Thursday, March 28, 2019

A Spiritual Journey part 2

In many families, there are the three unwritten rules.  Don't think, don’t speak and don’t feel. Reiterating what St. John the Cross said, "Feelings are the language of God to the soul."  We must be able to embrace all of our feelings.   The feelings that we find hard to deal with (hard feelings), and the ones that we find easy to deal with (soft feelings).  One of the most difficult hard feelings to deal with is anger.  Someone wrote, " Anger is only one letter short of danger." The missing "d" can stand for denial, disguise or both. The denial, and repression of our gift of anger is a deadly combination deadly for ourselves and those we encounter on our journey.  When we get trapped in this active denial all around us are in danger of being our scapegoats, our punching bags. In order to prevent this abuse, we must grow in our awareness of whether we are responding or reacting to our anger.  The first is healthy, the second brings pain. Being Irish, it has been a long hard and difficult slog to journey from a reactor to a responder. I am a work in progress.

So, now, we meet, encounter the “A" of our journey into and through our spiritual garbage. This “A” stands for anger. Anger is healthy, and essential for a healthy wholeness. We are told today that our anger has been given to us to defend our boundaries and to make sure that our boundaries are kept in place. When anger is dealt with in a healthy and constructive manner it is, very freeing. When we refrain from feelings of anger and not express, but deny that anger, we definitely pay a penalty.  We are told that in many cases that depression is inverted anger.  Depression comes to us in many cases, because we have not grieved for the loss of someone, or something.  Felt feelings lead to healing, and health.  There is also a depression which is the result of a chemical imbalance and must be dealt with by the medical profession. 

The word feel breaks down, and in so doing so reveals a healthy process to be used when dealing with feelings in general, and anger in particular. F- feel, E- experience, E- express and l- let go, We entrust the difficult feeling into the hands a compassionate Higher Power.( feel, deal, reveal, and heal, also works) What we do not feel, we are told, cannot be healed.  Whatever is not healed or transformed is transferred.  We must go through the process so as to be able to deal with our anger. We must get into the habit of welcoming God into our anger. Now confronting and healing the anger we have with God is a whole other kettle of fish. I make a point during my funeral homily to point out that anger with God is healthy. If you do not have a God you can fight with ,fire that god, which is a false one anyway, and  get one you can fight with.  This process will allow us to do the feeling work which is necessary, essential Christ for healing. This is essential for couples who have suffered the loss of a child, or children. This death will bring them closer, or else split them. The encounter with death radically changes them as individuals, and consequently, as a couple. This is my experience from 55 years in pastoral ministry. I like to ask people to write out their anger in a very blunt and factual way. Must not be polite. People are totally blown away by what gushes up and is written on the paper.   When we have written out our anger than we add, "God you can have all of this.  I do not want it anymore.  Please, fill up the emptiness this has created with your love."  You then sign your name to what you have written then burn it. Write, not type, burn not tear up.  If we don’t go through this process then we act it out in a very passive-aggressive manner.  This is, so destructive to us as individuals and our relationships.   Unless we go through the process nothing changes.  There will be no transformation only transference.  Unless we let go our anger and give it to God, things will always get worse not better. Anger transformed by God blesses us with the human enhancing gift of compassion. Compassionate people have suffered a great deal. Suffering did not overwhelm them. It transformed and transfigured them in to the living presence of a "contemporary Christ." We are blessed with a "mount of Transfiguration experience." "Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived." That mystery we encounter is The Paschal Mystery leading to transformation, and transfiguration. How awe-full, wonder-full is the life we live, one moment at a time.  Christ has died,  is risen, and comes again, and again, ever new, in every moment we are gifted to live.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

A Spiritual Journey

An excerpt from an upcoming new book "Garbage to Treasure through Grace."

The Lenten journey is our yearly journey into our encounter with and gradual acceptance of a challenging reality.  That reality is summed up in the words of DeCharden, "we are spiritual beings immersed in the human condition." This is, at times, an uncomfortable reality, is actually our moment to moment experience. We do not always reflect on the dynamics of each moment. The 40 days of Lent allows us to place these moments under the microscope, to reveal for our inspection and reflection what we do not actually want to face. For a healthy spirituality, and wholeness of life, we have to deny the demands of our egocentric ego, and journey into transformation and transfiguration. On the Mount of Transfiguration the divinity of The Beloved Son shone through his human reality. To quote Fr. Rohr, "Our deepest DNA is divine." In the depths of each human being lies the God Presence, sparkling like a diamond. A sparkle that cannot be influenced in any way, by sin.(Merton) 

As we face our spiritual garbage, and gradually surrender it into the mercy-full hands of our compassionate Father God a miracle takes place. That divine life, hidden in the depths gradually bubbles up to reveal the Divinity within. WE are chosen to be the contemporary revelation of The Living God. A prodigal, loving God revealed through the mission and ministry of Jesus, Who became The Christ.  A mission we are consecrated for in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. In the reception of these Sacraments, as we say in Ireland, God fits the back for the burden. We will never be tested beyond our strength, to quote St. Paul. At times I question that quote and lately more than ever. The older one gets the harder this journey into surrender, to the reality of our participation in The Paschal Mystery gets. This Mystery into which we have been Baptized is our constant companion on our journey into uncertainty. The one thing that is certain when we face the unacceptable, accept our powerlessness a real transformation is experienced, We experience literally a death. Like all deaths this is not an end only a beginning, The beginning of a new way of living as we celebrate existentially, moment to present moment our participation in the risen life of Christ.  This risen life is revealed to us as we experience the transforming power of God in real life events. This is not easy. It takes real courage to face the un-acceptable, within ourselves, our family, our church, and country. Now more than ever we are in need of a journey into the shadow life. This will lead to a new energy, a new confidence to face honestly what we would much rather, deny. The denial of the shadow is destructive. In order to be  spiritually healthy we have no choice but to work through our garbage. It is hard work. The spiritual journey is hard work. It takes guts, and backbone. It is not for the faint of heart. The result is a gift, beyond price. It is the gift of freedom. We can now live our lives in the freedom that is ours as beloved, daughters and sons of a Prodigal, mercy-full, ever faith-full Mysterious Lover. "We will know a new freedom and a new happiness."

To be continued...

Monday, March 18, 2019

Forgiveness is good for the Soul part 2

"God's mercy is greater than our sins.  There is an awareness of sin that does not lead to God but to self-pre-occupation.  Our temptation 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.  It is the guilt that says: "I am too sinful to deserve God's mercy." It is the guilt that leads to introspection instead of directing our eyes to God.  It is the guilt that has become an idol and therefore a form of pride.  Lent is the time to break down this idol and to direct our attention to our loving Lord.  The questions 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?"  The 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."  (Henri J.M. Nouwen)

When we have a God of mercy we have a loving God.  Conversely, if we do not  have a God of mercy, or worse still we see ourselves as not needing a God of mercy, what kind of hell have we placed ourselves in and then blamed others and/or God?

 It's been a practice of mine for many years  when I celebrate confession with penitents  I ask the question,  "have you forgiven yourself? "  the vast majority of people say, no.   And so, I repeat the question, "have you forgiven yourself?"  I tell them to say their name,  (Bobo, Mimi, Lulu)  and say I forgive you.   They tell me they don’t mean it so, why should they say it.  And my response is to say it anyway.  I ask them "do you love yourself?"  So, I tell them to say their name,  (Bobo, Mimi, Lulu)  and say I love you.    They must put part and parcel of self affirmation and the penance I give them is to say I love you to themselves at least 10 times a day, and to say I forgive you  to themselves at least 10 times a day as, well.   Say it in the morning when you first arise or on your way to work/school and then again before bed or on your way home. I forgive you, I love you, I release shame.

We don’t think our way out of acting, we act our way into a new way of thinking.  It is a lifelong action.   The way we forgive ourselves is the way we allow God to forgive us and the way we love ourselves is the way we allow God to love us.  We grow that subversive action of self love and forgiveness and enjoy the love and forgiveness of our Prodigal Father.   Please love yourself enough to give yourself this gift of forgiveness.

And again,  it is helpful to write, not type, a letter of understanding and forgiveness to yourself for the actions of the past.  Do this as many times as needed. This is not about excusing, but understanding.  Then burn it.  Let us use the season of Lent to deal with guilt and give ourselves the gift of forgiveness and freedom.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Forgiveness is good for the Soul

Our season of Lent is both a gift and a challenge.  It is the gift of time for us to read, study, and reflect on who we are on our journey in faith. We need an ever deepening faith, so we can enter more fully and faithfully into the challenge of the desert/wilderness experience.  This is an essential element for each of us on our spiritual journey.  From this journey, there is no escape, if we want to be transformed. 

Each year, the Lenten journey, is an unique one-of-a-kind, never before entered into event.  We never will again enter into the desert as the same person and we do not come out of the experience the same person.  From our past Lenten journeys, and our encounters with our garbage, there has been a new spirit given to us which allows us to live a life of greater freedom as beloved daughters and beloved sons of our heavenly Father.  Over the years I have spoken about how the garbage of life can really affect the joy that is ours on our spiritual journey.  G A R B A G E can be broken down to Guilt, Anger, Resentment, Boredom, Anxiety, Greed and Envy.   Erma Bombeck describes Guilt "as the gift that keeps on giving."   Also, from John O'Donohue's book "Eternal Echoes,"  and please, read this quote slowly and reflectively. "Sometimes we feel guilty about things in the past that should hold no guilt for us. Because we feel bad about something, we exaggerate our part in it and retrospectively ascribe more power and freedom to ourselves than we actually had in the actual situation."  Guilt in and of itself is useless.  It belongs to the past, and the past is over and gone.  Regardless of how guilty you feel, you cannot return to that time, enter the situation, and now, act more honorably as you wish you had at the time. 

When personal guilt in relation to a past event becomes a continuous cloud over your life, you are locked in a mental prison.  You have become your own jailer.  Although you should not erase your responsibility for the past, when you make the past your jailer, you destroy your future.  It is such a moment of liberation when you learn to forgive yourself, let the burden go, and walk out into a new path of promise and possibility. Self-compassion is a wonderful gift to give yourself.  You should never reduce the mystery and expanse of your presence to a haunted fixation with something you did not do.  To learn the art of integrating your faults is to begin a journey of healing on which you will regain your poise and find new creativity.  Your soul is more immense than any one moment or event in your past.  When you allow guilt to fester and reduce you like this, it has little to do with guilt.  The guilt is only an uncomfortable but convenient excuse for your fear of growth.  Guilt has to do with the self-forgiveness.   

"To begin with, "Confession is good for the soul."  It is hard, humbling and difficult.   In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I have come across  many people who have never forgiven themselves.   They have placed themselves in a prison of guilt and shame.  There is a difference between the two.  Guilt is, "I made a mistake."  Shame is, "I am a mistake."   Somewhere we need to be able to say, "I forgive you."  We need to bring our guilt and shame to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and then accept the words that we are forgiven.  This forgiveness, God's forgiveness, will depend on how we forgive ourselves. "God's mercy is greater than our sins." (Henri J.M. Nouwen)

It is helpful to write, not type, a letter of understanding and forgiveness to yourself for the actions of the past.  This is not about excusing, but understanding.  Then burn it.  Let us use the season of Lent to deal with guilt and give ourselves the gift of forgiveness and freedom.

To be Continued...

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

“Wandering thoughts of a wondering mind, for Lent”

We are entering the both challenging, and freeing season of Lent. This season of fasting, prayer, and selfless deeds, is meant to challenge us to face that which prevents us from enjoying our fullest participation in the life of The Risen Christ. It is a lifelong struggle. It is a daily struggle. It is a moment to moment struggle. We face this struggle in the reality of the concrete moment we are challenged to live, and live to the fullest. We are each one individually, challenged to enter into the fullness of this present moment. In this enlivening, life giving experience we are led to embrace this reality;” We are not human beings have a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings immersed in the human condition. "Am I always ready, and willing to embrace such an uncomfortable reality, of course not. This journey into acceptance is a battle. A battle we have to enter, and become fully engaged in, whether we like it or not, if we are really committed to the spiritual journey. We will change our minds again and again about the advisability of this action. We have to face the fear that is an essential part our journey into uncertainty, when everything within us is clamoring for certainty. That is why we are all personally, engaged in the battle that rages in the depths of our souls. Our false self, that part of us that has, for now, not been transformed is in no way prepared to risk the “letting go" that a healthy spiritual journey requires, no demands of us. The embracing, and acceptance of our broken humanity is a blow to the ego, and the desire to be perfect. As authentic human beings, we are “perfectly imperfect." We are desperately in need of a Savior, a Higher Power Who will strengthen us, to meet the challenge of the moment to moment living, require in this revelation. Out of this new way of living, comes the revelation, the birthing of a new you, your true self. Like all newborns, this newborn born within is in need of lots and lots of gentle, mercy-full, unconditioned love. The Source of that love already lives in your depths. The healthy mothering of the newborn brings with it untold wonders, Wonders that are revealed in stillness. Allow yourself time to enjoy!!!

" We are born human, and we spend our whole life discovering what human means.” (Metz, Poverty of Spirit)  The Season of Lent is a more concentrated, intense reflection on a journey we make each moment. In Lent, we place under a microscope what we see, and experience, but so often ignore. In ignoring we deprive ourselves of our intimate encounter with our Creator God, Who is revealed to us as A Higher Power. A Power we can trust and surrender to. OH!!! so very slowly. Everything that is worthwhile arrives slowly, for the most part. (How I wished it was otherwise. I have to tell God, "You know I am old, and getting older, so would You please hurry up." Does it work? Emphatically, no). God is our Master Potter, Who works on our clay in a very deliberate, and loving way. Lent is the season of pain-full crafting. It is the season of a more intense purgation, where that which is the way of our free response to God's creative love is slowly removed. This removal creates a vacuum. A vacuum must be filled up. In the spiritual journey we always invite God to "Fill up the emptiness." We will be given what we need, not what we want. Shucks!!! In a further blow to the ego, get this, what we are given is not for ourselves, but for those whom our loving God places in our lives, to be the source of His love. Pretty mysterious??? Reverence this mystery, and you will be slowly drawn into the mystery of who you are, and within Whose living presence you are evolving. Through His death and resurrection the historical Jesus became the risen Christ, so too through the many crucifixions we endure the life of The Risen Christ slowly bubbles us from the depths where we suffered.

Excerpt from an upcoming new book: Our faith leads us to understanding, that our Lenten journey is a journey of purification, enlightenment, transformation, and renewal.  We journey with Christ into the heart of the desert so, we can encounter that same Christ, in the desert of our hearts.