February 23, 2010
It’s with a sigh and a shrug of my shoulders that I return to Lent. Not necessarily excited, rather ruefully aware of the growing gap in my peace. I have been working and playing; squeezing in mud fights with my four year old brother, and staying awake till the wee hours trying to be concise and verbose at the same time. All the while my heart has been filling with cacaphony and distraction.
I readily welcome Lent and all that it brings. What’s that on your head? Do you know you have a smudge on your forehead? Did you put out a cigarrete on your head? …is it not amazing that people see the ‘smudge,’ not the cross?
Lent is one of the most powerful, and most counter culture seasons in the Church. Advent, most people can ‘get’….Sure, sure…something about getting ready for the baby Jesus – yeah, put Christ back in Christmas! Ordinary time is…ordinary…Those days between Easter and Advent. Lent is something foreign indeed. Why would a community focus on the most gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, painful, uncomfortable part of their faith right before the triumph? Why would we prepare for victory by sacrificing and focusing on our sin?
Those in the fold of the Church understand. If we do not humble ourselves, where is our victory? If we are not willing to forego pleasures for forty days, who are we to appeal to a God who lived and died a sacrifice?
This said, Lent is definitely not a time to judge or show distain for our seemingly gluttonous brothers and sisters. Lent is a time for tender sacrifice. Forty days to note the dehabilitating habits picked up over the past year, identify them, and attack them at their root. Lent is a reminder to peer up at the face of God and be solemn, but not despairing. If we ignore this part of our faith, the glory and awe of Easter will pass us by like a weekend sale.
God is inviting us to live with Him for all eternity, if we do not first take up our crosses and walk staunchly towards our destination, who are we to beg for mercy?
February 11, 2010
At first there is no sound. Life is a still, endless wasteland of simpering and lonely nights.
Then along comes a stranger who looks on with sorrow…
They know not, nor do they seek. Theirs is the present, the unknown is unwelcome. How little they love.
It is not with a shake of a self-righteous head that the stranger observes, it is not with a reprimand his heart is filled. It is with a heartbreak and hope only a man in the midst of great love can comprehend.
Then a child cries…..
a long, loud exclamation of want.
Then there is sound, at first
a foreign thought, but now an actuality.
Some do not rejoice.
Some hide their hearts in frivolous, demeaning acts.
Some hide their hearts in fear and wanting.
Some hide their hearts in arrogance and intelligence.
Some hide their hearts in meaning that has no meaning.
Some scream out and struggle against the sound
and all it brings….
the one that all must battle to accept.
the Stranger…who is not so strange anymore…says
I have not come to lead an easy way. Suffering is a tool to bring us close. Rejoice in your suffering, as I rejoice.
Still, some hang their heads and hide their hearts even deeper in the death and decay that clings to this world with a vise-like grip….
But not all…
A band of mighty warriors has formed. A Church Militant. A church with a mission…and they should not be taken lightly. With the Stranger by their side, they are invincible and weak, courageous and timid, bold and meek, joyous and sorrowful. They know the world, they are the world, and it will take their earthly efforts with the grace of the Stranger to forge ahead to a truthful existence.
The Stranger spreads his arms…
Come to me, all who are brokenhearted and I will give you rest.
Aren’t we all brokenhearted?
Why, then, do we wait?
January 9, 2010
You stand stripped of your pride and your disillusionment and your possessions. You feel a heaviness, as if a lead brick had been attached to each of your limbs. You feel small, looking up and seeing nothing but the heavens above. You ache and mourn. Your heart beats at a rapid and unnatural pace, and yet you can feel each beat as if it were an anvil striking your body. When this happens, only two things remain; suffering and joy. These two cannot be extracted from each other, without one – the other would be incomplete and insignificant.
Who would want joy that had not been tested and refined through the fire of suffering?
Who would want to suffer if not certain that joy would come as the antidote to darkness?
When suffering and joy are separated, as is a popular theme, the damages are untold. Stimulation is substituted for joy, self pity is substituted for suffering. This evil pair knows no bounds, and offers wicked, fast solutions. Unwanted pregnancy: abortion. Unwanted marriage: divorce. Unwanted body: plastic surgery. Unwanted thoughts: drugs. Unwanted results: cheating.
If these solutions are so easy and so helpful, why are people more unhappy today than they ever have been before?
The real irony lies in the fact that the two can never become separated, and the harder a society works to do so the farther they will stray from the truth. Suffering begets joy, and joy begets suffering. In the most supreme example, God the Father sacrifices his Son, his joy, so that He could save all mankind from their rightful punishment, by suffering. Some think that he came to save mankind from suffering, but he did not. He came to save us from ourselves. When he said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden light” he did not mean that the Faithfull’s existences would be thoughtless and lukewarm. He is calling all to a battle where He takes the brunt of it head-on, but His followers must also courageously take their blows.
We are warned that if we follow him, we will be persecuted and made to give up this life for the pursuit of His heavenly joy.
Why would we want to achieve something if it came easily?
Oh, but what joy it will be. No more suffering, no more sorrow, no more tears. It will all be washed away, and each person will appear as they should have been. Each earthly tarnishing will be erased. All eyes, all hearts will be completely turned to Him. In that eternal moment, all will know the truth that was so badly muddled on earth. In that eternal moment, the Church Triumphant will see the fruits of their labor. In that eternal moment, all will revel in the glory of the Lord and praise His Holy Name.
January 3, 2010
More from old homework assignments…
“Would to God your horizon may broaden every day! The people who bind themselves to systems are those unable to encompass the whole truth and try to catch it by the tail; a system is like the tail of truth, but truth is like a lizard; it leaves its tail in your fingers and runs away knowing full well that it will grow a new one in a twinkling.” – Ivan Turgenev to Leo Tolstoy (1856)
What Turgenev seems to be saying is that it is possible to understand the whole truth, but only certain people, and those who are unable to grasp the whole truth then turn to systems. As a person bound to what Turgenev calls a system (religion), I must disagree with his view that not being able to understand everything is a bad, and perhaps stupid, way to live.
I believe, and indeed my entire faith is based on, the fact that the whole truth is never fully known on earth. It is more important to understand, or at least acknowledge, that one will never understand the whole truth in this life. The faithful can only strive to learn a bit more each day, and rest in the hope of full truth when one has “finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:7.)
One point that is oft brought up by brilliant people is the idea that it is possible to know everything. I see where people may fall into this trap when they are brilliant. I will never have to deal with this problem – every math test I face duly reminds me that I will never know everything.