Friday, June 21, 2013

St Aloysius Gonzaga

Preserve me, O God, I take refuge in you.
 I say to the Lord: 'You are my God.'
Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
 it is you yourself who are my prize.

You will show me the path of life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand happiness forever.

                                     Psalm 16 [15]: 1-2, 11

.        .        .

I made a conscious effort in my early 20's to memorize this psalm. (The final verse, 16.11, is the reason for the number appearing in my twitter handle and email address. Nothing to do with the King James Bible.) I struggled constantly against the sense that what I really needed to be happy was something 'out there', somewhere beyond me. If only I could reach it--the right job, the right guy, the right whatever--then I would really be happy.

No. I saw in this psalm that real happiness comes from somewhere else entirely. It's not from out there, but originates in here. It is the peace that surpasses all understanding, not the perfect situation, that settles the soul. In comparison to many, the storms in my life are just light rain showers. Still, I need shelter, and the psalmist reminds me that the only shelter I can count on is God: preserve me O God, I take refuge in you.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

St Romauld

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.
Psalms 131[130] :1-3.
'I have calmed and quieted my soul'? Maybe so, for St Romauld. Not so for me. Nor would I fare better with the readings for week 11 of the year: happy the one who fears the Lord, because it will go well for her. No, I am not feeling especially triumphant today, not like one who has mastered my fretful soul.
There is something that intrigues me, though, about the combination of readings for St Romauld. The first reading is from Philippians, and it includes Gregory of Nyssa's favorite phrase: 'forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal...' The psalm says 'rest'; Philippians says, 'get on with it!'
Maybe resting is getting on with it. That seems to have been the case with St Romauld. He became a Benedictine, then a hermit. He wanted to be alone with God; he sought a prayerful solitude. To attend to the presence of God in his cell and to be quiet was active spiritual engagement.
I like that, but I am not entirely sure how it helps. Time alone is rare, and silence is hard to find. Everywhere I go there are things that insist on being done. At home there are more domestic chores than hours in the week; at work there is always something else waiting after each task is completed. Even walking to work, errands interrupt the quiet--whether I do them immediately or not, I am reminded of what is to be done. My soul catches the unsettledness of the house, the daily timetable, the office. And my activity is far from spiritual engagement.
I cannot do it: I need more grace.
St Romauld, pray for us.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

St Anthony of Padua

I will hear what God the Lord will say;
For He will speak peace to His people,
to His godly ones;
But let them not turn back to folly.
Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him,
That glory may dwell in our land.
Lovingkindness and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth springs from the earth,
And righteousness looks down from heaven.
Psalm 85 [84]:9-11
For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6 NASB
. . .
It won't be the first time I observe that the 'truth [that] springs from the earth' begs for a Christological reading. The whole exchange of intimacy between love and truth, righteousness and peace, it seems to me, signals the righting of the relationship between Creator and creation. It is the work of the incarnation, accomplished in Christ.
But I confess I never attended carefully enough to the preceding verse. Together with the passage from 2 Corinthians (which runs from 3:15 to 4:6), the Christological significance is hard to miss. The glory of The Lord comes to dwell in the land ('and we have beheld his glory...' John's gospel says), and in our hearts. (I can't help but add, though, that we have this treasure in earthen vessels--so says 2 Cor 4:7--so that the power is seen as coming from God and not from us.)
Glory. It is the glory of God that is revealed in the meeting of lovingkindess and truth, in the kiss of justice and peace. The glory of God is in Christ. And it looks like love.
Deo gratias.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

St Barnabas

The Lord has made known his salvation;
has shown his justice to the nations.
He has remembered his truth and love
for the house of Israel.
Psalm 98 [97]

. . .
Justice. Truth. Love. Israel and the nations.
I am always struck by the juxtapositions in the psalms. It's as if the psalmist wants us always to bear in mind that God's justice is never without God's love, and God's love is never without God's truth; that God's particular love for Israel is a love that takes in the whole world, that the chosenness of God's people is a vocation to bless, to be a blessing to the world. This is who God is--the one who loves in truth, the one who is justice and mercy and peace.
God is always bigger than we thought. And no matter how long we follow Jesus, or how deep our faith is, we are still susceptible to paradigm shifts, to a still more profound encounter with the Lord. How often I coast along, like my car in neutral on a gentle downhill slope. I am not looking for the paradigm shift. Am I even looking for Jesus? Am I so sure I am following that I have stopped looking ahead on the road for his footprints, his figure in the distance?
Probably, yes. More often than I think. I forget to look up, to ask for the eyes to see, the ears to hear, the mind to know, and the heart to love God. Would I hear the Spirit calling, as the community heard the Spirit calling Barnabas and Paul? I am not so sure. Fortunately God remembers, even when I don't, keeps calling me forward. By God's grace, eventually, I look up, and I see Jesus there, God's Truth and God's Love, and I know he hears the prayer of my heart, and I am grateful.
Deo gratias.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

St Norbert

...And together they said, 'Amen, amen,' and laid down for the night.
Tobit 6: 10 - 8: 9
. . .

Today's reading from Tobit fascinates me, as I see the prayer of Tobit and Sarah in context. I was acquainted to with the prayer, but until today could not have related the story of Tobit and Sarah that leads up to it. It is a lovely prayer, in which the newly-joined couple ask for God's blessing, especially (in Tobit's words) 'that she and I may grow old together.' Not an unusual prayer for newlyweds.
The context, however, shows that Tobit is taking his life in his hands. Sarah's seven previous husbands all died on the wedding night, before consummating the marriage. Tobit has been reassured by the angel Raphael that the Sarah will be released from the demon responsible for the deaths of the others. Raguel, Sarah's father, warns Tobit about the fate of the others, but Tobit will not be dissuaded.
Going in to Sarah is an act of faith, trusting that the angel of the Lord has kept that promise. If not, Tobit might die like the others. It reminded me of Luke 5, in which Peter trusts Jesus: he goes out again, into the waters in which he's found no fish, and tries again.
'At your bidding, Lord...' It is the hardest place to try again, the place we've found barren, lifeless, empty. But that is often where the greatest fruit is to be found, and where we discover who we are, and who Jesus is, more profoundly than before.