Please forgive me for not being with you tonight. It’s simply not the best for me to drive after dark. Yet…thank you for inviting me to send over a copy of these reflections so that, perhaps, they will enable your own insightful dialogue and sharing.
We have some choices from today’s readings. We have an opportunity to assess our ministry and share what it means to “be called” …..called to be Christian…. called to be Ecumenical Catholics…. called to this Community of the Holy Spirit.
We are also invited to ponder what it means to “be worthy.”
As I meditated on these stories I kept hearing both the Prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Peter declare in no uncertain terms that they are unworthy and unfit to be in the Presence of God. Curious, isn’t it? Here we have two men who are seen today to be foundational for the development of spiritual awareness and both of them declare they are unclean and sinful and therefore not ready for prime time, not ready to proclaim with the angles “Holy, holy, holy is the God of the Cosmos, whose glory fills the earth.” So let me share some of the things that emerged for me as I pondered these stories.
First, some context.
For nearly 60 years I listened to the Agnus Dei proclaimed at Mass as the prelude to receiving Holy Communion…Agnus Dei, qui tolis pecatta mundi: miserere nobis. Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us. And the Kyrie… Lord have mercy….Christ have mercy….. and mea culpa, the “through my fault, through my most grievous fault “ of the Confiteor said at the beginning of Mass.
In all, there were about six times – and as many as nine times – we were told, reminded and had it impressed upon us that we were not worthy – not worthy to be in God’s presence, not worthy to receive the body and blood of Jesus, simply…not worthy.
I remember what a revelation it was to me when I first heard the marvelous insight of St. Ireneaus who proclaimed: the Glory of God is the Human Person fully alive!! Had this insight been lost for two thousand years?
I have read, studied and thought about what the mystics – those men and women throughout Christian history who’s experience gave them – and us – new and deeper insights into the mystery of God’s Presence. They didn’t seem to talk about sin, about sinfulness, about being unworthy. They exalted the glory of God, the wonder of God and the gift of creation itself. They shared their experience of the unity of God, the love of God, the glory of God and the whole of creation. The mystics themselves seem to be fully alive!
Over the years I read many theologians and scholars. (Thomas Berry, Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Merton. I studied Catholic theologians Ilia Delio, John Haught, Raimon Panikkar and Elizabeth Johnson. I listen to the teachings of Thomas Keating and Richard Rohr and let my reading of scripture be informed and shaped by scholars like Crossan and Borg.)
As I read and prayed, I began to understand how our awareness of evolution is the prime fact of life. Our awareness of ourselves as evolutionary beings has changed everything, we thought we knew about God and Creation.
What evolution has shown us is that there have been at least five cycles of birth and extinction over the past 3.8 billion years of our planet’s existence. It seems that we are the only species to emerge on this planet that is capable of evolving ever higher/more inclusive/ levels of consciousness AND is aware of that evolution. In the fullness of time humanity’s consciousness continued to evolve. At that time the Creator of all life emerged as the Christ in the person of Jesus. And through the person of Jesus we learned how to be fully alive, to be fully human, fully evolved.
Un worthy? Not at all. We are chosen…. a chosen People, a chosen species.
Not only did the creator of all life become flesh in the person of Jesus but this same creator continues to give us the Holy Spirit of Life and Light. The Creator of the Universe became flesh, became one of us because the Creator loves us. We didn’t betray God. Our ancestors reached a point in evolution where they were able to receive what being fully alive truly meant. Jesus saves because he shows us the path to wholeness. Jesus doesn’t save our soul. Rather, he shows us how to find our soul.
It is true then: When the student is ready, the teacher appears. Humanity was ready to be transformed because Humanity was worthy.
And so, the apostle Paul urges us the put on the mind of Christ…to become conscious of our humanity in the same way that Jesus was conscious of his. Jesus gave us his Spirit and through the centuries countless women and men have embodied that Spirit and have left us their wisdom.
Numerous mystics, martyrs and anonymous ancestors of every stripe have given us the tools by which we can open ourselves to the transforming power of the Spirit. And, I believe, not just Christians. Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Indigenous Spiritualities and all seekers of truth show us different ways to enter into the mystery of life, give us different paths to follow that lead to spiritual transformation. And for us, this means becoming Christ for one another and our world. (In the past two weeks Rose Mary and Pam let us focus on some of these means of transformation and we shared some of our own practices of transformation.)
So, the question remains: why did Isaiah and Peter experience themselves as “unworthy?”
Perhaps because they knew themselves as- they -were.
It is a universal dictum to “Know thyself.” As one wisdom saying has it :“The one who knows themselves as they truly are is greater than one who can raise the dead.” Maybe they knew themselves as they truly were and, seeing their own darkness, couldn’t get past it. Maybe they were stuck. They saw their darkness and became imprisoned by it.
If we have been told we are unworthy all our lives, we begin to believe it.
Yet today we have tools and methods to not only know ourselves but also to let light shine on our darkness so we might become fully alive. Preeminent in my experience is a tool called Enneagram. There are others, of course, but I find Enneagram most helpful to my own journey through life. It helps me to acknowledge my own particular darkness and shows me a path that lets light in.
We are worthy.
Yes, sometimes we hold on to our darkness. Yet, the Good News is that even when we can only experience ourselves as darkness, we are worthy to become Christ for one another and our world, our community, and, yes, even are most intimate relationships. We are worthy because Jesus the Christ loves us as we are: light and darkness, evolving and transforming day by day, breath by breath.
This is our living faith.
And I believe that each one of us –whether we are just beginning our spiritual journey or have been on the path for many years — each one of us listened for the voice of God, heard the voice of God calling us, and that each one of us responded with “Here I am, send me!” Send me into the light…send me to become Christ for the world.
May we continue to respond with graciousness and deep faith to the transforming Presence of the Holy Spirit so that we may be Christ for one another and live together in God’s Peace.