Awkward Catholic

Living my faith as the awkward man of God that I am.


Leave a comment

Deep Breath – Dark Night

Eucharist

It is almost Holy Week!! I can’t believe it. Usually Lent seems to last forever for me. But somehow, this year I find myself staring at Holy Week and I’m all I can think is, where did it go? Right now it’s late Friday night, the house is beautifully silent as the wife and kids sleep peacefully upstairs and the only sound is the humming of the fridge and the twirl of the fish tank filter. It’s a cool night in north Georgia and quiet.

I reflect on Lent 2017 and wish I’d done more, wish I’d done better and begin to congratulate myself for all the successes I had, but I stop short and thank God instead. And I reflect on what we are about to experience this next week, Holy Week… it feels like the world is holding its breath in anticipation. I don’t mean the world of man, with all the war and violence and pride and business and unnoticed suffering going on. I mean the grand silent night, the flickering stars, the trees and lawns and birds that are just beginning to wake up from their long winter’s nap.

The world of man rages on, ever and endlessly on in a mad screaming dash towards it’s own ends, without ever really stopping other than to give a passing glance at the man dying on the side of the road, shrugging its shoulders and congratulating itself for not being the one dying. It happened to Christ on the cross and it continues happening all around us, to us and because of us and despite us.Syrian Refugee

But the world of creation, of stars and waterfalls and little crickets pauses every now and then, and holds its breath in anticipation of something extraordinary and world-shatteringly amazing. It did thus on the 1st Christmas (and I suspect it does it every Christmas if only we’d pay enough attention) and it does it each year as we approach Holy Week and the death shattering events of the Paschal Mystery.

Can you feel it? It’s the deep breath before the long night.

SONY DSC

Have you ever held your breath in anticipation? The world does so now and awaits the outcome as if it were the first time, because really, it is the first time. At the Mass the veil of time is torn asunder and we recline at table with the Apostles as Christ celebrates the last and first Passover, and we kneel on Calvary as Christ consummates the new Covenant in His Blood. This isn’t just a nice image to think on. It’s literal and true. Our elder brothers, the Jews, experience this each time they celebrate the Passover and we continue this tradition at each and every Mass. And especially in Holy Week the world and all those blessed to see it, hold their breath in anticipation of reliving the event that shattered the world and made it new.

I invite you now to breath deep this wondrous stillness. Pray to look past the surface level chaos and noise, whether it’s an office or classroom or grocery store you find yourself in. Breath deep for a long dark night is about to fall around us; a glorious night, a sad night, a beautiful night, made beautiful by the Morning Star that rises once more.

Why is this night different from all other nights? Because once we were slaves and now we are free.

Sunrise Cross


Leave a comment

Was Jesus a Drunkard?

That awkward moment when you are hosting a party and run out of drinks and food for your guests; really any moment when you realize that you’re on the verge of being completely embarrassed and there’s nothing you can do about it. You might search for solutions, but ultimately your only hope is a miracle and so you prepare to suck it up and deal.

20070707-_NPF107015640

This is how I imagine the bridegroom felt in last Sunday’s Gospel reading from John 2:1-12. This just happens to be one of my favorite Gospel passages, “The Wedding at Cana.” I love this Gospel! I was so excited when the Luminous Mysteries were announced and I discovered the second Mystery was the Wedding at Cana. I’ve spent so much time meditating on this passage and have been so inspired and moved by its profound depth, by Christ’s deep concern for others, by Mary’s motherly prodding, by the humility of the servers, by the faith of his disciples, and so much more.

But more than anything else in this beautiful passage, what moves me most deeply is the overwhelming providence of God’s grace. Have you ever noticed that Mary wasn’t asked by the bridegroom to help? She simply notices that they have run short of wine, and that undoubtedly the bridegroom would be deeply embarrassed, and she asks her son to help. While Jesus at first seems to balk at the idea, she meekly goes to the waiter and tells him to obey Jesus. And what does Jesus do? He changes 180 gallons* of water into wine.  Have you ever contemplated how much wine that is?! It’s about 4 bathtubs full of wine or almost 12 kegs worth. That’s a lot of wine. And remember, that’s after the entire wedding party had already drunk all the other wine! That’s a lot of wine!Cana Wine Jugs.jpg

What’s my point; was Jesus a drunkard? Was he promoting alcoholism? Was he presciently commenting on Protestant anti-alcohol laws? While it seems that he was subconsciously declaring alcohol an acceptable drink, I think he had a more important message to send. God provides. It’s as simple as that. God provides; in abundance; filled to the brim and overflowing! God will not be outdone in generosity! I forget where I heard that last line, “God will not be outdone in generosity!” But it has stuck with me for many years.

I’ve had some hard times, a number of dark moments, such as when my mom died. Nothing can prepare you for that moment, not even 15 years of expectation as she struggles with cancer. Yet, God provided for me, sustained me, and drew me closer to him and to his most Sacred Heart. In all my life I have never known God to fail in coming through. Much of my life he provided through my beloved mother. But even after she passed into glory, he has continued to provide in many ways unseen. But here’s the really cool part: his providence hasn’t even begun to show itself in my life!

Before moving on, though, let’s clarify something… I’ve realized that as much as I deride people like Joel Osteen who preach a prosperity Gospel, I nonetheless seem to desire such a thing. I want and expect God to provide and give me all these good things such as job promotions and the winning lottery numbers. But that’s not how God works. That’s not how God provides.

God isn’t the God of affluence. He’s not Donald Trump who hires or fires us if we do a good enough job! He loves us and wants more for us than a comfortable 80 years on earth! He wants our eternal happiness, not a fleeting “successful” career.

He. Will. Always. Provide.

And what that means is that he will give us what we need, when we need it, even if–especially if–we don’t realize we need it. This isn’t easy for me to write. I want success, who doesn’t? But as God provides for us, he calls us to a success that pays out much greater dividends than any stock market. His grace fills to the brim and overflows. Meditate on that, just for a bit. His grace overflows in abundance even when we don’t ask for it!

35mm_17

As I sit here and write this article, I keep coming back to all the amazing blessings he’s given me in my life, such as my astonishingly beautiful wife. But that’s not what I’m trying to express. His grace is a deeper, more unfathomable reality. It’s a spiritual transformation, a real salvation that pulls at us and nudges us into perfection through the daily grind of “real life,” through the hidden graces in each instant, in each breath. One thought continues to explode in my mind as I write and perhaps this is the only way to really express what I’m trying to say…

Every single breath you take is God saying I love you.

And that’s just the first sip of 180 gallons of overflowing, gracious love.

 

Notes
*  Whoa! I just realized that the amount of water into wine was 180… the very number of degrees that express a complete conversion, a turning point of monumental proportions! Whoa!!