Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why I know

by Chris Mcals

Why Am I Writing This

Sometimes I wonder why I go through the trouble of sitting here, writing away, when I have so many other things to do with my spare time. I could call a few friends, dust my window shutters, spread weed killer, or watch a good movie. No, really!

I'm actually quite embarrassed to write about my spiritual life because I'm a very private person. In "New Seeds of Contemplation," Thomas Merton describes me to a "T" in the following three paragraphs (I substituted "he" with "she, and "men" with "people"): 

"To speak about the gift He has given us would seem to dissipate it and leave a stain on the pure emptiness where God's light shone. No one is more shy than a contemplative about her contemplation. Sometimes it gives her almost physical pain to speak to anyone of what she has seen of God. Or at least it is intolerable for her to speak about it as her own experience.

At the same time she most earnestly wants everybody else to share her peace and her joy. Her contemplation gives her a new outlook on the world of people. She looks about her with a secret and tranquil surmise which she perhaps admits to no one, hoping to find in the faces of other people or to hear in their voices some sign of vocation and potentiality for the same deep happiness and wisdom.

She finds herself speaking of God to the people in whom she hopes she has recognized the light of her own peace, the awakening of her own secret: or if she cannot speak to them, she writes for them, and her contemplative life is still imperfect without sharing, without companionship, without communion."

Not too long ago I watched an interview with Ted Neeley, the star of Jesus Christ Superstar and Norman Jewson, the director of the rock opera. Among other things, Ted Neeley, who has played the role of Jesus for over forty years, told Mr. Jewson that he was sitting with some friends having dinner one day, when he noticed that some onlookers were becoming scandalized when they saw him drinking a beer. 

He said many people think he is a saint because he plays the role of Jesus, so they don't expect him to do normal things like having a beer with friends, for example. He admitted with a chuckle that, after playing the role of Jesus Christ almost daily for over forty years, he feels he should be a saint; but he knows he is just an actor that has been fortunate enough to play the role of Jesus for a very long time. 

My point is that first of all I'm not a saint; second, I have no desire to scandalize anyone, especially family and friends, when they read about what God has done for me, even though I don't drink... beer. Not that there is anything wrong with that, if it's done in moderation. 
I see myself as an ordinary person who does ordinary things, so how do I justify my mystical experiences, when I myself don't have a clue as to why these extraordinary things happened to me? I can't.

God Knows Best
We may spend a lifetime trying to understand why God does what He does, and why He chooses whom He chooses, and never find an answer. What I do know is that the individual has nothing to do with it. Why I know that? Because frankly I learned my lesson the hard way, as I will explain later. Suffice it to say for now that nothing and no one can make God do what He doesn't want to do. The Creator of the Heavens, the stars and the Universe does whatever He sees needful for our individual growth. 

The only thing that finally convinced me to share what God has done for me is that, unlike Ted Neeley, I'm anonymous. Although you can see my picture, Chris Mcals is my pen name. 

Christian Mysticism
If you don't know what a Mystical experience is, Evelyn Underhill, author of the classic Christian book, "Mysticism," offers the following definition

"Mysticism, according to its historical and psychological definitions, is the direct intuition or experience of God; and a mystic is a person who has, to a greater or less degree, such a direct experience -- one whose religion and life are centered, not merely on an accepted belief or practice, but on that which the person regards as first hand personal knowledge."

If you are predisposed against people who claim to have first hand personal knowledge of God, you will be unable to appreciate what I have to say, and maybe even laugh at me. In that case find another blog to read, and thank you very much for stopping by. 

You see, folks can be told many wonderful truths, but human nature being what it is, we tend to be skeptical, and unless we experience these truths for ourselves we are unable to make them our own, because we can't grasp the spirit that gives life to the experience. For example, you can look at an old snapshot that will stir up your deepest emotions, but looking at the picture isn't the same as when you were physically there.

Still, I am compelled to tell others about the wonderful things that God has done for me. I've had 35 years to think about it, so I'm neither rash, nor am I looking for personal gain. All I ask, if you decide to stay with me, is to please be respectful of what you read here. Also, I'm not a seasoned writer, and English isn't my first language, so bear with me. 

Evelyn Underhill's words pertaining to the mystic's "first hand personal knowledge of God" apply to me, and that's why I can say that I know what I'm talking about, and that's also why I know that everything I say is the truth. As far as being a Mystic, I'm not so sure about that. I don't like labels. I see myself simply as someone who has received a Call to love. 

Call to Love
The Call to love is something we have all received from God, but some hear it more than others, and some act on it more than others. Those who, like me, hear the Call loud and clear, know that self denial is what transforms one's natural gifts and inclinations into deliberate acts of the will, regardless of the cost, and that's precisely what God wants to see: a generous, deliberate act of the will to love. 

I admit that there are circumstances in life when I find it challenging to love, in spite of my natural inclinations and stubborn determination. That only happens when I allow my unbridled emotions to take over, so usually I tend to be careful about how I think, and what I see and hear. For instance, it was difficult for me to love Casey Anthony during her murder trial. I confess that I had some uncharitable thoughts and feelings about her. I didn't want her to get the death penalty, but still I wanted her to spend a good many years in prison for the murder of her little daughter. 

When she was acquitted, like most people who followed the trial, I was extremely disappointed, and I was also disappointed with our judicial system. However, with God's help, I quickly came to terms with it, and was able to forgive, and let it go. How did I get there? 

God showed me that He loves Casey Anthony; He is, after all, our Redeemer Lord. Should I not also love those whom the Lord loves? Should I have given my feelings about Casey Anthony the power to draw a wedge between myself, and my beloved God? Never! As soon as I understood that, I was very sorry for having nurtured negative feelings, and I no longer dared to judge her. I simply moved on.

Being loving and kind is not only possible and accessible to all, with or without the direct personal knowledge or love of God, but it's a requirement of anyone who follows the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many toil all day under the hot sun without the refreshment of a cool breeze, or the shade of a passing cloud or even a drop of water to quench their thirst. 
Such people are infinitely blessed because they labor faithfully without having ever seen the Master who sent them to work in His fields. Their Faith in God is enough to sustain them, and that's why they are so greatly blessed.

With that image ever present before me, I feel humbled as I write this blog, still I have procrastinated long enough and now I find myself in the evening of my life, and can no longer afford to keep "God's talent buried in the ground," where it yields no interest for my Master, Matt. 25:24-29.

I deeply regret having treated God's precious gifts as if they had belonged exclusively to me, half ignoring God's constant "nags" to share them with the world, for in Matt 10:27 Jesus says, "What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the rooftops." Faith is playing a big part in my decision to share what I know and why I know what I know. My hope is that what I resolved to do will be for God's greater Glory.

What You Hear In The Dark - by Dan Schutte - St. Louis Jesuits

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