The fourth day of Christmas December 28 — the Feast of the Holy Family and third day of Kwanzaa.
I met this young couple at a welcome station in the mountains of Virginia in October 2007. As I ponder this image I see Joseph and Mary and Jesus in them. May their be a touch of holiness — of wholeness — in their lives and in our families. I pray for them and all young families — indeed all families on this traditional day in the Christmas season when we reflect on the hidden, ordinary life of Joseph, and Mary and Jesus in Nazareth. They are a model of simplicity for us.
But for many of us our family life was (is) very dysfunctional. I think of those families today, Lord. Children (many friends of mine) who grew up with alcoholic parents and were in favor one moment and cast aside the next, who who had little normalcy, little stability.
Just last night, Lord, you allowed me the grace to strengthen a young mother who needed the courage to at least temporarily separate herself and the children from fearful dysfunction. Be with her, Lord. Be with all families that struggle, Lord. Be with us who are imperfect and weak and selfish and perhaps capable of little love because we may not have received it ourselves as a child.
We’re trying, Lord. Strengthen our capacity to love, to be present to our children and our spouse. Help us realize, Lord, that the most important role is not to have a successful career but to love our children and our spouse. To be a community of love in which to call forth the gifts, the love. the moral courage and strength of of their children for the next generation.
And so, on this Feast of the Holy Family may we honor you, Jesus and Mary and Joseph. as I honor this young couple whose name I do not even know because I saw in them an image of God in their simple, ordinary love. Lord, keep us all in your loving care.
Today, December 26, is the second day of Christmas, the sixth day of Hanukah (Hebrew) and the first day of Kwanzaa (African American). May we learn about our own and each others’ celebrations. It’s easy, just Google the words above.
For us Christians the mystery of Incarnation (God-becoming-human in the person of Jesus Christ) needs more than one day to celebrate. Here is Day Two: The Catholic liturgy centuries ago put the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, the day after Jesus’ glorious feast to show that our faith is not sentimental but requires of us heroic, sacrificial love. Stephen fearlessly witnessed in court (the word martyr means witness) to his conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, knowing that his testimony was his death sentence. (Read the account of Stephen’s testimony and martyrdom in Acts Chapter 6).
How heroic is our love, Lord?
Do we abandon people — our friends, our lovers, our spouses, our children when the going gets tough?
And I ask you please to be with those who have been abandoned by loved ones, Lord, like children of alcoholic parents or kids who have gone through the foster care system and may never feel Your Love, as a result.
Are we only concerned about our own survival? What’s best for Number One — Me?
Are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of a friend in need — for You, Lord?
I ask you, Lord, on this second day of Christmas 2008 that you would allow me the grace to give my life in the service of my friends and those you present to me to care for.
Allow me the grace to always witness to your love for me, Lord, always to share it.
My life has meaning only when I share the love and kindness you have shown to me. Allow me the grace to do that this day, St. Stephen’s Day and every day.
Stephen, a young man, has always been one of my heroes, Lord.
We need such heroic love in our time, Lord, such heroic young people.
Inspire young people to break through the wall of their isolation and be there for their friends in the hard times ahead, Lord.
Teach us to never abandon a friend, Lord.
And let my readers know that you love them, Lord, and will never abandon them either, no matter what.
And some of us are so cynical about life that we don’t believe in anything much.
I wish you could touch these folks, Lord. Some of them are people I care for very much.
Most of all, I hope my own heart is ready, Lord Jesus.
The story of Your birth has been told thousands of times and so we tend not to pay much attention to it anymore.
The mystery of the story of your becoming Emmanuel — God with us is so huge, so deep we will never exhaust it’s meaning. Let me find the meaning meant for me this year 2008 that is different from last year.
I yearn for the world to receive You, Lord.
We would be so much better off if we did.
Some of us have “no vacancy” signs up.
No room for anyone.
Simon and Garfunckel sung about that syndrome years ago, “I am a rock, I am an island and a rock feels no pain.”
That’s the sorry state of our world today, Lord.
And is there room for You in our country, Lord?
Or have we shut You out — given You the bum’s rush — Go away, God.
We’re self-sufficient here in America. We can solve our own problems.
We don’t have any room for a weak God like You born in a stable with those low-life shepherds all around you.
We admire strength here in America. We cant’ stand people who are weak, Lord — in ourselves, in others.
How can we adore a God who comes to us as a homeless baby and remained homeless all his life?
I know you can only come to those who are humble, Lord, who have come to the wisdom that every single one of us is absolutely, utterly poor without You.
I pray that I may realize that I depend on You for everything. Everything I am, everything I have — my life, my family, my home, the food on my table is Your gift.
That is what St. Luke teaches us in this age-old story.
May we find You in our own poverty and in the poor around us,
especially the spiritually poor young people of our country who are so locked within themselves.
May be ready, Lord. As open as I can be.
Come, Lord Jesus — Yeshua, Messiah — come into my heart
and in the lives of people I care about and pray for.
Come into our world this Christmas 2008.
+ + ++ + + +
Dear brothers and sisters,
Even though may be cynical about life and your heart closed to the story that God lived among us in Jesus that you might just try to believe. Try it. It just might work for you. If your life is in a shambles, if you find little hope, what do you have to lose?
I wish all of my friends and readers a wonderful coming of Light and Love into your heart.
Open yourself to the gift God wants to give you this Christmas.
As for me, I spent a delightful time with my Lord in the dark and silent hours this morning and a sense absolute peace with everyone in my life came over me. What a wonderful moment that was for me, a moment I will cherish and I pray also for the gift of peace in your own heart.
I wish you joy and peace even in the midst of the difficulties of your life.
priest / writer
Christmas Eve 2008
+ + + + + +
Luke’s story about the birth of Jesus (2:1 – 10).
Note: Look is giving us the meaning of Jesus’ birth, not so much recording historical fact.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Luke: 2: 1-10 NIV
Note: Shepherds were despised and rejected outcasts of Jewish society of the time,
Sometimes we get so caught up with buying the right present for our kids, Lord, that we fail to realize that our presence is more important than our presents.
Mary, your human mother, loved you so much that you became Love itself, Lord.
We can do the same thing. Help us to be present to our children each and every day. Help us to hear what they are not saying.
Help us to call forth the love inside them.
Help us realize that material things can never substitute for the love and care that comes from inside us.
And if we don’t have family, Lord, then let us be present to the others in our life.
May we call forth Your light within them. Let it light up their faces, show in their laughter, in their mischief.
Help us to realize that the most important thing we do each day is to be present to our children, to nourish their souls, not just provide for their bodies. May we get to know each child as the the unique person they are and to call forth their unique gifts.
Forgive us, Lord, for getting so wrapped up in our careers and the running around we dothat we forget that being present to our children and to our family is the essential thing.
We honor You, Lord, for your great love. In Your love, in Mary’s love, may we find love. To You be glory forever. Amen.
Brothers and sisters,
A couple of suggestions: (1) Gather your household each day and share with each other what we did that day. Get to know each other. If you and your spouse, if you and your children are like ships passing in the night, you are not doing the essential thing: Loving your family.
Love involves knowing. And knowing only happens when we trust each other enough to share what’s going on inside. Only in that kind of atmosphere do we grow. Only then do we become the persons we are intended to be. (2) Do not let the TV be the focus of your family room. Arrange your furniture so you can look at (and delight in) each others’ faces and noticeif there’s a twinkle or sadness there. (3) Choose games that cause you to interact with people not with tech toys.
If each of us takes time to be present to the people in our lives, we will have a meaningful Christmas. After all, it’s all about how Love Itself was born of a simple teenage girl who said YES to Love with every fiber of her being. May we also give birth to Love in our world today.
Take a moment in this busy season to reflect upon its inner meaning.
I yearn that we might recover our Catholic tradition quietly waiting and preparing
during the four-weeks of Advent for the coming of Christ into our lives.
For we who are Christians we await, Jesus, Yeshua, the Messiah , who is for us the Light of the World.
We prepare a place for him to shine in our own hearts this day.
We invite you to search out your own inner meaning whatever that might be.
On Sunday, the 21st, Hanukah begins. We honor our Jewish brothers and sisters with these words
that come down to us from the ancient texts of our liturgy just before Christmas, one of the magnificent O Antiphons:
O Adonai and Ruler of the House of Israel,
you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and on Mount Sinai gave him your law.
Come, and with outstretched arm redeem us.
O Adonai, we need you in our world more than ever.
You appeared in the burning bush long ago.
I caught you one morning searing Your way into these clouds over the ocean at St. Augustine Beach.
Come with Your refiner’s fire and burn Your way into our hearts.
so that we can prepare the way for the Messiah to come into our homes, our workplace, our neighborhoods
and help us transform our nation into our beloved country once again.
One is reminded of the old adage: “Red at night is a sailor’s delight. Red in the morning, sailor’s take warning. O America, heed the time of your visitation!
Here they are again, Lord. Light and shadow together.
In this case, it appears the shadows on the lawn outside my apartment
are actually making room for the light.
It seems the shadows are even escorting the light!
And the golden cast of the afternoon sun is awesome, Lord. I am always in awe of it.
Advent and Christmas and Hanukah and Kwanza and Winter Solstice celebrations are all about light.
Teach us to look for your Light wherever we find it, Lord.
Sometimes we find the Light where there is supposed to be darkness
and sometimes we find darkness where there is supposed to be light.
Teach us also to see that the shadow is always right next to the light in our lives.
Teach us to be patient with the shadow and even the darkness;
may we wait for the Light to come into our lives
and once again to our beautiful land.
May we never over look it; may we always be ready “to be wrapped in light as in a robe.”
Now fade all earthly splendor,
The shades of night descend
The dying of the daylight
Foretells creations end.
Though noon gives place to sunset,
Yet dark gives place to light:
The promise of tomorrow
With dawns new hope is bright. Cardinal Newman
Bob Traupman priest / writer
(originally created when I lived in St. Augustine on December 11, 2007)
“Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” Isaiah 40:3
Even the interstate can be a place for reflection. . .
John the Baptist was the great Advent figure who cried out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.
Where are we going, Lord?
Every day we are on a journey, Lord, that will not be complete until we meet You.
In our daily commutes, stuck in traffic, are we making progress in our spiritual journey, Lord?
Are we making a straight highway in the spiritual wilderness which is America today, Lord?
John’s message was one of repentance.
When he said, “make straight his paths,” he meant clear a way for the coming of God into our heart and soul.
If we don’t do that, our Christmas will be hollow, empty, Lord.
In all of our pre-Christmas bustle and hustle are we preparing a straight path for you to come
into our hearts, our homes, our workplace, our land, our world this Christmas?
What are we doing, Lord?
Where is our life’s journey taking us?
What is life really all about?
I-95 at 2 AM can help us ponder that question.
Thank you, Lord.
Bob Traupman / priest / writer
The gospel for Sunday, December 7, 2008 . . .
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
”Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
’Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Your light will come, dear people of God!
The Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty!
. . . from morning prayer for each day of Advent.
Are you looking for hope, a perspective that will get you through
whatever 2009 will bring?
Are you looking for a Rock to climb on when life swirls around
you like a raging flood that threatens everything you know?
Are you looking for guidance to help you know what to do next?
Then . . . Welcome to our Advent Reflections for 2008.
I hope these next few moments will be a sanctuary for you. Step out of the hustle and bustle of what is supposed to be a season of peace and joy and love, but for many of us is just the opposite. Relax for a moment. Take a deep breath. Take a moment to place yourself in the presence of your God (or your Higher Power) if you prefer.
For some of us, this series of reflections from now until Christmas will be a time to seek and find new meaning in our great Christian story, the mystery of God’s love affair with the human race, the mystery we celebrate at Christmas.
There are others of us who have not gone deep enough to find its relevance to our own lives. May I suggest that if the world’s celebration of the holidays does not satisfy, just look at it as you might any other great story or any other great movie. See if there is something there, some meaning, for you. As they say in A.A., “Take what you like and leave the rest.”
The Christian story is that God wanted his son to be Emmanuel – God with us. He became incarnate, literally encased in the fleshiness of human existence. The Christian story (and belief for many of us) is that Jesus is Son of God and Son of Mary. (If you are inclined to say that is preposterous, just regard it as a wonderful story; it still can work for you.)
The Advent season is the four weeks that lead up to Christmas, observed by Catholics and other liturgical churches. It is based on the two thousand year accumulation of rich and beautiful, comforting and challenging scriptures, and poetry, hymns and songs in our liturgical books. Playing Handel’s magnificent oratorio Messiah has always been a wonderful way for me to enter into Advent, the world’s longing for a Savior.
When I was a kid, the Christmas tree customarily was put up after we kids went to bed on Christmas eve. The liturgical texts build in suspense and intensity. In the liturgy, our celebration begins on Christmas Eve and goes through the Feast of Epiphany. In the Eastern churches, their Christmas is January 6th! But in our world today we are often so weary of Christmas that we want to be done with it after the Christmas Day football games.
It is disheartening to me that most people have little awareness of our spiritual way of preparing for Christmas because our consumerist culture has twisted and distorted it to be far from the real thing. This blog is meant to allow you a little peek at those riches. It is my hope and prayer that they may lift you up, encourage you, console you and help you think, believe in you and your God, and have hope that there is a beautiful future in store for you, even in the most dire circumstances.
Many Christians focus on Jesus’ coming in the future; here I invite you to focus on opening our hearts to receive him right now in our daily lives.
To pray earnestly “Come, Lord Jesus!” – the Advent prayer par excellence, ¬¬which is the very last verse of the bible. I just invite you to pray this little prayer when you’re waiting in line at the store or cooking dinner.
Luke, in his familiar Christmas story, tells us that Jesus was homeless at the time of his birth. His family was poor and the first ones to receive the Good News were poor shepherds who were the outcasts of society in that time. It makes us soberly realize that God has a preferential option for the poor. And one of the relevancies for all of us – Christian or not – as we reflect on this story is that it is from the poor of our own day, not the rich, from whom we will learn the lessons that will help us through these difficult times!
Some others of my readers are not so spiritually minded. I write also for those who may be skeptical or cynical about the Christian story or never really thought about it. I suggest that you just read these reflections as a story that can convey meaning to us like any other wonderful story in literature. Perhaps you might receive something that will touch your life.
Many of us celebrate the coming of Light into our world at this holi(holy)day season, so in that we already share something in common. I wish to recognize and be in solidarity with others who also celebrate the coming of light into our darkness:
Our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate Hanukkah (December 21 – 28). The festival of Hanukkah (Chanukah) was established to commemorate the Jewish Maccabees’ military victory over the Greek-Syrians and the rededication of the Second Temple, which had been desecrated by the Greek-Syrians, to the worship of God. Thus, Hanukkah is a celebration of Jewish national survival and religious freedom.
Our African American brothers and sisters celebrate Kwanzaa with a seven-branched candle holder from December 26 – January 1 with its seven themes: unity, self-determination, collective work, cooperative economics, inner purpose, creativity and faith.
And earthy religions celebrate the Winter Solstice, the beginning of the ascendancy of the sun in the northern hemisphere – this year at 12:04 PM on December 21. (Christianity subsumed pagan celebrations into its own. Christmas trees came to us from Germanic pagan customs.)
The Consummerist Grinch. In our day Christmas carols and mall decorations appear in late October and are used to get us to buy stuff. I feel ¬¬¬¬disheartened that our consumerist grinch tries to rob us of the holiness of this season. The consumerists tell us that it’s all about gift-giving to fill their cash registers by buying frivolous stuff for Aunt Suzie and Uncle Joe. Christmas is really all about being ready to receive the gift God wants to give us this year. And it takes a great deal of effort for even the most devout to have the peace and silence to prepare for and find Christ in the middle of the frenzy and the hype.
Christmas is all about love. Poor people understand this because, for many, that’s all they have to give one another. And in these difficult times perhaps we can learn that. What our children need is our love and simple gifts that are genuine heartfelt tokens of that love.
Personal renewal and conversion. The Advent texts are all about personal renewal and transformation. The prophets of old warned Israel time and again that they had wandered far from the path of their covenant with God. They had forgotten to acknowledge that God was The Source of all they had. They warned if they did not return to acknowledging God instead of the idols which they had created (in our day, our worship of the latest technology) that they would destroy themselves.
In this, I speak here not so much to the secularists — those who openly deny the existence of God — but to those of us who say we believe but put God at the periphery of our lives and place the almighty dollar (which is not so almighty anymore) in God’s place.
Here are seven themes we will reflect on, either in this blog or in some of the “best of Arise Advent issues in my twenty year archive:
+ + + The coming (advent) of Light into darkness. We can’t have one without the other. Light will emerge in the midst of our personal darkness and the darkness of our world. Look for it! Even if it is only a match.
+ + + The emergence of hope. Persevere in unrelenting hope in the midst of the difficult circumstances of your life. (In the midst of WWII Winston Churchill’s address to a graduating class was “ Never give up! Never ever give up!” And he sat down.)
+ + + Be patient! Learn the art of waiting with style and grace. Today we expect our computer to boot in ten seconds or we grow impatient. Use your time in line or in traffic to quiet your mind, go within yourself, and have a moment of contact with your God. Waiting time does not have to be wasted time. In Advent we wait for the coming of Christ anew in our lives and our world with hope. Life happens when we’re waiting. In the waiting will be the testing and purifying that will make you stronger.
+ + + Be prepared for whatever might come. Our financial gurus did not see this thing coming. They were blinded by their own self-interest. They were not prepared. Is your spiritual house in order? Are you ready to cope with the hardships that may face you in this economy? Will you or your kids be prepared to cope? Where will you find your strength?
+ + + Be consoled by the story of Israel and Jesus (or whatever epic story transforms your life). The Word of God renews me, challenges me, comforts me, encourages me every single day. The first thing we need to do in difficult times is to stay in contact with God. If we can be instantly connected to the Internet, which is manmade, realize we can stay connected to God all the time! (More later.)
+ + + Silent music. Turn off your TV, computer, ipod, stereo, cell phone and let yourself be in touch with the music of the universe: SILENCE! Silence is the language which God speaks. If we cannot quiet the clutter of our mind we will not hear God’s gentle Soft Voice. Will your Christmas be a “Silent night, holy night?
+ + + Enter willingly into the Refiner’s Fire. Gold and silver are refined in fire. Our nation – and each one of us – is now entering that refining fire, willingly or unwillingly. It can cleanse and purify us, making us newer than before, or it can destroy us. This is my loving prayer – this is my passionate focus in our present times. We will begin in the first entry of I’m Here with this message, the message of the great Advent figure John the Baptist who preached repentance to the nation Israel to prepare the way of the Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus!
Tomorrow: John the Baptist’s call to “Prepare the Way of the Lord”
in our hearts and in our world.
I have been writing and involved in print publishing all of my adult life. My Arise reflection / letter is now in its twentieth anniversary year. I have long tried to help folks find meaning in our holidays. To go deeper than tensil and getting drunk at parties (and what might come after that.) But Lo! last December 2007 a brand new creativity emerged from my soul and burst, though somewhat erratically, onto the Internet by way of email.
I have many creative gifts to share but I have been struggling with the technology of emailing and getting a web site together (I don’t even know how to change the message on my answering machine) all year long. I believe a Web Site can be a Sanctuary, an actual special place on the net where you can come and relax awhile find solace and peace and perhaps. My aim is to help you connect with your inner self and some authenticity. To find in yourself, in the midst of the meaninglessness and hopelessness that so many young people experience today. promise you, what I write comes from the depths of my soul. I mean what I write pray. What you see here is a start of a new vein of creativity coming from within me that I am delighted to share. Check out my place on the Web http://spirit7.com if you want to go deeper.
What I do here is to select some images from my photo collection; then transport myself into the scene; invite my Lord to join me there and then composed a prayer-poem to let them speak. (I am a Catholic priest with a a hunger to make sense out of my own experiences of God, the scriptures and my everyday life. And I have an insatiable thirst to share the gleanings of meaning I collect along my wandering life’s journey with whomever would care to partake of the simple repast I might offer from day to day.
It is my goal that you (and me because I always seek to be nourished and challenged by what I create) find some peace in the midst of pre-holiday insanity and some meaning and hope.
So I greet you with love. I am glad you found me. And invite you to follow along on this journey – wherever it might lead. I rejoice in the sometimes intimate relationship I have been able to develop with many of my readers since the very beginning of my print journal Arise (now in its twentieth anniversary year. Some recent ones of these are available on my web site.) Now I rejoice that I have a new audience and must also develop a new writer’s voice to communicate with people I may not have met. I hope that I can develop a way to help you realize the eternal truth that brings essential meaning to my life: Every human being was created individually and uniquely in the mind and heart of God at the beginning, and will exist forever. But many today who are influenced by machines (tech stuff) do not know this.
Ponder this: If what I have just said is true, then every single word we utter, every thought we think and every deed we do or leave undone can have meaning and purpose.
I respect everyone. We are all children of God. You are all sisters and brothers of mine. In fact, I respect (or try to) all life. For me, all life is sacred and is to be honored, respected, delighted and rejoiced in. I am wont to look little creatures like the ducks and squirrels around our condo in the eye and receive the sacred energy that flows through them to me. I especially respect and honor those who have difficult paths or unconventional paths to walk. I fall into that category myself, as you will come to see if you follow along and join me in this blog. And I am not afraid of my fellow religionists who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. My enemies are Jesus’ enemies – not Muslims or Jews or Blacks or Homosexuals – but hypocrites, the ones who plotted Jesus’ death and crucifixion because they hated his message of love and because he preferred the table of sinners to that of the self-righteous. (The difference between me and Jesus is that I prefer to befriend these folks; I would prefer not to be crucified But if that is my lot, so be it.
It is always my desire to strike a chord that might resonate in the hearts of my readers. Meaning makes all the difference in our lives. Victor Frankl said, “The one who has a why to live can deal with any how.” Just today I read from St. Ambrose speaking to his brother fourth century bishops, “Let no word escape your lips in vain or be uttered without depth of meaning.”
In this Advent series, I invite you to pause for a moment or two in your running around, quiet your mind, sit in silence and ask the Lord (or your Higher Power, if you prefer) to help you find the thread of meaning in your life. Ask yourself in this pre-holiday frenzy what does it all mean? What is it all about? This Advent section of my blog (actually all of it) is meant to help both you and me make the meaning of our lives. I grab hold of the idea that the thing that sets us apart is that humans are called to be meaning-makers. Rather than rush through life from experience to experience, we can construct or fashion our life into a story for good or for ill. And so, I ask you: what is your shopping/gift-giving/partying/family-gathering all about? Where’s the spiritual nourishment? Where’s the love? Where’s the peace? Where’s the meaning – the sense of it all?
With all creative processes, such as writing a novel, the creator (or shall I say co-creator as I want the creative, enlivening Spirit of God to be the sole source of my creativity) is beholden to the process; one never knows what is going to happen next. A true novelist is never sure how the story will end.
I want my reflections to be as fresh as possible. I get up very early in the morning to sing the psalms and reflect on the Scriptures the liturgy places before me for the day to find God’s nourishment for me – for us – anew each and every day, or at least as God provides the grace to do so. It is my desire once this blog is begun to let it grow and grow and grow and to reflect for you and with you my experiences — and someof the people I meet from day to day — wherever I am in the world. The title of the blog will be simply I’m Here” If you parse this word you come up with “Here I am” which Samuel and Isaiah said in response to God’s call. It’s Adsum in Latin which a candidate for orders says when he presents himself for ordination. I repeat those words and the commitment to my priesthood and service to my elder Brother Jesus more than several times a day. All it means for me is thaat I have “showed up” in whatever situation I find myself and will do the best I can to make that experience a good one for me and the people I am with.
You see, I never stop reflecting. I always stop to talk to the frogs and ducks and examine the flowers and watch the clouds float across the sky here in South Florida. I find – or at least – ponder – the meaning of everything. I believe this is a meaningful and purposeful world and there’s a reason for everything — if only we have the patience to live with our questions. I have had much suffering and aloneness in my life but I have come to realize it’s all good. In fact, it is my sense that this economic crisis swirling about us might wake us up before we go like lemmings over the precipice to disaster. Yes, it’s all good.
I have lived with some very significant questions throughout the 39 years of my priesthood that are still not resolved. I am more interested in the questions than the answers. My bipolar mind doesn’t grasp details but I remember somebody saying, “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.”
I am an explorer of my inner and outer landscape. Throughout years of being locked within the confines of a bipolar mind I have explored a great deal of my soul. I believe that the soul is as expansive as the universe itself — and if we’re attentive — going inward connects us with the deepest mysteries of the universe. (In the early 80’s I remember “groking” on a book by John Lilly http://www.johnclilly.com/ The Center of the Cyclone. Another very influential book inmy life is Morton Kelsey’s Other Side of Silence.
That’s on the existential level. But for me, life is Both / And. I am equally ravished by our great Christian story, the mystery of God’s love affair with the human race which we celebrate at Christmas. Our Christian story is that God wanted his son to be Emmanuel – God with us. He became incarnate, literally encased in fleshiness of human existence. The Christian story (and belief for many of us) is that Jesus is Son of God and Son of Mary. We will try to reflect on this mystery as Advent and Christmas unfold, one day at a time.
Since June 2007 when I had a frightening mystical experience of a nuclear free-for-all in the Middle East, I have devoted myself to intercessory prayer and meditation (mediation), beginning in the night (might) hours before first light that God would save us as a nation before we go the way of our great civilizations before us.
So, I will continue this theme in this blog for the time being. My sense is that each one of us Americans must go before God and cleanse ourselves of our own complicity in wrongdoing (sin) before we go accusing others. I implored us as America to do that before we went off attacking terrorists in 2001 because I know God will not give us the ultimate security if we do not face our own wrongdoing and seek righteousness first for ourselves.
And I so invite you, dear friends, to enter the “Refiner’s fire” (one of the Advent images) so that we can be purified and cleansed of our immersion in the seven deadly sins by an inner personal renewal:
+ complacency by diligence and watchfulness
+ arrogance by humility
+ envy by kindness
+ self-indulgence (gluttony) by self control and moderation
+ lust by purity of heart
+anger by patience
+ greed by generosity
This theme of being willing to enter into personal transformation for the sake of the transformation of our country will be the underlying message in my writing continuing into the New Year. Each of ushave to do our own part to renew our country. – at least the few * (Cf. Remnent below) of us who realize that we must do this before it’s too late) We cannot expect the president or any of our elected officials do it for us. John Kennedy said in his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
What we need to do, first and foremost, is to recognize our own complicity in sin, our own idolatry and unfaithfulness, get down on our knees and beg our Higher Power – or however you choose to image God, even if it is, as some say in AA “simply Good Orderly Direction” to help us do what we as a country are becoming powerless to do.
Only God can do what we are powerless to do without God!
But we have to be humble enough to ask.
* The Hebrew bible is filled with references to the remnant the ten percent of the people who remained faithful to living the covenant. (Cf. Isaiah 10:20) The word is taken from the textile industry; i.e. a remnant garment, a piece of a cloth. It is the remnant that will save the whole. An associated word is Anawim — the poor, the forgotten ones Jesus speaks about in the Sermon on the Mount. I guess I speak to the remnant of America.