The Roman Catholic Church in The Bahamas is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope. The diocese was elevated to a full diocese, as the diocese of Nassau in June 1960. On June 22nd, 1999, the diocese was again elevated as the new Archdiocese of Nassau.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lenten Mission 2012 Day 3

Theme: Near occasions of grace.

Topic: The Pleasure of Not Knowing (to know that you don’t know)

We now interrupt our regular programming. As we read from the book of Jeremiah, "to be a piece of soft clay in the hands of the Master potter takes a lot of humility, and a lot of courage, but we don't do that very well because we want to be in control.

The third pleasure that will open us to the gift of GRACE is the "pleasure of not knowing." Nicolas of Kuza, a theologian in the Catholic Church, was an expert in what he called "docta ignorantia", or learned ignorance (Holy ignorance). There is nothing worst than someone who thinks he/she knows it all. The moment you think that way you block God's GRACE. That's what happened to the Pharisees. The harsh words out the mouth of Jesus were addressed to the Pharisees. Jesus never had harsh words to the broken people, to the lepers, the prostitutes, and the sinners. Actually what He said about prostitutes was a shock to many; He said that prostitutes and the tax collectors were going to enter the Kingdom of God before the rest of you (speaking to the Pharisees). Why? Because they are flexible, they are open, “they know that they do not know.” The law is there to set you free, and Jesus tried to tell the Pharisees this over and over. Move beyond the letter of the law, enter into the Spirit of the law, and stop making people's lives miserable! The Pharisees were closed up on themselves so those harsh words probably didn't touch them. We can easily find ourselves like the Pharisees if we do not pay attention. Do you find yourself uptight, rigid, sterile and immovable, then acknowledge it and make space, open up to the gift of not knowing. Allow GRACE to flow.

There is a story told about this man who wanted to know what it was like to parachute out of an airplane. So he had to go through a couple of classes with a few other people in the class and the instructor explained to them what they needed to know and what to do. After you jump, wait a while then pull this string here. It’s supposed to open the parachute. This one student says "what if when I pull the string the parachute does not open? And the instructor says, well you have another string here, you pull that one (the second string). And the same man says "what if," and the instructor patiently looked at him and said "ah my son, that's what we call jumping to conclusions." We have to somehow find a way, to know it's okay not to know. To know it's okay not to have all the right conclusions for all the right answers. To step back and say "I don't know."

We are all people with a very limited vision; right now this is my point of view. And whatever I say regarding this point of view is true, but if I shift a little bit and now this is my point of view. Everything has now changed, different colors here, different people, and a different story. And then again if we move a little bit more, that’s another point of view. We need to allow ourselves to be free and flexible, to allow for a variety of possibilities, a variety of points of views, and a variety of responses.

When you experience something that rubs you the wrong way, step back and make space, think, try to see where the other person is coming from. Buy some time. Many fights will dissolve into “nothingness” if we learn this practice; “I don’t react, I respond.” You can either react and then you feel even worst afterwards or you can respond. A simple practice to is “The PQR method”: P-pause (step back, take a deep breath), Q-ask a few simple questions (why did he/she say that), then R-respond. How many of us jump to conclusions when we don’t have all of the facts?

A conversation of "not knowing"
Eskimo: Fr. Harry, if I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?
Priest: No, not if you did not know.
Eskimo: Then why did you tell me?
― Annie Dillard

Staying with the story of the clay and the master potter, you have to trust that you are in the hands of a good potter, a good artist. Can you visualize what Jesus the potter would form you into? How do you envision the end product? What do you see? It will reveal many things about you. And the beauty of a piece of soft clay is that it can be flattened and the work can start all over again; that’s the beauty of not knowing what’s next.

Whatever image comes up from that piece of clay, the important thing is to remember to remain a soft piece of clay. If it hardens up, the only thing that can happen to it is to fall and break. Softness remembers, but hardness forgets! Many people go through life thinking that because they made a mistake yesterday they are ruined forever. That’s reflecting hardness, harshness, and lack of GRACE. The beautiful good news is that your life is not written in indelible ink, your life story is written in a soft lead pencil. With the pencil, you write, you erase, you make a mistake, you erase again. How many times have we used that small pink eraser? I don’t know, but I will get it right!

A story is told of a child who received an awful report card from school and tried very hard to hide it from his parents. It was dinner time and mommy and daddy knew it was report card day so they ask him for his report card. He couldn’t hide it any longer so he went to his room and got it and gave it to his Dad. His Dad looked at it and said: Son, we have to do something about this, and the son looked at his Dad and said daddy you cannot do nothing with it, it’s written in ink. Your life is not written in ink, the past never equals the future. It doesn’t matter how big my mess was yesterday, it doesn’t mean that tomorrow it’s going to be that messed up.

When you begin your day, start it with what the Buddhist tradition calls “a beginners mind.” Enter everyday with a beginners mind, as if you knew nothing. A child is like that, and that is why a child is very curious. I don’t know does not mean that I do not care, it means let’s engage, let’s explore together. That’s why we’ve become a moving Church, explorers, pilgrims seeking life giving answers, people on a quest.

What’s important is not that you know everything, what’s important is that you keep seeking, exploring, asking the right questions, be curious, explore new ways of prayer. When was the last time you explored a different form of prayer that you haven’t used yet? The Catholic Church is blessed with so many different forms of prayers and devotions. Explore, ask people, have a spiritual companion, read a good book. Fall in love with questions. No matter how much you try flipping through the Gospels you will be surprised that Jesus, more often than not asks many questions, but hardly gives any answers. And when he is asked a question His response like a good wisdom teacher is another question.

Mother Theresa shocked the entire auditorium in Malta when she said "I don’t believe in an after life, if it is not fully predicated on a fully engaged before life." We can waste all of our energy on thinking about the afterlife and in the process waste this one precious life. Be the best most descent, respectable human being you can be. Admit you do not know when you don’t know. Be big enough to learn new things, new possibilities and then trust and all should be well because then you are in the flow, then your in God, then you’re already immersed in the gift of GRACE.

The words “you do not know” are noted through the Gospel of Matthew, when God the master is coming. Matthew beautifully said God will come like a thief in the middle of the night, so you had better be flowing, you better be moving, you better be awake, you better be alert, you better be soft like that piece of clay. It’s in the night that we’re out of the way. While we are in charge, we’re center stage, we’re in control, and at night all of our defenses are down. Can’t you just hear God saying “now that you’re out of the way, finally I can do something? God will come like a thief in the middle of the night. Will you be ready?

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