Friday, October 28, 2011

Tearing Love Out at the Root

Botanical Print of Dead Roots
Although we sing songs about love, write about love, make movies about love and talk about love - our culture does not seem to really understand love.

Love begins on a relational level; this has been true for humans since the very beginning when God created Adam and Eve. There must be a person to be loved in order for love to exist. The nature of God, the source of love, is relational, (the three persons of the Trinity).

Unlike human love, marred by the wounds of sin, God's love is perfect and comes without conditions and limits, even the limits of time. God does not begin loving us when we are created in time - He loved and chose us before the world began. Mother Angelica said, “God saw all the possible human beings He might have created throughout the history of the world. Out of possible billions of human beings that might have existed in God's mind—His Eye rested on each one of us and then stopped ... and said, ‘You shall be.’

Not everyone can bring themselves to believe in such a God and such a love and we can see evidence of this in the issue of abortion.

Both sides truly do not understand where the other side is coming from. It baffles a pro-choice person to think that a woman should not be able to control what goes on inside her womb and it confounds a pro-life person to think that a mother would kill her child.

At the root of this difference in opinion between a person who is pro-choice and a person who is pro-life is a differing view of identity. For the pro-choice person, identity and existence is something that is within the bounds of time and human logic. We can choose when and if a person begins to exist or not, that is our right. For the pro-life person, when God joins a sperm with an egg, He is not choosing at that moment to create a person, He already created that person outside of time before the beginning of the Universe. 

If the pro-life premise of identity is correct, this means that abortion doesn’t just exterminate countless people, it also tears apart the people who are alive, keeping them from loving each other fully. If the pro-lifers are right, then abortion tears love out at its root.

Instead of God's loving plan being at the root of a parent's love for a child, the unconditional love is uprooted and replaced with the chaos of chance. "I love you because you happen to be the child who won the abortion lottery (or the sperm race)." A girlfriend says to a boyfriend, "I love you honey but if your mother had chosen to abort you then I would hypothetically have supported her choice." A sibling to another sibling, "You're so wonderful, I love you so much - but if Mom had chosen to stop at one child, I would have supported her choice." 

Abortion uproots love, the source of our identity, and plants the seed of chaos and anxiety in our hearts. Chaos - because we are denying that our existence is planned and ordered in the mind of God. Anxiety - because if we think we can control whether we exist or not, then everything in the world must be under our control. And anxiety because our existence and self-identity becomes something random, cutting us from the root of God's love.

Yet, God, in His love and wisdom, gives us the power to make these destructive choices because this is the only way He can give us the power to choose love freely.

God, may we be forces of life in a culture obsessed with death and control.

God, may we be forces for peace in a world full of anxiety.

God, may we be forces of love in a culture that longs for love. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cover Me in Manure

Manure Happens.
In today's Gospel Jesus tells a parable about the owner of a vineyard who came in search of fruit on one of his fig trees and found none. The owner tells the gardener that he has been looking for fruit on this tree for three years and has found nothing so he tells him to cut the tree down, it is useless.

The gardener understands his frustration but asks the owner to wait a while before cutting it down. He says: "Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down." (Lk 13:9)

God truly is our kind and generous gardener. He does not lose patience with us. Instead, he waits for the opportune time to help us to bear fruit. 

As humans, most of us are not born knowing our purpose in life. We search, often in the wrong places for meaning and often we do not find it. This can lead to feelings of emptiness and hopelessness. But often, we are too busy to pay attention, or we make ourselves busy so we do not have to pay attention. 

One woman recently said to me, "People need silence and they don't even know it." 

She is right but I understand why people, even the ones who know they need it, don't want to sit in silence. In the silence, the lack of meaning in our lives and all the crap that we have not worked through floats to the top. I know this from experience. Being silent often involves a certain degree of discomfort, sometimes a lot of discomfort and pain. 

When we are silent, we open ourselves to God's presence but we are also opening our souls to His manure and the work of His sharp hoe. 

God doesn't just want to chill with us in the silence, He wants to work on our souls. And that hurts.

But you know, after living a life that involves a lot more silence over the past year, I can definitely say that although it can be extremely painful to face up to the things that are inside of me and the wounds that I have experienced in life, many that are self-inflicted, I can honestly say it is worth it. I feel like God, the champion gardener, is preparing my soul to bear a unique and beautiful fruit that no one else can give to the world. And he wants to do that with all of us. We are each made for a unique and beautiful purpose to make a difference in the world. 

Happy gardening.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tear Down Your Paneled House

Red paneled walls are where it's at.
Is it time for you to dwell in your own paneled houses while this house lies in ruins!  - Haggai 1:4

The Old Testament is filled with stories of how God’s people fall away from the Lord, lose fervor, and sometimes turn their back completely on God. This behavior is not surprising or even shocking if understood in the bigger picture of salvation history. God did not choose the Hebrew people so that they could demonstrate perfect moral behavior or a utopian society for the rest of the world. God chose them, as He could have chosen any group of human beings wounded by original sin, because He wanted to provide all of His children with an archetype of His love that they could refer to and learn from for millennia to come.

During the Babylonian exile the Jews were scattered throughout the land. Because the center of their faith was the Temple, they longed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple that Solomon had first built. God heard their prayers and in 538 BC, Cyrus, the King of Persia, issued a decree that allowed the Jews to return to their homeland. The decree not only allowed them to return but also explicitly told them to rebuild the Temple and ordered other citizens to aid them with money and supplies. 

But, the Book of Haggai in the Old Testament tells us that the Jews’ initial fervor in rebuilding the Temple eventually fell off and was redirected to their own lives.  God spoke to the prophet Haggai and told him to encourage the Jews to continue building the Temple. God also spoke words of reproach to them through Haggai for beginning with such zeal and then being distracted by concerns for their own needs: “Is it time for you to dwell in your own paneled houses while this house lies in ruins!” (Hg 1:4). 

Every human being most likely relates to this picture. Problem arises and we lose focus or life gets easy and we do not find the need to turn to God and to work for holiness. We build our own paneled houses (mine is red) and make our own plans while our relationship with God continues to be neglected.

This happens to me, even when my life in the convent is supposedly centered on God all day every day. During my short time so far, I have recognized days and even months where I put prayer time as my last priority. I always get to it but it is not the first thing I get to and sometimes even if I am there, my mind is running in a thousand different directions and I make no attempt to reel it in. 

And the worst part of it all is that I already know that this kind of life bears no fruit. Eventually, without real prayer, a person loses steam; the "oil of gladness" runs out and you begin to feel less hopeful and happy (Ps 45:7). When we do not pray, we have nothing to share with others. We become dry wells.

The prophet Haggai describes similar consequences for the people of God.  They labor for their own benefit but none of their hard work comes to fruition: “You expected much but it came to little; and what you brought home, I blew away” (Hg 1: 9).  Bad consequences result when one does not put God first in his or her life. God does not even have to interfere most of the time; consequences happen automatically when a person begins to take steps away from God.

Yet despite the fact that we behave like the Israelites, turning away from God at different junctures in our lives, God does not respond like a human being would. Rather, our bad behavior gives God the opportunity to show His mercy and to help us to understand His very nature. In the Book of Haggai, despite the people’s lack of fervor and their self-centered focus on their own lives, the Lord encourages them and tells them that His spirit is with them: “My spirit continues in your midst, do not fear!” (Hg 2:5).

In the same way in our own lives, God is constantly forgiving us and calling us to conversion. He’s calling us to tear down our paneled walls and start building within ourselves a proper Temple for the Lord.

Friday, October 7, 2011

God is the Surf Bum of My Soul

Light breaking through the clouds over the Sea of Galilee

The waters of my soul
are delicately moving,
sloshing against the edges
of my consciousness.

I can feel God
within me.

Is His powerful hand,
like a net,
scooping up all that dirties
and sullies?

Is He riding a storm
in a little fishing boat,
sleeping on a cushion?

Is He walking on the water,
hand outstretched,
Asking me to join Him?

Or is He sitting
on the rock
of my identity
gazing out on the waters,
admiring what He has created?

O my soul,
behold your Creator.

O my soul,
that you could be
a worthy tabernacle!

O my soul,
that you could learn
from the divine presence
within you.