July 4, 2017
Some welcomed days of Reflection and good old R&R are behind me. For me the Fourth of July has always signaled the start of a new season. Growing up on a fruit farm in SW Michigan, many a July 4th was spent picking cherries…..and then we watched the fireworks at night. Happy memories.
Perhaps it just happens, as people reach a certain age. This summer for the first time in my life I began to feel like an old man. In my 75th year, I look at things very differently. I think I have a clearer sense of what is really important in life and what things are simply foolish and nonsensical. You see a lot of that in the evening news…..Is it wisdom or just the fact that one realizes one is still living, as a younger world expands and comes to life around you? This past year I said goodbye to a lot of friends: high school and college classmates, and most painfully to some of my former students, such bright and wonderfully talented men and women.
I am neither depressed nor pessimistic; but probably more of a hardened realist. On more than one occasion this past month I found myself saying: look around you, think about what you should be doing, then get busy and do it!
One of my more memorable conversations in the past weeks was with a young fellow, who wanted to speak with me “about God.” He sat across the table from me and started his “conversation” with a series of short exclamations: “I am not agnostic.” “I am not an atheist.” “I don’t believe in the old God up there.” “God is not a person.” “There is a lot of mythology in religions.” “I think God is somehow at the center of reality — our world and who we are.” “Now what do you think about that?”
I was amazed. I told him I thought he was a very reflective and perceptive young man and that I could resonate with what he had shared with me. We talked for a long time…. I know his father and at some point the conversation will and must continue.
Actually, without mentioning the word, we were talking about spirituality.
Spirituality is not something added on top of our Christian life. Spirituality is our way of life – in LIVED awareness of the Divine Presence. Spirituality is rooted in the realization that FAITH is a personal relationship with the Divine. My young questioner, in his own way, has experienced a taste of the Divine. I am happy for him and encourage him to keep asking questions….
Our mission as Christians is to call people to awareness: to tune in to their spirituality, to open their minds and hearts to God’s presence in their lives and the world around them.
“Do you not know,” Paul asked the community in Corinth “that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (See 1 Corinthians 3:9-16)
Christian spirituality is about confronting the religious and secularization shifts in contemporary life and responding with, yes, “another voice.” Many people in our churches, and many people who have walked out of our churches, and many young people, long to hear good news. They need people willing to travel with them, search and reflect with them. That is our contemporary Christian challenge: To stand in awe with them, as together we explore REALITY.
The depth value of Christian spirituality lies precisely in the encounter it creates between Faith, the Gospel, theology and belief, and the extensive and expanding terrains of human development, human needs, and the search for the meaning of life.
It can be very exciting……I look forward to continuing the journey with you.
To all of my USA compatriots: Happy Fourth of July!
May we all rejoice in our commitment to fundamental human equality, and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all!