Posted by: mmreflections | April 10, 2009

Being One With God: April, 2009

 

I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word, that all may be one as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; I pray that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.  (John 17:20-21)

The most recent reflections have been centered on rungs of a spiritual ladder to describe experiences from my personal life journey which brought about significant shifts in my perceptions of the spiritual life, in my understanding of God and my relationships with all our brothers and sisters.  In a sense the rungs of the ladder tell the story of a personal journey.  What I learned from those who have been reading these reflections is that we all have more in common than we realize.  There is, indeed, some major and significant similarities in our journeys.  We truly share in a profound oneness.  We are all brothers and sisters in the family of God.  We are all children of the Holy One, living stones created to manifest the kindness, goodness, beauty and love of God.

Upon my arrival in California, over twenty six years ago, I met one of the neighbors who lived near the church where I was assigned.  Richard is a Jewish man with whom I became close friends.  In the beginning of our friendship we shared thoughts about our religious traditions and notions about spirituality.  Though he did not consider himself a religious person, I found him to be a deeply spiritual person.  We enjoyed playing racquetball at the nearby sports club in the evening after work and often enjoyed going out for dinner since neither of us had families and would most often be eating alone.  Over the years we began to share experiences about our beliefs and our spiritual journeys.  There were often weeks at a time when we had not seen each other but when we met again, with a twinkle in his eyes, he would ask, “What have you been learning since we last talked?”  He was always interested in the spiritual journey he thought I was traveling.  We each began to share what we were learning or experiencing. 

To our amazement we, more often than not, found ourselves learning the same lessons whether he was away at work in some other part of the world while I was at work in the church where I served or in the Pastoral center where I also worked.  We marveled at the realization that despite our different spiritual traditions and vocations we found a oneness that filled us with awe.  I soon discovered this same commonality with others within my own Catholic tradition, with friends from other Christian traditions and with friends from totally different religious traditions.  What we all had in common was a sincere desire and hunger to grow in our spiritual lives and to become the sons and daughters we were created to be.  We sought and found common ground rather than being defensive about our personal religious traditions, our personal understanding of a Higher Power, or the lessons we learned growing up in diverse families and places of worship.  Our common ground was our desire to help our world to become a place where God’s children could seek justice for all, would love tenderly and unconditionally, and would remember our need for a power greater than ourselves.

It was through wholesome relationships with others from diverse backgrounds that I began to understand better the prayer of Jesus that we might all be one even as he and his Father were one.  The many challenges afforded me through these connections had me examining my own personal journey and my goals in life.  It might be good and worthwhile for all of us to take some quiet time and look at our own personal journeys, examine our goals in life and consider how much we are living in union with God’s will for us.  We might also open our eyes to the many teachers God has been and is bringing into our lives to challenge us to move on to greater heights.

Each of us could create our own spiritual ladder and add different rungs or put them in different order.  The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Where are the rungs leading us?”  What is the goal, here and now, in the present moment?  For much too long many of us have been more preoccupied with eternal life rather than with the present life.  Our goal ought to be union with God here and now.  What does this mean?  When I was a student in seminary a kindly old professor told us that few people ever achieve union with God in this life and need not really strive for such a lofty goal.  He contended that this was only for mystics and really holy people but not for ordinary and imperfect people.  It seems to me that he had a false notion of what that union meant.  His words were also contrary to the desire of Jesus for us who prayed to his Father that we might all be one with him and his Father even as they were One.  I believe Jesus was praying about the here and now, the present time where we are all called to be living.  We are not called to live in the past or in the future.  We are called to live in this moment of time in union with God’s will for us.

As I moved along on the rungs of my spiritual ladder I discovered a new relationship with a loving and merciful Father; I learned to trust God more than myself.  For much of my life the only plans of concern to me were my plans.  How foolishly I lived for so long!  I began to realize that my plans were so childish compared to plans God had for me.  It was when I became aware of how powerless I was over my life situations that a major turning point was reached.  We might call it surrender!  It was surrender to a higher purpose, to a plan much greater than my own.  “Not my will, but your will be done,” became the prayer of my heart in moments of difficulty, challenges and confusion.

As long as we struggle and try to manipulate life to achieve our rather immature and childish goals we will find ourselves worried, insecure, afraid, frustrated, angry and resentful most of the time.  These are the symptoms that remind us we are missing the mark.  When we are in the will of God, we will know peace, love, joy, compassion, understanding and goodness.  This notion does not mean we stop trying and just sit back letting life unfold.  We can and must still keep doing what we are called to do but our purpose changes.  Our goals are more in keeping with the way of life presented to us by Jesus.  His goal was to serve others, to reach out to the broken and rejected ones, to make his Father’s love known to all who came to him, to teach us a better way of living that brings peace, joy and happiness even in the midst of problems, suffering and challenges.  To be one with God, to be in union with God is to seek and to embrace his will for us here and now.  We can know we are doing God’s will whenever we are living according to the way that has been revealed to us in Christ, his way of service, love and devotion to his Father.  These are the signs we are being led by the Holy Spirit.

During this Paschal season I am reminded of Jesus words to his closest followers in the upper room after the Resurrection: “Peace be with you!” In concluding this reflection I wish all my readers “Shalom” a blessing which I learned from my Jewish friends.  It refers to peace in a very profound way:  “May you be one with yourself, with your neighbors and with your God.”  Shalom!

    “On the evening of that first day of the week, Jesus came and stood before them.  ‘Peace be with you,’ he said.   ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  Then he breathed on them and said,  ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”  (Cfr. John 20:19-23)

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