This day begins the era of endless silence for a voice that has been supporting me for thirty-four years. The entire experience of this beginning is marked by the end of an era.
It all began to come home to me when I decided that to solve a small language question, I would email a Japanese friend of mine who follows this blog. When I thought of doing this, I immediately realized that I had not heard from a long time supporter of mine for many days. This fellow would send me at least 3, many times 5 or 6 emails per day. They were the usual kinds of emails that people flood the ethersphere with these days. Some I would open, some I wouldn't. This pattern of his went on for over two years, so I could recognize the repeaters from the new ones. So life went on. When I thought of my Japanese friend, who also happens to be close to the emailing friend, I sent an email to the Emailer and said, "if you need help, tell me." Then I emailed the fellow in Japan. After that, since my curiosity was getting the better of me, I researched my email to see exactly how long it had been since the last email I had received from the once forgotten, now remembered emailing friend. It turned up to be November 8. Nearly three weeks. I went about my business and kept checking my email to see what would happen. Early this morning, it happened. The mutual friend from Japan told me that George had died two days before.
Now this is really the negative side of life in the fast lane. A person who is present in my life every single day of the week, through more than one or two "pings" a day, disappears for 17 days and I don't notice the absence. It is but through a coincidental mental connection that I even had the faint inkling of an irregularity. It reminded me of when I shaved off the beard that I had carried for over one year. It took a week before the first person made a remark about the fact that I was now clean shaven. One week! It is like information overload. Or is it like an environmental habit, such as a "favorite" shrub that gets cut down from next to the main entry to your home and it takes a week or more to realize that there is a "hole" where the shrub used to be. But this is a human friend. Not just any, ordinary friend. Read on...
I finally got some contact information. His telephone number reached me. I immediately called and the wife answered the telephone. She had been seeking me for the entire three days. She even went the fifteen miles to where she knew that I once lived full time. She knows that my son lives there. She got there, saw his vehicle in the driveway. Knocked on the door a lot and got no response. She finally went back home and found someone who could manage her husband's computer and was able to send me the telephone number by email. We spoke for about an hour.
Email is what you make of it. It can be mechanical and it can be personal. A continuous flow of it from the same source can become "white noise." Like the stream behind your country home. Or like the car radio that is on but not communicating because there are too many other claims on the driver's attention. That's what happened to me. It is too bad that the "Endless Silence" started early because my senses were someplace else.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Then there are the Rich who know that they are blessed by God; There are the Powerful who know that God supports them because they can afford to buy a horse from the Arabs; The Comfortable who are sure that God loves them because they can afford to buy myrrh from the Egyptians; The Poor who know that their downtrodden state is only the introduction to the gift of plenty that was given to Job; The Criers who assure God that they have accepted Him as their Lord and Savior just as He asked everyone to be. Finally there are those who have been asked to sell all that they have and who walk away because that is too much to ask of them.
This is the challenge that we are all going to hear on this the feast of Christ the King. The challenge in simple monosyllabic terms is "Do what I want you to do. I want you to sell all that you have, leave your fishing nets in your boat and follow me." The secret to Salvation is Believing and Doing.
Following the Will of God leads us to the sheep fold and keeps us there. Anything else gets us into the goat camp. You wouldn't want to be the Leon Culberson of all eternity, now would you?
This is a dynamic Ceylonese (Sri Lankan Tamil) parish priest who was murdered with impunity while on his way to his humanitarian mission. At the time of his ultimate and non-negotiable witness for Christ, this brave Jesuit was all of forty years old. He was killed by the special forces of the Sri Lankan, anti Tamil forces. Father Jim was not ignorant of the dangers of his mission to the minority Tamil people. He nevertheless continued to care for them in the face of the ever present threat of death. The life he gave was certainly the seed for other Catholic lives to grow from. Catholic tradition assures us that the "blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." The tradition sustains us to this day. We love our martyrs because they assure us of the true value of discipleship. Click on the link shown above just beneath the photo for a more complete picture of the situation in Sri Lanka.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
This passage of Matthew has a tradition all its own. It is traditionally used as source of inspiration for work, for development of strong personal growth, of the overcoming of fear of retribution and the strengthening of personal courage in the face of risk. It is traditionally used as a teaching to make the point that the talents that we have received from God require us to make every effort to bring them to greater and greater fruition toward the ultimate goal of eternal salvation.
The traditional position taken by the teachers is that the first two servants are the stars of the story and the third one is weak and afraid. This is generally underlined by the description of the final state of the third person, he is left destitute and suffering out in the cold. In the following paragraphs, I intend to break with tradition and present a way of reading and understanding the parable based on a long period of time of reflection and conversation concerning the story. I am not a professional exegete, just a simple believer with a view about a very well known Gospel story.
I listen to the description of the master that comes out of the man with one talent. Notice that the description resembles another one that we have read before in the Sacred Scripture. Such as: “So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.” [Joshua 24;13]
We also can read similar words in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verses 10 and 11.
Furthermore, the very next verse in Matthew’s Gospel begins the story of the last judgment. This is the story that exhorts us all to share what we have with those who are “in the dark, where there is weeping and the grinding of teeth” because of the daunting penury that exists there. The story of the Last Judgment does not belittle the poor, the hungry, the naked and not even those in jail. In the meditation on the Last Judgment, even those in jail are not being judged as unworthy of receiving graces from God and help from God’s people for the sake of the Kingdom. It is therefore in view of these elements that I now transition to my thoughts about the parable of the man who entrusted part of his treasure to his servants while he went on travel.
We move on to a story about a rich man who gives a different amount to three of his “employees” or acquaintances, who knows. He leaves them with the expectation that they will make the investment that he has made in them grow. When he comes back he takes from them what they made, but it does not say what he gave them back. What we do get to know about this man is what the third fellow tells us. He is a hard man. He takes what he wants from whomever, whether it was due to him or not. “You harvest where you have not sown…” The man agrees and repeats the exact same words and then tells the man that because he knew that he should have put the money in the bank so that the hard nose, avaricious exploiter could have earned the interest. He is now real angry and has the poor guy thrown out into the darkness.
Isn’t that what happens when the “little guy” speaks truth to power. The one talented man had one very precious talent, in my book. He did not co-operate with what he considered to be immoral behavior. Not only did he not co-operate, he resisted and he said why despite knowing what the consequences would be. I admire that. I’ve been there. It is a very interesting situation.
I notice that Jesus does not elaborate on the lesson that he wants to make here. Like I said earlier, tradition has the lesson going the way of putting the rebel down. Lately, I’ve been allowing my mind and my heart to wonder about just what it really is all about. Maybe you should ask yourselves too. The answer may just convince you that I don’t deserve to have you crying at my funeral.
Friday, November 4, 2011
REMEMBERING ≠ NOSTALGIC REMINISCING
REMEMBERING = STAYING JOINED TO THE COMMUNITY
The interesting thing about all this is that I was not just running these things through my mind, I was actually living them as the air ran into and through my “open-air” ride. I wasn’t just reminiscing, I was uniting myself with the reality that I and others had lived before today. I was re-membering. I was back in community with the realities, mechanical, environmental, social, emotional and communitarian. Yes, I was in a specific community again. Not just yearning for myself, but sharing the spirituality of the experiences in a mystical way with the other humans who had lived the same truths and who are presently still aware of them at some level.
I am not very fond of playing word tricks with myself and with other people, but lately the “member” part of “remembering” is making sense to me. It is bringing me into an understanding of the human community of which we are all members. It is also bringing me into a deeper understanding of the community not only of the living but of the unity that continues between us, the living and those who have died and “gone on” before us. The nature of this remembering is familiar to Catholics who designate the month of November as the month of the “Dearly Departed.” In the Catholic world, the soul is eternal and it is perfectly singular, never to be repeated in its individuality. This is what is meant by the word “ineffable.” Therefore, a part of Catholic life is the continuation of a spiritual connection between all members of the human community. That is why Catholics continue to intercede for and in fact, in some instances, ask for intercessory prayers from the individuals who have died but who remain members of the “Communion of Saints,” the community of all souls.
Catholics get this conviction from the Israelites and the Hebrews who had, and still have, a powerful belief in the “member” part of remember. The Passover celebration is all remembering. The prayers are full of remembering. The Psalms are pregnant with remembering. The Gospels are constantly reminding us of the forebears of Jesus. We are never allowed to forget that this is the son of David. We are not even allowed to forget the Passover. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist we are told, “Do this in memory of me.”
None of this is very far from our everyday lives. No matter whom we are. No matter what our roots are. No matter what our spiritual convictions are. Without a deep appreciation for remembering, we are incomplete. What normal human being goes through life without remembering birthdays, wedding days, death anniversaries of mother, father, siblings, graduation anniversaries, major surgeries??? The list goes on. Remembering is our connection with human beings. It is the glue of our unity as a race. It is also the fundamentally solid and deepest reason why not a single one of you should even dare to cry at my funeral.