Thursday, October 28, 2010

Brothers

My sister T and her friend R were walking to class the other day.  As they passed one neighborhood home, a friendly cat came out looking for attention.  R obliged and reached down to pet her.

A little boy came out of the house.

"Do you like her?  Her name is Lizzy, and you can have her if you want."

Another boy, slightly smaller, appears and frantically waves the first boy over.  A whispered conversation ensues.

The boy came back, a little more subdued.

"Never mind. My brother wants to keep his cat."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Sacra-Mentality

In talking to non-Catholic Christians, I am always aware that we have a slightly different world view or mentality.  In many things, we agree.  We believe in one God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We believe that Jesus came into the world as a man to save us from our sins.  Those are the basics, but there are many things that are just a little different.

Take a look at these two statements:

1) There is a physical and a spiritual world.  Life is a battle between the two, and our goal is to eventually shed the constraints of our physical body, so that our spiritual soul may be happy forever with God.

2) Matter is a good thing, and leads us to God.

Which feels more "right" to you?


The first is actually an expression of Gnostic or Manichean heresy from the early centuries of the Church. The second is the one that is more in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church (but greatly oversimplified, I grant you).

In Genesis, God created the world, and He said, "It is good."  He created man and He said, "It is very good."  This is the beginning of our basis to see the physical world as a good thing.  It is true that sin followed and the original harmony of the world with God was distorted.  However, I do not think sin could make something that was inherently good suddenly become inherently bad.  That is giving too much credit to sin, and not enough to God.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen and C.S. Lewis both had quotes (which I can't remember exactly and have no clue where to find them, but I give them credit for the idea) that pointed out that evil is not original.  Evil takes a good thing and causes there to be an excess of that thing, a lack of that thing, or a perversion of that thing.  A good example of this is food.  Too much food is bad.  Too little food is bad.  All the wrong kinds of food, or food that is barely food because it is so full of preservatives and processed whatnot is bad.  But the right kind and right amount of food is good.  It heals, restores and sustains us.  A meal with family and friends can bring us closer together.  Good food can bring us closer to God.

Fun with friends (yes, even with alcohol, as long as it is not too excessive) is good, and God is present in the midst of it.

Nature is good and brings us closer to God.

People can be a means of bringing us closer to God.

The idea of sacramentality is the idea that the invisible reality of God is made visible through the visible reality of His creation.  It is the idea that humans are both physical and spiritual.  Our physical body is not some sin-ridden flesh to be disposed of ASAP.  Our physical body is an essential part of what makes us who we are, it is an expression of our invisible soul.

Our worship is an expression of this sacramentality.  Sacraments themselves, in a special way, allow us to express this.  Physical means are used, but spiritual reality is happening.  When Jesus said we should be born from above of water and the Spirit (see John 3:5), this is what we believe is happening at baptism.  Physically a person is washed in water, and through the Spirit, that water of new birth actually brings about the thing that it symbolizes: the new birth of that person into Christ.

In the Mass, we sit, we stand, we kneel.  We hear the Word of God proclaimed, and we speak the prayers.  We may smell incense.  We certainly taste, literally, the goodness of God.  Our visible, physical worship with our bodies is the expression of the worship of our souls.  Sacramentality means that we worship with the whole of who we are, body and soul.

The other thing that I love is that even though this sacramentality is all about touching and feeling, touchy-feely emotions are a secondary thing.  Which is to say that at the Mass, somedays I feel lifted up, some days I feel let down, and some days I feel nothing at all.  But the reality of what is present is still true.  I can fully worship when I feel nothing, or when I am upset or tired or distracted.  Because that worship is about me being present and taking part to the best of my ability, it is not about me feeling "worshipful".

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sahara

I loved that movie, Sahara.  The one with Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn.  Entirely unrealistic, but fun nonetheless.  Never thought I'd get a chance to visit the Sahara myself...







Wait... what's in the corner of the last one?



Never mind.  No desert trip for me, just hanging out in Colorado. Seriously, if you ever get a chance to go  to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, you should check it out.  It's surreal to see that much sand in the middle of the mountains.  Personally, I maybe wouldn't suggest middle of the summer.  They say the surface temperatures of the sand can get up to 140 degrees.  Too hot for my blood!



I went in the fall, which was perfect for going barefoot.



I don't know which mountain this is, and I didn't quite catch it in the right light, but I really liked the snow on top and the fall colors, especially the ones that you can tell follow the stream.



Then, on a plant that looked dead, there were these.





There's probably a lesson about thriving in the desert when it doesn't seem possible that anything could grow.  Personally, I just thought they were pretty.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Universal Church

I have been thinking about the Catholic Church, and what it means to be "universal".

Here is what I think.  I think that there is a Church that is built on the cornerstone of Christ, with the apostles and prophets as the foundation.  On that foundation is a building built with living stones... each of us. (See Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:5)  I do believe that if you had to peg a church as that Church, it is the Catholic Church.  But I do not believe that all the living stones are Catholics.

What it takes to be a living stone is to be alive in Christ.  Every Christian who has new life in Christ is a living stone.  Every Jew before the time of Christ who was faithful because of the One Who would come, is alive in Christ.  They are living stones.  Naaman and Rahab, who sought the true God, are living stones. Every person who, for whatever reason, is not Christian, but lives a life of love and truth can be a living stone.

It is only in the grace of Christ that we can be saved.  But we all know that goodness, rightness, truth and love are not only found in those of a Judeo-Christian background.  And I believe where these things are found, Christ is found.  Of course, no matter what we call ourselves, if we live in a disconnect with the grace of Christ, we are not living stones. Ultimately, a decision will have to be made, whether in this life or upon entering the next.  For Christ or against Him. But anyone who is truly and humbly seeking Truth and Love is for Christ.  They are living stones.

And that is one small piece of what I think it means to have a universal Church.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Splendor of the Church

In this world that we live in, it's hard to focus on the splendor of the Church.  It's far easier to focus on the squalor of the Church, the sin of the people within.

In spite of the sin... No, wait.  That is utterly and completely wrong.  Because of the sin of all the people, especially my own, I glory in the splendor of the Church.  The Church is not splendid because of the people within in.  It is bigger than the people, and its splendor lies in Christ.  It is the light of the nations because it brings Christ to the nations.

What does it mean to preach the Gospel? Can you define the Gospel?  The Gospel, the Good News, is so much more than the teachings of Christ or the story of the life of Christ. It is a revelation of Christ Himself. (See Galatians 1:12).

I glory in the Church because when I cannot take it anymore, I can fall at the feet of Jesus, and He is there. Like me, the people around me are broken. Some of us because of our sin, some because of the circumstances of life, but all in need of help.  All of us have fallen short, from the priest at the altar to every last one of us in the pews.  The splendor is in the fulness of Truth Who awaits us at the altar.  It is in the One that welcomes us, loves us and heals us.