Friday, February 28, 2014
Early Monday morning traveling a nearby road.
Wednesday, 26th, was my 78th birthday. I don't feel what I thought 78 would feel like when I was 8. Then it seemed incredibly old. One sign is that I am visiting more sick friends.
What comes most to mind is how much God has helped me grow in my relationship with God. The experience I had on St. Martin was a big step. I became aware of God within me and within all those around me; God's loving us and giving us the same love with which to return God's love. All One. The image of a Blob. This has influenced strongly how I now start my Centering Prayer in the mornings.
As I think of my 78 years I realize how long I have been stressing that God is Mystery, entirely beyond my concepts and words to comprehend. I have also become convinced that this Mysterious God has a relationship with everybody in the world. I was pleased to see in the February 24 issue of America an article about young people born between the early 80's and the late 90's, the "Nones," who prefer Divine Mystery and an all inclusive spirituality. I was pleasantly surprised to see their attitude described so similar to mine. I wondered why. I'm not sure, but perhaps it's because I have always been a man of my time, celebrating the modern world, appreciating our movies and music and art and fiction, keeping in touch with those younger than I.
The priest who was so influential in my growing was always thinking new thoughts, always open to new ideas. I often prayed that I would be like him when I got old.
Friday, February 21, 2014
In December I brought some cuttings from my forsythia inside and left them in a south facing window. They bloomed about a month later and stayed blooming much longer than they seem to outside. A promise of spring.
The second reading for this Sunday (1 Corinthians 3:16-23) ties in well with the first reading and the Gospel. Paul says that we are God's temple and that the Holy Spirit lives in us. Using the same notion of holiness used in the first reading, Paul says, "God's temple is holy, and you are that temple." He's not talking about behaving ourselves. A holy temple is one that belongs completely to God. We are holy simply because we belong completely to God.
Even the word "belong" says this. We rarely think of the two words that make it up: "be" and "long." When I say that I belong in these mountains I mean that I will be here a long time. These mountains own me. I am a part of them.
Paul concludes this passage by saying, "You belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God." Christ brings us with him to be in God a long time, forever in fact. God owns us. That's holiness.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Side deck with morning sun creeping in.
When someone resolves that they are going to start at the beginning and read the Bible all the way through, Leviticus almost always puts an end to their resolve. And it's only the third book. Passages from Leviticus are used at weekend Mass only three times in the three year lectionary that we follow and two of those are from the same chapter. It is a book of laws and religious regulations, most of which have no significance for a non-Jewish reader today.
Sunday's first reading is from chapter 19:1-2, 17-18 of Leviticus and, you see, we still skip some verses. But those we keep are powerful: "You shall be holy for I the Lord your God am holy." Notice God doesn't command us to be as holy as God, but because God is holy.
One point to note is that in the Bible "holy" does not refer to superior moral qualities. Another point is that holiness for God is different from holiness for human beings. When we say that God is holy we mean that God is totally other, completely separate from all that is not Divine. So different that we have no concepts or words that adequately describe the Holy One.
For a human being to be holy means to belong entirely to God, to be designated God's "personal" property. For the author of Leviticus holiness is the result of God's blossoming within us and within our world and making everyone and everything belong to the Holy One.
We don't have to do anything but let it happen.
Monday, February 17, 2014
This morning's rising sun throws long shadows across the snow covered Lake.
This Sunday's Gospel (Matthew 5:38-48) follows immediately after last Sunday's. It is hard for us to believe that Jesus means what he says here to be taken literally: "I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil...love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
Martin Luther King took Jesus literally and taught his followers non-violent resistance. This approach won for black people a measure of justice they had never experienced before. Non-violent demonstrations also helped to bring an end to the Vietnam War. An iconic picture of that approach is that of a pretty girl putting a flower in the barrel of a gun aimed at her by a soldier.
Jesus ends this passage by saying, "Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." Since the whole passage has been talking about love, the New Jerusalem Bible goes for the meaning rather than an exact translation: "You must therefore set no bounds to your love, just as your heavenly Father sets none to his."
Friday, February 14, 2014
There are a number of legends about St. Valentine. My favorite is that while he was in prison for believing in Jesus little children would pass notes through the window of his cell telling him that they loved him. The notes began "Dear Valentine." When he answered them he signed, "Your Valentine!"
St. Valentine was a priest in Rome and a physician. He was beheaded there because of his Christian faith on February 14, 269.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
I walked at my usual time this morning since the temperature was already 21 and there was no wind. 12 inches of snow at 10 AM. I don't know what it is now at 2 PM. Walking in the still falling snow I am wrapped in Beauty. There is not enough room in my heart for the joy that I feel.
Trying to decide which of the pictures I took might show how deep the snow is was an exercise in the free choice that is the author's concern in Sirach 15:11-20, part of which is Sunday's first reading. The author is really defending God against claims that God is responsible for our doing bad things, but he ends up with the clearest statement of free will in the Old Testament.
In the second reading, 1 Corinthians 2:6-10, St. Paul tells us, "No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him." It is the Holy Spirit who takes us into the Mystery that is God. All the Beauty that we experience around us is only a hint.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Yesterday and today it was too cold to walk at my usual morning hour. 1 below zero yesterday and 1 above today. So I waited until afternoon when it warmed up to 20!
I had a glorious walk yesterday in brilliant sunshine. This is one of many pictures that I took. I have liked this great tree for years and had never got a picture of it that I liked. This one works, partly because of the redwood shed. I have said before that I feel a little guilty enjoying the snow so much when it is a danger, or at least an inconvenience, to many people.
Today I felt the cold more on my cheeks and nose (that's all that's exposed.) The temperature was the same 20 degrees as yesterday, but a raw wind was picking up out of the east. I was still aware of all the beauty around me. Walking makes me feel more alive. It is a little like centering prayer on the move.
Monday, February 10, 2014
About five new inches of light fluffy snow fell yesterday afternoon. When I went out to walk this morning this was what greeted me. The county plow had not been through, but several vehicles had left their tracks. I walked in the untouched snow on the side, kicking up the cold clouds.
The Gospel passage for this coming Sunday (Matthew 5:17-37) has never been a favorite of mine, so I was surprised that praying over it this morning was a very fruitful experience. Jesus is encouraging his followers to go deeper or to get to the root of specific commandments. Of the many translations of verse 20 that I checked the one I liked best is in the original Jerusalem Bible: "Unless your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."
I was reminded that all the goodness in me comes, not from obeying commandments, but from God living in me and sharing with me God's own goodness. The root of murder is anger, Jesus is saying, and the root of adultery is lust, and the root of taking oaths is lying. So the corresponding virtues would be patience, purity, and honesty. God within us shares these virtues with us and helps us to become even more patient, pure and honest. It is Divine Goodness Who deepens our virtue.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Thick ice that had burdened the trees during the night was just beginning to melt as I walked this morning. I could hear tree branches breaking in the woods.
Isaiah's chapter 58 is an especially powerful demand for sincere religious practice. Part of it is used as the first reading this Sunday, and the first readings on the Thursday and Friday after Ash Wednesday cover the whole chapter. The people ask God why he isn't paying any attention to their prayers and fasting and sacrifices.
"I'll tell you why," answers God, "While you are fasting you keep right on oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me." God goes on to list what we need to be doing: give workers a fair wage, feed and clothe and house the needy, and don't hide from relatives who need your help. Do away with the clenched fist and the wicked word. "Then your light shall rise in darkness and your gloom shall be like noonday."
In Sunday's Gospel from Matthew, Jesus says "Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father." (5:16)
It is so much easier to fulfill some religious practice that we set for ourselves than to show love and care for those who come our way.
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
"O Beauty, you are the light of the world."
I just came across this quote today. "Light of the world" is in this Sunday's Gospel. Maybe not in his world but in mine "Beauty" with a capital is God. Walcott is a Noble Prize winning poet from St. Lucia where I took this picture of the famous Pitons in 2005.
Monday, February 3, 2014
I started my walk this morning in five inches of wet, heavy snow. It was so tough walking in the untouched snow, something I like to do, that I finally gave up and started walking in the few tire tracks. I also walked only half of what I usually do, but I got as much exercise. Beauty more than made up for the heavy walking. The quiet snow was still falling. There is no silence like that of a snowy morning. So many people inconvenienced, I felt a little guilty enjoying it so much. It was hard deciding which of the many pictures to share with you.
Sunday, February 2, 2014
No, not the groundhog!
Last week I was telling a friend who is in Europe how pretty the snow was, even though I was having a lot of trouble with a freezing water pump. He asked for a picture. It was late afternoon. The sun was sinking in the southwest. I took this picture through a window in my room facing northwest. I didn't notice until I put it on the computer that on the left side of the picture I had caught a reflection of the sun. It looks like it is setting in the northwest at the point on the horizon where in sets in the high point of summer.
For a moment it was good to remember and to anticipate.