Sunday, June 10, 2012

Homiy for Corpus Christi: Innapropriate T-Shirts and Fifty Shades of Grey





You’ve probably seen some of those inappropriate T-Shirts with the cartoons on them and the phrases that take a minute before you get what they mean.  I can’t help but reflect on these, not to be inappropriate, but to get at the deeper meaning of what we are really longing for and the only appropriate way to meet that need. 

One is a picture of an old fashioned toaster, it’s plugged into the wall and its coils within are red hot.  It says to the piece of white bread “I want you inside of me…” The white bread says back to the toaster that’s hot!”  It expresses our want to be filled by someone or something. 

The other is a tall drink of beer in a frosted mug saying to the thirsty person… “I want to be inside of you.”  This in a playful way expresses the very strong temptation that we have to allow someone or something to tempt us into filling the void… seduce us… or promise us some escape from misery into inebriation, joy, exhilaration, or just the desire to get high or feel good. 

These T-Shirts express our most basic needs being met in the most basic way… bread and beer.

The whole idea of the toaster is that it has a physical opening in it… it has a space that was made for the toast.  We too have this insatiable hunger, this void that seems unable to be filled, this profound emptiness or loneliness that we want to fill with someone or something.  Think of your own hunger… Do you have an appetite that just can’t be satisfied?  We all probably struggle with some craving.  We all are trying to fill this void, “groping in the darkness” as Saint Paul says.  Maybe its food… those snacks that you can’t stop eating.  Maybe it’s a hunger for physical pleasure… Maybe it’s a sexual addiction.  The shirt is really expressing what lovers would say to each other: “I want to be inside of you.”  Think of the teenagers with premarital sex or addiction to pornography.  Think of the erotic Novel Fifty Shades of Grey that is so popular with all the soccer moms (I’m not recommending this book by the way).   All of it is seeking to fill this void in the most primal way. 

Think of the temptation the addict faces… hearing that whisper from the frosted beer mug: “I want to be in you.”  It may be alcohol… we all know just one more drink is never going to help us feel the way that we want, or take away the pain, but we do it anyways.  The same with drugs… drugs are literally consumed or injected or inhaled… I want you inside me!  We have this desire to consume… we want someone or something to “be inside of us” to fill this void that we have.    

God knows that we have this void… as a matter of fact, God created us with this void.  Think of it as a sacred void given to us by God. 

And just as the tall glass of beer said to the thirsty person: “I want to be in you.”  Even more than we want to have our void filled, God wants to fill us.  God wants to be IN you.   We are created to be filled by God.  And even more than we want to fill this void with someone or something… God desires even more to be inside of you.  And God wants it to be real and lasting. 

The Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated today so that we may reverence and remember the most important mystery of our faith… the Body and Blood of Christ.  Corpus Christi, which means the Body of Christ, celebrates that what we receive in the Eucharist is no longer bread and wine, but is the Real Presence of Christ in His Body and Blood. 

Only God can fulfill our deepest need.  Only God can gratify our hunger.  Only God can quench our thirst.  He knows this and He created us for this.  More so than any lover, any addiction, any fantasy, God desires to be inside of us.  He knows that we long for this so often in the primal ways of bread and beer that he comes to us in the form of bread and wine (Jesus must have been just a little classier than beer).  This is not however bread and wine, it is the Real Body and Blood of Jesus. 

God wants to be inside of you even more than you realize that you want God in you.  This is why Jesus gives Himself to us, His very Body and Blood, so that He can meet that need. 

Get in touch with your emptiness; get in touch with your void.  You don’t have to be afraid that it can’t be filled, because it can.  The more that we know and believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist the more we will understand that God and God alone can fill our void.  He does, in this very primal and sacred way, fill you with His Body and Blood. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Homily for Trinity Sunday: Nature, Word, and Silence.



Did anything so great ever happen before?
  Was it ever heard of?  
Did a people ever hear the voice of God
speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?


Instead of going into some description of what the mystery of the Trinity is, and the whole concept of Three Persons in One Being, the idea here will be to help us understand what it is like to encounter the Trinity.   The hope is that we can see that we can experience God: The Father, The Son, and The Spirit in a very personal and intimate way. 

How do we experience the Presence of the Triniune God?  How do we hear this voice and live? 

It is important to remember a couple of things about the Trinity: first, God is always being and experienced personally, and is real, and is present, and second, God is relational, meaning that we can relate to God, hear God, encounter God, interact with God, and above all simply be with God.  Ultimately this happens in prayer. 

For this life of prayer one thing is necessary: “It ought to be constantly developing in our souls.”  It has been said by our ancient fathers “In the way of God he who makes no progress loses ground.”  You are either growing or you are dying. 

So first of all: Are you growing in prayer?  Or are you still praying the same way that you did in 2nd grade?  Do you spend a dedicated substantial amount of time every day in prayer?  


Traditionally there are three different stages of growth in prayer that we experience: Purgative, Illuminative, and Unitive.

(If you’ve never heard of these check out this site: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14254a.htm even better is the classic book by the Three Conversions in the Spiritual Life by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. http://www.amazon.com/Conversions-Spiritual-Life-Reginald-Garrigou-Lagrange/dp/0895557398/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338687295&sr=8-1

The first two stages, Purgative and Illuminative, are really preparing us for experiencing the Unitive way, which is ultimately living fully in relation with the Trinity.  The purgative stage is a difficult time in prayer, a time in letting go of all the things that we are preoccupied by… this is why especially in the beginning it can seem so hard to just sit and pray… we’ve got to do some dying.  The second stage is the Illuminative Way.  In this stage we find prayer to be insightful, profound, enlightening, and we have real vivid encounters with the Trinity.  As good as this stage is, it’s preparing us for an even better way of encountering Father, Son, and Spirit. 

This is the Unitive Way.  The Unitive Way is ultimately experiencing here on earth what we will in Heaven.  If we are going to spend an eternity in Heaven, why not try it out now!  The Unitive way is an encounter with The Trinity that seems to be almost outside of time and space, one encounter like this will change us for ever.  It is often called a mystical experience, a peak experience, a “God moment”, a conversion experience, and most often something we can never explain, express, or describe, it is simply a complete awareness of BEING.  It’s so brief because we cannot handle too much of it… and it’s where we get that sense of “Who can see God and live?”  This is an immersion in the Trinity… Father, Son, Holy Spirit and our caught up in this love.

Chances are everyone has had an experience like this at some point in their life.  Have you ever had this indescribable experience where you, for a brief moment, experienced being with God?  And you knew deep down in your heart that it was real, that you would never forget it, and that you would never be the same, and that you wanted to stay there forever? 

This encounter was just a taste not only of the Unitive Way, but ultimately of Eternal life with The Trinity.

The mystics over the centuries have given us wonderful and very simple ways of praying.  Here is where it is important to remember this is about “Being with” God, and, this is where Contemplative Prayer is very different than Budhist Prayer or Zen, where the whole idea is getting everything out of our mind.  Ultimately true encounter in Pryaer will come through Christ.  (John 14:6)
 
So, how do we experience the Trinity?  How do we allow ourselves to grow in prayer like this?

Here’s three examples from three of the Mystics:

Nature:

Summer is here!  Get out into nature!  Get in touch with the Beauty of Creation.  Seriously, not only are you allowed to “Stop and smell the roses” creation was made for you to “Stop and smell the roses.”  We were made to be in nature and feel all the rest, the peace, the joy, the awe, the delight that comes from simply being in nature!  

St Therese recounts an experience she had in nature:  “Never will I forget the impression of the sea made upon me; I couldn’t take my eyes off it since its majesty, the roaring of its waves, everything spoke to my soul of God’s grandeur and power.”  (Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul, chapter 2, p. 48)  There’s no doubt you’ve had experiences like this in nature!  God wants you to enjoy even more!  Get out into Nature! 

Word


You may think “We’re Cathlics we don’t have to pray with Scripture” or “I was never taught that” or “It’s beyond me.”  Open the Word!  Read Genesis ch. 1 or pick your favorite Gospel, pick one psalm a day, or just play the old Russian Roulette with your bible and allow God to speak something random to you!

Bernard of Clairveux once said:
“Consider how great is the grace of intimacy which results from this encounter of the soul and the Word, and how great the confidence which follows this  intimacy.”  (Bernard of Clarivaux: On the Song of Songs, Vol. III, sermon 51, no. 5, p. 51)  

Spend time simply praying with Scripture.  A substantial amount of time.  Remember this will be tough in the beginning (Purgative Way).  It will be hard to sit with the Word… you’ll think things like “I don’t get this”, “This was written so long ago”, “It’s boring”, “It’s not working”, “I’m not getting anything out of it.”  These are all very common thoughts and experiences of Purgation… Hang in there!  It’s so worth it! 

Soon God will speak to you through a word or phrase.  Just meditate upon it, rest with it, reflect on it, be with God as The Trinity speaks to you in a very real and personal way through the Word. 

Silence


Spend time in silence.  It is absolutely essential and non-negotiable that we spend considerable time in silence every day.  Turn everything off.  We can’t be doing anything to truly be in silence: not driving, not fidgeting, not distracting ourselves, not multitasking.  Yes, it’s going to seem unbearable at first, but there is no doubt that the more difficult it is for you, the more essential and important it is for you.  It’s going to seem like you are wasting time… but there’s nothing better than “Wasting time with God.”  Because it is in this silence that you will “hear the voice of God and live!” 

John of the Cross once said “Silence is God’s First Language.”  If we want to hear God’s voice, we have to allow for silence.  There are no ifs ands or buts.  If we want to grow in prayer and experience the Trinity we simply must have silence. 

Karl Rahner once explained that the “Experiences of ‘aloneness,’ ... when the silence resounds more penetratingly than the accustomed din of everyday life… feeling this as a single and total factor embracing the whole of one’s life… when one suddenly makes the experience of love and encounter, and suddenly notices that he or she has been accepted with a love which is absolute and unconditional.” 
You too can and will experience the love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in Silence. 

This Trinity Sunday we celebrate that we can relate to God… we can experience God in this life in a very real, personal and intimate way.  And through a life of growth in prayer journeying through the Purgative, Illumanitive Way we will encounter God in a way beyond anything we could ever hope for or imagine.   We will experience the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit: If you are praying keep growing… if you haven’t grown in prayer… start now: Get out into Nature, Open up the Word, and above all Be Silent!!!!!