Lenten Resolution: Don’t take myself too seriously!!! ;->

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.(Gal 6:3)[1]

“Paul uses the word sarx [flesh] to talk about the separate self, the partial self, the entrapped self, the false self. It’s the self that is trying to define itself apart from the Spirit, apart from the Big Self. It’s you apart from God, the tiny self that you think you are, who takes yourself far too seriously and who is always needy and wanting something else. It’s the self that is characterized by scarcity and fragility–and well it should be, because it’s illusory and passing. This small self doesn’t really exist in God’s eyes as anything substantial or real…To easily get beyond this confusion, just substitute the word ego every time you hear Paul use the word flesh….The problem is not that you have a body; the problem is that you think you are separate from others. And then that fragile separate self tries to make itself superior besides.” [2]

I guess one thing I “learned” [in quotes because I just realized it as a result of reading the Pope’s Easter message and haven’t really groked it yet, haven’t ruminated over it a few thousand times, haven’t absorbed it, taken it “to heart,” made it part of my modus operandi…but, with God’s help and Jesus guidance and the Spirit’s power, I may just bring it off], what I “learned” from Lent is not to take myself too seriously…. ;-<…something I tend to do all too frequently!!!

Why? Well, a number of reasons…but the big one, the most important one, is….it’s not about me [horrors!!]…it’s about Him [Shucks!!!] That’s a tough one to swallow |:~O [Gulp!] You mean I am not the center of the universe? That the world does not revolve around me? You mean I shouldn’t trust in myself more than I trust in God? You mean I can’t control everything around me and make it do my bidding? Nope! [And, thank God, literally, for that bit of reality…do you realize how really screwed up things would be if I were in charge…the world would be in really, really, really bad shape…at least this way, You’re running the show!]

Another is that no one else takes me seriously….at least not as seriously as I take myself. So it is kind of a futile solipsism for me to take myself more seriously than others do. It throws my whole “calculations” of importance and “why he didn’t get back to me…immediately!” and “where is that package…don’t they know I’m waiting for it?” out the psychological window. Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am,” is really “I think I think but I am not who I think I am and that others know that I am not,” if I take myself too seriously. Taking myself seriously is a joke…the cold reality of me is quite a laughable sight.

Finally, and seriously, most important, God doesn’t take me too seriously. That may seem blasphemy when we are told time and time again how He loves even every little hair on my head. But when we truly love somebody, we cut them a lot of slack, we laugh off their foibles, in fact, in a way, we find those shortcomings endearing…we say: “that’s just him, that’s just her…don’t worry about it.” This slack-cutting seems to be the modus operandi of my best friend, our best friend, God.

This is not to say that my sin is something that He just sweeps under the rug; no:

  • You are not a god who delights in evil.[Ps. 5:5];
  • Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows,[Gal 6:7];
  • if one does not repent, God sharpens his sword,[Ps 7:13];
  • all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left…‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. [Mt 25:32-33;45-46]

But let’s look at the evidence of God’s mercy and friendship, starting with His own description of Himself as He passes by Moses:

  • The LORD, the LORD, a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity, continuing his love for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin;[3] [Ex 34:6-7; cf. Num 14:18; Ps 145:8]
  • Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger, abounding in mercy. He will not always accuse, and nurses no lasting anger; He has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our wrongs deserve. For as the heavens tower over the earth, so his mercy towers over those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us. [Ps 103:8-12]
  • It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more. (Is 43:25)
  • He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in steadfast love. (Micah 7:18)
  • For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. (Jer 31:34)

And note that these quotations are all from the Old Testament, where we thought God was all fire, brimstone and wrath. God wants us to know that He knows our sins and yet forgives them.

Jesus and Abba and HS [the Holy Spirit] all operate on the same type of friendship, of love. They are in love; They are love. And Love is patient, love is kindis not pompous, it is not inflated,… it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Indeed, we are given the example of Jesus: When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. (1Pet 2:23) And we are told to do the same: Judge not, that you be not judged. (Mt 7:1)…to practice love which is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,… does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. [1Cor 13:5-6] Peter asks: “Lord, how often am I to forgive my brother when he sins against me? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22) Forgiveness includes not brooding, not reviling, not threatening, not judging. Indeed, this love we should practice imitates God: it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [1Cor 13:7]

Paul also urges us, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:2-3) and James tells us: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19)

One form of not taking myself too seriously is the ascetic Christian life, particularly in the Eastern Church, called foolishness for the sake of Christ. It is based on the theme of foolishness in First Corinthians.

  • If any one among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, 1Cor 3:18-19:
  • We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute, 1Cor 4:10;
  • The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1Cor 1:18:
  • For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. 1Cor 1:21
  • We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 1Cor 1:23
  • For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1Cor 1:25

More than ever the Lord needs a few fools to risk ridicule and hatred to proclaim his gospel to a hostile world that often thinks it is a foolish doctrine that is hopelessly out of touch with today’s reality. For fools like me and you, we can turn that belief on its head and know that, in truth, today’s reality is out of touch with God, but, due to His unconditional Love, definitely not hopelessly…after all, we’re hear and here…chortle. Amen.

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.”

[2] R. Rohr, OFM, Paul’s Dialectical Teaching: Flesh and Spirit; Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, Friday, April 10, 2015, Center for Action and Contemplation

[3] We sometimes confuse forgiveness with guiltlessness. God doesn’t; this verse continues: yet not declaring the guilty guiltless, but bringing punishment for their parents’ wickedness on children and children’s children to the third and fourth generation![Ex 34:7; see also Ex 20:5-6; Deut 5:9-10; Jer 32:18; this version of God’s wrath on children is obliquely referenced in Jn 9:1-3 where His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. The NABRE note on Jn 5:14 makes the point: “While the cure of the paralytic in Mk 2:1–12 is associated with the forgiveness of sins, Jesus never drew a one-to-one connection between sin and suffering (cf. Jn 9:3; Lk 12:1–5).”

This condemnation of the children is reversed in other verses; as the NABRE note on Ex 20:5 states: “Other Old Testament texts repudiate the idea of punishment devolving on later generations: Parents shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their parents; only for one’s own crime shall a person be put to death.[Deut 24:16; quoted in 2Kgs 14:6, 2 Chron 25:4; and is the basis for Jer 31:29-30 and especially Ez 18:2-4;19-20]. “Yet it is known that later generations may suffer the punishing effects of sins of earlier generations, but not the guilt.”

While God forgives our sins, our guilt remains as does the effects of sins. This must be rectified, the scale of justice balanced, either here or in eternity, the basis for the purging of Purgatory.

Yes and the Naked Now

What is the secret to knowing God’s will?  It ultimately is extremely simple.  Whether it is extremely hard or not to live depends on me.

We start with the Naked Now.  God’s will for me is not in the past nor in the future.  The past is finished and in His Hands.  Nor has He revealed the future; it does not effect us right here and right now.  Thus, we are left with the revelation of His will, moment by precious moment.  We are asked to accept as from a Master, welcome as from a Lover, trust as from a Father, this moment, this Now as His will for me.  What is past is past.  What will be is not mine to see.  What Jesus is asking me is to follow Him right here, right now, unconditionally.

Unconditionally is part of Now’s nakedness.  No strings attached.  Nor is Now laden with any intention, any purpose, any reason other than Love; no innuendos, no hidden agendas, no trappings of any kind: that is its Nakedness.

It is not evil, it is the goodness of Creation God declared from the beginning, presenting itself to me.  I may not perceive it as good; cancer, illness, being fired, violence, even death, examined in the light of the naked now, are simply challenges for which God has given me grace to “choose life,” choose to Trust Him, choose to get out of the boat and walk through the storm to Him.

To do His will, in this moment, in this instance, in this choice…and the choice is mine, it is mine to receive or reject, to embrace or revile, to trust as God’s will or to attempt to control and change.

I may not understand the choice, I may not grok its implications for the future; God asks me to Trust Him.  On the other hand, I may completely understand the implications, I may, like the witnesses to our faith, be asked to make a choice for or against God, even if that means derision, scorn, suffering or ultimately death.  While we look at the second type of choice as a “defining moment” in life, in a sense, each moment leading up to that moment is a “defining moment.”  The second may be the moment of crystallization, but the other moments are the formulation of the solution, the imminent concentration, until at the fullness of time, a precipitating moment arrives, the choice is made and the rest is history.

Unfortunately, the solution can be contaminated or even completely corrupt and the precipitating moment either never takes place or it may crystallize for evil, not good.  It is in such a defining moment that the Holy Spirit is sinned against; one completely shuts Him out and he can no longer dilute the mixture with the grace of repentance.  God cannot forgive that for which one does not repent.  Though He still loves us “savagely,” with over-the-top type Love,  He regards our freedom of will too highly to impose what is not desired,…and for this reason He is in the anguish of the Garden when a sinner refuses redemption and heaven is in ecstasy for every sinner that repents.

What is the “Yes,” it is the echo of Mary’s Behold the handmaid of the Lord.   Be it done to me according to Your will,[Lk 1:38] and her Do whatever He tells you.[Jn 2:5] It is Dag Hammarskjöld’s For all that has been — Thanks. For all that shall be — Yes.[Musings]

How else can we make sense of Paul’s constant refrain: Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you [1 Thess. 5: 16-18].[1] Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. [Phil. 4:4] Each moment I can rejoice for You are with me and we are getting closer to Your coming and I know that whatever moment I am in, You are there loving and caring for me.  For this I can rejoice always!

Paul explains the Naked Now in Philippians, Chapter 4:

  • 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  Peeking through the moment of the Naked Now and saying “Yes” is not only reasonable, but blessed.
  • The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  You are indeed at hand, each and every naked now; all I need to do is ask and not be anxious; You are there caring for me.
  • 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. This is the peace of God that passes all understanding, knowing and trusting that You are with me every moment of every day, and this peace will guard my heart and mind from fear, from illusion, from anxiety, from distress because I am in You, Jesus, my Christ.
  • 11 I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content….13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me and thus it is, by saying Yes in the Naked Now, that I am content and can do all things through You who strengthen me.

An Error in Time

Temptations are generated outside of the Naked Now and are judged and acted upon in the Naked Now.   The Devil uses both the past and future as sources for temptations.  The future is a gold-mine, literally, for avarice, lust, envy, pride, power while the past has both pride, lust, etc as well as the after-effects of sin: anger, denial, distrust, despondency, and despair. Thus, we prepare for sin by contemplating in the Naked Now not what is but what might be or what was.  If we can look at what is straight on, we see it in a different light, not the fire-light of passion, the spot-light of pride or despair, the golden-glow of avarice, the fire-works of power, but in the Son-light of reality.  We are still free to choose against what we see as Truth and Goodness, but we are not forced to do so.

The paradigmatic example of this is the temptation of Eve in the garden.  The serpent held out to Eve the future of being like God; thus the apple was not seen as a forbidden thing, but as an obstacle; the act not an evil act, but as a means to a “good” end. The moment before she ate the apple, she considered the devil’s temptations placed up against the loving directive of the Father who walked with them in the Garden, the nakedness of the comparison and the deliberateness of the choice was what gave this the title of Original Sin, original because it was the first, and also because all others thereafter were copies of it.

Fortunately, God takes into consideration our frailty and fallen natures.  He reads our souls and knows that we are subject to multiple mitigating conditions and circumstances.  Only He can judge our ability to make a weighed and rational decision, a grace-prompted choice.  For this, we thank Him and beg his continual mercy on us, sinners.

[1] See also 2 Cor. 13:11, Phil 2:18, 3:1; echoing the Psalms, Wisdom Literature and Prophets

The Parabola of Faith: the Hand of God

As banishment from Eden preceded the incarnation, as the annunciation preceded the birth, as three days preceded the Finding, as the passion and death preceded the Resurrection, sorrow precedes joy. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. Jn 16:22

Sorrow is manifestation of the hand of God, “my father’s business.” Lk 2:49  Joy in the midst of sorrow is the realization of the hand of God.  Faith grasps the hand of God in the darkness of sorrow and gives birth to joy.

Faith is the belief in the goodness of God regardless of the circumstances; faith is solidified and strengthened by the challenges of bad or even evil things being faced and, with God’s help as savior, overcome.  Amen. Alleluia!!!

Believe in Love

“For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” Jn 3:20

Why do those who do wicked things hate light and truth and life and love? Why do they refuse to come to the light? They know that if they come to Jesus, he knows the heart of every man, woman and child, and will know their works and expose their works as evil. They retain the proclivity of our first parents who chose knowledge over life itself. They do not realize that the purpose of this “exposure” is not the exposure itself, but to elicit remorse, regret, sorrow and to encourage faith and the seeking of forgiveness and mercy…

But they do not believe in the goodness of God. If they are judgmental and without mercy, they build their god like themselves, a judge without mercy, a judge who does not love them, a judge who does not care about them, a judge who gives only what is due and nothing more. That is not Jesus who loves each and every one of them, who cares so much that He not only was willing to die for them, but actually did die for them, who gives not what they deserve but mercy and so much more.

This was the sadness which overwhelmed Jesus in the garden, that they wouldn’t accept love, caring, mercy, forgiveness and these, his lost sheep, his own loved ones who might never join Him in heaven.

May we not only believe in the Love that is Jesus but help others to come to believe in their Savior, their loved One, their merciful Brother, their Jesus.  Amen. Alleluia!!!

“a mighty rushing wind”

Moore, OK. 51 confirmed dead from the monster tornado. 20 children. 2 forms of “a mighty rushing wind.” The first: a blessing, one of the greatest blessings every bestowed on the Church. The second: a killer tornado spreading devastation and destruction more than one mile wide across this town. I pray for the victims, alive and dead, of that tornado. How does one align these two occurrences.

First, we have to discard the mindset of man and take on the mindset of God. Then we have to remember that, with God, everything happens in the present, not only living and dying, but judging, mercy and salvation. Then, we have to cling tightly to the fact that God loves us with an overwhelming, unconditional, eternal and divine love. And to the second fact that the only thing He wants for us is to achieve our greatest happiness…and that happiness is not in this life, is not in things, is not in houses, is not in living a long life on earth…indeed, we call this the “vale of tears.” It is being happy, eternally and completely happy with Him, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with Mary and all the saints, with the Angels…all together in Heaven. However, normally we would not, of our own accord, except in desperation and dispair, seek to leave this life. And He did tell us that he would return when we least expected it and hopefully find us, his stewards, on duty.
It is within this context that deaths, be they from natural tragedies or man-inflicted, are seen by God, the Church Triumphant and Suffering, and the Angels. We in the Church Militant are the ones out of the loop. We tend to see simply absence and loss from our perspective instead of presence and gain from the perspective of the loved one. If we took on their vision, we would be very happy, indeed ecstatic for their blessing. They have not evaporated; they have not left us. They have been taken into new life, new joy, new happiness, eternal life, eternal joy, eternal happiness.
In a sense, death is the ultimate aid to active indifference. This may seem crass and completely insensitive but it is true. We do suffer loss, great loss, great pain as God gently but firmly pries our clinging grasp away, giving the freedom of His sons and daughters to the son or daughter now able, through the merits of the crucifixion of His Son, join Him in Heaven. This is an inescapable, inevitable, wondrous door through which we must all pass if we are to gain eternal life.

But we see only the crushed bodies, the mangled arms, the unrecognizable heads, not the freed spirits, who, while they await the resurrection of those bodies, are now with their Creator, their Redeemer, their Sanctifier. We weep, as the poet said, for ourselves, our loss, our separation, our wound of release. And that is, in God’s providence, also healing. Amen. Alleluia!!!