My Sister and Brother Are My Life

The Gospel reading for today, Mark 4.13-21, is a strikingly Mark in style – brief, to the point, and yet covering the topic completely. He establishes the essential interplay between my personal profession of faith in the risen Lord and the salvation of others. Discipleship is not individualistic. It is personal which means that in order for it to be about me in any meaningful way it must be about you and you and you too!

My salvation is interwoven with the work of Christ Jesus to save others. My life of transformation is not just about me. It is about others. Mine and yours is a saving witness. Salvation is about true personhood and true humanity and the true heaven and earth. The right (saving) relationship between “I” and “we.”(Orthodox theologian Metropolitan John D. Zizioulas has written about this in several books. Fr. Stephen Freeman reflects on the work Zizioulas has done in this regard on his blog.)

All of this is about the essential nature of missional expression to the healthy life of discipleship. (There is no need to limit it to this expression and no need to exclude it from this expression. No need to engineer it in either direction…)

If you haven’t guessed it, this means that the heart of the message of evangelism is the message of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation in life-giving actuality. Listen to that statement and hear the deep mystery that the saving message is the recovery of and living out of authentic personhood in and through and as Christ Jesus by grace. All of our “sacred vocabulary” and interpretive operations are defined by and made possible by the mystery of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation not as doctrines but as articulations of actual life-giving relationship(s). The Holy Trinity and the Incarnation are to be lived at the dinner table, on the bus, at the ball field, not argued about in ivory towers. These are simply ways of speaking of authentic life — the best way to live life. The theologian is the woman and man who struggles faithfully to live out the “practical mysteries” not the “impractical doctrines.” (Tragically, that is what they are understood to be for many — “impractical doctrines”.)

Pope Francis reflects on the missionary aspect of my journey of salvation.

“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”
Evangelization takes place in obedience to the missionary mandate of Jesus: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28,19-20)… The risen Christ sent his followers to preach the Gospel in every time and place, so that faith in him might spread to every corner of the earth.

The word of God constantly shows us how God challenges those who believe in him “to go forth”. Abraham received the call to set out for a new land (Gen 12,1-3). Moses heard God’s call: “Go, I send you” (Ex 3,10) and led the people towards the promised land . To Jeremiah God says: “To all whom I send you, you shall go” (Jer 1,7)… All of us are called to take part in this new missionary “going forth”. Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel.

The Gospel joy which enlivens the community of disciples is a missionary joy. The seventy-two disciples felt it as they returned from their mission (Lk 10,17). Jesus felt it when he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit… This joy is a sign that the Gospel has been proclaimed and is bearing fruit. Yet the drive to go forth and give, to go out from ourselves, to keep pressing forward in our sowing of the good seed, remains ever present. The Lord says: “Let us go on to the next towns that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mk 1,38)… In fidelity to the example of the Master, it is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. Source

Let us pray…

O God of truth and love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, hear our prayer for those who do not know You, that they may come to a saving knowledge of the truth and that Your Name may be praised among all peoples of the world. Sustain, inspire, and enlighten Your servants who bring them the Gospel. Bring fresh vigor to wavering faith; sustain our faith when it is still fragile. Grant them wisdom and courage to proclaim Your message effectively, to endure the hardships they face, to trust in Your mercy, and to see all their sufferings as part of the suffering Your dear Son Jesus Christ endured on the cross and let the joy of the Holy Spirit working in their lives ever strengthen them in their resolve to see Christ proclaimed in every nation. Continually renew missionary zeal in ourselves and in the Church, and raise up new missionaries who will follow You to the ends of the world. Make us witnesses to Your goodness, full of love, of strength and of faith, for Your glory and for the salvation of the entire world. Through the Prayers of St. Paul, Saints Cyril and Methodius, St. Rostislav of Moravia, St. Maxym Sandovich, St. Herman of Alaska, St. Innocent the Enlightener and all the missionary saints, have mercy on us and save us. Amen. Source

And

Christ our God, the source of wisdom and  Bridegroom of the Church, You called the Apostles to follow You and to become fishers of men, giving them authority to cast out unclean spirits and to heal every disease and infirmity.

You commissioned them to make disciples of all  nations and to feed your sheep. On the day of Pentecost, You sent the Holy Spirit to fortify them, enabling them to fill peoples lives with Your saving love. Continue to act today, loving Savior, for the good of Your Holy Church.  Send Your Holy Spirit upon dedicated men and women; inspire them to respond to Your Great Commission and to serve You as missionaries, for the building up of Your Body, the Church.

Through the prayers of all the holy missionary Saints, strengthen all who are preparing to serve Your Holy  Church in humility and love.  For You are a loving and merciful God, and unto You we give glory, together with Your eternal Father, and Your all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and forever and unto ages of ages.  Amen. Source

 

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Bless and Be Blessed

Some gleaned realizations on blessing.

I am no expert on the Orthodox Church and its elegant tradition. But, I have “gleaned” some realizations as a result of living alongside these wonderful folks and being blessed by them. So, I share with you what I have learned and the formation I am receiving. I pray my understanding and articulation is adequate.

The monks and nuns of the Eastern Orthodox Church ask for a blessing before and after every activity. What is more, they pray during the whole course of the activity. What is up with that?! What is, on a deeper level, really occurring? What are they seeking, in this concrete behavior, to enter into as a consistent pattern of behavior?

I have come to realize, very gradually – more gradually than I have been comfortable with on many occasions, that they are doing something to be able to do something and this doing is issuing forth from a primary way of seeing their being, the being of God, and the being of the other person and the whole creation. (It is identity driven.

The baptismal candidate, in the Episcopal Church’s rite of Baptism, is charged to “… seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.” I have always hearkened back to that statement as a reminder and tool for each and every encounter. It now, as a result of my meager formation by the folks in the Orthodox Church, occurs to me to be an preparation for embracing the Orthodox way of blessing.

But, the baptismal charge “seek and serve Christ” is difficult. What does the specific expression of love for my neighbor look like?! How do I, specifically locate/identify Christ Jesus somewhere in their life and relate to the person through Christ Jesus.

Knowledge of what I am to do is not enough. I need to be able to do it. Knowledge must become missional.

There are several facets to the response.

The first statement I find that I must make may be the most difficult to grasp. It is, mysteriously, the Holy Spirit who seeks, identifies, and responds to Christ Jesus in the other person. What?! The fact of the matter is, the life of the disciple is life in the dynamic life of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That means that, at one and the same time, our obedience (the exertion of our will) is also the exertion of the will of God through us. Our life is one of divine/human union that is characteristically without confusion and without separation. We dwell in the life of God.

The second statement is not so much a separate statement as much as it is a different way of saying the first statement – God’s life dwells in us. Richard Rohr has put it this way,

“The almost embarrassingly common recurrence of barren—but favored—women in the Old Testament is a brilliant metaphor for “I can’t do it, but God can—and will!” This is summed up and personified in the Virgin Mary, but it is still the same Jewish symbol. In Mary, and in us, we see our own incapacity to make spiritual things happen by our own devices, by our own intelligence, and with our own bodies; but I can receive, trust, and allow God to do it in me and through me.”

After all, Sara laughs behind the tent flap, and Mary does say “how can this be.” In other words, only God can do the very thing He commands US to do ! ! It is “not I” but the Holy Spirit in and through me Who seeks, finds, and embraces Himself in the other person. And yet it must be “I.” The life of God dwells in and expresses Himself through us. The famous “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” statement of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is another example.

These first two statements, or one statement said two different ways, means that only God can seek and serve Himself in the other person. We are co-operators with God in what only God can do and yet is ours to do. We, yet not we, do the impossible. Notice that I am saying, and quite deliberately I might add, that what I can say about my life I must realize is just as true about our life together. The “I” statements are also “we” statements.

It is the “possible impossibility” I/we encounter over and over again not only in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament as well. (By the way, making the impossible somehow possible in order to do it is a trap that the institutional church and the individual believer falls into all the time. The gospel cannot be managed in that way and remain the gospel. I/we end up proclaiming and facilitating a false gospel when I/we go that way.)

Luke 6.27-38
[27] “But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
[28] bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
[29] To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.
[30] Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again.
[31] And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.
[32] “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
[33] And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
[34] And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
[35] But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.
[36] Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
[37] “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;
[38] give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

Romans 12.9-21
[9] Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
[10] love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
[11] Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.
[12] Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
[13] Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.
[14] Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
[15] Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
[16] Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited.
[17] Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
[18] If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.
[19] Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
[20] No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”
[21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Second, the development of this ability (or the release of the ability to put it more accurately) is excruciatingly gradual. At any one given moment, we strive – intentionally and actively in co-operation with the Holy Spirit – using 100% of the maturity we have acquired. That edge is, hopefully, a moving edge – the edge of ongoing transformation. All of this “icon-ed” for us in the growth and development of John the Forerunner, and Jesus the Son of Man who is the Son of God.

Luke 1.80
[80] And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness till the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Luke 2.39-40
[39] And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.
[40] And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Third, the comprehensiveness of the will of God to bless in a concrete way in all situations, as articulated in the Luke and Romans passages above means that we must have our intentional gaze on the other person (their being of wellness [read “wholeness”] that God desires to call forth) and not, primarily on our own. Once again, it might help to say it a little differently. We must have come to a deep understanding and conviction that serving the wellness of the being of the other person is, in fact, the best way to serve the wellness of our own being. Or, to put it yet another way, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.” (James 4.10) And, where is the Lord before Whom you humble yourself?? He is in the other person!!

So, the way of blessing another person (“true and laudable service”) is the way of finding the point of union with them. Meeting them where they are with and in the Lord Jesus – where He is with and in them. This way is the way of relinquishing our agenda(s) of measurement (timing – I’m too busy; place – going to where they are rather than demanding they meet you where you are; form – they don’t seem to be showing that they get it [bearing the fruit we think they should bear] or its not spectacular enough or people might get the wrong idea or think we have become lax in our morals [after all that is exactly what they said about Jesus]). That boils down, do you see (?), to just our way(s) of staying in control. Relinquishing that and uniting ourselves to the agenda of God – the timing, place, and form He chooses. Our best laid plans come crashing to the ground. The way of exaltation (blessing – wholeness) is the way of humility (letting go – the breaking down of our matrix of control and measurement and self-willed living).

Permit me to share a relevant word from Saint Therese of the Child Jesus,

Let me share a word from Saint Therese of the Child Jesus,

Blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.” I have noticed (and this is very natural) that the most saintly Sisters are the most loved. We seek their company; we render them services without their asking… On the other hand, imperfect souls are not sought out. No doubt we remain within the limits of religious politeness in their regard, but we generally avoid them, fearing lest we say something which isn’t too amiable… This is the conclusion I draw from this: I must seek out in recreation, on free days, the company of the Sisters who are the least agreeable to me in order to carry out with regard to these wounded souls the office of the good Samaritan.

A word, an amiable smile, often suffice to make a sad soul bloom; but it is not principally to attain this end that I wish to practice charity, for I know I would soon become discouraged: a word I shall say with the best intention will perhaps be interpreted wrongly. Also, not to waste my time, I want to be friendly with everybody (and especially with the least amiable Sisters) to give joy to Jesus and respond to the counsel He gives in the Gospel in almost these words: “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not invite your friends, or your brethren, or your relatives, or your rich neighbors, lest perhaps they also invite you in return, and a recompense be made to you. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; and blessed shall you be, because they have nothing to repay you with, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (cf. Lk 14,12-14; Mt 6,4-5) What banquet could a Carmelite offer her Sisters except a spiritual banquet of loving and joyful charity?

As far as I am concerned, I know no other and I want to imitate Saint Paul who “rejoiced with those who rejoice” (Rm 12,15). It is true he wept with the afflicted and tears must sometimes appear in the feast I wish to serve, but I shall always try to change these tears into joy (Jn 16,20), since “the Lord loves a cheerful giver” (2Cor 9,7).

Lets spiral back to where we started. The monks and nuns start off with blessing. They pray for blessing all the way through. They seek a blessing to conclude. They are seeking to have the blessing that lives deep within them [the Holy Spirit] (the blessing they are indeed) to be released and find its consummation in the life of another person. They are seeking the manifestation of the Word – His ongoing incarnation.

The blessing must take concrete – incarnational – expression. What form?? This, these monks and nuns don’t know. They trust that there is such an action. This, they trust, will become known to them and they will be able to express it. The ways of God, become more and more familiar to them as they go. As they mature in the practice of beginning, continuing, and concluding with blessing. The practice is a mentor and a former of their being and doing. They have come to know a lot and can do a lot. They read the Old and New Testaments. They let the concrete examples sink in and become the new pre-conceived notions they use to “immediately” (to quote Mark’s gospel) and intuitively respond in agreement with the movement of the Holy Spirit deep within them Who is responding to His presence in the other person.

The same is true for us. The monastics are to be, in our midst and available to us as models. The monastics are not the only ones. We have such exemplary persons in our lives who are “lay monastics.” Let us learn from them. Let us, humbly recognize, that God desires for us to become such persons for others in as much as God desires to use us in this way.

Like I said, it is an excruciatingly gradual journey of learning and living out what we are learning. But, it is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

Bless and allow yourself to be blessed.

Perhaps these gleaned realizations will be a blessing to you. I pray it is so.

The Lord have mercy and bless.

“Where are We Headed?”: Pascha – Ascension – Pentecost

arrowWe are approaching the end of the season of Pascha in the western church. The feasts of Ascension and Pentecost will soon be upon us. It is important, therefore, to be reminded of the way of life that is supposed to be borne out in and through the Church and her members as a result the resurrection of Christ Jesus. To put a not too fine point on it, “Where are we headed?” The Holy Tradition proclaims and facilitates an answer: We are to become partakers of the divine nature in the person of the Holy Spirit; daily live out the grace of our baptism, dying and rising with Christ Jesus and more consummately manifesting our union with God the Father in His Son – in other words, to grow up into the likeness of the Son by the same Spirit; and to have Christ Jesus make His appeal through us to the world and continue His ministry in the world.

The season of Pascha initiates this message. The grace proclaimed and communicated through Ascension and Pentecost continue it and bring it to fruition. Once again, St. Macarius the Egyptian speaks eloquently regarding this trajectory. I must admit that his allegorical application of the prophecy of Ezekiel to the disciple was new to me. I found it to be wonderfully enlightening as I consider the meaning of Pascha, Ascension, and Pentecost. Here is the segment of Homily I articulates, “where we are headed.”

HOMILY I – An allegorical interpretation of the vision described in the prophet Ezekiel

1. The blessed prophet Ezekiel relates a glorious and inspired vision or apparition which he saw, and his description is that of a vision full of mysteries unspeakable. He saw in the plain a chariot of Cherubim, four spiritual living creatures. Each living creature had four faces, one the face of a lion, another the face of an eagle, another the face of a calf, and the fourth the face of a human being. To every face there were wings, so that there were no hinder parts to any of them. Their backs were full of eyes; their bellies likewise were thick set with eyes ; there was no part about them that was not full of eyes. There were also wheels to every face, wheel within wheel. In the wheels there was a Spirit. And Ezekiel saw as it were the likeness of a man, and under his feet as it were a work of sapphire. The Cherubim-chariot J and the living creatures bore the Master who rode upon them. Wheresoever He chose to go, it was with face forward. Beneath the Cherubim he saw as it were a man’s hand supporting and carrying.

2. And this that the prophet saw was in substance true and certain, but it signified and foreshadowed something else, mysterious and divine – a mystery hidden verily from ages and from generations (Col. 1.26) but in the last times made manifest (1Pe. 1.2) at the appearing of Christ. The mystery which he beheld was that of the soul, that was to receive her Lord, and to become a throne of glory (Ma. 25.31) for Him. For the soul that is privileged to be in communion with the Spirit of His light, and is irradiated by the beauty of the unspeakable glory of Him who has prepared her to be a seat and a dwelling for Himself, becomes all light, all face, all eye; and there is no part of her that is not full of the spiritual eyes of light. That is to say, there is no part of her darkened, but she is all throughout wrought into light and spirit, and is full of eyes all over, and has no such thing as a back part, but in every direction is face forward, with the unspeakable beauty of the glory of the light of Christ mounted and riding upon her. As the sun is of one likeness all over, without any part behind or inferior, but is all glorified with light throughout, and is, indeed, all light, with no difference between the parts, or as fire, the very light of the fire, is alike all over, having in it no first or last, or greater or less, so also the soul that is perfectly irradiated by the unspeakable beauty of the glory of the light of the face of Christ, and is perfectly in communion with the Holy Ghost, and is privileged to be the dwelling-place and throne of God, becomes all eye, all light, all face, all glory, all spirit, being made so by Christ, who drives, and guides, and carries, and bears her about, and graces and adorns her thus with spiritual beauty ; for it says, the hand of a man was under the Cherubim, because He it is that is carried upon her and directs her.

3. The four living creatures which bore the chariot were a symbol of the ruling factors of the soul. As the eagle is the king of birds, and the lion of wild beasts, and the bull of tame ones, and man of creatures in general, so the soul also has its ruling factors. They are the will, the conscience, the intelligence, and the faculty of love. By these the chariot of the soul is controlled, and upon these God rests. According to another interpretation the symbolism is applied to the church of the saints in heaven. As it is here said that the living creatures were exceeding high, and full of eyes, and it was not possible for anyone to apprehend the number of the eyes, or the height, because the knowledge of these was not given ; and as it is with the stars in the sky, to see and wonder at them was given to all men, but to know and apprehend the number was not given ; and with the plants of the earth, to enjoy them was given to all, but it is impossible for anyone to know the number of them ; so with regard to the church of the saints in heaven, to enter into it and enjoy it was given to all who will but strive, but how to see and apprehend the number is reserved for God alone to know. The Rider, then, is conveyed and carried by the chariot or throne of the living creatures which are all eye, or, in other words, by every soul that has become His throne and seat, and is now eye and light. He is mounted thereon, and governs her with the reins of the Spirit, and guides her according to His understanding. For as the spiritual living creatures went not whither they were minded to go, but whither He that sat upon them and directed them knew and willed, so here it is He that holds the reins and drives by His Spirit, and they go accordingly, not by their own will when they are minded to go through heaven. Sometimes, discarding the body, He drives and takes the soul in thought through heaven; sometimes, when so it pleases Him, He comes into the body and its affairs; sometimes, when so minded, to the ends of the earth, and discovers to the soul mysteries revealed. Oh, the noble and good and only true Charioteer! In like manner shall our bodies also be privileged at the resurrection, the soul being thus pre-glorified even now, and mingled with the Spirit.

4. That the souls of the righteous become heavenly light, the Lord Himself told the apostles, when He said, Ye are the light of the world (Ma. 5.14) He first wrought them into light, and ordained that through them the world should be enlightened. Neither do men light a lamp, He says, and put it under the bushel, but on the lampstand, and it giveth light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men. (Ma. 5.15, 16) In other words, Hide not the gift which ye have received from Me, but give to all that are minded to receive it. Again, The light of the body is the eye ; if thine eye be full of light, thy whole body is enlightened, but if thine eye be evil, thy whole body is dark. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness. (Ma. 6.22,23; Lk. 11.34)) As the eyes are the light of the body, and, so long as the eyes are well, the whole body is enlightened, but, if any accident befalls them and they are darkened, the whole body is in darkness, so the apostles were set to be the eyes and light of the whole world. The Lord therefore charged them by this saying, If ye who are the light of the body, stand fast and turn not aside, behold, the whole body of the world is enlightened ; but if ye who are the light are darkened, how great is that darkness, which is nothing less than the world. So the apostles, being themselves light, administered light to those, who believed, enlightening their hearts with that heavenly light of the Spirit by which they were themselves enlightened.

5. And being themselves salt they seasoned and salted every believing soul with the salt of the Holy Ghost; for the Lord said to them, Ye are the salt of the earth (Ma. 5.13), meaning by earth the hearts of men. They administered in the souls of men the heavenly salt of the Spirit, seasoning them and rendering them free from corruption and from going bad, instead of that unsavoury condition they were in. Flesh, if it be not salted, corrupts and is filled with ill savour, so that everyone turns from the evil odour, and worms creep into the corrupted flesh, and there dwell, and feed, and burrow; but when the salt comes, the worms that dwell there are destroyed, and the offensive smell is at an end; for it is the property of salt to kill worms and to banish an ill smell. In the same manner, every soul that is not salted with the Holy Ghost, and does not partake of the heavenly salt, which is the power of God, corrupts, and is filled with the ill odour of bad thoughts, so that the countenance of God turns from the dreadful odour of the vain thoughts of darkness, and from the passions that dwell in such a soul. The evil and dreadful worms, which are the spirits of wickedness, and the powers of darkness, walk up and down in it, and dwell there, and burrow, and creep, and devour it, and bring it to decay. My wounds stink and are corrupt, says the Psalm. (Ps. 38.5) But when the soul flies to God for succour, and believes, and asks for the salt of life, which is the good Spirit that loves mankind, then the heavenly salt comes, and kills those dreadful worms, and banishes the ill savour, and cleanses the soul by the effectual working of its power, and thus the soul is made sound and free from deterioration by that true salt, and is restored to being useful and serviceable to the heavenly Lord. That is why in the Law God, using a figure, commanded that every sacrifice should be salted with salt. (Le. 2.13) from Fifty Spiritual Homilies of St. Marcarius the Egyptian, by A.J. Mason D.D., SPCK, 1921

Identity and Action

As a struggling (and perseverning) pilgrim on The Way, I am mysteriously used by the Lord in the realm of Divine/human identity, vision, discernment, and the action that conforms to it. They all go together. And, I would add, it is no small matter HOW they relate to one another. Now, the formation in Christ that I have received from my spiritual fathers and mothers contemporary and ancient has taught me to follow the pattern that I was taught (see 2 Timothy 1.13). That pattern says identity, vision, discernment, and then action. However, in the course of the ministry I perform I quite often encounter men and women who have been formed to approach the Christian life in the opposite fashion. Namely, action, discernment, vision, and identity. (There is, often, variation in the order of the middle two.)

In other words, does identity govern action or does action govern identity?? (Of course I know that action clarifies identity and vision. That is not my point. What is the point of origin?? That is my question.)

The following Scriptural passages and a reflection by Rob Des Cotes, will, I hope, clarify the tradition that has formed my understanding of the Gospel and its implications for our everyday life.

Proverbs 29.18
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (And, least we journey down the path toward the opening to the pit of hell, let us hear and heed what Jesus indicates in no uncertain terms. The law is summed up in this – love…)

Matthew 15.1-14
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, `Honor your father and your mother,’ and, `He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die.’ But you say, `If any one tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, he need not honor his father.’ So, for the sake of your tradition, you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: `This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'” And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

Isaiah 42:61
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.

Imago Dei: Blindness and the Faithful Guide
November 1st, 2012

I used to live with a friend who was blind, white cane and all.  But whenever we would go out together he would always leave his cane behind.  I took it as a vote of confidence that he felt he didn’t need to have it when he was out with me.   He evidently trusted me to be his guide.

As we walked along the city streets, he would talk non-stop, and I knew he was doing this to assure himself that I was still near him.   Sometimes, I could feel his hand brushing up against me just to be doubly sure.  His main focus was fully on my proximity to him.  He was confident that if he just stayed close to me, I would steer him clear of any obstacles in our path.

I have often thought of the faith it must require for a blind person to trust someone with their safety like this.  But this one focus can also simplify things as well.  The only attentiveness needed is towards the person who is guiding you.  If you trust them, then keeping track of their movements and proximity is all you need to feel confident that you will be led through all the obstacles in your way.  You can probably guess where I’m going with this meditation.

In our supposedly sighted life, we are in fact much more blind than we often care to admit.  We never know for sure where we’re going, or what obstacles lie ahead.  But even if we do accept our blindness, we still usually opt for our white canes—whatever aids we feel will help offset our lack of foresight.  We grope our way through life, doing our best to second-guess the terrain ahead of us.

But we also have the same alternative option that my blind friend had.  We too can leave our white canes behind and choose instead to simply hold onto Jesus’ garment, perhaps brushing our hands up against Him at times just to make sure He is near.  Maybe that’s why we are told so often to bring our concerns to Jesus in prayer.  Among other things it certainly reassures us that He is close by.  (Rob Des Cotes)

I hope this has served to shed light on your path. I am grateful to the men and women who have labored patiently to offer me a context — “pattern” — of transformation by their loving words and example.

Fr. Thomas