Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Same Gift

May 4, 2009

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

"If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?" When they heard this, they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying, "God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too." Acts 11:17-19

I am the gate for the sheep. All who came [before me] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. John 10:7-9


“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
St. Augustine


Religion is fertile ground for dichotomies and dualisms. It is the battleground for good or evil. God or Satan. Sin or Prayer. Love or Hate. The Chosen or the Unchosen. The Jews of the Gentiles. Religion and life are the proving grounds of the true self over the false self. Which will prevail? Is one good while the other is bad?

But these dualism are not only the stuff of Biblical history. We have our own cult of the “Either.” Red State or Blue State? Progressive or traditional? Conservative or liberal? Pre-Vatican II v Post-Vatican II? Chant or Folk Music?

Peter confronts and conquers the tyranny of the “Or” in our reading today from Acts. Like Peter, we must dare to decide. Like Peter, we have to make a choice. Like Peter, we can not make our choice in a vacuum. What we have believed in the past changes. Sometimes we have to begin anew. Peter was not prepared to condemn the Gentiles because they were physically different and ate different food.

Jesus helps reintroduce us to the reality of our original relationship with God. He is the “new Adam,” the shepherd who opens the gate for us to walk with him and ultimately, to restore our relationship with the father. Jesus leads us, like a shepherd leading his sheep, back into this right relationship.


According to Thomas Merton, Christ is the door that leads to life, but we ourselves must walk through that door by sharing in his death in order to share in his life. In Merton’s Palace of Nowhere, James Findlay describes our journey this way:

Prayer, understood as the distilled awareness of our entire life before God, is a journey forward, a response to a call from the Father to become perfectly like his Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. But this journey forward can also be seen as a journey backward, in which we seek to gain access to the relationship Adam has with God. (Page 32)

Adam is not some historical or mythic figure. Adam is us every time we turn away from God. Adam is us every time we refuse to go through that gate in disobedience. The spiritual journey for us, is to undo Adam’s defiance with our compliance. We must go back the way we came.

On our Cursillo weekend, we often reflect on the archetype in the story of the Prodigal Sons/Prodigal Father. By the end of the weekend, we explore our tools for moving forward (onward) from the weekend experience of conversion. The son who was lost attempts to journey forward by going back to his original identity by allowing his Father to purify him from his own will.

What is the path for your journey forward (onward/ultreya)? Merton (in Zen and the Birds of Appetite) helps us find the way of the sheep by following the shepherd.

If we would return to God, and find ourselves in Him, we must reverse Adam’s journey, we must go back the way we came. The path lies through the center of our own soul. Adam withdrew himself from God and then passed through himself and went forth into creation. We must withdraw ourselves from exterior things, and pass through the center of our souls to find God. We must recover possession of our true selves by liberation from anxiety and fear and inordinate desire.

What is your path forward? Sometimes, you have to hit the backspace key before you can keep going in order for the story to unfold.

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