Sunday, April 23, 2006

Emmaus and the Stranger

The Gospel story of the road to Emmaus strikes me in a way it hasn’t yet to this point. The story of the road to Emmaus is not only the historical account of two men encountering the risen Christ, but it is in so many ways a parable unto itself.
Traveling the roads alone in Jesus’s day was dangerous, one was likely to be robbed, beaten, even killed. Being out on the roads alone at night was even worse. The two disciples encounter a stranger on the way. This was a man who was along the way and had no friends, no place to stay, and so they lived out their faith by bringing him along, by sharing with him what little they had in their companionship and material goods. Even in the midst of their confusion, their doubt, their insecurity they lived their lives committed to who they were, out of the dispositions of love and hospitality which had grown in their hearts by encountering Christ. On the road they met the stranger, who took them in to himself in so many ways.
On the road the road to Emmaus the stranger taken in taught the disciples who they were, who Christ was, who God was. Their hearts burned because in their midst was the Son of God, but so often it is in welcoming in the stranger, the outcast, the oppressed, that we discover who we are in God’s light. It is in welcoming in the stranger that we are challenged, shaken from the complacency of our confusion and ambivalence and radically made to choose… to remember who Christ is for us.
They knew him in the breaking of the bread.. They knew him in sharing what they had with him. They knew him in welcoming him, a stranger along the road, in to their home, into their lives. Without regard for their personal security, without worrying about how much food they had, they welcomed him in. That is how they knew him. The recognition of the risen Christ comes in hospitality, in welcoming in the stranger. The story is evident, the parable is simple. We come to know Christ in welcoming the stranger, the outcast. We come to know Christ in breaking bread with those who have none. We come to know who we are by listening to them, by hearing them with new ears. Our hearts then burn with the love of the one who loved us to endure Good Friday, and come to us even as the stranger on Easter Sunday

Friday, April 14, 2006

Obedience, the Cross, and Liberation

Paul says that Jesus was obedient suffering on the cross even unto death. Obviously I have been thinking about this a lot all of lent. As Religious, obedience sometimes encourages us to take up crosses we would never choose for ourselves. There is a value simply in that act alone. Jesus never said “pick up your dandelion and follow me” or “pick up your remote control” or “your Playstation 2” it was something hard, something brutal, it was to pick up the cross. I realize now that obedience to the will of God, for religious but also for everyone else committed to living Christian life, particularly when it is obedience to do something which, like Christ, we want to cry out to the father saying “remove this cup from me!” is not only obedience for the sake of doing God’s will, but it is the imitation of Christ in its very heart, sacrificial, and a real surrender (not simply resignation) to the love of God.

This life is hard some times, let no one convince you otherwise. It is immeasurably worth it though, and not in the sense that the world thinks of worth either. Living a life of Christian discipleship is living the life which makes us most fully alive, and that is what it is doing for me.

The people of El Salvador have been in my mind and on my heart lately too. Maybe it is because I am working on a paper using Salvadoran philosophers. But it strikes me that they have helped to teach me this lesson in their joy and generosity in the midst of the suffering they still wrongly endure. The mystery of the Cross teaches us that obedience to the will of God is about imitating Christ, even to the end. That imitation of Christ necessarily has to include being with the people Christ first came to, the poor. Proclaiming good news to them, as Christ did, proclaiming their dignity, their value, their liberation. Taking up the cross means standing with those members of the Church, which just is the body of Christ, who are crucified, and asking along with Ignatius meditating on the crucifixion.. what have I done for Christ, what am I doing for Christ, what will I do for Christ?

Just a thought on immigration

Monday, April 03, 2006

What the Rooms of St. Ignatius are Teaching Me.

Brother Pozzo's Fresco at the entrace to the rooms to Ignatius to the left.

Have you ever had the moment, joyfully, when you have felt like its time to get back to something more basic, more rudimentary about who you are to remember where God’s grace has been?

I think that’s me right now.

Now don’t get me wrong, my life is great, and I am grateful for the way things are going, but at the same time I think it may be good to get back from time to time to that space that you can remember God calling you from (spiritually and mentally) to reap greater benefit from it.

Now obviously I am not talking about going back to Westerly, Holy Cross, or the Novitiate. (all three places which I have a very deep love for granted.)What I am talking about it perhaps more like this story.

The rooms of St. Ignatius in Rome are obviously considered by many to be a very holy place. This was the space in which he wrote the constitutions, sent Xavier to the East, and governed the Society in its early years. Over time, in order to honor the holiness of the place pilgrims came and left behind gifts, the Society started decorating more and more until some 20 years ago, after nearly 450 years, the rooms would have been unrecognizable to Ignatius. They were baroque in every sense of the word, golden altars, candles everywhere, even a goofy looking mannequin of Ignatius. (In other words every little bit of bad religious quiche that one could imagine)
The society decided to strip down everything that had been built up over the years to get back to the original spirit of those rooms, to their original aggiornamento. Now the rooms are back to something much simpler, much more recognizable to Ignatius himself probably, and people seem to love them more than before. Stripped down from all of the baroque and back to their original simplicity, where people can commune with the spirit of Christ present because of the holy man who lived there.

So it is with me, and I think with all of us as we walk down the path of life in Christ. Occasionally we need to admit that we have gotten too baroque, to flowery, stuffy, and maybe even a little full of ourselves. Its then we have to go back to that moment when we really first heard the call of Christ to “come follow me” and began to do it. Obviously, as Catholics we have confession, and I have been faithful to that, but moreso sometimes its good to go back and remember what it is that got us here in the first place, to let ourselves become more and more like that Child in order to enter the kingdom more readily. Remembering those first moment of our walk with Christ I think fill us with gratitude, can overwhelm us with joy, and reinforce us wherever we are in our spiritual life. Obviously not to deny how far I have come and how I have grown (no one wants the current general to move back into those few rooms and govern 20,000 men and the world’s largest single religious order from there) but simply to be able to remember, reclaim, and marvel at how God’s grace continues to move in our lives, that’s not such a bad thing. So in these last days of lent, I am stripping away all of my baroque outwards show and pomp and getting back to the bare walls underneath, that bear a far greater story than the decorations which cover them.