Friday, October 18, 2013

Following Jesus to the New Earth

God is beyond our human understanding, so why do we constantly try to limit "Him" by putting labels on Him, giving him characteristics that we can relate to, and thereby immediately being insufficient and inaccurate in our attempts to define and describe Him?

On several occasions, I've been drawn to Buddhism.  I see a lot of parallels between Jesus's teachings and those of Sidhartha Gautama.  Yet what always made me call it quits was the fact that Buddhism doesn't personify God.  From Christianity, I'm used to thinking that God is a loving God, that He loves me, and that He wants to inspire me to love others.  That is my starting point regardless where my faith takes me.  So to then try to squeeze this mentality into a world view without a personal God doesn't seem to make sense.

But then I recently read a fascinating book by Eckhart Tolle, "A New Earth", where perhaps because I got the book from my church, and perhaps because it was written by a Westerner, I was able to look past my usual assumptions of both Buddhism and Christianity and really be open to what the author was saying.  And it made sense!

Bottom line, the reason I am fixated on making God be a person is because I identify myself as a person, limited in time and space, with my particular experiences and characteristics defining who I think I am.  In other words, I see the world through the lens of my ego, and my ego needs other egos/individuals/persons to relate to in order to maintain itself.  But what Tolle explains is that the ego is not our true identity, and this is precisely what Buddhism teaches.  What was most intriguing about this book, though, was how Tolle suggested that we have been going about understanding Jesus's teachings all wrong.  Jesus also wanted us to learn to free ourselves of our ego, and instead, join ourselves to the Eternal God, to become one with our fellow human beings.  He didn't use Buddhist terminology, but the concept is there.

At any rate, right now, I'm in a place on my spiritual journey where I'm trying to figure out a couple of things.  1) Which aspects of my faith are to be taken literally, and which metaphorically, symbolically, or allegorically?  2) How do I maintain my Catholic Christian faith simultaneously with incorporating Tolle's explanations, which resonate very clearly and deeply in my soul?

I don't have the answers yet, but I'm reassured that I'm headed in the right direction.  In fact, I was reassured of this during the Sacrament of Reconciliation the other night.  There had been a four-night mission at our church where a speaker presented the Good News to us in a way that most Catholics don't get to hear, and challenged us at the end to intentionally come forward and dedicate our lives to following Jesus.  I confessed to my priest that I was struggling with whether or not I could, in good conscience, do this, based on the above spiritual musings I've been having.  My priest said absolutely, that if I come forward and say I am following Jesus, that means I want to imitate His values, virtues, teachings, lifestyle.  My focus must be on that, on Him.  The details of religious tenants and dogmas are besides the point if I'm not following Jesus.

And so I went up, along with Alex, and when asked if we were ready to follow Jesus, we said yes.  We asked for prayers to strengthen our marriage and to guide us to be the kind of parents who will lead our child on God's path. 

Now I have to make time daily in order to grow in my relationship/experience (whichever concept floats your boat) with God.   Without intentional time set aside, nothing else will change or improve.

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