Thought for the Week – The centre of life

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We are all looking for something more, especially at this time of they year – more money, more success, more happiness…we often take this urge literally and try to satisfy it with more stuff or even another spiritual theory.
I am by nature a spiritual forager or some might say a spiritual junkie – a soul tourist – attracted to explore the inner life but not wanting to be challenged by it – wanting to avoid the discomfort – constantly looking for something new, switching from one theory to another – constantly seeking but never finding.
It is easy to be seduced by the latest product in the supermarket of spiritual exercises and there is a huge range to choose from and they tend to be linear 7/8/9 step programs each with its own methodology.  Many of these programs are externalist and keep us outside oneself – lost in the wilderness of mechanical, spiritual programs. They can become ends in themselves – and separate me from myself – substituting another activity for the one thing necessary – love!
Perhaps we need to settle and stop wandering from church to church from guru to guru, from theory to theory – searching for a formula outside myself to fill up what is missing inside myself.
The truth is I don’t need to go anywhere to find the God that waits within. I  need to pursue the centre of life which is behind every system – I am the distance between God and me.  We must seek God in the right places – within the sanctuary of the centred self.
Murroe Website EditorThought for the Week – The centre of life
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Thought for the Week – The Epiphany

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“The Epiphany is the second great Christmas feast and in its origins it is older than its Christmas Day cousin. The Epiphany, is the feast of the manifestation of the lord to the nations; at the Baptism in the Jordan, the wedding at Cana and the adoration of the Magi. Putting it very simply, today is the feast of everyone who has set out in search of the Redeemer. It is our feast! That is what makes it so important and why this simple story of the Magi resonates so readily with each of us.

The journey we travel to God is very often a journey we travel in spite of ourselves and others. Not only do we encounter various difficulties; the Herod’s who try and trick us, the clouds that obscure our clear vision of the star, the human cruelty which leads so often to the slaughter of the innocents, the slow progress we make on our lumbering camels through the desert of our everyday lives; but we can also provide obstacles for ourselves and even within our very selves. We can be so stubborn and so full of self will.

Led by the star, the Magi fought their way through deserts and over mountains, successfully negotiated their way through indifference and politics until they found this child and could worship him as their Redeemer. This should read as an account of my life story.

By the guiding light of a star we journey through life. Don’t take your eyes off that guiding light. There are one hundred thousand million stars in the Milky Way alone, but only one of them leads us to where we want to go. This is by far the brightest star in the night sky, all I have to do is keep my eyes fixed on it.

When I reach that destination I need that keen vision even more. I have to see in that broken down old stable, the revelation of the Mystery. This is where I’m meant to be. The stable may not look like much, but for me it is more precious than the Taj Mahal! Within lies all my heart desires and so much more.

Then we come to the gifts; gold representing his kingship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death. They also represent my own life offering. The gold of whatever good I have done, the frankincense of my worship and the myrrh of my own suffering in life. Offering these gifts the Magi bow down and worship. If I am lucky enough to have met the Lord in my life then I know exactly what that feels like and what it means. To have found Him for whom I have been searching; Him for whom my heart longs. The brightest star in the sky may have led me to this spot, but nothing can compare to the brightness that warms within me when I feel that finally, I have come home.”

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Thought for the Week – Wonder

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“We are perishing for want of wonder not for want of wonders.”  G.K. Chesterton….

If I had one wish this New Year it would be for a renewal of a sense of wonder. It is one of the powerful forces we are born with and one of our most useful and underused skills. It  can make each moment new.

A lot of things in daily life would change their hue if we rediscovered the gift of wonder. It is one of the purest forms of joy and it is something we can practice and do almost anywhere – travelling, reading, meeting people or wherever I feel my heart beat or the sun set or the sun rise.

Like any skill, I can lose it – lose the sense of wonder as I move out of childhood or through over familiarity. Hegel, the philosopher, once said that, ‘the familiar precisely because it is familiar is not known”.  So true. John O’Donohue puts it even stronger -“familiarity is one of the most subtle and pervasive forms of human alienation.”

To wonder is enriching in itself but it also can be the moment which births new possibilities into my life.

The next time you go for a walk – try to find something to wonder at….the sound of a bird, the colour or shape of a leaf, the beauty of a cloud.

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Thought for the Week- Can we open our hearts to the stranger ?

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If Christmas has some meaning left, it must be about welcoming the stranger…..the ‘other’.  Hospitality is at the heart of the Christian message – hospitality – not so much about throwing lavish parties but about creating ‘space’ for the other – making sure that the our inn is not so full of stuff that there is simply no room left for the stranger or closed with its doors locked against the stranger who poses a threat to our neatly ordered.
The beauty of the open heart, with room to spare,  is not easy to achieve in a culture which tells us to close ourselves off from the dangerous world around us – where we are taught to protect ourselves and our assets from dilution by the other and focus on ourselves.
And social media, Facebook etc are ensuring that we surround ourselves with like minded people, people whose opinions and prejudices are just like mine – and we end up with ‘my group’ which can lead to hardened borders, divisive elections and divided societies.

 

We pay our bills, our taxes and in return we get a room in the inn where we can do whatever we like as long as we don’t disturb the people to left or right and keep the stranger out.  “We and they” become the hallmarks of our age – an age awash in refugees and climate immigrants.
Can we do things differently this Christmas, this New Year?  Can we bring ourselves to have less of the ‘I’ and more of the ‘we’.  Can we open our hearts to the stranger in whom the Word lives and who is calling to our boundaried selves to open and widen. Can we create a space within the murky reality of our own confused lives for another human being who is different, alien or challenging for us. For it is the stranger who disarms our perceptions and penetrates our stereotypes about the world who makes the supernatural natural
The disciples on the Road to Emmaus found Jesus by befriending the stranger on the road, by opening their hearts  and minds to the outsider.
This Christmas let us pray for a change of heart in our world – so that we can dissolve the  hardened forms of separateness and restore our ancient circles of connection – connection with nature, with our neighbour and with the sacred. Make sure there is room in the Inn.
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Thought for the Week – The Quiet Stable

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We are familiar with the story – Mary, heavily pregnant, travelling with Joseph from Nazareth to their home town of Bethlehem, to fill out that census form. They arrived late and all the B and B’s and hotel rooms were full – so she gave birth in a dark, silent stable with the animals.   But despite these less than ideal surroundings,  God came anyway.  When our inn is full of stuff – or even closed – God comes to us anyway – born into our life, into our heart moment by moment, breath by breath in every little thing that happens to us. Every now and then we need to step outside our busy, noisy inn and find our way back to the small, dark, quiet stable. We need to be simple and patient with what is unfolding in our hearts as God is born in us.

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Thought for the Week – Social Connectedness

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The U.S. Surgeon General is on a mission to deliver happiness, peace and love – in his position as Surgeon General he is emphasizing happiness as one of the ways to prevent disease and live a long healthy life.
He argues that happiness is a not an emotion or an inherited disposition but a perspective, something we can actively cultivate using four approaches; gratitude exercises, meditation, physical activity and social connectedness.
Research shows that these four approaches do increase a sense of peace and well-being. Part of these results may be due to the fact that we can do these exercises ourselves and don’t need any outside agency to help us achieve the goal.
Social connectedness may be the greatest challenge in our individualistic world. A lot of people no longer feel connected to their community. This is the time of year when we can may be work on this approach to happiness both for oneself and for the ‘other’.
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Thought for the week – Sol Invictus

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No one needs reminding of how busy our lives have become  and especially how busy this period leading up to Christmas is even in a monastery – so many things to do. There is always the danger that the ‘urgent supplants important’ at this time of year.  Not only are we busier but life is faster and faster -our world is increasingly a world of speed and pressures which consume us and drain us, and make life a series of duties than a joyful mystery. It is easy to be submerged in this culture, be swept away in the rush and the bustle of this time of year. And advent has suffers more from this culture of light, speed and consumption than even Christmas itself – it gets lost amidst the welter of shopping and card sending, party going…and spiritual preparation is reduced to almost nothing.

I see Fr. Desmond Donnell, the Oblate priest is quoted in the Irish Independent suggesting “that we’ve lost Christmas just like we lost Easter and should abandon the word completely. Christmas no longer conjures feeling of spirituality for people. I’m all for Christians choosing to celebrate Christmas by going out for meals and enjoying a glass of wine but the commercialisation of anything is never good.  I’m just trying to rescue the reality of Christmas for believers by giving up ‘Christmas’ and replacing it with another word.”

Maybe we should take his advice and let Christmas return to its former pagan roots and do something radical and new. It was only in the fourth century that Christians took over the pagan festival of ‘Sol Invictus’, the unconquerable sun, and injected its own meaning – using it to mark the birth of JC, the light of the world.  If it is to become a Christian festival again then rejuvenating the season of Advent which we begin this week could be a good place to start.

 

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Thought for the Week – How we dismantled the world. 

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In the light of the destruction of our world, the Reverend Colin Morris has suggested a rewrite of the book of Genesis for the 21st century. It would begin with Genesis in reverse – how we dismantled the world.
In the end, we systematically demolished our even though we had no where else to go. We plundered the earth and slaughtered our brothers and sisters of the animal kingdom. And that was the seventh day from the end.
We polluted the clear air, poisoned the sea and turned rivers into foaming torrents of chemical waste. And this was the 6th day from the end.
We stifled truth that wasn’t our truth and scoffed at the warnings of the prophets and were deaf to the ominous sounds of the earth in torment. Arrogance and self-righteousness drowned out wisdom and humility. And this was the 5th day from the end.
And we said the strong are entitled to most of what’s going and the weak can have the rest. But the more we had to lose, the more fearful we became and so we built bigger walls and larger armies to protect our self interest. And this was the 4th day from the end.
We slept uneasily and awoke afraid and set to work to create the ultimate weapon. Then we said, “Now we feel safe!” But our enemies did not feel safe so they created the ultimate weapon and whole world lived under the shadow of extinction and called it peace. And this was the third day from the end.
Then having proved that we could make anything, we said, now let us make God in our own image, let us gaze into a mirror and worship the one we see there. And this was the second day from the end.
And we were mesmerised by the products of our ingenuity and we cried, bigger, stronger, richer, louder, more! And we became frantic with desire for nothing could satisfy us. And this was the day before the end.
Then there was chaos and uproar and when the din subsided, human life had vanished. And the ravished earth rested on the 7th day. Then God broke the silence. ‘Back to the drawing board,’ he said sadly.
Murroe Website EditorThought for the Week – How we dismantled the world. 
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Thought for the Week – Curial Diseases

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Pope Francis, as you know, drew up a list of “curial diseases”. He claimed that, “these diseases  and temptations weaken our service to the Lord.
I think a “listing” of these diseases – along the lines of the Desert Fathers who used to draw up such lists – helps us to prepare for the sacrament of Reconciliation,
which will be a good step for all of us to take in preparing for Christmas.” Maybe we could make up our own list.
Certainly the second disease he identifies, is one to watch out for as we begin the run in to Christmas.

2. Another disease is the “Martha complex”, excessive busy-ness. It is found in those who immerse themselves in work and inevitably neglect “the better part”: sitting at the feet of Jesus (cf. Lk 10:38-42). Jesus called his disciples to “rest a while” (cf. Mk6:31) for a reason, because neglecting needed rest leads to stress and agitation. A time of rest, for those who have completed their work, is necessary,obligatory and should be taken seriously: by spending time with one’s family and respecting holidays as moments of spiritual and physical recharging.
We need to learn from Qohelet that “for everything there is a season” (3:1-15).

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Thought for the Week – The Kikuyu culture

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The Kikuyu culture does not have the concept of Sunday or a day of rest or an extended period of time such as Advent, Ramadan or Lent.
But what they do have is ceremonies that demand a time of rest. For example the day after a burial, people do not work – even animals are not allowed to go to the fields to graze. Every being stops their normal routine activities for a day. This gives people time to grieve, to express respect, appreciation, and gratitude for the one who has left them to join the ancestors.
Rest also takes place as the community waits for the harvest. During this time young people dance and celebrate as they wait patient for the grain to ripen.  And then they celebrate after the harvest – rather than rushing into the next activity.
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