Wednesday, August 31, 2011
What is the secret of finding the Treasure? There isn't one. The Treasure is everywhere. It is offered to us at every moment and wherever we find ourselves. All creatures, friends or enemies, pour it out abundantly, and it courses through every fiber of our body and soul until it reaches the very core of our being. God's activity runs through the entire universe. It wells up around and penetrates every created being....
This is authentic spirituality, and it is valid for all times and for everyone. We could not choose to become good in a better, more miraculous, and yet easier way than by simple use of the means offered us by God: the whole-hearted acceptance of everything that comes to us at every moment of our lives.
(I came across the above quote from Jean Pierre de Caussade yesterday in a book I'm using for spiritual reading called "Teachings of the Christian Mystics" edited by Andrew Harvey.)
Monday, August 29, 2011
"I am with you always," is the promise of Jesus at the very end of Matthew's Gospel. Near the beginning of the Gospel Matthew tells us that Jesus fulfills the promise of Emmanuel which means "God with us." In the middle of the Gospel Jesus says, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."(18;20) Matthew wants us to keep in mind that the Risen Lord is constantly present within us and among us.
It's easy to forget that this is real presence, not just some kind of moral presence. The presence that Matthew calls to our attention in these passages is as real as the presence of Jesus in the Mass or in the tabernacle. Because we don't see Jesus or the signs of the sacrament, we can lose awareness of the Risen Lord living in us and among us. We can catch ourselves trying to be good by our own will power, not counting on Jesus within us to share his goodness with us. We can mistreat others as if Jesus were not living in them. We can fail to feel the living presence of Christ whenever a group of us are together. Jesus Christ is really and truly with us forever.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
This northern sky awakened me yesterday morning. Its beauty was so overwhelming that I have already put here three views of that dawn. Dawns and twilights are often the ways that God seduces me.
The prophet Jeremiah cries, "You have seduced me, Yahweh, and I have let myself be seduced." (New Jerusalem Bible translation) The Hebrew verb is used several times in the O.T. to refer to sexual seduction. That sexual metaphor continues throughout verses 7-9 of chapter 20. Jeremiah continues his complaint, "You have overpowered me; you are the stronger." Jeremiah is upset because all God wants him to do is predict disasters for the nation. Then he says, "I would say to myself, 'I will not mention Him; I will not speak in His name anymore,' but then there seemed to be a raging fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. I could not hold it in. I was helpless."
God's goodness and beauty and love are so powerful that I don't stand a chance. I let myself be loved into being good and beautiful. I cannot resist telling others about the seductive Spirit of Love.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
In the midst of all this beauty where do I find the Cross. I've been meditating on Matthew 16:24-26 where Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him. I've reflected on some spiritual writers comments on suffering. But my life seems to be flowing so smoothly and I am so very happy now that I wonder what to do about what Jesus says.
It doesn't take a lot of effort to remember crosses in the past. Earlier this summer the pain of the shingles was intense. The worst suffering I remember was not physical but psychological, but that was half a lifetime ago. I can see the connection between the Cross and Resurrection, especially in that experience. Dealing with that psychological suffering brought me through to being a much happier and more mature person and set me off on continuing growth in my relationship with God.
A good summary of the last five years, however, is the first line of one of my favorite hymns, "My life flows on in endless song above earth's lamentations."
I know I am not to create suffering for myself. I know that to live is to change and change can cause at least discomfort. I guess I take the beauty and the joy of now as the new life that came from the pain and suffering of my earlier life. And to ready to embrace whatever cross may come my way.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
In the Aramaic language that Jesus spoke the word for rock was "kepha." Jesus would have said to Simon, "You are kepha and on this kepha I will build my church." In the Greek of Matthew 16:16-19 "Petros" is the name and "petra" is rock (this picture was taken at Petra in Jordan.) To catch Jesus' wordplay, we would best translate, "You are Rock and on this rock I will build my church."
Jesus gives Peter a leadership role for the community of believers. In other places in the Gospels Peter is the acknowledged leader and spokesman for the apostles.
There is nothing in the scriptures that says that the bishop of Rome was intended to be Peter's successor as leader of the community of believers. That development happened for several reasons. Peter (and Paul) had been martyred in Rome.
Rome was the capital of the Empire, the Gentile world to which the Christian mission was increasingly directed. As early as the first century the leader of the Church in Rome began in letters to show care for other churches in the Empire.
For almost a thousand years the bishop of Rome held together under his leadership the community of those who believe in Jesus. The papal ofice symbolized and promoted the unity of the Church. Then the Orthodox and Roman churches separated. Several hundred years later the Protestant Reformation challenged the leadership of Rome. The Rock that had once been the symbol of Church unity had become a stumbling block.
In recent years some Protestants have begun to see the value of some central authority and some Catholics have begun to see that we have exaggerated the extent of the Pope's power. If these trends continue. perhaps some day the papal office will once more symbolize and create Christian unity.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
One morning last week I took this picture in my neighbor's yard. It had rained all night. There was no sun. Often when it is sunless, I don't take my camera on my morning walk. Fortunately, I did that morning. These flowers didn't need the sun. The light came from within them. I don't know what they are.
As I continued my walk I noticed the large leafed weeds that adorn both shoulders of our road were glistening with the recent rain. The trees and bushes seemed to be glowing. The Divine leaking through.
Even later when I drove into the nearby town, everything was spilling light, the hillsides and the cornfields. My heart was in my mouth. I was lifted in gratitude and joy.
Sometimes for a moment or two God shines out in everything I see, but it is just a glimpse of the Divine. It is rare to have the whole morning, and a cloudy one at that, stay glistening with God.
Monday, August 15, 2011
This Church is on the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem. It is called "Dominus Flevit" (The Lord Wept.) It is near the place where Jesus wept because his own people did not realize who he was. It is also called The Church of All Nations. In Isaiah 56:7 the Lord says, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." In the preceding passage God says that eunuchs and all foreigners are to be welcomed in the temple. No one is to be excluded. I think Jesus would weep also to see how far we are from showing such unprejudiced love.
In Matthew 15:21-28 I am impressed at how truly human Jesus is and how much a Jew of his time and place. In his prejudice toward a non-Jewish woman, he first ignores her, then says he came only for Jews, and then in harsh words tells her, "You don't take the children's food and throw it to the dogs."
The woman's reply is immediate, "Yes, but even the dogs get to eat the scraps that fall from the master's table." I can't help but think that Jesus must have laughed as she cleverly shook him out of his prejudice. He praises her boldness, "Woman, you have great faith!" Jesus rises above his prejudice and heals this foreigner's daughter.
I find it helpful to think of racial prejudice as a feeling that is morally neutral. Only when I act on it to segregate and discriminate against a group does immorality enter the picture. It is very difficult to recognize my own prejudices. Easier to notice others'. It is encouraging to know that I can count on Jesus living within me to help me rise above my prejudices and treat all people fairly.
Friday, August 5, 2011
God in a recent steamy still summer sunrise.
God in the stilling of the storm at sea.
God in a sound of sheer silence.
About a two weeks ago we had the most spectacular lightning. The whole northern sky would light up and very distinct streaks of lightning, some in clear Y shapes, would last longer than usual. I experienced God in the lightning. Powerful storms and natural spectacles have traditionally been seen as signs of God's presence.
In 1 Kings 19:11-13 the prophet Elijah experiences God, not in a fierce wind or an earthquake or a fire, but in a sound of sheer silence. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary says that it is important in the translation to preserve the paradox of sound and silence as signs of God's passing by.
In Matthew 14:22-33 the disciples experience God in Jesus' stilling the storm on the Sea of Galilee.
The wind today has been from the east and southeast. When that happens the sounds of boats and wave runners on the lake are carred away from our shore. We can see the boats but we can barely hear them. I felt God's presence in the stillness.