Now is the time of our joy

 

For seven days from sundown on Sunday, September 30,  we will be in the “Time of Our Joy”, or the “Time of Our Rejoicing”. That is another name for the Jewish Festival of Sukkot, also known as Tabernacles.

It is indeed, as the name suggests, a festival of joy. This, in spite of the fact that it is only three days after Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the year. Not only that:  In addition to being a harvest or agricultural festival, Sukkot commemorates the 40 years of wandering in the desert.

Wanderings are not joyous generally. Much of what comes to mind when we think of the Israelites’ 40 years experience are complaints and frustrations against Moses and their Redeemer. There were times when they contemplated returning to past – because it was familiar. They even missed “the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic” they enjoyed while in slavery. (Incidentally, Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29 is the First Reading for this Sunday, in many churches).

When it is our turn to look back, we are appalled that their former life in slavery would have been preferred. Yet, often times we are blinded by the familiar and fail to grasp the larger picture. It is easy to be complacent and miss the full benefits of  our Destiny. There is also fear of the unknown, but as was pointed out, “stepping into the unknown is in itself transformational”.

Remember also that joy comes from enjoying all the little things in life as was pointed out earlier. It is, indeed, a decision, to choose to find joy in every moment. After all, nothing happens without a reason and a purpose. Finding that Destiny is the ultimate joy.

Advertisements

So sure and so wrong

 

I have mentioned a little bit about the palmist – two different ones, actually – who, many years ago, read my palms and declared: “You have a long life, full of twists and turns”. Both times I was simply following a friend’s advice who was having his hands read and invited me, out of curiosity, to find out what the future held for me!

Brought up in a strong Christian tradition, palmistry, to me, was no more than superstition.

I did have some curiosity of my own, in the horoscopes. That too, by the way, was disdained by the church as another superstition. One day, while in college, and after an extended period of no communication with my girlfriend, I read this in the horoscopes page: “You will receive important news today. Be careful, you may lose”

That day I received a letter from my girlfriend accompanied by her most recent photograph. Excitedly I showed the picture to anybody who cared to see it, until one fellow exclaimed, “That’s…she’s my friend’s girlfriend!” His friend happened to be a person I also knew because we went to school together a few years earlier.

A long story short: I wrote to “my girlfriend” demanding an explanation. That turned out to be the last communication between us.

When we talk of messing up (read more at www.mybeyondinfinity.com) it can only mean not being in alignment with one’s Destiny. Whatever path that has taken, however, it is a necessary process towards realizing the highest potential in one’s Destiny.

Atonement means a state of being at one

 

Even though my spell-checker does not recognize “at onement” that is what makes the compound word “atonement”.And even though the word –  in many people’s minds –  invokes cultic and religious implications – particularly since Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement begins today at sundown –  a state of being at one  is nevertheless the goal of every human being – secular, religious, atheist or spiritual.

It is what one needs in order to address matters of the heart, soul and mind. It is what one needs to stay focused and not be swayed in every direction thereby losing compass. It is what we need to be anchored in the life purpose for which we are on this earth.

To be healthy, physically, mentally and spiritually, there needs to be a balance, an equilibrium of body, mind and soul – that is being “at onement”.

This can happen when we accept who we are. Society, culture and environment often strive to mold and shape people into what they were not meant to be. The result is sadness, guilt, underachievement and regrets.

Being at one means authenticity, shedding off every layer of formation that does not represent who the Creator designed. In the Judeo-Christian tradition we are the image of God. That is our essence and that is what we embrace. It is the core of who we are regardless of circumstances and experiences.

Actually, those circumstances and experiences serve to direct and shape us into that Image of God. The more we are one with ourselves, with one another , with God, the Creator, with the Universal Power, then the more we find fulfillment, satisfaction and meaning in life.

Read more of my own personal journey at www.mybeyondinfinity.com

Stay the course

 

 

Two previous posts find relevance in this Sunday’s First Reading from the Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:1, 12-22 and the overall domain’s theme of transformation. The two were titled: “Place Importance on the Things that Matter” and “Work Towards Something Meaningful”. They too are listed in the 10 Commandments for Happiness.

If, as we noted in the last post, we find the purpose in life, we need to stick with it, no matter what. That something which matters; that something meaningful, is the life purpose. Quite often, even when people have found and had it, they drift away, mostly because of external circumstances.

Wisdom of Solomon was actually written, not by Solomon, but by a Diaspora Jew during the Greco-Roman era, in the latter first century BCE or early first century CE. Hellenism was at its height. Jewish faith and principles were severely tested. Judaism was mocked and scoffed

The message of Wisdom of Solomon was intended to encourage and reassure those under pressure, to stay steadfast, to stay the course. Actually the text for this Sunday even employs the diatribe technique of argumentative exchanges with fictional adversaries – a technique recently employed by Clint Eastwood.

There are some who may be feeling that they are in a diaspora because of the external circumstances in today’s society: Individualism in opposition to community; consumerism and exploitation of earth’s resources without regard for future generations are just examples.

The Collect powerfully sums up the whole message in these words: “Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly (spiritual, in my own words); and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure…”

 

 

 

 

Finding Life Purpose

 

In a previous discussion of the ten commandments of happiness finding one’s purpose in life – and living it – was emphasized as one of the essential elements. Indeed, the whole transformational experience, which is the ultimate purpose of life and every life experience, cannot be complete until one discovers why he or she was put on this earth.

It is towards that goal that James, in this Sunday’s Second Reading (James 3:13-4:3,7-8a), asks the question: “Who is wise and understanding among you?”.The same question must have been in Jesus’ mind in the Gospel Reading (Mark 9:30-37) when he asked his disciples: “What were you arguing about on the way?”.

What is really on your mind, in other words! What is important to you? In a society saturated with so much vying for one’s attention and preoccupation, what is really important? Jesus’ disciples were arguing about who was the greatest among them the same argument in our society today.

Forbes list of the world’s and America’s wealthiest just released mentions “100 Power Women by dollars, media presence, (and) impact”. Obviously the men’s power is similarly by dollars, media presence and impact, and much more.

Whether one is among the wealthiest or the poorest, any of those elements can be one’s life purpose. But they are not all the same. In our transformational journey, we need to constantly refocus and realign ourselves to what our true purpose in life ought to be.

There is no past that cannot be overcome

 

The period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (between the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement) is referred to as the Days of Awe or the Ten Days of Repentance. Naturally, repentance involves reflection, self-examination and remembrance. All these elements are brought together for the purpose of the future and its aspirations.

In remembrance we are conscious of the beginning not only of the world and all creation, but also of ourselves as humanity and individuals. Think of a new-born baby. That is how we all began. Our destiny and purpose in life were with us when we came to this world.

Self-examination and reflection will help redirect us to that purpose and destiny if in the course of the past year, we lost focus. That purpose and destiny remains even when mistakes are made. In self-examination and reflection we seek a second chance and everyone deserves it.

In sports and legal parlance there is a saying, “three strikes and you are out”. Not so we the Maker of the Universe. Not so with this Universal Power that sustains the whole creation. Every new year promises a new you, a new me capable of reclaiming that birth heritage.

During these High Holy Days, we will therefore strive to learn from the past (and its mistakes), not to live in it, but find the Power to move into the destiny assigned to us from the beginning.

Rosh Hashanah: Reconnect, Repair, Renew

 

Jewish holidays signify some very deep spiritual experience not only to the followers of Judaism but also anyone who embraces spirituality of any kind. The High Holy Days, in particular, serve to remind us of who we are, our purpose and our destiny – a truly transformational experience.

Rosh Hashanah began at sundown on September 16 and continues to sunset on September 18. The ten days of High Holy Days will end with Yom Kippur which begins at sundown on September 25 to sunset September 26.

Consider some of the symbolism of  Rosh Hashanah.

First, the blowing of the shofar: In the biblical narratives, the blowing of the shofar is associated with life-changing events. Whether it was in the fall of Jericho or in the Jubilee year, the shofar was an instrument of life-changing events.

Perhaps we could look at the alarm clock as the shofar. Mine goes off at 5 every morning. Most of the time I don’t need it to wake me up, but when it goes off it reminds me of what I set out to do that day. “It is a new day”, it announces, “and there are those things you need to get to!”. For some people the alarm clock is the saddest thing of the day, but it should be the happiest thing, heralding us to all the good things, the joys and the blessings of the day ahead. Embrace the alarm clock and what it symbolizes.

The holiday foods of Rosh Hashanah are apples and honey symbolizing sweetness, health, success and good deeds. Indeed it is acknowledged that we are what we eat. Rosh Hashanah, therefore, calls us to renew and even to reconnect to conscious healthy living, positive attitudes about ourselves and others and dream and see success ahead and not failure.

Is justice possible without violence

 

 

I wonder how many people truly know, acknowledge and embrace the fact that love is more powerful than hatred, acceptance more than fear, and peace more than violence. There is a sense that although we all love all the positive forces in life we tend to trust negative forces as the ultimate power.

To secure peace and stability, we choose violence rather than peace. We choose military force to promote democracy and stability inIraqandAfghanistan, for example, or even in all of the Middle East andNorth Africa. When an injustice is done against us, we choose revenge as a means of justice.

Obviously if you mention that capital punishment has a lot to do with revenge, you will get a strong objection that, no, it is all about the pursuit of justice! Why couldn’t we pursue justice without violence? It is neither easy nor popular.

It was on September 16, 1932 that Mahatma Gandhi began a peaceful protest, in the form of a hunger strike, or “fast unto death” as he called it, against an injustice by the British government. And yes, justice prevailed when the British accepted a settlement that ensured that the underprivileged, “the untouchables”, who Gandhi nevertheless, saw as “Children of God” were not perpetually relegated to a class beyond emancipation.

Mahatma Gandhi demonstrated, again and again, that there is tremendous power in peace and virtually none in violence.

 

 

 

How do we contain the firing power of the tongue?

 

There is plenty of advice about the tongue from every word of wisdom, not to mention, scriptures – indeed, every form of scripture. James, in this Sunday’s Epistle Reading, writes: “How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire…For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by human species, but no one can tame the tongue…”

There has been plenty of tonguing in the past two days, fires have been lit in Libya, Yemen and in Cairo – the latter under different circumstances but could catch on the flames of the first two. In response, politicians have put the tongue into full speed, primarily to advance their political arsenals against one another.

While the atrocity in Benghazi, Libya, may have been planned – as some have suggested – to coincide with the September 11 anniversary, the events in Cairo and Yemen may well be the fire that the tongue ignites. Violence is the more obvious course.

Yet violence – regardless of who instigates it – breeds more violence. September 11 was a blatant act of violence. The response was violence in Afghanistan and Iraq and that cycle still spins. Thousands of innocent lives have continued to be lost and even today there are those calling for even more violence.

In the two previous posts  “It is no easy task” and “Not an easy task”  I wrestled with the issue of revenge, (or violence), or “throwing up” (inability to forgive) as an easy path. Yet, only two days after the September 11 anniversary and the outset of violence in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, it is “not easy” to talk about forgiveness (and reconciliation) because  it sounds – to many – unpatriotic, apologetic, or even powerless.

Still, that is where real power lies, and to the world, it is foolishness and even difficult to comprehend.

Not an easy task

 

May be you have heard people say, “I am so disgusted, I could throw up”. Quite often this is said in reference to other people’s failures, or what the disgusted would like to call “betrayal”, “disgrace”, “shame” and the like. There are people who say King David got off easy! They “can’t stand him”.They “could throw up”.

Perhaps, throwing up is the easy part, but then, even people of faith and the spiritual are called to take the harder and tougher road.

Psalm 103:12 is a testimony of God’s mercy and forgiveness when it says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our transgressions from us”. Forgiveness is there, freely given. Actually the problem is not with forgiveness given. The problem is accepting forgiveness.

What effect has receiving and accepting forgiveness? Then it is possible to forgive. In other words, one who does not receive and accept forgiveness cannot give forgiveness.

We read in scripture too, that “My ways are not your ways” (Isaiah 55:8-9). After almost three thousand years, King David remains unforgiven. Not by his God. But why would God forgive him? Because it is God’s nature to forgive. And unless we accept that we too are forgiven – and part of the difficulty lies in  thinking that his sins were too grievous in comparison to ours – we won’t be able to accept God’s forgiveness for him.

There are too many people in our midst, in every society, who are eternally condemned, not by their Maker, the Universe, or God, but by themselves, by their very own refusal or failure to accept the Power that is freely given. Unless we accept this Power that comes from forgiveness, we cannot fully live the life intended for us.

You know that this is really, not about King David, though he is a paradigm. This is about everyone who has offended us or those we have offended – the latter, quite often the easy side of the story. There is more on this still to come.