Mystic or Unbeliever

H/T to Steve, who originally sent this to me:

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boat, and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus (Jn 6:24).

A generation ago, Karl Rahner made the statement that there would soon come a time when each of us will either be a mystic or a non-believer.

What’s implied here?

At one level it means that anyone who wants to have faith today will need to be much more inner-directed than in previous generations. Why? Because up until our present generation in the secularized world, by and large, the culture helped carry the faith. We lived in cultures (often immigrant and ethnic subcultures) within which faith and religion were part of the very fabric of life. Faith and church were embedded in the sociology. It took a strong, deviant action not to go to church on Sunday. Today, as we know, the opposite if more true, it takes a strong, inner-anchored act to go to church on Sunday. We live in a moral and ecclesial diaspora and experience a special loneliness that comes with that. We have few outside supports for our faith.

The culture no longer carries the faith and the church. Simply put, we knew how to be believers and church-goers when we were inside communities that helped carry that for us, communities within which most everyone seemed to believe, most everyone went to church, and most everyone had the same set of moral values. Not incidentally, these communities were often immigrant, poor, under-educated, and culturally marginalized. In that type of setting, faith and church work more easily. Why? Because, among other reasons, as Jesus said, it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.

To be committed believers today, to have faith truly inform our lives, requires finding an inner anchor beyond the support and security we find in being part of the cognitive majority wherein we have the comfort of knowing that, since everyone else is doing this, it probably makes sense. Many of us now live in situations where to believe in God and church is to find ourselves without the support of the majority and at times without the support even of those closest to us, spouse, family, friends, colleagues. That’s one of the things that Rahner is referring to when he says we will be either mystics or non-believers.

But what is this deep, inner-anchor that is needed to sustain us? What can give us the support we need?

What can help sustain our faith when we feel like unanimity-minus-one is an inner center of strength, meaning, and affectivity that is rooted in something beyond what the world thinks and what the majority are doing on any given day? There has to be a deeper source than outside affirmation to give us meaning, justification, and energy to continue to do what faith asks of us. What is that source?

In the gospel of John, the first words out of Jesus’ mouth are a question: “What are you looking for?” Essentially everything that Jesus does and teaches in the rest of Johns gospel gives an answer to that question: We are looking for the way, the truth, the life, living water to quench our thirst, bread from heaven to satiate our hunger. But those answers are partially abstract. At the end of the gospel, all of this is crystallized into one image:

On Easter Sunday morning, Mary Magdala goes out searching for Jesus. She finds him in a garden (the archetypal place where lovers meet) but she doesn’t recognize him. Jesus turns to her and, repeating the question with which the gospel began, asks her: What are you looking for? Mary replies that she is looking for the body of the dead Jesus and could he give her any information as to where that body is. And Jesus simply says: “Mary.” He pronounces her name in love. She falls at his feet.

In essence, that is the whole gospel: What are we ultimately looking for? What is the end of all desire? What drives us out into gardens to search for love? The desire to hear God pronounce our names in love. To hear God, lovingly say: “Mary,” “Jack,” “Jennifer,” “Walter.”

Several years ago, I made a retreat that began with the director telling us: “I’m only going to try to do one thing with you this week, I’m going to try to teach you how to pray so that sometime (perhaps not this week or perhaps not even this year, but sometime) in prayer, you will open yourself up in such a way that you can hear God say to you – I love you! – because unless that happens you will always be dissatisfied and searching for something to give you a completeness you don’t feel. Nothing will ever be quite right. But once you hear God say those words, you wont need to do that restless search anymore.”

He’s right. Hearing God pronounce our names in love is the core of mysticism and it is too the anchor we need when we face misunderstanding from without and depression from within, when we feel precisely like unanimity-minus-one.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser
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How true that we have to make the decision whether to follow the crowd and seek out the approval of others, or to follow Jesus and seek out His approval. It is in a sense more difficult to be a disciple in this age where everything is focused on self-gratification, but on the other hand, it can be a good thing in that the people who are attending church and are following Christ are doing it because they truly love Him, and not because of cultural pressure. Jesus wants us to come to Him out of love, not obligation.

CCC 27

“The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists, it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence….”

Okay, so this is at the very beginning of my Catechism, which I received on January 14, 2007, the very first day I stepped into church. So why is it that I am just reading it now, almost exactly 2 1/2 years later?

LOL, I must have skipped that section by coming late to RCIA. 🙂

I have a difficult time seeing myself as loveable to anyone, much less God, who knows everything about me. But that one phrase, “through love continues to hold him in existence” I have heard mentioned before, but didn’t really understand it, so I just set it aside and didn’t pay much attention to it.

But I think that was perhaps the wrong thing to do. Because that might be one of the most important phrases.

What it means is that we exist because God, at every moment, is actively willing our existence. It is not the case that God just made us and then checks in on us from time to time. Rather, if God for just one instant ever *stopped* thinking of us, we would cease to be. That level of attention, dedication and love is really unfathomable.

At every instant, God is choosing for us to be in the world. He is advocating on behalf of our existence. He is giving us life so that we can choose to share in His divine life.

I — and all of you — are *far* more loved and cared for than we ever dreamed was possible. Would that we come to realize the incredible magnitude of that love — it would change everything.

God bless you; He loves you so very much!

Year of the Priest

Obviously, this is going to be the Best Year Ever!!!! 🙂

I am so excited and my heart is so full of squee! 🙂 I have been doing the happy dance in anticipation of this day, this year, since I first heard about it. I cannot wait to see all of the great things which are going to come out.

We have heard so many awful things about our priests, so much doubt and venom, all aimed at tearing them down. After the Fr. Cutié incident, I heard many people either stating that celibacy was an antiquated and unnecessary practice, or that it didn’t really matter that he decided to leave the Catholic church, among other things. My purpose in writing this is not really to debate that issue, although I could, but rather to focus on what is important.

Sure, there are going to be times when this priest or that priest is in the news. Sure, some of them are actually going to have done something scandalous. Not all of them. Their lives have a level of scrutiny most of us do not have to deal with. I would pray that if we come across something, that our reaction not first be offense or judgment, but love. Don’t condemn these people, pray for them!

Our society revels in tearing people down. It loves to show everyone else as being corrupt and dirty. Instead, we should be building people up. We should recognise that they fall, yes, but instead of rubbing their face in it, causing them shame and making a spectacle, we should be there to stretch out our hands and help them back to their feet. We are all in this race together, and the point is to make it home. We all stumble and we all fall.

I live with the conviction that our priests are good men. These are our beloved brothers. They, as so recently pointed out, have chosen to give their lives in service to us. They have chosen to be ontologically conformed to a man who was nailed to a cross — for us. If we find it heroic that a person, in a moment of crisis will give his life for another person, what about a person who routinely, every day, gives his life for another person? And, usually, without notice or thanks.

We need to support these men. We need to be behind them. No one operates in a vacuum. We are the body of Christ. All the cells of the body work fundamentally on an osmotic or diffusionary principle. Where there is great abundance of a substance, it goes to the area of the greatest need for that substance. You get sick when there is a disruption in this mechanism. The body of Christ needs to work the same way. Whatever abundance you have, you should be seeking to distribute that abundance to the place where it is most needed. A healthy body lives in continual interchange between all the different cells. So, too, does a healthy society need to have a continual interchange. There is always something that you have to offer, and there is always something which you need to receive from someone else. Perfection is not a static condition, but a continually changing state — always rebalancing. This is how we grow and adapt — and thrive.

[To be continued/edited…]

Just Another Walk Around the Block

During dinner, I felt like talking a walk. It’s getting late, about 9:30 pm or so, but it would be nice to stop by the playground and swing on the swings for a bit before going to bed. So, I grabbed my iPod and left the house. As always, even as I am dancing and running and walking my way to the park, my mind wanders.

I have someone whom God has asked me to intercede for, to care for, and to love as He loves, so as to learn love as He loves. No small task, but one I cherish. God doesn’t burden you with vocations, He blesses you with them. As my mind is wandering, it wanders over to this topic — which is really not that surprising to me.

Would I protect this person?
Yes, of course, from everything I can which is harmful.

Would I give my life for this person?
Absolutely.

Why?
Because it is my job. To care for this person. And my caring does not stop at my prayers.
I am willing to do whatever God asks of me.
And God is good.
If God truly asks that I lay down my life, it is His.
Without question.
Without hesitation.

God loves me.
Whatever death, pain, suffering might come my way, God can handle.
I just need to get out of the way of His healing.
God loves me.

Nothing else matters.
He has me.
He loves me.
I trust Him.

This is a fight.
Truly, we are the church militant, right? There is danger. There are threats. We need to be strong. We need to protect each other.
He is asking if I will fight for this person that He gave me.
Absolutely.

The best part.
I am not alone.
He’s not asking that I do this alone.
Angels.
Seriously. Angels are in this fight right alongside us.

My Lord, my love, I am here.
Take whatever You want.
Use me however You want.
Help me to do Your will.

I am not afraid.
God loves me.

Not bad for a walk, eh? 🙂