Life can be challenging at times.
Then there are those moments when the challenges appear to be just too much for
us. That is when we get into fear and the panic button is pressed. I see that most
of the kids are now back in school. Vacation time is now a distant memory and
the everyday grind has begun to grind on the nerves of so many. The everyday
grind challenges us in so many ways.
Whatever resources that were built up are now being depleted and fast. We are
faced with the question, how am I going to survive and keep my sanity, with all
that I have to do? When is there going to be time for me, so I can have some
time to breathe and have a chance to recharge the battery? On top of that, I
hear announcements asking for volunteers for the many ministries that are so
necessary for the well-being of others? You are being asked to be good stewards
of your time, talent and resources. It is tiring just to think about all that
has to be done. I am getting tired just writing this out!
It is good for us to recall this gospel narrative. Jesus sees the large crowd.
He has a very caring response as He views the many, who are coming out to see
and hear Him. He asks the question "where can WE buy enough food for them
to eat?” He is assuming the responsibility of finding something for them to
eat. Again, the caring God-Man is revealed to us. As Jesus is, so is His Father
and our Father. Such is the God that is revealed to us through the humanity of
His Son and our Brother. Come to think of it, we do have a pretty neat family. It is essential for us to take the time to
think, to reflect, to meditate, on the challenges of the mission of Jesus.
Where this does not happen, we will be under the illusion that just because
Jesus, was The Beloved, The Son of God, He somehow got an easy ride. Everything
was laid out for Him by His father. When we read the gospels carefully and
reflectively we will come to see it was the very opposite.
The Gospel of Mark is a great gospel
to read. The whole gospel story is about being messy. Not getting the message
The Great Teacher wanted to impart, the disciples are hard of hearing and really
slow in coming to an understanding on what Jesus was teaching them by word and
example. They never truly "GET" the message. We are so lucky to have
such a Gospel, and all the people, places and events that inhabit its pages. In
John's account of the gospel event we see there is a problem, Jesus wants to
feed the people, Philip has been chosen to meet this challenge. He is
overwhelmed by it. He is stuck. Then, out of the blue there is a ray of hope.
"There is a kid here who has food." "Wow that is great!"
Yeah, but it is only five barley loaves and two fish." "Not
good." Yet, it is good enough for Jesus. That human act of generosity on
the part of the young boy was the catalyst for The Miracle of The Loaves and
Fishes. I wonder what was going through the mind of that boy as he heard the
adults discussing the challenge. He did not have "two hundred days wages,"
all he had was the five barley loaves and two fish. To his mind, it was a
BEGINNING. "This is what I can do," he must have said to himself. So,
the offer was made. What appeared to be an action of little value, turned out
to have a tremendous impact on so many. The boy's so-called little offering,
built on by divine power did what otherwise appeared impossible.
What can we learn from this? We do
what little we can and then allow God to be God. No matter what the challenge,
there is always something we can do. At times, it may be to just surrender our
powerlessness to God. That is such a simple action it often triggers for us something
that can be mind boggling. When life becomes so overwhelming, it may be
necessary to withdraw to a "deserted place" for some alone time with,
“the alone time." Not a great deal of time, just your "five loaves
and two fish worth." Where there are the great challenges to be met, just
realize that your presence, not words, that will be used by God to be the
reality through which His Presence is channeled to the person in need. Many
times, the "less" of us, makes way for the "more" of God.
That "young boy" in John's Gospel is nameless. We are told by those
who know that whenever a person or persons are not named, we are to place our
names there. So, from now on, when the challenges appear, it is not about us
coming up with the brilliant, earth changing solutions. Let us be imitators of
that boy. Let us make a living presence in our daily living. Let him be the
inspiration we need in time of stagnation. Let his courage be that which will
strengthen us in times of fear.
When we are faced with all the
messiness of our lives, let us reach out, outside of ourselves, to those in
deeper need. Let us offer our little offering and then let God do the rest. No
matter how brilliant our ideas, unless there is the guidance of the Creative
Power all these great ideas come to naught. I have seen, over these many years
(as a priest), so many ministries begin with a "simple" thought, idea
and are empowered by the Holy Spirit, ended up being the source "of
food" for so many. "It is better to light a candle, than to curse the
darkness." The Christophers.
Summertime is a time for relaxation and reading. We need
books for travel, for the beach, and for the quiet times. I am most grate-full
to be back where I can enjoy reading again. Some gifts can only be appreciated
when they are no longer part and parcel of our daily lives. Are not some of the
most important gifts taken for granted by us? I am back rereading Henri
Nouwen's great classic, "Life of The Beloved." I recently picked up
another of his books, which he co-authored, "Compassion." ( Thank God
for thrift stores.) It was only when I got into reading both that the thought
struck me, they are so complimentary, without compassion we have no chance to
live the life of being the beloved. In "Life of The Beloved, "Henri
lays out before us on how ESSENTIAL it is for us, not only to know but to
embrace this reality. We are, and ever shall be Our Father's beloved daughters/sons.
He points out the fact it is not enough to be the beloved, we have to actively
claim the dignity of being the beloved. He points out the fact that we must
claim our belovedness again, and again. Each and every moment of every day this
is our essential task. Let us not fool ourselves, this is hard work. The
spiritual life IS hard work. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Why is it
such a struggle for us humans? Simply put, the spiritual journey is a journey
into "subtraction not addition"(Rohr) , and this offends the ego, big
To be honest, I have never liked that reality especially
when I was younger. How could one be successful if one was not accumulating?
When you were an assistant pastor, you were waiting to assume the mantle and
power that came with being a pastor. Not just being a pastor but a pastor of a
big wealthy parish. What an illusion that turned out to be. The Second Vatican
helped to destroy that illusion, with the advent of, servant leadership. The
illusion is still alive and well. Thank God Pope Francis is renewing that call.
He calls for a new way of serving the poorest of the poor. It is in the service
of those whom our God has a fundamental option towards, that we will be
challenged to see in them their essential belovedness, the same belovedness
that is ours, in our depths. So then it stands to reason that we will have to
journey into the depths of all aspects of poverty. Our own FIRST, then the
poverty of others. We will be drawn into an ever deepening understanding of
what poverty really means. With this gradual understanding, we will
come to an acceptance of the universal community, and unity of all. When we do
not accept this unity and community in poverty and belovedness, we will
be suckered into accumulating "power, property, and prestige" only to
find out that this NOT the way to a happy, full life. It is just an illusion,
and when followed leads to death. We meet so many of these wailing dead on
life's journey. Even though they are many, they are not who they think they are.
They are so much more. Right now they do not believe it. There has to be a lot
of "letting go" of their precious illusions, the product of the false
self. So as to journey through the "subtraction," the
emptying out into the true self. The Presence of God within. This is the pearl
of great price which does not come on the cheap. A great deal of hard work and
sacrifice is demanded.
It is one of the blessings of getting old that the "get up and go, has got
up and gone. "One is forced to face the limitations of what it means to be
human. So much of what was looked on as important has fallen by the wayside. So
much has disappeared and all that is left is the memories. Since I have been
blessed with the great desire to read, and so I was in one way prepared for
what I was to face, but I was not prepared for the toll it was going to have on
my Irish ego. I had read "the greater the ego, the greater the crucifixion,"
but that was for others not for me, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. What a journey it has been to
accept the fact that the peace Our Gracious God has in store for us is not
"the peace" the world thinks is peace. We are in constant need of
lens adjustment. God's ways are not, the non transformed ways of the the world.
God's ways, however, are lives lived in union with The Transformed One, Jesus
The Christ of God. The transformation necessary happens to us, uniquely through
grace, as we follow in the footsteps of The Beloved One. These are not easy
steps to follow.
Being The Beloved did not guarantee an easy, carefree life.
On the contrary, even though He was The Beloved, He emptied Himself of His
power-full divinity, so as to be immersed completely in the human experience.
Like all of us He too was betrayed, lied about, bruised, beaten and abandoned.
He did this so as to model for us what the human expression of our
All Power-full God looks like. We must not just look at the events in the
life of The Historical Jesus, and ask why, we must go deeper and ask the
question how am I living out these same moments and events right now? What is
the connection between my daily encounter with suffering, and the suffering Of
The Beloved Son? As Jesus, who through His Paschal sufferings, became The
Christ of God, so too, we are immersed in, and connected with the same human condition.
And we become today's revelation of Jesus, The Christ as we embrace His
model of compassion, and Belovedness. This revelation of God was ridiculed and
rejected so we, too must not be surprised when we do not find easy acceptance,
even within ourselves. I must have compassion with my own human faults and failings.
I have to ask for the grace to be able to "journey with" them, so as
to understand compassion. AS you know the deepest meaning of the word
compassion is "to journey with." To journey with someone in pain, and
not have a desire to change that person is one of life's great challenges. That
is why God, in compassion for us left the heavenly throne so as "to be
with us," Emmanuel, and "journey with us" so in a fellow human
all that we need is revealed through our reflection on His daily living.
the midst of this painful reality, we have to dare to reclaim the truth that we
are God's chosen ones, even when our world does not choose us. AS long as we
allow our parents, siblings, teachers, friends, and lovers to determine whether
we are chosen or not, we are caught in the net of a suffocating world that
accepts or rejects us according to its own agenda of effectiveness and control.
Often this reclaiming is an arduous task, a lifelong work because the world
persists in its efforts to pull us into the darkness of self-doubt, low esteem,
self-rejection and depression. And this is because it as insecure,
fearful, self-deprecating people that we can most easily be used and
manipulated by the powers surrounding us. The great spiritual battle
begins,--and never ends--with the reclaiming of our closeness.
LONG BEFORE ANY HUMAN BEING SAW US,WE ARE SEEN BY GOD'S LOVING
EYES.LONG BEFORE ANYONE HEARD US CRY OR LAUGH,WE ARE HEARD BY OUR GOD WHO IS
ALL EARS FOR US.LONG BEFORE ANY PERSON SPOKE TO US IN THIS WORLD, WE ARE SPOKEN
TO BY THE VOICE OF ETERNAL LOVE. OUR PRECIOUSNESS, UNIQUENESS, AND
INDIVIDUALITY ARE NOT GIVEN TO US THOSE WE MEET IN CLOCK TIME---OUR BRIEF
CHRONOLOGICAL EXISTENCE-----BUT BY THE ONE WHO HAS CHOSEN US WITH AN
EVERLASTING LOVE, A LOVE THAT EXISTED FROM ALL ETERNITY AND WILL LAST THROUGH
ALL OF ETERNITY.-----WHEN LOVE CHOOSES,IT CHOOSES WITH A PERFECT SENSITIVITY
FOR THE UNIQUE BEAUTY OF THE CHOSEN ONE, AND IT CHOOSES WITHOUT MAKING ANYONE
ELSE FEEL EXCLUDED." ( "LIFE OF THE BELOVED ")
These are words that must not just be read, but reflected on, chewed on so as
to be blessed with the recognition of your essential goodness, blessedness, and
giftedness. Yes! We are more that we could ever imagine. Do not sell yourself
short. Do not, even when tempted, deny that from eternity you have been and
are loved with an Eternal love. We are all in the same boat, and it is
Not the Titanic.