Wednesday, August 7, 2013

John 19:26-27

It may be good but is it necessary?

What a strange question. Although, if I look back own my own life, I’ve ask this question many times, particularly when it comes to school. Is this going to be on the test? (Thanks for going through every step of how you derived the equation, but do I really need to know that? Oh, how many pages of notes I took in math classes only to realize the professor is just showing us where it came from! Too bad that was never asked on the test (or maybe that was a good thing???))

The question shows an attitude of only being concerned with the requirements. It shows I’m really not involved, or at least not enough to spend any more time or effort than is expected of me. I’m not curious, I’m not really engaged. This may, in the case of math class, have been a survival instinct: since I didn’t have unlimited amounts of time to spend on figuring out the nuances of every equation needed to solve the problem, I’d skip to what I really “needed to know” (so I don’t fail the test! haha). But if I was more interested, or loved math more, I probably wouldn’t have thought “What a waste of my time! He’s deriving another equation!”

But it is an underlying, and sometimes explicit, question for many others things. Is it necessary to work out today? Eat healthy? Call my friend? Read the assigned reading? Get to work on time? Wear my seatbelt? Go to Mass? Pray? Another common way to put it: Do I have to?

Some of these things will be more of a given for some than for others. We each have our preferences and priorities. But what about when it comes to God, religion, and our relationship with Him?

During a bible study recently, I was pointing out that Jesus gave us His mother, and so she is now our mother. Being the only Catholic there, I knew this isn’t stressed to them very much, if at all. In fact, I was asked that while she may be good in that she points us to Jesus, is she necessary? I took the question to mean necessary for salvation because I’ve been asked if a number of things are necessary for salvation. She obviously was necessary in God’s plan of the Incarnation. It’s hard to be fully man if you don’t have a mother who gave birth to you…

So is accepting Mary as our mother, or just giving it any thought, necessary for our salvation? First, it’s a question that misses the point. If salvation was a math test, then perhaps asking a question like that is acceptable. But “being saved” and having faith is more than a class you get through so you can focus on other things. It’s meant to be a love affair! To ask if something is necessary for my lover should only be asked as a last resort. How strange would it be to ask, “is it necessary to talk to you every day?”, or “can I not celebrate your birthday?”, or “do I have to hold your hand?”! The answer to each of these is ultimately no, it’s not necessary. The relationship (hopefully) won’t end if this doesn’t occur constantly, or perhaps even if it never happened at all. However, add up these “not necessary” items and soon you won’t have much of a relationship. Put another way, if we lay in bed all day, or eat a whole package of Oreos, we most likely will not drop dead by tomorrow. But keep it up, and serious problems will develop.

Love looks to ask, “what more can I do?” instead of, “can I not do it and we still be ok?” Love asks “what else can I love about you?” (or better, “what more can I love WITH you?”). I would speculate that many go to heaven without ever asking Mary for help. However, Jesus gives His mother to us as a great blessing, as another way to keep us close to Himself. Another guide, another help, another example for us. And most of us, I think, really do need that. I need all the help I can get.

And that is why I fall in love with Jesus more and more. He holds nothing back. See all the good gifts He gives us! Look at the beautiful Church He built and gave to us! Through the Church, through Mary, I learn everything I need to know about Jesus, and then some. Look at the saints, who by dedicating their lives to Jesus are now able to confidently ask for real grace for us. Look at the fascinating creatures, the art man has created, the poems, friends, the stars, the Bible, the Sacraments! All of these Jesus gives us to lead us to Himself! How can we not be grateful and eager to explore what they have to offer?

Jesus wants us to behold Him. Let us contemplate the gift.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The blessing of God

Hello there blog! Long time no see. I've been thinking about you lately and decided to stop by. I hope to see more of you from now on.

And now on to my actual post...

The human race has always had an obsession with children, and rightly so. For the majority of human history one’s children where the best way of carrying on yourself, in the form of knowledge, beliefs, memory, and DNA. Children were seen as a kind of wealth, in that one had more hands to work, and also a longer permanence than a single lifespan. It was honorable to have many children, and many cultures then (and some still today) saw it as a blessing from God. Each culture had some system (some complex) for raising children and certain things were expected of them and their families. I think this is natural given a human life demands some short of structure and can easily become complex.


However, in today’s modern life, this ancient obsession with children has twisted. Many of the innate and foundational desires to have children have completely disappeared. For instance, who views children as a way to, in a sense, live longer? Or as a status symbol, or as a public sign of God’s blessing?

What do we view children as now? Something my wife wanted. A burden. Unwanted. Cute but too expensive. A “handful”. Even those with children, who love their children, and enjoy being around them have a limit on how many is too many. When did having three children become the absolute most anyone could imagine having? THREE! That’s not even enough to ensure each child has both a brother AND a sister. I understand not all parents can have many babies, for some two is stretching things, either financially or mentally or both. However, shouldn’t having a large family be the ideal and desire of all?

If I can continue on my soapbox, I’d like to propose that our society would be dramatically healthier if more families were larger families. For one, it would provide more close relationships. Time and time again, it’s been shown and proven this is the biggest indictor of happiness and has the greatest impact on our health. It would lead to a stronger and larger network, so we wouldn’t feel alone. I think so many problems stem from us feeling alone. Having larger families would also, if I may assert, lead to better jobs. Jobs that take into account family life and don’t expect one to be a workaholic to keep their job. Jobs that also pay better, as one would need a stable and providing source for their family. It would most likely make people more social and build stronger communities amongst families. Also, as the parents age, they would be much less likely to be in the unfortunate situation of no money AND no one to care for them. I too believe it would lead to raising better people: people who have less pressure put on them to become something in particular and more likely to pursue something they are passionate about. They would also have a bigger net to fall on should they fail (which isn’t such a bad thing). In addition to these, I think it would make people less selfish, more able to get along with others, able to be more contented, and able to manage their priorities better.

I’m not saying this is some kind of magic cure for all our problems. Just look to the past to see that it is not. We are still human. But humans are able to improve things. That is what we do best. But first we have to know where we want to go. And I’m afraid so many of us have bought into the idea that we want to go where the money is, instead of happiness. We want to be able to control everything, including our children and their lives. We have been duped to think that if we do X, Y, and Z we will get what we want. It simply isn’t true. God holds our future, and he has our best interest in mind. Trying to control our families will never get us to happiness. Only love will. Let us work on breaking our obsession to control things, and instead let God grace us with His many gifts. Those gifts will be better than anything we could have constructed or planned ourselves.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A come to Jesus moment

I wish I had the strength to be Christ to the world. I understand on nights like this why Jesus had to suffer so much. To save us will cost everything. As I become less na├»ve to the world, I realize how hard this life will be. How hard my own heart is, and how seemly impossible it is to penetrate anyone else’. And yet, God can. He is the only one who can break through. The only one with enough love to have the stamina to achieve it. We are completely unworthy. So disgusting and ignorant and evil. But there He is, with love in His eyes. I’ll never understand how perfection can tolerate it, even want it. And still, THAT is truth.


One of my favorite parts in all of scripture is John 15:18-19- “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

To me, the world is a sad reality, and we are called to bring hope to its miserable depths. I can’t think of anything harder, except for maybe saving my soul. I have witnessed this hate. It is so sudden and strong I’m taken aback every time. But yet, they hate Jesus even more. They hate the one who created them from nothing but love, who keeps them in existence right now because of love, and who gives them good days. How will they ever come to love me if they can’t even love Jesus?

It’s hard not to desire worldly love. In a way, we are all at least a little wrapped up in it. And yet, I am frequently reminded that I will never get it. I guess it’s a starting point to genuinely not wanting it. And yet, I continue to see how fickle and easily swayed it is. How gullible people can be about the most dangerous of things, and so skeptical about the most important. It seems like an easy mission when first starting out- surely this is common sense I tell myself. Then the real battle begins, and I realize I’ll be thankful to just have myself come out intact.

I don’t mean to have such a depressing view. Really the only hope I have is in Jesus. He is somehow strong enough. He still, somehow, loves us. If He is willing to go through all this, maybe somehow, I can go with Him. God help me.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Memories

It’s reaching towards the end of the semester, the year, and my college experience. My childhood, if not already long gone, is definitely heading towards a definitive close. I know how I get around this time of year (all sappy and sad). It’s the period of waiting, preparing, and yet also remembering. What better way to wait than remember right?

I still think back to the summer before my senior year of high school. I went to New Zealand and Australia. But when I think about that trip I don’t think of all the places we saw or things we did (although they were very exciting), I think about the night I went swimming at a resort in Australia on one of the last nights of the trip. Maybe it’s because I love the night, or swimming, or feeling so right that night. Or maybe it was a combination. But when I think back to my short floating session, I can’t help but remember the only other person in the pool that night. A boy who was also on our trip, although I had hardly talked to him before then. Our travel group was big and he was a part of a different group of friends. But there he was, alone, in the pool.

The pool was beautiful. It was wide with long lanes that lead to a cutoff that overlooked a lake. At the right spot, it looked like the pool water was hovering above the lake. On the far side of the lake was a magnificent tree with a single spotlight which mirrored it on the motionless water. The stars were unbelievable and the pool was colored so blue it seemed as if I was swimming in the sky. I swam over to this boy. It was just too perfect to keep all to myself. But he wasn’t interested in conversation. He told me politely enough that he was working on improving his swimming. So up and down he went, slowly, but surely. So I continued to float, staring into the stars.

Less than two weeks after we returned to North Carolina, this boy was dead. He was hit by lightening which induced a coma. He died soon after from pneumonia. I attended his memorial service, the first I had ever been to. What I remember, and still feel, is peace. Peace that night and peace at his service. It’s hard to think about a life, all the hopes and dreams, history, beliefs of a person and come to some logical conclusion other than this is what God willed. This boy had a full life. I had the privilege to glimpse it.

What I remember tonight is how wonderful and mysterious God is. I know every encounter I have is the plan of God and I hope to allow these experiences to touch my heart, even if its in anger or fear. He makes things right. I just have to hold on through the painful and joyous lessons alike.

God bless you this Advent!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Happy Sunday!

Today is the fifth Sunday of easter and St. Rita's feast day! Have wonderful day! It is beautiful here!

St. Rita, pray for us!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Names and Heresies

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Or so goes the famous line of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I won’t pretend to know much about this line or the play either (don’t worry, I know the gist of it), but that line has always bothered me. It seems in blatant contradiction to another famous line:

Therefore God has highly exulted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

That at the NAME of Jesus… and nothing else. That name is powerful. The idea of names, especially in Judaism and Christianity, is very important. Your name was who you were. Not a representation, symbol or identifying sound, but precisely who you are. This is why it was such a big deal for God to change your name. It meant you were completely different now. Who you are has changed: your name has changed. Just thinking about it, I can come up with many other examples. In the Old Testament, the name of God was only spoken once a year by the priest because it was that powerful. The Vatican also just declared in 2005 that Yahweh not be spoken or pronounced in any liturgical celebrations. Have you noticed some song lyrics have changed? Also, the idea of having a “good name”, and trying to uphold that.

Names mean something. They certainly aren’t arbitrary. Obviously the name of God means something, but what about human-given names? Do they mean anything? I suppose one could make the argument that anything given by God is sacred, but something given by humans may not be. I mean, some people name their children things like Petal Blossom Rainbow and Poppy Honey and Daisy Boo (and yes, these girls are all siblings!). What about those names? What if you don’t like your name, or it doesn’t seem to quite fit who you are?

I’d still have to think these names are very important and isn’t just a name among other names. It is you! That is your name! We learned in the Gospel this past Sunday that the shepherd calls his own sheep by name. If that name could be replaced with the same effect, do you think Jesus would do that instead? Well, it can’t because that name means a whole lot. You recognize that name, and you follow the one who calls it. Before you are even baptized the Church asks the parents what name is given to the child. From the beginning, our name is what calls us to God.

One more thing (since I feel I’m on a roll) when you get to heaven, God will give you a name that only He will call you and only you know. How ridiculously awesome is that? If that doesn’t show the power behind a name I don’t know what will.

And while I was thinking more about this, I realized too how ideas such as whether names are important or not impact how we think about other things. Specifically in regards to Truths about God. I think that is why the Church has always been such a strong fighter against heresies. We must think about God rightly if we are to have a solid faith in Him. Some great saints spent their lives fighting heresies. They could have been helping the poor or something instead. Why supposedly waste all that time and energy on correcting a silly idea? Because ideas matter A LOT! A simple idea will affect how you think about other things, and will also usually affect your actions as well. And if you have the wrong idea about God (aka, a heresy), wow, will that lead you to some awful places.

It may seem useless to most people why the Church is so adamantly opposed to ordaining women (not to mention not even having the ability to do so). But this matters a lot. It affects how we see Christ, how He relates to us, gives Himself to us, and how we respond to that love. A simple idea will have massive consequences. Just look at what the idea of a woman’s choice has gotten us. The culture of death is everywhere, and it all started from an idea.

So, in conclusion (because I think I’ve gone on way too long after so long a silence), names are freaking awesome and the Church rocks and will fight heresies to the death. And that’s the Church and God I want to serve! Have a blessed day!

Monday, April 18, 2011

When I Survey The Wondrous Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour comtempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See from his head, his hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.