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Transformation / Metamorphosis

Not long ago the Sunday Gospel was the Transfiguration — Jesus takes Peter, James and John up the mountain where they see Jesus as he truly his. The gospel says “transfigured”, but in many ways it seems to be transformation or metamorphosis. Like the resurrection where Jesus becomes the Christ.

The interesting term to me is “metamorphosis” — that would be the Greek variant. Most of us are familiar with a couple of regular metamorphosis events:  Caterpillars wrap themselves in a cocoon and emerge as a butterfly (or moth or some other lovely winged creature) and tadpoles grow legs and lungs and absorbs their tails and become frogs. In each case, it is movement from what is to what was always meant to be. Each creature is growing into its “true self.” That caterpillar was always meant to be the butterfly, the tadpole was always meant to be the frog, Jesus was always meant to be the Christ and, I believe, each person is meant to be a part of the Body of Christ.

How that happens is different for different creatures:  the caterpillar wraps itself in a cocoon, goes into hiding and if I understand correctly, in that cocoon is an intermediate stage, a pupa, that in its time transforms into a butterfly. The transformation is made in the dark of the cocoon… and when the butterfly emerges, it must do it on it’s on. If someone tries to help it, or do it for the butterfly, then the butterfly generally dies.

That tadpole is a bit more transparent. You can safely watch as legs begin to grow. You can see the tail being absorbed. You can watch each step as it happens.

Some of us are caterpillars while others are tadpoles. Both are becoming what they are meant to be. The butterfly doesn’t get to say to the frog “Hey — you did it all wrong!”; the tadpole doesn’t get to say to the caterpillar — “Hey! You can’t hid while this transformation/metamorphosis is happening.” And Jesus didn’t say “My particular cross is the only cross…”

Let each one be transformed/metamorphosed/transfigured in the way that works. And rejoice in the many paths to the True Self.

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There is no closure… dancing to someone else’s drum

Not sure how this all fits together. My first reflections this morning were on how to “let go” — I read the readings before mass; I thought of Solomon asking for wisdom and letting go of his own glory. I reflected on Jesus’ words about finding a treasure and selling all to be able to buy the field where the treasure lay. So many ways to let go of what is no longer useful.

I thought about the gospel and how the fishing net collects many things which are sorted later — and what is good and necessary is kept, and the rest thrown away. So many times I’ve not been willing to throw the net and see what is caught before I throw things away. I want to decide ahead of time what I will catch and keep. My judgement first.

As I listened to the choir practice before mass I realized that it was going to be difficult to “go with the flow.” I hear the music at a different tempo than those who lead it at church. I felt called to try to let go of what didn’t really matter, to let go of my own way and try to follow the timing of that other drummer without all the negative stuff. That’s hard.

You see, there is no closure. When I let go of the timing I hear in the music it’s a small death. When I can’t let go of my drummer and fail to enjoy the other drumbeat, it’s a small death. There is no winning or losing. I must accept both. So, I can get closure in either direction.

I can’t say I succeeded. The closing song was sung at a tempo that felt dirge-like to me. It might have been beautiful to others, but it sucked the life and energy out of me. I can say I made a stab at letting go of how I would have led it and in that way I could search for a certain beauty/joy in the way it was sung. Perhaps one day I will be able to appreciate it. Perhaps not. But certainly, it’s not an anger of frustration that deserves to hold on to my life and my spirit. It just is a different approach to the music. And, the music is what calls me and soothes my soul.

I’ll try to focus more on what’s good and important and let the rest of it work itself out.

Wish me luck.

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Priest, Prophet, Servant [King]

Fr. Troncale was our fill-in priest yesterday. I must say he was a breath of fresh air. He wanted to sing all of the verses of the opening song. He was friendly, inviting but serious. And he homily was both easy to follow while reaching deep.

Yeah — about that. He focused on the aspect of “prophets” in the readings: Speak God’s truth, with love, to others. Oh, and a prophet gets a prophet’s reward. Me? I’m not sure I’m interested in a prophet’s reward. They get abused. Did you notice I tried to push that away by saying “they”?

He reminded folks that when we are baptized we are baptized as priest, prophet and servant king. Dang! Priest, that’s kind of okay since that evokes the notion of going to church and taking part in a worship service. Prophet is a bit more difficult since that is a call to speak often uncomfortable truth in a loving manner. Servant king is hard as well since I’m sure that “king” doesn’t let me off the hook because I would be “queen” — servant leader? yeah, that’s probably more accurate. But, doesn’t being a leader mean I have servants, not that I am a servant? Servant leader: how does that work?

I’m stuck on prophet for now. How do I speak truth in difficult situations without being mean or judgmental? How do I lay out the truth as I see it without coming across as superior? How to see a situation clearly and just say what I see lovingly, when the truth is gonna hurt? I have trouble looking in the mirror clearly and accepting truth about me on a lot of days. How can I do that with love when there is another person involved and I’m really upset?

Being reminded that I am to be a prophet is scary because first I have to be still and learn God’s truth. It’s scary because if I proclaim God’s truth I’m likely to get at best a cool reaction if the hearer isn’t in a place to hear it. I mean, even trying to share that God loves us, every one, can get you into trouble.

Thanks for the homily!

 

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The little things

Mama left us 2 weeks ago. She died about 6:45am on 24 May. That day and the ones immediately following were filled with handling the details such as talking with funeral homes (yes plural since she was buried “back home” which is almost 5 hours away), talking with the priest, contacting family, etc. One moves on autopilot and mostly manages to avoid feeling for a couple of days.

Today, we took 3 of our granddaughters to Callaway Gardens. As I grabbed a straw for my drink at lunch I noticed it was a bendy straw. That’s what I kept a stash of in my purse for my mother and my grandson, Henry. I won’t need those straws as often nowadays… a small wave of sadness washed over me.

After lunch we visited the butterfly house. As I was Genevieve wander around, trying to get pictures another wave rolled over. Just two springs ago my daughter and I put Genevieve (then almost 5) and baby Henry, and Mama in the car and made a trip to Callaway where I had a wonderful time with a 5 year old and an 85 year old fascinated by the butterflies… both wanted me to print pictures of the butterflies for them after the trip. Another sad smile — wonderful memory. I miss her.

Last week at the beach I looked at the walls in the bedroom at the condo and remembered that Mama had loved the color so much that she went home and had her bedroom at home painted the same color.

I wear the ring she gave me — a combination of 2 rings: one from my father and a fancy ring guard from my step-father. She told me she hoped I would enjoy it as much as she had. Another reminder…

It’s bittersweet. I wouldn’t trade these things for the world.

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Expectations

Today is Palm Sunday. Today at mass we listen and participate in the reading of the Passion — of the final hours of Jesus of Nazareth. As Christians we know that whole story.

But, what of the expectations of those who didn’t already know? What of the expectations we have of others and ourselves — because we don’t know the whole story?

As I understand it, Judas expected Jesus to save himself. He did not expect that his betrayal would lead to Jesus’ death. He expected something different to happen. I suppose he might have thought he was giving Jesus the chance to be the militant, powerful Messiah that he expected. And then we read that when Judas saw what actually happened, he tried giving back the money. He couldn’t live with himself and he hung himself.

Peter expected that he would never deny Jesus. He was sure of himself. And yet, when the time came, he did just as Jesus predicted and denied knowing Jesus 3 times before the cock crowed. He wept bitterly. But, he hung in there and became a great witness.

This spring I have lost at least 3 people that would be counted as family. Unexpected. One fell, broke a hip which could not be fixed. It wound up ending her time here on earth. Unexpected. One took her own life. Not what you expect of the mother of a preschooler. Unexpected. One suffered a massive heart attack, only a week after having seen his heart doctor. Unexpected. I could rant against a system that let a woman fall and break her hip. I could be truly angry that a young woman would hurt so bad that she would end it all. I could be angry that a loved one didn’t manage to take better care of himself (as if that would have fixed everything). But, those were my expectations for them. Not God’s.

It’s hard not to have expectations of oneself and of others. It’s hard not to be angry and upset when we or others fail to live up to those expectations. But, I noticed in the Gospel reading today that even when Jesus knew that Judas would go and betray him, He called him “Friend”  — “Friend, go and do what you must.” Friend. Think of that. He knew that a lot of pain was coming — for himself, for Judas, for others around. And He called him “Friend.”

So, I seek to look beyond my expectations of myself and others. I seek to live beyond my expectations to accept and love myself and others when they don’t live up to my expectations for them. And I’ll walk through this Holy Week looking to see beyond, and trying to accept reality. And love it.

 

Martha, Mary and Lazarus

Today’s Gospel reading was the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead after he had been in the tomb for four days. Four days!

The reading is full of how Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. How they were very close friends. I began to think how we all have different roles to play: Jesus had a deep friendship with these people, but they were not called as disciples. None were among the twelve. I wondered why. It seems that these valued friends might have been among those called as disciples. But they weren’t.

We all have a special relationship with God, with the Trinity, with church, with each other. We each a call that is somewhat different from others. It makes me think of Paul with his “we are many parts, we are all one body.” Guess he got that idea from a good source. Some of those close to Jesus were called as the Apostles; others were close friends, Today, some are called to religious life, some to be a part of a particular religious group (Christian, Muslim, Buddhist — or Roman Catholic, Methodist, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, various evangelical groups). This is good news! I can follow Jesus without having to feel “less” because I don’t preach or I haven’t quite found my niche. I can still be raised from the dead even after four days in a tomb.

 

 

Seven Deadly Sins: Pride

I’ve pondered this budget that the new President has thrown out for consideration. I’ve listened to those, like Senator Ryan, who make claims about cutting out services as “an act of mercy.” I listened to those who voted for a candidate who is definitely not going to make their lives any better — who seem to vote in opposition to their own good. I’ve struggled with a feeling of superiority when I think I have a better way.

The source of all these ills it seems is Pride. Yup. Those currently in the White House are very proud of their own success. Senator Ryan it seems is very sure that his position and benefits are completely due to his own work. He is proud of himself and his accomplishments and is sure that those who have failed financially, relationship-wise and otherwise are simply not putting out the effort. He wants to push them to work hard and be proud. Those in coal country and others who voted for the current administration so often did so because they seek to be in a place where they can feel proud… no handouts, nobody to be as good as them, no need for a little help from their friends, no need to acknowledge that the Prosperity Gospel is not Christian Gospel.

And myself — I have to fight being proud that I don’t subscribe to so many of those ideas. Once you start thinking you are humble, you are not humble.

Yes, I believe that the government should serve the people. I believe that at least basic health care is as much a right as food and water and not being beaten up and abused by your neighbors. Yes, I think that tax dollars should support the common good such as the EPA, arts and humanities organizations, health care and food security — oh, and clean drinking water. On the political spectrum I probably tend a bit toward socialism, if that’s what you have to be to believe that the government is there to serve and protect the populace.

And still, I find that my beliefs cannot be allowed to make me feel proud and superior to those who see the world differently. These beliefs must call me to prayer. They must call me to a place where I respect others even while I disagree vehemently with them. If I let pride drive my actions, I find it all to easy to make fun of the other instead of pushing for justice.

Yeah — I know, they make it all to easy to make fun… but the results aren’t going to be any fun at all.

 

Of Popes and Faith

The tables are turned, I suppose. Those brothers and sisters of mine within the tent of the Roman Catholic Church who found great comfort in previous Popes who often focussed on devotions and rules and fairly strict behavioral and belief rules are now faced with a Holy Father who is willing to say “Who am I to judge?” or who is willing to face our need to care for our brothers and sisters without so much judgement, or who is willing to proclaim that we are stewards of all creation, and look at the mess we’ve made of that job.

To me, it seems that Francis is calling us to be transformed by our faith in God — our faith in the Trinity — so God, Jesus the Christ and the Spirit. He is calling on us to actually interact with the world from that place of transformation. To let go of our assumed superiority, or presumed chosen-ness and be agents of love and change in our world. To be the salt of the earth.

Sometimes, that flies in the face of rigid rules. Sometimes that forces us to look beyond the letter of the law to the spirit of the law. And, sometimes when I hear the criticism of relativism, I want to say “And you make that [relativism] sound like a bad thing. Really?”

As best I can tell, Jesus said “Follow me.” — not “Worship me.” Following, walking in His footsteps, trying to see the world as He saw it is far more life changing that worshipping Him and keeping change at a distance — don’t you think?

 

Things as they are

thingsastheyare

I am certainly guilty of this… sometimes I can only see the “eye” in this picture; sometimes I see a butterfly wing. And, when I am whole, awake and aware, I see both clearly.  The point of view colors the the way we see our world, our friends, our universe, our God.

 

Follow me

crosses

I waited anxiously for this election to be over. I was massively let down when my fears proved true. And the first week or so of aftermath has not eased any of my concerns or fears. Even if some folks have been reasonably quiet.

This morning I read a tirade from a white woman who, during the election season, was so anti-Hillary it just about burned in her eyes. She wanted to know why she, as a “white woman” should feel guilty for any transgressions/aggression against minorities. She took the stand I hear many, too many, of us take:  I didn’t do anything wrong. The past is the past. Get over the past.

And I thought about it. And I tried to listen to God and glean some wisdom in this area.

Jesus said “Follow me.” I believe that means all the way to the cross. Yes, we believe that Jesus died for all our sin(s). If you follow Him, I think you must also be willing to die for the sin(s) of others. To truly follow is to walk with, and to emulate that which you follow. And so, to those of us who profess to be Christians:  Doesn’t if follow that we take on the sin(s) of the world, just as Jesus did? And be willing to die to it and be recreated in Christ? To rise again?

Just sayin’…

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