creative ,way of living, given only to be shared.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Sacrament of....Reading

Summer time is a time for reading and relaxation. People stock up on their "beach books", and "travel books". Some of these books are meant for escape. While others are meant for inspiration. It is good to have that balance. I always encourage the hard working and the driven to read a book, or books, that has no redeeming value whatsoever. Sounds good???? I have always loved the journeys I was, and am taken on, by so many different authors. I have mentioned before, I travelled many Arizona trails, even before I became an Arizonan. Zane Grey has always been, and continues to be, my very favorite author. I now have to think, and for the FIRST time, how much of my reading of westerns went into my decision to volunteer for the old Diocese of Tucson? I always thought, up to now, I volunteered after I read of the ratio of priests to Catholic, one to 12,000. (I read that statistic in 1957 in the library at St. Patrick's College, Carlow.) The mind….when are we ever going to understand it's mystery? Not in our life time, that I know. In my wondering, I have wandered, and for those who have heard me in person you say, "What is new?" So back to where I left off, reflecting on books. Inspirational books are an essential, not just a necessary part of library. We need to be challenged to leave behind our narrow way of thinking. Our unchallenged minds will lead to us that comfortable place where all we do is vegetate. In that place of comfort we will have the audacity to be the judge and jury, of ourselves, and consequently, of those we deem, lesser than us. We become so self righteous and condemning. Let us be gentle and understanding here. We are not acting from a place of real truth, we are acting out of our ignorance. As we are led from there, by grace, into a deepening understanding of the whole truth of who we really are something drastic, mind blowing happens? A change in perception happens. We are led into the truth of who we really are in the freedom of God's love. We are asked, even challenged, to start the journey into the belief of a love that is beyond our limited human, imagination. We have to let go, and this is so scary, all that is familiar to us, and journey, somewhat naked, into the unknown. Is not The Unknown, another name for God???? How awe-full is that??? Worth the pain and the struggle? Nothing in the spiritual life comes to us, without FIRST having to endure a journey into our brokenness, our innate powerlessness and gut wrenching fear. I read this many years ago, and I use it so often myself, and encourage so, so many to make this part of their daily prayer, and reflection. " And now God says to us what He has already said to the world as a whole through His grace-filled birth: I am here. I am with you. I am your life. I am your time. I am the gloom of your daily routine. Why will you not bear it? I weep your tears-pour out your tears to Me. I am you joy. Do not be afraid to be happy forever, since I wept, joy is the standard of living that is really more suitable than the anxiety and grief of those who think they have no hope. I am the blind alleys of all your paths, for when you no longer know how to go further away, then you have reached Me, though you are not aware go it. I am in your anxiety, for I have shared it by suffering it. And in doing so, I wasn't even heroic according to the wisdom of the world. I am in the prison of your finiteness, for my love has made me your prisoner. When the totals of your plans and life experience do not balance out evenly. I am the unsolved remainder. And I know that that remainder which makes you so frantic, is in reality my love that you do not understand. I am present in your needs. I am there and they are now transformed, but not obliterated from my heart. I am in your death, for today I began to die with you, because I was born, and I have not let myself be spared any part of this death….Ever since I became your brother, you are as near to Me as I am to myself." Karl Rahner. What awe-full, wonder-full words these are. Great fodder for thought as one sits and relaxes, by the gentle surf, or by a babbling mountain brook. Words that must be allowed to travel deep and in the depths of who we are, so they can be mingled with what has already penetrated to those depths. Of late we have sung, in prayer, “I will come to you in the silence, I will lift you from all fear, you will hear my voice I claim you as my choice, be still and know I am near." Do we believe that reality? How awe-full is that? We have to wonder, and wonder at those a words and allow whatever to surface and be owned. There is a new country song, at least for me, with the words "I love that you love me” and we can add "God" here to make a personal prayer owning the deepest reality of who we are. It provides us with limited words as we struggle to express the inexpressible. In prayer we are always coming up short. Is not that the reason we have The Spirit within to do that which we desire but of ourselves we cannot accomplish. The desire to pray, IS to pray, is a fact we must always keep before us. Spiritual reading is the great “starter” of prayer. Hence it is called sacramental. The place where we encounter the The Sacred, The Other, The Unknown, The Ineffable, that is why, where you stand you are always standing on Holy ground. “Life has got habit of not standing hitched. You got to ride it as you find it.You got to change with it. If a day goes by that does not change some of your old notions for new ones, that is just about like trying to milk a dead cow." Woody Guthrie

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Blessing....Of....Falling/Failing????

"Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future." This is a saying I must keep before me all the time. Every one of us sinners has a future to be lived within the tender, mercy-full love of our gracious Prodigal Father. The way that is going to happen for me is to live this present moment knowing that the mercy-full love of God IS, right now, being poured down upon me, as it is for you. As we open ourselves up to the need of this mercy we follow in the footsteps of some real heavy hitters. I am thinking here of Saints Peter and Paul, whose feast day we celebrated last week. Some of the saints are there "for our admiration, not for our imitation". Some lives are just plain out of our ball park. Peter and Paul are right there, daily, in our lives. When we get discouraged, and which one of us does not?, their lives are there for us, from which to draw strength and courage. Which one, Peter, the first pope, or Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. One, Peter, having promised to go so far as to die with Christ, turned around and denied Him three times? Paul, on the other hand, in his missed placed zeal, persecuted the early Christians, and so persecuted Christ? Tough choice is it not? Paul, aware of his special calling, is not comfortable with this aspect of his life. He sees it as an impediment to the mission he is destined for. So in order to be, a better instrument in the hands of God, he goes to the Lord to be cleansed of what he calls “the thorn”. He goes once and makes the request and what happens….nothing. He goes a second time and makes the same request. Result, the habit of sin still remains? (Sound familiar?) Then he goes the third time. He must have really said something that got the Lords attention and this time he got an answer. I am certain it was not the answer he WANTED, he received the answer he NEEDED. He was told to relax. Change his focus. Get away from the demands of the ego and surrender to A Power far greater than he. In other words let him, Paul, be converted. Let Paul accepted his powerlessness over his "thorn", so as to be open to and experience the power, grace and unconditioned love of Him whom he at one time, persecuted. Life with this God of ours makes no sense to those who want to be rational. Grace cannot be rationalized. God's love is too deep to be analyzed. This love of His, Grace, makes no sense if we use the measuring rod of the “World”. God’s love sets all the criteria we use daily on its ear. All we can do, as Paul was forced to do, is accept. Accept the fact that in all of our weaknesses we only have the strengthening love of God to fall back. It becomes the persistent safety net that is ever and always there to catch us when we fall. God's Persistent Safety Net, (G.P.S.) is ever and always there to catch us. Again and again, when we fall, God's love catches us. This love fills up what is missing. Then sets us back on the way we need to go, NOT in the direction we WANT to go. What a battle that is, right??? We are in the midst of that battle each and every moment of our daily lives. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” We are enfleshed within a broken humanity, the source of our thorn. We each have our own thorn. That thorn will change, in some cases, as we journey through life. The only thing certain is we will have a thorn to engage us, every step of the way. Like everything else in life, "every blessing is a curse, and every curse is a blessing". So the curse of our thorn eventually causes us to acknowledge our powerlessness, so as to experience the power-full-ness of God. That surrender does not happen without a series of battles. Battles we have to loose, so as to gain a peace, serenity and security our ego's or the world cannot provide. We will gradually come to accept that awe-full, wonder-full invitation, “come rest in Me". Therein lies the source of real strength, and lasting peace. It is in that place we are able to listen with open ears, heart, soul, and mind to the following, written by Henri Nouwen: “I have called you by name, from the beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, in you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the each and knitted you together in your mother's womb. I have carved you in the palm of my hand and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look on you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair of your head and guided your every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and whenever you rest, I will keep watch. I will give you food, I will satisfy your hunger and give you drink that quenches all you thirst. I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own, as I know you as my own. You belong to Me. I am your father, and mother, your brother, your sister, your lover and your spouse…yes, even your child..Wherever you are, I will be. Nothing will ever separate us, we are one."