Wednesday, 29 January 2014

25 Years of Marriage, 25 Years of Suffering!

On the 28th of January, 2014, Valerie and I have been married 25 years. Wow! As a younger man, when I heard of someone talking about their “silver” anniversary, I would have thought or said something like “man, you’re old!” The truth is that 25 years of marriage does bring one into the category of “old.”

So much has changed throughout our 25 years together. 

When we first met and started dating, Valerie was all I could think of. My priority of love was Valerie, our children, and then God. Now it is God, Max (our dog), lawn tractor, and a toss up between Valerie and our children! (hehe, only joking!). We have certainly changed over time, but we have changed together.

There are many, many joyful and happy memories to recall. Yet as I reflect back over our shared life together, and as I acknowledge where we are now at almost 50 years of age, suffering has been a very real and present component of our lives.

There is suffering and brokenness in all of our lives. Valerie, as a community health nurse, cares for individuals and families who are wounded and broken on a daily basis. At the heart of my own life as a parish priest, is the persistent call to enter into people’s suffering on every conceivable level. 

When I was a young man, a young husband, a young father, and a young priest, it was only “other people” who had trouble and who suffered. As an older man of almost 50 years, and a husband and father of 25 years, I too am aware of my woundedness.

Suffering is part of life. It is not optional, it cannot be avoided, you cannot run from it. So the question is: how can a person still know happiness, joy, and love even in the midst of pain and suffering?

The only answer to this question is a spiritual answer. The larger part of who we are as human beings is Divine, made in the Image of God, the one Spirit or Source that is common to all life. It is part of who I am, it is part of who you are, but we have to do some work to discover and live out of this treasure that is within us. We have to learn to be less consumed with self, our ego, and more open to that large and spacious life within us. Then we are open to our very truest self, which is Divine and Eternal.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leads us to this place of Risen and New Life, and He teaches us how to live out of this Divine place. Even in the midst of suffering there is new life.

I am blessed with a wonderful wife and companion of 25 years. I am blessed with children whom I love and adore. And I am also blessed with a deepening faith that offers joy and happiness even in the midst of all the struggles and pain that are such a real part of all of our lives.

I’m ready for another 25!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

To be Alone with God

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord marks the end of the Christmas season and it is an invitation for us to journey deeper with Jesus into the Life of the Spirit. As we read the stories of John the Baptist’s ministry on the Jordan and in the wilderness, and of Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness, we come to recognise that there is a similar call on our lives to learn how to be alone with God.

Learning how to be alone with God changes us: it changes our sense of expectation, and it changes how we see and what we see.

The seasons of Advent and Christmas are about watching and waiting and expecting God to enter into our lives. During this time, the Church calls us to gather together expecting something to happen to us and to others, expecting the Lord to minister to us, to change us, to heal us, and to love us.
But we need to have eyes to see and ears to hear.

There were lots of people on the banks of the Jordan when Jesus was baptised, but not everyone heard the Father say “this is my beloved Son, listen to him.”

“After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “you are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17

The feast of the Baptism of the Lord is an invitation for us to learn to see and hear the Divine Life more simply and clearly. John the Baptist could hear the Father  and see the Spirit descend upon the Son. But John was trained in the wilderness and his heart was expectant. He was full of desire for God and knew how to be alone with God.
In other words, he desired Love and knew how to be present to Love.

The Christian’s life is built on Baptism and prayer. The cleansing power of the death and resurrection of Christ and our growing desire for His Love alone are the gifts that enable us to begin and finish our journey into God.