Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Benefit of Doubt

" When it was evening of that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them, and said,
' Peace be with you.'  After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw The Lord. But Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. [Thomas] said to them, ' Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails, and my hand in His side, I will not believe."   [ John 20:19-25.]

We Christians sometimes believe that after the Resurrection, everyone became instant Believers. Far from the truth.

Even most of  Jesus' direct disciples hid in a room, for fear that the Jews who had crucified Jesus would somehow hunt them down and crucify them, too.

Thomas, the twelfth disciple, was filled with doubt.  Before he believed, he needed to see Jesus' wounds as Risen Lord, for himself.

Doubt and Fear are supposed to be the enemies of Faith. Jesus Himself said to Thomas, " Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." -- John 20:29.

Every year, as we go through the retelling of Good Friday and Jesus' death on the cross, the somber enactment of the Easter Vigil, and the miracle of Easter morning, I am like the disciples. In the aftermath of Christ's death and Resurrection, we join the disciples in their feelings of awe and fear and doubt.

Is it any wonder, after what the disciples had experienced, that they would react this way? In the news recently is the story of a man named Kenneth Ireland, who was wrongly imprisoned for 21 years for a crime that he did not commit.  After his release, based on DNA testing, he worked through myriad
emotions, including anger and fear.  Even though he left prison in 2009, he still fears that someone is going to come and drag him back to prison. He feels compelled to live on the top floor of his apartment building, and he never answers the door. He has spent a lot of time learning to let go of the fear, and the anger.

Just because suddenly we have been set free, it does not mean that our hearts are instantly free.

I have always tried to fight the Doubt. How relieved I was, however,  when Pope Francis admitted that even he, as Pope, has doubts about his Faith. He has said that " doubt is essential to finding God."  [ The New York Times, Sept. 19, 2013.]

In Scripture, it has been said that the early Christians were so deliriously happy after Jesus's Resurrection that they seemed drunk. But, must we be deliriously happy, against all reason, ALL the time?

Christians experience a range of emotions, both dark and exuberant, don't they?  Was Jesus not justifiably angry at the Temple, when He saw the greedy money-changers who were overrunning that sacred place? Did Jesus not break down and weep at the prospect of the death of Lazarus, whom He loved?  Did Jesus not cry out in seeming despair on the Cross, uttering, " My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?!"

And so, as Christians, we should be allowed our emotions. Even Jesus felt deeply. And we are made in God's image.

I have said before, and I will say it again-- All Christians walk through dark valleys. Jesus did so when He faced the devil for forty days and forty nights, in the desert. We are allowed to journey through dark times.

Some Christians, meaning well, interrupt even the slightest talk of dark times. Theologian Barbara Taylor Brown, speaks of this denial of the Dark in her new book, " Finding God in the Dark". In an article on Times.com, she writes, " Christianity has never had anything nice to say about the dark.        ' Darkness' is shorthand for anything that scares me." She speaks in the same article about Christians who have "full solar spirituality" , which she defines as " a sure sense of God's presence."

I have had plenty of Christians in my life, valiantly trying to talk me out of my dark emotions. This kind of attempt at " rewriting my interior landscape" always backfires with me. I usually end up talking about my Faith even less. Therefore, my Faith becomes censored, even more remote than before.

Telling me, ' Be happy', does not work. Instead, it reminds me of how my mother used to tell me, 'Don't be angry'-- diminishing my accurate emotions, wrenchingly felt, over real harshness and cruelty. As if feeling nothing would make the abuse go away. . . . .

Instead, Doubt is a walk towards Faith. Just as Forgiveness is a walk towards Love.

Doubt is an emotion or an uncertainty that we should not wallow in indefinitely. But, used as a catalyst, Doubt can be a powerful springboard towards deeper Faith.

I think of how a martial arts expert harnesses the power of gravity, along with his opponent's force, and --- with equal and opposite force--- throws his opponent across the room.

I believe that, in dark times, if we do not harness the Doubt, in order to increase our Faith, then the Doubt will swallow us. Doubt must not be not denied, but it must be harvested.

It is out of the dark pain in my life, that I am perfectly positioned to more fully seek the light of Jesus.

My friends, who see in me Fear or Doubt, can walk along with me. They can pray for me. But I would never want my Christian friends to steal that Doubt from me, or to try to talk me out of my emotional struggles.  Doubt is a gift, a powerful opportunity to enrich my Faith. And if I do not have to walk on that journey of Doubt alone, all the better.

[ Related Postings, " Doubt", May 11, 2011; "The Truth of His Wounds", April 13, 2012;  "His Divine Mercy", April 7, 2013 ].

( c) Spiritual Devotional 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Legacy of Abuse

" What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light . . .  . proclaim on the housetops. . . . [ Matthew 10:27].

{ April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.}

To come face to face with someone who has survived child abuse is to confront the uncomfortable, the taboo. We contemplate the survivor, and we see the very edges of society. No one wants to draw near to the outlier. It is as if the survivor represents a rebuke to the entire community.

And so, the abuse survivor " disappears." She pretends that everything is okay. She melts into the corners of the room. She cannot ask for help, because that plea forces people to confront the ugly side of humanity.

The abuse survivor is often told, ' Well, you were only a child, so how can whatever you say be believed?' Or she is told,  ' Well, it only happened X number of times. How bad could it have been?' Or, she is told, ' Why do you ' want' to dwell in the past?' Or, ' Why can't you forget it and move on? Be happy.'

The fact is, the child may have tried to tell her mother, or another seemingly responsible adult, about the abuse, only to be told  many of the same things.  So, someone saying these things to her now, as an adult, only serves to abuse her all over again; to remind her of her awful fear that no one will ever believe her or be able to help her.

The abuse survivor can really never forget what happened. Abuse is not a discrete set of events "going nowhere". The abuse creates lasting damage.

I think of Maya Angelou, who writes so hauntingly in her book, " I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings", about the sexual assault at the hand of her mother's boyfriend. It happened but once - --- and then, she stopped speaking.  Her silence came after she told the police the identity of the man who had assaulted her; the police hunted the man down and killed him. Angelou concluded  that her words could kill. She became terrified to speak.

I stopped speaking when I was ten. I had already shut down my emotions. When my father told my mother, ' Do NOT feed her', I realized that food had become a power struggle. To neutralize that war, in which I was the target,  I largely stopped eating. I kept myself awake at night until I was sure everyone was asleep. My chronic lung disease roared through my system.

Often, I could barely breathe. I kept shutting down my systems, one by one -- sleeping, eating, feeling --- praying that the quieting of another system would finally make me invisible and therefore, the abuse would go away.

But, the abuse did not end. Finally, I stopped speaking. I had given up on humanity. I had given up on myself.

You don't stop speaking for several years, with no effect. I have had to fight to get my voice back. I still fear speaking up. But, I also fear censoring myself, unable to defend myself verbally. I still have unnerving fear over asking for help. I am working on learning how to regulate my conversation, neither interrupting too much, nor going silent again.

I still sleep fitfully. The nightmares come every night, forcing me to relive the trauma. The flashbacks float before my eyes, during daylight hours, disembodied images of terror. Sometimes, the nightmare turns out to be a horrible version of the truth.

I am still nervous about having enough food. I remain fearful that someone will take my food away again.

My chronic lung disease is serious, since my family never provided me with appropriate medical care when I was a child. Plain and simple, that was neglect. And so, I have daily physical effects from the neglect, including chronic bronchitis and hearing loss.

I am still afraid of my emotions. I live in a muffled emotional world. I can recognize broad emotions like " happy",  and "sad". But, some emotions such as "frustrated vs. anxious", "excited vs. angry" are softer around the edges. I have to consult a trusted person, like my husband, to figure out what I am feeling, because all I know is that I am somehow, indefinably " upset".

My emotions are disconnected from the triggering event, as if my emotions simply float up for no reason; these free floating feelings are amorphous and seem to have a life of their own. To feel emotions,without a known reason, feels like being randomly invaded by aliens, manipulating your moods.

There is intense pain from the past traumas. It is like a psychic cancer. I can stay busy, I can distract myself, but the pain never goes away. It is there in my waking moments, it is there in my nightmares. Military veterans and Holocaust survivors have gone through a war and paid the emotional and physical price. Abuse survivors have been through their own kind of War, as well.

The worst part of the abuse is the legacy that it leaves for the next generation. The children of abuse
survivors take on all the anxiety and guilt and feelings of worthlessness as the survivor herself -- but without the original trauma causing these. The survivors' children inherit their traumatized interior landscape. In a September 10, 2010 article on Time.com, the author wrote about studies of Holocaust survivors, whose children displayed even genetic changes to how the body processes stress,  and stress hormones. And so, the legacy of trauma rolls down the generations.

I have worked hard on myself. I am a much different person than I was when the memories of the past first began to surface unbidden, like so much awful dreck dislodged from the bottom of a murky lake.

I do not want anyone's pity. I was always at the bottom of the pecking order growing up, anyway. Pity only plunges me back to the bottom, by minimizing me and discounting me. To pity me, is to shrink me down into the pitiable child I once was. I do not want to go there again.

But I WOULD like it if people would stop telling abuse survivors. " Get over it".  A lifetime of abuse is not overcome in an instant. Some of the effects, sadly, are pervasive.

All I would desire, as a survivor, is the Love that I never received. If you cannot give me that, can you at least respect me for the battle I am engaged in?


[ Related Postings: " STOP Abuse, April 14,2100; " Rescuing The Invisible Child", April 18, 2012; "The Warning Signs of Abuse", May 10, 2013; " The Culture of Abuse, April 10, 2013.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Roll Away The Stone

" Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ' They have taken The Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.' Then, Peter and the other disciple . . . were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. Then, Simon Peter came . . . . and saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then, the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand that He must rise from the dead."   --[ John 20:1-9].

After Jesus had died on the cross, a rich man named Arimathea obtained permission from Pontius Pilate to take possession of the body of Jesus; he wrapped Jesus' body in linen and after he had placed His body in the  "new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock, he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away." --Matthew 27: 57-61.

On the next day, the Pharisees convinced Pontius Pilate to provide a guard at the entrance of the tomb for three days, because Jesus had prophesied that after three days, He would rise again.  They said,  "Command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise, his disciples may go and steal Him away, and. . . the last deception would be worse than the first. -- Matthew 27: 62-66.

In these accounts, Jesus is surely locked away in prison. Not only that, the people believed that His death was the last Word. To have any notion that Jesus, a dead man, could somehow escape, seemed preposterous. The Israelites at the time largely believed that death was final, that the corpse is laid to rest --- and there was nothing else to come after that.

And then, too, there is the Rock in front of the tomb. And the guard standing for three days before the tomb.

It is no wonder that Mary Magdalene absolutely runs to Simon Peter and the other disciples. Can you imagine her shock and wonder, that the tomb is open and that Jesus' body is gone? Can you see that the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, is so amazed that he stays in place and lets Simon Peter enter the tomb first?

Jesus had been imprisoned in His tomb. But now, Jesus has defied His enemies. He has defied death, and a cruel, bitter death at that. He has beaten the enemy, and He has risen up after three days, just as He said He would.

This Easter, I find myself meditating upon the stone. We could debate for an eternity upon how the stone could have been removed. Did a legion of angels swoop down and brush it aside? Did Jesus Himself arise and roll away the stone? This is an integral part of the Paschal Mystery.

Recently, I was confiding in a dear friend, about some of the awful events that I have faced in the past:  my father, who came home each night when I was a child, and who quietly tried to drink away his bitterness. The anger that my father took out on me.  My mother's consistent rejection and abandonment of me, even in life and death situations.  The fire in my grandparents' house, and that acrid smell I can still almost taste in my mouth. The time, when I was about three, that I came very close to drowning in a neighbor's pool. The suicide by a member of my extended family-- (for years, I thought that it was my fault.) The violent assault I suffered as a graduate student, when I felt my life slipping away. I was told afterwards, that I had had about 30 seconds to a minute longer to live. The untimely death of my best friend, a wife and mother, who died of cancer way too young.

Oh, I could go on and on. My dear friend turned to me and said quietly, " You certainly are carrying a big bag of rocks."  I said to her, " Yes. And how am I ever going to get rid of them?" She said, " One Rock at a time."

I used to feel that my entire life was about being weighted down by those Rocks that I am carrying. I have often been in despair about how many more Rocks I seem to have than others. This is certainly not a distinction that I ever would have thought to pursue.

But lately, I have been starting to see that we are ALL imprisoned in some way or another, by the Rocks that block us from our very own Redemption. We are burdened and weighted down -- by death, by trauma, by depression, by anger, by despair, by our own serious mistakes and flaws.Some of this, we do to ourselves. Some if this is imposed on us by others.

Then, I think about how utterly joyous and free that I feel on every Easter morning. I think, we should ALL feel this way, all the time!

That feeling is ineffable, but clearly felt. It is the feeling that I used to get on the last day of school, before summer break. The Joy was so overwhelming, I was capable of tears. At the same time, I would feel as if the weight of the world had lifted off my shoulders. Like Mary Magdalene and the disciples, I ran, and I could not run fast enough, all the way home.

On that last day of school, I used to feel that everything and anything was possible. I felt that, with the vast swathe of summer before me, I would become wholly transformed by that freedom. I could swing high in the sky on my backyard swing and pretend I was going up to Heaven ( but I would be home before dinner). I could lay as low as possible the grass, examining each ant and ladybug and blade of grass, and pretend that I was inhabiting their world. I could be infinitely huge. Or impossibly tiny. I had absolutely no limits.

This freedom, this unburdening of whatever weighs us down -- THAT is what Jesus gives us in His Resurrection.

He says to me, and to you, ' Come follow me. '

But, we have to dare to exit our caves, to allow the stone to be rolled away.  We have to have Faith that in Jesus, anything is possible, even the promise of our very own Stones being rolled away, one by one. We have to be bold enough to understand that, only by binding ourselves to Jesus, can we ever be truly released and set free!

[ Related Postings: " Easter Joy!", April 23, 2011;  " Easter Redemption", April 7, 2012.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, April 14, 2014

His Pierced Heart

" When the time came for their purification, according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present Him to The Lord. Now, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested upon him. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; Simeon took Jesus into his arms and praised God, saying, ' My eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared for all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles.' And the child's mother and father were amazed at what was being said about Him.  Then Simeon blessed them and said to His mother, Mary,  ' This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed, so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed -- and a sword will pierce your own soul, too.' ".  [Luke 2: 22-35.].

This is Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday.  There is a dreaded feeling about this week. Holy Week takes all Christians through Jesus' march into Jerusalem, with all the accompanying jeers and taunts, and forebodings before His Crucifixion.

 From the time when Jesus was as young as about 8 days old, there were forebodings about His fate. Simeon prophesied that Jesus would be "a  sign that will be opposed"; and Simeon predicted  that " a sword would pierce [ Mary's] own soul too" . - as well as Jesus' own heart.

If you have a sensitive bone in your body, as a Christian, you feel anger, despair, fear, outrage, grief, at Jesus' slow, inexorable walk to His agony. For this IS the Passion.

I am broken-hearted on Palm Sunday. The glory and joy of Easter Sunday seem so very far way, on that day. I feel almost childish and apologetic about my broken heart. After all, unlike the disciples and the early Christians, we know all about Jesus' Resurrection. We know that there will be a joyous ending ---- and we know the deep significance of the Resurrection for us Christians, so many thousands of years later.

And so, what to do with these feelings of brokenness? You know what? I think that we are supposed to be broken hearted!!

If you have ever had a broken heart, you know how black and gnawing and bleak it is. We are enveloped by a pain that feels as if it will never go away.

I had this experience many years ago, as a young graduate student. I had fled my cruel and harsh and abusive family. I had enrolled in a school many, many miles away from my childhood home. Then the unspeakable happened. I was the victim of a violent crime.

I dreaded calling my parents to tell them what had happened. Just as I had feared, my parents went on the attack. They told me that I would be a failure if I came home. I had almost died that day! That rejection by my parents was heartless and grim.

My heart was broken that day. I had been abandoned and betrayed. Where was God in all this? How could He have abandoned me? How could I have ended up alone and broken?

Author Lorna Kelly, in her book " The Camel Knows The Way", writes about the broken ones, whom she meets in working with Mother Teresa's poor in Calcutta, India. Kelly tells the story of a young woman who is brought in to the Mission of Charity in Kalighat.  "No more than fifteen or sixteen years old, she was wearing a filthy torn blouse and sari. Her ears were split where her earrings had been torn out. . . . She was certainly very sick; her eyes were glazed and she could barely lift her head. What horrors had this poor girl been through on the hard streets?"

Kelly writes about cradling this thin, vacant young woman, in her arms. Kelly's task was to shear this woman's long hair, because of lice. Kelly initially objected, because this young woman's long, flowing hair was all that she really had left. As Kelly begins to cut the hair, her own tears flow and she cannot stop crying. Kelly writes about the teen in her arms, " She was not a stranger, she was part of me."

God never does bring a broken heart UPON us. We do that largely to ourselves, or we do it to others. Just as the Crucifixion happened, because of hate and refusal to really see or accept who Jesus was. Just as this young woman in India lost her health, her home, her dignity, because of how little those on the streets respected her.

It seems impossible that God could allow a broken heart among any of his children. But, in Deuteronomy 10: 12-16, Moses tells his people, " So now, O Israel, what does The Lord your God require of you? . .  . Only to fear The Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the  Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. . . . The Lord  set His heart in love on you . . . . Circumcise, therefore, your hearts, and do not be stubborn any longer."

It is by circumcision, in The Old Testament, that God's people are to mark themselves, in a raw and wounding ritual, as God's Chosen people.

And so, Jesus endures the opening of His heart in a radical and painful manner, to mark Himself forever as God's Son and our own Savior.

As life tends to wound us, our hearts are circumcised, wounded but made radically open, to God. God does not Himself wound us. But all of our losses are the well-springs of our hearts, to break us open ever more fully to God's Love. It is only in the breaking of our hearts that we are open to accept The Lord, with all of our heart and soul.

I pray that all of you, dear hearts, will utilize the deep wounds and losses of your life, as an avenue for inviting God more fully into your hearts!

[ Related Postings: " Palm Sunday",  April 6, 2011; " My Palm Sunday Life", March 23, 2013; " The Road To Calvary", April 1, 2012].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dry Bones

" Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of  Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed The Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair;  her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus: ' Lord, he whom You love is ill.'  But when Jesus heard this, He said, ' This illness does not lead to death; rather, it is for God's glory so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.'  Jesus told the disciples, ' Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep but I am going to awaken him.'  When Jesus arrived, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  Martha said to Jesus, ' Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that God will give You whatever You ask of Him.  . . I know that Lazarus will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.' Jesus said to her, ' I am the Resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even thought they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.' When Jesus saw Mary weeping, He was perturbed and greatly moved. Then Jesus began to weep. Jesus, greatly disturbed, came to the tomb.  Jesus said to Martha, ' Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?'  And Jesus looked up and said,  'Father, I thank You for having heard me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, that they may believe that You sent me.'  Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ' Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth.  Jesus said to them, ' Unbind him and let him go.'  [John 11: 1-45].

In ancient Israel, the Israelites did not believe in the Resurrection. This was why Jesus' promise of a renewed life was so radical and shocking at the time.  According to Lawrence  Boadt, CSP, author of  Reading The Old Testament, the ancient Israelites' view of death was grim and final.  " The grave is a pit or swamp ( Ps. 40:3.) Death is destruction (ps. 16:10, Job 9:13) and has jaws wide open to swallow up a person (Ps. 41:3).

This is essentially what I was taught, too. I grew up in a house without faith. My parents knew no God. They worshipped human works and the power of the Almighty Dollar.

My father over the years grew increasingly angry over what he could not accomplish or garner with his own works. It seemed that whatever he did was not good enough. He took his anger out on me. My father had a gray, flat expression on his face. His soul was dry and lifeless.

My mother, having no faith in God, thought she had to control life all by herself. She became depressed and anxious. She had no joy. She was in perpetual despair. When she was elderly and frail, she told me, ' I want no funeral. No church ceremony, no prayers at the grave. Just stick me in the ground and forget it.'  I was horrified at that thought.

As a child, I tried to create some joy in the home. I tended my mother's garden. I brought flowers inside and arranged them in a vase. I tried telling humorous stories at the dinner table. Still, nothing worked.

Recently, I had a strange dream. I dreamed that I entered an ordinary house on a suburban street. I went down into the basement, and the floor descended a sloping ramp into a dark underworld. In a dusty, dim corner of the basement, I saw an alcove. In the alcove was a big pile of bones.  It was a deathly place. I woke up thoroughly rattled.

The house reminded me of the house where I grew up. I do remember a pile of old wooden planks in an alcove in the basement. The planks were covered with dust and spider webs. Every time I passed by that alcove, I always got a creepy feeling.  But, the planks were NOT bones. No, there were literally no bones in my childhood home.

So, I wondered what this dream could possibly mean? A Wise Advisor once asked me what my home was like growing up? I said, 'It was lifeless. A home with no soul, no Joy, no hope for Heaven. A place where you live and work hard and struggle, but then you die and go into the ground.'

This week, as I read the Old Testament passages in Ezekiel 37: 12-14, I suddenly realized the meaning of my dream. In Ezekiel, the passage entitled " The Valley of the Dry Bones" says, " The hand of The Lord came upon me, and He brought me out of the Spirit of The Lord, and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. he led me all around them. There were very many lying in the valley and they were very dry."

 This is a very desperate image, isn't it? It is not how I want to live!  If you ever to say to me, 'This Life is all there is, then you die and go into a pit' ---- my response to that is:  There has to be something more! Already, I have lost a best girlfriend to a young death, both of my parents, my dear mother-in-law, all four grandparents, a wonderful great aunt. What gives me a continued life of Joy today, is that someday, I will get to see all these dear ones again in the Next Life.

In Ezekiel 37, the verse goes on, "  ' Mortal, can these bones live? Prophesy to those bones. Thus says The Lord to these bones, ' I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will cause flesh to come upon you and cover you with skin.' "

The story of The Valley of Dry Bones, and the story of Lazarus, prefigure the death and Resurrection of  Jesus. They give me Hope that there is another life after this one! I have to believe that! Or otherwise, even while I am still living in this life, my soul will shrivel like those old bones in The Valley of Dry Bones.

During our time on earth, a belief in the Resurrection  turns our soulless homes into a House of Hope and Life. I do not desire a House of Death. I long for  a life of Joy, and ultimately, a place among the Living in Heaven.

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Blind Judgment

" Jesus saw a man who was blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, ' Teacher, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?'  ' Neither this man nor his parents sinned,' said Jesus,  'but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.' Having said this, Jesus spit on the ground, made some mud with His saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. ' Go,' he told him, 'wash in the Pool of Siloam', (this word means 'Sent'). So the man went and washed and came home seeing. Neighbors brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees ( the religious leaders). They turned to the blind man. ' What have you to say about Him? It was your eyes He opened.'  The man replied,  'He is a prophet.'  . . . Then they hurled insults at him. The man answered, ' If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.'  To this they replied, ' You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!'  And they threw him out.  Jesus heard that they had thrown him out and [He] said, ' I have come into this world for judgment, so that the blind will see, and those who see will become blind.'  Some Pharisees heard this and asked, ' What?  Are we blind too?' Jesus said, ' If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim to see, your sin remains.'   [ John 9:1-41.]

At the time of this Biblical passage, people believed that blindness, and other afflictions, were caused by the sin or evil of the parents. Even today, if we experience an awful event in our lives, we say,       " What did I do to deserve this?"

Our human minds often cannot fathom a man blind from birth, or a young girl born with no legs below the knee. We look for someone to blame. Sadly, our eagerness for a rational explanation becomes Judgment of the afflicted.

Jesus is saying here, that if you were born blind, or with a disability, it is not because you or parents sinned.  You are not guilty of any sin that caused your affliction.

Jesus goes on to say, ' But now that you claim to see, your sin remains.'

How often have we met someone who claims to have all the answers, and yet who knows so little? They judge others so readily, because of what they see superficially. But they know nothing about what is in the person's heart.

When I was in graduate school, I was home during the day and there came a knock on my apartment door. I thought it was my neighbor. It was not. It was an assailant, intent on attacking me.

When I called home, my mother challenged me:  ' Well! Why did you open the door? '.  I vowed never to judge anyone again.

But we do judge!!

Around town not too long ago, I saw a woman with an extremely short haircut. I wondered, why would she want such a severe hair style?  It turns out that she is battling cancer. I felt so ashamed to have even thought that.

I once knew a a woman with a pinched look to her face, as if she were perpetually angry. I did not know anyone who liked her. I did not give up on her, though. I talked to her every time I saw her. Eventually, she remarked how nice I was to her.

One day she told me that she felt like she had to act tough, because of the rough neighborhood where she grew up. We ended up a lot closer, and she even offered to pray for my intentions.

Another woman I have known, always had an extremely serious expression. She was almost unapproachable.  I always felt too intimidated to even say hello. Later, I found out that her son was seriously ill. Ultimately, he died. How sad that I was so ready to judge, that I made myself unavailable to comfort her.

Do you judge people who are overweight, as  "lazy and useless"?   Have you ever thought that they may have a hormonal issue, or that they are on essential medications that cause weight gain?

When you see a person of color, do you lock your car door, or grab your handbag a little bit tighter?

You see, Judgment is bullying. And Jesus knew all about this. The blind man was without sin. But those who could physically see were the ones who were truly blind, because they could not see what was of value in the blind beggar's heart. They thought they could see so much. But they saw nothing.

In a recent article in America magazine, ' Jesus and the Bullied', author Brian B. Pinter wrote, " Jesus' ministry was epitomized by His courageous willingness to place a himself among ones most likely to be taunted.  Jesus, by His own example and preaching, empowers us to move beyond being bystanders, to embrace, and shield, through bold but loving action, those suffering under the yoke of bullying and taunting."

How much do YOU dare to really see? How much do you dare to love?

[ Related Postings, " Judge Not", July 18, 2011;  " Love is Kind", February 18, 2011; " Blind Sight", April 2, 2011.]

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