In my a.m. reading In the Old Testament, Noah just landed the Arc on dry land, and in the New Testament in Jesus Christ is fulfilling the law of prophets. In Matthew Chapter 5, he succinctly lays out the steep climb of what it is to be Christian in 48 lines.
Again, I diverge to the most prominent question. How could Noah of built such an Arc in his time and boarded it for so long with every creature known to humanity? I direct your attention to the Interpretation of the Bible in the Church as presented by the Pontifical Biblical Commission to Pope John Paul the II, on April 23, 1993. This document, delivered to one of my favorite Popes on my birthday, will provide you the answer about how to approach the scripture of Noah’s Ark.
My take on the story is that Noah was faced with a very angry God who was much displeased with humanity, and Noah was called to take action to the highest degree – building an Arc as directed by God and face the criticism and laughter of neighbors near and far. His actions would lead to a covenant with God that would later be fulfilled by Jesus Christ.
My spiritual interpretation is, “what kind of Arc should we be building every day in our lives for when we hit troubled times? Again, I apologize to the fundamentalist and spiritually insecure (not necessarily the same thing) and advise you not to read my blog. My experience and prayer life has led me to reject fundamentalism in all its forms and reject rigid “Phariseesims” as pseudo-religion akin to pharmaceutical overdosing – numbing the soul without approaching God.
More fighting words, and yet I do not want a fight. You be you – if your understanding of God must be pitched in the fundamentalist tent. My tent is intended for a broader portion of humanity that could not adhere to fundamentalist views if you paid them a year’s salary. They are inquisitive, open-minded, and curious people with and without a religious background that yearn for a deeper meaning to life in the face of the hollow secularism that faces our society today.
What they most often are seeking is to quote today’s second Catholic mass reading, is to “conduct themselves with reverence during their time of so sojourning” here on earth.
The answer is laid out in 48 lines in Matthews’s gospel and what is commonly known as the Beatitudes. Practice them, and you will be well on your way to living a sanctified life and drawing closer proximity to God.
There is an unfortunate catch. It is a common cliché we often say every day as a motto for success in our secular lives. We say it and hear it all the time in work and sports – go the extra mile, and you will be successful.
Jesus says to the crowds, “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.” And he does not limit this to your friends and family. This is taken for granted. He is speaking about people who harm you, gossip about you, steal from you, or otherwise, in short, are considered your enemies. Matthew 5:38 to 42 is a steep hill.
Taken literally and followed to the letter, you may just prove you have been called to be a Christian martyr and saint, recognized by many, or simply dying in silence and known by God alone. Most of us do not have the stomach or the discipline to live the Beatitudes entirely, and especially this idea of “Love your Enemies.” Many of our enemies would use our faith against us and our loved ones if we applied this rule indiscriminately. Just a few paragraphs before Jesus preached, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
Sometimes we must stand up for ourselves and the oppressed. Sometimes to turn the other cheek would not only harm us and others but the one who is doing the slapping. Yet, we can set the boundary with the offender while intentionally loving the slapper all the same.
In our interconnected world, we are often reduced to a sense of helplessness at the hands of more powerful forces than are what available in our trove of defenses. Sometimes we may even fail to act with the full measure of our God-given abilities as well to uphold the morality that we believe is right and just.
Join me on any experimental exercise. List your top ten recurring thoughts that you create angst or unpleasant associations. For most of us, we have recurring fears and emotions that are powerful and consume our energy, perhaps not at the level of obsessive-compulsiveness, but yes, enough to dampen our mood and enthusiasm. Our thoughts, especially when they are negative, should be good servants, not our master. If you have a list, now jot down the emotions that accompany these thoughts. Most often, they will be potent emotions and sometimes very threatening or even overwhelming. These are the things that create displeasure and dissatisfaction in our life.
What do they have to do with the Beatitudes or Noah’s Arc? If these thoughts and emotions are “outsized,” they will leave us little strength for living to our full capabilities to live, drawing ourselves closer to people and closer to God. They are barriers to living your best life.
I cannot read your thoughts. If yours is anything like mine, I had fears for loved one’s health and happiness, health concerns, financial worries, employment concerns, and a certain amount of pride (flip side fear of loss of status). Or perhaps past mistakes or future anxieties about tomorrow?
Many of these things can be negatively affected by my own actions as well as influenced by relationships with others that are outside my control. A bulk of them, when scrutinized closely and sitting quietly with the emotion and with prayerful intention, simply seep away in the retreat of God’s presence. What is left is manageable with compassion, caring, love, and action – for ourselves and for others.
The archetype Noah building his Arc is preparing for when the storm comes. The Beatitudes as well prepare us for living God’s intentions today here on earth and for weathering storms and being genuinely ready when our sojourn on earth ends.
What remains after we have done our part of building our Ark as designed by our calling and conducting ourselves with reverence in all that we do, is to forth our trust and faith in a compassionate and loving God for all the troubles and challenges that seem to be greater than us.
I challenged you to the exercise above again. Contemplate your troubles and your emotive experiences in all their rawness, and then bring them to God. My a.m. mediation focused on “Spiritual things must be tasted more than understood.” The bible and scripture are only dead letters if not read with the intention of not just understanding, but translating centuries-old writings to our current culture and our individual experiences.
My challenges in life have included the trauma’s of years past, the misgivings of my own errors, and the angst of measuring up against my own expectations and those of others and my God. I often missed the mark or mismeasured!
While God is present in every moment, from the most glorious to the mundane, I have found him to be most present when I have fallen hard on the harsh realities of life. When our journey brings us through dark and lonely times.
Across the world, people are praying 24/7 in adoration chapels such as Tyburn Convent below. Sitting in silence is the most challenging prayer for me, personally. I have a tendency to want to be in charge. This has always been an illusion as the old quote goes, Man makes plans, and God laughs.
The spiritual silence of an Adoration chapel is maybe too unnerving or too Catholic for you. Here are 25 natural animal live cams that may provide you with some quiet reflection time and natural beauty of the world: https://parade.com/1015445/rachelweingarten/best-animal-live-cams/
Without the pause in life, serious self-examination and spiritual growth are impossible.
Whatever your higher power’s name is, find time to be with the greatest source of grounding and power that has alluded definition since man first gazed at the sky. If you do not have a higher power, consider interviewing people who beam with grace, peace, and compassion.
My morning readings bought me up and down the mountains of spiritual scripture and self-examination. My list of ten was easy to list, and sorrowfully many of my worries were very shallow and mundane. Capturing them and naming their nature and the emotive experience they have on me put light on where I can have lest investment in trivial things and more trust in the God of my understanding.
This entry was meant to be brief when I started writing with the single strand of “Go the Extra Mile.” Instead, the old and the new testament provided a lesson to prepare by building a spiritual lifestyle, to reflect on my worries and my actions, and to share spiritual contemplation and the roadmap of the Beatitudes.
If you are in the midst of a coronavirus struggle, an active addiction, job loss, or personal struggles of the common variety, I hope you find the time to sit down and name them, experience them in their rawness, and then give it to God. Then get up and go the extra mile with trust that you will be able to handle whatever divine providence holds for you, maybe good, maybe bad.
P.S. sometimes, troubles and trauma or addiction require more than prayer or meditation. Take some time and name the troubles and their impact on you – and then you can decide if professional help is needed. No reason you cannot do both. Of course, sharing your troubles with people you trust or a fellowship of people who can relate can be greatly beneficial as well. A problem shared is a problem halved?
Roadmap for a better life: