Thursday, April 30, 2009
The joy that I have been experiencing lately was heightened by my traveling to the lowlands this week. Redbud doesn't grow in the mountains where I live. I think it is probably my favorite spring blossom. So my trip was a lavender journey into joy.
Springtime accounts for some of the intense joy that I have been experiencing lately, but I think my recent immersion in the New Testament has something to do with it as well. For two months I have been studying in a much deeper way than before the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, and the letters of Paul. Not just studying them, but reflecting on them in a very prayerful way and sharing them with others. I have been greatly impressed with the struggle of these sacred writers to express the inexpressible God. It is impossible to be drawn into the Divine Mystery without experiencing Divine Joy.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I feel like just a mess of joy. Yesterday and today have been glorious days, as hot and pretty as any we get in the summer in these mountains. Spring, which comes late to us, seems finally to have gotten up nerve enough to give it a try. A few new flowers and lots of bird song. This evening's sunset was brilliant and long lasting. I had a hard time deciding which picture to use of the more than twenty I took.
I can remember a time long ago when I was experiencing a lot of anxiety and didn't seem able to get on top of it. A friend called it "undifferentiated anxiety." He suggested I make a list of all the things that I was anxious about; prioritize them; and then, starting at the top, deal with them one at a time. It was a big help.
Lately, especially these last two glorious days, I have been feeling a lot of joy. It's like it's coming at me from every direction. Yesterday, as I started trying to name the source, the phrase "undiffentiated joy" popped into my head. I don't think I want to get to the bottom of this. I doubt that I could. Like God.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
"The dynamic of dying and rising, of going down into chaos with something new emerging...this is a dynamic that permeates God's Universe."
This quote from John Surette, SJ, is on April in this year's wonder-full calendar from www.ministryofthearts.org
Monday, April 20, 2009
In nature, death and new life go hand in hand. Winter's death and Spring's new life. That's one way that God has of helping us to understand the Paschal Mystery, the dying and rising of Jesus.
In his Gospel, Luke is especially intent on helping us to focus on the connection between suffering and glory, between death and new life. Along with Mark and Matthew, Luke has Jesus predict the connection between his death and resurrection three times before his Passion. But it is only in Luke that we are reminded of this connection three times after the Resurrection.
The "two men in dazzling clothes" at the tomb of Jesus tell the women, "Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again." 24:6
Of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus Jesus asks, "Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" 24:26
When Jesus appears to the disciples gathered together he opens their minds to the "law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms" and says "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day." 24:46
We may not always catch it, but in our experience also, suffering and joy, death and new life go hand in hand.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Needless to say, this is not now here in these mountains. This stunning variety was in Vancouver several years ago. I was looking for something that would capture the full life that the Risen Jesus offers us.
In chapter 20 of the Gospel according to John we see believing begetting life. First the disciple whom Jesus loved believes, then Mary Magdalene, then the disciples in the locked room, then Thomas with an over-the-top "My Lord and my God!" Then all of us since. "Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed." John tells us that these things were written that we may believe and in believing we may have life in Jesus.
Friday, April 17, 2009
The birds are an even earlier sgn of spring than any flowers, but they are harder to capture in a picture. This one was outside my bedroom in the early morning. When I went walking this morning it was still cool, but very sunny. The birds were loving it. Lots of chirping and singing. Lots of God in the air.
The birds come even earlier than those little yellow flowers that grow close to ground along the road. I'm told by two different people that they are coltsfoot (not groundsels."
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Christianity is born as a religion because of the experience of the Resurrection. It is not born because of what Jesus said and did in his lifetime, but because after his death his followers experienced him alive in a new way. For Christians the Resurrection of Jesus means not only that a human being was raised from the dead, but that he has entered into full participation in God's life and power.
Jesus not only entered into this new life for himself but became the source of new life for others, the transformation of all humanity for all time. This marks the end of one kind of history and the beginning of another so radically different that we call it a new creation. The Risen Jesus is a new Adam, the start of a new humanity.
It is this understanding of the Resurrection of Jesus that makes Christianity such a powerful and compelling religious movement.
Friday, April 10, 2009
"There is no greater love than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends." (John15:13)
"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself." (John 12:32)
I wish the Greek had said "give up his life." Then the direction in both quotes would be the same. Nevertheless, John wants us to see that in dying Jesus is returning to his Father and taking all of us with him. It's as if the extravagant love that Jesus shows in accepting his death makes him a magnet attracting every person to himself. I think of how the friends of a kid whose mother is very loving all want to hang around her house.
To use another image Jesus' loving return to his Father on the Cross creates a kind of eternal vortex that sucks in everything in sight. We are drawn neither up nor down but into the Father's heart.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
"Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." (John 13:1)
These words set the tone for all that we celebrate in these days. They also mark the beginning of the second half of John's Gospel, often referred to as The Book of Glory.
"Well, it just wasn't her time," we might say of someone who has survived a horrible car accident. Or of someone who dies after a long and full life, we might say "Well, it was his time." Throughout the first half of John's Gospel Jesus has been telling us that his time had not yet come or that his time was coming soon. Instead of "time" Jesus uses the word "hour" to refer to his dying and rising and returning to the Father. As the second half of John's Gospel begins we are told that "Jesus knew that his hour had come." It is the hour of love.
Extreme Love colors everything that happens from this point on: his Last Supper with his friends, his Passion and Death, his Resurrection. Jesus has shown his love for his disciples throughout the time that he has spent with them, but now he will show them to what extemes love will go. The Greek phrase that is translated above as "to the end" can also mean "utterly." Some translations have "He showed them the full extent of his love" or "He showed them how perfect his love was." It's time to let Love fall deep into our hearts.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
I took this picture from my bedroom this 7th day of April. Decided not to go out for my walk. Temperature was 21 degrees and there was a fierce wind. The snow was heavy and blowing horizontally. We got maybe 2 inches. Already at 1:30 PM lots of it is melting.
I remembered another April snow in recent years that had prompted a blog. Looked it up. April 17, 2007, we had five and a half inches over two days and then it melted even more quickly. At that time I thought of Johnny Mathis' song "The Twelfth of Never." I got it out and am listening to it right now. I have been singing it off and on all morning as a kind of prayer: "Hold me close. Never let me go. Hold me close. Melt my heart like April snow."
And now, a surprise, it has started to snow hard again.
Monday, April 6, 2009
The Gospel according to Mark ends with the empty tomb and a young man in white telling some women to go tell the disciples of Jesus that he has been raised. The very last verse is "So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." How is that good news?
Throughout his Gospel Mark shows the disciples as dense. They never seem to get what Jesus is driving at. In the end they run away. One young man is so anxious to get away that he slips out of the bit of cloth that he had around him and runs away naked. Originally the disciples left all to follow Jesus. He leaves all to get away from Jesus.
The message of Mark's Gospel is that God succeeds and accomplishes his purpose in the midst of human failure. Mark wants to console his original audience and us who may feel that we often fail as disciples. It was always thus. It is precisely in the midst of our failure that God accomplishes his plan. St. Paul, acknowledging his total dependence on God says, "When I am weak, then I am strong."
I was so impressed this morning when I saw these two tiny flowers and a shock of green grass making their way up through dead leaves and dead weeds and rocks. I've seen all that before. What stopped me short was that all this was taking place in a clump of mud on the road's surface, not off on the shoulder. Nature, too, will succeed and acomplish her purpose in the midst of human failure.