Awkward Catholic

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


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Satan vs. the Eucharist… Challenge Accepted

Evil Mask

* Update: While the Harvard Extension School Cultural Studies Club officially canceled the event at the last minute, about 40 students involved found another location, “The Hong Kong Restaurant” and unbeknownst to the owner, held the black mass in the upper room.*

 

Tonight, May 12th 2014 an atheist group at Harvard conducted a Black Mass under the guise of a cultural enrichment program. The blasphemous horror of the event has not been lost on many of the Catholic faithful around the country. For those who might not know, a Black Mass is a mockery of the Catholic Mass and is the grand event of satanism with the desecration of a stolen Eucharist the main event, much like the Catholic Mass is the source and summit of the Catholic faith. The sole purpose of a Black Mass is to make a mockery of a Catholic Mass and to desecrate the Body of Christ.

Let’s be honest here, anyone aware of the culture war going on around us, both physical and spiritual, isn’t surprised by this latest atrocity. As our culture tolerates everything but the Truth, it is no wonder that the last acceptable bias is against Catholics. And as we all know, Satan attacks most fiercely those things that are a threat to him. He goes after that which is holy, good and true. Remember, Satan can’t create anything new, all he can do is twist and mock that which is real(1). Lust is nothing but a twisted form of love; greed and envy are merely twisted forms of self-gift; gluttony is twisted self-denial; wrath is twisted justice; sloth is twisted mercy.

PietaIn response, tonight my wife and I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary as I gazed upon a beautiful image of Michelangelo’s Pieta. Mary holds her Son’s lifeless body, her heart pierced by a sword of loving grief. Her right hand clasps her son’s body and her left lies open, inviting the world to adore. It’s as if she were saying, “Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see whether there is any suffering like my suffering.”(2) Mary our Mother invites us into her grief, to mourn with her and to love with her.

We make ourselves vulnerable, as he was vulnerable; as he is still vulnerable to all the evil the world can throw at him. With every blasphemous Black Mass, every abortion, every murder or grave sin, Christ’s body is bruised and broken. His hands and feet are nailed to the Cross, his side is pierced for our transgressions, and not just the grave sins, but the small ones too. Those sins we daily commit, the lustful stare, the demeaning word or rumor, the judgement in our hearts and the laziness in our bones. God made himself vulnerable to our love and our hate. He gave his body over to torment and death and he hasn’t revoked that promise.

In these recent days I’ve often wondered why he doesn’t stop such an atrocity from occurring. I have to keep reminding myself that the Pharisees mocked him on the cross with the very same challenge, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.”(3) I need to remember that God is in control, all things happen according to his will and “where sin abounds grace abounds all the more.”(4)

You see, I truly believe that God will bring about amazing graces through this blasphemy. It’s not that he wanted this to happen, but that he allows it to happen (because he promised us free will and must stand by his word) and despite the great evil that is perpetrated, he will bring about even greater good. Even before the Black Mass at Harvard began countless people around the world have been praying, Masses have been offered up, Holy Hours have been prayed and grace upon grace has been poured out all over the world! There’s simply no telling how much grace will be poured out and where it will end! That’s the awesome power of our God!

EucharistSo, how should we respond to such evils as the Black Mass being conducted at Harvard? We fight fire with Fire of course. The Archbishop of Boston is right to protest this evil with a counterpoint… the beauty of the Mass and Holy Adoration. It’s the same in our daily lives as we encounter sin, both the sin of others and our own… we counter evil with love, we respond to injustice with mercy, we pray, adore God and sacrifice. We call down God’s grace and power into this world and like the Allies on D-Day, we establish an indomitable beachhead of God’s Kingdom in a darkened world and watch satan fall from the sky like lightning.(5)

God has already won the victory, now let us fight the battle.

1. The more God-like or holy someone/something becomes, the more real it becomes.
2. Lamentations 1:12
3. Luke 23:37
4. Romans 5:20
5. Luke 10:18


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Hands in the Air Vulnerability

What is the first thing most people do when being held up by robbers?Surrender Pic Stick their hands in the air. When a criminal is surrounded what does he typically do to give up the fight? Stick his hands in the air. When you’ve been working on something with all you have and you just can’t figure it out and you give up, what do you do? Throw your hands in the air. Why is that? I believe because putting your hands above your head places you in the most vulnerable position you could possibly be in. Our hands, and by extension our arms, are the first and last defense. We stick our hands out to feel our way in the dark, we cover our face to protect it from incoming danger, we brace ourselves with our hands as we fall. Our hands protect and defend us; to move them as far away from our bodies, to place them in a position of uselessness is an act of vulnerability.

To be vulnerable is to risk that the other will hurt you, and to, in a certain sense, say, “I give you permission to do whatever you will.” Like it or not, it’s something we all experience in our lives. In fact, most of us spend the greater part of our childhoods being vulnerable and learning that to live life that way hurts… a lot. And so we learn to close ourselves off, to protect ourselves. Hence, we have the wonderful song by Simon and Garfunkel, I am a Rock.

VulnerableIn almost every human interaction we consciously or subconsciously judge how vulnerable we are going to be with the other person; “How much am I willing to share?” “Can I trust this person?” “Can I be myself right now?” and countless other questions we ask ourselves. Each of them lead back to that core question, “How vulnerable am I willing to be towards this person?” Now, we can’t just go around willy-dilly lettin’ the crazy out on everyone we meet. But there are some people I believe it is necessary to risk that vulnerability with, to risk being hurt by. Those are the ones to whom we say, “I love you.” (And yes, this includes God.)

In order to love we have to be vulnerable, don’t we? On Good Friday I was meditating on the Way of the Cross and was struck with a new insight concerning the 10th Station “Jesus is Stripped of his Clothes.” This is quite possibly the most vulnerable moment in all history: the God-Man, the most powerful, infinite, good and loving being making himself weak and helpless with love. He was completely exposed, completely vulnerable! Vulnerable to what? To us, to our hate and judgment, our scorn and mockery, to the weight of our sin crushing him as he leaned upon the rock of his love.

Jesus is Stripped

Our modern sensibilities have glossed over the reality of this moment and made it difficult for us to realize its gravity. Out of a sense of decency we have placed a cloth over Christ’s loins. We protect the image so as not to reveal too much. And who can blame us? But it wasn’t really that way. The Romans didn’t suddenly find pity in their hearts for the man they were in the midst of torturing and decide, “Let’s leave him a little decency.” They stripped him of everything and nailed his hands above his head to the cross… the most vulnerable position to be in for anyone, least of all God.

Of course, in this Easter season I can hear the objections now, “But Mike, it’s Easter! Why are you talking about the Cross now?! Where’s the upbeat, happy, alleluia message?”

It’s right here, hidden beneath the nakedness of God. You see, it is precisely because he allowed himself to be stripped and utterly exposed that we have the joy of Easter. This is what love is after all, being open to the other, being vulnerable giving yourself completely to another, whether or not they give anything back. That’s why Adam and Eve covered themselves after the Fall, to protect themselves from each other, and from God. And that’s why Christ, the new Adam, ended up naked on a mountain before all the world, to untie the knot of Adam’s sin.

“But Mike, I can’t go around in naught but my skin. I’d get arrested and possibly sunburned!” Yeah, that’s probably not a good idea. You can however have a heart naked and open like the saints, who in imitation of Christ, loved without fear, pretension or ulterior motive. Yes, it’s risky and it’s going to hurt but so did the Cross. And didn’t Jesus demand of his followers that they pick up their cross and follow him? Did you ever ponder that? He doesn’t just want us to suffer like him. He wants us to love like him, to be vulnerable like him, to risk rejection like him.

Light Cross

After all, it’s only because of his vulnerable love that we have the joy of Easter. Love hurts, yes but as Lord Tennyson said, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” It’s better not because love is simply some noble cause, but because that is what we are made for! We exist to love, to know and be known. And you cannot be known if you are a rock! You cannot love if you are an island alone and unfeeling! And when we take this risk it will hurt because we are surrounded by people who would rather crucify God than embrace him (and that includes most of us some times). But the Good News is that when we do open ourselves to this vulnerable love, we become like Him; and who doesn’t want to become a little more God-like?

So what does it look like to be vulnerable?

For me, that means opening up to my wife about how I’m feeling. It means trusting others and not always keeping them at arms’ length with sarcasm and jokes. It’s about having real conversations with friends and not just talking about sports or boardgames; looking people in the eyes and smiling, even with strangers. It’s about seeing Christ in the other person–my friend, my enemy, the stranger, the beggar, the president–and being truly present to them in their need and circumstance. Most of all, it’s about spending time in prayer and opening my heart to my Savior, the greatest lover of all.

So won’t you join me this Easter season and throw your hands up in the air like you just don’t care? Surrender to Christ, become completely vulnerable to him and his loving will, as when He stretched his hands out on the cross in naked vulnerability to the will of the Father. Remember: God will not be out-done in generosity!

And, as a parting note, if you need any more encouragement to let yourself become vulnerable, just read the very end of the Bible, Rev 21-22. That’s what we have to look forward to.