Community of Love

The Passion of Jesus Christ According to John

I can’t say I’m a fan of shows about lawyers.  It’s not that I have a thing against lawyers, but it often seems that there is some deal of manipulation that takes place in order to convince people of the truth, even if it’s not the truth, simply to make a case.  Of course, it’s not even about television programs like Law & Order or anything like that.  We even see it when we catch any news.  There’s always a “legal expert” who’s going to try to convince you of something, that they know the truth and to cast doubt into the other’s case.  We hear it from Russia probes to “porn stars” and everything in between. It creates this sense of chaos and confusion leaving us with the same question as Pilate in today’s passion, “What is truth?”  It’s hard to tell sometimes.

That is what John seems to create in his account of the passion and death of Jesus that we hear every Good Friday.  It’s hard to determine what really is the truth and there seems to be utter confusion and chaos.  What only reinforces that is this enmeshing of politics and religion.  When the two align against Jesus he doesn’t stand much chance of making it out alive.  It comes down to at that point people’s power that they’re unwilling to surrender and over time, chipping away at any trust they may have of Jesus, invoking fear, confusion, and chaos on the scene.  For John, though, that’s where it all begins.  If you think back to the beginning of the bible as we know it, the creation accounts in Genesis, order is formed out of chaos.  Now, for John, this chaos that ensues towards Jesus’ death, is once again going to create a new order.  Not in the sense of control but in a new creation and new life that will flow from within.

When you think about it, even the charge brought against Jesus would not necessarily warrant death.  The crowd says that he claims to be Son of God.  However, again, from the very beginning, they too are sons and daughters of God but over time begin to sway from trusting that voice of the divine, giving into the fear, chaos, and confusion, and used by the people of power to bring down this guy Jesus.  This new created order that John says community is to become is a community that is once again rooted in that ancient of beliefs, that they are sons and daughters of God but from the beginning are lost from due to sin, due to thinking that they’re more than that, that they are God.  But when there is pressure from the authorities, who try to convince that they hold the truth and will manipulate into believing, it’s the voice of the divine that is crucified.  It is the community that now stands trial as to what and who it is they are going to become in the midst of a hostile world.  Will they follow the ruler of this world or of the Kingdom, as Jesus claims in the Passion account.

All leading to the climactic scene of Jesus on the cross, standing, as John tells us, literally in the middle of the tension and in the middle of all the hostility being cast upon him in these moments.  But unlike ourselves often, Jesus takes it in.  When vinegar and bitterness are placed upon his lips, unlike the other gospels, Jesus drinks.  He consumes the bitterness.  He consumes the anger.  He consumes the fear.  He consumes chaos and confusion.  He consumes all that is thrown at him, appearing that the world has finally won.  There is finally a verdict and the verdict stands with the status quo.  It stands with what we so often choose as well, to destroy the one who is perceived as the problem in order to make ourselves feel better.  It’s so much easier to spew hatred and bitterness upon the world, but Jesus consumes it.  He consumes the bitter herbs that are cast upon him but not to show violence towards the world.  Rather, to transform it.

Yet, it’s still not finished.  When that bitterness is consumed by Christ, and rather than casting judgment upon them and the world, a lance is cast into his side and blood and water flow out.  In that very moment of consumption of all that the world has thrown at Jesus, a new community is formed.  Just as blood and water flow from the womb of the mother, now blood and water flows from the side of Jesus and a community of love is formed.  All the bitterness, chaos, and confusion are transformed and recreated into new life and this community is birthed.  It’s no longer based simply on doctrine.  Even Jesus stands trial for that and nothing can be found against him.  It’s not a community based on ideology or anything else.  Rather, it’s a community of love that flows from the side of Jesus.

We come to this second prayer of Easter as we reflect upon the passion according to John.  John isn’t about a community but shows the path towards a community that is rooted in love.  From a God who humbles and comes down to the earth, to a God who humbles and gets on his knees and washes the feet of the disciples, including Judas, to now a God who points to yet a deeper love and an opportunity to participate in that deeper love by going into the depths of the earth, into the new tomb as John tells us in order to transform all that has died.  Blood and water flow from the womb, blood and water flow from the side, blood and water will flow from the tomb and this new community of love will form.  That’s what John believed to be true of any community that puts the Cross at its center.

As we come to venerate this Cross in a few moments, we come with grateful hearts.  Sure we recognize the sacrifice that has been made for us, redeemed for our sins, but it’s much more than that.  It’s not just about something being done for us.  It’s also about something being done to us and in us John would say.  We can’t stop short in being a community of love.  We must take those final steps, when we find ourselves on trial ourselves and juror at times.  Which voice is going to give us the eternal truth?  Do we form our lives and community around popular opinion and what’s most acceptable or will we take the often more difficult path of trusting the divine.  We too stand at the center of it all and are often left with choices ourselves.  It’s very easy to become consumed by chaos and confusion and to spew the bitterness of our own lives onto others and the world.  It’s easy.  It’s going with the crowd today, so easily convinced.  In that moment the divine is crucified again and again.  Yet, we come with gratitude because God continues to invite us back to this very place and in this moment, calling to mind to our own truest identity, as sons and daughters of God.  If it were only as easy to convince ourselves of that then blood and water would flow from us as well, co-creators in this world.

In the midst of hostility, bitterness, confusion, fear, and chaos, Jesus stands trial.  It’s the alignment of the feast and the hour as we heard last night and that time has finally arrived.  We pray for that grace, in these moments of our own lives, that we too will choose our own bitterness and hostility to be transformed by the divine in order that we may continue to become that community of love that John desired.  It takes a great deal of sacrifice and pain along the way, letting go, and allowing ourselves to be transformed by Love in order to be love.  On this Good Friday we pray for that grace for Love to touch our hearts in a deeper way, through our own chaos and hostility, touching the blood and water as they flow in order to make us a new creation, a community of love.

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Intimately Beyond

Isaiah 60: 1-6; Matthew 2: 1-12

We come to the final Sunday of the Christmas season and it gets bookended with Matthew’s version of the birth of Christ with the visit of the Magi and the star guiding their way.  Of course, even here we lump them all together to create our very own Charlie Brown Christmas but certainly not the intention of either Matthew or Luke, each having their own reasons as to why the story is told.  I’ve said before that Matthew is very much about change and an interior change that is necessary to be a follower and so there’s very little need to historical evidence of these events but very much when it comes to our spiritual life.

It is the rising of the stars appearance that sets these Magi on this journey to Bethlehem.  Many over the years have tried to give historical evidence even of the star, whether it’s a comet or something, but again, not Matthew’s point.  If we want evidence, facts, or certainty we’ve come to the wrong place.  It was common belief that everyone was given a star by these astrologers upon their birth into this world.  Yet something had to be different about this one that would set the astrologers on such an arduous journey themselves.  It’s rising must have set off an unrest within them that would send them seeking and now stand as the archetypal images of seeking of the more.  Not the more the world tries to offer but the seeking of the Christ that forces us to our knees in homage.  So they set out in search of the rising star.  A star that stands as a guiding principle, a seat of wisdom, of sorts that lies deep within them and yet still unknown.

There is another word we use often in our language that has star at its root.  The word we use is disaster, dis-star, meaning separated from one’s internal guide.  We even speak of our lives or such as a disaster when we feel out of sorts or feeling lost and confused.  Which leads us to the first stop of the Magi, Jerusalem, where they encounter disaster first hand in Herod.  Herod considers himself the center of the world and yet is filled with fear and paranoia when he hears of this rising star coming to the world stage.  Not only Herod, but all of Jerusalem with him, Matthew tells us.  Now certainly they knew what Herod was capable of and would see first hand his destruction and just how much of a disaster he was.  This rising star, not only a threat to Herod’s perceived power but very much to the status quo.  Even though this peace was rooted in fear it’s what they knew and what they could cling to.  They were certain of at least that.

The Magi quickly learn that Jerusalem in not the place of the Christ.  It’s going to be an opportunity for these journeymen to let go of their own perceived idea of the power they sought was not going to come from worldly position.  The most obvious place was the palace in Jerusalem and yet all they find there in the midst of wealth and status was fear, jealousy, secrets, and a guy who was most consumed by himself and the power he acquired through position than in seeking.  Herod himself stands as an archetype of the non-seeker, believing that authority comes from him and external authority.  He thinks it’s enough to send the Magi further to do the work for him.  Yet, as a writer who calls for interior change, Matthew understands that the work is done by ourselves.  We must make the journey ourselves while passing through the doors of death in Jerusalem, just as Jesus does as well.  Matthew mirrors Jesus’ own journey by passing through Jerusalem in order to experience the fullness of life that is promised. 

This all leads to the second journey, the journey into Bethlehem.  Notice that it appears in the writing of the gospel that the star seems to dissipate over Jerusalem and reappears as they begin the second journey.  Now having been stripped of their own expectations, the Magi open themselves and create the space within themselves to encounter the divine.  When they find their true home, not in some palace, but in the poverty of Bethlehem, everything begins to make sense.  They recognize that what they have sought they had all along and simply cast a shadow upon Herod and the status quo.  It was simply revealed to them who Herod really was and the emptiness of his supposed power, holding people hostage in fear and settling for the status quo. 

Mary and Joseph, in Matthew’s gospel are not exempt from making a similar journey.  They too will follow and be led by the rising star into Egypt.  They, and all of Israel, are invited to face their own history.  Egypt stood for everything Herod was, despite being a religious leader.  Egypt was the place of slavery, war, and fear for Israel.  Matthew calls them collectively to take this journey that the Magi do to shed light and to cast a shadow on where it is that they need to change and where they still cling to fear.  Like the infant passing through, the Magi passing through Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph passing through Egypt, and ultimately Jesus passing through Jerusalem, there’s no way around.  The journey to a fuller and free life is through our own Jerusalem.

The journey Matthew calls us to and the encounter with the Christ is a difficult one and arduous at best.  It’s long and it takes us to places we’d often rather not go.  No one wants to admit that we at times clamor for power, fear and are anxious, content with the status quo, want proof and certainty, and yet, everything about this feast and season tells us just the opposite of who we have been created to be.  Like Herod, no one else can do it for us.  Heck, we’re even content with living a disastrous life and settling for it in our Church, city, nation, and world.  It’s what we know and can be sure of, but lacks meaning and purpose and certainly shows how separated we’ve become from our own center.  Our faith and what we celebrate in this season points to freedom and liberation, more often than not, from ourselves.  Letting go of our own expectations, being led to the belly of the beast, and yet pushed even further to encounter what is real.  And in a moment, in a simple encounter, everything makes sense.  The Magi could not go home by the same route just as we cannot when we have this encounter with the Christ.  In that encounter the Magi see, for the first time, the real presence, and finally understand that the Christ has been with them all along this journey, when the divine of within encounters the divine beyond.

As we enter into the fullness of this season and begin to tell the story of how this gift is manifested, we pray for the grace to make the journey.  No one can do it for you and no one can tell you how to get there.  Everyone knows their Jerusalem and their Egypt that they need to encounter.  Slowly, the eternal Christ within begins to reveal what is real and the deeper truth of our own lives.  It takes courage and great grace.  But like the Magi, in our own unsettledness, we’re pushed forward and through so that we to can live the fullness of life.  Matthew desired something more from and for his community after witnessing the horrors of the world.  Our desire is the same.  The Magi point the way into our own Bethlehem, into the vulnerability of a heart that throbs and overflows with union.  When we allow ourselves the opportunity to make the journey we become transformed, liberated from a past that holds us back and clouds our vision in order to be led to a deeper understanding of this mystery that lead us to simply do as the Magi, to fall on our knees in homage recognizing that it was never about us but the Christ that calls us forth to new life.

Easter’s Good Friday

The Passion According to John

For a moment I invite you to look at this Passion that we just heard from John and this day that we now celebrate, Good Friday, from a different perspective. Over the centuries as a Church we have often only looked from one direction and that’s where we have just come from, the Lenten Season. It was a time of sacrifice, a time of giving up, but when we do we gather today in sadness despite the fact that on the first day of the Lenten season we’re told not to do that, not to be gloomy. That’s not the point of Good Friday despite the fact that we often do it not just with this day but with our lives, and in particular, we become fixated on our hurts and live a life of victimhood. What I invite you into, though, is to look at it as John did some 70 years after the death of Jesus and from the lens of resurrection, from the lens of Easter.

I have said for the past few weeks as we looked at the stories coming from John that he’s a very different interpretation than what we just heard back on Palm Sunday and Matthew’s Gospel. In John’s, from beginning to end, Jesus is conscious of what he does and is aware of not only the choices he makes but also how others respond to him and react to what he does and doesn’t do. Today’s Passion is no different and so it’s not just Jesus but John who’s writing to his community that views from that same lens. In the other gospels, it’s Jesus who is interrogated by everyone as the chaos ensues around him. But not in John’s. It begins that way, but being aware and being conscious of it all, Jesus turns the tables as he does throughout the gospel. It goes from him being on trial to him putting everyone else on trial and interrogating them, without getting trapped into their own chaos and confusion and struggle for power.

With that understanding, even to his own death, there is a point to everything that John conveys through images and events in the passion. One of the images that we tend to just flash by is the one, nearing his death, where Jesus has this encounter with the beloved disciple and Mary. He says behold your son and behold your mother. For John, the message he conveys to his community in that moment that a new family, a new community forms out of this moment. They are no longer simply bound by blood or by tribe but by something more. It’s not to say that blood or tribe just suddenly goes away, but as his community forms and this new family takes shape, it’s now the eternal Christ that unites them as a people. For John, what dies on the cross are the bonds that often separate us recognizing from the beginning, as his gospel begins, that it is the Word, the eternal Christ, that lives forever. It’s why it’s a solemn day but not a sad day. From the ancient Church it’s been this passion that we have heard as a people, not to embrace a victim mentality or viewing life through the lens of what was, but rather the new life and the new community that forms.

It’s followed up, as the death of Jesus takes place, when a soldier then thrusts a lance in the side of Jesus and blood and water flow out. For John, it all comes together in this moment, life and death, and the birth of a new people, a new family, a new community, flows when blood and water break forth. In the beginning was the Word John tells us and now in this moment, it’s not a lance that thrusts forth but rather new life. It’s the perspective that John tries to convey to his community. This celebration was about coming together to retreat and to reflect upon where we have come from and where the Christ now tries to lead us.

I can stand here and ask everyone of you in this church about the suffering of the world and our lives and I would bet that all of us would be able to identify the great sufferings that occur, from the smallest of children blown up by bombs to people killed on the streets, those suffering with great illnesses and so forth, but even that is about the perspective we have on life. It’s so easy to live the life of victim and that is one of the theories that has been drilled into us about Jesus and why this day happens. We could live in what was, embrace our hurts and how we have been wronged or somehow cheated out of something, but, quite honestly, then we might as well live our lives stuck on Palm Sunday and the lenten season and never move beyond. That’s not the grace of this day for John and nor should it be for us. That season of our lives has now ended and a new one is being given to us, a new beginning, as blood and water burst forth from the side of Jesus.

As we continue this journey and these days of retreat, we are once again invited to look at it from a new perspective, one that offers life rather than more resentment, loss, and victimhood. It serves us no good anyway. What are the symbols and images that seem to be touching our hearts at this very moment, where the Word now tries to break forth in our lives. We live our lives in hope and are called, as Jesus is in John’s Gospel, aware and conscious of who we are and what we do in the face of such suffering, often brought on by our own unawareness, and to be freed to embrace the new life. In the end, for John, it all comes down to this as Jesus breathes the spirit upon this new community as he takes his last breath. Yes, something dies but what remains is the eternal and it is the eternal Christ that stands as our truest bond as community and as family.

Passing Through

Exodus 24: 3-8; Hebrews 9: 11-15; Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26

Passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle…

These are the words we hear from the writer of Hebrews today, coupled with countless images in the first reading and gospel today about the preparations for some kind of memorial or celebration of sorts that are taking place in their lives. Of course, for the disciples, whether they know it or not, it’s a time of preparation for the loss that they are about to experience in the death of Jesus. We all know when we have important events in our lives the great deal of preparation that comes with such events, such as weddings and births and so many other milestones that we mark. Jesus even uses his impending death as an opportunity to prepare his disciples for something greater. We also know the preparation comes with a great deal of stress at times, people upset and angry at times, heck, we know it can be a painful time for people, and yet, when that baby is born or we watch the smiles and the love of a newly married couple, it seems all but forgotten.

And yet, there is that image from the writer of Hebrews, of the passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle and the two passages in Jesus’ life, first from that tabernacle we call Mary’s womb to the great tabernacle of the tomb that opens the doors, wide, for the eternal, even before the very eyes of his disciples. There are these great passages that we mark in our lives as well, yet, very much one and the same in some ways, of the passing through. But we gather here today mindful of this feast and mindful of our own preparations in life for an experience of the eternal, not simply at the end of our time but at this very moment, revealed and opened to us through and in this Eucharist that we celebrate.

Yet, by the time we get here much has probably gone on, sending texts, busy with the kids, working, or whatever the case may be, myself included, that we must ask ourselves what kind of preparation have we made to allow ourselves to enter into and pass through this more perfect tabernacle, mindful of our own call to be a temple of the Spirit? If you read Mark’s gospel from beginning to end, when you finally get to this point of the preparation for the Last Supper, there is a dramatic slowing down that takes place and more meaning to the preparation than for anything else in the gospel. Go into the city, a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water, go to the upper room that is already furnished and ready for us, you can almost begin to see ourselves with the disciples preparing for what they thought was a meal and a memorial but as always, Jesus has something more in mind and will once again invite them to a new place and an new understanding of himself that they won’t readily accept or understand. All they can do is take it all in and allow it to transform them.

But there’s also great detail in this passage from Exodus. We hear about erecting an altar, the twelve pillars, sacrifice, the splashing of blood, the reading of the covenant aloud, again, we can begin to step back into a different reality that there is something that I am witnessing before my eyes and yet, somehow know that there is something deeper going on that is not seen, invisible in a sense, that is in someway speaking to me in a place that is so deep and yet beyond that it is beyond comprehension, another invitation to pass through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, birth and death taking place before me and yet within at the same time. The images are dramatic and life-like, transforming in a way that can’t be described, done by the grace of God.

This feast we celebrate today in the Body and Blood of Christ is about all of it. It’s about the preparation that we make and that we allow God to take within us. It’s about the sacrifice and even the splashing of blood. Yet, as much as it sometimes seems beyond us, and it is, we come mindful of just how close this God really is, all at the same time. Maybe, and most importantly, it is about the seen and the unseen. It’s easy to be fooled when we see bread and wine just as much as it is to easily be fooled by people that turn out exceeding expectations. Our eyes can deceive us as much as they can invite us into the passing through of the greater and more perfect tabernacle and a deeper experience of life and death in this Eucharist. We see one thing, but in due time and with ongoing preparation, the eyes of our hearts and souls take over and finally we begin to see the true essence, not only in this Eucharist but in our very lives.

A Changed Vision

Genesis 22: 1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18; Romans 8: 31-34; Mark 9: 2-10

The first reading today from the Book of Genesis probably sounds rather bizarre to us, especially if you’re a parent or grandparent. I can’t image anyone wanting to be in Abraham’s position today as he prepares to sacrifice his son Isaac. What makes it even more bizarre is we know the back story and the waiting and questioning that Abraham and Sarah did in their lives in wanting to give birth and now here he is about to do something that we’d consider quite crazy! The obvious connection between this reading and Jesus is of course the sacrifice of the son and the Son. Yet, like in our own lives, it’s often not about the obvious; there’s often something deeper going on in our lives that is beyond words and understanding and maybe by means of reflection, can we ask ourselves if we’re willing to give up and sacrifice what’s most important to us?

Again, think of the context of their lives, Abraham and Sarah. Think about how they struggled in life and with God, how they would question and wonder and doubt what it is that God was doing in their lives, working on them constantly. When they learn that they were to give birth to a son they laugh in the face of God! When they can finally let go of the doubts and how they thought God should act and what God should do in their lives, somehow shorting them of something they felt they should have in the birth of a child, the Spirit begins to break through in their lives. The same thing happens with Abraham in this reading today. He think he understands what God is calling him to do, again, in his own need to grow and change over time and in life, is being called to see and hear and listen from a different point of view. In that moment, the Spirit breaks through his life and his soul begins to expand, “countless as the stars in the sky and sands of the seashore”. Once again, Abraham is invited into a deeper place, a more radical place in his own life in becoming the father of faith and living the will of God.

The disciples will get there eventually. Their own vision and hearing is still limited to what they are being called to, despite the invitation that they are given in today’s Gospel. The glory is revealed before their very eyes and yet they are warned not to tell others of the experience. Jesus knows quite well that they aren’t there yet and it would be from a place of authenticity yet because their vision and their own ego and thought pattern of who God is and who and what it means to be the Christ; they remain limited in the midst of the unlimited. It won’t be until their own interior lives are rocked by the Cross that their own vision and hearing begins to change and the transfiguration will begin to make sense, not as something seen beyond them but rather something that unfolds within them and to live the more radical life of love that God calls them to in their lives. They have to come down off the mountain and out of their heads in order to not just think who this God should be but to experience the God they will come to know. Sometimes the most important thing we have to give up and sacrifice is the way we think, our opinions, our judgments that we hold onto, even the ones that we hold about God before we can embrace that radical life that we are called to as disciples.

As we continue this journey through the lenten season, we pray for a breaking through in our own lives and in our own journey as individuals and a community. Lent, and these readings, are a good reminder of how limited we can become or allow ourselves to be limited, avoiding a change in our own vision of life and God or our inability to hear that voice of God calling us to come down off our own mountains that we create for ourselves and delve deeply into our humanity and to see the divine within, straight to the Cross of Calvary, leading us to a more meaningful life, one filled joy, a life with an expansion of soul as Abraham experiences when never growing weary of God who remains faithful through it all, always trying to break into the world and into our sufferings in order to bring life and love, for as Paul tells us today, nothing can separate us from that love. God calls us to that more radical way of living, a life filled with love and meaning; a love that leads us to even sacrifice what we have deemed most important to us and, in turn, a love that expands from the stars of the sky to the sands of the seashore.

My Soul Shall be Healed

DT 18: 15-20; I Corinth 7: 32-35; Mark 1: 21-28

I attended the retreat day for the Northeast Catholic Community and one of the main themes that you hear is how attached we become to these buildings where we come to pray and worship. Rightfully so…from birth to death, this is where we gather; it holds a great deal of memories for us and it’s hard to let go. This is nothing new. If you read back even into the Book of Exodus, you hear the same struggle between God and the people. There is always this tension of going to a particular place to experience God, while at the same time, God’s trying to break the mold and into the world. When we hold onto it, we sometimes begin to lose the essence of it, of the sacred space and what’s inside. We start to miss the symbolic nature of this building beyond the walls and the memories, the symbolism of our own sacred space, the very depths of our souls, when we gather here.

Now flash forward to the readings we hear this weekend. One of the common themes of Mark’s Gospel, and I dare say our own lives, is there is constant movement from in and out of different places. Today they aren’t in just any old place, they are in the synagogue of Capernaum. When we hear that Jesus and the disciples are inside, our ears should perk up because something different is about to take place. There will be a lesson of sorts for the disciples. Ironically, what they encounter in this sacred space is a man with an unclean spirit. The last thing we think we would find in this sacred space is an unclean spirit, and yet, they do and we do. There is a continuous breakdown of the separation of sacred and profane space to simply sacred space, in which even unclean spirits can dwell. Notice also that the unclean spirit does not speak in the singular. The spirit says, “What have you to do with us? Have you come to destroy us?” But Jesus isn’t going to be intimidated by such spirits but he isn’t there to destroy them either. The challenge for us humans is, we become accustomed to the unclean spirits, holding onto our own memories, hurts and all, in our own souls, our sacred space, in you and me, to the point where we begin to identify with them. We begin to identify with our sin rather than the grace and spirit of God. When they encounter Christ and when we begin to live through Christ, the unclean spirits begin to lose our grip on them, we identify less with them, and we begin to live out of the place of grace and be led by the Spirit of God.

I do believe Moses found that place. We talk about him never getting to the Promise Land, and maybe not physically crossing into the Land, but Moses found it within himself. He found that sacred space and also battled the unclean spirits, the false prophets from within; he had to have in his life. He could not have done what he did in leading the people if he did not do his work and find his true essence as a person and who he was created. His journey is our journey, of cleansing and letting go of what holds us back from living life to the fullest. He warns people Israel today that they too must take the same journey and will encounter false prophets along the way, their own unclean spirits. Don’t become identified with them; they will not lead to holiness and wholeness. They will pass and when they begin to crack, the facade they create, God’s grace and the true prophetic voice will once again lead the way to the Promised Land in the beyond and within.

I do believe it’s the anxiety that Paul speaks of in his continued letter to the Corinthians. He kind of throws all of us under the bus today in that we all have our worries, but we also begin to identify with those worries. They have a way of taking over our own sacred space and we begin to live out of a different place and trust a different voice, the voice of the unclean spirits within. We keep doing the same thing over and over again, holding onto what was and the memories begin to take hold. Healing is where he tries to lead the people of Corinth, a life of reconciliation and surrender. We become, as he states, worried about pleasing the other, thinking our life depends upon it, while failing to please God and living as if that’s all that matters; a life in the fullness of the Lord.

From the confines of these walls to the confines of our souls, if that is even possible, the unclean spirits exist and we spend our lives discerning these spirits and identifying which are unclean and which are of God, Holy. They aren’t meant to be destroyed, but simply to be let go and set free as when they encounter Christ today, the true prophetic voice. When we try to do it ourselves, they only consume us all the more. It can only happen with an encounter with the divine from the very depths of our souls and seeing them from the place of grace. Only the divine can help loosen their grip on us and loosen their grip on our identity that we can live from the sacred space and be led by the Spirit of God. We pray for the awareness of those spirits in our lives and community. We pray for a break in the facade. We pray, as with Moses, and certainly the strength of not being intimidated in Christ, that we may live our lives from our true identity, from and within the divine indwelling of our very heart and soul leading to the Promised Land and a fullness of life today.

The Longing of Silence

Isaiah 63: 16-17, 19; 64: 2-7; Mark 13: 33-37

In 1964 Simon and Garfunkel released their hit Sound of Silence. Of course, many of you know it was a tumultuous time in the world and country, let alone the Church at that time. The Vietnam War was escalating and dragging on, bloodshed in the streets, the civil rights era was growing as segregation comes to a head, and even post-Vatican II in the life of the Church, felt like everything was in upheaval. In the midst of this all, this song, Sound of Silence is released, prophetic words at that time and possibly today as well when it feels as if we are right there again, tumultuous times in the country, community, and world, facing upheaval. What makes their words prophetic was their recognition of how comfortable we had become with darkness, even referring to it as friend. It’s as if we become accustomed to fear and violence, often leaving us feeling helpless and saying, “that’s just the way it is.”

In our own words of faith, they speak of the longing for the voice of reason and the voice of God to speak and rise up to something new. It is that which is squashed and told we are to fear, leaving us lonely and longing on a deeper level, wanting more, and yet, feeling like we must settle for what was. At times, feeling as if the silence is deafening and uncomfortable that we’d prefer to stay put rather than sit with what is uncomfortable, the longing within. Even the naysayers pick up on it all and convince us that the world is about to end, fear mongering, and it is in this present form, but as people of faith, we must also look at it as a birthing of something new and a letting go of what was, making space for our longing to give birth to new life, to a new way of living. Whether we like it or not, it is almost always coupled with violence, but isn’t the birth of a child somewhat painful and violent? Yet, life breaks forth beyond the pain and darkness.

Much of what we hear during this season, especially from the prophet Isaiah is an acknowledgment of that longing of people Israel and us as well. We hear that today, that over time, the hearts of people Israel have grown hardened by avoiding the silence and the longing within, thinking it can be answered and fulfilled outside themselves. It takes place following the exile as Isaiah crafts this prayer for a return of God’s favor to the people, an intervention by God into their lives. You would think a people that experienced the violence, bloodshed, famine, and overwhelming death would be quick to change their ways, and yet, what Isaiah witnesses is a people that slowly return to their old ways, a return to what brings comfort, trying to fill the longing of their hearts as individuals and a people in ways that just won’t work. As time passes, the voice of God begins to silence and the people are left wandering in their own lostness, wondering, where is their God who had led them out of exile, the God who had moved them beyond exodus, over and over again, the faithful God and potter who Isaiah speaks of in this prayer.

The disciples will quickly learn as well about that deep longing within as the ministry of Jesus ends at this part of Mark’s Gospel which we pick up in this new year, and from this moment on, the voice of Jesus, like it did for people Israel, will grow silent. As his voice grows silent, the disciples and Jesus experience violence and bloodshed. Once again the political and religious leaders will use fear, as is so often done today, to control and to squash that voice and eventually, kill it on the cross. Jesus and the disciples know all to well about that longing and the deafening silence that often ensues in these tumultuous times, times of uncertainty that leave us running for something else and something more, thinking it will be filled in other ways rather than sitting with our own uncomfortableness, our own interior silence and longing.

We know all to well during this season that there are many things that grab our attention and fill us with excuses as to why we don’t have time for prayer and silence. We have shopping to do, somehow trying to find that perfect gift, we have baking, card writing, and all the rest, and before you know it, it’s Christmas Eve and Advent has passed us by. My experience, that longing then begins to show itself the day after Christmas, when we couldn’t meet expectations, when it wasn’t the right gift, and so on, and we start to feel it within. As we enter into this season of Advent, these prophetic voices invite us into silence. They invite is into our own uncomfortableness. When we sit with it long enough, even if it’s a few minutes a day, God can begin to transform the longing into life, rather than us buying into the fear over and over. We all have it within us and we all need silence otherwise we act out that longing in so many different ways. The sound of silence can be deafening and avoided quite easily in our lives, but in giving birth, which itself is quite painful, God wants to meet us there to give birth to that longing into a newness of life.