Yesterday’s Gospel reading made me think. It enlightened me about a couple of “Bible Stories” I remember from childhood. And it shone a light on some things I have experienced. From the USCCB version:
|And the crowds asked John the Baptist, “What then should we do?”|
|He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”|
|Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”|
|He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”|
|Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”|
|Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.|
|John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.|
|His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”|
|Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.|
I listened and forgot to pay too much attention to the presented homily (which I think was probably quite good). I thought of the end of this gospel reading about wheat and chaff and fire. Fire is my deepest fear, going even beyond my hysteria with heights. So, needless to say, in my younger years, I would hear this verse with great fear and trepidation. My “faith” was one born out of fear — God was gonna get me if I misbehaved. I was definitely afraid of being the chaff.
How many people are caught at that point? Before I could welcome the idea that God would clear away the brush and open space up so that life could be good and happy, I had to first understand that God/Jesus/Spirit loves me just as I am. Right now. With the chaff mixed in, with all that stuff that is available for composting. I had to be transformed in some way to even welcome parts of the Gospel and how it might affect me. I know so many folks who are stuck at “If I just ‘do it right’ I’ll be ok.” Life is a list with actions to be checked off.
I thank God for the people who could finally break through to me and help me to allow myself to be loved before proceeding.
When we put out that way of thinking that indicates that one is judged for actions alone, how many people do we miss? We come across as very judgemental. We proscribe how someone else must live in response to God’s love, often without even sharing God’s love or acknowledging it as the core of our faith. I propose that for those “outside” the circle a Christian should only proclaim that “God loves you! I love you!” and this means just the way you are. Only after a person has taken the step into that circle of love do they need to be presented with the actions that one might take. As best I can tell from the Gospels, Jesus didn’t walk around hollering at folks to repent or else. If someone came to him he listened to the person and proceeded from where that person was. The woman at the well, Zacchaeus in the tree, the woman caught in adultery (what about her partner? that’s for another day), lepers, beggars, etc: they sought Jesus out. Even if he offered a call, it was “Follow me” without the “or the Devil’s gonna get you.”
I’m not sure how this translates to homilies and Joe and Josie in the pew. That’s where a bit of secrecy might come in. Way back with movements within the Church (Charismatic prayer, Cursillo, etc) there was a bit of secrecy. But, people were drawn in by the results they saw in others and wanted to know how that happened. They didn’t know the rituals or the “secrets” of a Charismatic prayer meeting or a Cursillo 3-day weekend. But, the results of the metanoia that had occured shouted volumes without words. Only after this encounter would one be open to understanding why go to mass every Sunday or go for Reconciliation or do all those other actions. Those things can be so binding and onerous when only understood from the outside. So, maybe those actions need to be a bit hidden — a bit secret.
I’m so ready to just ditch paying attention to politics and government. I’m like to go down to the beach and just let my concerns and fears just wash away. However, that would, in many ways just be a way of bowing out of loving the world. And, I feel called to love the world. It’s not easy, or fun, but it seems to be a command that I must follow. Therefore, I grapple with politics and government.
Wouldn’t it be nice…
… if winners in close races (Texas ring a bell here?) would embrace the fact about half of the population has a different agenda from the the candidate but still deserve representation and consideration? It would be such a shock to hear someone like Mr. Cruz proclaim that he would be representing the interests of the State of Texas. Instead, he proclaimed that he, and his very marginal majority had saved Texas from the likes of Mr. O’Rourke. Really? Nearly half of the voters in Texas expressed support for Mr. O’Rourke, so Mr. Cruz is saving half the state from the other half. Think about it. The same might go for the new Minnesota governor, the new Florida governor or whoever winds up as the governor of Georgia.
… if the president respected his cabinet instead of insisting on blind allegiance? I am not fond of Mr. Sessions, I don’t care for many of his policies and beliefs. But, he dared stand up to Mr. Trump in the face of bullying, character defamation and other unsavory attacks. Now, because he refused to interfere (which was the ethical thing to do — lawyers may or may not be big on morality, but there are big on ethics it seems), he has been fired. Maybe Mr. Trump didn’t really know how to pick the very best people after all. Or maybe he can’t tolerate them after all. Guess some of that depends on your definition of the very best people.
… if we all could admit when we were wrong, or disagree without having to grind the opponent into the ground? This one is hard for me. I do not suffer fools/idiots gracefully. I hate it when it turns out that perhaps I was the idiot — I do not suffer idiots gracefully. But, I respect to no end someone who puts the good of the [church | country | family | marginalized ] above their own. I can accept a lot of difference of opinion in that case.
I’m trying to form my prayer… I’ve learned my praying for patience is a bad plan. If God answers that prayer, you have to learn patience through practice. I’ve figured out that it is not fruitful to pray for others to see things my way because that might be oh so wrong, or oh so right and I don’t know which. The best I can do is pray for the light of God’s love to invade each person and that this love be recognized and accepted.
Jesus says, “There’s only one sign I’m going to give you: the sign of the prophet Jonah” (see Luke 11:29; Matthew 12:39, 16:4). Sooner or later, life is going to lead us (as it did Jesus) into the belly of the beast, into a place we can’t fix, control, explain, or understand. That’s where transformation most easily happens—because only there are we in the hands of God—and not self-managing. (from Richard Rohr’s reflection this morning 21-October-2018)
Last year was a blur. Losing so many close to me — brother, mother, brother-in-law as well as one of my dogs (who had been part of my life for more than 12 years) — sent me to a place where I felt I had no control, no reassurance that the sun would rise. I wouldn’t plan anything of consequence. It seemed I had no chance to begin processing one loss before another occurred. My sister thinks I’ve handled it better than she has. Perhaps this is true, but it came only after surrendering to the grief, walking through it and basically remembering one of the lessons of Cursillo: Let go and let God. Or maybe sinking into Julian of Norwich’s “All shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.” Or the signs on walls while walking the Camino: in the end, all will be good. If it’s not all good, then it’s not the end!
The belly of the whale is dark and uncomfortable. At times the darkness might be more comfortable than the light. When one has been taken care of by the belly of the whale, then one can walk in the light again.
A couple of days ago, the daily reflection from CAC (Richard Rohr and crew) included the following:
Parker Palmer, a Quaker teacher and activist whom I deeply trust, reflects on his own “further journey”:
[There are] moments when it is clear—if I have the eyes to see—that the life I am living is not the same as the life that wants to live in me. In those moments I sometimes catch a glimpse of my true life, a life hidden like the river beneath the ice. And . . . I wonder: What am I meant to do? Who am I meant to be?
That stopped me cold. Parker Palmer put in to words something that has pushed at the edges of my consciousness for forever. I have so often felt that internal struggle where I am trying so hard to live a good, proper, useful life and fit into a vision I have set up while knowing that there is actually another path that calls. Life has gotten more peaceful as I have been able to listen a bit more to the life that wants to live in me.
It’s not easy to let go of those actions and things that make me feel secure. However, those moments where I can look inside and just accept the one who is struggling to be born in me that life starts to emerge. In evangelical terms, I am born again… or maybe I just continue the process of being born again, over and over, little by little.
Some written prayers repeatedly find their way into my site and my consciousness. This one has been in my heart of late:
Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody. Helpful, but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom—it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point swiftly. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.
Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a sour old person—some of them are so hard to live with and each one a crowning work of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.