May we be angels to each other this season of love. We all need one.
To simplify means to make less complex or complicated. Hence to simplify one’s life is to make it less complicated and perhaps easier to live. How do we do this? Let’s take a lesson from mathematics. In mathematics to simplify an algebraic expression is to perform the indicated operation. For example, in 9(2x+1)/3 – x, the indicated operations are division, multiplication, addition, and subtraction. The simplifying process is only complete when the expression is in its most basic form. I believe that in math and in life, the simplifying process is done by going through the same operation of subtraction, addition, division and multiplication.
To simplify one’s life does not only involve subtraction or removing unnecessary baggage, disordered attachments, and excesses. This is only part of the process. To simplify one’s life also involve addition – increasing our knowledge about ourselves, opening our hearts and minds to life-giving relationships, increasing the depth of our intimacy with God, etc.
To simplify one’s life also involves division and multiplication. We should learn to celebrate life. Our joys, our hopes, our faith have to multiply so that they will touch the lives of as many people as possible. However this can only happen if we are willing to share ourselves, continually allow ourselves to be broken for others like Jesus does in the Eucharist.
Yes, the simplifying process is an on-going process. It does not only happen during the lenten season of the Church or of our lives but also during Advent, Christmas, Easter, and even in Ordinary time.
When I was younger I have always noticed that I am slower than most of my classmates in terms of reacting and responding to people. I found this a little bit strange at first because my mind seem to work a bit faster for other things. I remember in college in one of our rare recollections, our facilitator asked us to choose between a horse and a turtle as symbol of our personality. Knowing myself to be really slow in matters of relating, I chose the turtle. Those who wrote horse were asked to stay on one side of the room and those who wrote turtle on the other side. In the group of 85 college students, I was the only one standing on the other side. To make the story short I was diagnosed as an introvert, an overly thinking person, lacking in empathy. And if I was dead serious in really becoming a teacher (I will be graduating in three months time), I better work double time in these aspects for more than anything else a good teacher is one who can quickly empathize with students. I was doomed, all because of a turtle. What saved me from not joining the graduation because of this verdict were Socrates’ “KNOW THYSELF” from my literature class and the 50 centavos istampita that my friend in high school gave me – “God grant me the serenity to accept …” These two dictum guided my spirit for a considerable length of years until it felt they were not enough.
When I was thrown in the world of work I met two types of workers: those who work and rest and those who work and work. Those who work and rest lack food for their body. But they were happy. Their soul sustained their body. Those who work and work were more privileged. They also seem to know who they are, they know what they want and they know how to get it. But they were not as happy as the first group of workers. They suffer for lack of food for the soul. They had forgotten that the soul needs sustenance – rest, silence, and connection with its creator. There’s where my feeling of emptiness is coming from. Simply knowing and accepting oneself is not enough. It needs to grow towards the Other with whom it belongs. This can happen only when one has time for prayer, for reflecting and recollecting. This realization has guided my soul in its journey for a considerable length of years until it felt there was something missing.
Knowing and accepting oneself are important but not enough. In the language of mathematics they are necessary but not sufficient conditions. Knowing oneself in Him is to know our identity but even this is not enough if it is not shared, if it is not witnessed, if that identity does not inform our behavior*. Fullness of life is attained only through un-knowing, through emptying of oneself for those He loves like He did for us. Only by the grace of God will I get fully to this stage.
*”Identity informs behavior”. This is St. Paul’s ethics according to Sr. Bernie Dianzon, FSP. Her book Glimpses is a must read for all of us.
Making New Year’s resolution can be a stressful activity. It’s stressful because we know that we have to make sacrifices long before the season of Lent. Judging from our track record in implementing new year’s resolution, most of us know that making one is an exercise in futility.
Making New Year’s resolution is also the time when it forces us to face the reality that we are still not happy with the present us. Psychology tells us that this is not a healthy attitude. We should accept and be happy with who we are. But St. Augustine also said that our heart will not find rest until it rests in God. And St. Paul constantly reminds us that we should continue to become until Christ is formed in us. Blessed James Alberione even coined the word “Christification” to describe this becoming. So you can imagine how stressful making New Year’s resolution is with this end in mind.
I was busy trying to figure out a problem when God distributed EQ. It was late when I learned that this is what matter most to 99% of people; relationship being more basic than food, to survive. I don’t know the percentage of people who finds God through relating with others but I certainly not one of them. I belong to the group where things always work the other way around. So I thought why don’t I make a resolution that I know I have been gifted with than on what I wasn’t given yet (surely God will do another round of distribution)? Because it had always been easier and natural for me to understand people, a good upgrade for me is to learn how let them know I understand instead of stressing them and myself trying to let them know or feel I care. But for this to work, I have to avoid the trap of expecting people to understand me in return. Statistics says that only 2% of the world population is an INTP like me and of that only .05 percent are women!
Last summer encounter we were invited to soul space. I didn’t know what soul space meant. I have never encountered that phrase before. Maybe it is the same as the more familiar phrase sacred space. A sacred space is a space where we commune with our God. For some it is their favorite nook in a church, for others in the perpetual adoration chapel, or a quiet place in the garden, or at McDonald’s as they eat pancakes, or in the bus or train as they travel to and from work. Still for others, it is the space within, regardless of where they are. Perhaps, soul space is the same as sacred space, after all. It is a space where the soul and His creator meet, where presence meets Presence. But in our prayer-workshop last summer encounter we were not invited to identify that soul space. Instead, we were invited to soul space!
To soul space, according to our retreat facilitator is to enhance our awareness of our faith life as a lay consecrated person. To soul space is to revisit the value and meaning of that life and the impact one such meaning leaves behind, before and beyond a world Jesus came to sanctify and save. Now, this is heavy. I think it requires not just one, two or three summer encounters but it requires all-seasons encounters. In fact, an everyday encounter, an everyday awareness, a mindfulness of the present moment.
Now, why am I suddenly giving a lecture on it? I’m not because I don’t even know if I understood it fully and correctly. What I know is that the summer encounter was not enough for me to grasp the whole meaning of it much more internalize it and make it a part of my system. So I thought, maybe I should write about it. Writing has a way of clarifying things. Besides I really love that part when we started to soul space, when we were asked to identify our gifts and from among those, find that one gift we are most thankful for – the gift where God will be most present to us, the gift we will offer to the world Jesus came to sanctify and save. I am writing so you and I will not forget. I am writing because summer is long gone yet I am still struggling with that one gift.
About the image:
I searched the web for an image and I found this picture. It’s title is soul space. It’s from a website of a furniture shop.Cute, isn’t it? Jesus is a very affectionate person.