Friday, September 27, 2013

A Theology of Woman

Pope Francis has stated in his recent interview being shared in many ways on the Internet and other forms of media that the Church needs to gain theological knowledge about women.  This is necessary so that the Church can move more fully into her authentic fruitfulness.  I did not see where he might have put a call out to theologians to begin researching and writing like others might have but his statement still lingers in the air like incense.  It makes logical and faith sense that Pope Francis would do this for it was God's will that men and women be co-stewards of all that He created.  To only have an ongoing historical picture of half of the story leaves most desiring the authentic view of the other half.  This is a blessed opportunity for clarification and education.   So this is a "call out" to all of God's created daughters to speak out about what it is that we would want the Church to know about us?  What have we discovered about our co-stewardship of humanity, the environment, and care for all creatures?  What is our personal relationship to Jesus Christ?  His mother, Mary?  His disciples?  His continued ministry? Our sins? Here is the moment for us as theologians and as women to pray for direction from the Holy Spirit in seeking out the feminine voice and to affirm and lift it up into the realm of its created dignity.

It is an interesting dynamic when the spotlight is turned on the one who has been tormented, abused, forgotten, mistreated, powerless, etc. and asked "What is the truth about you?"  This is certainly an opportunity for "going inward" for the Church and seeking transformation through the discovery of what longs to be uncovered.  How do we get to a spiritual place of providing insight without first ridding ourselves of all of our masks and insulation? My answer...spiritual discernment.  This is the time for turning to the Holy Spirit in prayer and seeking out God's will as to what He would choose to have revealed.  We can do this with complete assurance that whatever His Spirit directs us to do will be best for the Church and the world.  

It has been a difficult but provocative journey for me to discover my own voice.  A voice that is authentically a theologian, a teacher, a pastoral minister, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister, a gardener, etc. God has gifted me with spiritual gifts that support my ongoing vocation of mercy.  I have walked with children suffering at the hands of tormented parents.  I have walked with Hispanic mothers who feared greatly for the lives of their children being raised in poverty and who revealed their battle with depression brought on by the machismo of their culture.  I have walked with the cognitively disabled and have allowed myself to be drawn into their simple living within the social service structure.  I have been called to be in communion with homeless men, women, and children, veterans, and prisoners, alcoholics and addicts, cancer survivors and those losing their battle to disease. 

I love my Catholic faith for it speaks to the universality of my experience but there needs to be ongoing discernment regarding relationships with my ordained brothers in the Church for toleration is not affirmation.  I am happy reading theological writings on God and how He continues to be in relationship with people of every age and I am humbled in the midst of spiritual discernment students and the movement of God's Spirit actively engaging their spirit.  I have witnessed great generosity and destruction from sins of greed and injustice.  This is truly who I am and anything that I say or write comes from this fullness of life. Some would call this my bias.  I call this my voice.

May God be praised through the prophetic words of Pope Francis and may all women turn inward to seek out their authentic creation and speak out about what they find there.  I will try to do my part in listening and learning, writing about it and teaching it, exciting the younger generation of women with its possibilities and help to spread God's balm on those elderly women who have suffered at the hands of ignorance.  This is certainly a new and lovely day when the men of the Church turn to the women of the Church with interest and respect for difference.  Thank you, Pope Francis, for being actively engaged without fear to the tuggings of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, September 9, 2013

I am on vacation with Henri Nouwen.  His book, Turn My Mourning Into Dancing, has drawn me into his awareness of God's active relationship with us human beings.  Whether men or women God continues to call out to us in the midst of our grief-stricken lives.  He calls out to us with His infinite love knowing that if we "hear" Him and turn towards Him that our suffering will be lessened.  What Henri discovered through the course of his own life and through the "hearing" and the "seeing" of the suffering of the ill people he ministered to is that all of our lives our suffering.  Human life suffers because there is sin in our world...there is sin in the form of poverty, there is sin in the form of injustice, there is sin in the form of greed, in the form of illness, in dying and death.  There is sin in the form of confusion and fear, violence and disappointment.  There is sin in the form of fighting and bullying; in the form of any type of activity that harms the dignity of ones self and others. 

We were not created to live sinful lives that needed death and resurrection as an entrance into our eternity.  We were created to love God and in loving Him we loved all around us for within everything else we heard and saw Him. So how well are we doing at this today?  Where is it we go to reflect on this Truth and to examine ourselves, our conscience?  Jesus called His disciples "away" to pray and reflect on what they were being taught by Him.  He calls us, too, as His followers to understand the sense, through faith, that we need to have intentional "going away" time or we will fall into the devilish trap of being completely spiritually depleted. 

As I sit in the midst of the love of my son and his wife I read the words of Christ written by Henri and I realize with greater depth the joy of this blessing in my life.  God's presence comes to me through them, their animals, their home, their care for me, the natural surroundings of where they live and I find that I have needed this respite more than I knew.  I was beginning to forget how important it is for me to sit in the silence and just know that God loves me, the ME He created and understand that the ME cannot  be subject to what others think I should have been or should be.  It needs to be fed by Him and I together.  The work that I have to do is to reflect upon this and discern what gets in the way of this absolutely Divine, intimate relationship.

Today I went on my e-mail account and saw the e-mails from my daughter's teachers.  Their new system of quick, accurate testing and current grade responses are formulated to inform and enlighten all who view them.  The other day when I went over them with my daughter I saw her tears in that she was given these grades that were less than her total beginning 9th grade experience.  She had tried so hard to encounter this new High School experience with grace and the assuredness that she would learn wonderful new things.  The studies were hard and she knew she would have to focus to keep herself balanced with her school work, her family life, and her need for fresh air in the form of bicycling.  I do not think either her or I were expecting what felt like an immediate grading of her new experience.  What I saw was the flogging of her spirit.  Her whole experience was being graded by this computerized system of instant communication.  My eyes saw and my spirit felt that this is not a healthy way for her.  Some how, some way I need to giver her permission to not live this way, to live in the life of the spirit and the love of God and to learn enough about herself that she can reflect on whether or not she is doing the best she can with the gifts that she has been given.  I want her to be able to problem solve the techniques of problem solving and that will require quiet time with God in prayer where He opens wide the infinite possibilities and the "ah ha" moments occur. 

In future years sociologists will write about how all of our technological advancements affected our lives, both outwardly and inwardly.  There will be studies and volumes that will sit on bookstore shelves trying to make sense out of what the societal movements were and judgment will come in the form of whether or not the populace was "better off" for it.  Many volumes will account for the many definitions of "better off".  Future generations will study our actions in the classroom and will decide which ways need to be relinquished because of their inadequacies.  I write this and my soul cries "God have mercy". 

For today I will bring myself back to Henri and his writings on relationship with God and how the world, even an extremely knowledgeable, instantaniously communicating world, needs to "Be still and know that He is God" for communication like all worldly things can become an idol to replace Him if we are not intentionally choosing what we focus our lives on.  We have permission from Him to not let anything, ANYTHING come between Him and us.  I will be telling my daughter to turn all of this communication off.  We will watch over her grade at Mid Term but the days between will be more relaxed and focused on healthy living, not on communication overload.  Her focus needs to be on her spirit and God's Spirit and that will only take place in the "going away" of Christ.  Blessings...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Cry of the Poor...The "Bored" Worker, The "Zoning" Parents, The "Gaming" Child, the "Fashionista"

"The Lord hears the cry of the poor...."  When you hear these words sung in worship or written in Scripture, who are the "poor" to you?  Are they the poverty stricken? the homeless? the seriously mentally ill? Are they you?  Our culture seems to put the emphasis of the term "poor" on the impoverished child whose tenuous living conditions and lack of healthy food and nurturing love have left them vulnerable and easily manipulated in seeking out their identities.  They are poor and their poverty speaks to the sinful nature of many but in ways this differs from the poor of the psalmist.  In the psalms the poor is the psalmist himself.  It is he/she who is reaching out to God for comfort and relief of real life terrors including that of spiritual darkness presenting itself in the forms of weariness, or melancholy, or blindness, bitterness, and the fear of the viciousness of others.  In our culture today, who are the poor?  I have worked with the Midwestern American poor and have seen the effects of unemployment, addictions, illness, and sloth.  I have rejoiced with their successes and sat with them in the silent despair of their shame.  The poor called me forth into ministry and gave me the experience and knowledge to write about them and their "situations" but they are not the only poor that I have encountered.  I now see another group of poor congealing and struggling to lift their eyes to heaven for relief and that is the poor of those who have been swept up into the tidal wave of continued experience.  These are the bored, the restless, the zoned, the ones who dream of "getting away from it all" but can't help but bring it "all" with them when they finally are able to go.  They stop "seeing" and "hearing" their loved ones and their neighbors but focus on the "reality" of others whose sad, self-focused lives are watched not to educate and nurture but to be exploited and entertain (I write this and cannot help but see the resemblance to the Roman Colliseum and all of its activities).  Time begins to be seen as a weapon of destruction.  Silence and reflection as a punishment.  The call to connect with land, water, air and sun only a means for detached enjoyment.  All of it leading to the poverty of spirit; to the hunger of the soul and the loss of identity leading to discomfort of body and mood...restlessness, anxiety, depression, grief, dissatisfaction with life and lack of energy, contentment, comfort, and peace. All ready to go from being the healthy to the ill in the midst of a lifetime. 

Where is God's mercy today for these poor in spirit?  How does His Spirit continue to try to console in this age?  St. Augustine's wisdom was that we will always be restless unless we turn to God and rest in His will, His creation.  This brings to mine Jesus' question for the disabled man by the side of the pool when He asked "Do you want to be healed?"  This man sat waiting for assistance.  He did not respond as one who is creative and able to reach out to those around him. I think this question, once again. should be asked of all who suffer the effects of this addiction to experience so that the clarification of the answer can help to draw them forth from their zombie-like existence.  Life is here.  It has not left. It is only covered with a veil of illusion.  It is still filled with wonder and joy.  The earth smells of delightful fragrances and there are still people sitting in each other's company by firelight, looking into each other's eyes and laughing and sharing stories of old.  There are great grandmothers holding great grandchildren on their laps singing lullabies and bringing the comfort of sound and touch.  There are birds in the air darting back and forth into the blue sky drawing each other forth into formation or screeching stay away.  The rabbits are in the garden and the tomato plants grow 6 inches a day. The season is changing and soon another will come.  The air is fresh where we are and the sun rises and the sun sets on the timetable of God.  It is all still here while you remain bored and discontent.  The stars will shine whether or not you take the time to notice that which was used to present to Abraham God's promise.  The fish still fill the stream and there are still those who sit calmly by the shore to catch them.  The forests remain whether or not you walk their paths and smell the peppery smell of the pines.  Children still sit in classrooms singing of beauty and love and the fireflies still move silently and brilliantly through the late summer nights.  Nature and the human beings in front of us still remind us that God and all of His goodness is still here.  His promises dance right out our windows.  His saints and angels watch as the lights go out in our homes at night and hear the parting words of those inside.  God's words of "Just let Me love you" move with the wind through the boughs of the trees in and out of yards onto the sides of concrete structures and into the wildness of the un-trailed wilderness, and hover over the vastness of the water.  It is His mercy, it is Him, and He is still here calling to all of us to make room for Him, the Creator, the Savior, the one for whom we live this life.  We need to look for His will within each and every experience and if it is not found we need to shut down the clanging noise and sit with Him in the freshness of His presence. Our very lives and our very eternity depends upon it.