You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2012.
Our temperaments – whether flamboyant, phlegmatic, introverted, or extroverted – are quite permanent fixtures of our personalities. Still, the way we “use” our temperaments on a daily basis can vary greatly. When we are attentive to the Spirit of God within us, we will gradually learn to put our temperaments in the service of a virtuous life. Then flamboyancy gives great zeal for the Kingdom, phlegmatism helps to keep an even keel in times of crisis, introversion deepens the contemplative side, and extroversion encourages creative ministry.
Let’s live with our temperaments as with gifts that help us deepen our spiritual lives.
To become neighbours is to bridge the gap between people. As long as there is distance between us and we cannot look in each other’s eyes, all sorts of false ideas and images arise. We give them names, make jokes about them, cover them with our prejudices, and avoid direct contact. We think of them as enemies. We forget that they love as we love, care for their children as we care for ours, become sick and die as we do. We forget that they are our brothers and sisters and treat them as objects that can be destroyed at will.
Only when we have the courage to cross the street and look in one another’s eyes can we see there that we are children of the same God and members of the same human family.
“We become neighbours when we are willing to cross the road for one another. There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.
There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles. We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbours.”
Jesus is given to the world. He was chosen, blessed, and broken to be given. Jesus’ life and death were a life and death for others. The Beloved Son of God, chosen from all eternity, was broken on the cross so that this one life could multiply and become food for people of all places and all times.
As God’s beloved children we have to believe that our little lives, when lived as God’s chosen and blessed children, are broken to be given to others. We too have to become bread for the world. When we live our brokenness under the blessing, our lives will continue to bear fruit from generation to generation. That is the story of the saints – they died, but they continue to be alive in the hearts of those who live after them – and it can be our story too.
Jesus was broken on the cross. He lived his suffering and death not as an evil to avoid at all costs, but as a mission to embrace. We too are broken. We live with broken bodies, broken hearts, broken minds or broken spirits. We suffer from broken relationships.
How can we live our brokenness? Jesus invites us to embrace our brokenness as he embraced the cross and live it as part of our mission. He asks us not to reject our brokenness as a curse from God that reminds us of our sinfulness but to accept it and put it under God’s blessing for our purification and sanctification. Thus our brokenness can become a gateway to new life.
Life consists in learning to live on one’s own, spontaneous, freewheeling: to do this one must recognize what is one’s own—be familiar and at home with oneself. This means basically learning who one is, and learning what one has to offer to the contemporary world, and then learning how to make that offering valid.…The world is made up of people who are fully alive in it: that is, of the people who can be themselves in it and can enter into a living and fruitful relationship with each other in it.
Thomas Merton. Love and Living. (New York: Harcourt) p 3
The father in the story of the prodigal son is mother as well. His running out to welcome his son, his embrace and kisses; his offering of the best robe, the ring, and the sandals; and his throwing a party are not the typical behaviour of a distant patriarch. They express so much tenderness, nurturing care, and self-effacing forgiveness that in them we see both motherly and fatherly love fully present.
The perfect love of our heavenly Father includes as well as transcends all the love that a father and mother can have for their children. We may think about the two hands of God embracing us as a mother’s hand and a father’s hand: one caressing, consoling, and comforting, the other supporting, encouraging, and empowering. We too are called to be father and mother to those who want to come home.
The father in the story of the prodigal son suffered much. He saw his younger son leave, knowing the disappointments, rejections and abuses facing him. He saw his older son become angry and bitter, and was unable to offer him affection and support. A large part of the father’s life has been waiting. He could not force his younger son to come home or his older son to let go of his resentments. Only they themselves could take the initiative to return.
During these long years of waiting the father cried many tears and died many deaths. He was emptied out by suffering. But that emptiness had created a place of welcome for his sons when the time of their return came. We are called to become like that father.
How do we welcome home our lost brothers and sisters? By running out to them, embracing them, and kissing them. By clothing them with the best clothes we have and making them our honored guests. By offering them the best food and inviting friends and family for a party. And, most important of all, by not asking for excuses or explanations, only showing our immense joy that they are with us again. (See Luke 15:20-24).
That is being perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. It is forgiving from the heart without a trace of self-righteousness, recrimination, or even curiosity. The past is wiped out. What counts is the here and now, where all that fills our hearts is gratitude for the homecoming of our brothers and sisters.