Saturday, June 29, 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Free to Become Slaves

Friday's sunset completes the longest day of the year.
I have found both last and next Sunday's selections from St. Paul Letter to the Galatians good for prayerful reflection.  In 3:26-29 St. Paul says that through faith we are "all children of God in Christ Jesus."  There are no distinctions among God's children, "there is neither slave nor free....we are "all one in Christ Jesus."  Jesus living in every one of us binds us to one another in divine love.
In 5:1-18 St. Paul says that there is no distinction between the circumcised and uncircumcised.  In Christ the only thing that counts is "faith working through love."
The passage plays on the words free and slave.  Paul says that when Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free.  He encourages us not to submit to the slavery of the law.  He says "If you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law."
He also warns us, however, not to use our freedom as an excuse for self-indulgence.  The purpose of our freedom is love.  In a nice twist he says, "Through love become slaves of one another" (NRSV translation.)  Christ freed us so that we can become slaves, not to the law, but to one another in love.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Our Daily Cross.

Sunrise on the Atlantic.  I've been back a week from the retreat I made with five other priests last week.  I took long walks in the cold surf each morning, contemplating with camera.
We did our retreat on Franciscan spirituality.  St. Francis of Assisi centered his spiritual life on the crucifix as the sign of God's great love for us. 
I've been reflecting on Luke 9:18-24.  Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is.  Peter answers, "The Messiah of God."  Jesus immediately makes it clear what kind of Messiah he is: one who suffers and dies before he rises into glory.
Then he says, "If you want to be a follower of mine, then follow."  We do this, he says, by taking up our cross daily.  We don't have to create a cross for ourselves.  There are plenty of crosses that come our way.  Some of them are hard suffering and deep sadness.  Jesus invites us to unite our suffering and sadness with his and go through them with him into peace.
For most of us our crosses are not great.  One of the priests last week said that a holy priest who taught him in the seminary said that the self-discipline most needed in the 20th century is to get enough sleep.  St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, suggested that the little difficulties and annoyances of each day are the crosses Jesus calls us to carry in union with him.  What is most important, she said, was that we take them up with great love.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Still Growing

I couldn't find a place where I could capture the whole iris garden that we visited in Oregon.  This gives some idea of how uplifting the beauty was.
Neither can I seem to capture a whole picture of my spirituality.  I don't yet have a unified concept. Yesterday I forgot to say that part and parcel of the foundational notions of Christ in me and God's gracious love is the conviction that any good that I find in myself is Christ's sharing his goodness with me.  There is no place for "merit," which was an important word in the first 30 years of my life.  My role is to say "yes" to Jesus who wants to share his goodness with me and, even to do that, I need his help.  The mystery of free will and grace!
There have been other more contemporary notions, that I have written about in this blog, that have continued to help me grow in my relationship with God.  I have come to think of heaven as another dimension that is intermingled with this world. This idea was influenced by understanding time as a fourth dimension and by John O'Donohue's Anam Cara: a Book of Celtic Wisdom in which his says Irish spirituality speaks of "the other world woven into and through this world."
Teilhard de Chardin, among others, has helped me understand a kind of evolutionary spirituality as God draws the human race and all creation into the future.
Elizabeth Johnson's Quest for the Living God helped me to see that even the name "God" can limit my relationship with the Divine.  Her approach opened up many new ways for me to think about Ultimate Reality.
Most recently Gregory Wolfe's Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age has pushed me to go way back in my life and see how important beauty in nature and art has always been in drawing me into God who is Beauty.  This spirituality of Beauty prompts me to add what beauty I can to the world, for example by this blog and the pictures that I use.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Growing in God

Portland, Oregon, is famous for its Rose Garden, which we visited during my visit there.  This is a particularly striking beauty.
Reading about Franciscan spirituality for my retreat has got me thinking about what my own spirituality is like.  The first time I remember using the term was in 3rd year college in the seminary.  My confessor, Gene Walsh, had me read a paper he wrote about Sulpician spirituality.  Briefly it stressed the presence of Christ within us, living out the various mysteries of his life as we celebrate them during the liturgical year.
I enjoyed meditation throughout my years in the seminary.  It gradually shaded into contemplation.  After ordination, praying over Scripture became an important part of my daily routine.  In 1980 I began doing centering prayer and have continued that to the present.  That was shaped and promoted by the Trappists, so my spirituality owes a lot to theirs.
In late high school years I was especially struck by St. Paul's verse, "I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20.)  This awareness grew in me through Sulpician spirituality and through centering prayer.
In 1973 I read Burtchell's Philemon's Problem which greatly intensified my appreciation that God's love was not earned, that it was freely given.  The growing awareness of God's gracious love and of the presence of Jesus within me are probably the foundation of my spirituality now.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Compassion of Christ

This was a morning that made me feel great to be alive.  Crisp 55 degrees, sunny, clear blue skies.  The leaves which are finally full on all the trees looked greener than ever.  My morning walk glowed with an awareness of God.
I used Luke 7:11-17 for scripture prayer today.  Jesus brings the only son of a widow back to life.  Only Luke has this story.  With her only son dead she would have had no means of support.  Jesus raises this man from the dead out of compassion for his mother.  Luke says, "Jesus gave him to his mother."
The compassion of Jesus is one of the themes of Luke's Gospel.  It is one of the reasons that this is my favorite Gospel.  In a particularly poignant translation, the New International Version has, "When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, 'Don't cry.'"  Jesus feels what the widow is feeling.  His heart and hers are one.  He suffers with her and acts out of that compassion.
In the crowd's reaction Luke doesn't seem to say simply "God has visited his people."  Several translations give the verb a further notion of caring.  The New Revised Standard Version has "God has looked favorably on his people." 
Jesus is God's gracious love in the flesh.  On the cross the outstretched arms of Jesus gathers all the pain and suffering of the whole world into himself.  God suffers with us.

Monday, June 3, 2013


Another beauty from the iris farm.
As I'm thinking about prayer and spirituality, I open my book of Quotes that Matter to this from Simone Weil: "Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life."

Sunday, June 2, 2013

God's Work

A local beauty - the rhododendron in front of my house.
I'm reading Franciscan Prayer by Ilia Delio in preparation for a retreat I will be doing with my support group of five other priests.  It has been very helpful in understanding Franciscan spirituality and in thinking about how I would describe my own spirituality.  The centering prayer that I do seems quite different from Franciscan prayer.
One of the things that I want to keep in mind as I look more closely at my relationship with God is that my prayer and my spirituality are not the results of my efforts.  Sister Wendy Beckett in her simple book on prayer insists over and over that prayer is God's work.
I was reminded of this by this quote from Thomas Merton in the last chapter of Delio's book: "The root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved."  All our love, as well as all our prayer, begins with God's freely given love for us and God's activity within us.