NewLands ? Newsletter of the Australian Marist Community

VOL 19: 18 November 2014

Richard Rohr made an interesting observation in one of his recent daily meditations: “The Biblical revelation is about awakening, not accomplishing. You cannot get there, you can only be there!” He goes on to suggest that because for many of us pride often overshadows humility, we fail to grasp this fundamental aspect to God’s presence in the world and our relationship with God. It all seems a little too easy! In the same reflection, Richard Rohr reminds us that St Bonaventure once said, “God is the One whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere”. What a wonderful image, and one that makes ‘getting there’ nonsense, but ‘being there’ a question of awareness or awakening.

Three brief stories follow here. I tell them hopeful that stories can be like fire, and spark something off in your own experience. All were a face to face encounter, which says something in itself. All were encounters where God whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere stirred deep within the moment. Simple, everyday encounters that we all have, but I suspect we often let slip through our consciousness and soul such that they remain ‘unread’. They are seeds to our spiritual life, which too often fall onto the path of busyness or the rocky ground of stressed and time poor lives, and do not get to take root and grow our spiritual life. That is, they fall foul to our accomplishing – our ‘getting there’.

Story one happened in the corridor at work. It was a spontaneous catch up with a colleague about a few things as we crossed paths. About to move on, and he stopped me to touch on one more thing. A young boy had died. He was from one of our school communities. A Year 7 boy. We both stood there in anguish for the family of the boy, his mates and the community directly involved. At that moment, silence spoke eloquently, and I could see in the eyes of my colleague an incredibly deep sadness and sense of bewilderment. Or perhaps he mirrored my own feelings. I felt a burn in my gut, my heart. My selfish instinct contextualized – same age as my son. What an impossible grief for the family and close friends to carry. Sounds strange, but in that moment in the corridor, I felt God’s presence, God’s center there, immersed in the struggle.

Story two involved my 7 year old daughter Tess. She had been watching a 6.30pm family movie with her older sister. Suddenly, Tess came into the room I was in with her pad. She sat close by, and began busily drawing and writing on the pad. She did not say anything. I asked her if she had decided not to watch the remainder of the movie. She just shrugged and kept coloring in. Then I saw her face. Her little eyes behind her glasses were brimming with tears. She reached out her arms as her head dropped and the first tear hit the floor. The father in the movie had died – what if that happened to me, Tess managed to say. I was awash with feelings of helplessness and vulnerability, knowing that this moment was a microcosm of so many times ahead when I won’t have answers, when I won’t be able to protect Tess from the messy things of life. That’s OK, whispered God, all will be well.

The third story took place when I was chatting with a Lay Marist, called Pep. Pep said something that struck me. It was a moment of awakening, a time of joyful revelation. He was talking about Marcellin’s desire for young people to know the loving presence of God in their life. Pep said he finds it helpful to to see the young person behind the ‘older’ people he meets. That is, ‘see’ the young boy or the young girl they would once have been. Pep’s claim was that it can connect you with that person in a meaningful way, helps you to understand them. I have found it quite profound to do. It somehow makes it infinitely more difficult to judge people, and addresses the dangers of being dismissive of old age and careless with familiarity. It’s a reminder of the life force in people, and makes you smile more. It is easier to see God’s center in others.

Enjoy ‘being there’.

Cheers, Joe


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