Sunday, August 10, 2014

Identity Crisis

So my girls have completely fallen in love with the Lion King.  Who would've thought, a 20-year-old Disney flick would capture their attention, and so quickly supplant Frozen? Well, partially anyway.  It's their (and, by proxy, my) favorite character story du jor, so...yes I'm going to go there and write about a Disney movie on a blog about cultural warfare.

As we were watching it during one of our recent Friday pizza-and-movie nights, the story eventually came to the scene where the now-adult Simba, who was driven out by the searing indictment of his conniving and power-hungry uncle Scar, begins to ask questions and wonder what he's supposed to be doing with his life.  Sounds familiar, right?  Young man grows up with little or no guidance, and suddenly finds himself an adult groping for direction in his life.  As Simba starts seeking for answers, he is led by Rafiki, the wise sage baboon, to look at his own reflection.  At first he finds it pointless, but directed back again by Rafiki, he looks deeper into his image for that of his father.

Here's the scene:

So...could we consider this snippet from a children's story in the light of our own wandering and groping for identity?  How often have we given into the accusations of the world, particularly of the accuser, the father of lies (cf. John 8:44)?  How often do we believe that we can't do it, that we're not good/strong/handsome/beautiful/holy/worthy enough of the lofty tasks set aside for us from the foundations of the world?    Most of the time this slide into believing the accusations doesn't happen out of malice, so much as it does because we take the easy road out to satisfying our deep-seeded human need for belonging and acceptance.

After all, isn't it so much easier just to allow the answers in through our five senses--from the world--than to take the time to look inside, to recognize and water the seed that our Creator has put in us? Instead of looking to the One who so desires to be the ultimate source of our affirmation, for who we are, we allow noise and din of the world to begin to answer the question for us.  And the answer is... "You are only as (fill in the blank with a desirable trait) as we say that you are."  We can even begin to let the accusations and the anxiety that flows from them define us.  We trade the peace and freedom that comes from grounding in the truth of who we are for the worry and bondage of believing lies.

I know I have.  A lot.  I will forever be a recovering lie-believer.

But those lies are not who we are or what we were made for.

St. Paul gives us what is arguably the most poignant reminder of who we are in his Letter to the Romans (8:14-17):
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”
The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Let's rewind and review that one more time.  So, according to St. Paul we are:

1. Children of God.  That is, children of a perfect Father, who wants us to call him "Daddy!" as obedient children do, more than "Master."

2. Joint heirs with Christ.  Our Lord, the second person of the Trinity, by descending into our humanity, now raises us up to a share in the glory of his divinity. Christ came and suffered for us--and the ultimate Father sacrificed his only son--so that we could be like him in all things but being.  (A previous post from June 3, 2013, Gods and Goddesses, has more on that).  The Second Person of the Trinity lowered himself to walk among us as brother and friend.

Think about that.  Let it sink in, and do it often, because that is the point of truth that the enemy most wants us to forget.

Paul also reminded his spiritual son, Timothy, as he gave him encouragement and "marching orders" in his second letter: "For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control." (2 Tim 1:7)

Of course.  That only makes sense.  God doesn't remake us into his children, ask us to call on him as Daddy, then just leave us to our own fallen, weak, broken devices.  That would be the ultimate cruelty, (another of the original lies, the first proposed in the garden:"Does he really want what's best for you, or is he holding out?" [cf. Gen 3:1,5]).

The truth is quite the opposite: He gives us everything we need, although that is seldom what we think we need. The refrain of the old Lonestar song, Mountains, comes to mind. "The good Lord gave us mountains, so we could learn how to climb."

Other words come to mind, from St Thomas More, about how incapable we are of judging our own needs and controlling our fate in this life.
So blind are we in this mortal life, and so unaware of what will happen, so uncertain of even how we will think tomorrow, that God could not take vengeance on a man more easily in this world than by granting his own foolish wishes.
Saint Thomas More

So what are we to do with this?  The implications of being The answer to that could be a whole other book, volumes really, and I'll have to write more about that later (Part 2?).  But for now, let it suffice to say that we only need to follow Mufasa's advice:

Remember who you are.  That is, sons, daughters, and heirs of the living God, the King of kings, who are called to struggle and suffer toward perfection now so that we might rejoice and share in his glory forever.

No more and no less.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

European court: Gay marriage is not a human right - Lifesite News

This is stunning (for me, a good way) and is the last thing I would have expected to come out of the European Human Rights Court.  The first sentence from the summary paragraphs below almost had me pinching myself:
The court confirmed that the protection of the traditional institution of marriage is a valid state interest—implicitly endorsing the view that relations between persons of the same sex are not identical to marriage between a man and a woman, and may be treated differently in law.
The judgment says that European human rights law recognizes the “fundamental right of a man and woman to marry and to found a family” and “enshrines the traditional concept of marriage as being between a man and a woman.” It explains how no European consensus on same-sex marriages exists, as only 10 of the 47 countries bound by the treaty allow such designations.
Read the entire article here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

"No, Jesus did not bear arms, but..." - The American Spectator

Behind the controversial and attention-grabbing title of Mark Tooley's article, Whom Would Jesus Shoot? in The American Spectator (July 30, 2014) lies his counterpoint and answer to a question that the Judeo-Christian tradition has answered (I believe very adequately, as I wrote about a few years ago in my three-part series, Faith and Firearms):

Does the moral imperative to pursue peace and non-violence automatically trump our responsibility to provide a legitimate defense and repel the assault of unjust aggressors against innocents and those charged to our care, using violence if necessary?

Tooley's conclusion is spot-on:
"No, Jesus in the Gospels did not bear arms. But the whole message of scripture and Christian tradition carefully allows that some of His followers may be called to bear and deploy weaponry in certain circumstances where justice requires. The ultimate question is not so much What Would Jesus Do but rather What Does Jesus Tell Us to Do?"
Read the entire article here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sweet and Light

Ten years ago, when I first felt the nudge to return to the faith I after thinking in college that I could "write my own ticket" through life, there were some major stumbling blocks.  Chief among them them my own ego.  I was a young, invincible 20-something with a promising military career, and the streak of wanting to do it my own way (that is the motto and anthem of hell, by the way) made the commitment to jump with both feet to a life on God's terms very difficult.

So...I didn't.

Plans to live it up on my turns stifled any ability to listen to God's plans. I thought as long as I could "punch the ticket" on Sunday morning, did a few good deeds here and there, and didn't murder anybody, the rest of life was mine to live as I please.  Needless to say, I was deaf to any calling he was making of me, and even if I had heard it there was no desire whatsoever to carry out someone else's plans, even if that someone did happen to me the Creator and Lord of all things visible and invisible.

Thanks be to god that he quickly broke that status quo and supplied the humility I needed, and has continued with maintenance doses of many and varied forms throughout the past decade of adult life.  I say thanks be to God because, a dose of humility from without is a bitter but necessary pill, to clean and sweep our souls for a true indwelling, and without it, the words spoken by our Lord in this past week's Thursday Gospel would have continued to be nothing but noise and mystery to me:

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy and my burden light" (Mt 11:29-30)

"What? Easy and light?" would have been my response back then. "All these rules and commandments about what I can and can't do, and how I am obligated to love even complete strangers and even my enemies, how I'm supposed to carry a cross through life and accept any struggle, pain, and humiliation that comes with it?  How in the heck is that easy and light? Sounds like a bum deal."

It is only with humility, whether found within (the easy way) or given from without (the hard way) that the sweetness and lightness of the yoke comes comes.  The 14th Century Domincan priest, Father John Tauler (+1361), explained the idea further far better than I ever could:
Now, to what people is this yoke sweet and light, as they accept it and bear it along?  Surely only to those whose thoughts are turned inward in search of God, and quite turned away from all created things.  Children, our souls ever stand on the boundary line between time and eternity.  If we turn toward time, we shall without doubt forget eternity, and soon be led far away from the things of God.  Whatever we see from a distance looks small; whatever we see close at hand looks large, for there is but little intervening space.  Thus the sun is many times larger than the earth, but if reflected in a cup of clear water on a summer's midday it seems no bigger than a little bean, and any little object that should come between the sun and that mirror would be large enough to take away entirely the image of the great luminary.
So it is with a man's soul.  No matter how trifling may be the earthly image he places in the depths of his soul, it is enough to interfere with God's life shining there; the infinite good that God is may easily be hindered from entering and possessing the soul of a man.  And this is equally true when it happens that the image in the soul is not an evil and little thing, but a great and really good thing; it may hinder the entrance of God, who is without any image or intermediary whatsoever.  Know, therefore, for a certainty, that in whatever soul the infinitely good God shall be mirrored, it must be totally freed and emptied of all images; if the soul reflects a single created thing, that is enough to exclude the reflection of God.  All souls who have not established in their very depths this freedom from creatures, who have not uncovered and laid bare before God their innermost recesses, are as yet only scullions in the divine service, and to them God's yoke is bitter.  And, says Origen, the man who has not looked into the deeper depths of his being has a plain sign, that as yet he has not tasted of the eternal sweetness of God....And all who cleanse the mirror of their souls perfectly clear of the images of created things, so that God may pour in the sunlight of his divinity quite unobstructed, to them his yoke is sweet beyond all other possible sweetness.
Indeed.  In case you haven't figured it out yet, the world's yoke is crushing.  Why else in a world where we are supposed to have so much to make us comfortable--and where even the poor among us live better than most of the wealthy did just a few hundred years ago--are so many people, even people of means, so depressed, anxious, and hungry and thirsty for meaning in life.  Why is it that the emptiness and loneliness is sometimes far greater when the trappings are more plentiful, and that the world with its plethora of feel-good psychology, conscience-is-king pop spirituality, and the use of antidepressants has skyrocketed in the last two decades?

We as people being spiritually killed by the yokes we have allowed the world to place around our necks.  For a broken world that sees us not as people longing for answers to the deepest questions of the heart, but as commodities to be bought and sold, all it can offer is temporary, fleeting happiness at best, and at worst (more often than not) disappointment and bitter brokenness.  So, why not try out the yoke that the Master of hearts, the one who can only answer the questions of the heart with truth because by his very nature he is only capable of truth?  Why not let him clean off the mirror of our souls as he desperately wishes to do.  After all, what have we to lose? In the case of the world and what it wishes to take, it is only eternal peace.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Love Without End, Amen

Following on Monday's Post about the crisis of fatherhood, here's the positive side, the simple message of a father's love that's a little more easy on the ears.

"Daddies don't just love their children every now and then...It's a love without end, amen."

The truth, like only George can sing it....