Saturday, November 22, 2014

It Can't Be About You

I had spent my time at the chapel meditating on Scripture, asking for clarity in whatever area the Spirit would have me see, but it was dark.  There was nothing.
I came home, perhaps a bit anxious to quickly get to sleep; I wished to rise in 3 hours for the weekly men’s Bible study early the next morning.  I turned back the covers, got into bed, pulled the light switch off and welcomed the darkness --- but in my mind it was light.  I was wide awake, and thoughts I had prayed for earlier came clearly into my mind.  They were clear and crisp, flowed, and wouldn’t go away.  My new prayer became:  “Peace!  I need some rest!” but it went unanswered.
I went to the library and picked up pen and paper, and got back into bed and began to write:

John the Baptist, at his birth he was destined to be the herald of the Christ’s coming.  He was to be the second most important man in history.  He was close to Jesus, if only by blood: he was family, earthly and spiritually.
Why did he have to die?  Why did Jesus let it happen?  Why didn’t Jesus console John the Baptist and remove any doubts he had?  If Jesus would abandon someone so close to Himself, what does that say of His loyalty to me, in my trials?
But John was not like me, just another man.  John was the pre-curser, the herald, AND the image.  He was a type of Christ.
We know of John’s miraculous birth; we know of Jesus’ miraculous birth.  John, older than Jesus by six months, was absent from Scripture until he is shown publically baptizing; Jesus was absent from Scripture until he is shown beginning His preaching.  John was arrested; Jesus was arrested.  John was killed by a reluctant Herod; Jesus was killed by a reluctant Pilate.   Both had to die --- for a reason.
Herod had made a public promise (Mt 14:7-9); as king he had to keep his promises --- to keep his power.  His respect and his power were the most important things to Herod.  In the immediate situation, John’s death wasn’t about John; it wasn’t even about Jesus.  It was about Herod.  Herod made it about Herod.  He had to keep himself important.  This event, it had to be about him.
Pilate didn’t believe Jesus had done anything worthy of death either.  He tried to appease the Jewish leaders by severely beating Jesus, by bartering for Him, and even proclaiming He had no right to kill this man who had done nothing deserving death.  But in the end, like Herod, Pilate feared the people.  He feared the loss of his power.  He washed his hands of the event, not wanting to take any blame which might be forthcoming --- but not wanting to take any immediate blame either.  In the immediate situation, Jesus’ death wasn’t about Jesus.  It was about Pilate.  Pilate made it about Pilate.  He had to keep himself important.  This event, it had to be about him.
Like the Jews in the Holocaust, the evil was not that they died, nor was it that John and Jesus died, we will all die; the evil was in the ones who killed them.  It was all about their desires, their sins, and their self-love for what they wanted.  Results cannot be evil; only actions can be evil.  When evil happens to you, it does not make you evil, but when evil happens to you, you have a decision to make:  you can accept the evil as something allowed by God for a reason you might not perceive --- trusting in God --- or you can rail against Him:  “I don’t deserve this; why are You letting this happen to me?”  Neither John nor Jesus railed against God the Father; they trusted in Him.
I was reminded about St. Ignatius’s rules about how to proceed in spiritual matters.  His Rule Number 4 is considered most important:  When spiritual desolation is enveloping you, make no decisions regarding your spiritual life.  Spiritual desolation is not willed upon us by God, but it is permitted.  It arises from some evil, or evil intent.  When evil is about you, influencing your thoughts, Ignatius notes, that that is not the time to be seeking to make new decisions about your spiritual life.  It is a time to renew your spiritual actions, and to trust in God.  This is not the time to focus on your woes and decide that YOU have to do something to change them; YOU have to make sure all is well with you.
For Herod and Pilate, each in a time of woe, his thought was about himself.  But we need to follow as John and Jesus did, and as Ignatius summarized:  When you are in a time of spiritual woe, your thought:  it can’t be about you.
A tree in the desert is totally focused on its survival and itself only, as it tries to hide from the burning sun.  It is desperate for shade and water.  But despite what it is feeling and perceiving about the desert around it, the tree cannot survive by itself.  This cannot be!!  What it is seeing is an illusion; it is something that cannot real.  Trees are not born and growing in deserts; they are in forests.  Trees cannot shade themselves; in the forest they shade one another, to survive, to survive together.  That is how we must be.  It cannot be about you alone; you are here to help others with your life, and they you.  Your focus cannot be yourself.
A God died to show this to you.  And in His death, as John’s, He trusted that there was a larger reason for His desolation.  He was not alone in His suffering.  Neither are you.  It was for a purpose.  So is yours.
Everything in the Bible is the inspired Word of God.  It is there for a reason; it is there to teach a truth.  In our life we may look at bad things casually and say: “shit happens.”  We may see no reason.  In the Bible bad things happen too, but ALWAYS for a reason, a lesson.  John did not die to teach us Jesus didn’t care about him.  Look deeper!  John did not waver in his belief in Jesus; he makes clear his belief in Mt 3:11-15, Jn 1:23-36, and Jn 3:24-36.  There are no contrary facts to these clear statements of belief, and trust.  In Lk 7:18-23 we see John sending his disciples to ask Jesus who He was.  But as the Catholic Encyclopedia (and many theologians) point out:  it was John’s disciples who didn’t understand, who questioned who Jesus was.  John sent them to see and understand for themselves.  And they did.
Unlike Lazarus and the others Jesus raised from the dead, or whose death was prevented, Jesus did not prevent John from dying.  He did not save his life.  That He would do later, when Jesus chose His own death.  It is then that He saved John, as He saved us.  John had a purpose for his life, and his death.  There is a reason.  John trusted; we need also to trust.
Like John and Jesus, our life is important.  We have a unique mission, a purpose for which we were born.  If we go through life burned by the events around us and think we are like the tree in the desert, alone with only ourselves to protect us, we are living an illusion.  That cannot be.  That is not how we were made.  That is not WHY we were made.  With his life, John taught us a lesson.  With His life, Jesus taught us a lesson.  With each and every parable Jesus told, and with each and every miracle He worked, Jesus SHOWED us a lesson:  This is how to live.  Your life cannot be about you.  It is about living in love, in love of God and in love of neighbor.  And you are not alone.  Even if every person in your life to date has abandoned you, you are not alone.  Your Father in heaven is there, and loves you. 
You can rest your eyes at night, and cease your worrying.
  I will never leave you alone.

I put down the pen and paper, and turned out the nightlight again.  And sleep came.  

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