Wednesday, June 24, 2009
One of the major themes that appeals to me in Luke's Gospel is his emphasis on peace and joy. In the beginning John the Baptist jumps for joy in his mother's womb as she embraces Mary pregnant with Jesus. Near the end the disciples rejoice when they see the Risen Jesus. And at the very end of the Gospel they "returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God."
At the birth of Jesus the angels sing "Peace!" to the shepherds. In his triumphal entry into Jerusalem the crowd shouts, "Peace!" The Risen Jesus says to his disciples, "Peace!"
Even Luke's account of the Passion has a certain tranquility about it. Jesus sympathizes with the women of Jerusalem, forgives those who are crucifying him, promises Paradise to the "Good Thief," and surrenders peacefully to God with the words, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."
Peace and Joy are signs that Jesus has brought us back home to God.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Last week I made my annual retreat with the eight other priests in my support group. We reflected on the Gospel according to Luke to see how it might help us grow in our relationship with others and with God.
What stands out most for me in Luke is gracious love. Jesus comes across to me as the gracious love of God in person. He loves people simply because they show up. His treatment of the tax collector Zacchaeus is a very moving example of unearned love. Because he is working for the Roman occupiers Zacchaeus is treated by the Jews as an outcast. Jesus simply calls him down from the tree and goes to his home for dinner.
The parable of the Prodigal Son is for me the most powerful teaching on God's gracious love in the whole Bible.
No matter what the son does the father's love is constant and when the son returns home the father welcomes him without placing any conditions on his love.
I was in my mid-thirties before several experiences brought home to me the reality of God's unearned love. As it gradually dawned on me that I did not have to, and in fact could not, earn God's love, I felt like a great weight had been lifted from me.
Probing deeply into Luke's Gospel deepened my conviction that God's love is freely given and helped me to surrender even more completely to God's gracious embrace.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
An article that I read this morning on Teilhard de Chardin reminded me of this quote of his that is at the heart of my finding God in every bit of the world:
"By virtue of Creation and, still more,
of the Incarnation,
nothing here below is profane
for those who know how to see."
(He uses "profane" in the sense of "secular" or "not sacred.")
Teilhard de Chardin's reflections on evolution and Christian faith were considered too bold and dangerous to the faith. They were not published until after this priest's death in 1955. I was in theology at the time and we were eager to read his work, even though it was difficult. No doubt that fact that it was forbidden accounted for some of the attraction, but we had a sense that he was saying something important for our time.
The Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (1965) confirmed his insights and was largely influenced by his thought. One of the things that he stressed was that evolution was ongoing, not only in the physical universe, but in human consciousness. Love was the energy that would bring us to our Divine end-point. He said, "Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire."
Monday, June 8, 2009
The wildflowers are already plentiful along the road where I walk. Each morning there are so many more than the day before. Brings to mind a longtime favorite poem by Robinson Jeffers.
Is it not by his high superfluousness
that we know our God?
For to equal a need is natural, animal, mineral;
but to fling rainbows over the rain,
and secret rainbows
on the domes of deep sea shells,
not even the weeds to multiply without blossom,
nor the birds without music.
Look how beautiful are all things He does.
His signature is the beauty of things.
Friday, June 5, 2009
That God is One and Three is a unique faith conviction of Christians. I have been praying about the Trinity all week. Yesterday I used Romans 8:14-17 for prayer. St. Paul tells us that we have received the Holy Spirit through whom we can call God "Abba!" and become brothers and sisters of Jesus.
The word "spirit" is used five times in that short passage. The Greek word for "spirit" is "pneuma." It also means "wind," "air," and "breath." So anyone hearing this passage in the original Greek would have that rich four-fold meaning swirling around in their heads and get a more powerful sense of the Holy Spirit's action within us.
On Easter evening in John's Gospel Jesus breathes on the disciples and says "Receive the Holy Spirit." The Risen Jesus also breathes the Holy Pneuma into us. This Holy Spirit fills us and unites us to the Risen Jesus who takes us as part of himself into the Father. This enables us to call the Father "Abba," ("Papa" in Aramaic) the same loving name that Jesus used for God. But it is not only in name but in reality that God is our "Abba." The Holy Spirit inserts us into the intimate circle of knowing and loving that is the family life of the Trinity.
(The tiny dots that you may notice against the sunset are mayflies.)
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Finally after several hot sunny days and several more rainy ones, we have the rich green of full summer. Easily my favorite time of the year. It is no longer a matter of the promise of springtime and hanging in there hoping and waiting. Full, lush life wraps me round.
I have finally fulfilled all the extra duties that I took on myself and am now as free and giddy as a kid out of school. While I find God in the work that I have been doing and my relationship with Jesus has been enriched by it, I am glad to get back to finding God in being still. Full life indeed.