Monday, December 29, 2014

Computer crash, emptying, and freedom. Oh yes, and a girl named Therese.

Once again I learn how important it is to keep praying for the eyes to see. A lot of things are put in front of us by a very generous God, and we can so easily miss them. 

This year in Fall and Advent, the generosity was pretty significant for me. And the outcome was a journey-to-Bethlehem experience like none I can recall.

I guess it started on retreat in October. Always happens that the gifts or graces I really desire on the retreat are a little deeper than the ones I go in being able to articulate. This year it became a new sense of the desire for conversion. For years I had prayed for 'the rest of my conversion.' If you stop and reflect on that, you will see between the lines an awareness of holding out on God.

One day as I walked through the fields of Loyola House in Guelph, I was really made aware of the beauty of the land and of the power of the One who made it. I wanted something from that land, and I picked up four little stones that I figured had taken maybe hundreds of years to come to the surface. I also picked a red clover. For no other reason than that it was there - and it was life. I held them all as some kind of connection with the Creator. Back in my room hours later, I still had them, and I noticed the clover wilting and dying. Which produced a startlingly clear awareness that there has to be a dying in creation, for new life to occur. And they can both occur in the midst of the hardness of the rocks. In my journal I noted,  "This is it, isn't it? This is what you want me to see."I ended the retreat, asking for a sign of confirmation about all this.

Flash forward a few weeks. Computer gets hit with a virus that destroys data that had not been backed up. I make the very hard decision to re-install Windows and go back to factory settings. I realize in the process that while I am losing some stuff, I am also eliminating all the junk on the computer, from content right down to temp files, system files etc etc etc. In the middle of it, I laughed as it hit me - the computer was now open to new life because old stuff was gone. The clover had died. And I felt strangely liberated from all kinds of stuff I had been saving.

While this was all happening, I was reading Therese of Lisieux's autobiography, Story of a Soul - a book I have had for years, but could never warm up to, with its flowery language. Suddenly it totally captivated me, and I found myself wanting to get to know this young woman. She is very bright, and totally - but totally - committed to love of Christ. The fact that there are many pictures of her (she died in 1897) makes her real in a way other saints cannot be. One of the kickers in our new relationship turns out to be an anniversary we share. To hear her tell it, the most important day in her life was her First Communion, at age 11. An extremely important sacramental day in my life was ordination to the diaconate. The date for both is May 8. We are kindred spirits, lol, yes?

Therese has been wonderful to get to know. If you have heard anything of her, you will know that she has this little thing of confirming prayers by putting roses in your path. I promise, I have never really trusted that - or, more accurately, never really experienced that. I trust it now. And I am quietly impressed at the creative ways she does it sometimes. More on that another time.

Among the many powerful statements she makes in her writings, there is this little section: "Jesus does not demand great actions from us, but simply surrender and gratitude. ...... (A)mong his own disciples, alas, He finds few hearts who surrender to him without reservations, who understand the real tenderness of His infinite Love."

'Without reservations.' I realize I have always had reservations, are you kidding?

The theme of my homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent became that of journeying to Bethlehem with Mary and being conscious that if we make that a journey of love as Therese has described, we will arrive at Bethlehem to see and maybe hold the child Jesus, knowing that we are free - freer than ever, perhaps, to let our relationship with Jesus totally occupy the moment - because we are holding nothing back on him. We do not suddenly become perfect, what we become is honest. And open to all he so much wants to give us.

 (Here is that homily, from the parish website:  )

January 4 2015 will be Epiphany, the visit of the Magi. Homily is not written yet, but my thoughts are that the gold, frankincense, and myrrh we might consider bringing to Jesus in 2015 are the gifts of honesty (everything there for him to see - everything), hunger (because we have emptied ourselves of all the stuff that deludes us into thinking we are able to handle everything on our own, including our salvation), and love (which burns away all that stuff - overwrites the hard-drive, as it were).

'Without reservation.' Nothing held back. I think we will find we are different people as we continue our journey and 'return to our own land.'
Happy and Blessed New Year 2015.