Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Call to be Anawim

Lately I've been slowly leaking it out that I am in the midst of a difficult spiritual trial. Explaining it all is not something I intend to do because anyone can relate out of their own life; the details don't really matter to anyone else. But I am really writing about this to document for myself the Lord's faithfulness in leading me and responding to me.

In my last post I talked about the revelation I had about the Blessed Mother having gone through a time of being separated from Jesus when He began His public ministry. There was a certain communion of life that they shared that they simply never went back to after that time. Of course, the glory gained for the whole world (not to mention Mary's personal joy) far outweighed anything that was lost in that transition. And yet I cannot imagine that the change wasn't a suffering for Mary.

I can relate to this. This was the first "light" to come my way in this thing that has been brewing almost all of this year in my heart that gave me some sense of ... of purpose in what I am facing.

So I asked the Blessed Mother to teach me how to be with her in this place.

What has been flooding my mind, my heart, my spiritual radar screen since then is this theme of the anawim. The point of that is that the people God forms as His own are the poor, the lowly, the humble, those whose hearts are purified and whose hope is in God alone. They do not have power or resources of their own to lean on. They rejoice in the Lord, who finally rewards them with the Messiah, with the power of the Holy Spirit, and life in Him. They are contrasted with the wicked and those who oppress. Those who exercise power of their own. The proud.

This is a light, a significant and beautiful light, but also one to which it is difficult to open my eyes. There is pain in coming out of darkness and into light, but even more than pain there is the fear of pain.

A primary catalyst in seeing this theme has been the book The Beatitudes: Finding the Joy of God's Kingdom by Fr. Paul Hinnebusch, but in the last few days I have been seeing this in everything Scriptural, liturgical and prayerful. I also see why, psychologically, it can be so painful to accept the call to be poor, lowly and humble in this Biblical sense. One must trust that taking this stance before God is radically different from taking this stance before anyone else, and indeed one must trust that it truly is God before whom one stands in his/her present circumstance; that it truly isn't a matter of simply being done wrong by a person. It is all too easy to remember, for example, being a child or in another vulnerable state and experiencing hurt or mistreatment or the failure of others to protect when one was powerless. It is all too easy to let the decision "I will never let that happen to me again" block one from trust, and therefore to lead one to cling tenaciously to pride, and to refuse to take a stance of humility before God. Or to make it unthinkable. Or to wrestle to the point of exhaustion every time His call to humility is sounded.

If it is God who calls me to come in humility, I can trust it is because He wants to honor me with His love and presence. It might hurt, but He will not do me wrong.

To feel powerless in the face of a powerfully felt need for something to change is very difficult. That's the difficulty I've been facing. I get in certain circumstances where I feel it almost like a physical twisting inside my body. It is my natural reaction to want to do something, to want to be able to do something to make the change.

And it seems the Blessed Mother would teach me to embrace being poor and needy, and to trust in the One who lifts up the meek and the lowly, and Who fills the hungry with good things.

And I see why there is spiritual power in praising God. Praise is the song of the anawim. It is about the poor and lowly who hoped in God rejoicing when they are lifted up, and when they are filled with good things. It is rejoicing because God has visited His people. And it is an expression of faith that this is who God is in the moment when one might not be experiencing victory or deliverance. It is proclaiming the truth of who God is, and expecting that He is the same regardless of my current circumstances. And it must drive the devil batty. It almost reminds me of those images of the flower children standing in front of an army tank with a daisy. Spiritual battle, won by singing and chanting praises? People with no worldly power toppling spiritual forces by recounting in prayer and song God's faithfulness? What kind of craziness is this?

I guess it is the same kind of craziness as the one who taught us this:
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

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