Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Unspoken Battle

There is a great war within the general population of the Catholic church over the nature of what it means to be faithful.  It stems from a sincere desire to be "right with God."  (Proof even our loftiest desires, those we think most holy, can be the means of our failure to be faithful disciples).

With the sending of the Filial Appeal, signed by the people here, I remember Pope Benedict's prediction that the Church would grow smaller.  I suspect it is so, for the same reason many after hearing Jesus say to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him, many went away sad.  The first words of the Filial Appeal are, "It is with profound grief..." 

" Jesus even asked his apostles, "Will you go away too?"  And I wonder, where will these people go?  Will they realize they are leaving?  Will they realize, they should come back?  Do they know what they're walking away from?  Do they know what they are risking losing?  I believe they fear it, or they would not be grieved.   I suspect many are people who want the truth, but like all of us, see through a glass darkly, but think they see better than others.   How do we square God hating sin and loving us who sin?  How do we reconcile the very real reality that we want to sin, with we want to be in Heaven?   We cannot. Herein is where we get to the apex of our declaration of faith.  Do we Trust the Trinity who is God and his servant the Church, or do we trust ourselves and our judgment.  I know how poor my own judgment is...If I forget, my children can give me a litany of reminders on demand. 

However, God in His infinite mercy and love, offers us the impossible.  That is the crux of our faith and it is not secret, rather it is explosive.  God pouring ever expansive grace and mercy over the world, and seeking to gather all who would allow themselves to love God back and pulling every bit of beauty and love out into the open He can to pierce our hearts and be invited in. 

This past two weeks, I've embarked on a great experiment which tests everything. I'm teaching CCD.  Understanding and loving and reading, and learning about the faith is one thing.  Attempting to convey it in a systemic meaningful manner that doesn't get either too technical or too airy, is another. So if in my little kingdom of a classroom, it is a challenge, how much moreso for the Pope, who must deal with not merely those who do not know, and those who do not care, but those who think they know, and those who think they care more.  Whatever we present, it is inadequate, and we have to trust that grace will make up for what is lacking, but work like anything, to make sure we don't deliberately omit what is necessary. 

The experience concentrates my own understanding of Catholicism, of reducing the excess as one would refine a sauce on a stove.   Where I love the narrative Gospels, I find myself drawn to the Gospel of John when attempting to get deeper into explaining not merely our faith, but the function of our faith.  (To draw ever nearer to Christ). 

So when I reflect upon what the Catechism teaches, what our faith asks of us, it does not seem rules, it is a relationship.  In any relationship of love, be it fraternal, romantic, or intellectual, the desire is for a deeper and greater, truer and more self revealing connection.  We want to be at ease with whoseover it is with whom we seek this relationship. We want that other to know us and know us well enough to read our moods, and to know when to give us what we need, and when it should challenge us on what we want. We want it to be like breathing, where we can stay in each other's presence and not be doing anything in particular, and the time itself becomes precious for the presence. 

God is love. 
Our job, to reflect God's presence to everyone else. 
How?  By loving them as well as possible. 
How?  By seeking to be always a source of spiritual and corporeal mercy to others, by learning how to be less selfish, angry, petty, small, irked, irritated, anxious, indulgent, and demanding ourselves while at the same time, seeking to help others learn how to love and thus serve. 

It's a tall order for anyone...almost impossible...except we are talking about God being in the equation, and thus it is not only possible, it is necessary.  However, as a good friend said to me during a recent crisis, the goal is not to be "right" by God, that is to have proven your merit and value by words and deeds (see Older Brother if you need a perfect example), but to "Be" with God and delight in His presence.  (See Saint Mary at the feet of Jesus, Saint Mary Magdalene seeking to be even simply at his tomb Easter Morning, see Saint John the Baptist's first response to Jesus from the womb).   These examples were not of people doing their duty or obligations or following rules, these were people displaying without any pretense, love for Christ.  If we sit with Christ, if we sit at His feet, we will find our place, and others will as well.  It is when we will our own path that we get lost.  It is the constant unspoken battle inside of every soul, whether we know it or not. It is a battle already won, if only we surrender.

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