Awkward Catholic

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


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Dad, is God real?

While driving my three children to school a few weeks ago (it’s a 30 minute drive), my eldest who turned 9 years old recently, asked me, “Daddy, how do we know our God is the real God?” and immediately followed that up with, “And how do we know everything our religion teaches is right? And how do we know Jesus was born from Mary?”

Questioning

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

I mean, woah! These are the same questions the teens in my high school youth program ask on a regular basis and here’s my 9 year old asking them casually on the way to school one morning! How awesome! You see, I think we all ask these questions, and many others like them, throughout our lives. Seeking the truth isn’t just regulated to school aged children, but is one of the most deeply lived pursuits of every human life. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, the three deepest desires of the human heart are for truth, love and life. And as Christ once said, “I am the way (love), the truth and the life.”

Throughout my 18 years of leading teens closer to Christ (or trying to), I’ve been attempting to answer my son’s questions in ways that lead them to a deeper understanding and experience of Christ and of faith. It’s not easy. For one, we tend to hear what we want to hear and reject that which we don’t want to hear; or we dismiss it as nonsense because it doesn’t match up with our personal world view. Which, I think is why I was so delighted to hear my 9 year old ask these questions at such a young age; he’s less jaded and more open to truth.

On the other hand, I’ve also often watched as teens, and adults, hear and accept what I say only to walk away like the rich young man in the parable of Jesus, who walked away sad because he had many things. We don’t want to give up those things that bring us comfort and escape, or our grudges and addictions. Because if I become convicted of the reality of God and his love for me, that’s going to demand a change. And change is scary, uncomfortable and frightening.

But as Pope Benedict XVI said, “You were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” And so, I answered my son as best I could in a car also carrying a 6 year old boy and a 3 year old girl. I’ll post some links for the answers to his questions, but this post isn’t meant to be an apologetic one. It’s meant to challenge you (and me).

As the new year rapidly approaches, I think it’s the right time to take a few moments / days and reflect on the reasons we respond the way we do when our world view is being challenged, whether you’re a saintly Catholic, mediocre Catholic (like me), fallen away Catholic, Protestant, atheist, Muslim, etc. When confronted with questions, or more to the point, when confronted with the Truth, why do you respond the way you do?

Over the Christmas holiday I had a conversation with a family member who’s a fallen away Catholic. He off-highhandedly comments to me that the Catholic faith is simply a rehashing of the Egyptian worship of the god Horus. I roll my eyes and begin trying to respond with answers only to be shouted down as he walked away. I truly believe this family member is yearning for truth, for meaning and hope in their life, but isn’t willing to listen to what Christ offers because it’ll mean making some seriously significant changes.

But even for those of us who have accepted Christ as Savior, what holds you back from responding more generously like Zacchaeus and less like the rich young man? Even those who are living a moderately religious life can walk away from Christ by rejecting his call onward and upward.

What is holding you back? What are you afraid of? What lies or sinful strongholds have you allowed into your heart?

New Creation_Pablo_Heimplatz

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz

Links to some of the above questions about faith:

https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/the-real-thing

https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/ricky-gervaiss-atheism-claims-answered

https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/jesus-and-the-pagan-gods

https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/mary-full-of-grace

https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/no-contradictions-in-truth

 


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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.

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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!

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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!!