Saturday, January 23, 2010

Only Yourself, Lord

Over the past summer, I read this book by Peter Kreeft called Three Philosophies of Life: Ecclesiastes: Life as Vanity, Job: Life as Suffering, Song of Songs: Life as Love.

One of my most adored passages in the book inspired me as I read what it means to deal with the problem of God. You see, that God exists presents a big problem. It's probably even bigger than the notion that evil exists.

The problem of God in the Job isn't whether or not God exists. Only atheists or agnostics would have that problem. It's not about who or what God is in Himself. Only philosophers or theologians would have that problem. The problem is this: Who is God to me? What difference does He makes in MY life? Where the heck are YOU, O GOD?

The previous sentences may sound like borderline blasphemy to the audience. But it is truthfully said, "God, where are you in my life?" The lived life and its testament tells us this: God exists, but we now know this, He's not here. He doesn't care for us. He has abandoned us.

And for a long time, that resonates with me. I call out to You, but You don't answer me. Job even claims that if Job was in a fair law suit against God, he would win! But, since God is omnipotent, God would win, he would win not because He's right, but because He is powerful. And to me, that strikes me as a tyrannical God. One who is no loving Father, only a taskmaster.

Job, in his agony, still holds faith and hope in this seemingly tyrannical God, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him." (Job 13:15). Wow. What kind of faith is that? I think I know why Job answered it that way. I know now. Because to hear of God, to have Him punish you, is better than for Him to abandon you. The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.

But in the end, it wasn't the pious and orthodox friends who God approved of. It was Job. God said Job spoke truthfully. Job sticks to God. He keeps his passion, his fire, his intimacy. His words do not accurately reflect God's image, but they reflect his heart. And that's what counts. You gotta be true to yourself. Who cares what others think? Who cares if you got the right words down or not? (Here I interject, I care, but I care only to its own extent).

This is why Job questions God the way he does. To be in a relationship with an infinite being, means to be in an infinite relationship with Him. It's everything or nothing. You can't be lukewarm with God. You can't have this "Jesus is my homeboy" mentality. And Job feels let down. He thinks that God didn't come through on His end of the bargain. And for Job, that means that God is nothing. "Job stays married to God and throws dishes at him." His three friends are just roommates with God. The family that fights together, stays together.

The most important lesson in Job is the practice of the presence of God. That's why it's so important for Catholics to go to daily Mass, to attend adoration, to fall on your knees before the Almighty God, hidden beneath the veils of the Blessed Sacrament. And that's why it's so important for Christians to be in the living relationship with Christ, to keep their spiritual practices of prayer, daily meditation and spiritual songs.

Job finally answers in the end, "I have heard of You with the hearing of my ears, but now my eye sees You." This is the most important verse in Job. This is the solution to the problem. This is the answer to every longing heart's question. To know God is better than to hear of Him. Let me say that again, To know God is better than to hear of Him.

Let's say you have a boyfriend in some distant country. He write letters, and you read his love-letters. They are all well and good. But to see his face, to be held in his embrace is infinitely better than hearing of him and of his work. You will have no more questions after you get this Answer. Your soul, your life, you, will be contented and satisfied. No, even more than that, you will overflow with joy and an abundance of life. I know, because it happened to me. I know, because even though times like these suck, it's not so much that I'm holding on to God, it's Him holding me.

So I leave with my favorite passage from Peter Kreeft's book:

"The greatest question ever asked and the greatest answer ever given, in my opinion, are in an incident near the end of the life of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Thomas was alone in the chapel, he thought (but his friend Reginald was watching and swore under oath that he saw and heard these events), and praying before the altar. A voice came from the mouth of Christ on the crucifix: "You have written well of me, Thomas. What will you have as a reward?"

"It is the same question with which Jesus began his public ministry, "What do you want?" (Jn 1:38).

"And the equally great answer Thomas gave to God, the answer that puts a lump in my throat and a bird in my heart every time I say it, was, "Only Yourself, Lord." The theologian who found thousands of answers--more answers, and more adequate answers, than any other theologian in history--wants only one thing, "the one thing needful" that Mary wanted and Jesus wanted Martha to want, (Lk 10:42): Himself. 

"That is why even Job is satisfied. He did not get what he thought he wanted, but he got what he really wanted. He did not get what his head and his consciousness thought they wanted, but he got what his heart and his deep unconscious knew they wanted, the thing we all want. We cannot help it: God made us that way. Only one key fits that lock; only one Romeo satisfies that Juliet. "Deep calls unto deep"--only infinity can marry infinity.

"The Beatific Vision that awaits all believers in Heaven is granted to Job for a moment on earth."

The peace of our Lord, His glorious presence, be with you all. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Do Not Be Afraid

Massachusetts recently voted to elect the pro-abortion Scott Brown for the United States Senate. Although politics usually angers or bores me, this certainly looks like Washington is in for another shake-up. Senator-elect Brown has made health-care his primary issue as he pledged to be the "41st Senator" to vote against the health-care bill.

For those of you who don't keep up with politics, it means that President Obama and the Democrats will suffer a tremendous setback to their agenda as they will fail to implement their signature issue.

Speaking of health-care insurance, and this also seems appropriate as our prayers go out to those suffering in Haiti, especially after the aftershock today, my favorite theologian has this tidbit to say:

"This world of ours is a world of fear: the fear of misery and poverty, the fear of illness and suffering, the fear of solitude, the fear of death. We have in this world a widely developed insurance system; it is good that it exists. But we know that at the moment of deep suffering, at the moment of the ultimate loneliness of death, no insurance policy will be able to protect us. The only valid insurance in those moments is the one that comes to us from the Lord, who also assures us: "Do not fear, I am always with you." We can fall, but in the end we fall into God's hands, and God's hands are good hands."
-Pope Benedict XVI
Homily, December 18, 2005

Also, I plan on doing a blog series profiling all the closest friends I have, from the time I started in elementary school. To meet that criterion, they have been a significant part in my life, or building toward that goal. Let me know what you think. I promise I'll say nothing but good things about you. ;)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Lord's Baptism

Today the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church in the United States celebrates the Lord's Baptism.

One of the things that helped open my eyes to the claims of the Church was the clarity and theological depth Joseph Ratzinger has. Now Pope Benedict XVI, his own personal book , Jesus of Nazareth, helped me in my own spiritual walk with Christ, and ultimately, His Church. The rest will be a quotation from Benedict's book on the Lord's Baptism.

Starting with the paragraph on "The actual ritual of Baptism symbolizes this." Too bad the publishers cut out the good part on Eastern iconography. Let me know if you want the missing pages.

Christmas Season

Today is the last day of the Christmas celebration. Tomorrow we start Ordinary Time until Lent begins. What does that mean? Eat all the meat you can (with moderation, of course) till Ash Wednesday!

What does Christmas mean? Where did it's origins come from? The first Christian celebrations began with Easter, with the Resurrection of our Lord, not His Birth, according to the flesh. Benedict XVI said, "Because of this the most ancient feast of Christianity is not Christmas, but Easter: The resurrection of Christ is at the base of Christian faith; it is at the base of the proclamation of the Gospel and gives birth to the Church. Therefore to be Christians means to live in the mode of Easter, connecting ourselves to the dynamic that comes from baptism, which brings death to sin to live with God (cf. Romans 6:4)."

Hippolytus of Rome first made mentioned that Christ was born on December 25th. The point of the day was more theological rather than historical. Bible scholars recognize that on this day was celebrated the Dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem, instituted by Judas Maccabeus in 164 B.C.. The concurrence of dates would come to mean that with Jesus, appearing as light of God in the night, advent of God to this earth, the consecration of the temple is truly fulfilled.

A lot of people thinks that Christmas came from pagan origins. That may be true, but as the celebrated Calvinist Abraham Kuyper said, "All truth is God's truth." (I'm sure loads others said the same thing, just easy reference). Where there are good things in culture, it belongs to Christianity. Where there are anything admirable, noble, of excellence, it's in the dominion of Christendom.

Benedict XVI explained, "Within Christianity, the feast of Christmas took on a definite form in the fourth century, when it took the place of the Roman feast of “sol invictus,” the invincible sun. Thus was shown that the birth of Christ is the victory of true light over the darkness of evil and sin."