Learning to Trust

You did not consult me when You numbered the stars
You did not ask permission when You sprinkled the darkness with them
You did not ask me before You built the mountains and traced the sea coasts
You did not make me the conductor of the wind
Or the orchestrator of the birds
You did not ask me permission before You built hearts to need other hearts
You never asked me God and yet You did it anyway!
There is so much in my life that I don’t understand.

Yet, it only takes one walk on the beach, one starry night with someone I love, one birth;
 it only takes one naked moment to realize that I am glad you did not ask me permission.
The greatest joys in my life I wouldn’t have chosen.

Dear God,
I ask not for certainty but faith
Not proof but trust
I ask not for control but for a current to guide me
And at the end of my life, just as at the end of each day, to have but one prayer:
Thank you.

Photo Credit: http://patcegan.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/old-man-face.jpg

nourished by disturbance

O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?  I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard? Are you so stupid? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Galatians 3:1-3 

There is no doubt that Paul’s words were meant to disturb the community at Galatia. I am sure that I would be disturbed if I was called stupid and bewitched by someone I look up to. “Are you so stupid? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now ending in the flesh,” or in New Jerusalem translation, “After beginning with the Spirit, you now end in observances.” A message like that cannot help but shake people in their ego! It cannot help but wake people from their sleep. That was true then but is it true now?

I am willing to bet that most people today skim over this text paying very little attention to it. I know that I have heard it many times and I have become accustomed to it. If we are honest with ourselves, are there any Bible passages that have the power to disturb us, to shake us out of our own selves, lives, problems, and egos? We claim to be Christians; does the gospel message disturb us? Or have we grown accustomed to almost sleep walk through reading the scriptures, mass, or prayers? Has the Christian life become a passive comfortable existence? Have we been sleeping through our spiritual lives? I know I can get into a pattern, a routine; I can be comfortable with framing the world with what I already know. We can feel worlds apart from the moments where Jesus rocked our world. I am talking about that moment when we stood at the edge of the vast ocean and yelled “YES” to the radical call of discipleship. I am talking about the moment when the thought of leaving everything to follow Jesus disturbed us but we wanted it anyway, the moment when the radical love of God challenged us but we desired it anyway. I am talking about the moment when we stood before the deep blue sea and we were scared but we knew we must dive in anyway. At times we can feel so far from that moment, that person we were, the openness and trust we had. Instead we have been lulled into the routine.We build expectations around what little we already have and know. We have forgotten how to dream. We follow rules and do practices yet they seem to mean nothing to us. We are no longer disturbed by the eating and drinking of the flesh and blood of Jesus. Even Jesus no longer disturbs and following him follows.

“Are you so stupid? After beginning with the Spirit, you now end in observances.”

The reality is that we will not alone be disturbed by Jesus in the Gospels, we will not be disturbed by Jesus on the cross or on the altar, Jesus becoming the bread and the wine, or by anything else in church. We will not be disturbed here at church until we are disturbed there in the world. Until we are disturbed by the grave injustice done to people in this world, the pain of peoples’ lives, and the kingdom that is not yet here, we will not be disturbed here in church. There is nothing strong enough other than the suffering of others to pull us out of ourselves, to tear us from our own self-centered world, and to free us from our smallness. But, if we are honest in this moment then we can honestly answer the question: have we not been sleep walking through this also? Have we not become accustomed to the brutality of war, the sin done against our earth, and the injustice that surrounds us? Is it true that we are no longer surprised by homelessness and disturbed by our own neighborhood evils? We sleep walk through the pain of the world and it is no surprise that we do the same with our spiritual lives.

Do we connect the pain of this world to the pain within our own hearts, the suffering of our past, the longing, and the desires for the kingdom? Do we allow the needs of this world to mirror the needs of our own souls? Are we disturbed by what we find within ourselves? Does the need for the kingdom penetrate our own souls so that we long to be freed, to be healed, and to hear the good news? If the world out there doesn’t disturb us and the world within our hearts doesn’t disturb us then the gospel will fall upon deaf ears. If there is no need to transform the world and our lives, then the altar will not disturb us.

But, if we allow the world to disturb us, the pain of others to rip our hearts out, if we allow the broken world to show us our own brokenness, then the message of Jesus will disturb is. It is in that hunger that eating His body and blood we will be transformed. And as we become what we eat, the transformed will transform and we who have been disturbed will be sent out to disturb the world.

 

Art, photography and writing are property of the author and have been previously published. All have been used with permission. To learn more about this week’s guest blogger visit his January post.

 

 

A New Year Revolution

Guest blogger: Joshua VanCleef

If we really desire change, then what we need is something far greater than a New Year resolution, we need a New Year Revolution.  We need to turn things back to the starting point and evaluate the very principles, ideals and promises on which we have built our lives. It is then that we can overthrow the illusions that we have all too easily accepted as truths, the empty promises, the very things that stacked the deck against us and make real change nearly impossible.

We need to return to our baptism, stand as beloved children of God and overthrow the illusions that now dictate our lives. We need to stand on the promises of Christ and stand up against the false promises which hold hostage our desire.

Unfortunately, myths have become our foundation.  We need only to look into the mirror to see the illusions operant in our lives: that worth is based out of utility, attractiveness, wealth,or perfection; that happiness can be found in the collecting of things or people; or that the love of God needs to be earned. We only need to look out the window to see that the very illusions operating in our hearts have become the accepted principles that run much of our world.

In an honest moment, I realize the power that these false promises have over my own life.  It takes but an instant for them to surface when faced with a decision, and I know how much they really do influence me, how much they do hold me captive. But I also realize that the call to freedom casts off the yoke of slavery.

I call for a revolution of my own heart today. I call for a revolution because these false promises have become dictators in my life; they work me to the bone and feed me only enough to work another day. I call for a revolution because as I stand in the promises of my baptism, I cannot help but see the daily slavery to which I commit. I call for a revolution because this year I want change! I want my next step to be in truth rather than illusion, to choose freedom rather than oppression, and partake in a banquet rather than scraps. I know the only way for change in my life is to overthrow the dictators of illusion and the tyrants of false promises. So, I call for a revolution.

A revolution of the heart would lead me to a revolution in the streets. I know that revolution wouldn’t be satisfied with immigration reform, its goal is much larger and more fundamental: to overthrow the illusion that my dignity is more important or my life is worth more than someone else’s. Revolution would debunk the lie that it is more important for me to have much than for all to have enough. There is no surprise that Guantanamo is still open!

Only a revolution has the power to overthrow the illusion that a good end can be achieved through evil means, or the justification of torture. Outside of a revolution of the heart, reform will only allow torture to take new forms. Reform and resolution can mandate equal public treatment of people, but only a revolution can unmask the lie that all are not equal before God. Only a revolution can overthrow the illusion that worth is based out of utility, or the all too popular lie of entitlement.

Brothers and sisters, if a revolution is what we desire and we realize the powers that have become the current of our lives, the illusions that serve as dictators and the false promises as tyrants, then we are the sick in need of healing. We are the broken needing to be made whole. And if we wish to stand in our baptismal promises, in the freedom of the beloved children of God, then it is our sickness and brokenness that we have to offer Jesus. And this is all He asks of us. For if we wish to cast off the lies of the oppressor and the promises of the tyrant, there is only one Healer, only one Revolutionary powerful enough: the Crucified One.

Now, my brothers and sisters, together with Jesus let us go back to the beginning and claim our freedom as children of God. And when the illusions of oppression try to scatter us with fire hoses, we will renew our baptism in their water. We are people who know water and it will neither stop us nor put out our fires. When the dictators of false promises try to antagonize us with venomous words, we will handle their words and not be harmed.

My brothers and sisters, when we the weak, the sick, the believers, confront the powers that surround us with walls and barbed wire, then united with Jesus we will look to the cross and speak to our oppressors. We say together, “where we are going YOU cannot go.” Let’s take courage in the promise of Christ, that in the end when the mist of mustard gas dissipates, as a cloud of witnesses we will emerge.

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This week’s guest blogger, Joshua VanCleef, is a Franciscan Friar of St. John the Baptist province. Originally from Detroit, he now lives in Chicago and is finishing his studies at the Catholic Theological Union. He is a neighbor and friend of Sister Julia.