by Ken Rolheiser
Comparing realities and what will be

Zen reflection: What do I get the man who already has nothing?

Poet Rainer Marie Rilke once wrote to a friend who, in the face of the death of a loved one, wondered how or where he could ever find consolation. What do I do with all this grief? Rilke’s reply: “Do not be afraid to suffer, give that heaviness back to the weight of the earth; mountains are heavy, seas are heavy.” So too is life sometimes, and we need to be given God’s permission to feel that heaviness. (from Reflection by Father Ron Rolheiser).

How do we experience the reality of the earth’s weight and the mountain’s weight? Let me share an example. As a child I traveled to school by sleigh over a frozen slough. A pack of starving coyotes, turning to cannibalism, attacked and devoured a weaker member mere yards from our sleigh. 

Another trip by sleigh was to church for prayers on a Holy Thursday night, watching the starry sky and seeing a northern light display with an unusual reddish coloration that had us pondering God’s design and world peace.

Compare this way of traveling to a youth of today catching a ride to school while viewing an I-pad or being absorbed on Facebook. Some fear that this generation may not even be able to find their way home, lacking the perception of their environment.

There is much to be said for the sensual experience of horse sweat, the smell of clover, a walk in the rain or the muscle ache of a long hike in nature. And that is merely physical reality.

Paul Bulas commented on the above quote from Rilke: “I often thought that if we only had a greater sensory awareness of what lies beyond this veil, so many of our sufferings – especially following the death of a loved one – would be eased. We would see that they are in a better place and know it; we wouldn’t have to guess.”

It was partly to bring us to the reality of life after death that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead so shortly before his journey into Jerusalem and his crucifixion,. Jesus is the master over death and life eternal. How often we simply ignore this.

In a recent homily Father Garry Kuntz said that at some point in our lives it will be necessary for us to accept the reality of church and our salvation. The Eucharist gives us life that is eternal. Jesus is the power over death which we will all pass through. 

Another reality that transcends the physical is that we are the body of Christ. We are never alone. We have our brothers and sisters who are the hands and feet of Christ to help us. And if in our weak perception we feel that these have failed us, we still have God’s angels and saints in heaven.

Jesus is our sure companion. "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."(Matthew 28:20). In addition, we have the Holy Spirit.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John: 14:16-17).

Reality and what will be - “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been.'” John Greenleaf Whittier.

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