Saturday, April 26, 2014

"The...... Paschal.....Mystery.....and.....The.... Beyond.

"The Paschal Mystery and Beyond" is my choice for the heading of this blog. Usually I write and then reflect on what the heading should be. Over these many years those two words, "the beyond," have led to a lot of reflective thought.  It started way back when I challenged those preparing for the seven ritual sacraments to be prepared to live outwardly, the new and different life that had taken root within. If there is no thought given to the "beyond "why receive the Sacrament?  It is in the living of the "beyond," that the newness is revealed. What has brought about this "newness of life"? Our encounter with the living Person of Our Lord, and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Our faith teaches us that in each and every encounter with The Risen Christ ,we are being transformed into being His living presence. This miracle of grace does not happen with just one encounter. It has to be repeated again and again. When you are preparing Easter eggs, you do not just dip the egg once into the dye, right? You dip, and dip, and dip, and then dip some more. We are not transformed, or transfigured by just one encounter with The Risen Lord. The process takes a whole lifetime as we respond to the challenge that comes with the reception of each ritual sacraments. We slowly grow into an ever deepening understanding of what it means to receive the seven sacraments.  And not only to receive the sacrament, but to come to live more fully, the life we are now called to live. WE are to be "the contemporary Christ," How often is there time spent reflecting on Who it is we have encountered, and Who it is we are now called to be, as a result of this encounter. If there is no intention of being transformed into the living Presence of The Risen Christ, we will never fulfill the great dream, the aisling, our God has for us, and has had from all of eternity. We are no surprise to God.

In The Sacrament of Baptism we begin our initiation into the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, The Christ. It is an initiation into a mystery, that we will live daily, and never quite understand. Our life's experience will lead us into an ever new understanding of our participation in The Paschal Mystery. We will, again and again be drawn into the understanding that our suffering is the continuation of Christ's suffering. Christ's suffering lead to death, Resurrection, and new life, so too, for us, new life will appear in the same place where death was experienced. This endless cycle of death and rebirth into new life, is the destiny, the vocation, for those  who are chosen. The mysterious action of saving grace will keep us in wonderment our whole life long. Wonder leads to prayer. I cannot help but think about all that Henri Nouwen had to go through to be able to write the following? What were the "beyonds" that had to be journeyed to and through, so that he was able to gift us with (this is Jesus Christ speaking to you and I):  "I am your God, I have molded you with my hands, and I love what I have made.  I love you with a love that knows no limits, because I love you as I love myself.  Do not run away from me.  Come back to me--not once, not twice, but always. You are my child. How can you doubt that I will embrace you again?  I am your God--the God of mercy and compassion, the God of pardon and love, the God of tenderness and care. Please do not say that I have given up on you.  It is not true.  I so much want you to be close to me.  I know all your thoughts.  I hear all your words.  I see all your actions.  Because you are beautiful, made in my image, an expression of my most intimate love, do not judge yourself.  Do not condemn yourself.  Do not reject yourself.  Let my love reveal to you your own beauty, a beauty that you have lost sight of, but which will become visible to you again in the light of my mercy.  Let me wipe your tears, and whisper in your ear, "I love you, I love you."

                     The only response to those wonder-full words is silence. They are too much for us. They speak the truth, but can we hear, listen, and embrace these radical, life enhancing words?  It is difficult, is it not, they are just too good to  believe?  We are told if something is too good, we are not to be taken in, we are to run away from it.  God knows that and asks us "not to run away" from His/Her infinite, prodigal love.  Now do this.  Go back and read the words again, but insert your name before "I am." You are now going to pray; John, Pat, Pablo, Lupe, Maria…I am your God..." Read the words slowly and allow them to penetrate into the depths.  In the depths  where they will encounter The Blessed Trinity Who dwells eternally in those same depths.  The result, a party, a celebration that has no end in this life. This celebration will continue into eternity, and through all of eternity.  As we celebrate in the here  and now, so will our eternity be.  Now that is downright scary.  So we need to heed the call of our Initiation.  We must of necessity, seek out and search out all that is ours because of our Encounter with The Paschal Mystery, and allow ourselves to be drawn beyond ourselves. We spend forty days to prepare for this mystery and then spend three full days in celebration .  We are now in the 50 days it will take us to delve into what this mystery means, as we live out our daily lives.

Each, and every action will reveal to you and me, some aspect of the dying, burial, rising, and Ascension, of Our Living Lord. There is no event or action that is neutral.  All have sacramental value.  This will reveal to us a new way of living.  To complete Paschal Mystery, we ask for the Spirit for this new, never before lived life.  This takes us to the beyond.  This takes us to the land of ever newness.  In this land of "ever newness" the truth of Henri's words will become a lived experience.  There will always forces in our lives that want to prevent this happening.  They are doing the devil's work.  Satan, "the prosecuting attorney," will do all in his power to trigger our denial  of who we are in God's love. He has his agents.  They are the ones who are so ready to judge, to condemn, to punish, when we do not measure up to their stringent rules. They are today's Pharisees.  They are encountered both within and outside.  Their voices are never still.  So we are called to be vigilant, ever vigilant.  Just as The Prophet Jesus had trouble with them, so we too, as followers of Him today, will have the same trouble.  They were nasty then, and they are nasty now.  To make matters worse they give you the idea they are speaking for God.  But it is not the compassionate, mercy-full God of Jesus Christ.  We have met Him above, and He/She is a God of life, not death.  The Pharisee(s) create an array of idols, false gods.  They create idols.  Idols that are made in their image and likeness.  These idols do not give life, they only destroy.  The living God of Jesus Christ wants to bestow life on us, and bestow it in abundance. We have that battle of the voices of negativity each and every moment we are given to live.  The quality of my life will depend on which voice I am listening to and responding to.  We have been given The Paraclete, The Defense Attorney, who never tires of defending us, so we will never have to face any attack on our own, or by ourselves.  May each reception of The Ritual Sacraments lead us always beyond our fears, to the discovery of the newness of the life our God has wished for each one.  May the reality, the certainty of "the beyond" bring an ever deepening sense of awe and  wonder, leading to an ever present excitement for the journey to our God, and with our God.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

The…Paschal Mystery…Never…Ends

The Paschal Mystery transforms, transfigures and leads us, always, into a new and different way of living. It bestows on us the great gift of hope, that death is not,  "the final word on life or despair the final days of human beings."[Boff] As we make our journey into the light of the resurrection, we will be led again and again to the understanding that out of all of our pain, sorrow, and brokenness, comes new life and wonderful gifts. We will be led to the belief that the "greater the wound, the greater the pain…the greater the gift." That is why each year, we are "dipped and dyed" in the Paschal Mystery to be awakened and to celebrate the new life that has come to us from what we thought was death. Death is never the end, it is always the beginning.

The Paschal Mystery is first and foremost a mystery. This mystery teaches that with every beginning there is an ending and with every ending there is a new beginning. It is a mystery dealing with the deepest working of God's grace. A mystery dealing with death, burial and new life. A spiritual mystery such as this cannot be explained, it can only be entered into and treated with reverence. I would like to suggest this year, more than ever, we need to open ourselves up to what this week offers in the way of hope, consolation and the promise of radical new life. This will come to us through the power of honesty, honesty about our everyday experience. There can be no spiritual growth unless we are developing a progressive honesty which is about embracing what is real. Where there is no honesty, there is no reality. So, there is no God. When we want to get a grip on reality and the Pascal Mystery within us, here are a number of words you and I cannot have in our vocabulary, the following are many words which have no connection with reality:  could, would, should, what if, if, if only, when, ought, try, interesting, or any similar words used to deny our real feelings and our real emotions.

A number of years ago,  I read a book by Fr. Ronald Holheiser which enabled me to enter into a new and better life-giving understanding of what the Paschal Mystery is all about. In his book, The Holy Longing, he explains the difference between terminal death and Pascal death. "Terminal death is a death that ends life and then possibility. Paschal death, like terminal death, is real, however, Pascal death is a death that, while ending one kind of life, opens a 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 Pascal death. Then resurrected the reception of a radically new life... The Pascal Mystery is about Paschal death and resurrected life."

Continuing on, in the same chapter entitled "The Spirituality of the Paschal Mystery", we read the following:

The Pascal Mystery might be diagrammed as follows:
1) Good Friday..."the loss of life-real death"
2) Easter Sunday..."the reception of new life"
3) The Forty Days..."a time for readjustment to the new, and grieving the old"
4) Ascension..."letting go of the old and letting it bless you, the refusal to claim"
5) Pentecost..."the reception of new spirit, for the new life that one is already living"

Put into a more colloquial language and stated as personal Pascal challenge for each one of us, one might recap this diagram this way:
1) "Name of your death"
2) "Claim your birth"
3) "Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality"
4) "Do not cling to the old, let it ascend and give you its blessing"
5) "Accept the spirit of the life that you are in fact living"

This cycle is not something we must undergo just once...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... Unless we die in infancy, we will have many deaths in our lives and within each one of these we must receive new life and new spirit. Daily we must undergo the Pascal Mystery.

In her book, Little Pieces of Light, Sister Joyce has this to say, "Being able to let go and let God take over one's life demands a tremendous amount of trust in this Divine Companion. Thomas Merton writes that, 'True love and prayer are really learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible and your heart turns to stone'. It is in within the hour of our greatest darkness that we discovered that we are never really alone. It is a time when we learn to trust as Gods love is much more than we ever imagined." This gives us the great freedom to be able to sing our Hallelujahs with real gusto. Death has turned into life. Christ is risen and is alive within you and me.

"O happy fault of Adam that has revealed to us such a God."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


There was a great, heartwarming, news story in the paper. The remains of a fallen soldier, long dead but never forgotten, was definitely identified. From present day advances in DNA technology the remains were able to be identified as…who sacrificed his life during World War II. As a result, his remains will now be buried with his relatives. He will have finally come home, after an absence of 70 years. That is one long journey. That demands a great deal of courageous waiting. After 70 years of absence, there were waiting for him his loved and dear ones. They were there to welcome home, the one who left so that their homes could remain intact, and free. We must never take freedom for granted. It must be fought for, again and again. Real freedom is not free. A price must always be paid. The greater the freedom, the greater the price. How blessed humanity has been with great prophets, both male and female, who have envisioned freedom. They were heroes/heroines not for just one people but for all of humankind. To this can be added, that challenging statement, “as long as one person remains oppressed, then we all are oppressed.” Is it now becoming more and more evident, we are not to live our lives in isolation, but in community, in oneness. God loves a loving, life giving and life affirming community. This Family, whose essence is love we name it ,The Holy Trinity.
Eternal Light, Life, and Love, inter-relate eternally and so the process of creation continues, and of necessity must continue. It is not for us to decide how, it is for us to trust, to hope and believe in the essential goodness of The Creator God. This is where prayer comes in, and especially the prayer of hope. Henri Nouwen has written the following: “For the prayer of hope, it is essential that there are no guarantee asked, no condition posed, and no proofs demanded, only that you expect everything from The other without binding Him in any way. Hope is based on the premise that The Other gives only what is good. Hope includes an openness by which you wait for The Other to make His loving promises come true, even though you may never know when, where or how this might happen.” We are not to make the mistake of thinking we must have the proper words, or expression when we pray. Henri has offered these words of consolation. “We are called (to pray) with our limited means, our stuttering words, and halting expressions. In this way we will come to know in mind and heart the unceasing prayer of God’s Spirit in us. Our many prayers are in fact confessions of our inability to pray. But they are confessions that enable to perceive the merciful presence of God.” Is it not amazing how simple all this is, and complicated humans have made it. I guess our ego needs to complicate this essential act so as to be able to look good doing something “good or great.” The irony is it is grace, love in action, that secretly conspires with life to make the impossible happen. “Of ourselves we can do,” what? Nothing!! If and when anything good happens, it is the result of the mysterious workings of grace. We will get away with the thinking that is solely the result of our efforts things happen. This smugness is going to be blown to hell and back. We will eventually be brought to the point of seeing, it is love and only a loving Higher Power, greater than us, in which this can be accomplished. We will be led to not only see, but come to believe that Love is our place of origin & destiny.
The Loving Eternal Womb is our home, our place of origin. It is also our destiny. To quote Fr.Rohr, “our deepest DNA is divine.” That reality, we must ever and always keep before us. In this way, we will live a life of freedom, not a life of fear. In living the life of being the prodigal daughter/son we will be able to lead others not by just words, but by our actions. Words can be so empty. Actions speak louder than words. We only have to “Be who you already are.” ( Merton ) To be who we already are, is to have journeyed through the desert of fear, addiction, abuse, hatred, jealousy, to the promised land where all CAN be free. To live in the Freedom of being the beloved son/daughter is a choice, we all have to make. Yes! It is an act of faith, not in our own goodness but in the goodness of our Prodigal Mother/Father. No other person can make this leap of faith for us. They can model it for us. Share their experience of it yes, but cannot do it for us. This is a leap we have to take on our own. Yes, we all get to the precipice, facing the abyss of God’s mercy, and ???
Looking back over the years of journey and ministry, I have to admit this fact. Even though this is God’s plan “A” is for us it is not always our first choice. When we do not cooperate, through self will, God has to come with plan “B”, or “C’ or “D.” I know I have run out of the whole alphabet, and am working on the numbers. I have an infinite amount of those to get through. Here I am relying on the Mercy-full Whose love Is Prodigal and the chances stored up, waiting for me, infinite. My sin-full acts are limited. God’s mercy-full is infinite. All our Prodigal Mother/Father does is present us with “mercy, upon mercy, upon mercy, upon mercy.” As Pope Francis is wont to remind us “God never tires of offering forgiveness,” we for our part must ask for the grace to never stop asking. In this way there will be a sort of homecoming for us. We will be able to journey back to the place we started from, and come to know it in a completely new light. So the returning is really “a going forward, a going beyond.” (Nouwen) There is now a newness, an excitement, that heralds a Spring Season like no other. This happens again, and again. A mysterious process ” ever ancient, ever new.”
As I make the journey to the beyond, my way is brightened with these words of wisdom: “Our temptation in Lent is to be so impressed by our sins and failings and so overwhelmed by our lack of generosity that we get stuck in a paralyzing guilt, a guilt that leads to introspection instead of directing our eyes to God, It is guilt that becomes an idol and a form of pride. But Lent is precisely the time to break down this idol and direct our attention to our loving Lord. The question is: “Are we like Judas, who was so overcome by his sin that he could not believe in God’s mercy any longer and hanged himself? Or are we like Peter who returned to his Lord with repentance and cried bitterly for his sins? This season of Lent, during which winter and spring struggle with each other for dominance, helps us in a special way to cry out for God’s mercy.” Nouwen.