Friday, July 31, 2009
John, in his Gospel, does not stress living with God forever in heaven. His emphasis is on living now in the unending presence of God. This present life in God must be nourished.
In John 6:32-33 Jesus offers himself as that much needed nourishment. When the Israelites were starving in the desert after their escape from Egypt God fed them with manna. Jesus tells the crowd and us that now instead of manna his Father has sent him to nourish our life in God here and now. To do this Jesus gives us his very self in his teaching and in the Eucharist.
John's stress on living now in the unending presence of God is at the heart of the incarnational spirituality that is so much a part of my life. I find myself often aware of God in simple everyday things, in the plainest gifts of nature, in the ordinary give and take of human relationships. God's Word made Flesh nourishes that Presence.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The only miracle of Jesus that is reported in all four gospels is his feeding 5000 with five loaves and two fish. But none of the gospel writers stop there. Each of them goes on to say that, even though people had their fill, there was food left over. In Second Kings 4:43-44 after Elisha has fed 100 men with 20 barley loaves and some grain, he tells his servant that the Lord said, "They shall eat and have some left over." And sure enough there is some left over. The fact that food is left over seems to be part of these two miracles.
That got me thinking that God doesn't just meet a need. God does more than is necessary. God is always more than enough.
The sun could simply rise and set. This brilliant splendor is not needed. But God goes beyond what's needed. Robinson Jeffers says God's "signature is the beauty of things." Three years ago when I started my retirement I intended a sort of hermit existence. God has blessed me with way more than I needed or expected. Lavish! Superfluous! More than enough.
Monday, July 20, 2009
In chapter six of Mark's Gospel Jesus invites the disciples and us, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." Most of us have forgotten how to rest. We don't value rest. We may even think that we're being lazy, just sitting still doing nothing.
The Lord God rested after six days of creation. That wasn't just to recoup his energy so he'd be ready to create another universe in the next workweek. It was to show us that relaxing is valuable. Rest itself is holy. Rest is so important that God makes it one of the ten commandments. Keep holy the Sabbath. That used to be a commandment that people welcomed.
But gradually Sunday came to feel like restriction rather than freedom. Instead of freedom from having to work, it became not being allowed to work. I remember my grandmother's wondering whether she was allowed to crochet on Sunday.
Rest is certainly good for our emotional and physical health, but it is much more than that. It is a way of being like God. Rest in itself is holy.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
This brilliant sky is what woke me this morning about 5:50. I hurried outside and started taking pictures. I had a hard time choosing which one to put on the blog. This was about a half hour before sunrise and lasted for about 15 minutes.
Once again I was torn between wanting to capture this beauty with the camera and feeling the urge to just surrender to it in awe. The camera won out.
Despite the saying "Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning," we ended up with a lovely day and I have been able to surrender to that.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
In the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to Mark Jesus calls the Twelve and sends them out two by two. The Greek word for "send" is the source of our word "apostle." Jesus trusts the Apostles to do what he does. This is remarkable in this Gospel because Mark throughout presents the Apostles as pretty dim-witted. They never seem to understand what Jesus is all about.
Everyone who follows Jesus, no matter how inept they may be, is sent. Many of us grew up in a Church where we counted on the priests and the sisters to do whatever work the Church had to do. We didn't think of ourselves as "sent." We saw ourselves as recipients of the service that the priests and sisters provided. One of the good results of the priest and religious shortage is the realization that lay people are also sent to carry on the work of Jesus. When we leave Mass we are not "done." Jesus sends us out to tell others about him.
The reason for belonging to church and going to church is not just that I might be saved. I belong to the Church for the sake of others. Charles Peguy, a French thinker, said,
"We must be saved together.
We must come to God together.
Together we must all return to God's home.
What would God say if some of us came without the others?
Friday, July 10, 2009
I just finished reading My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor. She is a brain scientist who was able to notice what was happening when she experienced a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. One attraction of the book is her remarkable account of the stroke itself. Even more fascinating for me, however, is her descriptions of what it felt like to be totally reliant on her right hemisphere. She experienced an "innate awarenesss that I was the miraculous power of life....simply a being of light radiating life into the world." This filled her with strong sense of peace and joy. She felt at one with the universe.
Near the end of the book Taylor talks about ways that we might experience this bliss. I found myself thinking that the centering prayer that I do each morning may be a way of quieting the left brain and moving more into the right brain where I experience God as inexpressible Being. Then after talking to a couple last night about the book, I found myself thinking that I have done something similar in retiring. In no longer being responsible for many administrative tasks I have moved away from a lot of left brain activity and am spending more time in right brain awareness. Peace and joy and bliss.
Part way through the book I realized that I had heard Jill Bolte Taylor's story before. Several months ago one of my sisters had forwarded to me a dramatic and moving 20 minute talk that Taylor gives on YouTube about her experience.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
As a child I wandered by myself in the woods on the hills near our home. I liked the beauty and the solitude. I didn't know enough then to call the experience "God." But gradually I came to realize that God was in all that beauty and variety of nature.
These experiences of God in my natural surroundings have intensified since I retired three years ago. It doesn't hurt that I have a stunning view of the Lake and the hills beyond and that my morning walk takes me past fields like this one in today's picture. Each day I am newly amazed at the enormous variety of shapes and shades of green just in the weeds. The way the morning sun catches them is splendid. I feel embraced by Love.
Today's calendar from Ministry of the Arts tells me, "Fall in love with the sun." I'm told that our word "God" can be traced to the Sanskrit word for "sun." It doesn't surprise me that I feel loved and caressed by the sun and that I love the sun in return.
The same Ministry sent me an email summer greeting with a quote from Julian of Norwich which captures perfectly what my three years here have magnified for me: The fullness of joy is to behold God in all things.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I continue to reflect on how satisfied I am with the three years since I retired. As I started considering retirement five years ago, I was partly inspired by Dorothy Day's saying that the last part of life was for letting go of things and letting God take over. My hope for retirement became "to be" rather than "to do", to give a lot of the time over to simply being in God's love.
For the most part that hope has been realized. Most mornings are given over to God and me. When I don't have company, I have a morning routine that I keep. It is not a time schedule. I start when I start and finish when I finish, often around noon.
Recently I let myself get too busy for about three months preparing and teaching a New Testament course. While it enriched my life with God and hopefully the lives of those who took it, it was more "busy" than I want my retirement to be. I always feel sad to hear retired people say, "I am so busy, I don't know how I had time to go to work." With God's help, I will not let that happen.
I do want to continue helping in parishes on weekends. I find that very satisfying. I also want to be more faithful in keeping this blog. It has taken the place of my writing in my journal. I would also like to take time in the afternoon for another bit of centering prayer, but so far this has been spotty.
I tended to be a workaholic and I wondered whether retirement would agree with me. So far it has been a great blessing.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
As I reflected on our nation this Independence Day, I found myself thinking of how we no longer seem to throw our doors open to new immigrants. That got me thinking about how far we've come from the words on the Statue of Liberty. The statue was a gift from the people of France. The foundation and pedestal was paid for by the people of the United States. I found it significant that the wealthy of both countries were not interested in contributing anything. The statue was unveiled in 1886 and the poem "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus was added in 1903. Here are some of the lines that I pray we Americans might once again find room for in our hearts:
....Here at our sea-washed, sunset-gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome....cries she
With silent lips, "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore;
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
This morning's walk caught sight of this beauty. After my first click of the camera got a picture of gravel and weeds, the bird moved and posed as if to accomodate me on this third anniversary of my retirement.
It's time I figure to look back and take stock of these last three years. I started my reflecting with my patron St. Paul on Monday on the long passage in 2nd Corinthians where, to show his credentials as an apostle, he brags about all that he has done. He ends that passage by saying that to keep him humble he was given "a thorn in the flesh." No sure guess about what that might have been. He tells us that he asked God to take it away, but God said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for strength is made perfect in weakness." Paul finishes by saying, "When I am weak, then I am strong."
I got to talking to God about what my "thorn in the flesh" might be. Maybe not being perfect. For a perfectionist like me that was hard to accept. I do see now, with St. Paul, that acknowledging my weaknesses creates a kind of vacuum in me that God rushes in to fill. So when I am weak, then I am strong.