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At the Annunciation “Mary teaches us to listen to the voice of God who speaks in silence…in order thereby to taste true joy.” Pope Benedict XVI
Between commuting and delivering I’ve been working almost 13 hours a day! So naturally there is not much time for the blog. The more time passes the more it seems as though the blog is a passing chapter of my life. But there is always the problem of writing and learning, and the need to draw near to God in this way. For the mean time it seems God has called me to draw near to him in other ways.
Without being too specific hay fields are a big part of my life now as I drive in a somewhat rural area. The beauty is astounding. The big sky spreads out across the checkered plains; here there is impossibly bright green, and then the black of the plow, and then the brown of dead winter foliage. The trees alternate between hiding the fields, breaking the wind, and then breaking themselves revealing the grandeur of everything. I can’t express the way it felt when I saw the hay harvest, to witness the harvesting tractors, and then most of all, the harvested hay sitting on the fields. There is something so viscerally satisfying about this arrangement, the hay sitting there still, the bales remaining in the fields as they had just been cut.
I’ve passed by many a country cemetery, and I’ve stopped to pray for the faithful dead there asking God’s mercy that they might enter his kingdom. Cemeteries are peaceful and holy places, and they speak to us of final things, things that enter our lives in various ways. And in my line of work I am wont to meet with those who mourn for the dead. Once I stopped by a house for a pick up. The son said “Mom is still having a hard time, and we wanted to get things back to normal as soon as possible” and “he was my step dad for twenty five years.” “I’m sorry for your loss.” “Thank you.” But I couldn’t help but notice the sound of joy from within the house. Many were gathered, and very likely for the funeral. Then I remembered that calm and quite peace that enters your soul after a funeral when you are eating and drinking and speaking with those you love. There is even a kind of happiness, a sense that something very good has happened, even a kind of relief. To know this world is not our home, to know we are made for much more, and to meet with this reality viscerally. This is a blessing.
And perhaps that is why God has made those fields to intermingle with the many country cemeteries where the dead lie in all stillness after just having been the subjects of a different sort of harvest.
Come Lord with your victory, come with your peace! “as skies / Between pie mountains–lights a lovely mile.”
This was a comment I placed on a blog called Paying Attention To The Sky some years ago. I was reading through some old files and I came upon the below poem, which is written along the same lines as the following reflection. I love Creation! It is totally beyond words what God has done for us in giving us this beautiful universe.
Standing still in fathering darkness
Stars show silent endless space
Moon’s crescent holds heaven’s own
And in our hearts falls love’s whisper
Whose light we see in self surrender
While dark mystery marks man’s weakness
Wonder shows his love
The stars are like angels that give witness to the vast expanse. The expanse, infinite, mysterious, not understood by our natural mind (known of but not about), is like the Father. The sun is like the Son, it shines on us and gives life constantly creating. The sun more than any other star of course bears witness to the darkness (darkness being a descriptor for that which is not known, not evil), revealing Being, so much so and so decisively that it is like the Son, and what is the Son but the revelation of the Father, the perfect expression of the Father. And light himself is like the Holy Spirit, the perfect expression of the Love between the Father and the Son, between the darkness and the sun, the darkness and the stars, the darkness and every just man. The darkness in this way is not an absence of good (as is evil) but rather a presence of unknown, mysterious, Being (dark to us), that being which is revealed by those who bear witness to it in Christ, and who allow the light to transform them into Being from being, Light from light, true God from God-man.
Gaze upon the starry night that you might wonder at the vast expanse, the beyond, that natural reflection of the infinite God, which calls us to live with the Son, in the light that communicates the Divine to each willing heart. Let us not be cast down but gaze heavenward as our minds question the beyond, and hope to gaze upon the face of God.
This reflection in nature is not metaphorical, but actual, a natural representation of the Divine nature (of course distinct from God!) meant by God to inspire in us the question which is only fulfilled in Him, beyond our natural powers. The importance of the sky is greater than perhaps we ever imagined.
I hope for that day when the angels will usher us in, revealing blazing Being in all its expressions, (each bearing witness to the Divine in its own way, essence), into the inner sanctuary of Light and Love, as we gaze upon the one whom our hearts love, and become immersed in that presence for which we had longed, gazing into the dark and distant skies of starry nights.
“For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.”
I was resting in the doctor’s office room at the urgent care I went to for a physical. The waxy protective paper covered the pillow as well as the bed I was laying on. Rest doesn’t exactly come easy in that environment, but I had to get my blood pressure down a little bit to fulfill the parameters set down for passing the physical. I wasn’t terribly optimistic it would work! I asked Jesus that if it pleased his will he might calm my soul and slow my heart. The more I thought about “just relaxing” the more I felt nervous about not being able to. But then our Lord answered my prayers. As I lay there listening to the beating of my heart a thought entered my mind. In the past I have heard Jesus speak to me in my inner being (not very often!), but it wasn’t exactly like that. I felt like it was more like an inspired thought that Jesus gave me. It went thusly:
Every beat of your heart echoes in the eternity of my love.
Meditating on that calmed me down quite a bit, and then I began to think about the idea. I realized that by virtue of the human heart of God, every beat of every human heart echoes in the eternity of his love. Even those heartbeats spent on and multiplied by rage, lust, envy, vindictiveness, judgment and every kind of sin have been redeemed by Jesus Christ the Son of God. That is the wonderful, beautiful, hopeful, and living part of the story, the part that ought to burn a desire in us to love God with every bit of strength we have left. The other part is so very sad, and it has to do with all of the times we have spent those heartbeats on rejecting his love, and even those who will never again have a chance to turn back to his love on account of having damned themselves to eternal fire. They made their choice, but we can still choose to accept God’s grace by opening our hearts, hearts that sin, but that have been redeemed nonetheless by the sacrificial power of his love, a love into which echoes every beat of every heart living in this whole wild world.
Oh yeah! I passed the test as the next time the nurse came in my blood pressure had dropped dramatically.
We are much too accustomed to thinking in the way our sound bite culture teaches us. On the other hand, thinking like Christ is a radically difficult and subtle task. Christ is truth himself and what we must be focused on above all else is an encounter with his person, the second person of the Holy Trinity. We very often settle on simple understandings and us vs. them structures of knowledge and experience. An experience of Christ, from the little that I know about him, does not give us old tired knowledge and old tired battles to hang our hats on. Christ does not fight in the trenches the world attempts to dictate to him and to his followers. He is God and he is all powerful and when his followers are true to him they take on a similar power.
When the word came out that Pope Francis had said we cannot become obsessed with certain moral issues my heart knew that he was speaking from a depth of wisdom that the world would not understand. And as Catholics we have too long been allowing the world to dictate the terms of the battle, we have foolishly met the world on its terms, becoming obsessed with certain moral issues without speaking about them in a way that integrates them into an understanding of and an experience of ENCOUNTER WITH CHRIST.
We cannot listen to media reports of the Pope’s words, but must rather listen to his words from the heart and mind of the Church. Here are some of his words from the interview:
“The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”
The key word here is disjointed, and not obsessed. We all heard the media barrage that the Pope had said we cannot be “obsessed” with abortion, but the more important word was the qualifier in the passage. A disjointed multitude of doctrines are teachings that have become cut off from the heart of Christ and thus from the heart of the Church’s wisdom. Instead of speaking about abortion and homosexuality from the heart of a loving Church we have too often fell into speaking about these issues in a non-integrated way.
In order to do justice to these issues we must speak about them from a Church focused completely on encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. This means we must also be focused on an encounter with every individual for we cannot be true to a relationship with Christ without reaching out to every human being that he died to redeem.
The truth is that we so often fall short of this imperative! We fall into a worldly way of talking about these issues, we fall into reactionary modes of response with the world rather than witnessing the truths of Christian doctrine in a living, dynamic, hopeful, and challenging way. Satan wants us to reduce these issues, he wants us to fight about them like the world fights. Why? Because it is in this way that Satan can rob Christians of their power. By reducing the Christian message to a fragmentary moralizing rant he is able to get Christians to neglect encounter with Christ. And if we neglect encounter with Christ every doctrine no matter how true becomes just another stone to be thrown in the trenches of cultural warfare. If we listen to the Holy Father’s words of wisdom we will see that he is calling us to integrate these very issues into an appeal to the world. This appeal includes encounter with Christ as the centerpiece and all encompassing organizing principle of Christian evangelism.
And this is nothing new indeed! But Pope Francis is not afraid to speak to us in a way that unsettles us, in a way that actually forces us to take a good hard look at our many failures so as to open them as wounds to the blood and water that flows forth in all power from within the heart of Mother Church to heal us.
Praise God for Francis! Lets remember to listen and to learn and not to worry so much about media noise. Instead lets pay attention to what our teacher has to say, and what he is trying to teach us. In doing this we will be listening to Christ himself through his Vicar on earth.
If you don’t know something is sinful when you do it then it is not a sin.
Women who consent to an abortion without knowing what they are doing is wrong do not sin.
But healing is still needed. Just like we need to heal when someone hurts us we need to heal when we hurt someone else without knowing what we are doing.
God is merciful and loving, and he will use every circumstance, no matter how painful, no matter how much we might be hurt by it, as a means to heal our deepest heart where his wounds meet with, merge with, and intermingle with ours, and where the blood and water of his healing grace floods forth from within to heal us.
For healing after an abortion visit http://www.rachelsvineyard.org/ Choose life! Even if abortion has already wounded you!
If you happen to stop by here from time to time I would very much appreciate your objections. I thrive on objections, and if you have it in you to type them out I would be much obliged. I never tied a notion of success (not that I am really intent on success here) on this blog to comments because my best traffic days often yield no comments or very few. But I would love to have more objections.
I need to correct some errors I made in the Theological Humilities discussion. I confused the order of grace and the order of nature. Once I find some time I will do that and then resume the discussion that has been fruitful for me.
We were going out on a few family outings so I packed my special low carb bread, the kind I need to eat because a lot of carbs are just not good for me. Later on we found ourselves at a kid’s birthday party with free pizza! That pizza called my name, beckoning me to abandon my better judgment! Even though I knew I wouldn’t feel good afterwards I still figured I would have to eat it because there really wasn’t anything else. But then I realized there was a burger place right across the street. I grabbed my trusty bread, went over there and replaced the bun for a healthy meal. As I was making my sandwich it seemed God said to me “see how I provide your every need.” It wasn’t only healthy but delicious and generously portioned.
God’s hand is constantly guiding us and providing for us. Dear Lord, give us eyes to see your many plans for our welfare, your constant attention to our every need, and as we see your hand in our lives help us to abandon our souls to your loving and merciful will.
Give us these moments Lord, even in very small things, these moments of assurance, and thus inspire in us a joy of thanksgiving that begins to express the profundity of your gifts.
“Jesus is the sun and Mary is the dawn announcing his rising.”
The above is a beautiful recent tweet from Pope Francis.
This tweet’s relevance to the subject of my blog struck me immediately as it concerns the act of announcing Christ to the world. We often think of the Annunciation in terms of the angel announcing the good news to Mary, but Gabriel is not the principal announcer in this scene. Mary is the one who announces, more than anyone else (other than God himself of course), the good news that Jesus has been conceived, born, grown into a man, nailed to a cross, and finally, risen from the tomb. Gabriel simply by the grace of God arranges things in such a way as to make Mary’s announcement possible. Her words of acceptance call God down from heaven, her humility gives the WORD a home in her womb, in her heart and in each of ours. The words of our Beloved Mother give voice to the Word God wishes to speak to us more than any others. That Word is a person even as you and I are persons; his name is Jesus Christ and he is from a little town called Nazareth, his father is named Joseph and his mother is named Mary.
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.