Thursday, August 22, 2013

Depending on Your Participation

I very much enjoy reading things that make me think.  When I hit one of these pieces of literature, I realize how much my own routine imprisons my creativity and imagination.  I certainly do not think routine is bad.  I like my routine.  It makes me feel quite comfortable.  By nature routine is predictable and knowable.  There is usually a sense of security with our routines.  That is fine with me.

But I also know there is another facet of life that is just as intriguing.  The other facet of life points to the imaginative---the creative and innovative.  It is the side of life that is not routine.  It may be moments of serendipity.  It involves the unexpected and, even, the unanticipated.  Surprise is the dominant feature of this side of life.  I am drawn to this part of life, but I also confess it makes me somewhat uneasy and a little nervous.  It makes me feel more vulnerable than secure.

I have been reading some words of the Franciscan Sister, Ilia Delio.  I have never met her, but I imagine her to be an intelligent, zippy little religious figure.  I know she has taken vows and is a member of a religious order.  But I also can only imagine that she is not a predictable, old-fashioned nun---whatever that means in our world today. 

She is very well educated and teaches theology to the best and the brightest.  She has participated in the highest academic circles and, yet, is a woman of faith.  She is a scientist who is living a life of faith within a Roman Catholic order---the Franciscans.  All of these facets of her life must make for a very interesting person.  I hope to meet her some day.

Recently, she was addressing a large gathering of Catholic religious Sisters.  I find her thoughts intriguing and challenging.  I would like to share a couple of those in order to help us engage the spiritual development process.  Her words are opportunities for me to grow.  I thank her.

When she thinks about this universe in which she lives, she concludes, “the universe is unfinished.”  As I ponder it, I agree.  She continues: “God is not finished creating…”  I really like this image of God.  Most people are tempted to think in the beginning God created the heavens and earth, as Genesis proclaims.  Most folks don’t think about a God who keeps on creating.  I like the fact that God is not finished creating.  The universe is unfinished.

She adds a corollary thought that I find captivating.  Delio comments, “life is not behind us, it is ahead of us.”  I certainly thought this was true when I was a young guy.  But now that I am closer to the evening of my life than the morning, is it still true that life is ahead of me?  I am certain the answer is a resounding “yes.”  Although I have years and decades of my life now behind me, “life” is still ahead of me.  The memories that are of my “life-behind-me” are nice---but they are just memories. 

“Life” is what I lived today and will live tomorrow.  Life is always present tense.  I feel this is absolutely true.  I value the life I lived in the past.  I feel quite good about most of my past life.  But life is what I have today.  If I do not have life today, then I have died!  And this brings me to the last thought from Delio.

She writes that “people are not fixed essences but ‘dynamic becomings…’”  Again, this makes sense to me.  I am convinced God continually is creating me and the whole universe.  There is no fixed “me.”  I am different than I was when I was one year old and when I was sixteen.  Of course, I had the same name and feel like I have been the “same person,” but actually I doubt that I have been.  I am evolving---becoming more and more or, sadly, less and less.

Finally, Delio tells us, “What we become will depend on our participation.”  I appreciate this sentiment.  I am becoming---I am still making something out of myself.  And my becoming---who I will be today and all the days to come---will be determined by that in which I participate.  Let me be simply here.

If I participate in the Spirit of God, then I am becoming more and more spiritual.  On the contrary, if I participate in the lousy, crappy stuff of life, then I am heading down that path.  God gives me choices: with whom do you want to live, move and have your being?  I want to choose the Spirit.  I want to choose to participate with those who are of the Spirit.  I want to join the friends of God.

That does not mean I write off the ungodly world.  But it does mean I go into the world---day by day---participating in God’s Spirit as I try to bring justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.  I will forgive sins; I will address evil.  But I will go forward, knowing full well who I am depends on my participation---participation in the Spirit.

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