Tuesday, February 27, 2024

 Second Sunday in Lent....The Transfiguration.  We have The Historical Rabbi Jesus choosing to take His "Three Amigos."....Peter, James, and John on a mountain trip. Those who have negotiated mountain climbs have to admit there is always a little change.From the struggle we are blessed with a gift. That is true also of the psychological mountains, valleys, and hills we have been chosen to climb. We must always keep in mind, we have been chosen, from all of eternity, to make these climbs. WE also have been prepared ahead of time for this adventure.What we are blessed with is not, as St.Paul writes, for ourselves, but for those chosen to make the journey with us. That is everybody we meet and sometimes encounter. 

            Rabbi Jesus has revealed to His Apostles the brutal reality of His coming journey where He will encounter  death.  So as not to leave them without hope, on the Mount Of Transfiguration, His deepest reality is revealed to the, now, further scared Apostles. The Historical Jesus wants to offer hope to those closest to Him. On the Mountain is revealed who Jesus is, a revelation coming from His depths. The Divinity shone through the human trappings, as it does with us as well. The same reality that shone through Jesus is the same reality resting, hidden away within our depths, to be revealed in and through the garments of human reality. Ever wish for an easier way ?.Then nothing worthwhile ever comes to us without pain . As Bonhoeffer said,"There is no cheap grace'. There is not One Spirit to dwell within the depths of The Revelation of Our Father's Mercy, and another spirit of lesser quality reserved for the rest of creation, that includes all human beings. The Creator God does not play favorites. We are all :the beloved Sons and daughters of our Prodigal Mother/Father.

             Lent is a time when we again make the desert journey into an even deepening honest relationship with ourselves, as "spiritual beings immersed in the human condition", with all of creation, and with The One Who has initiated the call. Our beginning is in  the realm of The Spirit, eternal. We are never going to understand the mystery of who we are, Who we have been called to be, and Who has done the calling. Lent is given to us for a sincere preparation for the revelation of The Paschal Mystery. We will spend 40 days and nights being lead into a new and deeper connection with The Paschal Mystery as it is revealed to and  through our honest, and deepest reality.  Then one author  has warned "Human beings can deal with so much reality." The after that .......

         We will come face to face with what has been hidden as it were we encounter, be with, our "wild beasts". Jesus had the ministering of angels to help him through. That means the strengthening reality of The Divine somehow  entered the reality of that sacramental desert journey of forty days, in initiation of those 40 Years of courtship and transformation. We must at the tough, rough spots on the desert trail keep before us that we are the beloved. We are loved right now, just as we are, we do not have to change a thing for the love of The Beloved for the beloved. It is an infinite, unconditioned, unlimited, and unrestricted love. A love way beyond the abilities of human words to communicate.What was  the answer ? The Eternal Word "emptied Himself of His Divinity' so as to enter into the deepest human reality, death . In and through His death is revealed the mercy-filled love when we all must be given to make This Desert Journey in 2024.

         I sincerely hope you will embrace the following words of another Celt,Irishman, Patrick Kavanagh  " When love awakens your lifeline the night of your heart, it is like the dawn awakening within you. Where before there was anonymity, now there is intimacy, where before there was fear now there is courage, where before there was awkwardness, now there is a rhythm of grace and gracefulness,; where before you were jagged, you are elegant and in rhythm with yourself. When love awakens in your life, it is a rebirth, a new beginning".

            That Love is always lays deep within each person. Your own personal experience of what happened on your unique  mountain top, allows The Spirit to burst through and ,The Christ within, shines like a light, for the  current darkness. There is however a blessing and a curse that must be faced, and that is ANGER......... (to be continued)

Friday, February 23, 2024

" Humankind is born freehand everywhere it is in chains".  So wrote Jean-Jacques Rousseau many centuries ago. Can we say the same thing about this generation, and of those past ? Unfortunately the answer is, a,  resounding "YES". Because we are offered, or given gifts that does not mean we will use them, and avail  ourselves of all that these gifts  offer us. In order to live in the freedom of The Prodigal Father's mercy we chooses often to live in chains, or the prisons of guilt, fear, and shame. Writing is a wonder-full avenue to the freedom that is ours, because we are the beloved daughters and sons of, Infinite mercy.Many do not forgive themselves for some action, or series of actions that have occurred in the past. We are have actions, of  in-action, avoidance of responsibility' lying, cheating, disrespect for authority, stealing, to add to these we may of occurrences of premarital sex, adultery, abortion etc. etc. The list is endless. Again,John O writes, " Every person has certain qualities in their hearts that are awkward ,disturbing, and negative.One of our SACRED duties is to exercise kindness toward them. In a sense we are called to be loving, (prodigal, me added) parent to our delinquent qualities. The guilt festering in our souls must not find a home there because of non-action on our part.

      Those who know, encourages us to get pencil and paper. We are going to write a letter of understanding to ourselves. We are going to work through the thought process that led to the action, or any-action. We are going to claim these were the best responses we were able to make in any given situation. We have ALWAYS done our best, not the best. Let that sink in. You have always done what was your best, not the best. That is why we spent many many classes, over four years studying moral theology. We were to take that understanding into offices, restaurants, and  Reconciliation Rooms where we encountered another human being deserving of the prodigal love of The Prodigal Father. In some situations I encouraged the penitent to write a letter of forgiveness, and understanding to themselves. In the letter we come to own this fact, that  was not my best effort at the time. We can only do what is best for us in any the existential situation. Three seconds, three hours, thirty days or years later that would not be our response. Now we are called to see that there is Higher Power of Infinite love offering us the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation. Now we have learned that the way we love and forgive ourselves is the exact same, way we allow, Our Gracious Source of Love  to ,love and forgive us. "My favorite quote of late, " The eyes through which we see God are the same eyes through which God sees us."  In that case, it is NOT  about Our Prodigal Father's love and forgiveness it is about how willing we are to accept such great gifts as forgiveness and reconciliation. In the case of abortion, the adult writes the letter of sorrow, and explanation with the right hand, left if that is your dominant hand. Then the letter of understanding and the acceptance of the apology is written, as if from the child, with the less dominant hand. From my years of experience, that letter from the unborn is a tough  one to write. This is your spiritual freedom at stake. It is also a deep act of faith in the prodigal, extravagant, unconditioned Love that is forever offered. " The greater the wound, the greater the gift." 

Here are the keys of freedom, my limited understanding taken into account : "I release shame , I release guilt, "..... I love you, .... I love you. We must learn the truth in what Fr.Rohr writes " Our deepest D.N.A. is Divine". Our Lenten journey takes us through the many desert trails where the personal truth of that statement is maybe, denied. If not consciously denied, at least questioned. "Mercy, is, too good", does it not have to be ? After all it is about The Infinite, without and within. God is NOT good,God is THE BEST

Monday, February 19, 2024

                                                                   First Sunday of Lent 2024.    Guilt.

Last week I set up what was presented to the faith community on their entrance to their home. A few years before a home was built, to house St. Andrew The Apostle Catholic Faith Community. Now on the right side of the sanctuary, that space reserved for Liturgical Art, was to be seen, a wall of large boulders, blocking the entrance of the cave that was used to reveal The Incarnation of The Prodigal Love of our Creator god. As I wrote G.A.R.B.A.GE was spelled out on the boulders.The First Sunday of Lent the large boulder Guilt was removed, and a reflection  on the word removed was woven throughout  the homily. So we started with G for GUILT.

          It is said that our Jewish brethren discovered guilt, but us Catholics perfected it. Sad to say there was a great assist from the Irish monks, beginning around the 7th Century. Guilt, along with fear and shame make up what I like to call,"the toxic trinity". Together and separately they are destructive for anybody seeking to journey towards a healthy spirituality.  The following is a quote from John O"Donoghue great book, Eternal echos." 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 than we actually had in the actual situation. When personal guilt in relation to a past event becomes a continuous cloud over our life, we are locked in a mental prison. We have become our own jailers. Although we must not erase your responsibility for the past, when we make our past our jailer we destroy our future."

                When I had to face the darkness in my life, my shadow side, and what I now know as my false self, I was taught the difference between guilt and  toxic shame Thank You Gracious Spirit. Healthy guilt enables me to say, "I made a mistake. I need to change.I am going in the wrong direction."  ( Shame on the other hand wants to tell me this lie, "I am a mistake". It will take many visits to your councilor to deal with toxic shame. There are many messages sent to our depths that in no way reflect our beloved-ness. With toxic shame we are forever making vain efforts to satisfy the insatiable hunger for praise , and approval. we become people pleasers to the detriment of our own health and well-being.) Then we are enabled, through grace, to turn around, and go in the opposite direction. That is what is called conversion, metanoia. We meet that word in The Gospel. The Rabbi Jesus clarion call was, metanoia, a complete change of heart. Easier said than done. Change is first of all very, pain-full. It takes a long time to change. Our true selves knows there must be change, but the false self will fight that change with all the power at its disposal.  There is an endless WAR to be fought, to the death.That is why we have Lent every year. Every year we are asked to face the false self and see what are the healthy spiritual practices, habits, we must be open to developing. One of those practices I have worked on, and you will find me  hard at work repeating this spiritual bromide every day", Joe I forgive, you ,Joe I forgive, you."  10, 20, 30.....  at a time. 

               There are very few times I have celebrated The Sacrament of Reconciliation, that some where I have not asked the penitent to say, " Mary,John,Jesus, Pat I forgive you." Many times there is serious struggle to be able to utter the words,"I forgive you.' That was me. When I told Mike, my psychologist, "I don't mean it'. He responded repeat those words many many time each day, and eventually their truth will start to become a reality. Then I remembered the following, " I will not think my way into a new way of acting,I will ACT my way into a new way of thinking." I am not blowing smoke when I write these words. I cannot word the words for you. Each person is responsible for their own healthy spiritual practices. Grace is a tsunami during lent, SO, RIDE THE WAVE of grace that is sweeping you up to the shores of dignity and freedom. I used to body surf so I know what it means to "catch a wave !!!"

 I now continue John's quote, to be slowly read and reflected upon: " It is such a moment of liberation when you learn to forgive yourself. ( Jesus has said   "I have come to bring freedom to the captives'. We are both the captive and the jailer !!!!) Let the burden past guilt go, and walk into a new path of promise and possibility. Self compassion is a wonder-full gift to give yourself. Never reduce the mystery and expanse of your presence to a haunted fixation with something you did or did not do. To learn the art of integrating your facts is to begin a journey of healing on which you will regain your poise, and find new creativity."( It is well named The Sacrament of Reconciliation NOT the Sacrament of obliteration. (Rohr).Know your soul is more immense than any one moment or event of your past.When you allow guilt to fester and reduce you, it has little to do with guilt. The guilt is only an uncomfortable but convenient excuse for your fear of growth."

              I was made aware of the following many years ago, and now I pass these word of freedom; " God's mercy is greater than our sins. There is an awareness of sin that does not lead to God but to self- preoccupation. Our temptation is to be so impressed by our sins and failures and so overwhelmed by our lack of generosity that we get stuck in a paralyzing guilt. ( Also called toxic shame.) 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 a time to break down this idol, and direct our attention to our Loving Lord' ( This is long but there is more to come in a few days after you have begun to digest this much. Mercy always heals us, soothes us, comforts us, strengthens us, protects us, then transfigures us and transforms us. RIDE THE WAVE OF Mercy......



Tuesday, February 13, 2024

 " My lord,God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I am following your will does not mean I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I  am doing.  And I hope I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this You will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you aways though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone." Thomas Merton. 

 This above prayer has been called Thomas Merton's  Prayer of  Abandonment. This has been the mainstay of my prayer life for decades. I do not see any changes ahead, why? the journey you and I are on is, not, journey into certainty, it is a journey into uncertainty. As one gets older, and your journey into absolute powerlessness get even more of a challenge one must have some prayers to fall back on. The Historical Jesus facing annihilation had the Psalms to fall back on. A prayer He would have been familiar with, from His youth, now bubbles up from His depths, "My God, my God why have you abandoned me" is Psalm 22. That psalm was familiar to Him, and was His consolation in the time of abandonment. Now what is your prayer of abandonment, to fall back on for those inevitable moments of powerlessness, and desperation? A Lenten project one may say ? Much more lasting and effective than giving up candor, coke, cookies Etc. 

               This, your personal prayer of surrender will be very slow in coming into consciousness. We start by repetition,repitition, and then, some more repetition. You prayer will slowly send into you depths, and will be there for you. You know The Holy Spirit will be your guide in this encounter with real, reality. As we allow ourselves to be grounded in reality, we are also opening ourselves up to the belief, in all of my reality is,  The Reality. All reality perfectly hides and reveals The Presence, Who's strengthening grace comes, always within the  sacrament, of the present moment, the now. "Now is the acceptable time, now is the time of salvation" so says Saint Paul. There are other spiritual bromides I am buffered by. I am sure they will come to consciousness in these challenging weeks ahead. 

          Please pray for me. As the result of many requests I am going to attempt to journey once again, into  spiritual G.A.R.B.A.G.E. which stands for guilt, anger,resentment,boredom, anxiety, greed and envy. Many years ago this was The Lenten journey of The Faith Community of Saint Andrew The Apostle, in Chandler Arizona. We began Lent, with the same cave that housed  the glorious, mystery laden, Christmas Scene.( I have learned over time the cave can be understood as the symbol of the soul.  The Desert Fathers council was,"Go to your cave, and it will reveal all that you need to learn." How could this be true when we now know how primitive these caves were. The caves have evolved over timeout the messages still are taught as we make our dwelling  in, silence.)

So far this year I have attempted to connect the cave scene of the revelation of The Incarnation, with the reality of our present lived experience. As time changes so does our understanding of The Crib within  has to change. In the present reality The Infant has changed, evolved into a grown man. The connection between the cave at Christmas, and the cave for the Lenten journey came to me on a hike, in South Mountain, Phoenix. Now it  is  to be used to house,  a desert scene. In front of that desert scene has been erected large boulders, each one  would have one of the words I first mentioned, engraved into it. One had two. Each week a boulder was removed, and placed within the community. With the coming of Easter Sunday a dramatic change was revealed. As the cave scene has changed, so has the cave, and it's GARBAGE boulders. 

 You may ask, and rightfully so, if someone stumbled over one of the garbage boulders what was to happen? We would make sure the person was fine. Fine though  to reveal the lesson learned from the encounter with garbage. It afforded  a real teaching opportunity. What do you think the spiritual lesson was ?  Put yourself at St.Andrew's and imagine you hit one of those rather substantial  rocks. This can be a Lenten mediation for you. Fast forward to Easter Sunday. The Reality and Power of The Resurrection  brings about radical change. What were these radical changes  to the desert scene now that the whole wall has been removed ? What was the awe-filled, wonder-fill, mystical scene to be  revealed to the community ?  The spiritual journey is hard, difficult, and uncertain work. Well, you will have to make the  Lenten journey of 2024 to have it revealed to you. Let's us pray for all to have the courage to enter as best they san this season of conversion and change. " Change our hearts, this time". "Out of the depths of my -------  I cry unto you O Lord, Lord, hear my prayer". " The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and fro all their distress, He rescues them." 'I believe, help my un/disbelief" The desert is a place of purification, and courtship.' Jesus,The Beloved was driven by the Spirit into the desert ??????

Monday, February 5, 2024

 We,I, must always remember that there is no time and space in the spiritual realm. In a few short days and weeks we are making the our journey from our encounter with the Christ Child, in His first revelation ,in Bethlehem, to His on going Presence in our depths as he grows to become The Prophet,The Rabbi Jesus. Then we will journey as we do, NOW, into His Paschal Mystery. A Mystery which within which we, live move, and have our being. WE are on this journey alone in our uniqueness, yet at the same time we journey  together, as a community of wounded human beings. Alone yet ALWAYS connected to the Power of Creative love.

   Each person who encounters you IS encountering the contemporary Presence of Him, in whom all of creation lives and moves and have being. What dignity, what sacramentality has been gifted to us. This alone can feed our reflections for the rest of our lives. The sacramentality of each and every person's revelation of The Unknown,The Ineffable, Power of Love in the sacrament of the, now,  in the sacredness of where we stand, where are feet are planted.  Our dwelling place is a ,holy place. The consequences of what was just read will be real food for contemplative thought. Contemplative thought leads to real  fruit-filled action, for, "the common good"

 Where we are in this moment is where we are met by The Power of Love, that is unconditioned, unlimited, and unrestricted. How very sad it is when the real reality of the spiritual life is not owned or appreciated. That is why "an attitude of gratitude" is essential for a healthy spirituality. Thanks to The Creative Spirit this realization is real slow in becoming our gift. Then we have to deal with St.Paul who warns that  all gifts are given NOT to feed  our selfishness but to be shared with all who are placed in our path. The Gracious Creative Spirit works with all we surrender. Now that is so easily written, but is our  ongoing moment to moment challenge. How often have I been faced with this reality, you do not really possess something, until you've  given it away. (Another paradox to be added to that long list of stretching spiritual exercises.)

      " Harden not your hearts", but we also hear the consoling words, "The Lord is close to the broken-hearted". We have this warning from the Irish Yeats, "the heart long neglected, a stone becomes". " Expectations are planned resentments" 

            The above provided us with great challenges as we approach Lent 2024. This will be my 61st year for me to journey with The Good Shepherd into the desert.Because we are with The Good Shepherd we are in the presence of infinite  mercy-full, loving care. You and I will walk into harsh deserts, dark valleys where we will asked to confront the shadow within each one of us. There is ALSO a family, and parish shadow. We face those challenges under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that drove The Rabbi Jesus into the desert is the self same spirit WHO will in us, through , and always within us. The Spirit cannot, nor, will not desert us. " It is not that I love God, but that She/He loves me. Not that I give love, but, that I accept love". A love always working on us so we are moulded into the image Jesus,The Christ. The Historical Jesus became The Risen Christ,through suffering, death.burial,Resurrection and Ascension. The Holy Spirit was sent as the result of a promise. The divine is always true to what is promised. We are in for one heck of a journey.  Love prayers and blessings, from the old, old grandpa.