Awkward Catholic

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


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The Boredom of Heaven

I’ve made a deal with God that when I get to heaven and all’s said and done, the Secondsong-to-sing Coming is all wrapped up, evil is defeated for good and Christ reigns over all in glory forever, that I’ll get to do a solo song in praise of the his supremely beautiful Mother. This being due to the fact that He gave me such a lousy singing voice here on earth.

But I digress. Tonight some of the teens teens I work with expressed concern over being bored in heaven; an eternity with God, awesome! But that’s going to get kind of repetitive after awhile, isn’t it? Well no, not really… not at all. There will be no boredom in heaven. There simply can’t be.

Boredom

Look at it this way, all creation is an expression of the unending, over-flowing love of God. Every single thing that exists does so as an expression of God. Of course we have twisted many things, if we’re being honest we twist pretty much everything, into something selfish, but in it’s very nature, all things exist for God, in God and through God, which means that all things are designed as an expression of God and his love. Therefor, the enjoyment we receive from any created thing, or person, is in part a reflection of God.

Therefore, it stands to reason that if you love Hot and Now Krispy Kreme Donuts (and who doesn’t?!) then you’ll find that joy in heaven as well. If you love flying down the road with the top down and the wind in your hair, then that joy will be found in heaven. If you love sitting on a mountain top and gazing in wonder at creation then that joy will be there for you. If you love the thrill of jumping from a perfectly good airplane, or the excitement of asking someone out on a date for the first time, or reading a good book on a rainy day with your favorite cup of coffee or tea, then those joys will be there in heaven too!

But in an even fuller, pure, more prefected way. Because in most things we engage with here on earth they are at least tinged with imperfection and sin, even the marital embrace of a loving husband and wife is more often than not tinged with selfishness. But in heaven, the fleeting and imperfect nature of all things will be transformed in glorious beauty. And lest we think of heaven as an earth-less cloud-like existence, remember in Scripture it tells us that the old earth and heaven will pass away and a new earth and a new heaven will come. It will be even more beautiful than Eden. In fact it has to be, just like we will be more glorious than Adam and Eve in the pre-fallen state. This new heaven and earth will be in perfect harmony and perfect and complete union!

Solitude

As I was in the chapel this afternoon praying I imagined that, as it says in Rev. 8:1, “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” I imagined what that would be like… all the angels and saints standing in worship around the throne of God and complete in utter silence, gazing in awe… a half hour passes of this collective breathlessness and sheer wonder… then Michael, the chief of the Seraphim begins singing the glorious hymn,

‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honour
and power and might

And as he nears the last line the entire company of heaven breaks in…

be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’

And eternity begins as all the joy and goodness on earth find the perfection and fulfillment united to our Glorious God and the unending symphony of praise cascades throughout the new heaven and earth.  And the thrill of being pursued by the Divine Lover, and wonder at being caught up in His arms will continue eternally, ever ancient and ever new.

Let the Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” (Rev. 22:17)

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Why Mary?

On this, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary I wonder, why Mary? What do I mean by that? Of the 7 most important feasts that we celebrate as Catholics: Mary, the Mother of God (Jan. 1st), Easter, Ascension Thursday, The Assumption of Mary (Aug. 15th), All Saints Day (Nov. 1st), The Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8th), Christmas (Dec. 25th), why are so many focused on Mary? That’s three feasts directly about Mary, then All Saints day with the greatest of saints being Mary, and Christmas which kind of heavily involves Mary.

So why Mary?

Well, let’s look at it like this… what is our primary responsibility as Christians? It’s not the salvation of our own souls. If all you’re concerned about is saving your soul, that’s an inherently selfish perspective. Don’t get me wrong, desiring salvation is good, but if it’s your main or only focus, that’s selfish.

Ultimately, we are tasked with helping to save the souls of as many others as we can. Our primary responsibility is to bring others to heaven. Of course, we’re most effectively by striving for holiness in our own lives.

Why is saving others our primary responsibility? Because God has chosen to work through our broken humanity to save others. Sure, he could simply reveal himself in glory to everyone, but that would, in a sense, take away our free will. We would be so overwhelmed by Him that we couldn’t choose not him. And his love necessitates a completely free response, just like any pure love does. So he chooses to reach out in love, to save each soul through the hands and feet and lives of you and me.

In other words, we can’t just accept our redemption then sit back and enjoy the show. We have work to do! “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.” The more Christ-like I become, the more I live and breathe and move in the will of God, the more I look like Christ, the more beautiful and attractive I become, drawing others along with me.

And who, other than Mary imitates her Son more perfectly?! Who, from the moment of her birth until the moment of her Assumption reflects the love and will of God more than Mary?

As Saint Maximilian Kolbe once said, “Mary’s will does not differ from the will of God. Calling upon her without reserve, you manifest a love for the will of God, for her will is so perfect that in nothing does it differ from His. Thus you give glory to God that he created so perfect a creature and took her for his Mother.”

And then he gave her to us! He gave us his own Mother as our own. In my favorite Scripture passage, “The Wedding at Cana,” Mary notices that they have run out of wine. The fact wasn’t brought to her attention, she knew before anyone said anything. And she proceeds to tell the waiters to “Do whatever he tells you.” Do you see that?! She knows, your Mother knows what you need and says only this, “Do whatever he tells you.” Let go of your own will and take up the will of her Son and the grace of God will pour out upon you abundantly! The waiters at the wedding didn’t then take the most beautiful wine and keep it to themselves, but shared that overflowing and abundant grace with others.

In a certain sense, the Christian life is really that simple. Like Mary, to do the will of God.

So why do we go to Jesus through Mary? As Fr. Michael Gaitley put it in his grace-filled book “33 Days to Morning Glory:” Because Mary was there. She was present at every moment of Jesus’ life and ministry, literally from the time of his Conception to his Ascension into heaven. It was she who carried Christ in her body before any disciple, it was she who ushered in his first miracle at Cana, it was Mary who watched at the foot of the Cross, it was she who was given to the world as Mother. It is she who loves her children and brings them to her Son, to satisfy his dying words, “I Thirst.”


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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!!