Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Several days of heavy rain, then four days of hot sunshine, and suddenly it's summer. Leaves that were tight-fisted just a week ago for fear of cold weather have relented and opened wide. It was the best weather that any of us can remember for a Memorial Day weekend. 80's during the day and 60's at night.
I swam for the first time yesterday morning. Water temperature fine. I went in several more times yesterday and continue to swim today. If I get too hot, just a few minutes in the water cools me down.
Crowds of people at all the Masses. Parishioners said the church was never this crowded even at Easter.
I am never more aware of God present in nature than in the lush beauty and full freedom of summer.
Friday, May 27, 2011
This is one of my favorite pictures from the Northwest, a full fresh water stream, spreading itself on the beach, and mingling with the salt water of the ocean.
In his book about Celtic spirituality, "Anam Cara," John O'Donohue talks of the body in the soul rather than the soul in the body. This outlook has made a difference in my prayer and in my relationship with God and with others.
It gives me a new insight into John 14:20 where Jesus says to his disciples at the Last Supper, "I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you." Thinking of my body in my soul helps me to imagine my soul able to touch other souls and mingle with them and with Jesus and with his Father. This happens, not like the fresh water's being completely absorbed into the salt sea, but with each of us remaining our individual selves while being one with each other and with God.
Then I can think of the Holy Spirit as the bond of love between Jesus and his Father and that same Spirit as a kind of ocean of Love in which my soul intermingles with every other human soul.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
I think of wisteria as an old-fashioned plant, an appropriate decoration for my 49th anniversary of ordination. When I was a child my grandmother had a beautiful vine of it growing from the floor to the roof of her back porch. It's strong, spicy scent fills the air as I pass this one on my morning walk.
I think with gratitude of all the people who have helped me hang in there. My family's companionship. Good friends that have come my way through the years. Some priests who are close to me. The many parishioners who have made it clear that they like how I celebrate and preach. Through them God has encouraged me to remain.
Even my home here by the lake and the extra time for prayer and reflection that retirement has afforded me are Spirit of Love's way of holding on to me. It astonishes me.
I make my own the words of some Old Testament prophet who said, "You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced."
Friday, May 20, 2011
I read last week that Bob Dylan will be 70 on May 24. He was turning 60 when he wrote "Bye and Bye" for the 2001 album "Love and Theft." As I listened yesterday in the car the line that echoed in me was, "The future for me is already a thing of the past." But earlier in the song, Dylan sang,"I still have a dream that hasn't been repossessed." And he has kept right on sharing his dreams in song, even a worthwhile Christmas album this past year.
This morning in the AARP magazine I read tributes to him from several famous people. The most comprehensive was from Bono who told how Dylan's very different songs and albums met him where he was at different points in his life. I can't think of a composer whose songs have changed so much as he has grown.
When I arrived at the March on Washington the first voice I heard was not Martin Luther King's but that of this kid singing roughly, "Only a Pawn in Their Game." Oddly, it was about how politicians had used the racial prejudice of poor southern whites to get themselves elected. Later Peter, Paul, and Mary sang "Blowin' in the Wind," written by the same gravelly-voiced kid, a profound song that still remains a favorite of mine.
As Bob Dylan continued to change his lyrics and his style, I bought every album he put out. I thought his many changes expressed not only what he was experiencing but what many of our generation were experiencing. They rang true for me and touched me, sometimes deeply, as did "Beyond the Horizon" on his 2006 "Modern Times" album. He has helped to teach me how to grow old with Truth and Beauty.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
I get very excited this time of year getting new flowers. I've been to three nurseries in three days. After the long winter I look forward to spending time just wandering around in hothouses chockful of an amazing variety of flowers. I potted geraniums and petunias (this picture is from last summer) and hung pots of million bells and single red fuschia.
I am struck by how the size of a pot can determine how small or how large a flower may grow. In one hothouse today I saw a small bougainvillea in a hanging pot. I bought a small one last spring and repotted it twice last summer. It grew large with beautiful pink crepe-paper-like blossoms. I brought it inside in the fall and put it in a south-facing window. I was astonished when it grew into a tree and continued to produce gorgeous blossoms.
Through the years I have met pinched, uptight people who have been kept in small pots or who have kept themselves in small pots, no room to grow, afraid to risk. I have also met people who have been repotted again and again, always with plenty of room to grow. They are expansive and beautiful.
Spirit of Love invites me even at my age to keep risking and growing.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I used John 14:1-11 this morning for "praying Scripture." I found the long note in "The New Interpreter's Study Bible" very helpful. It says, "John 14:6 expresses the central theological conviction of the Gospel of John:Jesus is the tangible presence of God in the world." I found that theme especially prominent in the whole passage. John begins his Gospel by telling us that God became flesh and made his home among us.
Here Jesus says, "Believe in God, believe also in me....If you know me, you will know my Father also....Whoever has seen me has seen the Father....Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?" Jesus makes God available to our senses in a unique way.
The long note points out that many contemporary Christians wrongly interpret "No one comes to the Father except through me (14:6)" to mean that only those who believe in Jesus can go to God. Jesus is expressing his conviction that his disciples experience God now through him. He is not making a statement about the relative value of the world's religions.
Jesus is stressing that right here, right now, he is the tangible presence of God. "I AM the way," he claims. In John 10:9 Jesus says, "I AM the gate." I have found it helpful lately to think of Jesus as the portal between the visible world and the invisible world, both of them intertwined with each other. I see Jesus, then, as making God available to any human being, whether or not they know Jesus.
I like the practice of capitalizing most of the times Jesus says "I AM." It translates the Greek "Ego Eimi," which in turn is used to translate the proper name for God in Hebrew.
Monday, May 16, 2011
While visiting family in the Northwest, we stayed on the Oregon Coast close to this impressive view. When the tide was out we we were able to walk up very close to the enormous rock. It was cold and pouring down rain, but the hardy (or foolish) Oregonians were out in their winter coats and boots. Rain dripping off the end of my nose. There were even warmly dressed guides from the park service there to explain things to us. Tide pools didn't have much marine life in them because the ocean was still too cold, but we did see big starfish clnging to the rocks.
Though walking the beach on a cold, rainy day is not my cup of tea, it was great being with family I hadn't seen since last summer. The house we stayed in was a perfect refuge from the bleak weather and provided plenty of opportunities for being together or for curling up alone with a book.
I felt strongly the Spirit of Love shining in the gorgeous views and especially in family gathered.
(Clicking on picture enlarges it.)
Monday, May 2, 2011
A priest from Ireland sat on my front porch watching the children playing in the yard. He mumbled something. I asked what he had said. "Tir na n-oge," he said, "It means 'land of the young,' a place where people are forever young. It's a kind of spirit world right very close to us.
O'Donohue in his "Anam Cara" says, "The eternal is not elsewhere; it is not distant." He quotes an old Celtic saying, "The land of eternal youth is behind the house, a beautiful land fluent within itself." This is the land of the little people, the fairies, the souls of the dead. Movement between there and here is easy. O'Donohue says, "The eternal world and the mortal world are not parallel, rather they are fused. The beautiful Gaelic phrase 'woven into and through each other' captures this."
There are in Ireland many sacred wells. They are seen as thresholds between these two worlds. Ancient Celts reverenced them as special openings through which divinity flowed. Even now many of these wells are treated with respect.
Our tour guide in Ireland took our busload to one of these wells. There was a stone table there that looked very much like an altar. We decided to celebrate Mass. We had bread, but the guide had to take the bus and go in search of wine. He was succesful and we had a very intimate celebration with a feeling of being in close touch with our ancient ancestors.