Tuesday, June 25, 2013
There was a headline on the front page of this morning's paper, “Short walks on a long journey." It was meant to encourage hikers, like myself, not to focus just on the long hikes alone but to consider shorter ones as well. It then went on to point to short hikes that were really worth taking. It struck a chord with me, as I reflected on how it may apply to everyday living. As you know, I love to compare our journey on "the spaceship earth" to a long, long hike. Each and every day is a “short walk" on the hopefully long journey we call life. We, who have emerged from the mist of The Eternal, are forever and always, in a reality, way beyond that which our limited vision, can see. We believe, the Eternal, the Mystery, the Indefinable, the Ineffable, is a Reality we will never understand, on this earthly journey. As a consequence we will ever and always be seeking, and searching for understanding. Understanding of who we are, and who that source of our being is. We are in good company. We need to remember, St. Francis had just these two very basic questions. "Who are you God, and who am I?" St. Francis had that wonder-full simple faith which kept him grounded in those questions. I have, from my youngest years, admired St. Francis. I had even thought about becoming a Franciscan. In facing it myself I have to admit I love to complicate even the simplest things. So I have had to learn to simplify everything about my life. This is an ongoing difficult, pain-full moment-to-moment, daily struggle. Thank God I found, or was forced into hiking. Almost from the beginning I became aware, a hike was just about hiking. It was not about putting one foot carefully in front of the other. There was more, much more to this seemingly simple exercise. (I was told many years ago that the more simpler a reality APPEARS to be, the more profound it really is i.e. God). Gradually I came to realize that on hikes some of the basic, essential questions of what it means to be a "spiritual being immersed in the human condition." What this word means has triggered so many thoughts, feelings and emotions. We are all invited. Though many are not, and never would be, if I had anything to say about it. Which to my horror I have found out I do not. As a consequence I have many, many uninvited guests. Ever notice when you are in a place of quiet, in a deserted seemingly abandoned place, you have even more of these unwanted visitors. You can look and see that there is no one on the trail and you are, seemingly, on your own, but not really. You have many unwanted company crowding your mind, and demanding attention. They are unwanted because they bring to consciousness that which we much prefer was left buried. When this happens to me, I am forced to face my shadow side. This is the side, the part of me I want to live in denial of, the part of me I do not want to share with anyone. I am choosing to live in the hell of denial, choosing my state of denial brings NOTHING but pain, and destruction, for myself. Pain and destruction will also hurt a lot of those who share my life. I am going to have to deal with great upheavals, in my daily living. Those parts of my reality I choose not to share, the shadow, have been described by some authors as "the past, the primitive, and the inferior." It can be the parts of me that I find "unacceptable, unknown, and not yet developed." We all have this shadow side as, individuals, couples, families, parishes, diocese, nations, and the family of nations. On my hikes I am forced to face that which I would rather not face. Here, denial comes in very handy. Denial, I am sorry to say is just a stop gap measure. It does not do anything to help in the living into the solution. On the contrary, it just postpones the inevitable, which is pain and destruction. That which I choose to reject or am not ALLOWED to accept, as part of my reality, will REMAIN as part of my reality. This is going to happen whether I like it or not. It is not going anywhere, darn it! I can only embrace it, or as one book encourages, romance the shadow. We of ourselves are incapable of loving the shadow, that is where grace comes in especially particularly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Yes!! That Sacrament is still being celebrated, though not as much, to the detriment of so many who are unfortunately, shadow controlled. The Creative Lover, The Holy Spirit, The Spirit of Wisdom, needs to be invited to bring about reconciliation. A reconciliation between which I would like to be, and the reality of which I am. Reconciliation is a PROCESS, not an event, I have found from sad experience. So I am forced, on a daily basis, to embrace the truth of what Thomas More has said, "The soul is never cured, it is cared for." If the soul is not cared for there is a horrible price to be paid. When the maintaining work, that is spiritual exercises, is not being done there is a price to be paid. The Spirit brings about a transformation, and we are delighted. When the ego takes overhand we get cocky, the spiritual exercises are neglected, and we assume the place of God occupied. The ego has removed the Real God, The Real Higher Power. So now we worship at the altar of pride. This always results in the old patens of behavior returning, and with a vengeance. Remember what The Prophet Jesus said “the last state, will be worse than the first." It will be the same for me as soon as I stop the spiritual work, I am on the road to places I never, never in my wildest dreams, imagined ever existed. So I have to become more and more aware of what is bubbling up from the depths. Each moment is my encounter with where my life has come to and at this moment my life has peaked. "By the grace of God I am who I am, and on the way to becoming a more authentic human being. Not becoming in any way perfect but I am growing in the acceptance of the fact that I am perfectly imperfect. The letting go of the ideal, and becoming reconciled with the reality is all through the Loving, Creative, Power of our Gracious Prodigal Father God. Grace has brought me to this moment, and grace will keep me safe, in this moment. After all, does not The Holy Spirit, The Spirit of Truth, say to you and I, “Now is the acceptable time now is the time of salvation.” Right here right now my salvation is being worked out, as I respond, not react to my present reality. In order to reach the end of a hike, I have to take a number of steps. I cannot just wish, or imagine that the hike is made. It takes action. It takes the healthy use of my free will. What an awe-full gift our Creator has entrusted to you and I. On my hikes I am challenged to face the question of how healthy is my use of this precious gift, in a way that other activities do not do. The truth will sometimes hurt, but the soothing oil of God's mercy-full love is always there for me to fall into.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
"I became what I never thought I would " are lines from one of my favorite John Denver songs." (Some days are diamond, Somedays are Stone.") They sprang up when I was reflecting on last weekend. June 8th was my Golden Jubilee Anniversary Mass, I am so grateful to all who made it a special celebration. To be honest, I have real trouble writing those words golden jubilee. When I was younger, a golden jubileearian was a real old f.....! You can fill in the blank with what you think is a good word to describe Fr. Joe as he is right now. ( I would love to be able to read your minds, right now.) I must remind you who read this effort, I was ordained in the 60s. What a awe-full, wonder-full time that was. These were the times when we did not trust anyone over 30. Back then, I was not able to imagine my living beyond 30. Thirty was going to be the end. Beyond that there was to be no living. Yet I am alive today with some of the those same thoughts, ideas, ideals, and dreams. The Mammas and The Papas were big back then. "There is a new world a coming" sang Momma Cass. These words encapsulated what the dream of so many was. A world that was "coming in peace, coming in joy, coming in love." Do not those words sum up the kingdom that is supposed to be coming into reality in "the present age." Growing into old age does not, and cannot, put an end to the dream, or the dreamer. We, in our old age, I now have come to believe, are called, are challenged, to shout out that dream so ancient and so new, all the louder. When you are old you have so little to lose, so you can take the risk? On second thought, is it really a risk? In this raising of our voices are to bring, not comfort, but discomfort. We must challenge all the forces that conspire to frustrate the "coming of The Kingdom". We must point to the great warning in the scriptures, that the "angels of darkness, will appear as angels of light", was The Historical Jesus conspired against by outwardly evil people? For goodness sake, it was the religious leaders who conspired with ,the secular power, to destroy Him. Those out-worldly good people, who we men of God, did not recognize the manifestation, the appearance of God when He became enfleshed. Their minds were so conditions that anything contrary to what they knew to be true, was a lie. There was no challenge tolerated. Jesus's death was brought about because He spoke a new truth, that challenged the status quo. He was counter- cultural. He pointed out that the old way was coming to an end, and a New Dawn had already broken upon the world. A new Light had come into the world to shine light where it had never shone before. To light up the lives of all those who lived in darkness, and who were, sad to say, kept in darkness. Jesus was ostracized, why? Because He broke rules that kept people in bondage. Those religious rules He broke to raise the only son of a widowed mother. In last Sundays gospel, when He healed the leper by touching him, He himself from there on was to be treated as on would treat a leper. How we going to treat the "lepers" of our time, and in the place we meet them. Who is the leper for you and I? We have to name that "leper" when we meet him/her on the outside. is the task finished there? No! Of course not. Now we have to journey inside, to meet that "leper" who is dwelling within in the depths of who we are. Still not finished? Yep!!! Now we have to follow the exhortation of St. Francis, which is, "kiss the leper within". In this way we are readying ourselves to be willing participants in the vision of our Pope Francis "to be a church for the poor". We can pay lip service to those challenging words, and the consequent actions, of our Supreme Shepherd. As we meet The Pope's challenge, we too are going to be challenged. That is the what is to be expected when we follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Is not persecution guaranteed, in the gospels? As The Lord was treated so are we. Jerusalem is our destiny. (As you know I love that prayer). Each one will have a unique trail to travel. Our way to our Jerusalem, is a hike over rough, and varied terrain. There are many, many, deserts, lush green valleys, and barren mountain tops." It is, a long, long road from which there is no return" (Neil Diamond.), there is no looking back. There will joy and sorrow, war and peace, crucifixions, deaths, and resurrections. As it was with our Suffering Good Shepherd so it will be for us. Let move resolutely forward in the knowledge and belief that there will be NO obstacle on the trail which will be too much for our God and us. So let us act like we are on a trail putting one foot in front of the other. Conscious of where we are at each moment, and knowing that in that moment we are safe.