Sunday, May 5, 2013

Love Is His Meaning

Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.  You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.” (John 14:23-29)
Two years ago I made an interesting retreat at Mercy Center, Auburn, led by Dr. James Finley, the topic of which was Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate: one of eight retreats I’ve made with him. Jim is an author, clinical psychologist in private practice, and a popular retreat leader with particular interest in the contemplative path. For six years he was a Trappist novice/student under Thomas Merton. As he sees it, our spiritual life evolves in ever deepening stages of awareness/consciousness, from non-seeing to knowing and seeing what is already always before our eyes: viz., God, Infinite Reality, Infinite Being, which utterly empties Itself in giving Itself away in love in the act of creation. God’s generosity is infinite, and we are the generosity of God. We are who we were in God’s knowledge before we were ever created by God. God’s non-distinction from all things is their own reality, and so that reality is our very ordinariness.

As we follow our spiritual path all human beings, from time to time, experience deep “quickening moments”, “stirrings of love”, “fleeting flashes”. These are a subtle recognitions of the holiness of life as it is: in nature around us; in our times of intimacy; in solitude; in music, poetry and art; in the experience of birth; in observing children; in helping others; and finally, in experiencing death, our own or others’. Such moments are revelatory, i.e., in them God makes Godself known to us, awakens us to God already within us: our God-given Godly nature. God awakens us to see that, in the very ordinariness of who we are, we already possess all that’s necessary to live in habitual consciousness of God giving Godself away. Having once glimpsed God, we know that only God will do in our life. We desire a more lasting, daily deepening awareness of the life which is at once God’s and ours. And the effect of this is cumulative, i.e., we desire more and more to follow the path leading to even deeper experiences of oneness with God.

The context of today’s Gospel passage is the the last meal which Jesus is having with his disciples before his arrest and trial later, and his death, by crucifixion, the next day. Jesus springs two things on the Apostles. First, he says that he’s leaving, and second, he says that they can’t follow him. Imagine their feelings of shock, sadness, and fear!

Jesus further announces to them that “The Father will send the Holy Spirit to help you remember what I’ve told you.” As a sort of vague legacy, he says “I leave my peace with you.” As if all this weren’t enough to utterly astound and confuse them, he advises them: “Don’t be troubled or afraid.

If that seems to resonate a bit, it’s because that’s the context of your and my day-to-day life. We struggle to figure out how we can make ends meet. People whom we know, in our family or among our friends, are out of jobs, some for many months. The media bombards us with almost endless rehashing of old and new incidents of war in virtually every part of the Middle East. In the 12 years since 2001, certainly, there are unending reminders of “terrorist activity”, “terrorism”, “terrorist attacks”. We've even come to distinguish between “global, international and domestic terrorism”. A goodly number of our citizens across the U.S., particularly the populations of New York and Boston, have experienced firsthand the ugly reality, with all its blood, pain, disfigurement and death. Many Churches are in conflict, or at least in major transitions, everywhere. Political infighting, mean-spiritedness and nastiness over any number of crucial, vital issues which affect you and me has been honed to an all-time vicious low: to the point where our government in Washington is barely functional. That’s not to mention, finally all the ecological disasters which we and the greedy, immoral powers of Big Oil and Big Pharma have brought on ourselves in terms of natural disasters, irreversible climate damage, and danger to the very physical and mental health of the world’s population. Is it possible that Jesus can say to us today, as he did to the disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid”??

In a word, “Yes”! The Risen Christ himself is the answer to the disciples’ question: “How will you reveal yourself to us...?” Julian of Norwich, whose feast we’ll celebrate on Wednesday, summed it up this way in her Revelation of Divine Love: “Would you know your Lord’s meaning...Be well aware: love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did He show it to you? For love. Keep yourself in that love and you will know and see more of the same, but you will never see nor know any other thing therein without end.

The Risen Christ’s love was embodied in his words and actions, and in this love, as Julian says, “He has made all things beneficial to us” in ways which we don't always understand: the true and the beautiful as well as the ugly and the painful. Through the very Spirit of love the Father and the Risen One are bringing us through it all into the fullness of unending light, life and love. "Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."   


Anonymous said...

Beautiful, Father! Christus surrexit!

John-Julian, OJN

Anonymous said...

I should add that I envy you your exposure to James Finely. His is one of the most authentic of the (few) contemplative voices today.

Him…and Harry Allagree!