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)
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.
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.
“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)
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.”
“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.
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
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?
“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
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?
Two people were watching a man drive a herd of sheep through the main street of a small town.
“I thought shepherds led sheep. I didn’t know they drove them with a whip.”
“They do,” the other fellow remarked. “That’s not a shepherd. That’s the town’s butcher.”
Source: Robert R. Cueni, The Vital Church Leader
Abingdon press, 1991
God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
Psalm 23:1-3 (The Message)
“Imagine you want to boil a frog, how do you do it?” John asked Peter.
“Well, I would simply place the frog into a pot of hot water.”
“Don’t you think that as soon as the frog feels the heat, it will jump out?” said John smilingly.
“How would you go about it?” Peter asked.
“Put a pot of cool water on the stove and then add the frog. Not sensing danger the frog will stay.” John said. “Next, turn the burner on low to slowly heat the water. As the water warms, the frog relaxes. The warmth feels good. As the water gets hotter it acts like a steam bath draining away energy and deepening the frog’s relaxation. The frog becomes sleepy and has less and less energy while the water is getting hotter and hotter. By the time the frog realizes its danger, the water is beginning to boil, and it is too late to take action. There is neither time nor energy left to do anything. The frog perishes in the boiling water.” John concluded.
Source: Based on a version of the story I first read in
Daniel Quinn, The Story of B
Although after a quick internet search, I was relieved to learn this story isn’t factual (modern biologists have debunked the myth), the tale is still a metaphor worth simmering in!
Haven’t all of us, at some point in our life, remained in situations that weren’t good for us, that were slowly damaging our body, crippling our mind and stifling our spirit?
Are we paying close attention to what is going on around us or are we allowing ourselves to become complacent, not noticing when the ‘water’ is getting hot?
Keep testing the water, so you can leap before you boil.