Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Visions: By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them

Fr. Dale Matson

“For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” (Luke 6:43-45, NASB)
The Scripture passage is a portion of the Gospel lesson for this Wednesday, the feast day of Alfred the Great.
I have given over considerable time to reflecting on the vision I experienced last Wednesday at the conclusion of the Eucharist. As I was folding the Corporal, I looked to my right to see the resurrected Christ in the tomb folding His burial linen. The Corporal itself, I discovered later represents the burial linen of Christ. God can and often does break through when we least expect it. This was no exception, especially since it happened during what could be considered the “clean up” part of the Mass. My first response to this was to think myself unworthy of such a magnificent vision. I also wondered with whom I should share it and under what circumstances.
There was no doubt in my mind that this was a genuine vision from God. It was not my only experience with visions. As a retired psychologist, I am reminded of the seeming similarities between mystical visions and psychotic hallucinations but there is an important difference. Psychiatrist Thomas Agosin comments, “The consequence of the experience is the most important difference between mysticism and psychosis, and I believe that it often is the only way to truly differentiate between the two.” (http://www.seedsofunfolding.org/issues/11_08/feature_english.htm)
What is the result or fruit of this experience? According to Dr. Agosin, “The mystical experience leaves the mystic more connected and involved in the world. He/she expands his/her capacity to love and to serve. The mystic becomes more appreciative of the beauty and the miracle of life. The mystical experience leaves the individual with a feeling of reverence for all life, embracing every aspect of life and death as sacred. Serenity increases in the mystic through detachment to the temporal and transient. The mystic identifies with the eternal, that which is most sacred and valuable. In that deep identification, the mystic finds peace and inner tranquility." I believe this accurately reflects this experience for me.
One result of this experience for me was a further letting go of anxieties about my own personal passing. Another was an appreciation of the unlimited dimensions of God’s Kingdom. Finally, there was a deeper understanding of my priestly vocation and the mystery of the Eucharist. I wanted to tell the congregation about this but asked God to confirm this. In the Sunday Homily from Fr. Carlos, he quoted from the Gospel of St. John, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” (John 14:21)  I took this as confirmation that I should say something to the congregation and told the congregation about it during the announcements. What was the rationale for this? Was it to impress them? No, it was to strengthen their faith and I ended my comments with a paraphrase of the following verse. “But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31) I am still sorting things out but know that I will forever be blessed by this vision. Historically, I am thankful for all of the saints in the church, especially the mystics like St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila and Evelyn Underhill. They are a rich source of written counsel for us all, especially today.  Amen

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