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Posted by on Jul 20, 2014

Theology As the Everyday Awareness of God in Our Lives

Theology As the Everyday Awareness of God in Our Lives

Anthony F. Krisak writes in “Theological Reflection: Unfolding the Mystery” that theology “is not an abstract musing ..but it is a challenging and thoughtful reflection on the way God’s hand is involved in the day to day experiences of men and women…Rather, theology is about God-with-Us (Emmanuel).”

The window of theology

Krisak makes it clear that reflecting on this divine encounter leads the observer to face “concrete, historical, and passionate movements and experiences.” Our experience becomes the “window of theology”. This window is useless if we understand mystery to be “unknowable ideas and complicated theories”. According to Krisak, if we understand  mystery as a continual unfolding event in and around us, theology can be that window to observe and interpret our own experience.

Theology as a window goes against the claims that God is unknowable and that we should just accept secondhand understandings of God provided to us by an intellectual elite. Theology as a window of observing and interpreting experience is a fundamental assumption in the primary project of Jesus, the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. In the Gospels, Jesus tells us to observe the signs of the times and everyday experience — a person who sells everything for a fine pearl, the  rapid growth of the mustard tree from a tiny seed, the one who goes out to harvest a crop. It is faith that allows the sun to shine through the window of theology. “Through theological reflection, our intertwined lives with God become conscious and faithfully deliberate; in other words, we begin to take in more profoundly the sights and sounds and smell of our life with God and each other.”

Without theological reflection, the pressures of everyday living can cause us to lose sight of what we are all about. Krisak particularly warns ministers of this hazard, since his article appears in the Handbook of Spirituality for Ministers. However, it is easy to see how everyday lay people can also fail to pay attention to the action of God in their lives. Unfortunately, many are not even aware that they are called to reflect upon and deepen their experience of God by reflecting on and noticing God’s actions.

This is especially ironic since we live in a culture that focuses very heavily on relationships. We have large psychological, educational, and popular movements to help us find the right partners, to save our marriages, to raise our children properly, to organize our businesses, corporations, and churches. How do we improve our love life with God? How do we even relate to God? When we think about it, we know we do or at least we think we do. We are called to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, to proclaim it, and to bring it about in God’s grace. It is unfolding within us and around us.

What does theological reflection require?

Krisak wisely points out that the backdrop or context for our theological reflection is our shared faith in both the Hebrew and Christian traditions. To engage in fruitful theological reflection according to Krisak, we need to:

(1) understand the tools necessary for “cleaning up the window of theology”,

(2) consider the process of reflection in relationship to human experience, and

(3) take a look at the “major themes of our theological tradition” such as the incarnation and redemption,  among others.

In subsequent posts, I will review these three areas of focus that Krisak recommends for doing theological reflection and understanding the ways in which we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.

Image: “Simultaneous Windows” by Robert Delaunay,
1912, Public Domain


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Posted by on Oct 15, 2010

St. Teresa of Avila – On Prayer

St. Teresa of Avila – On Prayer


St. Teresa of Avila by Peter Paul Rubens

“Contemplative prayer [oración mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”

St. Teresa of Avila is considered an expert on prayer. In her many writings, she describes a four step  process of growth in prayer, beginning with mental prayer and culminating in deep mystical experiences. Her writings are based on her personal experience and are deeply insightful.

Most of us pray on the first level, that of mental prayer. This is the type of prayer described in the above quotation. In this stage, prayer is a question of consciously choosing to pay attention and spend time with God, remembering and meditating on the love of God as seen through the life of Christ and His passion.  This level of the journey of prayer requires our choice and active participation. God is there waiting for us to come calling, but God will not force us to stop and spend time in the divine company.

The good news is that prayer in this sense does not require hours of preparation nor does it remove the one who prays from the surrounding world. It’s wonderful when it’s possible to retreat to a place of solitude and spend time with the Lord, but when responsiblities of life and work don’t permit more than a few minutes of alone time, one can still speak with the Lord quietly in thanks or to ask for help. That’s one of the things I’ve always loved about St. Teresa of Avila, she was very practical about prayer opportunities. As I stand with my hands in the dish water every evening, I remember her advice to one of her sisters: “God can be found even among the stew pots of the kitchen.”

Today as we celebrate her feast, may we remember to give thanks for the gifts God gave her and the insights she shared with us about God’s love. Let’s especially be grateful that our relationship with God is to be that of a close friend with whom we look forward to spending a few minutes of our time.

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Posted by on Dec 31, 2009

St. Teresa of Avila – On Prayer

New Year’s Greetings and Wishes

New Year's Eve in Rio

New Year's Eve in Rio

It’s New Year’s Eve in Santa Cruz. A year has nearly ended and a new one is fast upon us. On top of that, the first decade of the new century is coming to a close. So much has happened in the past 10 years – for all of us. Some has been good. Some has been bad. Some has been just normal. That’s the way life goes.

Still, as Christians, we live with the belief and hope that God is in it all and brings good out of even the terrible times of our lives. The God who couldn’t bear to sit back in isolation from all of creation and from the human beings He created entered into our lives and history, to bring us all back into union again. It’s not up to us to become perfect and worthy of God. God became one of us and in doing so, made that re-union possible. We just have to let go of anger, jealously, hatred, fear, and all the other negative energies which we so easily hold onto and nurture. God will even help us let go of them.  It’s all a free gift!

So, at this time of a New Year and a New Decade, may the Love and Peace and Joy of God fill each of our hearts, so that no room remains for harboring the negative, life-draining spirits that lurk among us. May we look at each other and at ourselves and see the Face of God looking back at us. May we rejoice in the beauty of creation and of each person. May we trust that when the hard times come, as they certainly will, God will be with us personally, holding our hand and helping us through them. And may we move forward with confidence that we are loved and lovable, just as we are. Of course, there’s room for growth in love, patience, faithfulness, joy, and so forth, but we are each loved NOW, by our God who is absolutely crazy about us and just wants to hold us close in a huge, big hug.

What great good news that is!

Happy New Year.

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Posted by on Oct 24, 2007

An I-Thou Moment

She walked down the street with a somewhat shuffling gait, shoulders hunched with the weight of life’s challenges, and holding a cigarette by her side, from which she took an occasional puff. Her hair hung long, a bit below her shoulder blades. She wore a jumper made of a predominantly orange/pink fabric – stripes with a floral pattern in them – over a pink floral print blouse whose pattern clashed with the jumper fabric. She looked about 50 years old and as if life had not been good to her.

It was a hot day in October, in the 80s, and she was walking towards her town’s downtown stores, perhaps in search of a bit of cool in an air conditioned building. Most people on seeing her would have walked right by, averting their eyes to avoid a request for “spare change.” She looked like a resident of a cheap apartment or a local half-way house.

At the corner, a younger woman was waiting to cross the street. She wore tan shorts and a white tank top over a purple cami. Her hair was also long, but well brushed and pulled into a pony tail for comfort in the heat. She had a canvas shoulder bag and had obviously been shopping for groceries that day.

As the older woman approached the corner, the younger woman smiled at her and greeted her. The older woman’s reaction was subtle but stunning. Her shoulders straightened. She raised her head. The smile that was on her face was not visible from behind, but it was obvious that her whole body was smiling in return. She had been recognized and honored as a person. It made all the difference.

Observing this encounter from the confines of my car, I was reminded of Martin Buber’s insight that there are two ways of interacting with the “other.” We can interact in the realm of I-It or I-Thou. The I-It interaction does not recognize the other as an equal or even as human. The I-Thou recognizes the other individual as another human being, a child of God, worthy of respect and love. This kind of encounter (I-Thou) makes the difference between a satisfying, life-giving interchange and the kind of sterile, unfulfilling, relationship in which people mistreat or even exploit the other.

As Christians, we are called to meet people, the world and the eternal in I-Thou mode. It is in these encounters that the good news of our Lord will be preached wordlessly but most effectively.

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