Monday, April 19, 2010
Recently I saw two newspaper columns whose attacks on the Pope were an embarassment of exaggeration and ignorance. I find the end of chapter 21 in John's Gospel helpful in dealing with this present crisis.
Instead of the more familiar designation of Peter as the "rock" on which the church is built, Jesus tells Peter that he is a shepherd and that his authority is based on his love for Jesus. Jesus expects Peter and his successors to love and care for the faithful as a shepherd does his sheep. This has a very different feel from the rock imagery and expands my expectation of the way a pope leads.
To reverse Peter's denying Jesus three times, Jesus asks Peter three times, "Do you love me?" Jesus wants Peter to see that he is making him the leader despite his failings. He doesn't expect Peter and his successors to be without fault. So I know that a pope may make mistakes in governing the Church.
Jesus doesn't give the sheep to Peter. He expects Peter to take care of them for him. So I belong to Jesus, not to a pope. My faith is not in the papacy, no matter how much I may cherish and respect it. My faith is in Jesus.
These different expectations keep the present crisis from getting me too upset.
(This lovely waterfall was in a small stream that I passed last Sunday.)
Thursday, April 15, 2010
I am impressed that John in the 21st chapter of his Gospel bothers to tell us that the disciples caught 153 large fish. It helps to remember that these men had been fishermen who caught and sold fish for a living. They are not just enjoying a few hours fishing the way men do in the lake in front of my house.
What astonishes me is that, while their newly risen Lord is waiting for them on the lakeshore with some fish already on a fire, they take time to hunker down and count the fish they've caught. In John's Gospel Jesus has appeared to them twice before, but it's almost as if they have forgotten or dismissed it. They are back to business as usual. These are the men whom Jesus handpicked to be his companions while he was walking the earth and to continue his work in the world!
An intense prayer experience of Jesus' presence can't end in business as usual. I want it to make me more aware of my union with others in Christ and urge me to spread that Good News.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
A sad morning for me.
There is only one short stretch of road in my neighborhood that has trees on both sides and no houses. I love this part of the road. If I have time only for half a walk, this is the way I go. I like the solitude.
This morning excavators were there making driveways into the woods on one side where presumably houses will be built.
Monday, April 12, 2010
With this blog turning three years old, I want to take a look at my life in retirement.
I said initially that I want to record in the blog what God is doing with me here. I'm glad I put it that way. I am even more aware now that whatever growth happens is God's doing. Early on I read Sister Wendy Beckett's book on prayer. She stresses over and over again that prayer is God's work. So is the growth of my relationship with God.
I think I am a better friend to God than I was when I retired. Not that God's a better friend to me. God couldn't possibly love me anymore than when I was 70 or 50 or when I was born. God has always been completely present to me and has always loved me perfectly.
The change has been in me. In this time alone here God has helped me to grow in awareness and love. I am much more aware of God's continual presence and constant love. I have become better able to surrender myself in love to God. I hope this has spilled over into my relationships with other people.
Another theme that I find running prominently through these retirement years is my finding God in the Beauty and Awesomeness of nature. I am blessed here on this lake and in these mountains with glorious views, as well as simple up close glimpses of something like these leaves just beginning to open in the sunshine of an early spring morning.
All this has been accompanied by great joy. Sometimes the joy is so intense that there is a sort of pain that comes with it that I attribute to my inability to take it all in.
Five or six years ago, as I contemplated retiring, I realized that I was only thinking about whether I would be happy here by myself doing nothing for four or five years. It occurred to me one day that I might be here 20 years and I wasn't at all sure that I could do that. I needn't have worried. These nearly four years have gone by very quickly. I look forward to as many as God will give me.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
In John's Gospel the only disciple who comes to faith without seeing the Risen Jesus is the man called "the disciple whom Jesus loved." When he sees only the empty tomb we are told "he believed." When Jesus appears to the other disciples on Easter night, they believe. The following week when Thomas sees the Risen Jesus, he believes. Jesus says, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
That would be the community for whom the Gospel was written as well as all who have read it down through the centuries.
But first of all that would be "the disciple whom Jesus loved." I wonder if it's his being loved by Jesus that brings him to believe in Jesus without seeing him.
When someone loves me and looks out for me I find myself believing in them. Being loved by Jesus brings me to believe in him.
Friday, April 9, 2010
The moment before sunrise on Easter morning.
I started this blog three years ago today, at a friend's suggestion. At that time I didn't even know what a blog was. Since I was in high school I've kept a journal fitfully, some years writing almost every day, others just once or twice in the whole year. I decided to use this blog the way I used my journal. I wanted to reflect on what God is doing with me here in retirement.
Last night I read the first several entries from April, 2007, and one or two entries every month since then. I like it. The writing is good and succinct. The pictures add a lot to it. Originally I hadn't planned on using photographs. The first few entries have none. They have become a very satisfying part of it for me.
I wrote my journal only for my eyes. I have tried to approach this blog the same way, reflecting to myself, but letting someone look over my shoulder. I notice, however, that some entries are more like little sermonettes, addressed to the reader as well as to myself. I think I mainly want to keep it as if I am letting others read my journal.
When I started I intended to keep it something that anyone of any religious persuasion might find appealing, so that if they stumbled on it on the internet, they might find it helpful. But it was hard to write a journal without reflecting on some of my concerns as a priest. I gradually began also to reflect on the Scripture readings for Mass.
I still hope that those of other religions will find many of my reflections valuable.
Although few have made comments on the blog, I have received lots of encouragement from readers in person and by email.
In another entry I will try to see what themes I notice in this blog over this three year period.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
For the next six Sundays the second reading is from the Apocalypse (Revelation.) Jesus appears prominently in four scenes of this book. This Sunday presents the first of these visions (1:9-20.)
The Risen Jesus appears as a majestic figure, the Human Being, but completely otherworldly. The vision so overwhelms the senses that words just come tumbling out trying to describe it. An artist would be hard put to draw the author's description (maybe that's why the lectionary selection leaves the heart of it out.)
It helps me to think of a sort of cosmic Christ, as expansive as the universe, yet accessible to me as a person, able to touch my heart and love me.
"...I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force....saying 'Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever....'"
The white is purity and the blazing eyes piercing insight. The words coming out of his mouth are as powerful as a two edged sword and his voice sounds like a powerful waterfall, crashing over us, frightening, all-embracing, cleansing and life-giving, "I AM alive forever and ever."
Monday, April 5, 2010
I took this picture down by the Lake on Easter morning. I had just noted two days ago that the daffodils weren't blooming yet in these mountains. And one day later there they were.
My Easter homily was inspired by my vivid awareness on Good Friday that Jesus dying on the Cross was just a memory and that the Risen Jesus was not just a memory but was available to me right here and now. As I composed the homily I realized that I wanted also to say that the Crucifixion plays an essential role, along with the Resurrection, in our salvation. The world is saved by the dying and rising of Jesus.
When I was young, even in our Latin manuals that we studied in the seminary, we were taught that it was only the death of Jesus that redeemed us. His resurrection played no part in our redemption. It simply proved that he was divine. Durwell's book, The Resurrection, was the first one I read at that time that insisted that the Resurrection was also essential to our being saved.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Yesterday and today I've been reflecting on Richard Rohr's idea of prayer as "resonance" in his book The Naked Now. He suggests that prayer is like setting out a tuning fork. "All you can really do in the spiritual life is get tuned to receive the always present message....The Sender is absolutely and always present and broadcasting; the only change is with the receiver station." It has nothing to do with deserving it or with belonging to a certain group. It is available to anyone.
I remembered reading a while back about a ship at sea reciving on its radio a news broadcast that the Pope had just died. They already knew that the Pope had died a few weeks earlier. Their radio just happened to be tuned to a frequency that enabled them to pick up an old broadcast.
The Resurrection means that Jesus is alive right now and sending. Prayer is being tuned to the frequency that will enable me to pick up the ever present Jesus.
Friday, April 2, 2010
I spent several hours today praying over John's account of the death of Jesus, listening to Victoria's Tenebrae, and reflecting on many works of art of the Crucifixion. Some very heartfelt insights into the meaning of Good Friday.
Then I went down to just sit by the Lake in our remarkably 83 degree day. As I watched the real water in front of me, I thought that 2,000 years ago Jesus really did hang on a cross and die for me, for all of us. Then I found myself thinking that at its very best the Crucifixion is still only a memory, made present in Gospel and Eucharist, but a memory nonetheless. Jesus hanging on the cross is not available to me right here and now.
But the Risen Jesus is. I thought of Jesus present in the Lake and in all the beauty of this hot day. I realized that the Risen Jesus was living in me at that moment. That's why Luke's account calls him "The Living One." That's why the Resurrection is the foundation of my Christian faith. That's why the Risen Jesus is the source of our present day community. The Risen Jesus is not some wonderful memory from long ago. He is alive still, loving us as truly as he loved his first disciples.
The picture above is a memory from April 9, 2008, but it made me think of another garden on an early Easter morning with an empty tomb somewhere. (Our daffodils in these mountains are not blooming yet.)
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Colt's Foot is the first flower we usually see here in the spring. It grows on the side of the road where it must eat gravel and tar! It closes up at night and opens more and more as the sun brightens. There was nothing visible when I passed this at the beginning of my walk, but a half hour later on my way home it was shining bright.
In Luke's account of the Resurrrection he tells us that, when Mary Magdalene, Susanna, and some other women from Galilee come to the tomb, they find it empty. Two angels say, "Why are you looking for the living one among the dead?"
They are mystified. The angels tell them, "He has been raised. Remember that he told you in Galilee that he must be crucified and on the third day rise again." Very readily the women believe that Jesus is alive.
But when they tell the apostles, they don't believe. They think the women are delerious. Peter confirms that the tomb is empty, but the passage ends with him and the apostles still not believing.
Growing up believing in the Resurrection, my faith is as ready as the women's. The unbelief of the apostles helps me to appreciate what an astounding event this is, the very starting point of our Christian faith. Jesus is the Living One.