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.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lenten Mission 2012 Day 5

Theme: Near occasions of grace

Topic: The pleasure of not doing anything useful

We are still interrupting our regular programming, because it’s so easy tomorrow to fall back in the rut, to get stuck again. Every morning when you wake up ask yourself, “Am I awake, or am I asleep?” Many people wake up in the morning, but they’re still asleep, they start growing slowly in their sleep, go to sleep in their sleep, go to school in their sleep, earn their degree in their sleep, meet their spouse and get married in their sleep, have children in their sleep and die in their sleep. Never having woken up! For those who go to celebrate Eucharist everyday, allow the Eucharist to be your reviver, your get up and go.

The fifth pleasure that will break us open to receive the gift of GRACE is the pleasure of not doing anything useful, from time to time. It’s difficult to do nothing and do it well. And yet Jesus teaches us beautifully how to break away and retreats. To do nothing useful, just to disappear for a while, not to stay there, but to return fully energized, fully awake and ready to go again. We will either learn how to break away or break down, we either learn to come apart or we will come apart.

The beautiful gift of the Sabbath for the Jewish people and Sunday for us Christians is a day in which we are invited to do nothing, to just breath, enjoy, laugh, eat, or dance. It's still about doing something, but it’s not a chore. There is nothing attached to it, and you're not doing it to see results. You play because you want to play, you sing because you want to sing, you do a little of gardening and get dirty in the soil, it’s a playful moment to strengthen your spirit. Once you learn how to do nothing you are fertile ground for GRACE.

A beautiful story: Early one morning at 2am there was a knock on the door. The wife wakes up her husband and says "there's a knock on the door." It's 2 o'clock in the morning he says. Who's at the door at this hour? The wife persisted and the husband went and opened the door. Someone asks him, "Please come and give me a push." The man says, "Can’t you see it's 2 o'clock in the morning and said goodnight. He closed the door and went back to bed. His wife asks him "who was that?" The husband replied, "This crazy man wanted me to give him a push." Did you give him a push she asked? No, it's 2am says the husband. Who in his right mind would ask for a push at 2am in the morning? And the wife quickly reminded her husband: how quickly you forget about last week when we got stuck on the highway, and those good Samaritans who came and gave us a push and we got started again. Go back now she said! And the husband bit his tongue went back down opened the door and he said "are you there?" YES says the voice. Do you still want a push? YES! Where are you? "On the swing!"

The story shows that there are different ways of acting. Yes, pushing a car is something you do to help others, but how about pushing someone in a swing? We shouldn't pick and choose when it comes to act of kindness. Do you ever take note of a grandmother, grandfather, mother or father pushing their child in a swing, you know it's not a chore, it's not a task? You know there is a communion of minds and hearts there, and even though the grandparent is grounded and anchored, there energy is flowing with the child. Make time of doing nothing, allowing something to be done under you. Move from action to passion.

Jesus constantly reminds his disciples after a day of work, that they are to go to a deserted place, to retreat and commune with nature. To do anything, but to allow something to be done unto them. Try sitting down for half and hour doing nothing? Don't you feel more refreshed after 30 minutes? You're ready to go! What ever it is, balance your doing with creative no-doing or with activities that are not useful in its sense. There is no function attached to them. Consider the Bahamas' main industry of tourism, tourists come, they undress, they put sun tan lotion on and they sleep. They do it consistent for seven days and on the seventh day they would have discovered that they have changed color. They did that by doing NOTHING!

Prayer is very much like that; keep showing up, keep exposing yourself to the mystery of God or to the Eucharist (for those who pray in front of the Eucharist). Do it with consistency and after a while you will take the color of the one you are contemplating. His way of life will become your way of life, and His value system will become your value system. That's why we come to adore, gazing, one day after another, at the one that gives you life. You start reflecting the one that you are gazing upon. In other words "you become the God you worship and adore." So please make sure that the God you are kneeling in front of is a healthy God, not a toxic god. Many good Christians still kneel down in front of a lethal, toxic, dangerous god; a god who still enjoys sending people to hell, who still punishes, and who is hiding somewhere waiting to catch us in our weakness. That's not the God of Jesus Christ, and that's not the God of the Gospels.

If I expose myself to that kind of God everyday, I will become a punishing person, I will become a person watching to catch my neighbor in a state of weakness and then proclaim it from the roof tops. I will become a person who sends people to hell. By the same token, if the God I expose myself to is mercy, compassion, love, forgiveness, lo and behold after a while you expose yourself to the mystery with consistency, you will become merciful, compassionate, forgiving and love. That's why this practice of doing nothing useful is not negotiable. You're out of the way and you're allowing something to happen to you. That's what GRACE is. You cannot manufacture, buy or earn GRACE. GRACE happens to you.

An image from a Catholic author Erma Bombeck, has another twist on doing nothing. "When a child is locked in the bathroom with water running and he says he's doing nothing but the dog is barking, call 911."

A few practices and exercises that you be engaged in daily to become more comfortable with empty moments where God can work God's miracles:

1. Practice resting in peace everyday. Don't leave it to be said at your funeral. Try resting in peace everyday. For 10 minutes to half an hour. Don't start big, stat small or you will be frustrated and stop. What would happen if you made that your prayer everyday, every morning "that I may rest in peace, today? Don't let it be a prayer for only the dead. We've even limited Psalm 23 for Masses of the dead. People do not like reading it outside of a funeral Mass because they think it's a funeral song, but it's not. Do nothing useful for sometime everyday.

2. Find time to be conscious of your breathing. I'm told by those who know that many of us do not know how to breathe. We breathe too shallowly, and we take our breathing for granted. Consciously count your breathing. In the Gospel story when the rich young man went to Jesus and said "Master, what must I do to have life,” Jesus says to him "go and sell all that you have." If Jesus should show up right now and asked "what must we (all of us) do to have life; can you think of an answer?" There is only one answer; "breathe." You see, we take it for granted. Jesus was telling the rich man, "drop all of the clutter that's chocking you, it's chocking your breathing passage. In other words disconnect, detach from all that's blocking the flow of life. We all have all kinds of clutter, physical clutter, emotional clutter, spiritual clutter. The physical one is the most obvious; in the basement, in the chest, in the trunk of your car, there it is, clutter. Make space. Emotional clutter: you carrying a drudge that is 50 years old, no wonder my life stinks. Drop it! Life is too short, it was 50 years ago! Intellectual clutter: you're still living by ideas that are far outdated, they no longer give life. Drop those old ideas, make space for fresh possibilities. What must I do to have life? BREATHE! How do I breathe? By dropping all that's chocking me, my spirit, my body, and my emotions. Drop everything and you will live.

The beautiful song: "Be Still and Know that I am GOD" is translated by St Joan in Latin as Vacatae et Videtae, translated from the original language. When translated into English we get: "Be Empty and See That I Am God." If you're not empty, you can not be an instrument in the hands of God. To empty yourself is a very difficult task, so that God's Spirit may blow through you! Musical instruments are only instruments because they are empty. If you put anything in them music is not possible any longer. When we pray to God to “make me an instrument of your peace,” what I'm actually praying for is "empty me" so that the Son of God may sound through me.

3. Make sure if you're a Christian, a believer, that you have a discipline of prayer. We are blessed in our tradition to have a zillion ways of prayer and we're blessed with a zillion devotions. Make sure you have one and if one nourishes you, don't try to compress ten in fifteen minutes because then you will suffer from what I call "spiritual indigestion." In other words, find a spiritual practice that nurtures your spirit and then practice it everyday with consistency. That will change you forever. Prayer reminds us that it is not us, but the Spirit of God, breathing and working through us. Scripture reminds us; we don't know how to pray, it's the Spirit of God who prays within us and through us, Abba, Father. All we have to do is show up and do nothing, just be there and let something happen to you. That's the most beautiful description of prayer that I know. Of course we sometimes use words, but the most beautiful description of prayer I know of is "to relax in the reality of being loved."

4. Be a Eucharistic person. Show up and allow something to happen to you. When we see the Bishop lifting the elements of bread and wine to be formed into the Body and Blood and hear those words "He took the bread, He blessed the bread, He broke the bread, He gave the bread;" allow those words to be spoken on your story. Taking the bread, you being taken; blessing the bread, you are being blessed; breaking the bread, you are being broken; giving the bread, you being given; becoming Eucharistic person. Become the offering, which is then sent into the world to affect a change. Taken, blessed, broken, given. WE BECOME WHAT WE RECEIVE. Are you a real presence in the world we live in?

5. To know that life is made up of not "either, or" but "both, and." We have to learn balancing acts, everyday, every week, every month. Even nature is made of balancing acts; you have night and day, you have morning and evening, you have inhale and exhale; and you can not imagine one without the other. Have you every tried to live on inhales alone. Actually many people do live on inhales along. It's reflective in the way we pray; give me, give me, give me and give me some more. That's living on inhales alone. How about from time to time, "take Lord receive," that's an exhale. Yes give me by all means, but balance it with "take Lord receive." Here I am Lord, send me. Receiving the Eucharist is one side (what we call discipleship mode), but when we are given the instruction to "Go in Peace" we switch from discipleship mode to apostleship mode, sent to proclaim out there what you have celebrated in the Church.

6. Fiesta and siesta. Time to celebrate, time to be on the move, time to engage, time to work, but that needs to be balanced. And siesta, time to rest, time to do nothing. One feeds the other. A postcard on my desk says "never under any circumstance dear you take a sleeping pill and a laxative at the same time!" You know the results. In our lives there are times for sleeping pills and there is time for disappearing and time for running, for engaging.

In conclusion an exercise that should be tried at least once a week as an examination of conscience is taken from 1 Corinthians 13. “Love is patient,” another word for GRACE is love.

Love is patient,
love is kind.
It is not jealous,
[love] is not pompous,
it is not inflated,
is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails.

The challenge is this: Wherever you find the word love, place your name, and after each phrase and drop a question mark. E.g. Kevan is patient? Am I? Kevan is Kind? Am I? Kevan is not jealous? Am I? Kevan is not pompous? Am I? Etc, etc

Can you imagine if our politicians, if our Church leaders, if our parents, our educators did this and meant it and lived by it?

And in ending; love never ends, "Kevan never ends?" Do I? In the Christian language we call that "eternal life."

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