Sunday, May 18, 2014

The ...Risen...Christ's...Shalom

We are still in Easter time. That time between Easter Sunday and The Feast of The Ascension. It is now looked on as the time spent in adjustment. These are the days and weeks we visit each year so as to reflect and be taught anew  by  The Risen Christ. We learn each year something new from the events of the time spent time by Christ with His disciples. He spent 40 days, a long time, providing them time  to adjust to His new way of relating with them. It was a time of letting go of the old, so as to embrace the new. This is hard work.  The disciples had to let go of their old way of thinking, and their old way of relating. This Jesus, whom they knew in His mortal life, is now present to them in His risen reality. A reality that is beyond anything they could ever imagine. He appears and disappears. Closed doors are no obstacle  to The Risen Christ. They encounter Him on the road. He is with  them when they are fishing. The Risen One eats and drinks with them. He even cooks for them. Things may in way be the same, yet in another reality essentially different. It took some adjusting to, and in the end the disciples did not really get the whole picture. We are told in Mark's Gospel how, on The Mount of The Ascension, the disciples worshiped the Risen Christ, but "they still doubted." How consoling is that. Those who were personally called, and formed by Jesus The Christ, did not get it. It is still more amazing that Jesus left them in their doubt. He went off up to heaven, and left behind a bunch of doubters. Yet these were the ones who, in time, were going to take the Gospel message to "the ends of the earth." Many were to lay down their lives as a testimony to the truth of what they were taught. How could this happen? What they saw or thought as an ending was actually the beginning of a deeper journey with The Risen Christ. He was no longer with them; He was to be within them. As it was with the early disciples so it is with us, His present day disciples. We, because we are alive, have to face the consequence of death. For who follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ will over time, come to see and believe that this death we are so afraid of is not an end but an actual beginning. This death, leading to new life is called, Paschal death. As long as we are alive we are constantly in the process of deepening our understanding of this mystery. The opposite of Paschal death is temporal death. There is death, and then there is nothing. Where do you see the reality of this Paschal death in the life you are living right now? Where is Easter time, that time you are forced to let go of the old ways of relating, and there is now a new reality to be encountered and accepted? We must always keep before us this hard fact, acceptance is a process to be entered into. When we enter a process we never know where it is going to lead to. So we need faith. Our Gracious Lover has provided us with a model that is to be lived out uniquely by each one of us. The journey of the prophet Jesus, becoming the Christ of God, is the model we follow. So we will not be caught up in fear and trembling.  We have been blessed to have The Spirit of The risen Christ deep within the depths of who we are.

                       What does it mean to have The Risen Christ journey within us? How do we know that the life we are living is the life  of The Risen One? It helps to remember one of the first appearances of Christ. The disciples are scared. He, Who they thought was going to do so much, left them with so little. Their expectations were crushed. They were dejected and very much alone. They were living behind closed doors. Closed to keep them safe, but not safe from the reality of The Risen Christ. Into that room, despite locked doors Jesus, now The Christ appears. We can  guess at  the thoughts, the feelings, the contrasting emotions coursing through their hearts, souls, and minds. These, His chosen ones, were so well aware of their limitations as followers. When the going got tough, there was no toughness to be seen. Fear and flight was their answer to disaster that was Good Friday, and the crucifixion. When they were most needed, they were shown to be wanting. Wanting in empathy, compassion and courage. The weakness of as yet unredeemed humanity became oh so self evident. What weaklings they were, when the chips were down. Even the favored ones, Peter, James, and John were not able to provide companionship and support when Jesus in His agony most needed them. They were unable to "watch one hour with the Suffering Servant." Peter, who prided himself in his loyalty, became a cropper when it came to crunch time. He, who was ready to die with Jesus, was unable to admit that he was a follower of The Prophet from Galilee. When it came to Good Friday, how many were around? It was the women, with the beloved disciple who showed any willingness to be identified with The Crucified One, and they "stood at a distance." Those in that room, who are our ancestors in faith, were left with nothing when brought face to face with The Risen Christ.

                        How did the Risen One greet them? With words of recrimination, and judgment? No way!! That is our human way of dealing with denial, and betrayal. Not so with Jesus The Christ. He, Who is the incarnation of the mercy of God, was mercy-full to these broken ones. He did not call anyone out. He did not let the ego gloat by saying "I told you so." No His greeting to them was "Shalom." Shalom is not just peace. It is so much more. Shalom has about 15 different levels of meaning. I found the following on the internet. "According to Strong's Concordance shalom means completeness,  wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety,  soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. "Now that is a real mouth full!!! It appears to be too much for my little brain to handle. There is nothing in this world that we can compare shalom to. No human being, that I know of, has all those qualities. There are some who we can say have some of what shalom means but not all. We are all perfectly imperfect. So what is left, the desire to grow into a fuller understanding, and an ever deepening embrace of the full meaning of shalom. This will happen the more we encounter Christ in our everyday living. The spirit of Shalom is the Spirit of Christ, constantly reminding us of who we are, and Whose presence we are to reveal in our gospel hike/walk/journey.

                           The disciples were offered shalom in their moment of weakness, and absolute powerlessness. It is essential to remember that it was when they were most aware of their weakened, broken humanity, it was then they were given power to forgive sin. What great confessors Peter, and the rest would be. He, who was to be the successor of Jesus Christ, denied that he ever knew him? God seems to choose the little and the least to proclaim that which is beyond human belief.  As it was with those early followers, so it is with you and me. The way it seems to me that in order to be open to, and I am speaking just for myself, I have to journey into, and take up residence in the reality  which is the opposite of living in shalom. I remember how things changed for me when I read of the connection between being, whole and being holy. You cannot have one without the other. So my journey is into wholeness, into oneness. Oneness with myself, others, Creator God and with all of creation. Wholeness is a gift to be desired. Wholeness comes at a great price. Wholeness comes as the result of an endless war that is waged in the battlefield of the soul. Shalom wants to call us to recognize  our essential goodness that is not harmed by sin and human frailty. It is ONLY through the acceptance of our humanness, with all of its weakness and brokenness, can we begin our journey into the fullness of The Risen life. This is where we ask for the gift of humility. On our own personal Emmaus journey we need of the constant appearance of The Scripture Teacher Who will rekindle from the embers, the fire of The Divine  Creator Spirit. We and all of creation will be strengthened and renewed. We will be given the necessary grace, "our daily bread, which will strengthen us to pick up our cross and journey into the constant process of renewal.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The.......... Paschal........Mystery.....Just For Now.

We are now living our lives in the liturgical season of Easter time. This is a time, an opportunity, that is offered to us so we can be led deeper into a more meaning-full, and life enhancing understanding of The Paschal Mystery. This transformative process will only take place insofar as we welcome the mysterious workings of grace. Because it is a mystery, we will never fully understand what has happened, is happening, and will continue to happen in the depths of who we are. All I can say for certain is the following, The Paschal Mystery is alive and well and is the source of constant spiritual renewal. There is a constant Spring time, always blossoming forth, ever new. Renewal, however, always brings with it, a challenge. In order to be renewed we have to let go of something familiar, so that an evolving newness may  be revealed to us. I was a long way down the trail before this became a lived reality. Just because I was not aware of it,  that did not mean it was not happening. So much has happened in the living out of the fullness of the Paschal Mystery, that I was not aware of. I had to be enlightened. This is why an ever evolving understanding of the Sacrament of Baptism is essential. It is essential for growth, and the source of the courage to grow. It takes real courage, real guts to grow into a healthy spiritual being. I am far from it. Do not think that just because I write something then I have it, or practice it in my everyday life. Being able to write offers a great challenge to become what I write. Jesus Christ, and His way of living is the ideal I am striving to replicate, all the while knowing that I will ever and always fall terribly short. All I can have is the desire to follow in The Footsteps, knowing that He fell three times on the way to His crucifixion, and death. Falling is an essential part of the journey. I must get up again, and again. The getting up is not through any power of mine. The desire, the subsequent grace, the necessary power comes graciously from the constant giving hands of my Prodigal, Mercy-full, Compassionate, Lover.

          I am again, and again, forced to rethink and come to an ever new understanding of the Sacrament of Baptism. I was delighted to know that in the early days of the church Baptism was looked on as the Sacrament of "illumination." From my own journey, I find that I am in constant need of illumination. I need a light, and as I am getting older, a deeper brighter light. I need that ever so bright light to shed  ever new so as to  light up the place I am hiking/journeying through in the right now. I am, ever and always, in deep need. The Light illuminates all of my reality,  so that all that is being offered to me, in the "right now," is brought to consciousness. My need for light has been answered when the gift of The Light, was bestowed upon me in Baptism. The Light will light the way to an ever new understanding of the ancient Paschal Mystery. Since The Light is infinite, there will be no ending to the newness of understanding that will be offered. It is like peeling an onion. Layer after layer is revealed, and has to be dealt with. How often I have wished for an ending to this process of renewal, and transformation. It gets too much for the I, the ego. The ego gets scared by its lack of power and the journey into  uncertainty. There are times when I have to say ,"enough is enough," why can't all of this just stop, right here and now? That occurs when the light is so bright that it appears to the naked eye that there is darkness all around. It seems to me now, that as long as I have breath, this process will be a lived reality. A reality, I have to depend on grace, to embrace. Thank God, I do not have to like any of this. I have been taught, over time, that  it is not about liking, it is about acceptance. And acceptance is a process. To help with the process of acceptance I am assured, told that God will never allow us to be tested beyond our strengths ? Well I have to remind God  of the fact that He has more faith in me than I have in myself. So lighten up. A prayer that is not always answered. "Out of the depths I cry out to you O Lord, Lord hear my prayer," that works when prayed from the depths of emptiness, and powerlessness." O God come to my assistance. O, Lord make haste to help me" is another spiritual bromide for the upsets that are a guarantee.

                   "The Paschal Mystery, is a process of transformation within which we are given both new light and a new spirit. It begins with suffering and death, moves on to the reception of new life, spends some time grieving the old and adjusting to the new, and finally, ONLY after the old life has been truly let go of, is a new spirit given for the life we are already living." ( The Holy Longing) These words have been a great source of challenge and encouragement, for myself and many others. Each one has to own their own unique immersion into the Paschal Mystery. Jesus, Who became The Christ, through His Paschal journey is the example we have to follow. He journeyed once, forever, through the events we celebrate each and every year, and are lived each and every, now moment. These paschal events we LIVE each and every day. These every day events of ours, are  to joined with The Paschal Lamb's infinite sufferings, when we celebrate each and every Eucharist. Because of our Baptism we all share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. So every Eucharist is our participation in The Royal Priesthood. The only challenge we face is, that our Eucharist will only be alive only insofar as we make a conscious connection between life lived, and Eucharist celebrated. When this happens we have "liturgy without soul." To make this connection is not easy. It is hard work. That is why liturgy is called, "the work of the people." It takes effort, and time to connect our lived reality, with the reality of The Paschal mystery. If that connection is not made, or chosen not to be made, then we are choosing to live a life of isolation, and alienation. There is nothing worse than being in pain and feeling so very much alone. The reality is however, to believe one is really alone is to believe a lie. We may, and do feel alone, we may even think we are alone, but we are never alone. So says our baptism. The "illumination" coming with baptism reveals to us that we are the Body Of Christ, in a very mysterious sense. So as we suffer, so is Christ suffering in us, through us, and with us. Just as when Jesus Christ suffered we suffered in Him. In the life of the spirit there is no time and space.

                           Ever think about writing your paschal story? Ever think of writing your gospel? Well you do write a gospel with the daily actions of your journey to your God and with your God. Although unrecorded, your Gospel may be the only sacred book some people will ever get to read!!! Our gospel would be so  difficult to write, as it  would involve deep, deep honesty. We do speak about gospel truth??  We would have to get honest about all the sufferings of our lives. There are sufferings some have chosen to block out, deny, and suppress. This can last only for so long. Eventually they have to be dealt with. When a person is on the road to living a healthy spiritual life, and as a consequence, has the desire to live in freedom and not fear, roadblocks will be encountered. The roadblocks will be placed by people we would least expect to be a hindrance to growth. The family secret must be kept hidden at all costs, even if there is death involved. The Paschal Mystery teaches us this hard, and difficult wisdom, it is only through death can new life becomes a reality."Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies it remains just a grain of wheat but if it dies ..." We will have to choose to die, again and again, so that the full potentiality of who we are really called to be, is realized. This birthing of who we really are comes through a constant immersion into the pain and suffering, and into the subsequent  joy and freedom. There is no other way of coming to  have life, and have it to the fullest.