May 20, 2017

The Chicken and the Pig

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,take up his cross, and follow me...What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?"

I Can Fly
by R. Kelly
I used to think that I could not go on
And life was nothing but an awful song
But now I know the meaning of true love
I'm leaning on the everlasting arms

If I can see it, then I can do it
If I just believe it, there's nothing to it

I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day

Spread my wings and fly away
I believe I can soar
I see me running through that open door
I believe I can fly
I believe I can fly
I believe I can fly

See I was on the verge of breaking down
Sometimes silence can seem so loud
There are miracles in life I must achieve
But first I know it starts inside of me, oh

If I can see it, then I can be it
If I just believe it, there's nothing to it...

The chicken and the pig may be a way to illustrate this teaching, a paradox like so many of the Christ's teachings. This little saying of the chicken and the pig goes like this: In the course of preparing a typical bacon, egg and toast breakfast there is some distinction to be made. For while the chicken gives an egg to the breakfast, the pig makes the total sacrifice. And the Christ challenges us likewise with his passion and death on the Cross. He exhorts one to make a commitment, to pick up ones' cross and follow as disciples.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.  Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”   St. Matthew 24-28
This is the prime condition of a disciple. And a chief mystery of faith is that we may first believe and then see. Belief has not a lot to do with facts or intellect. It is the gift of simple knowing. One just knows or senses deeply within the rightness of a feeling, a person or a relationship with others.

March 11, 2017

Social Work in the Absence of Faith

"the value of observation over judgment was lost upon her, lost as she thought that her life was really somewhere else, somewhere not in this and every moment."

 Discerning rather than judging is hard; often it's really hard. We are reminded in most all the spiritual traditions east or west, about the practice of openness, of emptiness and the great gifts it brings when we are empty to receive in the here and now. Our life is filled moment to moment with the world and ourselves, filled to the top.
The militancy of  persons engaged in 'social initiatives,' 'community action' or the like is unnecessary in Jesus' world. Often it arises in moments of fearfulness, places where 'voids in faith' prosper.
The Christ's strength came from within himself to be shared with all he came into contact with. His peace became their peace, and his love their own.
Jesus, the Christ, reminds us of this when we read the gospels which tell of his decided indifference to the character and style of an individual life. Tax collectors, despots, harlots and others, he was willing to treat them, to attend to the great commandment of love for one's neighbor.

Who is your neighbor? The gospel of Luke 10:30-37 gives some clues:
A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among robbers, who also stripped him and having wounded him went away, leaving him half dead.  And it chanced, that a certain priest went down the same way: and seeing him, passed by. In like manner also a Levite, when he was near the place and saw him, passed by.  
But a certain Samaritan, being on his journey, came near him: and seeing him, was moved with compassion: And going up to him, bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine over his wounds, and setting him upon his own beast, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  
And the next day he took out two pence and gave to the host and said: Take care of him; and whatsoever you shall spend over and above, I, at my return, will repay you.  Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to him that fell among the robbers?  He said: He that showed mercy to him. And Jesus said to him: Go, and do in like manner.

 It is not necessary to go far to meet one which you and your gifts may help. Neighbors are everywhere. If we are living in the "now moment," the present moment with its most pressing meaning, before long, we will come to understand our self first and our neighbor more clearly who is very human, like our self.
 It becomes clear that a thinking mind may observe and notice without casting stones or passing judgements. 
Questions, after all, are about listening. And they start conversations that may close gaps, increase confidence and strengthen community. Discernment and compassion in place of quick judgement is a valuable way to understand, and to love.

"If only we could be white as snow." 
-- sung by U2