Saturday, December 22, 2012
"You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience, you are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience." In those words, deChardin, sums up for us, real succinctly, the reality, the inherent mystery, hidden and revealed in the moment we call, "The Eternal Now". Human and spiritual, two seemingly contradictory realities, are to be sought out, and embraced, lovingly, by each one of us. Both, are to be loved in all their pain, joy, light, darkness, until through grace they become a unity within each one of us. This is the only way to wholeness, holiness. This loving is not easy. If it were easy, and we could do it naturally, why does our God have to make it a commandment? This is not easy commandment to obey. It is no walk in the park. It is however, the path we are invited to trudge, the mountain trail we are challenged to ascend. Left to our own selfish way of living we would never choose such a challenge. Yet, there is something inherent within each of us that draws us to seek and to search, endlessly. As a consequence, we are all seekers. We are all searchers. We are all on a quest. For what? We are not certain. All we know is there is an attraction that we respond to. A silent call that beacons us to leave the comfort, and security of where we are, i.e. Abraham. Like Abraham, our Father in faith, we hear, and off we go. Is there immediate success? The answer is a definite, NO. Success is NOT what this climb/hike is about. It is all about perseverance. It is all about putting one foot in front of the other. Ever vigilant to all that is. Why? Because, in the moment we are making that step all the strength I need is being given to me. This strength, God's grace, is communicated, NOT in the way I expect, but in the way our Gracious Father God deems best at that particular time. God's love is always particular, passionate, and persistent. She/He is prodigal, that is reckless in the way He/She lavishes infinite love upon you, and I. We cannot earn. We cannot somehow do something by which we deserve this unconditioned love. It is pure gift. All we can do is be humble enough to accept. We are encouraged not to look for rewards. Success is not what we are to be concerned with. We have to battle with the human need to know we are on the right path. Doing the right thing, doing the next healthy thing is the right path. Our path is not the path of certainty, rather, we are journeying into uncertainty. Who wants that? The answer! Those who have been chosen . Do you somehow have to be a "good person", no. One author points out that God seems to choose habitual sinners to make this mysterious journey. We sinners are graced in a way that is not ours to know. As the scriptures reveal to us that the things of God no man/woman knows. Only the Spirit. (First Cor.2:4). On this quest are many starts, stops, falls, and restarts. Those are a necessary part of the reality we have to face. Each time we encounter a hiccup, we just start up again. From all of our hiccups we gain experience, and knowledge. When we bring all that we are encountering to prayer, then we are gifted, through grace, with wisdom. Unfortunately, that is the only way we can grow in the wisdom, that is life giving. There are, then, many and varied obstacles to be met and overcome. It is not for the faint of heart. It is not for those who are easily discouraged. It is for those who are prepared, or are willing to be readied, for a journey into realities that radically change their perception of reality. As a consequence their perception of themselves, others, the world and God will be radically changed. This change will not be measured by some accepted metric. The change will come slowly, and ever so gently. When does this happen, and how will we know it is happening. It is happening right now, "do you not perceive it"? It is happening in this now moment, and will continue in each and every, "right now" moments of your life. Each moment is complete, yet, at the same time incomplete. To each moment there is the present, and the "yet to come". In this "yet to come" God's creative love, and will be acting, just as it is, right now. This gentle creative love is bring to birth, not who I think I should be, or I am expected to be. God's love is recreating me into the one God knows and loves, without condition or restriction? Amazingly this leads discomfort and to discontent. The reality of who I am in God's infinite love is way beyond my limited thoughts, and ideas. So there is a struggle. It is more than a struggle, it is a war. What I want has to do with my comfort as a human being. I am, in my as yet unredeemed humanity, geared for power, property, and prestige. I am at "my" best when I am winning in the world of control, comparisons ,and competition. Loss, failure, disappointment, these are words not allowed to be part of my vocabulary. They are forbidden to be given the light of day. Darkness is their friend. When this is our reality we are subtly being lead away from our personal Bethlehem, and our encounter with The Real Light. We will have to ask for the deepening honesty that will free us for the encounter. The encounter that radically changes everything. How does this happen? I wish I knew. We must never lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with mystery. A mystery that is beyond our ability to understand, as we are right now. That is why each year we have the celebration of The Incarnation. Each year we are led deeper into the mystery of The Infinite God being revealed to us as a fully human being. Our God Came to be like us in every way, except sin, and what love He, in and through the person of Jesus lavished on sinners. As it was, so it is and ever shall be, until the end of time. The person of the historical Jesus comes to us, again and again, to draw us deeper into the Mystery of God made human. The reason? So, we will be led to discover that within us, in our deepest reality, that same God that once entered this world is fashioning a dwelling place. This dwelling place is to be found in the depths of who we are. We are chosen to be Mary. We have been blessed with an "inner pregnancy". As we struggle with the birthing of who we really, we are at the same time revealing in a new and unique way, the Child Jesus. In The Child, the divine and the human are perfectly revealed and hidden. We are invited to enter the mystery so as to seek out that which will empower us to be instruments of lasting peace. Him who came as The Prince of Peace now relies on us to be instruments of His peace, and confront the hell of war. All war finds it roots within the human heart. We are challenged to imitate the life of Him who was both totally human and divine. In this imitation slowly and ever so gently the split within our so human heart is healed. This is why we again, and again, trudge the road to the Bethlehem within, always for the first time. There is a Christmas song ,that no matter how often I hear it, it stops me. "So this is Christmas, and what have you done...? So this is Christmas 2012 and what am I doing to make this year's celebration a new and a more vital life enhancing experience? What am I doing to discover, in a new way, my personal Bethlehem and there have an encounter with the Mary, the Joseph, the shepherds, the angels, The Wise Men, who are present in my life right now? To complete the Christmas pageant within. I must also ask for the honesty to face the Herod within!!! Now that real courage. If I am not working to enhance the spiritual ten I will be a death dealer rather than a life giver. There is a Herod within our families, parishes, church, and society. A power for destruction that must be faced, and countered. The religious leaders of that time knew the answers, but did not get to Bethlehem. They had the answers, they had the knowledge, but the journey to The Vulnerable One was never made. I wonder that is why is was so easy for them to conspire, with the successor of Herod kill The Man, This Child matured into? The journey to Bethlehem, is a journey of the heart. We are told: if we do not find spirit of Christmas within our hearts, we will not find it under a tree. May you all be blessed with the strengthen, and courage to make that so difficult trudge to The Crib within. May you find there peace, and consolation. May you embrace, without any fear, The Vulnerable Child within. May that embrace release within you all that is necessary for you to come to the belief that the human and the divine are at peace in the depths of who you are. That is your right. That is your dignity. That is the essence of who you are, protect it as if you were defending The Christ Child, which in fact you are. Wonder-ffffuuuullllll.
Monday, December 10, 2012
I recently met a very excited young couple. The reason for the excitement? They were thrilled to inform me that their expectant child is to be born on Christmas Eve. Wow!!! What a gift, for them and for all those who will be participate in that wonder-full event. Each and every birth are moments full of awe, full of mystery. Over these many years I have spoken with many of those special people whose vocation is to assist at births. They have spoken of how each birth is such a unique experience for them. There is a newness about each birth. Why and why not? Each new birth is the emergence of God in a new and different reality. Each child is a mystery. A mystery never to be solved, always to be revered. This new mysterious presence is, the incarnation of the love of mom and dad, and a new manifestation of the God, who is, Love. Each child then, and consequently each one of us, continues The Mystery of The Incarnation. The Mystery, whose reality we are preparing ourselves to celebrate. Preparation is a necessary prerequisite when dealing with the appearance of new life. As it was, so it is ,and ever shall be. The young couple, and their families, are making serious preparations for the coming birth. Their hard work, is a labor of love. Nothing will be left to chance. They have been blessed with the knowledge of the approximate time of this child's appearance. They will not be caught unaware. (Note I have said, "approximate time". New babies have no idea of what time is all about. That burden will be imposed on them at a later date. How blessed are those children not confined with the tyranny of time. How really free, they are. How blessed, their lives.) This begs the question, what form are our preparations taking, so that we will be prepared for The Birth, that is to come. Each year is a new birthing, so each year, we must be prepared anew. Preparation is essential, so that The Birth, which gives infinite meaning to all subsequent births, may not pass us by, unrecognized, and consequently, not celebrated. In the event we choose not to prepare to celebrate, we will slowly loose our reverence for the mystery our life is. We are being exposed to the callous way persons and their life are treated. Left to our own devices, we will slowly loose our connection with The Source, Who gives real meaning to all life. Because of the pain that we are in, we do not think in a healthy manner. All sorts of dysfunction appears. We will strike out at everyone, and everything. We will even go so far as to blame people, places, situations, and even God, for what our inaction brings on us. It is so much easier to blame others, rather than look inside and take responsibility for what is really our own doing. Real growth begins when we stop playing the blame game and grow up. This is a sign we are on the way to growing up, we are taking responsibility for our actions. I did not like to be confronted with that fact. I did not like being in the position where I had nobody to blame, only myself. I had to grow up, and take responsibility. This process of taking responsibility is a life-long challenge. I still like to play blame game, but I am not able to get away with it. Working on becoming healthy has its disadvantages. Honesty can be a real pain. Who really wants to grow up. It is so much fun in being the "puer aeternus". Becoming the "senex" is tough work. There is a lot of death, and resurrections. It takes one deep inside to face the darkness, and beyond that the life giving Light. This is the Year of Faith. A year we are asked to journey anew in the depths of our faith, so as to discover, hidden treasure. Hidden treasures that up to now have been stashed away in the darkness of our depths. It takes reckless courage, (Yeats), a gift of grace, to make that journey. What is discovered is not for ourselves, it is to be shared. It is to be shared so that others may be blessed with the desire to go deep as well. We, in one sense, become beacons of light. This light radiates from within the actions of our daily lives. These actions speak words of encouragement, peace, kindness, mercy, tenderness, compassion, and mutual respect to a world in deep need for such empowering gifts. These gifts empower us to grow in the acceptance of what it means to be human. It also awakens the desire that others may grow into that same gift. The more we become at home within our humanity, the more ready we are to accept the true dignity of who we have been chosen to be. We will more readily accept the dignity inherent of all human beings. This inherent dignity is that The Infinite God, has chosen each and every person to be an essential part of His continuous creation. The Incarnation, creation, continues through each and every so called ordinary, daily action. In our God's world, there is no ordinary. In God's creation, everything is an original. It may appear to be ordinary, but the x-ray eye of faith tells us different. Our inner dignity can only be discovered through inner reflection. In the process of reflection we will come face to face with not only that which brings us peace and joy. It also forces us to face the unacceptable, the unloveable, those parts we recoil from, as we would an enemy. We must not shy away from this so uncomfortable reality. Why? Simply put, but very disturbing, this is our Bethlehem in 2012. This is where the Savior of our deepest weaknesses will be revealed. The weaknesses and brokenness of this year are new and different, are they not? It stands to reason then that our conscious decision to embrace The Savior must be both new and different. We have never journeyed to this Bethlehem, so a new and different understanding of what it means to have a Savior awaits us. We have to make that journey. It cannot be done for us. We are responsible for the individual journey to, encounter. In the celebration of the encounter with The Mystery, we discover we are not alone. All our fellow human beings are on the same quest. May This Year of Faith encourage a deeper appreciation of the knowledge and wisdom that comes to us from the enfleshment of The Infinite One. May His humble, earthly beginnings lead us to a healthy, comforting ,real-life giving relationships. Beginning with ourselves, may we discover, through our reflection on who this Vulnerable newborn Child, a sense that our vulnerability is not to be shunned, but embraced. This embrace will allow us to discover this strange, stunning, and subversive truth. A truth The Incarnate God came to reveal. It is within the embrace of the un-embraceable, unacceptable an indescribable power, which up to now was, unknown is now released within us. Into the darkness of our night, Light has shone, and.........."