The Wandering Desert Monk

The Wandering Desert Monk

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Help me to keep believing...

Have you and I ever fallen into unbelief and skepticism in face to great miracles? Check out this story:

After the five thousand had eaten and were satisfied,
Jesus made his disciples get into the boat
and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida,
while he dismissed the crowd.
And when he had taken leave of them,
he went off to the mountain to pray.
When it was evening,
the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore.
Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing,
for the wind was against them.
About the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea.
He meant to pass by them.
But when they saw him walking on the sea,
they thought it was a ghost and cried out.
They had all seen him and were terrified.
But at once he spoke with them,
“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”
He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.
They were completely astounded.

Then the text says this:

They had not understood the incident of the loaves.
On the contrary, their hearts were hardened. – Mark 6:45-52.

Wait, did these followers of Jesus not just experience two amazing miracles: the feeding of thousands of people and Jesus walking on the water and calming the storm? What is going on here? Why would you fail to understand that Jesus was who he said he was. In fact, the opposite happens; they are more confirmed in their denial and lack of faith.

It is it any different today? People pray for a miracle and receive it. Do they become more convinced in their faith? No, they continue to complain about what else is going wrong in their lives. Remember 9/11? The churches were filled the following Sunday. Attendance dropped back to pre-9/11 rates in about 3 weeks.

Why is so hard to believe and keep believing?


Ronald Friesen © 2016

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Intimacy

Fr. Richard Rohr's post for today - 

Intimacy
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
(Feast of the Epiphany, The "Self-Manifestation" of God)
Today is called "The Twelfth Day of Christmas" perhaps because it took at least twelve days, and then some, for the self-disclosure of God to slam into our consciousness. Intimacy is another word for trustful, tender, and risky self-disclosure. None of us can go there without letting down our walls, manifesting our deeper self to another, and allowing the flow to happen. Often such vulnerability evokes and allows a similar vulnerability from the other side. Such was the divine hope in the humble revelation of God in the human body of Jesus. My mind and mouth stumble to even imagine it or dare to think it could be true.  Yet Christians dare to claim this reality.
 
Such human intimacy is somewhat rare and very hard for all of us, but particularly for men and for all who deem themselves to be important people, that is, those who are trained to protect their boundaries, to take the offensive, and to be afraid of all weakness or neediness. God seems to have begun thawing this glacial barrier by coming precisely in male form as Jesus, who then exposes maleness itself as also naked, needy, and vulnerable. Most cultures would say that is mind-blowing, heart-exploding, and surely impossible. Thus, the transmission of the secret, the inner mystery of God, continues in space and time primarily through what Jesus calls again and again "the little ones" and "the poor in spirit," which he himself became.
 
I think that many men, celibate men even more, are very afraid of intimacy, of baring their deepest identity to another human or even to God. Yet people who risk intimacy are invariably happier and much more real people. They feel like they have lots of "handles" that allow others to hold onto them and that allow them to hold onto themselves. People who avoid intimacy are imprisoned in a small and circumscribed world. Intimacy is the only gateway into the temple of human or divine love.
 
Healthy sexuality creates an obvious and ideal container for true intimacy, at least now and then. Unfortunately, the physical act of sex, which is meant to be a moment of embodied and experienced intimacy, is often not intimate at all. Both healthy celibacy and sexual encounter demand deep and true intimacy, yet celibacy and sex can also be the most effective avoidance of it.
 
I believe vulnerable intimacy is the entrance into and the lynchpin between all human and divine love. It does not matter which comes first; it is just important that we pass through this gate of fear and find what lives inside us--and on the other side of the gate.
 
Intimate love is the true temple that we all desire. This longing seems to be hardwired into our beings in spite of our survival instincts. You have to want to love and to be loved very badly or you will never go to this strange temple and will never find your True Self. So God obliges and creates you in just that way, with a bottomless and endless need to be loved and to love. Today, the Feast of Epiphany, is symbolized and enacted by three important men who fell to their knees, finding themselves seduced by the vulnerability of God--sleeping in straw among the animals.

The Humility of God

The last few days my reading has focused on the humility of God.

It is common for many Christians to think of God as majestic, lofty, and mighty. It is easy to think of God as being beyond human understanding; to be totally other. We think of God as being transcendent: above and beyond.

For followers of Jesus who have this high view of God it is challenging to think of the words, God, and, humility, in the same sentence. Yet, the Christian view of God does make this audacious claim that God is humble.

There is a Biblical precedent for thinking of God’s humility. It is found in St. Paul’s writing to the church in Philippi:

“…   he (Jesus) humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:8.

While many followers of Jesus are accepting of Jesus humbling himself; it is another thing to think of God humbling self. This is an interesting problem because most followers of Jesus would not believe they are Gnostics.  Orthodox worshippers of God believe that Jesus was fully human and fully God.

What would it mean for you and me to embrace God’s humility?

For myself, embracing the humility of God means humbling myself. If God would humble himself for me, I do not have any reason to take pride in myself. The humility of God will lead me to bow my mind and heart not because of God’s greatness but because of God’s love for me which lead God to be humble for me.

Ronald Friesen © 2016

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Spiritual Life...

What is the nature of a life focused on spiritual reality? What does it look like in real life?

Some people think that a spiritual life means lots of praying, time spent in chapel-like space or in nature drawn away from the business of life or behaving in some strange ways and mannerisms.

As I am reading the stories of those whose lives are marked by connection to spiritual realities, I am not seeing the description above. What I am seeing is people whose lives marked by love, non-judgmentalism, unconditional love and non-violence. These people are known for their lack of any concern for their reputation, fame, safety, or finances.

The lives of spiritually-alive people are marked by the characteristics noted by St. Paul:

“… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” – Galatian 5:22-23

These characteristics or qualities are not created by efforts of “trying to be good.” While spiritual people like Mother Teresa were good people, the goodness comes from an inner transformation brought by letting go of their ego and choosing to live out of love, gentleness and goodness.

It is important note that these qualities are not born out of an effort to keep some form of moral code or legalistic attachment to a law. Interestingly, St. Paul says that these qualities are not guided any law. Why? Because these qualities are not defined by any legal definition. There is no legal definition of love. If there was then you could tell your neighbor that you did demonstrate love to them by doing what the law required. Love is greater than any law.

How is this inner transformation developed? It is developed out of an intimacy with the Divine lover who loves each one of us in spite of ourselves. Knowing we are loved unconditionally, freely and openly means that we live unconditionally, freely and openly. While there is a role for spiritual disciplines such as prayer, solitude, and worship; they are not the definition of a transformed person.

Embracing our acceptance opens us to live gently, kindly, and lovingly.


Ronald Friesen © 2016