Monday, March 12, 2012
There are some questions that stick with you. Those that are planted deep in your heart. Those that have answers that evolve over time. Questions that can't be solved. Questions that beg to be lived in, discovered over and over again.
Last Saturday, I went to Mass with the majority of the women I live with. Aside from Founders' Day back in October, this was the first time in a long time that we were all together to celebrate the Eucharist. The Vigil Mass came after an afternoon congregational meeting that acted as a spring consultation of the membership regarding the future of communal governance. (i.e. How we will meet/consult between major Chapters every 5 years & what format these meetings might take?) As with any gathering of many people, there were many thoughts on the matter. And this being my first meeting of this type, I tried to absorb all that was being asked and all that was being said.
The questions were far and wide: from the concrete questions of how often and in what manner we would meet as small groups to the larger questions of where the Spirit is leading us and how do we want to be as a congregation. By the end of the day, I expected Mass to be a capstone of quiet reflection, nothing too challenging, a time to be in union with my God and the women I live with. And it was, but in the midst of reflection and union also came those enduring questions.
Preaching about the Transfiguration, the presider reflected on the questions that arose within the disciples. Peter, dumbfounded by what was occurring before his very eyes on the mountain top, suggests pitching 3 tents. But what's more he bumbles out the words, "It is good that we are here!" In the midst of what was surely terrifying and brought about an avalanche of questions, he recognized the goodness of the moment.
I could have just sat with that for a moment and have been fine, but the presider continued. He spoke of the importance of questioning and then he recounted a story of how he'd come to question. In 1995, he'd traveled with a group to Manila for World Youth Day. There he attended Mass with John Paul II and 5 million other people. During the course of that Mass he fainted multiple times and was held up by the crowd. So many people drawn together for their own reasons, supporting one another in the process.
His story though wasn't about that. It was about his first day in Manila.
As his group drove on a bus from the airport to their hotel, a tour guide pointed out sights all around them. At one point they came to a stop in Manila's mid day traffic. Looking out his window he saw something the tour guide hadn't pointed out. Down the alleyway, he saw little shacks made of tin and scrap. He came to learn that this was how the majority of people in the Philippines lived. It made him question- why did they have to live like this? What could be done? Was there poverty just something to be ignored?- All good questions, but none of them made me stop and wonder. Truth be told it wasn't the greatest homily in the world.Yet his story stirred in me my own memories and with them the enduring questions attached.
You see, I too was changed by a moment in the Philippines. The story is one I've dwelt on before (read about it here or here). In the shadow of a mountain of trash, questions were awakened in my soul. They had vaguely been there before, but at that moment they took on new importance. They were questions of justice, but even more they were questions of humanity, incarnation, and vocation.
Each one of us has these moments in our lives. Moments that uncovered something we'd never be able to forget and which called us to something greater. For me, I can trace part of my longing for God, desire to be with others, and need to find peace within chaos to that moment. From there the enduring questions of who am I, whose am I, and who am I called to be took on new life. A few days later, a Jesuit friend would ask me if I had ever considered religious life and prompt me not to abandon (but finally take some action on) another enduring question in my life.
Today I am still sorting through those questions given life by experiences far and wide. Each one of us has our own enduring questions. They guide our lives and they come from having seen goodness in a way we can't quite explain. Like the disciples who came down from the mountaintop spellbound, we stand in awe of the questions we've been blessed with. And as we travel with them, we are blessed that they endure- reminding us of who we are, where we've been, who God is, and calling us to live evermore into the wondering.