Arrivederci!

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Today is our final day at Sea. We’re currently sailing somewhere in the vicinity of British Columbia, or at least that’s what I believe we were told. It’s a full-day at sea. It’s been a day of final shopping for a few things. It’s been a day of packing and unloading and preparing for disembarking the Island Princess tomorrow morning in Vancouver and then fly out in the evening. Before I do all of that and get on the treadmill of travel to get home, some of this day has just been sitting on the deck of the ship and taking in the quietness of the waters. As a matter of fact, although I can see some land in the far-off distance, it’s pretty much all water and the lapping of the waves beyond us and up against the ship as we sail.

As I write, I’m up on the eleventh deck of the ship so there is much below me. Even as the birds fly by below, they seem so far away from where I sit. I was thinking, though, just how much life is below me here. I don’t necessarily mean the people that are below me on this Ship, although there are more than two thousand on board, but rather the thousands of feet of water that lies below and all that calls that home. We never get to see much of it at all. We were told we’d most likely see whales among other creatures living in these waters, but this time we’ve seen none of it here. We all certainly get credit for gazing toward the horizon, day in and day out, seeking to catch a sight of something, and yet, all I see is the lapping of the waves, both here and far. All I see are the land masses that pop up from time to time and the gulls that seek food below. As much as we can’t see below, I at least know that they can see into the depths as they search for food.

But that is the hard part of any journey and what we call life. It’s, at times, nearly impossible to see what lies below the surface of the waters. We tend to live in a world that seems better suited for what we can see and what lies on the surface rather than seeking something more, rather than taking flight like the gulls, and seeking what it is we are looking for. I even know, that, once I step outside my room here, I will enter another world, so often seeming superficial in trying to buy and sell and shop until you drop on the cruise ship. Now I’m fully aware that it is vacation and there is an element of that for all of us. We like to have a good time, celebrate, and be with friends. But in many ways, coming to my room here has been a sanctuary, sitting out looking over the waters before me calling me back home to myself and to the mystery that I am as well.

We will never completely know what lies before us, beyond us, and even beneath us. Why would we want to anyway. Without some unknown in our lives we no longer have a need for faith and hope. It’s when we stop taking flight out into the great blue yonder or allowing ourselves to enter into the deep waters of our own lives that we become content with what we see and what we know rather than seeking more. It’s the more that continues to enthrall us, invite us, even seduce us to a dissatisfaction with the flashing lights and the latest gadget rather than falling overboard into the depths of the ocean with the faith and hope we need that God too will swoop down and lead us to greater depths and take us to places we’ve never seen.

As this experience draws to a close and I continue to try to take in as much as I can, of all that I can see, I’m mindful of what lies beneath. There too the splashing of the waters lapping against the heart bringing about new life and new opportunities. Sure, the sea often feels the roughest at those moments, but it’s also what makes it exciting and and adventure. There is so much I can see and yet even more so that I cannot. All I can do is continue to accept the invitation as much as I can, without fighting it and allow the depths to take me away to new places, to new realities, to new experiences that are always within reach.

May It Be Done To Me

Exodus 20: 1-17; ICor 1: 22-25; John 2: 13-25

“We proclaim Christ crucified.” These are the words we hear from this very short passage from Saint Paul today in his letter to the Corinthians, and in a set of readings that are quite difficult to preach on, I am reminded of how Paul consistently, in these same words, is always moving communities to their own connection to the larger story and how we are all a part of Christ crucified. He uses those two words so frequently in his letters that it’s obvious that he believes it, has experienced it, lives it, and knows it in the depths of his being, and sees it as the connection that we all share as people and in the sharing of the suffering of the world, in and through Christ crucified.

It’s unfortunate because we have a tendency as believers, as Christians, to so often limit the great Mystery to something that has been done for us. Christ died for us, for our sins, for our salvation and so on, but that understanding also feeds into our own culture of entitlement that someone frees me of the responsibility of my own life and my connection to the larger people of Christ crucified and not always needing to grow up, mature, seek conversion in my life and in deepening my faith. But Paul comes at it in a different way. He understands the Mystery in its totality as not just something that is done for us, as gift as that is, but it is an ongoing invitation from God to be done to us. Remember the prayer of Mary from the beginning of the story to the prayer of Jesus in the Garden near the end of us ministry is the same prayer for us today, “May it be done to me…” To remain connected to that larger story, we must accept it as the daily reality as Paul did in his own life and not grow stagnant, even if that’s where we like to be at times.

As people, we do try to limit the Mystery at times in our lives and box God in to our image. Quite honestly, we can spend our entire lives simply trying to fulfill the Ten Commandments, the Ten Words that we hear in today’s First Reading from Exodus. Of course, we know them. We learn them from the time we are little kids and are ingrained within us. However, they can become an idol in and of themselves. But as we age and mature, we learn it’s not the fulfillment and fullness of God or this Great Mystery. What happens when we begin to see that we can’t live up to that constant expectation, when we begin to fail at the Ten Words, when we can’t force others to live up to them, as Jesus often confronted the Pharisees on and we will hear throughout John’s Gospel in the upcoming weeks. We can grow bitter and angry, holding grudges and resentment, or Christ crucified. At that very moment, when we can’t do it and our prayer becomes their prayer, may it be done to me, we find ourselves pushing against the Cross and experiencing Christ crucified; not merely a historical event, but a lived reality in our lives even to this day. We proclaim Christ crucified; that’s our connection to the larger story of life and our point of intersection and relationship with the sufferings of the world.

Now if you read Paul’s letter to Corinth you will find that he’s just getting started in this letter. As the letter progresses he too will begin to name the many idols that existed in that community and how they were used to divide people into their own camps rather than seeking unity within the themselves and with one another. Over and over again Paul will proclaim Christ crucified to the community, a stumbling block to Jews, just as much as it can be for us. We don’t want to go to that place; we’d much prefer to cling to something that was rather than embrace the life that God desires for us and how God’s love will be manifested in the world. Can we even begin to utter those words of Mary and Jesus, “May it be done to me…”. It must have been a prayer held deeply within Paul and will eventually lead to his own death, eternally connecting him to Christ crucified in his people.

The Gospel is a tough one. It’s another story that we are quite familiar with, the cleansing of the Temple. John places it at the beginning of his Gospel to set the tone for what is about to come, but it doesn’t make it any easier to hear or reflect upon. But using that same reality of idols in our lives, does not the Temple, or the Church in our case, at times become that same idol for us? It so often was for the people in the time of Jesus, certainly for the Pharisees that saw it as the be all and end all, often forgetting the greater gift, the larger story, even of their own Exodus, and even beyond the time of Jesus, missing the point of who and whose they are and what and who they are called to be in life. Both the Pharisees and the money changers and sellers were taking advantage of people so often manipulating them to believe that they were gods themselves and what they had the people needed.

The season provides us the opportunity to look upon and seek conversion from the many idols we hold onto in our own lives, the things we feel we can’t live without, even if it’s our thoughts, the way we do things, or whatever it may be, to be cleansed in order to get to the place where with all will the prayer of Mary and the prayer of Jesus may be ours, to be done to us. Yes, we can be thankful and grateful for what has been done for us, but it isn’t just about something in the past. God invites us into a moment of grace right now, and as Paul would so often say, the place you find the grace is the place you least expect it, in Christ crucified, at the Cross. We pray for the grace to make our prayer today, “May it be done to me…”.