Monthly Archives: December 2013

Witness

Exodus 20:16

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

My neighbor needs me.  Nope, I don’t live in a commune or some other kind of cooperative.  I live in a house on over an acre of land, which abuts four other properties, with a house across the road.  Though this sounds congested, the trees bordering the property make my home private, and the road is quiet and peaceful.  I can go days without even glimpsing sight of any of my neighbors.  The town picks up our garbage and plows our road and there isn’t even a sidewalk or common mailbox space to keep clean together, or shared fences to maintain.  And, yet, I profess that my neighbors need me.  Why?

My neighbors need me to be honest.  They need me to not accuse them of things that they haven’t done, like stealing my Wi-Fi or trashing my yard.  They need me to not call the police to their doors for some contrived reason or blame the litter in the road on them, even though I know they didn’t do it.  They need to be able to trust me because we live on the same spot of earth, sharing lawn and trees and air and road.  Keeping this in mind, I see that everyone is my neighbor, for we all live on the same earth, sharing flora and fauna, sun and air and water.  My fellow human beings need to be able to trust me, for our common Creator has entrusted me with my own unique space in one particular slot of time.  What I do with that space in that time has consequences on everyone around me, near and far, as a pebble dropped into the center of a pool causes ripples that stretch out to the shore.  Those nearest me feel the effects soonest and most strongly, but even the ever decreasing waves can be felt in further places and more distant times.

This is not merely a call to better ecological awareness and to actively reducing my carbon footprint on the planet.  No, this is about the fullness of the truth.  (For I don’t want anything less than fullness of life.)  And the full truth is that I affect people by simply passing by them in the mall or on a sidewalk in the city.  My presence beside someone in a restaurant or a church pew can have an influence on that person’s day – and, yes, even on that person’s life.  A miserable demeanor or attitude can be contagious and set people out with a bad feeling, though they might not even know why, and cause them to fall into meanness themselves.  Thankfully, a joyful demeanor or attitude can likewise be contagious and set sensitive people out with a positive outlook, spreading good feelings and actions.  This isn’t overstating anything.  We humans are sensitive creatures and we pick up signs and stimulations from the others around us as naturally as we absorb nutrients and toxins from food.

My neighbor needs me to testify to the truth.

Perhaps, I feel this reality more acutely because I am so very noticeable among others in a crowd.  I am never the person who blends into the background causing no reaction whatsoever.  Not only am I in a wheelchair, which is different than most people, but I am also crumpled in that chair by severe scoliosis that causes my head to rest sideways on my left shoulder/hunchback.  Not a pretty picture, I know.  I may be the most deformed person that some people will ever see in person.  And if I were a negative type of person, wholly self-centered, living a “woe is me” existence, then the people whose eyes inevitably fall upon me would have a sense of miserable sadness and that melancholy would stick with them for the next few minutes, or even hours or days, of their lives, affecting their thoughts, words, and even actions.  Happily, I am naturally a positive type of person (though sometimes self-centered) and I live a grateful and joyful life, loved and loving.  I know for a fact that strangers who just look at me can feel uplifted somehow, having more optimism and appreciation for the goodness and beauty of life than they had a moment before.  To share one story:

One day, after Mass, a man, who was just visiting our parish and saw me for the first time as I sat across from him, came over and told me that my smile was exactly what he needed that day.  He said that he was going through a rough time and feeling low, but seeing me all crumpled and crippled, obviously intelligent enough to know how bad a shape I was in – and, yet, genuinely smiling, genuinely taking in everything around me with appreciation and gladness – this, he told me, was like a wake-up call for him.  My presence snapped him out of a funk and reminded him that life is inherently good and beautiful and that he had many blessings for which to be grateful.

It seems to me that the effect we have on others is stronger if we are people of faith because our presence is deeply rooted in Presence, and our joy is more than just a passing smile.  Perhaps, also, the effect is felt most strongly on people who are struggling with faith.  To whom much is given, much is expected.  As a believer, I believe fully and deeply in the goodness of God and God’s Creation – I have utter faith in the goodness of being itself.  Through Christ, I have an eternal perspective and know that all works out for the good through God – my hope is in divine and endless mercy and, so, is never squashed.  And, knowing that I am infinitely and particularly loved, I am free to give love, and loving kindness, to everyone around me.  I know the truth and the truth has set me free.  If what I were to portray and give out to the people around me was doom, gloom and meanness, then I would, in effect, be bearing false witness to life itself.  Sure, I may honestly be feeling like crap one day – but, knowing that it is just one day and having deep faith, hope, and love in and for life and the joy of goodness, for me to lead other people into misery and melancholy would be a deceitful act on my part.  My neighbor needs me to testify to the beauty and goodness and joy of life itself – crippled and crumpled as its forms may be – and to the power of love.  For that is the fullness of truth.

Christina Chase

 

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Do Ye

Luke 6:31

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

 

The Golden Rule

applies to king and fool,

and lies at the heart of true living:

What you want

is what you should be giving.

 

But how can you give what you don’t possess?

Love is all you need,

don’t give or desire anything less.

What things you have, share with those who have not;

and if you lack in things, then share what you’ve got –

eyes that see beauty, ears that hear pain,

A heart that wills to pump forth loving

kindness, again and again and again…

 

For love is the heart of every Man,

formed by the Eternal Spark.

To those who have lost the inner flame,

be a candle in the dark…

Would you will to dwell in the darkness and cold?

Then, go, rekindle their fire – be generous, be bold.

Christina Chase

 

Out of the Ground

Genesis 2:9, 15

And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

In the garden

every good thing grows,

all that is pleasing to the body and the mind;

A wellspring of abundance and beauty,

petals and grains, fruit, nectar and spice.

And male and female came together in peace

in the gentle sighing of evening, night’s starlit nesting,

flesh yielding tenderly to the fruit of love.

In the garden

is innocence and purity of heart,

but also, on the fringes, the doubting serpent lurks;

A self-interested blindness that closes in the senses

and renders the beauty into gain.

The garden unguarded let’s suspicion in

and, without the sense of sacred, wordless, guileless love

is cheaply bartered for lust.

In the garden,

humans lost what humanity is

and shielded themselves from each other’s hearts;

Hiding in the shadows, on the edges of beauty,

unable to see what is Divine.

Exiled from one another by the war of want,

longing and pining for more and more,

we neglect the garden that is All.

For, in the garden,

crying tears of blood,

the clear, pure stars sending dew upon His pain…

A heartbreaking rendering

of innocence to the weight of sin…

As God knelt down, His tender human flesh upon the ground,

and ate all our bitterness, our sorrow, fear and hate –

In the garden,

the Divine wellspring

swelled in the heart of a human being;

A restoration, a new creation,

in the crushing exultation of self-giving love.

And we are given sacred hope, faith and love yielding forth,

the Divine One’s human flesh becomes the Tree of Life

in the garden, anew.

 

 

Give Glory to Him for the Hour

Revelation 14:6-7

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,

Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

Waiting for the end of the world?  Waiting for some calamity to strike – a meteor, nuclear war, Facebook filing Chapter 11?  People hold up signs saying “The End Is Near” and expect Doomsday to meet them around the corner.  But, the world doesn’t have to end, the earth explode, for the hour of the Lord to come.  That hour is right now.  And now.  And now.  And – yup, here it is again.  Because time and space belong to the eternal and infinite Source – to “the ultimate reality that everyone calls God.”[1]  This is His house.  He’s already here.

If we wait for man-made apocalypse or the natural expiration of our solar system – or even if we wait until we are on our deathbeds because of terminal illness or old age – until we think about eternity, ultimate reality, the human soul, and what lies beyond this life, then we aren’t fully living.  We are not fully human, fully alive, unless we look beyond ourselves – not only beyond our own personal needs in the giving of love and charity, but also beyond our own skins, beyond our own eyeballs.  We did not create ourselves.  We did not bring ourselves into being.  There is an Uncreated Creator, an Uncaused Cause.  As the poet Rumi says,

“I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way.

Whoever brought me here, will have to take me home.”

And earlier in the poem, My Soul Is from Elsewhere, as translated by Coleman Banks, Rumi speaks the timeless human question:

“Who looks out with my eyes?  What is the soul?

I cannot stop asking.”

Neither can I stop asking and never should I cease to plunge myself into the Mystery of Being.  The Unmoved Mover stirs my heart with restlessness until it rests in the heart of the Beloved One, Infinite/Eternal Love.

And angels fly in the midst of heaven, beyond the seeing of my corporal eyes, with the message from the foundation of Creation – What is, is.  Do not be blind.  Too willing to shut off any detection of the spiritual, lest we know that the end is here.  The end that is the beginning – not like the pointless going around of a circle, or a nifty Jedi/Zen trick of the mind.  What truly is, is, always was and always will be.  Eternity isn’t something after.  Eternity is here and now.  And, to the One Who is the Source of All Being, the key moment is eternally now.  The moment of import, the moment that impacts my immortal soul, is now.  It was never waiting for me at the end of my days or at the End of Days.  My home, my true self, my eternity, was always where it should be, though I may not possess the eyes to see.

The glory of life is that it is given.  To thank and celebrate with the Giver is to revel in the gift.  “The glory of God is Man fully alive”[2]– let’s not wait until our beautiful bodies splash back into the pool.  As we are sent forth, let us leap up in joy and praising, giving glory to the Hour of the Lord as God glories in our eyes wide open, our souls full throttle, the message of the angels received… and the love given given in return.  Home.  Now and always.


[1] Saint Thomas Aquinas

[2] Saint Irenaeus