Thursday, May 31, 2012

Taking Up the Bowls

Cooper is a 9 year old grey tabby & we have history. I still remember the day my roommate & I drove out to the middle of nowhere to meet him. He was just a kitten then. He had been abandoned in the first weeks of his life & his stomach was all swollen from malnourishment & worms. It took him 2 weeks before he would even venture out from under the furniture to greet us. It was another 2 months before his swelling disappeared. Cooper spent 5 years with my cat (who has since passed due to liver failure). They were tight... so much so, that when my roommate moved out, we decided it would be best to keep them together. After my cat died however, I sent Cooper home to transition into a new life.

Cooper is like my own. I get to see him often & occasionally watch him for my friend. This week is one such time. I went to bed shortly after midnight lastnight & he woke me at 5 this morning. I got up, gave him some food & laid back down, only to be wakened by the sound of cupboard doors slamming. If I don't take up his bowls, he will slide the one all over the kitchen, tip all the water out of the other, knock stuff off shelves  & find other interesting ways to make noise. So I took his bowls & stayed up while he wound down. He wandered for a bit, came back to the living room & fell asleep. As for me, I'm awake & anticipating a much needed nap before work today.

I used to be angry that he would get me up & then go off somewhere to fall asleep, but now I think I understand why he does it. I don't think it has anything to do with him being a cat. I think it has more to do with security. Most little kids want their parents to stay with them & watch them fall asleep. Why? Is it a "look what I can do!" scenario? No. But there's a sense of security in being watched, or knowing someone is present, vigilant. If a parent leaves their child awake, the child's innate desire for food or water or some other necessity always seems to present itself. Its not so much about having food & water, but security. Sometimes I have to take up the bowls to get Cooper focused on the reality that he's been given everything he needs for the moment. I take up the bowls to remind him of the security of my presence. He's not just some cat to me. And we are not just some human to God... He is present, vigilant to watch over us, whether we are awake or asleep. Sometimes He has to "take up our bowls" to help us focus on the reality that we have been given everything we need for the moment...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Still Standing

Today in history class, we reviewed the fall of the Soviet Union. The teacher showed pictures of the various statues of Stalin & Lenin on the ground. We also revisited the fall of the Berlin wall. I was barely out of junior high when all this happened & remembered how amazing it was to see such things "live" on television. History & the geography of the world changed before my eyes.

The thought came to me that with revolution of any sort, something inevitably has to fall... whether its the government, the monuments or the mindset... it all goes. If anything remains, it becomes a  history lesson, a museum piece, a tourist destination.

I admit, I also thought about Catholicism & the various iconoclast movements throughout church history. People have often thought of the Catholic "government" as oppressive, its images as idolatry or  its mindsets as unreasonable. Funny thing is, the Catholic church remains. Why is that? If one managed to be successful in stripping the churches of their statues, their icons or their gold, would there still be a Catholic church? What if there were no Pope, no priests, no Mass... would there still be a Catholic church? Isn't the Eucharist the source & summit of the Catholic faith? If Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, what happens in the absence of consecrated elements?

The Catholic church remains because the real power isn't in wafers or wine made by human hands. It isn't even in the money or the Magisterium. Its in Christ, Who is seated at the Right Hand of the Father. Its in Christ, who lives in the hearts of those who believe. The elements are a gift to us... like the crucifixion wounds Thomas once touched. The absence of wounds wouldn't negate the truth of Christ's death & resurrection, but I believe they remained as proof for our sake. How much more do the elements, icons & even government of the Catholic church remain for our sake?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Beyond Reason?

I'm not one of those Catholics who has a crucifix on every wall, statues of Mary or lacquered plaques of  Jesus gazing into heaven, praying in the garden or knocking on someone's door in the middle of the night. I don't have religious poetry or saintly sayings on my refrigerator. I do have a plaque with scripture on it that was gifted to me years ago. I do have a couple small crosses & a single crucifix. I have an icon of Mary that I found at a thrift store for two bucks.  I have a print of a stained glass window, a pair of praying hands from my grandparent's house & a couple rosaries. I even kept my palm frond from this year's Palm Sunday. Since I think most religious paraphernalia is downright gaudy (not to mention pricey), I don't typically invest in "new" things... unless its a Bible. Right now I have 10 different versions that I've amassed over the last decade. Why, you might ask? Well, there are subtleties in every version. I'm attracted to the narrative rhythm of some & the textbooky, "just the facts, ma'am" approach of others. Most of all, I'm curious to discover how various people have interpreted it through the years. Changing times & culture have a tendency to affect our understanding of things we were once so sure of...

This weekend, I started to entertain the idea that maybe I had made a mistake with this whole Catholic thing. Do I really believe I'm in danger of hellfire if I don't go to Mass? Do I really have to go confess that sin to a priest? Do I really believe the wafer & wine become Body & Blood at any point in space & time? These are all questions a dear friend of mine & I began to discuss when she suggested I'd gone overboard in my pursuit of religion. Terms like "O.C.D." &" addiction" stepped into the room like criminals in a lineup. She was certain they were the perpetrators. When I asked how she came to her conclusion, she didn't mention any of my Catholic stuff or beliefs specifically. She instead pointed to my collection of Bibles.

I can't deny that the Psalmists & the Prophets have become bosom friends over the years. Their prayers have become my own... their songs, my songs... their cries, my cries. The history contained in the Bible is mine too. It shows me what I'm made of; the good, bad & the ugly. The stories of discipleship & betrayal are mine... the hopes & fears & stupid mistakes the twelve made are mine as well. But there seems to me no greater purpose than to pursue Christ with the life I've been given. I pursue through the scriptures, through the community of the church, through the attempt to maintain my faith on a second by second basis. Its my understanding that this world & all the stuff in it will pass away, so I have little interest in pursuing the temporal. My head & my heart are elsewhere. Is this O.C.D.? Is this addiction? I'd be interested to know how the psychiatric community would analyze the disciples, church fathers & other saints. Would they have diagnosed them as sufferers of O.C.D. or addicts of religion as well? I have a sneaking suspicion they probably would.

If the pursuit doesn't change me (or those around me) for the better, then damn it all to hell. But if I'm being challenged, transformed or renewed in some small way (& that somehow leads to other's lives being challenged, transformed or renewed), then maybe the pursuit isn't as crazy as some make it out to be.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What's So Great About Sin

Sin is like a red rubber ball that gains too much momentum & ends up being launched out into the road. Its manageable in the yard, but once it crosses that boundary, the potential for harm increases, not only for the child, but for those out on the street as well. The sin is in the momentum. The sin is in the pursuit. Some sin is accidental, such as a ball going over a fence. Some sin is deliberate, as in a... ball... going... over a fence? What motivated the ball? Well, the child, of course. Did the child know the potential danger? Did he/she mean to keep it behind the fence & failed? Was the ball deliberately launched? As for pursuit, did the child seek adult intervention or did he/she go vaulting off into the street, risking life & limb?

In Catholic belief, there are two types of sin: venial & mortal. Venial sins comprise of those "oopses" & tend to be accidental. We simply need to go to God & ask forgiveness & help. Its my understanding that venial sins don't lead to death. But the Bible says there is a sin (plural?) that DOES. Catholics believe this falls under the category of mortal sin, which must meet three conditions to qualify: It is a grave matter (premeditated), there is full knowledge the deed is sin & there is full consent to do it despite.

In this case, mortal sin must be confessed not only to God, but also to a priest who will administer the sacrament of reconciliation. Without this sacrament, one is said to be in danger of dying outside of God's grace with a one way ticket to hell. Sounds harsh. Why would one need a priest for anything if Jesus paid the price for all our sins? Why not just confess to God & be done? I believe the priest in this instance is something like a paramedic. Perhaps we've gone out after our ball & we got hit. Reconciliation is God's way of probing us & exposing our wounds so we can be restored. Sometimes treatment is quick & easy. Sometimes we need a ride in the ambulance & a hospital stay. Either way, I'm of the mind that this is actually what Jesus paid for. We still endure the consequence of sin, but help is there when we need it.

So what's so great about sin? It reveals whether my faith goes beyond words or not. It is an agent that humbles me one way or another, but always provides an opportunity for grace. In the case of venial sin, it is a chance for learning the basics of how to be human. Concerning mortal sin, it is a wake up call that reveals the weight of God's gift of life.


I was thinking today how people know me for my love of coffee or music or nature.
But not many know me for my love.

Folks know that I'm quiet, a team player & a quick worker.
But not many know what God has done for me.

Some know where I've lived, what jobs I've worked & the places I've traveled.
But not many know the struggle its been just to remain here on this earth.

I can say with the utmost confidence that without God, I would not have lived to see my teens, my 20's, my 30's. Without God, my life loses all meaning.

I am not only my love of coffee, music or nature. I am not merely defined by my demeanor, the places I've lived, where I've earned a paycheck or what roads I've traversed. For whatever reason, I've been saved & continue being saved by God's grace. But if those who "know" me don't know the true meaning of my life, my life may as well mean nothing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Prayer & Fasting

I was thinking the other day about healing. Jesus healed, the disciples healed. In the scriptures, I don't recall hearing about Jesus "praying for" people to be healed... He merely touched them or spoke a word. In the book of Acts, I don't remember the disciples praying either... Like Jesus, they touched or spoke a word. Very quick, very simple.

What gives? Why do we anoint with oil & feel we have to do spiritual gymnastics in order to get God's attention? Why don't we have the same ability to look someone in the eye & see them healed by a touch or a word?

I remember the disciples once asked this question when they couldn't cast demons out of someone. Jesus told them "This kind only comes out by fasting & prayer".  I bet they started fasting & praying after that! It was all about preparation. In the moment, there's no time to petition heaven, there's no time to fast. We don't know what we're going to encounter from day to day, but we need to be ready for anything. We're either prepared or we aren't. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Trysting Place

As a Catholic, I have the opportunity to go to church on Saturday evenings &/or Sunday mornings. I love my home church, but I also feel like I want to step out & see how other folks do things. We are, afterall, part of the same "holy, catholic & apostolic church". While I've attended Mass at various churches before, lastnight was my first Eucharist away from home. At first, I thought "I don't know these people, I have no right to partake with them"... but in reality, I DO have that right, by virtue of my confirmation 43 days ago.

I'm discovering that attending at different communities takes some flexibility. While every Mass is the same in content, each is unique to the congregation in which it is celebrated. Most of the variation seems to happen with the musical arrangements, as in how the Gloria or other things are sung. Other differences come from the personality of the people &/or priest. Lastnight I was greeted warmly & took a seat near the back. While I was aware I was in a new place, I found the familiarity of the Mass most comforting. When it came time to get in line for communion, I paid no mind to the people around me. I partook with confidence, went back to my pew & had the exact same response to the Eucharist that I have at my home church. This actually surprised me. I didn't really "feel" much of anything all through Mass. I was just there, listening & responding, taking in the stained glass & marveling at the strangely burly Christ on the cross above the altar.

But each time I approach the bread & the cup, its as if everyone else melts away. My heart races & the walk back to my seat seems long & arduous. Its as if Jesus & I are making our way hand in hand past the crowds, looking for some alleyway to duck into. Getting on my knees & burying my head in my hands is a small refuge... a hiding place. Its a place to breathe, a place to just "be" for a moment. Its a place where I sense His embrace, commitment & love for me in a ridiculously real way. How does this happen? I have no clue. Maybe its mind control. Maybe its superstition. Or maybe its the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It doesn't matter whose parish I'm in or what the particulars of that community's Mass are... externals are inconsequential. Its what happens in the trysting place of my heart that makes the difference.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Catholicism Is Killing Me

How is Catholicism killing me? Well, its begun to change the way I live. I've come to see the utmost importance of attending Mass, of being in the scripture with regularity (via the daily readings), of constructing a more formal prayer life rather than going off all willy-nilly. Strange as it may sound, I've actually begun to think more about my faith in God & how it translates into everyday life (I thought I was doing that already!).

Its come to my attention that if my faith doesn't touch every moment, every action, every thought, word or deed, something is wrong. Something is getting lost in translation. I have thought much about God & called that "faith". But Catholicism seems to reveal a very important language barrier: "Faith without deeds is dead". I'm talking beyond external good works & ministries here. By "deeds" I mean working alongside the Spirit of Christ.

I'm one of those fixer-uppers, the kind people buy to gut & remodel. He's bought me with His blood & aims to make His home in me, but like an old house, I can be feisty. My pipes are rusty, my walls are moldy & my roof is about to cave in. My floorboards creak with every step & my yard is absolutely atrocious. But He wants it all. My "faith" language communicates disbelief & tries to dissuade Him at every turn. "The cost is too high, Lord! There's soooo much work to be done! I'll make due as is... " Here I am, thinking I'm sparing Him some astronomical cost He can't possibly pay when in reality, I'm only trying to save myself.

Catholicism seems to be changing all that- killing the sola-fide in me- that "faith alone" mentality. I'm waking up to the reality of the brokenness that's come from making excuses "by faith", both in my life & the lives of others. What happens when walls come down, tiles get ripped up & bramble gets burned? The language barrier disappears. When I speak faith AND deeds, I begin to understand that the cost is covered, the mess is not mine to bear alone & its suddenly no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


One of the daily readings this week was from Acts 16: the story of Paul & Silas in prison. After the earthquake in the middle of the night, the jailer thought all was lost & prepared to run himself through. Paul called out, stopped him short & assured him all the prisoners were accounted for. The jailer must have been relieved. It was his job to guard the prisoners at all costs. Too fail merited the pain of punishment or death, whether by his own hand or those of his superiors.

Realizing he had been saved from certain doom physically, he asked Paul & Silas how he could be saved spiritually. They told him to believe on the Lord Jesus & proceeded to share the scriptures with him. When he heard his household could be saved as well, the jailer actually took Paul & Silas into his home, cleaned them up & gathered his entire family. Maybe they were all awake after the earthquake anyway. Maybe a few had drifted back to sleep. Either way, they were awake now... daddy was home... and he had company. Who were these other guys with him? What was going on? They were a captive audience. After hearing the Word in the middle of the night, we find out that their motley crew traipsed down to the water in the darkness... perhaps under moonlight, perhaps by torchlight, to be baptised as an entire household. All because of an earthquake & a father's love....

I think the thing that struck me about this passage was the fact that the jailer took Paul & Silas home at such a late hour. He had already been spared a judgement of death once- but here he goes risking life & limb again so his family can hear the good news of Christ. Why not wait til morning? Perhaps he didn't know what would happen to Paul & Silas. Maybe he thought this was his family's only chance to hear the Gospel & the cover of darkness spelled opportunity. I remember the adrenaline rush that comes with experiencing a tremor in the middle of the night. Such a thing makes one question the perceived stability of the world around them. The veil between heaven & earth feels that much thinner in the hours following. It seems the jailer's heart & soul had been shaken to the core, much like the walls of the prison had been. All that mattered now was the welfare of his family. What does God have to do to get our attention & how will we respond?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dance of Seduction

Today I was reading a book that provided meditations for the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. When it came to the crucifixion, there it was again: the tired interpretation of Jesus' arms stretched out on the cross. He's reaching out to us with arms wide open, inviting us to receive some vast, cosmic hug...

"I love you THIS much!"

But I see His arms outstretched like a victor. What do runners do when they win the race? They stretch out their arms as the tape hits them across the chest. Jesus had run the race of life & won it, arms outstretched & gasping at the finish line- otherwise known as the cross. We are called to run as well. He's the Winner, but we must also cross the finish line or be disqualified.

"Take up your cross & follow Me..."

I see arms outstretched like a dancer... He is passionate, evoking emotion with His moves. His is a dance of precision, of power. It is sensual & expertly choreographed. Its a dance of seduction. It is a dance of love, meant to melt our hearts. He wants to lead us astray from the deadly winter of this world...

“Arise, my darling, My beautiful one, and come with Me! See! The winter is past;  the rains are over and gone! Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come..."

Matthew 16:24, Song of Solomon 2:10-11

Monday, May 14, 2012

Family Friendly Jesus

A co-worker randomly walked up to me & showed me a scab on her arm today. It was kind of gross.  Apparently it started out as a bug bite, but she had scratched the hades out of it till it was all red & swollen. I tried to act interested & somewhat sympathetic. As I walked away wondering what the point of all that was,  I was suddenly reminded of Jesus' wounds.

So often, we picture Jesus in a clean, white robe with nice, neat little holes in His hands & feet. Maybe He has a few nicks on His forehead from the crown of thorns & a small slit in His side where the centurion thrust his spear. There is no blood or bruising, only scars. This is the family friendly Jesus.

But today, for the first time in my life, I began to consider Christ's wounds, as if they were "real". If my co-worker's little scab was gross, what must Jesus have looked like after being beaten & crucified? Were all His wounds miraculously healed when He rose from the dead? Or did He still look like a man who had His flesh ripped open by whips laden with metal & bone? Was His skin red, swollen & scabby? Did He have bruises? Or did He really display only scars? 

If I was a disciple who encountered the family friendly Jesus after the resurrection, I might have a hard time believing. Like Thomas, I would say "Show me the wounds." Did he touch Jesus' scars only? Would that really be enough to compel to him to exclaim "My Lord & my God!"? I don't think it would be enough for me...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Motive Over Protocol

Today when I approached the Eucharist, I actually forgot how to hold my hands out & got flustered. I don't know what happened...  I was so nervous. I said "Amen" & then "Sorry!" to the Eucharistic minister who reassured me I was ok. I took the host from her hand, partook of the wine & walked back to my seat, feeling embarrassed & guilty. Was I irreverent? Who forgets how to partake of the Eucharist?! I felt horrible. But as I was praying, I felt love come over me like a wave. I couldn't hold back my tears.

I also couldn't stop thinking about it after Mass. What kind of Catholic am I? I was tired of beating myself up & finally asked Jesus to give me His perspective on the day. Instantly, my guilt was gone. I had the impression He was excited I was even there. Why had I ventured to go to Mass? To fulfill my obligation? To see people? To go through some motions? No... I went to Mass to hear the Word & partake of the Eucharist- the Real Presence of Jesus- because I craved It... because It changes me.

He reminded me the crux of the matter is the state of my heart- motive over protocol. He reminded me that sometimes people in love do crazy things... sometimes they forget themselves or the people around them. Nothing else matters but the object of their affection. My first thought was You actually think I love You?!  But what about reverence? What about protocol? Surely I had done it all wrong. How could that be love? Yet there's no one condemning me but me... Love, it seems, trumps protocol.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


So for whatever reason, I've been looking at the inquisition.  I guess I was curious as to what the Catholic church had to say for itself.  This is a part of history I passed over, thinking it inconsequential as it concerned my own faith journey. I was surprised to discover the inquisition wasn't confined only to the middle ages. In fact, there were many within & outside of Europe, beginning after the time of the crusades & continuing in some places as late as the 1860s! The church wanted to shut down those splinter groups who didn't adhere to church teaching... that is, those engaging in heresy.

The inquisitors were usually priests. The Pope sent them out to "question" people, but they weren't allowed to do harm. This was the job of the civil authorities. Its important to remember that there was no separation of church & state at this point, thanks to Emperor Constantine in the 3rd century.  Heretics meant trouble not only for the church, but for the political environment as well. Its said that the civil authorities are the ones who enacted the torture, etc. and the priests were essentially there to lead the interviews & officiate the proceedings. Its all very complicated.... a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation that got out of control... but that doesn't excuse what happened.

Inquisition is a sad fact of history. But what struck me is that many of the famous saints lived during this time period... Were they all living under rocks while it was happening? Were they confined to their monasteries or convents or forbidden from speaking out against it? Did they really believe that torture & killing was the best way to spread the love of Jesus Christ? How could they live life as usual? How could they pray, preach or write about their mystic ecstasies & study the scriptures? How could they partake of the Eucharist with a clean conscience? So far, I can't find anything that speaks out against the awful things that were taking place in the name of God...

How do I reconcile the fact that this expression of faith I've chosen once considered inquisition right & necessary in the eyes of God? Can I trust that it will never happen again? The office still exists under the name "Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith". Has its mindset really changed in modern times? I know whose side I'll be on if it ever happens again... I think I would rather be a heretic in the eyes of the church than assent to such blatant disregard for the command of Christ to LOVE.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Becoming One

The daily readings of late have to do with Jesus' teachings about the vine & branches. "Remain in Me & I will remain in you." He says. I've always thought of Jesus as a separate entity. He is the Vine & I am merely a steward, a vessel, a conduit for His life. He may live in me, but He & I aren't necessarily "one". In fact, it appears we often stand in opposition to one another- my stained humanity v.s. His perfect divinity.

"Oneness" smacks of that strange mystical union so many ancient saints talk about... The two becoming one... I wonder what it would be like to have that with Christ? He is the Vine & I am a branch... grafted in... Its a process that results in a wounding for both. Grafting is an act of intimacy. The fruit of oneness can't occur without it. Grafting is a risk. There's no guarantee it will be successful. But He comes to us who are fearful & asks us to place our hands into His wounds... to press our stained humanity into the reality of His divinity... He invites us to take His life as our own, to become "one" with Him. There's something to be said for being exposed for who you really are, accepted as such & bound to another for life... even Christ.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The God of Academia

I recently heard a quote from somewhere that one needs education in order to influence the world. Each time I hear it, I find myself disagreeing more than I can agree. Yes, the world needs those people who will  sacrifice their lives to plunge full boar into education... not to mention debt. But somehow, we forget that the world is not made up of academia alone.

I've been in school for a year now. I've noticed that people tend to treat me differently when I tell them I'm a student. They speak positively about my future & encourage me to keep pressing forward. At least I'm doing something with my life. But folks tend to treat you differently if you aren't a student, have little aspiration or opportunity to be one. They'll talk down to you, imply you're lazy... They treat you like you're a little less smart or valuable than the rest of the population. It subtle, but it happens. I used to think this way, even about myself, but  I've realized that school is not the end-all-be-all.

I'll eventually get a paper that says I accomplished something. I used to think that was a big deal, but I pack diploma paper & other office products every day. What makes it so special? Is it the calligraphy? Is it the ceremony? Is it the signature of some guy you've never met before in your life? Is it the $$ you paid (or are in debt) for it?! Or is it more about the representation of dedication & sacrifice? If that's all that's needed to be a successful  influence in the world, I can think of far greater endeavors than years of debt to academia to accomplish it!

I'm not sold on the necessity of education as a means of obtaining a "better life". It can be beneficial, of course, but necessary? I'm not so sure. I don't have an insatiable hunger for status, $$ or things... I may die poor in spirit & penniless, but if I lived my life for what matters, it will have been worth more than a hundred degrees. This is foolishness to the world. We should want to conquer, to seize the day, to stake our claim! Education seems to be the answer to anything you could ever want in life. But the wisdom of God tells me I'm just a sojourner here. This place is not my home. Who will get the glory in the end? The almighty "god" of Academia or God Almighty of Heaven & Earth?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Real Deal

I went to visit a friend of mine this past weekend. As is our custom, we were killing time & decided to peruse the local thrift store. We stumbled across a sack of tiny glass bottles- reproductions of the larger, authentic versions.  Some were yellow, brown or blue with a variety of designs. A few were nondescript & coated with  residue. She decided to purchase them  & show them to her father, who is a longtime collector of insulators, glass & other wares. I spoke for the nondescript pieces she didn't want.

When we got to the house, she lined the bottles up & her father acknowledged the majority were indeed reproductions. When he got to the glass I had chosen, he informed us one was most likely from the 1920's & the other two were probably circa 1880's. My bottles were ugly compared to hers... but they were the real deal.  I chose them because they looked most authentic, while my friend rejected them in favor of aesthetics.

I wonder how often we do either of these things as it relates to people? When nostalgia overrides authenticity, society tends to cast off the good stuff. Authenticity is the real deal. It tends to be rickety, rusted, covered in residue. It needs work. Nostalgia, on the other hand, is the finished product- either a reproduction of something authentic or something authentic that was invested in & restored. People tend to go for nostalgia. Most don't want to invest in the time, money & hard work that comprises the actual act of restoration. They just want something pretty. They want the finished product, so it can be put to use now.

Its my opinion that nostalgia is like a mirror that reflects a meager representation of who you are, while authenticity is more of an open door. Nostalgia is one sided. People don't get to see the real you... they see only what you portray for the mirror. Authenticity is about you & how you interact with others based on your life experience. It doesn't let you hide behind a mere reproduction of yourself or the glory of someone else's product. Authenticity is a door that makes you accessible, tangible, malleable. It encourages movement beyond the mirror of nostalgia...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Prayer: Learning To Wait

Lastnight at Mystagogy, Father asked a simple question- how do we pray & why? It seems so simple until one actually begins to think about it. We talked about the common forms- on our knees, talking, singing or quietly in our heads... We talked about the why- to be in relationship with God, to ask for something, to express thanks or sorrow... Father reminded us that God already knows what we need, so prayer, in many ways, is more for us than for God. That said, the Our Father is a perfect prayer. By it, we acknowledge God's sovereignty & will. We ask not for what we want, but what we need: our daily bread, forgiveness of sins & the power to stand up under temptation. When we ask Him to forgive us as we forgive others, we engage in a practice that ideally changes us. God already knows our hearts & if we do it right, we'll get to know ourselves better as we strive to know God. I never thought of it that way. This led to a short discussion on contemplative prayer & the distribution of a rosary.

The crucifix of the rosary I purchased at the beginning of RCIA has begun to turn green... the chords are getting frayed & the varnish on the beads is wearing thin. I've finally memorized nearly everything but the last couple prayers. Good for me. But what have I gotten to know about myself in that time? What have I learned about God?

I've learned that I'm often in too much of a hurry. Its hard for me to be patient & I always seem to be getting ahead of myself.  Father said we can't look forward to see our purpose. We have to look behind us to discern the pattern. That involves slowing down, even stopping to take inventory so we know how to move forward. As to God, I've learned that He really is in control, even when circumstances don't seem to add up. I've felt aimless much of my life. But in looking back, I can start to see the pattern emerge... Its no mistake that I'm a Catholic! My next step awaits, even as I learn to wait on God... 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Jesus Saves

47 If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. John 12:47-49 NASB

This passage was part of the daily readings yesterday. It was verse 47 that struck me: "If anyone hears My sayings & does not keep them, I do not judge him.". What? Does that mean people who "hear" but don't "do" are off the hook? Why bother striving to live for God if our response doesn't matter?

In verse 48, Jesus says "He who rejects Me & does not receive My sayings, has One Who judges him.". So that would mean hearing, accepting & receiving the Word is the element that changes the tide, right? At first, I saw two separate scenarios- good versus evil, innocence versus guilt. But I came to realize the one who hears & does not do is just as guilty as the one who rejects & does not receive.

Jesus came into the world to save it, not to judge it. This implies that He answers to someone higher. That Someone is none other than God the Father, Who Jesus reveals to us in verse 49. He speaks the Father's Words by command & by those very words, we will be judged. If Jesus doesn't judge us, why are we so afraid to embrace Him? If Jesus is the only Salvation given to us by God, how much more should we love God & reverence Him for His great mercy? If we reject the Way, what's left for us but wrath?