Thursday, November 30, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
When I was young we used to love to go "fluking" at Captain Mike's. We'd get up around 5am and drive through the Pine Barrens to the Jersey shore, to a smelly strip of weathered old buildings on the green fly infested edge of Tuckerton. We'd rent a little boat for the day and tool around the salt water channels, catching the drifts, and catching some rays. Our mornings were spent slicing up squid into slippery strips, and then baiting our hooks with them, as well as the ever faithful "keelies" which were sure to be wasted on the sea robins (very cool to look at but not to eat, by the way). All the while we'd be stuffing chips and sandwiches into our faces with our unwashed hands. Ah, what fun! Makes you want to throw up, doesn't it? Needless to say, it was Dad who took us "fluking." And we LOVED IT.
We'd bring the old radio and pop in our Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem tapes, or maybe some John Cougar (Mellancamp), the Chieftains, or Van Morrison. What a life! Belting out the lines of Four Green Fields or The Rocky Road to Dublin, as we tilted and swayed on the briny foam! We were seeking those treasured pockets of the deep where flounder lay in murky abundance. They are weird little critters, by the way. At one point in their development, the eyes of these flat fish migrate to one side of their bodies so that both eyes are facing up from the ocean floor. And that's where they lay, all the time, those spooky eyes peeping up. Kinda like Picasso fish, if you will.
Let's get theological!
In other news, I have grown weary of the God vs. Science debate. I am tired of the Creationist vs. Evolutionist debate. I'm saddened by the supposition that faith and reason are warriors fighting when the truth is they are two wings flapping, lifting us up to truth! Everywhere we look there is the desire to pull them apart, and it seems so many want to view all of human experience, the vast scope of the entire universe, with a kind of flounder vision. We've settled into a murky, muddy, greyness and let our eyes sort of migrate into a one dimensional plane on the side of the head. It's a kind of tunnel vision, really. Try living a day like this, with just one eye open. Your depth perception will be off, and every time you reach for something you'll have to stumble before you can pin it down.
I think there's a reason why we have two eyes, two ears, two hands and two feet, two lungs, two lips, two nostrils (dang, we have a lot of twos don't we?), all proportioned the way they are... They are opposites and they're symetrical and afford us a harmony when used together. God has stamped right in our bodies the way He wishes us to "see." It's the integration of two planes into one.
Now if this seems difficult at present, with our eyes trying to discern the place of Science with Scripture, Good with Evil, Faith with Reason, then maybe it's because we have this flounder vision. Our culture has devolved our view into a single plane of vision, and we're peering stiffly at either God or Science, and actually limiting our vision. We get pure materialism, a reducing of reality to only the visible, weighable, smellable stuff, or we get a misty, castle in the clouds view of reality that seems completely detached from our every day lives here and now... more a fantasy than a final end. Let the eyes expand, separate but remain in union, becoming more fully human. Don't be a fish head!
We are not like the flounder, with both eyes on one side of its head, staring blankly up and out from the murky ocean floor. We must see with a fuller vision, viewing all of creation as God intended us to; as sweet sacraments, physical signs pregnant with spiritual meaning, rich in symbolism and yet able to stand up in their own right... solid, sure and utterly sensible.
Friday, November 24, 2006
They are out there right now. They are drinking lots of coffee. Don't get in their way.
The following reflection was inspired by this secular feast day, but let it be known: I like a good deal as much as the next guy, and I too have been snared many times over by.... the BIGGIEMAN.
In mainstream America, we have BIG culture. I don't mean a lot of culture, I mean BIG culture. We love to maximize and biggie-size. We love those "Buy 6 get 1 free deals," even when the item is a cheese grater.
When someone says "Do you want the Behemoth Burger and Jumbo Bucket o' Fries for only .30 more?"... generally we say "sure." This is not because we need it, but I think because we can. Deep down, you see, we've been seduced by the greasy lies of the BIGGIEMAN: that cloudy and coagulated Spirit of America that whispers to our wallets that bigger is always better.
We are grande mocha gringos who are always on the look out for "upgrades" and "additions" - for the better, the new and improved. From SUVs to giant screen TVs, and now it seems, DVDs. (Yup, I saw it the other day, a new format of the already perfectly amazing disc that is even smaller, and of course, requires that we upgrade to the new DVD player to play it.)
When will it end?! When will America stop the presses? End this madness? Do we need 68 kinds of toothpaste, 259 brands of the same cereal, 2543 different types of shampoo!! Cars bigger than houses, TVs larger than billboards!!!
Never, I fear, so long as we continue to shout out our demand to "Super-Size Me!"
Enter, the Gospel.
"Agghh!" shrieks the BIGGIEMAN, "not that!"
A still, small voice whispers through the leaves of the New Testament, "He must increase, I must decrease."
"He must increase, I must decrease." "I must decrease."
I have a new battle cry for myself, as this season of sales and ceaseless shopping begins, reaching out its neon tentacles to draw me in. Try it if you like. "Minimize Me!"
In all things, make me small. In my wants, and in my needs, minimize me. In my thoughts, in my words, minimize me.
"He must increase, I must decrease."
This is the best way to create a space for the Christ Child to rest His weary head. Unclutter the heart, clear away the things. Let persons take precedence.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
Then, in the middle of this cacophany of cognitive activity (we hope, we hope, we hope), something happens. Something wonderful. It's the something every teacher dreams of and looks for in his or her students, like a gold digger looks for sparkles in the glassy-eyed riverbed. It's the moment when the mind opens and the channel from the brain to the heart is cleared of obstructions. Information turns into formation. The heart hears, recognizes and responds. The pupil dilates, expanding to let in the light.
I love teaching. LOVE it. I love to dive into a classroom of 15 year olds who have been drinking in the foul air of our culture and offer them the sweet fragrance that is Christ. The scent of eternity that the human heart, at every age, secretly and deeply longs for, though we may know it not.
God zapped me when I was 15 years old. Suddenly, right there in the middle of my freshmen year. Somewhere between my crush on Sharon H. and my eager anticipation of Return of the Jedi, I came to the realization that God was REAL. God was a Person, not just a parable or a story in a book. He was inviting me into a relationship with Him. Yikes! This awakening stirred me up. It called me to respond. This Divine invitation had an RSVP.
Now if you're like me, sometimes you let those invites sit on the kitchen table for awhile next to the bills. Maybe it feels like a burden at first. Another obligation, and you have to check the calendar. Or maybe you feel really happy that someone was thinking of you. But now you need to get back to them. You have to let them know if you are available... or not.
Sometime last year, as I was teaching my freshmen boys, one student asked a question that I thought was a glimmer of an awakening. I think he heard an invitation. I teach Scripture, so the Divine Whisper just murmurs all class long. The Word is right in front of us! In the middle of a lesson, perhaps on Abraham, Moses or David, and their radical journey of trust, a student asked "When do we have to believe all this stuff?"
I love teenagers.
"Well," I paused, looking at their faces, so full of questions, "you are invited to believe right now. Right here... You're on the same walk."
"Any other questions?" God of Mystery, empty our hearts of all distractions and turn our hearts into vessels, open and ready to receive the love You are pouring into us from all directions! Turn knowledge into wisdom, facts into faith, and information into transformation!
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Monday, November 13, 2006
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Agapito sighed as the night breeze began to whisper through the Vine. Maybe there's another way to live, he thought. Maybe there's another Ancient Song, older than Adhaesio's. Maybe that Song is fearless....
The next morning, Agapito awoke with the other Grapes. The morning dew was heavy on their glossy skins and many on the Vine began their morning rituals. Drinking, slurping, growing fat on the Vine, and unfolding their leaves for the Sun to warm them. That Sun was just now glimmering on the Edge of the Vineyard.
Suddenly, Agapito felt a strange trembling sensation in the pit of his little grape heart. A great wave was rising and rumbling through the Vine. Every Grape felt it, coming up the lattice of their world and pulsating throughout every root, tendril, and branch that formed this great community of Grapes.
Agapito was frightened, "What's happening?" he cried out, to no one in particular. Ampelio shouted, "Something's coming! What do we do! What do we do!"
A coarse whisper came from the Shadows behind Agapito. "When Hand comes to take you, pull back or you'll die... Stay safe in the Shadows, keep facing the Sky...." Agapito thought he could just see the dark eyes of old Adhaesio, small and wrinkled as he was, half covered in leaves.
"As much as you can, beware of the Feet... We're meant to be raisins, old wrinkled and sweet."
Then, a still more unexpected thing happened. A thing tall and free flashed past Agapito. It was the Shape he had seen before, moving through the Vineyard at the breezy time of the evening. A strange object brushed past him. He heard the cries of many Grapes, and noticed with a shock that they were being pulled from the Vine! It seemed like a nightmare. But in the midst of such commotion, crying and fear, he thought he could also hear a different cry. One of utter joy and freedom, not of fear. Could this be the Something More, the Moment that Agapito longed for? In an act that would forever change him, Agapito turned his face towards the Shape... And let go of the Vine. All that he knew brushed past him, then a Hand took hold of him, and he fell into shadow....
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Monday, November 06, 2006
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Friday, November 03, 2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006
This is yet another day, and there are many of them in the Church's calendar, when the "universal call to holiness" beeps in and says "Hello, are you there? Answer me." Holiness, sheesh... I'll just let that one go to voicemail. Heard it all before anyway. Being holy means I lose my individuality and get subsumed into a big mass of people who are all good with nice haircuts and see the bright side of things all the time, like Ned Flanders. Well, that ain't me. Some things just get me angry, or frustrated. Sometimes I doubt. Sometimes I'm afraid I could never reach such high standards. Sometimes I just want to be silly, goof off. Sometimes I just want to be me. I mean, I'm only human.
Well, to be human should mean to be holy.
"The glory of God," St. Irenaeus says, "is man fully alive." Do we know what this even looks like? We've been duped and the devil has distorted what it means to be holy.
The odor of sanctity has the tang of the sea in it, and beneath it's billowing surface are a thousand varied visages, of beings bright and beautiful, deep and mysterious, as lucid and light as polished glass.
The ones who let holiness wash over and into them find not an anesthetic that numbs all feeling but an invigorating draught that awakens the mind to Truth! It's completeness, fulfillment, fullness! It's the way I ought to be, it's the posture of standing up, when all around me souls are bent. It's hearing my own true name, after decades of muffled whispers. A few thoughts from Father Cantalamessa on Holiness, spoken in Rome just yesterday:
"Holiness does not reside in the hands, but in the heart; it is not decided outside but within man, and it is summarized in charity.
The mediators of God's holiness are no longer places (the Temple of Jerusalem or the Mountain of the Beatitudes), rites, objects or laws, but a person, Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ is the very holiness of God that comes to us in person.... Mother Teresa was right when a journalist asked her point-blank how she felt being acclaimed as being holy around the world, and she answered: "Holiness is not a luxury; it is a necessity."
Holiness is what we were made for, anything less is, in a certain sense, sub-human. For we were made for the Seventh Day, created to walk into the Sabbath with our Father. To stay behind is to be numbered with the beasts. When Christ called his followers to this Oneness with him in the Eucharist, many turned aside and no longer walked with him. That gospel verse? John 6:66.
Lord, help us answer the call! Make us holy! Make us saints!