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Seems that my long life is like a treasure hunt.

Once I stepped back from significant teachers and took stock of what I found, I began discerning clues about the Sacred in places I ordinarily would not have frequented, specifically my unconscious; its darkness, impenetrable. My loneliness deepened, my discomfort mounted, and questions spliced my resolve. Even more disconcerting were my dreams, like cattle prods urging me forward. With trepidation, one foot scaled that ravine; another trudged through brambles that bloodied my calves. Many dead-ends undermined my resolve to forge ahead, and yet there was no other option. There was always the next clue to discover.

Years passed. This was no child’s game. Annual retreats afforded me respite to consolidate my gains and give thanks to God. But then the struggle began afresh—Still another clue to discover. So what is this treasure that has attracted my being, from earliest memory? Once glimpsed, its allure only compelled more engagement.

Again, I look to the Gospels. Jesus likens the Kingdom of Heaven to a hidden treasure buried in a field (Mt. 13). Someone finds it, reburies it, then thrilled by his discovery, sells all he has and buys this field. He must have it. His life depends upon it.

Like the seeker, I cherish this treasure, tucked away in my depths. Lest I become puffed up by this discovery, the apostle Paul likens my humanness to an earthenware vessel (II Cor. 4:7), ordinary, and in time, cracks apart when no longer needed.

So the treasure hunt continues—My self-emptying also continues.

 

 

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She prays.

Slowly, her veined hand moves across his sunken chest. No longer is there a heartbeat. He is gone. Unfathomable peace suffuses his shriveled remains. Within that sacred moment she rests—fulfilled are her vows of almost seven years, pronounced that festive afternoon in their parish church where they had met at daily Mass, their snowy hair enhancing their flushed faces. Afterwards, merriment enlivened their white-tent reception filled with families and friends. It was all about love with its inherent sacrifices.

She prays.

Of little consequence, now, were his temper tantrums, rigid judgments, blaming—behaviors exacerbated by his Parkinson’s Dementia, three years into the marriage. Of little consequence was his frequent need in the middle of the night to pack his things in a pillowcase and go home. Of little consequence was his emptying the contents of the kitchen drawers into the refrigerator, of flooding the bathroom floor. Of little consequence was his violent reaction to placement in a skilled nursing facility, despite painstaking preparations. Now, he lives in eternal life and that’s all that matters.

She prays. Her eyes glisten.

Salted by keen suffering, she lives the mandate of Jesus Christ to be “the salt of the earth.”

Her name is Mary.

 

This week, many in the Christian world remember.

More than two centuries ago, a misfit was hounded to death on a cross atop a steep hill outside the city walls. Before sundown, friends removed his desiccated remains to a nearby cave for burial, then huddled together in secrecy lest they be discovered. Days of indescribable angst followed. The third day, several women sought out their beloved, only to find the tomb empty and an angel proclaiming his resurrection.

Empowered by this phenomenon, this man’s followers spread his teaching throughout the world. Deep joy spirited their footsteps toward neighboring villages; its flame ignited those who were receptive to its transforming message of littleness and service. Merriment tickled psyches, drew broad smiles.

But as with such divine in-breakings, its fire flickered. Materialism, secularism, and hedonism spawned other sophistries that undermined the humility and truth and simplicity, the very foundations of this life path. The pursuit of comfort and prestige and power became paramount, no matter the misery, even bloodshed, of those in the way.

Even the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) did little to deter this spiritual malaise.

Like “The Fool on the Hill,” alone, scorned, ignored, the Crucified still looks through the eyes of the poor, the afflicted, the harassed. He cannot stay away. These are his people and they know it.

But there’s more to this picture. Such suffering passes; within its wake easters in unfathomable LIFE. We are invited to participate, even now, within moments of grace.

 

 

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