Is not man’s life on earth drudgery?
Are not his days those of a hireling?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
A hireling who waits for his wages.
“So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me. If in bed….I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. My days are swifter that the weaver’s shuttle; they come to and end without hope. Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.” Job 7: 1-4, 6-7.
In expressing his frustration with his life, we are provided with a great opportunity to reflect on the frustrations of our daily living. We, however, have something that Job DID NOT have, that is the insights that are ours because of the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord, and Savior, Jesus The Christ. Because of the gift of faith in our Baptism, we are gifted with a different set of lenses. We are, by grace, able to go beyond the seemingly hopelessness of any given moment in life to that which lies beyond. The spiritual life is ever and always seeing with “the x-ray eye of faith.” Because of this great gift we are able, if however, we so choose, we are empowered to the see beyond the seen, the unseen. In this Great Unseen, lies the great hope we are all so desperately needing.
We, however, must make a choice. We must get into action so that God can join us in that reality, and become the source of power in our powerlessness. There is a great temptation when we are immersed in the sufferings of life to get into the attitude of, “poor me.” We take up our position on the “pity pot” of toxic shame. It takes real grace, real effort to arise from being mired in shame, to the live life and live it to the fullest. As you know, toxic shame takes away your five rights. These rights are essential for a happy, joy-full, empowering life. When we have been shamed, we lose first of all, the right to love. We lose the right to be the beloved. Being the beloved is ours because of our God’s love for us, not our love for God. It is the one gift we have to claim again, and again, in each and every moment we are given to live. If we do not have the lens of being the beloved, we will of necessity end up just like Job. That is the choice you and I get to make. This choice is NOT made once a day, a week, or a lifetime. No, this choice is made, following the advice of Henri Nouwen, every moment of every day. This is in direct opposition of what another has shockingly written when he writes: “We abort our souls a THOUSAND times a day.” We shudder when we are faced with that reality, yet it is the unfortunate truth. A truth we must have, if we are to have a healthy spirit life. There is nothing more essential claiming you are the beloved. You do NOT, and cannot earn this blessing. We cannot do anything to deserve this priceless gift. It is a great blow to our egos when we accept the fact that we cannot qualify for this inestimable gift. It is free. It is grace.
The other gift we have to claim, because it has been taken away from us, is our right to belong. When we are on the “pity pot”, in toxic shame, we isolate. We cut ourselves off. It takes real effort to claim we all belong to an imperfect human family. The fact we are human, is a fact we grow in acceptance with, and in time, become reconciled with. This is a long, long process. This requires a source of unconditional, unlimited, and unrestricted love. Without this source we cannot, by ourselves, live the life of the beloved. We are social animals. We are, of our essential nature orientated to social living. The Creator Father, lives The Son, and Holy Spirit within the community, we name The Holy Trinity. The original Holy Family. God does live in community so are we are called to community, social living as well. In Them, we live and move and have our being. As it was, so it is, and ever shall be.
The next right that must be reclaimed is your right to worthwhileness. I love that commercial that says, “It is expensive, but I am worth it.” When we are shamed we seldom, if ever, place ourselves as the priority when it come to healthy love and healthy living. Boy, I wish I had a penny, yes just a penny, for all the times I have had to remind those I have journeyed with of the Commandment that the rabbi Jesus taught His followers: “You shall love your neighbor, as yourself.” So very few, when they approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation, examine themselves on that basic commandment. The present Bishop from Green Bay has said that “a healthy love of God, and a healthy love of another, BEGINS with a healthy love of self.” We will never be healthy spiritually until we live our lives in the reality of a love that is “patient and kind.” A love that takes no offense, and is not resent-full.” That is the lens through which our Gracious Prodigal God sees us. Any distortion, and there has been so much distortion that vision must of necessity be fought. There are consequences to fighting this distortion. Look at how much flak Pope Francis is taking from some “good” people within the church. We must always remember that it was “the good people” of Jesus’ time that conspired to kill Him. History has a way of repeating itself. In so far as, we are seeing ourselves through the lens of God’s love will we live lives free of toxic shame. We will be able to live in the reality of being, perfectly imperfect, human beings. We will spend our whole lives wrestling with that reality. We do, however, have The Sacrament of Reconciliation to strengthen us for the struggle. A Sacrament that is so misused, because it is so misunderstood. It is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, not, obliteration. To make the spiritual journey even more challenging, reconciliation is a process that takes place under grace. My mother taught me a long time ago, “the mills of God grind very slow, but they grind ever true.” That slow working of God’s grace does not, and never has sat well with this Irishman. When we claim our God given worthwhileness we will live out our daily lives as survivors, and not as victims. We, then, remove all those who do not respect, and reverence us. We are to set boundaries with those who would use and abuse us. That is why; we have been endowed by our Creator God, with the gift of anger, so that our boundaries will be defended, from the constant attack from those who have no boundaries. This is the battle that must be fought on a regular basis. As long as we live within the bonds of family life healthy boundaries will ALWAYS be tested.
The last right to be claimed is the right to have fun. “St.Irenaeus,” The glory of God is the human person fully alive.” There must be some place where the joy of living must be experienced. The Pope has come out against “sour pusses.” Followers of The Good News must let all know that we have a God with a sense of humor, a living God that is reflected in the joy of fun we are having. We are not called to live the life of Job; we are called, chosen to be sacraments of the risen life. A life that comes to us, through slow transformation of our pain.