Saturday, July 28, 2007

Seeking The Unkown God-Carmel Journey

Don't we all experience times where we attend Mass in a spirit of distraction? The Readings go over our heads and the Priest's homilies are ignored as our mind wanders in all directions. We are essentially going through the motions without it affecting our hearts in any way.

Such was the case with that great Doctor of the Church Teresa of Avila. We tend to think that things came easily to this mystic of the Carmelite Order, yet Teresa spent over 20 years in this state of 'going through the motions'.

Before the Reform of Carmel the convents were so relaxed that visitors could arrive at any time. There was also a pecking order where those who were from wealthier families were served by their fellow Sisters whose birth were of more humble origins. Things were so bad that though Teresa and her fellow Sisters prayed their minds and hearts were elsewhere. God had become a cold statue, a thing of admiration without actually becoming too close. Are we also at this stage? Where we put God at a distance lest He ask too much of us?

Isnt it a case at times that God appears to be so far away, too far away and though we long for Him, still we cannot reach Him? Yet the hunger and longing for God is there within our souls, but far too often we look for God in the wrong places. Just as Teresa did before us, we wander through the spiritual landscape like orphans searching for a sense of belonging.

I think I can say with some degree of accuracy that many of us long for a deeper relationship, even a yearning to love and grasp that which is beyond our 'knowing' and that is God. We fight and struggle so much in order to feel close to God that in the end more often than not we are left in deep frustration and a sense of failure.

Perhaps things would be clearer if we could understand that which we seek, to love God with all our heart, mind and soul. In order to do that we must recognise the false idols that come between our love of God and our love of self. This comes through self knowledge.

Without even realising it we settle for the comfortable, the ordinary and to be as one with everyone. By doing this we fail to realise by becoming as everyone we lose ourselves and sustitute a 'god' for God. This will only lead us away from God and into dysfunction and disordered love as we place our security on the opinion of others. No longer are we living to please God, we are instead living to please people. By placing this 'god' above God, we easily become disappointed, discontented and enslaved by our neediness to feel loved for ourselves alone.

Just like St. Teresa we need to recognise our own disordered love and then open our souls to the Eye of God which will then purify our souls from its overt attatchment to people and objects.

What Teresa of Avila teaches us is to not settle for the mediocrity of life. To allow ourselves to be disturbed. To be passionate in our love for God and to remain faithful as our souls undergo purification which is painful.

Do we seek a 'god' or do we seek God? The God who transforms, heals, liberates and enlivens us. The God who invites us into relationship with Himself or do we wish to remain comfortable? What St. Teresa teaches us is that one cannot live both. You cannot halfway love God, it is either all or nothing.

St. Teresa of Avila after suffering 20 years of aridity chose God with a passion. Who do you choose?