Monday, January 30, 2017

Fill My Cup, Lord...

My relationship with coffee isn't the same as it was 25 years ago. I've learned that variations in beans, filters & methods of brewing produce new subtleties in the flavour of each cup. I've adjusted my routine, going from pots of drip to pots of press to a few cups of pour over a day. I've shunned those marketplace “brand” names to buy organic beans & compostable filters instead. I grind small quantities at home & still drink coffee daily, but it's different now. Each cup takes time & requires me to be fully present...

My relationship with Jesus isn't the same as it was 25 years ago either.

I used to believe in an angry Jesus- One Who was constantly saying to me “Woe, you hypocrite! Repent or die!”. I believed in the “fluffy” Jesus- the best friend Who was there at beck & call to tell me everything would be ok. I even believed in the boyfriend Jesus Who was strong & chivalrous & treated me like a princess. When I became a Catholic, I finally came to believe in Jesus, Son of God, born of Mary... Jesus, the Sacrifice, Bread of Life & Redeemer.

To be honest, I've never equated the name of Jesus with someone I know particularly well, let alone someone I actually love. He just kind of “is”. He's iconic, historic, almost magical, like a unicorn. I know things about Him, but as far as His interaction with me personally... it's complicated. He's a staple in my life- like coffee. Commonplace. Familiar. But unlike coffee, He's not readily available to my corporeal senses & I often feel this emptiness where the supposed bounty of His unfailing Love should be.

I've been told that my desire to seek Him is good enough- as if desire alone was synonymous with true love. I've been told that being a Christian is about faith, not feelings. But I think being a Christian is absolutely about feelings, just as drinking coffee is a matter of taste. Why drink it if it tastes bad?

I've been told it's disrespectful & futile to pray to anyone but Jesus, but under the mantle of Mary's motherhood, I'm inexplicably drawn to Him every time. It's not an instantaneous thing, but the end results are always the same. When it's difficult to pray, I might throw out a simple prayer- a request much like the shepherds & wise men made: “Mary, please show me your Son”. I might do this & only this for days. Sometimes I grab my beads & attempt a few decades of the Rosary or contemplate a Station of the Cross... both meditative prayers recount the events of Jesus' life. There's something about this process of recollection that allows me to experience a sip- a rich, full-bodied “taste” of Jesus- just enough to wake me from my stupor.

When the source is me, my cup is going to be bitter or downright tasteless. The source must be Jesus. Mary is the unbleached, organic filter who reveals only Jesus- nothing more, nothing less. So far, so good. But the source & the filter are only half the battle. Like the method I use to brew my own coffee, the process takes time & requires my attention. As I'm pouring over the events of His life instead of my own, it takes the focus off me. It renders my issues secondary. And when He is “lifted up” (like a freshly brewed cup of coffee), He actually draws me to Himself & infuses me with life. He somehow becomes accessible & real once more... if only for a moment. But then, sometimes a sip is all you need.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Extra Ordinary

So I've been reading the Bible & the Catechism of the Catholic Church together for 3 months now.
I prefer doing what's known as a read-thru, which means reading as much as possible when possible. Even though I have scheduled readings for each day, I often go beyond by a few days or even a week at a time. Some might say that this kind of reading isn't fruitful, but I find that I'm able to get a feel for the bigger picture more quickly.

One of the things I find most fascinating is how ordinary life was for the patriarchs. The snapshots we have from scripture highlight extraordinary moments with God here & there, but usually they're over a span of years (sometimes even decades). For the most part, when we read through the history of each patriarch & the long lists of “begats”, one can't help but notice that most of their time was actually spent traveling or raising families or maintaining business with their neighbors.

For instance, each of Jacob's sons were named not by the miraculous appearance of an angel, but by Jacob's wives or their maids. His wives Leah & Rachel were sisters who were constantly at odds with one another, each trying to see who could bear the most offspring. They were in such fierce competition, it seems they chose to name their children based on the particular drama of the day (See Genesis 29 & 30). Yeah, that's mature.

Each son had one dad, 4 different mothers in the mix & a gaggle of siblings to get into trouble with. Can you imagine the daily chaos? But because of God's covenant to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, God made each one of those sons a tribe anyway- the 12 tribes of Israel. Each one of those sons played a part in the fulfillment of the covenant, but as far as they were concerned, they probably had no clue how integral they were to the bigger picture. They were just ordinary guys, living their lives like everybody else.

There's definitely a balance & continuity in the Bible that one can't see by merely picking out an individual, a topic or a scripture here or there. The 12 tribes of Israel gave us the foundation for why Jesus had 12 disciples. Man sinned through Eve, man is saved by Jesus through Mary, the "new Eve". In the beginning, God  said "Let there be light". Jesus came as the Light of the world. Many "ordinary" Old Testament symbols foreshadow counterpart realities like these in the New Testament.

God works with man in the moments of his ordinary life to accomplish something truly extra ordinary. Sometimes it happens in a lifetime; sometimes it happens over a span of generations & various geographical locations. When I start to grasp the bigger picture, I can't help but wonder what He might already be up to in my own "ordinary" life...

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Burning Man

So I'm attempting to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church again. With all the obligations of the holidays, I found myself a little behind & decided to try & catch up now that I have some downtime.

I'm up to Chapter One (I believe in God the Father) of Section Two: (The Profession of the Christian Faith: The Creeds).  The 1st point explores what it means to believe in one God. The 2nd point talks about how God reveals Himself.

CCC205 in particular looks at the incident with Moses & the burning bush.
And this is where I saw something I'd never seen before.

God called to Moses from a burning bush that remained intact even though it was fully ablaze. When I considered this in the context of how God reveals Himself to man, I couldn't help but think of Jesus.
I've always heard that Moses is a figure of Christ, but what if (like so many other symbols in the Old Testament) the burning bush is also symbolic of Jesus?

In Jesus' day, He was nothing more than a scraggly bush in a world of "trees". He had followers, but many others thought He was possessed, crazy, a drunkard or a criminal. His immediate sphere of influence was limited to a very small geographical area. The names of conquerors & ancient kings were more well known than His own. It wasn't until His disciples were dispersed by persecution & preached the Gospel to the nations that His fame spread to the ends of the earth. But not many people would have thought to consider Him anything special when He was here. As far as they were concerned, He wasn't worth taking off their sandals and falling on their faces for. I might have felt the same way had I lived back then.

Jesus is fully human, fully Divine. He is the Word of God, an expression of God given to us in the form of man, and yet He is not just a man, but God's own Son. Based on these statements & a few scriptures in the Gospels, Christians affirm that Jesus (the "God-man") was tempted but never sinned... Or perhaps we could say He burned but was not consumed. If Jesus is God's revelation to us, what might God be trying to say through this "burning man"?

Jesus told us He spoke nothing except what He heard the Father telling Him to speak (John 12:49). And when we read in John that Jesus said " I AM the Bread of Life, I AM the Light of the world, I AM the Door of the sheep, I AM the Good Shepherd, I AM the Resurrection & the Life, I AM the Way, the Truth & the Life, I AM the True Vine", it's important to remember that these are things God the Father wanted us to know.

If the message to Moses was "I AM Who I AM", what's the message to us through Jesus? It's that God made a Way for us to partake in fellowship with Him, to see Him in the midst of this dark world, to enter into safety, to be taken care of, to cast off darkness & be raised to new life, to move forward, to know His love for us, to be fully alive in Him & sustained in that life, through Jesus. 

If God really never changes & if Jesus is the same yesterday today & forever, then the message of the Burning Man & the message of the burning bush are one in the same: "I AM Who I AM".