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Father John Walsh

Any literal interpretation of a religion’s sacred texts leads to a fundamentalism that denies the overwhelming variety of ways human beings relate to each other and how in those encounters women and men search for meaning in life and in a wide variety of ways a sense of the transcendent emerges. In many Christian funeral liturgies the family of the deceased choose the text from John’s Gospel, In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? Many people of faith see it as a fait-accompli but there is seldom mention that the rooms are not all alike and that each room reflects how God and the individual have related to each other on earth and that the paths to the rooms are also as varied as there are people. A closed interpretation of spirituality is one lived in terms of conformity, either to doctrine or to the manner of behavior. An open interpretation of spirituality honors the infinity of God, a God who will never be fully understood, a God who is wholly other; a cosmic Christ who calls us to see the ever-expanding universes as a call to a spirituality that offers us a growing consciousness towards which we think and act. Inside our communities of faith and outside institutional religion spirituality is creating a life of possibilities, building community and allowing grace to flow through our spiritual practices. An open spirituality is basking in Gods overwhelming mercy that will leads to human and divine unconditional love. These are the bare bones of spirituality and we must put flesh on these spiritual bones. The flesh is that of those people we encounter in our daily lives. In the second account of creation in the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, we are reminded of our coming into being: humanity is awakened that we are bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; woman is man’s mirror opposite, the mother of all the living, and man whose very name means “the earth.” (my paraphrasing of the text) John reminds us in his Good News that when the question was asked, How can we know the way, Jesus responded I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. A closed interpretation of this passage is to see Jesus as an historical figure, fully contained within one person, and that it is through this Jesus we are to come to the Father. An open interpretation is to see Jesus as Paul had to come to recognize him. Paul journeyed to Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished. Paul has been persecuting this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. Then a great light from heaven suddenly shone about Paul and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, `Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' Who are you, Lord?' Jesus responded: I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting. Jesus is the persecuted and through them Jesus is the way, the truth and the life to the Father. If any other man thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, (the flesh is expanded to include all flesh, all who are in the flesh). I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law blameless. Paul has justified himself under the law and restricted people to those who were circumcised. Then Paul sees where Jesus is present: But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Paul ceases to persecute Jesus in his followers. Pope Francis in Evangellii Gaudium speaks to starving people: More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules that make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat.” In a final judgement of all of humanity we hear Jesus speak to us: Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Francis is Laudato si! offers us an interconnectivity of all things, as Jesus is interconnected with the hungry, the thirty, the naked and the imprisoned. Matthew knows all too well how spirituality fills us with a sense of the unexpected. Merry Christmas!

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