Have you ever been overwhelmed by the waves of life? Calm to choppy to nerve-wracking to terrifying to absolutely unbearable, we get swept up by the waters in an instant! Nevertheless, as our human lives unfold, we come to see that we do in fact have choices. Maybe we begin with the macho mindset that instead of being a victim of the big wave we will take it head on. We, of course, get crushed and must go back to the drawing board. Perhaps we then think that we can avoid the waves altogether by diving underneath them and coming out unscathed on the other side, but we realize that the massive energy under a wave will beat us up and pull us dangerously deep underwater. What if, instead of attacking or escaping, we tried to befriend these giant walls of water? What if we learned to dance on their edges and move with them? What if by riding them we could harness their power and do something beautiful with it? May we who beg God, “Save me, for the waters have come up to my neck, and the flood sweeps over me” (Ps 69:1-2), have courage to “put out into the deep” (Lk 5:4) and discover, within those very waves, “streams of living water” (Jn 7:38) that save. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Fertile soil makes for a fruitful soul. When we invest time in prayer, talk with spiritual companions, find creative ways to worship God, and pay attention to that still small voice within, something beautiful happens to our inner earth. Indeed, our soil becomes capable of nourishing life, and when we least expect it, we blossom forth from the inside out (cf. Mk 4:26-27). The fruits we bear allow us to feed others eucharistically, while our roots testify to our deep trust in the living God and the way God chooses to sustain us from within. In this way, we discover that our vocation truly is nothing more than the Greatest Commandment (Mk 12:28-31), where we, with Jesus, spend ourselves cultivating the relationships of this life and the next. Let’s therefore get excited about our spiritual fertility. Let’s make a plan to clear away the brambles, do some weeding, and listen attentively to the needs of our soil. Let’s look forward to that moment when the miracle does in fact happen. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
“Look East!” If the Body of Christ were a bus, this is the bumper sticker you’d see plastered to the back of the bus in bright psychedelic letters. We are, indeed, built for that shift from worldliness to resurrected life, but how easy it is to collapse again and again into old and unhelpful patterns of living. In the early days, candidates for reception into the Church literally stood facing the darkness, shouting their rejection of evil, but then, in an instant and with the help of the community, they made the turn eastward, to the light of a new day. This, of course, is why the resurrection of Jesus is called “East-er.” It is not a new idea in human history – as attested to by a certain allegory about a cave – but our celebration of these mysteries of faith should reveal to us just how urgently and passionately that eastward direction is rushing towards us in this great drama of conversion: a loving Father constantly trying to hold us together, directing us toward a horizon that gives life, assuaging our anxieties, dealing creatively with our wounds, and offering us an enduring and meaningful alternative to the shadowlands. Praise God for the daily work that is our resurrection and for the awesome liturgical reminders along the way. May our hearts, indeed, have some taste of the explosion that emptied the tomb on this hallowed day. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Alcoholics Anonymous is supported by a sound spiritual logic: the culprit is not the alcohol, but the person’s relationship with the alcohol. Indeed, if the problem were alcohol then the solution would simply be to cut ourselves off from it, but that is dualism, a kind of competitive “me vs. them” thinking which is not a recipe for human thriving nor a durable vision for life. When we put the focus on our relationships with people, places and things, however, exciting possibilities open up. We begin to see life in its uniqueness and complexity, where everything is good and fundamentally relatable (cf. Gen 1). Even the alcoholic can appreciate the fact of alcohol, that it has been a gift to people for millennia and invites communion when used responsibly (The Church, in fact, insists on alcoholic wine at every eucharisitic liturgy!). It should not surprise us therefore that Alcoholics Anonymous isn’t just a philosophy but a way of life that is practiced. Members of the fellowship form communities to examine their ways of relating and take concrete steps to ensure healthy and life-giving relationships. The next time we decide to cut another person out of our lives, avoid a place of some past trauma, or distract ourselves from painful memories, let’s join our alcoholic friends by going low, finding that God-place within, and, from that security, demanding creative ways to keep the relationship going. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
Is being “a good little boy” really a long-term vision for life? We are trained from a very early age to follow the rules and get the reward, to follow the rules and get the reward, to follow the rules and get the reward….all the way to our coffins! But what’s the point of that?! Jesus invites us at the very least to be risk-takers. He tells the story of a father who has two sons (Lk 15:11-32): The first son is a good little boy who follows all the rules but nevertheless ends up angry and unhappy at the conclusion of the story. The second son recognizes a desire in his heart for something more than the rules and acts on it. And while that desire initially comes out in an unexpected and destructive way, he continues to trust in the “something more” and eventually his desire gets worked out as he becomes a new person. Let’s identify the places in our lives where the rules have just become a socially acceptable way to mask our fears. Let’s be honest about our desire for more and act on it. It is there, in the clumsiness and awkwardness of it all, that we shall find ourselves worthy companions of the sinners, tax-collectors, prostitutes and thieves (Mt 21:31, Lk 23:42) who have also taken a risk on God. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.