Thursday, April 26, 2012

Breaking for a bit

I find it harder and harder to write here. I think of Peru often, attempt recipes every once in a while, sometimes succeeding, other times failing catastrophically.

Much of what's happening now is of an interior nature. There's academic formation, field placement, community-based growth both in spiritual and academic and professional areas, feeling the subtle transition to being more adult and responsible figuring more prominently into my life and being okay with it.

I know I haven't been incredibly consistent with my writings the past 8 months or so, but I might be taking a break. It probably won't be forever, but it's tough at the moment for me to find words to put here.

A blessed spring to all.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Bringing a sword

Since starting in my graduate program, I have had to wrestle with what kind of "health," what kind of "balance," what kind of "fulfillment" I'm seeking. This is something for which I'm very grateful. I wish I could be more grateful by not running from it, but I'm a weak person and it's a tough subject. I've had to wrestle with the question of how much I let "false moderation" interfere with authentic witness, much in the same way that I let false modesty interfere with a true self-knowledge.

See, the problem that I keep running into as I ponder these things is that I have ME as the ultimate end in most of my formulations. I've been alive about a quarter of a century, and while I am sure to have many more reminders in the future, I've received many a message informing me that I won't live forever. Heck, people are starting to believe that I'm 24! What is the world coming to?! Minor tangent aside, I'm not the center of the universe. It sounds so easy to say, but fighting the temptation to put my world back into a framework of everything catering to me and what's good for me as I see it has been, continues to be, and will be a full-time job.

I certainly can't speak for everybody, but in my experience, when I start appropriating some pop-psychological vaguery and apply it to my spiritual life without discernment about hermeneutic and translation, trouble ensues. Too often a Christian-based retreat has tried to teach me that I'm good, lovable, great, and grand simply because I exist. This statement requires some qualification, because if the implication is that I exist and continue to be of luck or health, that my mode of being is itself the absolute greatest good, then we've got a Cult of Self going on. If the qualification is made that to be is to be good because being comes from God, the ultimate good, there's not so much idolatry going on. I struggled for a while with the notion that valuing myself because of God rather than valuing myself for myself because I felt that this love by association seemed to downgrade my value. I don't think I ever put it into those exact words, but mostly because I knew that I just didn't like having my place at my universe's center taken over by somebody else.

It's a chicken-egg argument when it comes to my self-centered tendencies appropriating neutral terms and words and concepts for its own destructive tendencies or if the ideas behind some of the terms actually promulgate an egocentrism of sorts. In any event, I find myself hiding behind the shield of "prudence" or "health" or "balance" so often when it comes to evading charitable things.

I know that there is a genuine virtue of prudence, and it has to do with the means and the timing and circumstances for bringing out justice. It has a valid place in Christian living. The virtue of preserving one's life and health for the sake of others or for the sake of living according to the vocation an individual is called is clearly not to be condemned in se. Insofar as one must know one's own finiteness and therefor accept limitations in order to best serve, love, etc., striking a balance is something a Christian is called to do.

The thing I forget too often, though it is humiliating to confess, is that one must never be moderate in one's love of God and neighbor. Without that focus, the Cult of Self comes into style, and I become existentially unhappy and discontent, for I have no certain future (save death) and my present unravels before my eyes in light of eventual eternity without any other guiding light.

Matthew's version of the Gospel is rife with discussion about the life of discipleship being tough: the Beatitudes to the other teachings and parables of the Sermon on the Mount to the Passion..."Do not think I have come to bring peace; rather, I have come to bring a sword."
We love thinking of the mustard seed the way that Luke's account portrays it: faith of that size can lift mountains. In Matthew, we see it take on a different angle. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed planted in a field. Mustard was known as the scourge of the farmer in the near-east. It's a weed. It's invasive, hard to get rid of, has tons of minuscule seeds, and eventually birds nestle in it, which means that whatever food manages to grow in the field is probably gonna get et...provided the birds don't eat the seed first. The kingdom of God takes over, both in our spiritual lives and in the world at large. It's impossible to hide completely or eradicate, for it is written on our hearts and it can't help but shout out to us.

While many times Matthew's Gospel reading-times have been times of thinking, "Shoot, I am SO far away from what I should be," and while I still have the feeling that maybe this all seems so uncomfortable or wrong because I'm so far off-target, there's something quite comforting to a mild narcissist like me: He's with me to the end of the age. The one who comes with a sword to perfect the Law and cause division will not leave those in the world, not even me. So when I try to have a balanced life that's all prudent and healthy but lacking in that spirit of self-giving for another's best interest-- the truest indicator of love--and life understandably rings hollow and dull, I can look to Jesus and pray that He deliver me from myself, that I may find God instead, and then find the proper place for a dust-speck like me in the pattern of God's design, that I might love God and neighbor more. That prayer hits a special note in contemplating the Passion and Death Jesus underwent.

That's all I got. The genuine voice of prudence is telling me that I need to cut my losses and sleep! Blessed Triduum to all.