Dear Friends,

Do you suffer from Plank-in-eye disease? In yesterday' s Gospel, Jesus chastises those who try to take the speck out of their neighbor's eye when they have a plank in their own eye. He challenges them to first take the plank out of their own eye, so that they see clearly before they attempt to remove the speck from their neighbor's eye. It prompts us to reflect with you on plank-in-eye disease. This disease allows those who have it to think they see everything, when in reality, they see nothing.

We would like to reflect with you about three applications that employ our seeing more clearly.

1)   Spiritual Seeing. I(Ron) was reading an article on Aging and Spirituality and the author said one task of aging is to possess one's soul until the end. He talks about the soul as the seat of memory, hope and meaning-making. He suggests that we hold on to the stuff of our souls together, for one another: "some people do not possess their souls any longer, so we must." He elicits the example of a woman with dementia who, he states, has lost her soul. He goes on to say that her soul is not lost, it is possessed by those who love her, who care for her and lifts up the sacredness of their task. It reminded me of the story of a man who visited his wife who had Alzheimer's Disease. Every day he spent hours at her bedside interacting with her. A nursing aide said to him, "Why do you come every day and spend so many hours with her, she doesn't even know who you are?" He responded, "However. I know who she is." He possessed her soul for her, cherishing her history, her personality, what he loves about her—a sacred task. 

I (Jean) encountered a reflection this week by John Foley, SJ in which he suggested that perhaps we need to “ close our eyes for a while in order to see” around the wooden beams in our own eyes….to “stop projecting on others our own blockages, and work on the much larger wooden beams in our own psyche instead” … to clarify our own vision in order to help someone else.” He came to this insight following a ‘blind trust’ experience in which he allowed himself to be blindfolded and led around the grounds of a retreat house by a fellow Jesuit who lost his eyesight as a young child. The experience “ was an act of seeing unlike most others” he had ever known. Each of us has our own way of seeing….physically, we may need some help: glasses for reading ….or glasses for seeing at a distance….or both! (I admit to eventually realizing in my late 40’s that my arms were actually not long enough to allow me to continue denying the need for reading glasses!) Just as we have physical realities that impact our vision, so too do we have interior lenses that limit our perspective, our insights, our judgments I’d like to invite you to sit in the quiet, eyes closed and simply notice what you “see” or don’t see….”sense” or don’t sense ….what might God be inviting you to notice…to feel…to know in the dark? John Foley suggests…and I recommend… that this Lent we might all “close our eyes for a while and be guided.”  

2) St. Mr. Rogers. Last Wednesday was the anniversary of the death of Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) from cancer sixteen years ago. His favorite invitation, "Won't you be my neighbor?” His favorite themes that he meditated on with children were kindness and gratitude and the wonder of life. As you may remember, he often addressed difficult topics with children, like sadness, loneliness, the divorce of parents, the pain of being bullied. He coached children that it was ok to feel sad or lonely and that it was often easier to handle difficult emotions if you could share them with someone. His message of love, gentleness and the they joy of helping others permeated his talks with children of all ages. His theme of “won’t you be my neighbor” reminds of me of Pope Francis inviting us to “demilitarize our hearts” to stop dividing the world into friends and enemies. Pope Francis says it is easy to point a finger at someone and enumerate their faults. He challenges us to put ourselves in their shoes and see what we can learn of them. “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

3) I (Ron) was reading an article by Thomas Merton on prayer. He said, "If you want a prayer life, pray." He stated that in prayer we discover what we already have. We think we are searching for God, however, God is already with us. We want to get God's attention, however, God has been cherishing us as Beloved all along. We already have everything and we don't know it. It reminds me of Catherine of Siena saying, "All the way to heaven is heaven." We shouldn't be waiting to enjoy God and peace and love and joy then after death; we have it now if only we plug into it. Merton suggests that we don't take time to slow down and listen. He adapts a Zen saying: prayer is wasting time with God conscientiously. In taking time to be quiet that way,we witness the unfolding of mystery.

At The Spirit of Life, we work together in prayer and companionship to loosen the attitudes and brokenness which can hold us bound. We believe that God’s desire for us is that we be “Whole” and thus “Holy”… full of life , unfettered by life-destroying prejudices and free to move openly as the Spirit calls us. Our belief in the sacredness of all created beings and loving relationships compels us to respond with care and compassion to all who are marginalized in our church and world. We invite you to come and to pray with us as we “do our own work” in growing into a deeper awareness of our own gifts and ‘growing edges’ and together create a community that invites diversity and honors the uniqueness of each individual and every journey. We are confident that you will feel welcome in the “home” of The Spirit of Life. 

Praying that you and your loved ones see days filled with light and love and wonder now and forever! 

Ron & Jean