Regrets … It is like driving a car in a snowfall that becomes a “white out”, devoid of all color. This is worse than darkness, which at least light can penetrate. But a white-out swallows even light. Rather, all is colorless, with an all-enveloping sameness dulling any trace of difference… Read Post
Scripture Reflection for February 1, 2015 My mystical understanding of man tells me there is nothing within a person that is real other than love. A spirit of greed or fear or jealousy could be understood to be that spirit that has control over you, but it cannot be you. Read Post
TED Talk Jesus encouraged it (MT 16:240)…Shakespeare said it (Polonius to Laertes)…my mother told me(1945-1956)…this week Pope Francis said it in his actions (Huff Post Religion Jan 27, 2015) and today’s TED Talk Read Post
Many regrets cluster around opportunities: opportunities that were missed, and opportunities that never came.
We live in a nation full of opportunities. We like to think there are opportunities for everyone. But, as we know, there are opportunities, and there are opportunities. Some of us have an eye for opportunity and, within that group, some have the knack of quickly and decisively seizing it. The opportunity of purchasing a lottery ticket is available to everyone, is it not? But what kind of opportunity is it when five hundred million lottery tickets have already been purchased? There is indeed an opportunity to win the prize, but the opportunity: is it not slender? Indeed, there are some opportunities for winning that are so unlikely that, in reality, it’s comparable to having no opportunity at all.
But there are other opportunities coming our way which are more promising. These are the ones that should attract our attention and spur us on to seize them. Sometimes we are rewarded by an opportunity of which we have taken advantage. At other times we are not. Most of us are prepared to fail in an effort to gain an opportunity, especially if we have engaged it only after pondering it. For we know we can’t succeed all the time.
But provided we have some assurance that opportunities will continue to come, we learn to bide our time. While there may be an apparent proliferation of opportunities for some people, perhaps even ourselves, there are some opportunities, for one reason or another, of which we fail to take advantage. They become lost opportunities. They had been within our grasp, but we backed off from grasping them. This can be painful and frustrating, especially when we later on recall no good reason why we failed to engage certain opportunities. They became lost chances. And this may weigh heavy on us as we later come to appreciate what a marvelous opportunity it was. We may berate ourselves because of our propensity to disregard opportunities that eventually prove to be golden, or, if, despite such a propensity, we fail to respond on a certain occasion to an opportunity, and later on wonder why.
This is the story of opportunities for many people: plentiful, but not always pursued. Perhaps there is fear that opportunities are really just sheer chances, which often perform only at a 50-50 level. Yet opportunity usually leans a bit more toward one side than another, differing from a chance in this regard. One who is skilled in spotting opportunities is really more than a gambler who is satisfied with just a 50-50 possibility in his or her calculations. So to say of someone that he or she had no opportunity is not to say he or she never had a chance.
Yet, amid all this speculation about the enrichment associated with opportunity, we remain keenly aware that opportunity is not equally available across the board for everyone. Some of us, admittedly, have more opportunities than others. Sad to say, others of us have never had any opportunity at all. There are those who have lived lives devoid of opportunity. That is nearly as bad as never having even a chance.
In our times we have become acutely aware of a fairly large number of persons whose situation in life is one of deprivation and of emptiness. They have nothing to call their own, other than “hand-me-downs” coming from elsewhere. As a result, they were never in a position to improve their lives. They learned to live “without”, not only without tangible benefits, but, worse, without an intangible like hope. Promise never brightened their lives. The experience of something “better” or “different” was foreign to them. Having lived in this manner all their lives, they lack the ability to conjure up a life scenario different from what is presently available to them. It is like driving a car in a snowfall that becomes a “white out”, devoid of all color. This is worse than darkness, which at least light can penetrate. But a white-out swallows even light. Rather, all is colorless, with an all-enveloping sameness dulling any trace of difference. It is a dangerous way to drive: no blues, reds, greens, yellows, browns, orange or blacks. All white. One loses one’s bearings in such a situation, and cannot drive safely, just as no one can live life without opportunity.
So, even though we may regret our lost opportunities, we should think of those who never had them. Which is worse: to regret loss of opportunities that came our way, or to regret never having known an opportunity?
Jesus encouraged it (MT 16:24)…Shakespeare said it (Polonius to Laertes)…my mother told me(1945-1956)…this week Pope Francis said it in his actions (Huff Post Religion Jan 27, 2015) and today’s TED Talk by Morgana Bailey tells us, “Be yourself.” Now we can argue just what did Jesus mean or what was Polonius really saying, but I’m saying it has been for me a most difficult task and at the same time most rewarding. Thanks for sharing Morgana. You give me hope.
In Sunday’s first reading (DT 18:15-20) Moses tells the Jews that God will raise up from among them a prophet to lead them. God will be with them guiding them.
In the selection from Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is shown teaching in the synagogue for the first time, astonishing those listening because He taught with authority and power, not like the Scribes. When an unclean spirit recognizes Him as the holy one of God and asks: “Have you come to destroy us?” Jesus rebukes him sharply: “Be quiet! Come out of the man!”The man convulsed violently and with a loud shriek the unclean spirit left him. All who looked on were amazed. They asked one another,, What does this mean? A completely new teaching in a spirit of authority! From then on his reputation spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. This is the beginning of Jesus’ public life in Mark’s Gospel.
I see Jesus as the great emancipator. His first miracle, the most common miracle He performs in Mark’s Gospel is exorcism and healing. This is appropriate because liberation is central to Jesus’ mission. (Workbook for Lectors and Gospel Reader’s and Proclaimers of the Word)
My mystical understanding of man tells me there is nothing within a person that is real other than love. A spirit of greed or fear or jealousy could be understood to be that spirit that has control over you, but it cannot be you.
More precisely though actual possession by a spirit entity is what is really being described. “The glory of God is man fully alive” (St Irenaeus)
…They look strange, their speech patterns are out of the ordinary, their modes of behavior are off the beaten path, their dress styles are ill-kempt and out of style. The last thing in the world we would think of calling them is “holy”… CPP Blog
…Mark tells us: “This is a time of fulfillment. The kingdom is at hand. Repent and believe…” This suggests to me… CPP Blog
Three hundred years ago, St. Paul of the Cross told us of the importance of living simply…In today’s TEDxWhitefish talk Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus give us an update on Paul’s idea. CPP Blog
What does it mean to encounter the holy? Most of us know that it has to do with God in some form or fashion. At least, God is the primordial instance or example of the holy, and likely the source of whatever other forms of holiness that come across our path.
We know that a genuine encounter with the holy begets a sense of respect in us, and reverence, in a way that we don’t experience in our other encounters. It’s different from the wonder we feel at something new and strange, or the sense of bewilderment before the incomprehensible or exotic. There’s always a personal component to meeting the holy, but the personal factor in the holiness experience is different from that associated with coming upon a highly gifted person in the arts or sciences or the professions. In these latter instances, admiration is the more likely component of what we undergo on such occasions, but, again, that’s different from the peculiar and very special features of happening upon the holy.
Usually an encounter with the holy puts us in a passive mode. We back off from taking a leadership or aggressive stance, and choose rather a quiet, low-key, reverential attitude. We judge quiet to be more conducive to holiness than noise and loudness. We regard aggressiveness (“pushiness”)on our part is out of place, and suspect that an attitude of waiting or expectation is more conducive to a holiness event than one of barging in or trying to take control. The agency in the holiness event comes from elsewhere rather than from us, whose appropriate mode of behavior is one of waiting and watching.
So “the holy” often “breaks in” upon us like the surf washing over the beach. The beach doesn’t go out to meet the water; the water breaks in upon and floods the shoreline. All of these expressions of what the holy encompasses would be comparable to what a novelist such as Flannery O’Connor did in her frequent efforts to depict what “the holy” is, especially in her arena of interest, the personal encounter. She was gifted in highlighting the interpersonal features of a holiness episode. It did not present itself to her as an architectural or artistic event, but as an encounter with “another”, often a bizarre and unusual “other”, quite different from what we would expect a “religious” person to be.
The characters appearing in her stories are “strange” in the extreme, in fact, the last type of candidate in the world we would ever think of calling “holy”. They are bizarre, strange personifications of holiness, the likes of which we would find beyond anything associated with the holy. They look strange, their speech patterns are out of the ordinary, their modes of behavior are off the beaten path, their dress styles are ill-kempt and out of style. The last thing in the world we would think of calling them is “holy”. They are, to say the least, “different”. They move and behave outside the boundaries of what we would expect were we forewarned about meeting a holy and religious person. Her religious person would catch us “off guard”.
So, the prim, proper, orderly, and predictable are inadequate ways for her to describe what “the holy” is. She doesn’t employ a stance of reverence, respect or politeness in presenting her candidates for holiness to us. Rather, she catches us unprepared, surprising us and leading us to exclaim: “Well, I certainly didn’t expect THIS. Whoever would have thought that this character exemplifies holiness!!” He/she looks funny, talks funny, dresses funny, walks funny, behaves unpredictably. That would likely be our reaction, should any of her characters emerge from her stories to engage us. In short, they would be STRANGE.
And that, in the last analysis, is the best way of reminiscing on her presentation of “the holiness event”, should we ever have the occasion of encountering it. It is likely we could not have prepared ourselves to handle her version of a religious experience, for it would have fallen outside the framework we employ in thinking about the holy.
But, in many ways Jesus Christ epitomizes her version of the holiness event, from His birth as a baby in a shelter, to the puzzlement He induced in the temple guardians, to the “street” people He befriended in the course of His short life, and especially to the twelve unlikely candidates He invited to be His apostles, and then onto the final hours of His life, excoriated as a breaker of the law and a criminal, suffering public execution. Some of us might have thought twice about accepting the invitation to buy into the meaning of holiness in His terms. For they were indeed quite STRANGE.
In the Gospel (MK 1:15) Mark tells us: “This is a time of fulfillment. The kingdom is at hand. Repent and believe…” This suggests to me that the return of Christ is an individual spiritual experience. When I repent (rethink) and believe, I enter into the Kingdom (not a community experience). In the Our Father we say: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We are asking for the Kingdom of God to be present for us where we are right now. If that prayer can be answered and realized it can only be experienced individually. In heaven or the Kingdom, love rules all interactions.
What attitude would you have to have to experience heaven on earth? Would it be a hope so trusting, a faith so strong and a love, so total that fear is eliminated? I have asked several people the following question: “Do you think your fear would be eliminated if you could believe everything Jesus taught?” Most people answer, “Yes”. My experience is that the only time I feel fear is when my faith is challenged and found wanting. I used to be afraid of flying. I am not now. Trust is what eliminated that fear. I have faced life threatening operations and illness without fear. Faith is what did that for me.
It is my belief and my experience that a mind-set dominated by attitudes of love, faith and hope will bring me to the experience of heaven on earth.
C.G. Young talked about the collective consciousness of man. Is there such a thing as the collective consciousness of the saints?
In the gospel of Thomas, paragraph 113. “His students said to him when will the Kingdom come? Jesus said, “It will not come because you are watching for it. No one will announce ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘Look there it is!”’ The Father’s Kingdom is spread out upon the earth and people do not see it.”
Three hundred years ago, St. Paul of the Cross told us of the importance of living simply:
“…together with perfect observance of his evangelical counsels, especially by total detachment from all created things with the perfect practice of holy poverty, so essential for the observance of the other counsels.” (Letters of St. Paul of the Cross, Vol 1, p5)
In today’s TEDxWhitefish talk Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus put the same idea in contemporary language. After watching this video, I signed up to follow their blog, The minimalist.
Many of us have developed the knack of “the cold shoulder”. That is, we go up to the edge of the impermissible in our personal relationships, and feel fairly good about it. For we have both satisfied an inner urge of ours, for example, to “get even” with another, while not going so far as for it to be evident to another that I have a grudge against him or her. That can be called: “the cold shoulder.”
The hypocrisy in this relies on appearances. For we appear in one way, exhibiting politeness in behaving properly and appropriately, while the hidden truth of the matter is that it is improper and even wrong, since we intend “to get even”, and so we can feign surprise if accused of acting inappropriately or wrongly. Often even the victim of our cold shoulder may not be sure any slight is intended, though a suspicion may linger, to that effect. But the victim may try to be overly suspicious.
As an instance of hypocrisy, the cold shoulder is a mixture of good and evil. There’s not enough good submerged in such a mode of action to make the perpetrator of it to feel sufficiently at ease with it, but, on the other hand it’s not clearly evident that anything evil is hidden within it. For the cold shoulder can be a lukewarm response to another’s overture, or a veiled remark that can have a double meaning, in a given situation, with retaliation as a possibility. Of course, such a remark or action may be accurately perceived by another, who can then respond “in kind”, so as to bring the whole exchange out into the open. Should that happen, then duplicity and hiddenness give way to blatent hostility.
Some of us are skilled at avoiding open confrontation and any obvious display of displeasure or anger at another, while developing a skill at getting back at another. As suggested, this may not clearly offend another, but it may generate suspicion. A manufactured posture of indifference to another can be perfected into an art form designed to cover up hostility or anger, and this is what the cold shoulder means.
When perfected, the cold shoulder can be denied, unlike an open display of anger or upsetness, which is apparent to all. That is the inner evil of the cold shoulder—its attempt at hiding the evil intent involved by an ostensible façade of innocence. Indeed, when successfully implemented, it can feign ignorance or innocence by asking: is there something wrong? And this is the root problem of the cold shoulder: hypocrisy, pretending innocence even while intending a slight or even vengeance against another, at least to the extent of leaving another ill at ease in a situation.
It is one thing to engage in evil openly, to the point where it cannot be denied, regardless of any subterfuge employed to cover it up; so one is caught in the act. But it is another, and more serious matter, to attempt covering up the evil intended by assuming the guise of innocence. This adds duplicity to a relationship already listing toward shipwreck, so that it is the duplicity that emerges as the greater problem in the situation.
Should another feel a chill developing in a personal relationship, a suspicion may emerge that something deep is involved that cannot be surfaced; an element of irreversibility threatens the breakdown of the relationship. Hypocrisy adds the element of untruthfulness to a situation that muddies a situation that otherwise might have been brought to light and clarified, identified and confronted rather than remaining hidden, and so temporarily smoothed over, like a cancer escaping detection. Would it not be better to have the cancer diagnosed and exposed, rather than to have it elude discovery and leave everyone guessing?
If the device of the cold shoulder is utilized too often, it can atrophy and disable the use of one’s shoulder for better purposes than “getting even”.