A TWISTED LOVE

I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.

Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed,  and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry-mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily?

The young woman speaks.

“Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.”

She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles.

“I like it,” he says, “It is kind of cute.”

All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works. I remember that the gods appeared in ancient Greece as mortals, and hold my breath and let the wonder in.

Source: Richard Selzer, M.D.
Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery
(Harcourt Brace, 1996) pages 45-46
Originally published by Simon & Schuster, 1976

CONSIDER THIS

Was the young man a god? I think not. But he possessed a God-like love, a love that persisted in the midst of change, a love that did not alter when it found alteration.

Do you have eyes that can see beauty, joy, goodness, and hope? Can you sense such gifts even in the midst of seeming ugliness or when the light is dim and the darkness heavy?

NO LONGER UGLY

NO LONGER UGLY

Once upon a time there was a boy who had a dog. The boy and the dog loved each other and played happily as dear friends. But one day the dog did something the boy’s parents didn’t like. To appease his parents, the boy had to send the dog away. Years passed, and the boy forgot there had ever been a dog . But inside him there was still a place where something was missing. When he was a man, the missing place called him so strongly that he had to go in search of what he needed. His search brought him to the edge of a forest.

Not knowing why, he found himself sitting, waiting. Slowly, gradually, two burning eyes appeared in the darkness of the forest. The young man waited. Slowly, gradually, a long pointed nose emerged. The young man waited. Finally, out of the forest, slinking, there came an animal: thin, scarred, muddy, matted with burrs. You would hardly know it had ever been a dog.

The young man greeted it softly: Hello. The ugly dog stopped, untrusting. The young man felt in his body the memory stirring of the good and happy times with his friend. He said to the animal before him: I want to know how it has been for you, all these years in exile. And in his own way the dog told him, this, and this. Sad, lonely, scared, bitter. The young man told the dog that he had heard it. He heard all that he had gone through.

And with this hearing, the dog visibly softened, became warmer and more trusting. After some time, it came close enough to be touched. When the young man touched the dog, he could feel the missing place inside him begin to fill in. And soon after he took the dog home, and gave it a bath and a warm place by the fire – after it felt loved again – it was no longer ugly. It was beautiful.

Source: Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin
The Radical Acceptance of Everything
Calluna Press, 2005

CONSIDER THIS

“I have long been persuaded that desire is not an emptiness needing to be filled but a fullness needing to be in relation.  Desire is love trying to happen.”  – Sebastian Moore, Jesus and the Liberator of Desire (Crossroad, 1989)

 

MY HEART HAS BEEN THERE ALL MY LIFE

Once upon a time in the rainiest part of the rainy season, an old monastic began her pilgrimage to the holiest shrine on the holiest mountain in the land. Forced back by fierce winds and driving rain, she stopped at the foot of the incline to check directions one last time.

“Old woman,” the inn master scoffed, “this mountain is deep in wet and running clay. You cannot possibly climb this mountain now.” 

“Oh, sir,” the old monastic said, “the climb to this shrine will be no problem whatsoever. You see, my heart has been there all my life. Now it is simply a matter of taking my body there, as well.”

Source: As told by Sr Joan Chittister in keynote address
Assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious
(Atlanta Aug. 18-22, 2006)

CONSIDER THIS

There is some summit toward which every life is bent. All we really need is to find the faith it will take to complete the journey.

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UNTIL I AM TIRED OF DYING

On one of the few occasions that the disciple was able to Skype  the master – who for years has been working with refugees in a remote, far-flung, refugee camp under very difficult and dangerous conditions – a conversation ensued and the disciple asked, “How long will you remain there?”

And the master answered, “Until I am tired of dying.”

Source: Adapted by Philip Chircop from a recently heard story.

CONSIDER THIS

“We ought to learn how to die before we die, so that when we die, we won’t die.” 

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”  John 12:24-25 (The Message)

LOVING WHOLEHEARTEDLY

An eager young man longing to live a good life, went to his rabbi and said, “I know that the Hebrew Scriptures say that we ought to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength. But I am very much aware that my heart and soul and mind and strength have bad parts in them. So, tell me, how can I love God?”

After a pause the rabbi replied, “Well, it seems that you’re going to have to learn how to love God with the bad parts too.”

Source: Unknown

CONSIDER THIS

“The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest, but wholeheartedness.” David Steindl-Rast in response to a question by poet David Whyte.

“In fiction good people do good things and bad people do bad: that’s why it is called fiction!” (Oscar Wilde) In real life bad people can do good things and good people can do bad things.

PITCHING IN

When the pastor became ill, the small rural community gathered to pray for his recovery and ask for God’s guidance during his lengthy absence. Having first looked at all their pastor’s many responsibilities, those present took an inventory of their skills and talents. “I could take over the capital campaign for the new educational center,” offered an accountant.

“I’d be willing to lead bible study,” said a retired librarian. “I could train lectors and help the kids with the Christmas pageant,” volunteered an amateur actor. “We’d like to visit the home-bound and help with social care,” stated a middle-aged couple, recent empty-nesters. “And I’ll get an email list together and give everyone updates about what’s happening at the parish,” said a young computer programmer.

Source: Elizabeth-Anne Stewart

CONSIDER THIS

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. 1 Corinthians 12:7

Building the church, is a collective, collaborative effort. Our unique gifts, skills and talents are not just for our own benefit but for the sake of all God’s people (and that’s everybody)!

What are your gifts? What are your skills?
How can you use them to pitch in, and help build the church and the kin-dom?

How can you invest them even further and be an instrument that with others can help heal the world and the planet?

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ENCOUNTERING THE LIVING GOD

“It was Thomas Aquinas’s proofs for the existence of God that brought me into the Church,” said the eager theology student to his professor.

“I’m very happy for you,” replied Sofia, the wise, seasoned and experienced  teacher, “they almost drove me out of it.”

Source: As remembered and retold by Philip Chircop SJ

CONSIDER THIS

There’s a big difference between proving the existence of God and experiencing  God; between explaining God and encountering God. Thinking, analysis, and philosophical arguments are lovely and can be very helpful tools but they also run the risk of boxing up the faith in dangerous and suffocating systems of belief.

Analyzing God or faith is like dissecting a frog, when you take it apart, you might find out what it’s made up of, but the frog itself is killed in the process.

How do you experience and encounter the divine?