Monday, June 22, 2009
If we are made in God's image then we have to ask the question god asked, "Who am I?" God asked that question of God's self and BOOM came creation. God is a creator God. When I know who I am and live out who I am, I will be my most creative and fulfilling self, and I will be most at service to others. In John's gospel, God is referred to as the Word. Jesus is the Word. God speaks language. This is how God expresses God's Self. Words of Scripture are important. We need to sit with Scripture and let it work on us. Those words of Scripture are alive with the presence and identity of God.
Institutions try and give us answers, tradition, the way things are done and believed, but they do not encourage us to ask the question, "Who am I?" The answers will not serve us if they cannot mesh with my question, my sense of Self. If I am told to go to mass but no reason is given that responds to my question(s), then I will go as long as power (parents, fear of hell) make me go, but once free of this, I will stop attending. When I can make sense out of religious practice in my experience of Self then I will go back to mass.
Questions help us to deepen our faith, or even to own our faith as the gift it is for me. St. Augustine asked the question of "Who am I?" His response led him to God. God wants to be with us. If we ask questions, we will find God. But be willing to search. For most of us, about as far as we get with "Who am I?" is to ask, "What do I want to do for a living, or with my life?" We may choose a path because it is safe, or gives us a sense of esteem or power/money. But if it is not who I am, it will only lead to misery and ruin.
Jesus asked himself this question. At 12 years of age, he stayed in Jerusalem in the temple with the teachers asking questions even though he upset his parents. When we ask, "Who am I?" We may upset some people who have an answer, but not our answer.
JUNE 21, 2009
MARK 4: 35-41
I grew up in a Bronx apartment. In the apartment directly above us lived Harriet and Ray Bauer. They were very good friends of our family. I called them Aunt Harriet and Uncle Ray even though they were not blood relatives. But they were Lutherans and went to a Lutheran church each Sunday. At that time, I was taught that there was no salvation outside the Catholic Church. That meant to me that Harriet and Ray would have to burn even though they were wonderful people.
So I questioned this teaching. My experience did not jive with what I was taught. I was in conflict about my question. Fortunately, in my mid-20s the Church changed its teaching. Harriet and Ray could be saved outside the Church and would not have to burn.
Asking questions is how we grow and grow up. If mom says to eat my spinach, and I ask, "Why do I have to eat spinach?" what if mom answers with a whack and says, "Because I say so." I would get an answer that does not help my question. I would eat spinach because mom has the power, but when I grew up and moved away, I would not eat spinach. I would boycott it because no one gave me an adequate answer. Then one day I would read that spinach is healthy for me. I would have moved beyond rebelling against mom, and into an interest in good health. Now spinach answers a desire that I have. It answers the questions I have about healthy eating.
Asking questions helps us find out things about ourselves and about God and religion. The disciples in the gospel ask Jesus if he cares that they are drowning. Their question reveals that they do not have much faith. The disciples have learned something about themselves from posing their question. After Jesus quiets the storm, the disciples ask a second question. "Who is this?" They don't yet have an answer, but they will stay with the question and eventually they will get the answer.
They do not know who Jesus is because what they have been taught does not fit into the Incarnation. They might be looking for a political messiah who will free them from Roman rule and restore Israel to religious self-rule. What they were taught up to then could not answer the question, "Who are you?"
To grow in our faith and religious practice of prayer, worship and reading scripture, we will have questions. Our life experiences may not fit the answers that are given to us. One question we might ask is "Who am I?" Jesus might have to help us to become quiet and still to work on that question.
Monday, June 8, 2009
"Some doubted." I don't think it is so much they doubted what they saw. They doubted themselves, that the Risen Jesus should come to them. They had so many questions about him and about themselves. Why did he come to me? I have not completely worked out who he is. Can I do what he asks with my weaknesses and questions?
But Jesus chose these eleven. God is satisfied with unfinished people. Perfection is not needed to be a friend of Christ and to be called to do something. Stop waiting or holding back until you get it all figured out. Stop focusing on your faults. I would still be thinking about becoming a priest if I thought I had to be more perfect. I bet those doubters, those imperfect disciples went off the mountain and did some pretty good things. Beware rather of people who think that they have it, and themselves, all together.
Monday, June 1, 2009
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 2: 1-11
GALATIANS 5: 16-25
JOHN 15: 26-27; 16: 12-15
I am again at my monastery for the summer. I am again doing irrigation. That is, I dig ditches haul rocks and build dams. Then I take dams apart and build new ones and dig more ditches, all to move water around on the pastures so the animals will have something to eat.
Up until this summer, I had boots that came to my knees and gloves that came about half way up my forearms. Both are too short for the deep ditches, where often I have to build dams. The best way to build a dam is to stand in the water, and place rocks dirt, and canvas where they need to be to make the dam able to withstand the force of the water that is coming at me. Unfortunately, the ditch is too deep as I build the dam. The very cold water comes over the top of my boots and soaks me pants, socks and the inside of the boot. When I reach down into the ditch to pick up or place a large rock, water comes in over the top of my gloves. This is very hard water. It ruins the skin on my hands.
So I try not to get into the water, but I lose a lot of leverage and the dam does not work very well. I have to keep doing it over and over, plus the rocks are being moved in a way that does not support my back. As an Irish Catholic I could just "offer it up." But I also say a lot of bad words, and this builds up time in purgatory or worse. It seems silly to offer the work to God and than follow that prayer with a lot of bad behavior.
Two years ago I bought some boots that come all the way up to my hip. I brought them to the monastery last summer, 2008. I left them in their box on a shelf. For that whole summer I used the shorter boots. This is crazy, I know. This time, 2009, when I went up to the monastery I put on the hip boots. I also acquired a pair of rubber gloves that came all the way up to my elbows. Now I can stand in the ditch and make the best of dams in a shorter time than ever before. Plus, I don't say bad words and my whole manner is changing to being a more pleasant person. I might go to heaven!
What I needed was new and better suited equipment. The Holy Spirit is new equipment for the spiritual life. Before Pentecost, the disciples were a mess. Among them there were cowards, liars, and disloyal friends to Jesus in his time of need. They had faith in him as the Christ, but no Holy Spirit. When Pentecost came, they received the Holy Spirit. Now they were equipped to go out and do some rather extraordinary things, such as preach, teach, and give up their lives.
They were able to put up with a lot of hardships and difficulties. In Galatians, Paul says that without the Spirit, we tend to, among other things, have outbursts of fury and dissensions. That certainly is me with short boots and gloves. It is also me when I box up the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells his disciples that they have been with him from the beginning but have not received the Spirit. I was baptized as an infant. From almost my very beginnings, I have had the Holy Spirit.
But I would not attend to the Spirit. I boxed it up, which is just as crazy as boxing up my hip boots and not using them. I try and do life on my own terms without God. I am obstinate, and into my own ruts or empty ditches of the soul. With prayer, I attend to the Spirit. I let the Spirit work in my life. God gives me free will. Each day I attend to some lectio reading of Scriptures, to silence, and solitude. Little by little I am changed from within. People will notice. The message of Christ comes by the attraction of our lives.
I now notice that several of the brothers here are attracted to my hips boots. I just ordered three pair for them. When you cooperate with the Spirit in your life, people notice.