How often have we heard the following exhortation, challenge, "Will you take a look at that, and tell me what you see." I do not like that. I am always afraid that I will not see what I am expected to see. I am afraid that there will be something I will miss that is right there, very obvious, and I missed it. I am very slow to take that challenge. Does the fear of making mistakes ever go away? Right now on Facebook there are a number of photos for one to view, to look at. Then in the photo, there is a reality hidden for one to discover. This discovery is not easy. It takes real effort to see what is hidden. After some looking, one begins to see what one is supposed to see. It is frustrating to look back and realize what was once hidden from merely "looking" is now revealed when one really sees. (Thank you Laura M. for the posting, and the challenge.)
This is a great introduction for this week's effort. Is it not amazing, wonder-full, awe-full, that which can lead us deeper, appears out of the "ordinary," out of the familiar? That is why nothing that is really real, is ordinary, all is sacred. All reality is holy, why? Because The Mystery, God is always revealed and hidden in the so called ordinary. We can never solve the mystery, all we can do is respond to the invitation "to draw near. "However, before there is the willingness to draw near, we will have to face real fear. Fear is the door through which we all have to pass through on the way to intimacy, to union…Our "Yes" to the invitation does not carry with it a guarantee of an easy journey. On the contrary, our "Yes" will take us along a path we do not know, to a place we do not know, which is the real journey of faith. Even after all these years, my ego has not gotten used to that journey into uncertainty. In other words, there has never been complete surrender, only partial. That partial surrender, I am sad to say, comes only after real intense pain. It is in that pain one is brought, led, guided, fighting every step of the way, to the prayer of surrender. "Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord, Lord hear my cry." Life brings us again, and, again to this awe-full, pain-full, mysterious place and we discover it always anew. It seems like, looks like, the same but always a new transforming experience.
I am beginning to see the wisdom of the church in her bringing us again and again, through Advent to the mystery revealed in The Christmas-Epiphany season. Here is what Karl Rahner wrote: "The mystery of the (the Incarnation) is inexhaustible, and compared with it most of the other things we talk about are relatively insignificant. The truth of the faith can be preserved only by doing a theology of Jesus Christ, and by redoing it over and over again. For it is true here, too that only he/she possesses the past who has recaptured it as his/her own present." I guess we can say we return again, and again to Bethlehem, not just to look, but to see, through the eyes of an ever evolving faith in which the shepherds saw. They not only saw, but "they understood" what was revealed to them by the angels. We, as the result of on our ongoing pondering, will return again not just to look, but to see who we are as the result of The Word, the Second Person of The Blessed Trinity entering the reality we human beings are exposed to, and challenged to live in. Not just "exist in" but actually find life, and the fullness of life within this broken, wounded, perfectly imperfect humanity. The same humanity that Jesus, who became The Christ, was enfleshed in. The more we discover "The Shepherds" within ourselves the more willing we are to "hurry" with them to not just look at The Infant Savior, but we will gradually grow in the seeing, and understanding of The Incarnation. All this is the action of The Spirit. That same Spirit Who brought about the enfleshment of Jesus in the womb of Mary, is the same Spirit that will work the same miracle in the depths of the womb of the soul. What does that say about the dignity of each person, and God's faith and confidence in each one of His creatures? We are invited to return with reverence have again, and again so we can be led to an ever deeper understanding of what we see, and Who it is we see.
No matter how long we ponder, no matter how often we enter the mystery of The Incarnation our questions will never be answered fully. That again, is the nature of sacred mysteries. There are no lasting answers, only enough is given to draw us ever deeper into a new question concerning, The Absolute Mystery, God. We must always remember this will not be a path of our making. We are told we journey to The Unknown by unknown paths. We are told that is the journey of real faith, and my ego wants no part of that. I want certainty, but that is not faith. When I think I have all the answers I am in a real bad place. Pope Francis is so honest about that. He, however, is only reminding us about an essential truth of the spiritual journey. This is a journey in deep, raw, naked fear, resulting in a new understanding of who we are in the plan, and love of God. "Faith leads to understanding," so wrote St. Augustine. Not understanding leads to faith. Faith is a gift, freely given. We must take very seriously this fact, this reality, faith is a virtue, a good habit. Habits do not happen. They must be developed, just like muscles in our bodies. Unless we develop the good habit, virtue, or exercise the muscles of our bodies they atrophy and lose strength. This will eventually lead to death. Our faith needs exercise as well. So we are invited to hike, walk to Bethlehem, to Egypt, to Nazareth, to Jerusalem, to Calvary, to the Mt. of The Ascension, so we will be ready for the Descent of The Holy Spirit. The Spirit always gifts us with what we need in the place we are.
See how seriously we take physical exercise!!! There are 60,000,000 hikers in the U.S.A., count all those who go to gyms, run the streets, bike the highways and byways and one will see that we take physical exercise very seriously. But how about the exercise of our spiritual muscles? What is the plan we have developed to perform spiritual exercises? I see on Facebook how proud people of some physical achievement that they were able to measure by some metric. There is no metric that tell us how we are growing spiritually. On the contrary, we are NOT to place a thermometer in the soul. Our egos want to have something to show, as if we were doing something ourselves. Wow when that happens were are in for a serious tumble. We will have to deal with serious failures, and hardships through which the ego is brought down a few notches. The ultimate destiny is for the ego to disappear so the real self, the true self can surface. That is a great ego boost, but what about the, we too must exercise the good habit of seeing and allowing new beliefs to surface from within. All we ever want is deep within, where the Trinity has made Their home.
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