Posted by: mmreflections | November 15, 2011

Spiritual Poverty November 2011

Eye has not seen, nor ear has heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man to know the things which God has prepared for those who love him.(Confer 1Corinthians 2:9))

Yesterday I heard the news that a boyhood friend of mine had died.  I had visited him at a rehab center when I was back East in August.  He was in great spirits and our short time together was a blessing as we brought each other up to date on what was happening in our lives.  When I awoke this morning my thoughts carried me back to those childhood days when he and I, along with his younger brother, were scampering along the coal banks near the small mining town where he lived.  With not a care in the world we were just enjoying life, enjoying each other and that special youthful moment. Many boyhood friends are gone now, leaving behind many other childhood memories.  Now in these golden years of life it seems there are fewer dreams and many more wonderful memories.

This morning I wondered what it will be like when we meet again in the new life awaiting us.  I totally believe and am confident that we will meet again in the afterlife.  I am convinced that this mysterious moment we call death is merely a rest at the end of our life’s journey, a passing from the visible to the invisible, the prelude into a new life.  I look forward to seeing my mom and dad, my brothers and sisters, all the friends from my journey and all those whose lives impacted or were impacted by mine.  This is my hope!  As human beings we are confronted with two major aspects on our life’s journey.  One is death; the other is the hope that death is not the end but only a new beginning.  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  (Romans 15:13)

What will our new life be like?  Who knows?  Who is to say?  We can only hope it will truly be more than we can ever imagine.  “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.  He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)  All things will be made right.  Reflecting on this passage from the Book of Revelation, I realize this is certainly not a description of our daily lives even if we were following the teachings of Jesus perfectly.  Using our imaginations, however, we might understand how the lessons of Jesus responded to this question of the new life.  Let us imagine what we hope for most in our life right now!  Let us imagine our wildest dreams!  Let us imagine our greatest fantasies!  Let us imagine exhausting every possible delight!  When we finally exhaust all possibilities of what our new life will be like, this is where the plans emanating from the love of God begin!  I believe Saint Paul was trying to describe this when he remarks that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to realize what God has prepared for us.  (Read 1 Corinthians 2:9)

The dilemma which faces many who even think about these matters is a most challenging one.  There is something about our human nature which demands a price for everything.  “What must I do to inherit this eternal life,” is the question that has been passed down through the ages.  The question carries with it a type of arrogance.  If we think we can ever earn this gift we may easily end up in despair.  Losing all hope in eternal life we may try to create a heaven of our own making by grasping for more treasures here on earth for the purpose of greater security, or we may pursue careers sure to give us fame or power over others.  On the other hand we may strive for greater spiritual gifts, leading to a preoccupation with perfectionism and religiosity. We end up becoming like the Pharisee, boasting of all the “good deeds” we are performing while judging others harshly.  Our contemporary culture is breeding these opposing pathways and we can easily succumb to them.   Where do we turn?

One of the first lessons taught by Jesus is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) The poor in spirit are those who know who they are.   As hard as it may be for many of us to accept, we have to admit we can do nothing to receive such a great gift.  We are really very poor!  We need to admit and embrace our poverty.  With all my best efforts and with my less than best efforts over the seventy-seven years of my life, failure to live the life I feel called to live still eludes me.  Only a power greater than myself can save me.  Just when I think I am getting my act together, something happens that causes me to fall flat on my face, forcing me to take a second look at myself and my failures.  These setbacks can easily detract me from acting justly, loving tenderly and walking humbly before God.  Many times over my life’s journey I have prayed for help in giving up false images of God, I prayed that idols I have set up over a lifetime could be exposed and shattered, I prayed to be free from the dead past or the imagined future, I prayed to be free from the prison and chains of fear, shame, guilt, anxieties, worries, confusion and doubts.  I am finally learning to embrace all these shadows, realizing this is what keeps me relying upon the Holy One.  These failings help me to realize how spiritually poor I really am.  There is nothing more for me to do but trust in the unconditional love of God that Jesus came on this earth to proclaim.  

Years ago, standing at the bedside of a young man who was dying, I was surprised when he looked into my eyes and said, “Father Mike, I am ready to go now!  What more must I do?”   My only response was what I had learned myself.  There is nothing more to do but wait and to believe and trust you are loved by God unconditionally and beyond what you can ever imagine.  He smiled at me and closed his eyes.  Accepting and believing we are unconditionally loved by God is the way into the kingdom of God.  When Jesus began his service to the people of Galilee his opening words were, “This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe!”  (Mark 1:15)  We need to repent of the arrogance that is behind our need to try and save ourselves.

When we are free from this arrogance and find ourselves trusting in God’s love for us, we learn to love and accept ourselves with all our shortcomings.  We can only truly love others when we know in the deepest part of our being that we are loved unconditionally.  This is what frees us to love all our brothers and sisters with the same love we have received from God.   All wrong doing is rooted in a lack of love for ourselves and others.  It is unconditional love that is the entrance into the kingdom of God for which we all long.  The stories I have heard and the obituary of my boyhood friend who died yesterday indicated that he had learned the lessons of love.

 There is no man on earth so just as to do good and never sin.  Do not give heed to every word that is spoken…….Know in your heart that you have many times spoken ill of others..

(Ecclesiastes 7:20-22)

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Responses

  1. Fr. Mike,
    How wonderful this is. In my grief this past week, I thought over all the things you mentioned. My biggest joy is that I know Dave is with the Lord and he is in one of the mansions waiting for me. Everything you mentioned I thought about. It’s good for the soul to think about these things and KNOW they are true. God has a place for each of us and we can’t imagine the joy it will bring.
    I remember your parting words to us whenyou left “Walk humbly before God”. I have never forgotten that.
    I say the 23rd Psalm everyday and know that His rod and staff ARE comforting me. He HAS prepared a place for me. God is merciful to me.
    You are a great soul-searcher.
    God Bless you and keep you.
    Kitty

  2. Dear Fr. Mike,
    What beautiful words you have written again. They seem to fill my heart with a comforting peace. God certainly has given you such special gifts. Thanks for taking the time to give us all a few minutes to soothe the soul and ease our day’s troubles.

    Andrea

  3. Father Mike…
    I am sorry to hear this is your last entry..
    I want to remind you of your kindness to me.
    I will never forget your guidence and help
    Thank you for all that you have been to me.
    We are all better and more connected
    to God becuase of your love and kinddness.
    May this next chapter be all you want it to be.
    Love,
    Tasia


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