Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It's a Breakable Tomb

Driving through uninhabited parts of this country at night, a friend said to me once, is like being stuck in a sensory deprivation chamber. So is my Lent. I’m in the tomb on Holy Saturday waiting for the Resurrection, another friend said.

Then in the first reading of Sunday’s mass the Lord said to Israel stuck in slavery, Do not remember the things of the past. I am doing something new. Do you not see it?

At first I thought, No, I can’t see anything. Then I remembered an incident or two of only the day before that in fact hold promise for my future. And I remembered that the iris and the crocuses are starting to grow around my house in weather that is warmer and more hospitable.

Flowers, warm weather and little, isolated incidents don’t break the tomb open. But they remind me that the tomb is breakable and impermanent. St Paul says in Sunday’s second reading, I count all as loss because of knowing the surpassing value of Christ Jesus my Lord. The only reality is my relationship with Christ Jesus our Lord. And he in his love for us invites the plants to grow and liberating events to occur – and the tomb to burst and the dead to rise.

A beam of light had penetrated my tomb. Scripture proclaims God’s truth and God’s presence. God found me on Sunday through his Word and gave me reason to keep going.

Monday, March 19, 2007

They Found Freedom

I attended a retreat this weekend for men who are alcoholics in recovery. What a great experience! So much truth and reality! Not to mention good humor, real friendship with one another, and happiness in the present moment.

None of this diminishes or romanticizes what they have all been through. I heard stories of wasted years, blackouts where pieces of their lives disappeared, and broken relationships. But I also heard about professional lives regained, relationships restored and now enjoyed, and a hopeful future.

They were good listeners too. I presided at Saturday’s mass and told a little of my mid-life crisis, which was resolved by my following Steps One, Two, and Three of the Twelve Steps. I didn’t know the Steps back then, but 20 years ago I came to realize that I was powerless over whether my life had meaning or not and that my life had become unmanageable. I came to discover that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity, and so I turned my life over to God as God revealed himself to me.

The men at this retreat listened attentively to my story, asked me sensible and sensitive questions, then told me their stories. They made me part of their fellowship, though I’m not an alcoholic. But I’d suffered powerlessness too and found God looking for me when I was down. And God has led all of us into a new life that we couldn’t have created for ourselves.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Higher, Deeper Place

I came across this just today in an article by Andrew Sullivan, published in Time Magazine, October 9, 2006, adapted from his book The Conservative Soul.

Mr. Sullivan writes, “I remember my grandmother’s faith. She was an Irish immigrant who worked as a servant for priests. In her later years she lived with us, and we would go to Mass together. She was barely literate, the seventh of 13 children. And she could rattle off the Hail Mary with the speed and subtlety of as NASCAR lap. There were times when she embarrassed me – with her broad Irish brogue and reflexive deference to clerical authority….And then, as I winced at her volume in my quiet church, I saw that she was utterly oblivious to those around her. She was someplace else. And there were times when I caught in the middle of saying the Rosary when she seemed to reach another level altogether – a higher, deeper place than I, with all my education and privilege, had reached.”

God saw her faith, felt her devotion, and he found her in her need and her desire.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

More on Getting Unstuck

At mass yesterday morning the priest said, “God writes straight with crooked lines.” I’ve heard this before, and I know it’s true. But, it’s hard to live this out because the people around me create the “crooked lines” by their problematic behavior.

“I’m stuck,” I said in my last post. “I’m stuck” by people writing in crooked lines around me.

I have seen God’s “writing” in the events of my life. But what struck me this morning was that this statement is both a factual statement – “writing straight” is what God does. And it is a faith statement – I believe that “writing straight” is what God does with the “crooked lines” written by the people around me.

Since this “crooked” writing threatens my hope for what could be, I know that knowing isn’t enough. I need to believe it too. And this is the hard part.

The believing happens deep inside me, and God’s presence deep inside me can keep the anxiety away. Faith is God’s gift to us. So when I feel anxious, I breathe deeply and get in touch with what I believe. And on the good days I can feel God there with me. On the other days I keep breathing – and believing – as much as I can.