Monday, April 19, 2010

Going home?

“Going home?” This was the question an agent asked me while I was passing through US Customs in Canada. It triggered a strand of reflection within me and uncovered a grace.

The theme of “home” has occupied much real estate in my mind lately. Throughout the past two weeks, I have been talking with my Provincial and house superior about where I will live in the next three years. This past weekend, I shared about unconditional love as a “coming home,” in preparation for an upcoming retreat. Just before the inquiry posed by the customs agent, I proposed to a friend some concrete ways how we can support one another to grow in faith and ministry. His peace-filled reply caught me by surprise: “I am at home with what you’re thinking.”

I am going home, to the Murray Jesuit Community in Oakland. Yet, I am leaving it in a week to find home in another community in East Los Angeles. However, a number of factors conspire to prevent me from fully settling in my new house for several months. In particular, I am going home to my family in San Diego for a month. It is the last leg of my nine month Tertainship experience. (This is an unexpected gift since I had not previously imagined being with my family for an extended period, after twenty-one years of short visits.)

In all of the above places, I feel a sense of belonging, familiarity, comfort, and safety. I am grateful I can call these places home. However, there is another level of meaning. Home is more than a physical place; rather, it consists of a web of relationships whereby we are loved and accepted as we are, without condition, without having to deserve, gain, or earn love; it allows us to touch the bedrock of who we are, encourages us to be our truest selves; it is where we feel safe enough to take risks of greater vulnerability or be challenged to grow.

As a Catholic, I am called to find home in Christ, in the church community, in serving others. As a Jesuit, I am invited to find home in community, in mission, on the road, and most importantly, in the heart of Christ. The journey of these eight months, thus far, has allowed me to come home, in all of the senses described above. More than ever, I see my life as a pilgrimage of trust, an adventure home.

When I replied, “Yes, I am going home,” to the cheerful customs agent, I also smiled to myself: “Yes, I am a pilgrim going home.” There is an invitation here, which allows me to rest in gratitude … and beckons me forth in trust …

Friends, where are you going? With whom are you at home … and coming home to?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Arsonist of the Heart

I returned from Manila to celebrate Easter and the wedding of Michelle, my cousin in Texas. I have “lain low” mainly because I feel called to spend time reflecting on the many graces of the past seven months. It is such a blessing to see my family and surprise a few friends. What a delight it is to see reactions of both joy and shock in the people whom I surprised. One person blinked several times to make sure that she wasn't seeing a mirage. Another placed a hand over her heart for a long minute. Perhaps she was checking to see if it skipped a beat or calming its racing rhythm.

It makes me wonder if the disciples who encountered the Risen Jesus experienced something similar: surprised by joy … even shocked by joy.

Paradoxically, I am the one being surprised, even though I am the one surprising others. While I anticipated some people’s reactions, I am surprised at the depth of their responses when they see me. I am shocked at the spontaneous kindness of one couple; I am stunned by how sensitive I am to sadness and suffering. Things seem to hit me more deeply these two weeks back in the US.

The poem below is a bit long. Yet, it may be worth the time set aside for prayer and reflection. It describes three encounters of people with the Risen Jesus, who slowly reveals himself to them in deeper ways. They are recounted in the Gospels of this week: Jn 20:11-18; Jn 21:1-14; Lk 24:13-35.

The Easter Season has 50 days (until Pentecost). It is longer than Lent, to allow ample time and space for us to be surprised or shocked by joy. Join me in letting the Risen One - the God of Surprises, the Arsonist of the Heart - touch us anew.

Arsonist of the Heart
(by John Shea from The Challenge of Jesus)

Like her friend
she would curse the barren tree
and the glory in the lilies of the field.
She lived in noons and midnites,
in those mounting moments of high dance
when blood is wisdom and flesh love.

But now
before the violated cave
on the third day of her tears
she is a black pool of grief
spent upon the earth.

They have taken her dead Jesus,
unoiled and unkissed,
to where desert flies and worms
more quickly work.

She suffers wounds that will not heal
and enters into the pain of God
where lives the gardener
who once exalted on her perfume,
knew the extravagance of her hair,
and now asks her whom she seeks.

In Peter's dreams
the cock still crowed.
He returned to Galilee
to throw nets into the sea
and watch them sink
like memories into darkness.
He did not curse the sun
that rolled down his back
or the wind that drove
the fish beyond his nets.
He only waited for the morning
when the shore mist would lift
and from his boat he would see him.
Then after naked and impetuous swim
with the sea running from his eyes
he would find a cook
with holes in his hands
and stooped over dawn coals
who would offer him the Kingdom of God
for breakfast.

On the road that escapes Jerusalem
and winds along the ridge to Emmaus
two disillusioned youths
dragged home their crucified dream.
They had smelled messiah in the air
and rose to that scarred and ancient hope
to mourn what might have been.
And now a sudden stranger falls upon their loss
with excited words about mustard seeds
and surprises hidden at the heart of death
and that evil must be kissed upon the lips
and that every scream is redeemed for its echoes
in the ear of God and do you not understand
what died upon the cross was fear.
They protested their right to despair but he said,
"My Father's laughter fills the silence of the tomb."
Because they did not understand they offered him food.
And in the breaking of the bread
they knew the impostor for who he was --
the arsonist of the heart.

After the end
comes the conspiracy
of gardeners, cooks, and strangers.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday: Following Our Quest

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” – Psalm 118:24

We have completed our Lenten journey and now we come not to the end, but to the beginning of our celebration of the gift by Jesus of Eternal Life. Our Lenten journey ended with the death of Christ on the Cross and his burial in the Tomb. Our Easter journey begins with the Resurrection of the Lord from death into new and eternal life, a promise which is given to us on the day of our Baptism. Sin and death has been conquered and life rules eternally.

The Resurrection was beyond Jesus dying on the cross and then rising again. It was more than His physical sacrifice. It was His blood that forgave us of our sins and gave us new life. Just as Jesus rose again, so shall we by the grace of God. The Resurrection signifies a life about believing and trusting in Him. He rose from the dead to prove that He is alive and now, seated at the right hand of the Father making intercessions for us.

As we receive the Eucharist each time we celebrate mass with Him, may we continue to be mindful that Jesus is living inside of us…always loving, caring and providing. He is alive and we are forgiven and eternally secure. Through the acceptance and practice of forgiveness and believing His word, let us prepare to follow him.

Lord, how can I follow you into the world? What have I learned in this quest to learn to live by the truth? In what ways may our quest continue?

reflected by Tam Lontok

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Holy Saturday: Waiting for Grace

We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death. - Romans 6:4

Today we experience the painful waiting between the death of one ideal and the rebirth into something new. The Scriptures have little to say about the thoughts of the disciples that day, but I imagine they were confused and disillusioned. They had ideas of what the Messiah would do, but Jesus was killed before accomplishing them. On this day I see all my shattered expectations and doubts about God. It is my Holy Saturday today. Like the disciples, I am fearful and lonely.

While we feel forsaken, Matthew’s Gospel says, “the earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.” Christ went to the place of death, could not be contained, and freed the dead to follow Him into paradise. The sadness of Christ’s death becomes mingled with joy over the Resurrection of the dead. The disciples could not know that, far from abandoning them, God had transcended death on their behalf so that he might be with them forever. They must wait for grace until morning.

We come to the Easter Vigil and are met by Christ’s resurrected presence on earth. I need to allow for the death of my own expectations so that I can rest in the presence of God. Sometimes I am too impatient and I see the silence of Holy Saturday as God’s answer. In reality, He is making way for something far greater than I could ever imagine.

God, help me to bury my selfish desires to make way for Your new life. I pray for a cleansed heart. I pray to trust patiently that God is working in my life, even if I cannot see it right now.

reflected by Jen Horan

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday: God's Unconditional Love

"Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured." -Isaiah 53:4

Today, Good Friday, we commemorate the ultimate sacrifice Jesus gave to us on the cross. By sending Jesus to suffer and die for our sins, God reveals His deep love for us. God knows we all face many difficulties in life but His love, which is constantly present inside us, keeps us hopeful and faithful to share the same love God gives with everyone He brings into our lives. The love and sacrifice we offer to friends, family, and to also those who we may not know but are less fortunate than us, is our way of paying forward God’s love, even if those same people have denied or sinned against us.

The difficulties are all part of God’s plan and sometimes the difficulties bring us to our darkest times of sin but it is then when His love for us is the strongest. Internalizing God’s love during these times gives us joy and proves we are special and unique in God’s eyes. Seeing Jesus suffer on the cross encourages us to turn away from sin but we often times forget the true suffering He endured to die for our sins and to ultimately give us salvation. When we see a cross or make the sign of the cross, let us be mindful of God’s unconditional love and the reason why Jesus died on the cross.

How can our actions and words be a reflection of God’s unconditional love? Do we regularly acknowledge God’s love for us?

Lord, thank you for loving me. Transform my heart so I can give the same love unconditionally.

reflected by Greg Lontok

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Holy Thursday: Loving Freely and Sacrificially

Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”- John 13:1-15

The chapter begins with an expression of love. Knowing His hour had come to pass from this world to the Father, Jesus repeated His teaching by an illustration that impressed it forever on their minds and hearts. It was an act of complete love and dedication for He loved His own world and He loved them to the end. The Greek word for ‘end’ is telos, meaning ‘perfectly, wholly and completely.’

Expressing His oceanic love for us, the journey of Christ had been a life of unselfish service and His emphasis was not on whether we knew about them or understand them, but putting the teaching into practice. He calls on us to serve with humility and love others the same way…freely and sacrificially.

Although we were once washed completely clean at baptism, we will occasionally sin as we walk through this human journey together. We will spiritually get our feet dirty and we will need Christ to wash our feet to make us completely clean again. As Jean Vanier writes: “Forgiveness and celebration are at the heart of the community. We can only truly accept others as they are, and forgive them, when we discover that we are truly accepted by God as we are and forgiven by Him. It is a deep experience, knowing that we are loved and held by God in all our brokenness and littleness.”

“Lord, help me to understand and become compassionate of others by washing away anything I may see wrong and meanwhile, love and accept others as they are part of our family. And I realize I may also have serious faults that I am not conscious of…I trust you to deal with them in my life in due course.”

reflected by Tam Lontok