Monday, August 24, 2015

"I am a link in a chain"

So, what does "everyday evangelization" look like in your life?

Over the past few years, for me, it has been a matter of first letting myself be evangelized.  That is, it has been a process of opening myself to a deeper encounter with the basic proclamation of the Gospel as Good News--both for me personally and for the whole world.

Throughout the past couple of years, "everyday evangelization" has also been closely tied to a prayer written by Bl. John Henry Newman:

God has create me to do Him some definite service;
He has committed some work to me
which He has not committed to another.

I have my mission--
I may never know it in this life,
but I shall be told it in the next.

I am a link in a chain,
a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for naught.

I shall do good.  I shall do His work.
I shall be an angel of peace,
a preacher of truth in my own place while not intending it--
if I do but keep His Commandments...

It seems that the idea of being a "link in a chain" fits nicely with "everyday evangelization," since I typically envision the people with whom I am directly connected--such as my amazing family, wonderful friends, and committed colleagues.  Their inspiring influence helps bond me more closely to the Church, supporting and encouraging me.

However, the phrase in the prayer that "I may never know it in this life" has slowly started to gnaw at me in recent months: What if the chain of connections is not as linear as I tend to imagine?  What if it turns out that God has created each of us to have countless connections, in so many different directions that it is beyond our capacity to fully understand? What if I'm a link in a chain that's shaped more like a net or a web than a few simple straight lines? 

And what if this chain-linked web of of connections is actually the mysterious Kingdom of God--emerging organically in countless different directions, though always one link at a time?

Pope Francis has used an additional image to help illustrate the way that each of our personal missions might contribute to the building of a "whole which is greater than the part".  He writes: "Here our model is not the sphere, which is no greater than its parts, where every point is equidistant from the center, and there are no differences between them. Instead, it is the polyhedron, which reflects the convergence of all its parts, each of which preserves its distinctiveness" (EG, n. 236).

As we respond to Christ's call for an "everyday evangelization" wherever we are, let's stay open to this mysterious convergence of connections in our daily lives.  Let's consider the possibility that we might be the only bond of connection that someone has with the web of relations which make up the mystical body of Christ.  

And let's remember that, although we might not fully understand our place in the ever-expanding polyhedron during this life, we shall be told it in the next!

Monday, August 17, 2015

God's Gumption and the Assumption

Given the fact of our God's game-changing Incarnation,
Mary's Assumption is Love's logical implication.
The audacity of Spirit taking on human flesh
has transformed the way heaven and earth intermesh.
A sacramental cosmos unfolded in Mary's dear baby--
The Infinite disclosed in the finite--no if, but, or maybe.
Having taken on a body, the Son would thus suffer;
witnesses probed transformed wounds directly, without any buffer.
Disciples still reverence Christ's empty tomb, long since grown cold,
and we honor earthly remains from our saints of old.
Yet no burial place or relics of Mary exist,
her singular life was clearly destined not to desist.

The body, it turns out, is no mere shell to discard,
but the key to expressing our soul's eternal regard.

Neither a gnostic escapism from some meaningless realm,
nor reductive materialism with a godless helm.

Rather, earth enters Heaven when Christ goes to the Father;
first-fruits will soon follow when he repatriates our Mother.
Their glory will be ours if confidently we do trust
that the spark of divine life shines through this earthly dust.
So why does the Creator yearn for our creaturely presence?
  Triune Love is Integration and Communion in essence.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ego-Drama or Theo-Drama?

" [means] that we allow ourselves to be parted
from that narrow view directed toward our own ego
and that we begin to move out from our own self,
in order to be there for others."

+Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

So, what's the story of your life?  Or, perhaps more pointedly, how do you frame the story of your life? 

In the Ego-drama, my life is all about me.  I am the author of the screen play.  I have the lead role; I also produce and direct the show.  Or, to use the image from Mark 4:35-41 depicted above, I am the captain of my own boat, and my fate is in my own hands.

When the storms of life blow up, I am sometimes surprised that they don't exactly fit with the script I've imagined.  There's always my crew to blame, of course, or the "god" of my own making, against whom I can rant.  But such intrusive realities ultimately threaten my world view, and nothing is more important than me defending my place in my drama.

In the Theo-drama, on the contrary, others take center stage.  The entire production, in fact, abounds with a depth and a meaningfulness because the story is not dominated by my pride, my self-aggrandizement, my agenda. When properly framed in such a theological perspective, my life is really a matter of playing an essential part in a story that's larger than life itself. 

Rather than succumbing to illusions of total control, I navigate my way into the Theo-drama by humbly saying "Yes" to the role for which I was quite literally born.  I embrace the fact the "my boat" is not really mine, but is on loan for a few scenes.  I open my eyes to the fact that the Captain is always on board, and all is well, even though I cannot foresee the resolution of the final scene.

Monday, August 3, 2015

How to Beat the Sunday Night Blues
One of my great friends, with whom I taught for a number of years, used to describe the summer months in the following terms:  June is Friday; July is Saturday; August is Sunday night.

Maybe it's natural for students everywhere (as well as teachers!) to dread the end of summer and to be wary of the approaching school year.  But why does Sunday night seem to stymie the hearts of workers everywhere?  And as Christians, how might we begin to beat the Sunday night blues?

Here are a few strategies to help make the Lord's Day one of peace and joy:
  • Make Saturday a "work" day.  Rather than a being on a 7-day-per-week treadmill, wouldn't it be nice to shrink the work week by one seventh and thereby etch out a legitimate day of rest? Maybe it's just me, but whenever I let a Saturday waste away, I find myself slammed on Sunday.  Whenever I take care of chores or errands or catch-up work on Saturday, however, then Sunday plays out much more pleasantly.
  • Enjoy special foods.  St. Teresa of Avila once said that, to make a good retreat, one needs to eat well, sleep well and pray well.  When God made keeping the Sabbath Day holy one of the Ten Commandments, don't you think he had something like this in mind?  The old-fashioned idea of visiting family or friends on Sunday fits naturally with serving up some of our favorite foods.

Monday, July 27, 2015

An All-Season Love

Summer love makes all the headlines and captures the imagination of song writers.  But an all-season love is what people deeply desire. 

Each season brings its own unique flavor of love, of course.  Summer love is about energy and light.  Autumn love is a matter of reaping the harvest that’s been sown.  Winter love involves a hunkering-down and a tending of the fires.  Spring love rekindles and renews.

But an all-season love delivers the faithfulness and constancy needed in each passing season.  It gives witness to the supra-seasonal fidelity of the Lord, whose own love is mediated in and through the phases of our lives.

An all-season love knows that changes are not always linear and sequential. Sometimes they even seem to spiral in and through each other, according to some predestined double-helix design.

An all-season love speaks not only to passion and purpose, but also to desolation and even death itself.  More than merely riding the swells of a stormy sea, or grasping white-knuckled in the face of life's vicissitudes, an all-season love provides the baseline and the underlying rhythm which provides stability amid the daily fluctuations on our journey home.

An all-season love perdures because it alone is eternal.  It is the alternative to the using and the abandoning of worldly desires.  An all-season love saves us from being chewed up and discarded like last year's mulched leaves.

An all all-season love sees itself not in terms of choosing, but in having first been chosen.  It is defined not by its own thinking and acting, but by its primary stance of receiving and responding to the other. 

While a seasonal love is by definition a passing fancy of some sort, an all-season love embraces the gift of existence itself.  It breathes a quiet "Amen" to L. Guissani's insight, "I am because I am loved."