Showing posts from December, 2011

God's Invitation

Several months ago, Mr. Thomas Flowers, SJ, sent me a copy of his latest book entitled God's Invitation: Meditations on a Covenant Relationship. As we prepare to embark on the 2012 year, and as we prepare to make our annual resolutions to pray more, or to pray at all, allow me to suggest this text to you.

The text is structured around five of the "great covenants" God made with Israel throughout the Old Testament. Each of the five chapters is broken up into a mixture of poetry, scripture, and meditations wrought from personal experience and the scriptures. They are accessible, short, and provide an easy entry point into to praying with the Old Testament with the companionship of a fellow traveler.

Truth to tell, many of the experiences fall within the ambit of a Jesuit in formation. If you're reading my blog, this should not be a foreign experience: I am a Jesuit (is 32 young?) in formation and I share my experiences here, although without the poetic artistry demonst…

The Strangeness of the Christ

It is 2:45 am on Christmas morning and I find myself wide awake. Had I not gone to Confession yesterday, I might attribute this inability to sleep to a guilty conscience. I fell asleep around 10:45 and awoke around 2:00 am with something of a startled sensation. I awoke struck by the strangeness of Christ.

Think of some words we use to express our everyday sense of the strange: odd, weird, abnormal, queer, goofy, bizarre, aberrant, atypical, exceptional, peculiar, offbeat. These are not words normally used to describe Christ. Of course, there are things about Jesus that strike us as odd: it is not every day that we read of persons turning water into wine, raising the dead, consorting with prostitutes and tax collectors, or claiming to be the Son of the Author of Creation. Yet, for many of us Christians, we take all of this for granted and fail to let the absolute oddness of Christ seep into our bones. We domesticate Jesus, we subdue his holy wildness, and we make him tame.

What do I m…

The Scar of Hope

As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.   (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, #48) I went this morning to Cleveland's Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist to participate in the Sacrament of Confession. I went with Adam, another Jesuit, after we had eaten breakfast, stopped at the West Side Market for coffee, and then taken a walk. The cathedral, although dimly lit, was quite active with final preparations being made for the liturgies that will be held this evening and tomorrow.

As I waited in a surprisingly long line to take my turn in the confessional, I meditated on the power of the Incarnation, the Christian belief that the Word - the Word through whom all things came into being - assumed human flesh. The Incarnation is the belief that the Almighty Creator o…

May We Ever Forget?

There are certain lessons in life that I hope never to forget. Stove tops are very hot. The word "safety razor" does not mean that you can't slice open your finger if you run it across the blades to test how safe it is. The words "Tear Free" on the bottle of baby shampoo does not mean that you can apply a drop of the liquid directly to your eye without some pain.

Human society has lessons we must never forget. We must not forget the terrible toll hatred and intolerance can take upon our sisters and brothers. We must not forget how easy it is to turn a people into a number and then systematically slaughter them. We must not forget that human dignity extends to all people - regardless of race, sex, color, creed, orientation, and economic status - and that all persons must be treated with respect.

Yet, are there things that we ought to forget or, at the least, be allowed to forget?

That time you had too much to drink and told those gathered what you felt about so-a…

Refinement of Taste

"What happens to the guest who visits the house of a great musician," asks Hafiz of Shiraz, a fourteenth-century poet who wrote in Persia. "Of course, his tastes become refined."
I stumbled upon the above quote in Richard Kearney's excellent work Anatheism. The author's intent is to assess the situation we find ourselves in as a community of believers, believers who cannot help but to take notice of the wreckage and debris left in the wake of violence and atrocities done in the name of 'god'. The once-glittering idols that condoned cultures of silence (sex abuse) or cultures of violence (crusades, Inquisition) have been shattered - both by the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens but also by an acute sense of history. 
Kearney's project is to probe the wreckage to see whether the space made in the destruction of idols, in the rubble left by the 'death of god', is actually the space through which we may encounter the "God after god." …

Hope in the Face of Death?

Earlier, I coined the word Ennuim to describe the spiritual dimension of the Control-F Generation. Basically, it has been my observation that there is a pervasive weariness and cynicism within this generation of students that I find surprising. There seems to be a general lack of wonder and awe, accompanied by an apathy toward the future. So conditioned is this generation that they seek the security of the 'right' answer rather than risk failure with a novel or innovative approach to a question. They are, as a general rule, extraordinarily risk-averse: if they are not assured of success, then it is better not even to bother lest one fail.

Perhaps this might be illustrated cinematically. Below is a short clip from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. I apologize for the commercial at the beginning, but please suffer through it to get to the clip.

Let me offer some brief commentary to set the stage for the unfamiliar. Theoden, King of Rohan, has sought refuge in the mountain f…

The Ennuim: No Hope, No Risk

Over the last several months, I have offered occasional reflections on what I coined as the "Control-F Generation." Today, I should like to reflect on what I see as the spirituality of the Control-F Generation.

Let me begin with the positive contrast. In the Hebrew Scriptures, we encounter the Anawim. The Anawim are the poor, the destitute; they are those who have neither land nor power nor riches by which to establish their place in the world. The paradox of the Anawim is that, throughout the Scriptures, God uses them to demonstrate His saving power.  Time and time again, God chooses the unlikeliest women and men and uses them to show forth the power and wonder of the Creator. Rather than give them magical powers to overcome their obstacles, He does something even more profound: he gives them Hope. The Anawim are willing to risk their lives and their futures on the promise of hope, on the trust that they put in the living God who has summoned them to be His people.

You coul…

Walls Within the Web?

Several months ago, I coined a phrase to describe the generation of students I have been working with these past few years. I dubbed them the "Control-F Generation." The traits I associate with this generation could be described in several bullet points:

These are students who are highly literate in technology. While we are deciphering acronyms (App = application), they are coding new programs and editing elaborate videos that will be posted to YouTube.These are students who have come through an educational system where a premium is placed on test scores. "Test Scores" refers not only to in-class performance, but also to grades earned on standardized tests. From my own observation, it is stunning to consider how much a student's sense of worth is tied into his or her ACT or SAT score. A motto might be, "I am what I scored." These are students who spend an inordinate amount of time behind a computer screen. Whether it is texting or being on Facebook or …

Advent of the Heart

Advent is a time of being deeply shaken, so that man will wake up to himself. The prerequisite for a fulfilled Advent is a renunciation of the arrogant gestures and tempting dreams with which, and in which, man is always deceiving himself. Thus he compels reality to use violence to bring him around, violence and much distress and suffering.                      These words of Father Alfred Delp, SJ, were written from behind the walls of Tegel Prison in Berlin in the waning days of Father Delp's life. Delp, accused of conspiring against the Nazi government, would be executed only a few weeks after these words were written.

Advent, for me, has become something akin to the weekly weigh-in I had to go through when I was in Weight-Watchers. There is no fooling the scale: you either were disciplined during the week or you were not, and the scale didn't care one bit about any good intentions or bad days. The scale loomed large in my life throughout that year and it helped me to admi…