Awkward Catholic

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


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Our Father or Almighty Smiter?

“Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” Elizabeth utters to Mary in the Gospel of Luke when Mary arrives to visit her cousin. “Who am I?” What profoundly humble and exacting words! At the end of the day, who are any of us that the Lord should keep us in mind? For years I have been telling people, the teens I work with, their parents, in my writing and speaking and in every day conversations, that God created the stars in the sky, every single one of them, for you personally.

And many times I have gotten the response, “Yeah right, like I matter that much,” or “I don’t think so. He’s got more important things to worry about than me.” I get it. Compared to God we’re nothing. Heck, without God we’re nothing, literally! Honestly, the above claim, that you mean more to God than all the stars in the galaxy, is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, claim of Christianity to believe. In a certain sense, it’s much easier to believe that those old Greek/Roman/Norse gods are real because at least they’re more “human”, more relatable. It’s much easier to believe in a god or gods that don’t really care all that much because I don’t really matter all that much. Each of us is really just a blip on the radar of history.

And that’s what’s so startling, revolutionary, and world-changing about our Catholic-Christian faith! As totally insignificant and transitory as each of us seems to be, the deeper reality of the truth is that we are central to all of time and history and we are more than just tolerated and begrudgingly loved by some all-powerful deity in the clouds. We are His very dear and beloved children! And as any good parent will tell you, we figure as central to all His purposes and plans.

I’ve come to know this deeply in many ways. As I write today my dad lies in a hospital bed dying from COPD/emphysema. I’m at peace with his inevitable passing, as is he. But naturally it’s gotten me thinking about the grand scheme of things (most things get me thinking about that honestly). How important was my dad’s life to time and history? Well, if he hadn’t been around then neither myself nor my brother would be here, neither would any of our children. So yeah, kind of important. And as broken of a man as he was (all of us are really), I wouldn’t be who I am today without his love and example. So to quite a lot of people, my dad’s life mattered, is critical in their history. And we could backtrack to every life ever lived based on this line of thought. Even the most seemingly insignificant lives in history were critical to countless people around the world.

But let’s get back to that really hard pill to swallow, that your life matters, not just to a few or many people, but matters to the infinite, eternal and uncontainable God of the universe as much as the entire galaxy and more. My thoughts on this keep returning to a simple common prayer that’s easily overlooked because its said so often without a thought… the Our Father. Ponder this prayer if you will; not the entire thing, but simply the opening line, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by the name.”

Have you ever pondered that line before? The very fact that we can call God, “our Father” is mind-blowing! He isn’t just some distant creator, we aren’t just random atoms smashing around breaking things; our lives aren’t simply insignificant blips on a radar screen! We matter!! You matter!! Your life has meaning, your suffering, your joys, your everything matters!

Notice how when the disciples ask Jesus how to pray, he doesn’t simply suggest a few prayers or techniques. His response isn’t just one technique that he happens to find helpful, like mindfulness, or meditation, or anything like that. His response is definitive, demanding and precise. And there’s a reason for that. He wasn’t just saying, “Hey, if it suits you, call God your Father. It’s a nice thought, a nice compliment to God.” Rather, he commanded us to pray the “Our Father”. It wasn’t just one way of praying among many, it is The Way of praying.

Why? Because he knows us better than we know ourselves. He was setting us up to understand this most difficult of truths, that you matter more to God than all the galaxy combined! You are precious to Him, the apple of his eye, his beloved son or daughter. Who am I? I am loved. Who are you? You are loved. You are the center of your Father’s universe.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name!