Sunday, May 31, 2009
God our Father, let the Spirit you sent on your Church to begin the teaching of the gospel continue to work in the world through the hearts of all who believe. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ....This wording struck me. Pentecost, the beginning of the teaching of the gospel? Um... what about Jesus? What about the three years with his disciples, and the 50 days during which he taught them after the Resurrection? Doesn't that count?
The thought occurred to me that what Jesus came to do relative to the gospel was not so much to teach but to reveal. We absolutely cannot know the mind and heart of God apart from God revealing it, and that was the purpose of the Incarnation. Jesus did not come to answer our questions but to live with us, to be Emmanuel, God with us.
Also, though I cannot find the reference to this prayer right now, a prayer was offered during the Mass which referred to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit "completing the Paschal Mystery". The Paschal Mystery refers to God's plan of salvation by which earth is wedded to heaven and His life is freely shared with us. Specifically it refers to the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We can't leave off this last piece! This is where the Gift promised by Christ and poured out by the Father comes to live within the heart, the soul, of every believer and we are then empowered to teach the gospel to all nations.
So, what is the difference between our teaching and Christ's revealing?
To teach something means to pass on to others what you have already received. The Apostles had received from Christ, but they needed to be operating in divine power, so Jesus told them at the Ascension to stay put in Jerusalem until they had received the promised Holy Spirit. And when they received this outpouring, what they gave, what they spoke came through them, but it did not come from them. This is a sacrament. This is the Church. This is the way God works in this world.
If we are to share with a Christian awareness, we must have before our eyes always that we do not make ourselves, we do not preach ourselves, we do not belong just to ourselves. Before our eyes must be Christ as He is present to us. We receive all as from Him, we give all as to Him. This is not something we can drum up by our own effort, but we must always implore the Holy Spirit, the activator, who makes all of this real.
And then go with it.
The teaching of the gospel, "learning about our faith," is not, or should not be considered, primarily an intellectual activity. The intellect is part of what it means to be human, to be sure. There is absolutely nothing wrong (and there is everything right) with seeking rational thought about Truth. Revelation never contradicts reason, but it does surpass our limitations. But if we think of our need to learn more about God to require reading more books and memorizing more formulaic statements, we are missing the life. Yes, we must pray, but even more so we must live love with whomever God has placed in our lives. "We should love one another" is perhaps the most mundane thing that people of all faiths and no faith can all agree on. But this IS the mission of Christianity! There is such a world of difference between agreeing that love is a good thing and actually loving. Faith without love, or as St. James says, faith without deeds, is dead. It is worth nothing.
Zilch, nada, zip.
Come, from heights of heav'n and shine
Come with blessed radiance bright!
Come, O Father of the poor
Come, whose treasured gifts endure
Come, our heart's unfailing light!
Of consolers, wisest, best
and our soul's most welcome guest
Sweet refreshment, sweet repose
In our labors rest most sweet
Pleasant coolness in the heat
Consolation in our woes
Light most blessed, shine with grace
In our heart's most secret place
Fill your faithful through and through
Left without your presence here
Life itself would disappear
Nothing thrives apart from you!
Cleanse our soiled hearts of sin
Arid souls refresh within
Wounded lives to health restore
Bend the stubborn heart and will
Melt the frozen, warm the chill
Guide the wayward home once more!
On the faithful who are true
And profess their faith in you
In your sev'nfold gift descend!
Give us virtue's sure reward
Give us your salvation, Lord
Give us joys that never end!
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Today in our diocese, two men were ordained priests. The City Choir (which is my parish's choir plus three other singers) provided the choirizing, so I was there. The gospel was from John 10, that same passage that I was pondering over here.
Let me just interrupt that thought to say I notice the liturgy becoming like an on-going conversation. There is design, of course, with the selection of readings throughout the liturgical seasons, a progression and all. But it is also an ongoing conversation as I hear one reading, wrestle with it for a while, then hear it again, live some more, etc. I used to think liturgical worship was lifeless and dull. Hah!
The reading today either extended further than it had the Sunday of the previous blogpost, or perhaps it seemed that way because of the gospel I heard read during Mass at the Spiritual Exercises two weeks ago. That Mass included John 15:13: "No greater love has any one than this, that a man lay his life down for his friend." This same concept is spoken of in connection with the Good Shepherd in John 10. It struck me really profoundly when Fr. Alex preached at the Spiritual Exercises on this, because he spoke of "laying down one's life" in the sense of opening one's life for others to see it, to experience it, to share it. This is what it means to be a witness. This is what it means to be a friend, especially in the CL lingo of seeing a Christian friend being one who is a witness, one who brings Christ to another. This made a really significant impact on me when I heard it, and I had even been brewing a blog post just on that, and then today I heard the same concept in the context of the Good Shepherd, contrasted with the one who "works for pay" and cares nothing for the sheep. What is the difference? When am I not the one who "works for pay" but the one who is like the Good Shepherd? When I open my heart to share it with others.
I'll be very honest here. Sometimes I am very open and I will share my heart without flinching. But there are other settings, other times, when it is painfully difficult to do this. This is something I am grappling with right now, and I see that today, in this liturgical conversation, that the Lord is showing me this is really a key to life. It's not like I suppose most people wouldn't say the same, but it's not like I can be satisfied just because my struggle is common.
Partial thought here, but it's time to run!
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I am really grateful to Fr. Giussani and for the books we are reading in School of Community, which are the fruit of, yes, his theological study, but even more so his life and his relationship with Christ. What I have found in the last couple of years of my familiarity with the movement Communion and Liberation is that I find words to express experiences and desires of mine that had seemed ineffable before. And for someone to give me words that unlock my heart is one of the most beautiful things I can imagine.
One of the big things he insists on is how there is only one way to become a Christian, and it is the same way that Peter and Andrew and James and John became Christians -- by encountering Christ. They encountered the Jesus of history, the Son of God in the flesh, and we do, too. Only because Jesus has ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, to be with us, we meet Him in His Body, the Church. But we really do meet Him. In the Church, in the Sacraments, in the unity of those who follow, led by the Bishops, we really do encounter Christ. And when we encounter Him, we are amazed, we wonder, we are drawn, we are attracted. We are called. And we must engage ourselves; we must follow.
I read an interesting post last night touching on a discussion of St. Thomas Aquinas' about faith. As I followed the link in the post to the actual quotation from the Summa, I noted that he spoke of faith as a perfection of the intellect. Or, as Giussani would say, faith is a method of knowing. I've probably read this sort of thing from Aquinas many times in the course of my grad school ponderings, but it took Giussani to put some flesh on this truth and make it useful to me.
But, more than a new way of understanding theological concepts, Fr. Giussani has helped me experience reality differently. I feel like I've told this story of my joining my parish choir about 500 times now, but perhaps that only comes from my thinking about it so much. Anyway, that story starts here. I think right now, the way I experience the choir is as a community, a microcosm of the Church. We gather with a purpose, with a real belonging to each other for this purpose of leading in worship. As the story of my welcome shows, it is a community open to others. There is freedom, there's not a heck of a lot of pretense, and a Pharisee-type will be seriously challenged. This experience really changes the way I experience the liturgy. The other day there was the reading from Acts where Paul was bidding farewell to one of the churches as he was to sail off towards Rome, and he talked about having exhorted them with tears, and they were mostly grieved by his saying none of them would ever see him again. And I understood how a congregation could experience that grief about their priest/Bishop. It is the normal, human reaction to living in Christian community with someone who has opened his life so that others could live. The hymns we sing make sense, like about us "becoming bread and wine" for each other. (See, in the past I would have just sort of rolled my eyes, wondering what kind of theological aberrations were cloaked in this kind of talk.) The experience of worshipping God, of saying "God, I give you my life, I offer my life, I open my life to anyone, to anything that comes from your hand" is made possible by this kind of experience of the Church. And I even see why we bother to belong to parishes in the first place. It isn't just enough that we get to Mass somewhere, so we can check our obligation off our to-do list. It is part and parcel of being a Christian to belong to other people in some kind of meaningful way. Maybe not to all in the same way, and so it is fitting that within parishes there are other small groups. Fr. Mike had completely the right idea with promoting the various households on the campus of Franciscan University, because this is something we need to mature as -- and to become -- Christians.
It's happened to me, maybe it has happened to you, too. I go to a Mass that is not a typical setting for me, either visiting somewhere, or some unusual circumstance, and it is harder than usual to enter into the worship. It takes maybe more mental effort. I think these moments call us to recognize our belonging and to stretch it, to become so conscious of it in an awkward sort of sense of uncomfortability, that we grow. The image I'm thinking of is a volunteer plant, one that seems to grow up out of nowhere. We need to bring how we have been nourished by Christ in another setting, another community, and share that experience in the midst of people with whom we've not had that experience before. Hopefully, the reception is warm and the recognition of the one life we live in Christ is immediate. If not, I guess we beg and Christ answers with His presence. This is called being missionary; this is called being Christian. There just is nothing else.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
This was an idea that my husband and I talked about first several months ago, and it was just one of those "wouldn't it be fun" sort of ideas. I get these occasionally, and I can tell you that I rarely follow through on them. At least I don't have a long history of following through on them, although I'm moving more in the direction of taking myself seriously!
We invited way more people than our selected location could hold, remembering that it rarely happens that a majority of people invited respond positively and come. Yes, we got married in a season of multiple commitments. Yet I am reminded of a decision I made when I was very, very young (say about 4 years old, maybe a bit older), inspired somehow by my brother, which was to always respond positively to any invitation that I could to do something. I haven't always been faithful to that (and I've learned along the way that refusals are sometimes appropriate), but I've long held this openness to invitations as an ideal in my heart.
Something else strikes me this morning, and that is the reason why I have over the years gravitated away from pursuing my desires which involve other people. In the past, I remember an absolutely crushing, annihilating sense of disappointment when I wanted something and it didn't pan out the way I wanted it to. It was that sense of devastation which "cured" me from wanting.
Now, I'm thinking about this in light of what I've learned since those days, and particularly what I've learned from Fr. Giussani, as exemplified in the Spiritual Exercises I experienced last week end. The human heart is made for God, and nothing else will satisfy. I've taken the latter half of this statement very seriously. I've not taken the first half quite as literally. (Hmm... Human -- made for God? I thought, "Isn't it supposed to read 'human -- enemy of God?'") What I mean is this: I know that the kind of joy and happiness that I derive from gathering friends around me, playing fun music, dancing, and encouraging others to dance comes only from the fact that these things all point to God and draw me back to God. Signs are not the Reality, but they point me there. God likes this principle of the Incarnation. It's how He came to be among us. So we need to pay attention to what He does and see how signs are at work all around us, in every aspect of life. See, I've not thought quite so hard, or experienced quite so freely the facts of how music, dance and friendship are signs of God, and are therefore to be embraced because they help me move toward Christ, my ultimate desire. I've thought long and hard over how I just can't make people enjoy what I enjoy, I just can't get everyone together that I'd like to gather, and how the things I try to orchestrate ultimately are grossly unsatisfying because the result is just not Parusia. Shucks! (Who died and made me in charge of that anyway?!) So there's been this awful coin toss in my life: heads, I'm stuck with "just human" stuff; tails I'm disappointed.
Let's melt that coin down and re-mint.
So, what happened last night? We invited about 160 people and had about 45 people turn out. It was to be held between 7 and 10, and most people came between 8 and 9. We had great music -- should have been; I picked it out all myself! Eventually little trickles of people started dancing, and for a few songs the dance floor was populated enough for people to have to watch where they were going. My dear hubby made several appearances with me on the dance floor. Several friends stayed until the bitter end and helped clean up and move things to the car. Did the evening match my "ideal expectation"? No. I didn't even experience the music as the deeply spiritual sign that I might when I'm just at home in my kitchen. But it was far from this sort of crushing disappointment I remember which caused me to want to lock myself in a closet and never-do-that-again. I enjoyed it, but more importantly it was real. It happened, and therefore it is able to open up my life to me and I see truth because of it. What more can I ask for? The Beatific Vision was just not in the plan for me yesterday. But following Christ on earth, including by throwing parties and dancing, is not a bad deal. You give yourself, you get yourself back transformed. Works for me.
I also gained evidence that the one other human being on this earth who is most committed to my desires is my husband. Sure, he could stand a little sanctification in this commitment, but I imagine I could stand some improvement in my role in his life as well. You can argue about thoughts, you can complain about feelings, but you just can't refute solid evidence.
It boils down to this: Only God satisfies. He is always with me, in all circumstances in my life, and when I look for Him, I see Him. What need is there for fear? And, how can I keep from dancing?
"It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choice that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society."
- Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day 2000 Prayer Vigil
photo and text lifted from Intentional Disciples
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Let me tell a story to explain the sort of thing I'm speaking about here.
Those who know me well (and many who don't) realize that I had this huge love for The Monkees in my younger days, especially from about age 10 to about age 19. Had all the albums, memorized all the songs, learned to research by wanting to know about them, formed my vocal range around singing their songs, took on Mike Nesmith as my alter ego, etc. etc. It was pretty definitive in my life.
Then when I was about 20 I started attending a Christian fellowship where the message was subtly and not-so-subtly given that there was this dichotomy between "worldly things" and "godly things." Things of this world (which our pastor held to include things such as secular newspapers, ice cream, and anything that caused pleasure) were to be "set aside," which I took to mean violently rejected. I wanted God and God's way more than anything, and I had pretty much already believed that "human things" meant tainted, sinful things. So I was open to the influence of these Christian friends to convince me to get rid of all of my non-Christian music, including my Monkees records. I gave some to my college library (I had spent good money on them, and more than anything I could not bare to waste money!) but others I put in the dumpster. It was deeply painful to do this, but I convinced myself that this was a pain that pleased God.
For years I had dreams about getting all of my albums back.
When I became a Catholic, I realized that THE theme of my conversion was the Incarnation: this amazing, mind-blowing reality that God became human to save us. Somehow, being human was good enough for the Son of God. I started to see that there was more to the word "human" than the connotation "sinful".
In stages, this is a lesson I am still learning, and sometimes it is difficult.
I've been listening again to some of these songs I rejected back then, and I realize they actually speak exactly to my need, and the need Fr. Carron pointed out to us in the Exercises. Here's an example.
by Carole King & Gerry GoffinRemember the feeling as a child
Though you've played at love and lost
And sorrow's turned your heart to frost,
I will melt your heart again.
When you woke up and morning smiled?
It's time you felt like you did then.
There's just no percentage in remembering the past
It's time you learned to live again at last.
Come with me, leave yesterday behind
And take a giant step outside your mind.
You stare at me in disbelief
And say for you there's no relief,
But I swear I'll prove you wrong.
Don't sit in your lonely room
Just staring back in silent gloom,
That's not where you belong.
Come with me, I'll take you where the taste of life is green,
Each and every day holds wonders to be seen.
Come with me, leave yesterday behind
And take a giant step outside your mind.
Come with me, I'll take you where the taste of life is green
and every day holds wonders to be seen.
Come with me, leave yesterday behind,
And take a giant step outside your mind.
For sure, there's more to come on this topic...
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I write that ("wasn't quite sure") like I'm all sure now or something. I'm not. But I heard something, experienced something, over the weekend that makes it possible for me to move forward, knowing that my life is all of a piece and that I belong to the One who makes me.
A tiny fraction of the time of the Exercises was given to discussing the role of Christians defending values in modern culture. But it was everything that had come before which made that tiny fraction so rich. Fr. Carron, who was giving the Exercises (they are recorded in Italy and then dubbed and distributed via DVD around the world) spoke regarding a situation the Italians had just experienced that was much like the 2005 Terri Schiavo case with which Americans are familiar. Because I can't quote exactly what he said (the text will be published in English soon, though) I'll paraphrase based on how his comments hit me.
Many people defend the right to life, other authentic values, and participate fruitfully in political debate who do not share Christian faith. If we, as Christians, just get in the fray and call people "idiots" who don't agree with our objectively correct principles, and get depressed when things are not going our way (and etc.) then how are we different from anyone else? How are we bringing the newness of Christ into our world? We need to start from recognizing WHY we uphold the sanctity of life, WHY we uphold (fill in the blank: personal liberties, free market economics, limited government, Constitutionalism, what have you). The why is the same why, the only why, that gives any coherence to our lives at all: an encounter with Christ through which I have heard Him say "Come, follow me" and I have followed. We get into trouble if we wish to defend Christian values, like fruit that grows on the tree, without being one with the root which bears that fruit, namely Christ.
Immediately this recalled for me what I wrote in this post about repeatedly sensing people's anger in speaking about political issues, and a sense of their confusion when I was not getting angry along with them. Why? Because if I get angry with people for their political views (one, let's say, which is clearly opposed to Christian teaching, like abortion) I do not have in view the fact that what they stand in need of primarily is either a) an encounter with Christ which transforms their lives or b) further encounter with Christ to help connecting their Christianity with the reality in which they live. The impetus then is for compassion, connection, education, evangelization and a heart for their screaming, unmet needs. (My CL brothers and sisters show me this need not be done in a syrupy, limp-wristed manner either. Ripping into bad reasoning has its place, but -- always -- ripping in friendship, of course!)
So, what about this Tea Party? I am now leading an offshoot group of political activists! Isn't God hilarious?! I spoke at the first meeting of how liberty is far more than a political principle, but it is a human need and a cry of the human heart. (All that has to do with the other 98% of what I experienced on the Exercises, which may or may not appear in subsequent posts.) But now I understand better that it is not enough to point even to really good fruit, or to admire politicians (Ron Paul!) who insist politics has limited value in solving human problems, and who point instead to endeavors of faith and personal charitable activity. Those two are certainly better than swallowing whatever swill we are handed or sitting on our hands either hopelessly or indifferently, pretending that nothing political is bad unless I am on the immediate receiving end of hurt. But we have to be connected back to the encounter with Christ. Jesus has this way about Him: He operates in reality. As we give ourselves to follow Him, He leads us through our realities and we have real opportunity to impact our corner of the world.
And how does He do that? Well, you'll have to wait a few weeks for the text, then come to School of Community and we'll talk about it.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Last night as I was posting I made a passing reference to this song, because I was reminded of it in the context of the Scriptural reference. After posting I spent quite a bit of time listening to it and meditating on it. At the time of my passing reference to it, I had no idea what a gift the song would be to me last night. I've been wrestling with some things (Ephesians 6:12 sorta things, to be specific) and this song, this Scriptural meditation, brought exactly the healing needed.
This had me thinking today about the role of music in Christian life. Mine, at least.
I think we Christians take singing for granted, in a way. When I lived in Japan I had a friend who was very curious about why Christians sing so much. It seemed strange to her, since singing is not really a part of Japanese religion. Spoken chant, yes. Silence, yes. But not people singing together.
Singing is obviously strongly rooted in the traditions of Israel. It is especially interesting to me to think of the places in the Old Testament when the armies were sent out with singers leading the way (as in 2 Chr. 20). There is also of course the famous scene of David playing his harp for King Saul for relief from the evil spirit that tormented him (1 Sam. 16). These Scriptures and others are pointed to as foundational for much in the modern and charismatic practice of using song in spiritual warfare. When I first returned to liturgical worship after five years of soaking in this other tradition, I found the practice of declaring Scriptures (psalms, gospel acclamations, the sanctus, etc) in song particularly powerful. I saw it as taking part in a vast spiritual drama that was happening in real time. But with time, of course, what we always do becomes what we always do, and the shocking power of it can slip by unnoticed.
Music has played a rather intense role in my spiritual journey and in my life, period. It's genetic, first of all. But as a kid I used to sit and plunk out the soprano and alto parts of hymns for hours on end. In 1986 there was the song Daughter. In 1990-91 as I wrestled with the fact that my friends were becoming Catholics, I woke every Saturday morning to sounds of John Michael Talbot music wafting through my closet, thanks to my upstairs neighbor. He and his music eventually played a role in my conversion. There was the worship at my pre-Catholic fellowship that was so intense. There were the songs I wrote myself. There were recording artists whose songs helped me meditate on truth. There was the moment, on the threshold of my conversion, when I discovered I was born on the feast of the patroness of musicians. I suddenly felt assurance down to my toes that my life was not a mistake. Always, always music.
When I was in Japan, things became more mercenary as music was just a tool to teach English, and then I pretty much set it aside, with the exception of a semester as a music ministry leader at Franciscan University during grad school. I got married, eventually became a mother, and music for me was pretty much reduced to filling task slots when someone needed a guitarist.
Then I started hanging out with Communion and Liberation folks, and experienced my first singing party at the Lewises. Hmmm. Something started to shake up in me again.
My Mom had been encouraging me to join a choir for years, as had many other people. My standard line was that I wanted to encourage the pew-sitters to sing, and so I sat among them. But I was also terrified of bad leaders. Some people have problems listening to others use bad grammar. Well, I have a problem listening to people use bad tempo. And I had my fill of organists who played so slowly one could hardly remember what one was singing from the beginning to the end of a psalm response, or vocal/guitar groups who added so many strained harmonies that the words were strangled off.
But now I have joined our church choir because fortunately our organist of the last four years or so knows what he is doing. And a while back when I heard the choir I thought they were actually sounding pretty good. I'm meandering back to where I started this post, really I am. My experience of singing with this choir has been like a new spiritual soaking. Just like there is nourishment given to our bodies by eating deliciously prepared foods, so I think there is nourishment given to our spirits through lovingly rehearsed music. It's amazing when people tell me after Mass how much the choir adds to the worship experience, and how moved people are. My experience from the inside has been powerful, to say the least. As the lyrics to "Man of the Tombs" say, "I found my heart, I can now be saved." It is a precious, amazing, spiritual and miraculous (and sometimes scary) thing to receive oneself on a deeper level than had previously been the case, but that has been my experience.
Monday, May 11, 2009
But to the "man of the tombs," the demoniac of the Gerasenes in Mark 5, Jesus not only did not bid him follow Him, but refused him when he begged to go with Him. Instead He told him "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you."
This man's changed presence among the people who knew him would itself be the testimony, the evidence of Christ. I wonder if this gigantic grace took the rest of this man's life to just start to realize. Telling the story 5, 10, 50, 500, 5,000 times would cause the healing and transformation to continue and would enable people to encounter the power of God. When I get to heaven, I want to meet him and hear the rest of the story.
The people of Israel were commanded to retell the story of the Exodus each year, and to remember the mighty deeds God had done for them. As we tell the stories of God's grace working in our lives, we experience these graces again, and so can others.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Some time ago I saw this article linked on a friend's Facebook page. Mehmet Ali Agca is the man who tried to assissinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, and he now states that he has embraced Catholicism.
This immediately brought to mind a song written about the amazing and well-known event of Pope John Paul visiting Agca in prison and extending forgiveness to him. I have just found that song on the internet as well, here. Give it a listen! What strikes me the most about the song, and my fondness for it at that time, was that neither the song writer nor myself had much use for Pope John Paul II back in the mid-1980s. Obviously, neither did Agca. But the act of forgiving and embracing someone who tried to murder you is just an overwhelming testimony to Christ. How else but by Christ's grace is such a thing possible?
Here are the song lyrics, and some commentary by the artist.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Here's a snippet:
Along with this increased authoritarianism come the deeper cultural changes that have every bit as real an impact on the quality of our lives. For the costs brought by the loss of freedom cannot be fully accounted for simply by pointing to incidents of abuse or tallying up the economic damage. The deterioration in the quality of our relationships to each other is also a cost.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.(Here is the whole reading, for context.)
I keep coming back to this theme of the one who does things "for pay," for the gain of some good, and not because of a relationship upon which the work, the endeavor one undertakes, is built. I'm trying to ferret out exactly what it is about this that attracts me so.
He works for pay and has no concern for the sheep... These two seem inexorably linked. When you think about it, just about everyone in our culture who is said to work, works for pay. Perhaps the exception is those who own their own business who are working to turn a profit, and who may or may not issue themselves a paycheck. There are of course those who work not for pay, and primarily at-home spouses/parents come to mind here. It was an adjustment for me after marrying, but more so upon welcoming our son into our home, to realize that 5pm did not signal the end of my work day, and that I had no job description, no review board, except for what my relationships created. Moms, fess up: isn't a lot of the pressure we feel born of trying to live up to the expectations of "They" who say this, that, or the other makes a woman good, a mom good, a wife good? Is this approval from "them" the pay we live for? Have we not learned to chuck what "they" say out of concern for the actual relationships that are given to us?
Whatever our "pay" is, it doesn't satisfy for more than a short time. I've talked in other posts about how the pay I've sought is a certain kind of attention from people, a certain way in which people take the place of God to meet some legitimate need I have. That's like trying to fill an infinite hole with very finite dirt. Fr. Roberto, who has lead my local CL community in Advent and Lent retreats the last few times, always stresses that all desires come from God. All of them. We don't always take every desire and run with it in a way that is consonant with our relationship with Christ. But the desire is given to move us toward God. So even desires that I cause to be about "pay" are given to me by God. If I examine these desires and push to the logical limit, I see for me they are about possessing some Beauty. And, as Fr. Giussani says, if we are possessing the Beauty, the Beauty possesses us. So I see the Good, I want the Good, to have it and to be able to share it. That's the desire. But I short-circuit it.
But ok, say I see that Good I desire in someone else. Say it is a bar of gold lodged in the heart of another. (How else can I get to these matters but through tortured analogies?) If I am but a hired man, I care nothing for the sheep, I care nothing for the person (and really, I care nothing for the Good either, but I think I do, or I feel it). I look at the sheep, I look at the person, and I see dollar signs. I see something of value for me, something I think will fill up that infinite hole, and I try to take it. So I do violence to the person, and try to rip that gold bar out of his heart. I end up with nothing. I haven't really known that valuable thing as a Good. It was nice, but not Good. I thought I was being attracted by cash, but really I was being attracted by holiness. And I had no idea of the magnitude of the holiness before which I was standing, so I "thinged" it. My measure was too small. (How many other ways can I say this until it sinks into my own heart?)
If I am the shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, I see that the only way for me to that Good is to embrace the person in whom I find the Good. Our pastor spoke of how sheep need 24/7 care, in good and bad weather. It can be very inconvenient to care for sheep in all their sheepness. It costs us, sometimes dearly. We can't have everything our way -- in fact, we may get very little our way. We lay down our lives. We absolutely must honor the reality of the people in our lives in all their peopleness. We fail each other, of course. But to recognize what those failures really are... therein lies the rub.
How amazing: people are temples of the Holy Spirit. We cannot rip the Holy Spirit out of His temple and keep just Him because we don't care for the style of architecture in which He has chosen to abide, or because we think people are so much "wrapper garbage" that can be thoughtlessly ripped open and tossed aside to get to the real good stuff within. God has chosen His dwelling. He lays down His life to dwell with us. How then can we treat each other, ourselves, as commodities?
Friday, May 01, 2009
On the first of every month, Our Lord gives Anne a new message about His call to service.
May 1, 2009
How often have I called you ‘My little apostles’? Have I ever called you ‘My big apostles’? Why do you think it is that I call you ‘little’? I will tell you. It is because each apostle, by his desire to serve, becomes little. He becomes little so that God can be glorified. If a person is serving Me, that person desires only My glory. If a person is serving Me, he desires to be seen as a servant of men, not as a master of men. In the case of leaders, this desire for humility must be even more pronounced lest the leader begin to believe that he himself is leading, as opposed to My great hope which is that I, Jesus, am leading through the man. I intend to send leaders during this time. You will know them by their spirit of service. You will know them by their humility. You will know them because they will help you to think of Me and what I need from you. No man is entitled to the glory reserved for God. No man is worthy of this glory. I only speak in this way today so that each man will consider his call to service as a call to holiness. I want each man to give credit to Me for the good that I allow to come through him into the world. Do you understand, little apostles? I am reminding you that all good comes from Me so that you will not be tempted to pride by the great fruits I send through your service and your commitment to Me. It is important that every apostle examine himself for signs and symptoms of pride. I ask this of you in a serious way today. We, together, are ushering in a time of grace, and graces will be apparent, not through your power but through Mine. Little apostles, do not believe that Jesus is scolding you. I am not. I am helping you to examine yourself to prevent difficulties, both for your holiness and for My plan. I will help you in this each day if you ask Me. Ask Me to send an outpouring of the Spirit to you whenever you are afraid that pride is troubling you. I will do this for you because I love you and because pride makes you so terribly sad. Pride is the great devourer of joy. You, My beautiful apostles, are entitled to joy and I send My joy to you today. All is well. We work together to perfect your soul.