Awkward Catholic

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


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Checking Your List for the Divine Invasion

That awkward moment when you see the horrible things going on in the world around you and you realize that this day, or any day, might be your last and that you aren’t prepared, that there are too many things left undone or unsaid. At the very least, you want to check off a few more things from your bucket list.Bucket

So, what’s on your bucket list? My bucket list has four items on it: To marry a beautiful woman, to have a family, to be published and to become a saint. Thus far I’ve accomplished 3 of my four goals.

What about you? If you haven’t actually made a bucket list, then at least ask yourself what you most want to accomplish in this life before you die. But then ask yourself why you want these things. Most likely there is some story behind your desire or need for each item on your list. Most likely you believe that obtaining those goals will bring you satisfaction or fulfillment of some kind. And most likely they will, to a certain extent.

But now I want to ask you what do you think is on God’s bucket list? The obvious answer is that he wants us with him for eternity. But really, that’s too generic, isn’t it? Your bucket list is most likely specific and concrete, why wouldn’t God’s be?

I’ve said this before but I think it bears repeating: why did God create the world?

The answer is simple: to love you; so that you would be here for him to love. You are the apple of his eye, the treasure of his heart, his precious. What God wants is you; simply you. Nothing else, nothing less, he wants you and you alone. Every star in t he sky exists so that God could love you.

But we resist this, don’t we? We look for our satisfaction just about everywhere else. Why is that I think? Why do we continue to seek the satisfaction of his love elsewhere?! I think a major part of the problem is that, for most of us, eternity is so far away, so distant into the future that it’s hard to think about, to live for. Rather, most of us are just trying to survive this week, or this day, aren’t we?

Yeah, I want to go to heaven but right now, I want more to make it through today without giving up, without being hurt, without hurting someone else or embarrassing myself or messing up or disappointing someone.

This, in a certain sense, in a very real sense, is the war we find ourselves in on an almost daily basis… a war with its most evil manifestations in the mass shootings and terrorism around us, but more importantly in the everyday lives of everyday people. None of us signed up for this war, but we find ourselves in it nonetheless.

Each day we find ourselves simply trying to survive the day and all these fears, hurts, dangers and traps are the weapons of the enemy, the devil. We’re so focused on these small battles that we forget the overall war, the goal. We make concessions saying that I don’t think I can obtain salvation, or I’ll worry about it later. Right now, I just want a little rest, a little peace and something joyful. To be clear, delighting in the everyday joys, the little things that make life good or tolerable are not bad. In fact, they are gifts from God. But the danger comes when we begin to make these little pleasures all we’re fighting for.

That’s why the idea of a bucket list is actually a good one. Typically, a bucket list contains things that are life-changing, life-defining, lifetime accomplishment type goals. They are real and concrete and help us focus on the long term, they help us to keep fighting and moving forward. But make sure those items on your list have the right priority. What is your #1? What should it be? If the love of God isn’t your #1 goal then you’re missing the point.

But let’s get back to this war we’re fighting. We’re getting ready to celebrate the Incarnation of Christ, where the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Think about that for a minute, about how in this Great War, a war that has raged through all time and space, there was a moment when God’s plan had come to fruition and it was time to strike. And so he sent his army of One onto the front lines, a beachhead in the form of a baby in a manger… the Divine Invasion began and continues today.Nativity

In our lives, our minds and hearts, Christ comes again and again, in the silence and stillness. Just like he came the first time as a still, small baby; he comes to us now in a still, small voice. Not with guns or bombs or fanfare but in the silence of a still mind, a quiet, searching heart. Mark my words, strength to survive this week or the day will not be found in those small pleasures of things but rather in the stillness of silence.

Sure, silence is a terrifying experience for most. With all the countless distractions of today it’s nearly impossible to know silence. And this, I believe is one of the most potent weapons of the enemy. I know well the fear of silence. I had a difficult time growing up. My inner thoughts were filled with self-hatred and disgust and the thought of spending time with those thoughts, of wrestling with them was a terrifying one. Why would I want that?

But where else am I going to find healing and wholeness? It is in the silence where I am able to confront my wounds, wounds inflicted on me and those I’ve inflicted myself. Then, in his mercy he enters our hearts and minds, often unseen, and begins to heal those wounds and we find peace and begin living the eternity we are destined for.

This Advent, prepare your heart for the coming of Christ. Wrestle with the silence and hear the voice of God say to you, “You are my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” You are his Beloved! Sit with that in the silence. Let this truth overwhelm your fear and wash clean your wounds, you are God’s entire bucket list.


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The Paris Attacks – A Call to Arms

Words can’t truly express the sorrow of the tragic events that have unfolded around the world. The attacks in Paris last night, the attacks in Lebanon… what can we say but my Jesus, mercy! Let us take time to mourn those who lost their lives, to pray for them and yes, to pray for the murderers as well.

As I’ve said in past posts, the magnitude of evil happening in our world is unfathomable. There is a tidal wave of evil that is crashing over us and it often feels as if we are about to be crushed by it. The terror attacks that happened last night are unquestionably evil and tragic, yet they do not stand alone, the tragedy of countless lives lost in Syria and Iraq are equally as horrific. Are they not just as tragic as the lives lost in France? What about those countless lives lost to abortion? Our world is hurting, is bleeding out and nothing seems able to stop it:

“Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see
Whether there is any suffering like my suffering,
Which has been dealt me
When the Lord afflicted me
On the day of his blazing wrath.”
– Lamentations 1:12

Let me be clear, I am not making light of the tragedy in Paris. But I hope that this event may spur us to something great, “We know that all things work for good for this who love God.” (Rom. 8:28). What’s likely to happen is that France’s president will make bold statements and commit to bold action in response to the terror attacks, our president will do the same. The world will unite in solidarity with France and the war will continue. More guns, more bombs, more war will ensue and evil upon evil will multiply.

I am not advocating that we simply ignore what happened and not attempt to defend the defenseless. I’m not saying we shouldn’t fight for those in the Middle East or anywhere around the world that are being murdered and persecuted. What I am saying is this, before we react in vengeance, before we attack those who attacked us should we not do the one thing that will actually make a difference? Should we not pray?

Many have called, since the attacks in Paris, to pray. After every tragedy like this we are called to pray. And many of us do, we offer a Hail Mary or a Rosary, we go to a Mass or adoration, we stay mindful and send our thoughts and sympathies to the victims and their families. That’s great, for a start. How about this though, instead of offering one Hail Mary or a Rosary for a day, we keep praying the Rosary everyday.

If we truly believed that pray works, then wouldn’t we pray more? If we truly believed in the power of prayer we wouldn’t need guns or bombs or anything else. If you doubt me then let me refer you to the words of the Bishop of Nigeria. Not long ago he reported a vision he had of Mary who told him that if people prayed the Rosary every day for the end of Boko Haram, it would be no more. How many people do you think took up this call? How many people trusted that Mary’s words would be accomplished? The Bishop did, and I’m certain some of the few people around the world who heard of this story did. But many didn’t, or many tried and gave up. Is Boko Haram still spreading its evil through Nigeria? Yes. But as Mary promised, if we but pray, not fight but pray, Boko Haram will be no more. See here for the story.

Could it be true that if we but prayed, earnestly, believing that our prayer would actually work, that ISIS would be no more as well? I believe so. But it’s going to take more than a few Hail Mary’s and adoration hours. It’s going to take a great deal more suffering and a great deal of perseverance, but it is possible:

“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave that is driven and tossed about by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.”
– James 1:2-8

It’s more than possible, it is the only sure means of our hope.

How many people spend 30 minutes or more in their car 5 days a week on their way to work? What a great time for a Rosary! What about those who spend countless hours in waiting rooms and hospital beds, with our without kids? What is it we’re waiting on in those moments as the cars stand still, as other people’s names are called? Why wait when we could actively seek, actively intervene in world events through our prayer?

How many of us spend more than an hour each night ‘unwinding’ from the stresses of the day, watching TV, cruising social media, playing video games, reading books, etc.? What are we really searching for but to refresh our minds, bodies and souls? Why not spend at least 20 minutes instead searching in the one place that will actually refresh us and at the same time change the world?

Let these most recent tragedies be a call to arms, a call to two arms stretched out upon a piece of wood, a call to thousands of arms stretched out, pierced and bleeding with love, waiting to embrace the suffering of others, waiting to welcome those hurt and those who caused the hurt alike.

“I called upon your name, O Lord, from the bottom of the pit;
You heard me call, “Let not your ear  be deaf to my cry for help!
You came to my aid when I called to you;
You said, “Have no fear!”
– Lamentations 3:55-57

 

I think Matt Maher sums it up beautifully in his song “You Were On the Cross”:


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Getting Perspective

baby crying This morning started off pretty well. I woke up on my own, as opposed to my three year old loudly disturbing my slumber early in the morning as is his custom. My 3 month old daughter slept until 9AM and then sat quietly and patiently by as I finished cooking pancakes for the boys. It was after that when things started getting rough. An hour after waking my daughter started crying; she was hungry and tired.

Normally I’d just pass her off to Maria to nurse her which would almost instantly put her to sleep. However, my amazing wife was not home. She was at her first day of work after giving birth. So this morning was my first attempt (and Therese’s 2nd attempt) at using a bottle. It didn’t work. She cried her sweet little eyes out not understanding why her mommy wasn’t coming to the rescue. It was heartbreaking.

So I took her upstairs and tried pacing around the room with her, shushing her and patting her back. Eventually it worked beautifully and she fell asleep and I was able to put her down just before my back began cramping up. Prior to her falling asleep, as I paced back and forth, my mind poured over all the problems and concerns I have, from the stress of a crying, inconsolable baby, to my two boys fighting downstairs, the unpaid hospital bills and looming mortgage payment, our old house which still hasn’t rented out (on which we’re counting to augment our income), the ridiculously high electric bill and on and on.

Then something occurred to me that put it all in perspective. Here I stood in a huge house, holding a beautiful baby girl, with her two wonderful, healthy siblings downstairs, and my wife and I both are gainfully employed and so many other countless blessings. Meanwhile, there’s the worst Ebola outbreak the world’s ever seen occurring in Africa, Isis is taking over Iraq and destroying the lives of millions of people, a war is brewing in Israel, typhoons are ravaging the Philippines, countless thousands of refugees are crossing into Texas, the scourge of sex slavery is growing exponentially (a result of porn) and on and on.Ebola

How blessed am I?! It’s not that I shouldn’t be concerned with those little things that surround my life, but in the greater perspective my life is good, amazingly blessed and my loving concern for those suffering unfathomable loss and grief has grown enormously. So, rather than wasting my time stressing over these little things I need to pray. I need to pray for them and let them go in trusting surrender to God’s will. Then I need to pray earnestly for those that need God’s grace. Or rather, I need to pray to God and call down his grace on those who need it now, the most. He knows so much better than I where his grace is most desperately needed.

I want to challenge anyone reading this to find a new perspective. Let’s put aside our judgment and preconceived prejudices about immigrants (legal or illegal), about the chaos of northern Africa, about who’s at fault in the Israel/Palestinian conflict (more than one side is wrong there, it’s not as black and white as you think), about the terror and evil in Iraq, and so on. Let’s cast aside our judgment and pray. Pray for a just and compassionate solution for the immigrants seeking a better life, for those suffering from plague or terror or war. Pray earnestly for peace, for health, for hope. Pray.

After all, the wars and plagues and famines and suffering is your fault anyway. Well, OK, it’s all of our fault. You see, God created paradise but our sin brought chaos. That’s what sin is, a tearing away of perfection and replacing it with chaos, with an absence of love. So yes, that Ebola outbreak is a result of our sin, the evil in Iraq is a result of our sin and the only way to bring an end to it all is God’s grace breaking into the chaos of our sins and turning it into something good, beautiful and perfect… kind of like the Crucifixion of Christ.Crucifix