The spirit was meant to soar! Why else is it that the most fitting symbol of the Spirit is a dove or gull. There are moments like flashes that inspire me with thoughts and ideas which, I am convinced, are the whispering, uplifting winds of Your Spirit. In these times I see more clearly the workings of Your Spirit. In these times my inner struggles with institutionalized religion are calmed because, Jesus, what I see is this: that the human constructs of Catholicity and Christianity are the pablum of spiritual growth. Not until our spirits transcend and soar beyond the walls of their perimeters do we become free (as our spirits were meant to be) to see more clearly Your relationship to us and ours to You.
In Your time on this planet You experienced the most difficulty with those people who were really convinced that they were good. The righteous political and spiritual leaders were the ones who, in the pride of their righteousness, presented the biggest obstacle to Your ministry, and finally, killed You. You died to redeem them too. You had a much easier time with the fishermen, prostitutes, tax collectors, the poor, and the sick. They knew they were sinners, weak and looked down upon by the righteous and "good". Yet the humility engendered by such weakness was the fertile ground upon which fell the seed of Your love; and there it took root.
There is a powerful lesson here. In the Sermon on the Mount it was the poor, the suffering, and the meek whom You called "blessed", not the wealthy, comfortable and proud. At another time You specifically stated that it was for the sick, not the well, that You came.
A saint I recently read said that it is not for who I was, am, or will be that You love me, but for what I would be. That "would be" makes the difference between hope and despair; for, I am a sinner, but I am not poor, sick, or meek. Risking again some of that spiritual cholesterol called consolation, my hope is that You love what I would be.
If I were a Jew of Judea or Galilee in 30 a.d., You would not have picked me to be an apostle, but I like to think that I would have been one who chose cautiously to follow You - possibly out of curiosity and possibly at a distance: a combination of Zacharias, the centurion, and the young man who found it too difficult to give up everything and follow You. There is a large chunk of worldly happiness and comfort that the poor, the sick, and the meek have given up. There is a place for You in that residual void that the others don’t have. One who knows and acknowledges, even if only to himself, that he is a sinner, is poor, suffers, and is full of pride even though these are not what he would be, opens the door to You. It is because of this "would be" that You love and pursue me, and it is because of this that I have hope. You have a place to fit into my "would be".
Basically, when we fill up our lives with "things": material possessions, intellectual passions, comforts, and dogmatic institutionalism, we have no time or desire for what, if all these were removed, we would be. Not so for those who are closer to this truth because, by circumstance or desire, they lack these encumbrances. The mark of the former may just be that the world calls them "good" like the political and spiritual leaders of Your own time, or the man who prayed in thanksgiving to You that he was not like the rest of men. These "good" inherently deflect You.
I am reading Thielhard de Chardin. It’s very slow going. He must be studied and pondered, not just read. He opens strange doorways with his notion of the "cosmic Christ" and our "organic union" with that body. It may all be too much for me to assimilate. I have more difficulty than some commentators do in rationalizing the pantheistic nature of it all, and I do not quite understand where resurrection and salvation fit in if I am but a cell in the body of Christ - the universe. Of course, I have a great deal more to read and perhaps more insights will be provided.
I’m enthralled with the many ways people devise to think about You, and I’m a bit puckish about the veracity of many of them. Our natures are so flawed, why do we want to confuse ourselves, without surety, with so many theories about the nature of God. But we do! And we know we’ll never know. It’s almost silly. But what does it show? There is a basic hunger for God in our flawed selves and it gnaws at us with the persistence of the hound of heaven. To want to know, and to try to know is not silly!
I have written to You before about my impatience with my own humanity which, it seems, can never be totally filtered out - ever! This residue, a part of our fallen nature, is the cloud of unknowing which hovers over us. We may love You, and we may deepen that love and grow in it, but we may not think of God. We may will God’s presence, but we may not know God. In this sense You become like the object of idyllic love - my imagination and passion paint You without really knowing You. You give Yourself wholly and unconditionally to me, and I cannot grasp You. Yet, I love You so much because You have left me the will to do so.
Much of what I am reading right now: The Cloud of Unknowing, and Pseudo Dionysius talk extensively of our other-than-metaphorical ability to grasp any knowledge of the essence of God. But this very stumbling block underlines the great love and concern You have for us in sending us Your Incarnation to show us all that is necessary for us to know.
I think the reason we knock ourselves out trying to know and understand more about the nature of God is precisely because of the foretaste given to us by You, Jesus. Patience in this does not come easily, yet patience is what is needed. My intellect is impatient with not knowing and often this intellectual impatience races headlong trampling over the simplicity of the will for which it is enough to just love.
Faith, hope and love are all acts of the will. That is why what I will is so much more precious to You than what I know. What argument, then, can be made for the intellect? It was a seeking for a knowledge man didn’t possess which brought him down in the Garden of Eden. It may, with some degree of accuracy, be said that the intellect steers the will. Here is where patience, or rather, a lack of impatience is so important. We must allow what comes to us through reading, writing and the senses to sink in slowly and be considered with great care and lack of haste. We must wait openly for those intellectual insights that might be considered shafts of revelatory light. They must just be allowed to happen - nothing more - and they will illumine the will of themselves.
We’ll never give up trying to fathom You. I guess that’s the way it should be. It’s like constructing taller and taller buildings to get closer to the moon, or developing successively more powerful telescopes to get a clearer view of the stars. We get closer but are still so far away. Yet we never quit trying to find a new angle from which we might get closer to You. Fr. Anthony DeMello says it’s like trying to figure out how many bananas there are in yellow. The steady radiance of wonder fuels our own most comprehensive attempts to fathom Your nature, even though we know the best of us will never quite get it. The paradox added to this is that if You were here right now You would probably not pick those whom we might consider the best of us to be the ones who "get it."
I think we are in the proximity of truth when we consider how a very young child understands You as opposed to the highly degreed professional theologians who keep building taller and taller buildings and more powerful "telescopes". Possibly it is only the mystics and simplest contemplatives who understand that all the "clutter" we pick up along the way must be torn up and trashed to get at the simplicity of the mind of a little child. The archeology and anthropology of the Judeo-Christian tradition, or of the Holy lands, or the search for the "historical Jesus" through the scriptures, apocrypha and the application of the scientific method may not be all that important. Maybe we just need to be as empty as we can so that You can fill us as You will. Maybe the only knowledge we need is the knowledge that You fill what is empty.
It must be pleasing to You when we keep seeking You. Yet, the trusting, nonchalant way of a child, for all its simplicity, must please You the most. In it there is no guile, no science, no mystery to be solved, no buildings, no telescopes.
Thank-You for that steady child-like radiance of wonder. It is the fuel that powers our quest.
Nothing I do can make You love me more than You do! Everything I do (or don’t do) can make me love You more (or less) than I do. I cannot love as You love. I am flawed. But if I was able to love as You do, nothing anyone could do to me or for me would make me love them any more or less than I do.
This kind of love is hard for the human mind to grasp. What the human mind does grasp is that love received is almost always the measure of love given. Therefore, with others I do things to gain their love, but I cannot gain Your love. It’s already there. I can only give You mine. And that’s all You seek. I must work diligently on learning to love others and You without any others conditions. It’s all that simple!
Flaws, faults, hypocrisy and selfishness - I’m filled with this garbage to a disgusting degree. Knowing this, there is no answer but to throw myself upon Your love and mercy. I get very depressed at my lack of spiritual growth. Sometimes it’s as if I’m going backwards. I’m able, pretty well, to control my speech and my actions, but my thoughts tell me the truth about myself.
I recently had to spend a large part of a day doing an unexpected plumbing chore and so, I became a real creep, grump, grouch, etc. to my family, as if it was their fault. Any distractions, interruptions, or annoyances while I was working just set me off more - forget the fact that other people had things of their own to do - this task and me became the all-encompassing center of focus and effort. Or, another time, I stopped in to a church to make a visit and the choir was rehearsing with organ and piano. I couldn’t concentrate on the praying I wanted to do because of their constant stopping and starting various parts of a hymn until they got it right. Later it struck me. Maybe I should have just listened to their music, to the words, and not allowed myself to get so agitated.
There is real growth to be had in remaining not only silent in such times, but in listening to and seeing what is going on outside of one’s own little world.
I remember a time when things got very hectic for me at work and there were days when I’d come home quite late. I really became stressed about this, but my wife got upset with me for allowing myself to become so tense over it. My knowledge that she sensed this only made me feel more stress. When I sat down to write You today I thought I’d just dump all of these kinds of past feelings on You. Then I thought - No! - what I need to do is look on the bright side and tell You about positive things and how much I need and love You.
So, what do I end up doing - dumping on You anyway! I’m beginning to believe that this is one way of expressing my love. I do it enough to those I love most, and I’m always sorry I did it, but I keep on doing it. I wonder what the psychology of this syndrome is. I certainly don’t do it to those I don’t love.
As one grows spiritually, it becomes apparent that life creates a few paradoxes which bring on varying degrees of both enlightenment and confusion. But the rhetoric and self- assertiveness of this age become pure sham in the presence of mind-opening silence. The self-centered attitude of "me first" is a flimsy facade next to the solidness of self-diminishment. And then there is the still somewhat confusing insight that to truly be an example for others one must not be consciously obsessed with giving good example.
This is a lesson that is learned with time. I have always tried to make my actions speak louder than my words. I have always believed that the life others see you living is far more important than the words they hear you saying; and so, it can happen that serving up these examples, these carefully devised ostentations on a silver platter become far more important than speaking or writing one’s beliefs. In one sense this is true, but in another it may be dangerous to one’s own as well as others’ spirituality.
The "pious Joe" or "holier than thou modus vivendi may be even more of a turn-off than preaching. Wisdom whispers, it doesn’t shout. And, in this case, I think, wisdom whispers that a silent, humble life is the more powerful example. Silence and humility, the lost virtues of our age, paradoxically speak and do more for others than words or actions. Silence when one wants to speak or preach, humility when one wants to show or demonstrate, bear more fruit than sermons or good deeds.
Yet, in raising a family there are necessary modifications of this because the phenomenon of not being accepted by those closest to you kicks in - just as You experienced in Nazareth. As one’s children grow older an increasingly microscopic examination of the gap between what people say and what they do blossoms. It is inevitable that such gaps are found and exploited. Parents know this and struggle with it. It is a microcosm of the world’s accusing finger pointing at all hypocrites. We may become uselessly defensive about it even though none of us is so "gap free" as to be able to cast the first stone. The point is that scrupulosity, guilt, and defensive rationalization in this regard are not only futile but actually strengthen the position of the accuser and destroy any hope that one’s example may have any power at all. The paradox is that a humble, detached, and silent forward march over the long haul will say the most to those open to it. Nothing more!