Saturday, December 1, 2012

Jeremiah 6:16

Put yourselves on the ways of long ago and inquire about the ancient paths: which was the good way? Take it then, and you shall find rest. So many times in my life I could describe myself as restless. What an apt word for the sense of directionless malaise that overcomes a person when he isn't following his true path. Most times I didn't even know where my path lay or that it existed at all. Man feels a calling inside of himself, something ineffable and strange, and if he tries to define this through his own knowledge and experience he will fail. Exploring this yearning need for significance can lead a man toward selfish pursuits, none of which will edify him, or it can lead him to God. Multitudes have come before us, and scores of men have developed philosophies that can dictate the paths of life. There is a faith in the mysteries of faith and human existence that binds men across continents and thousands of years. Who are we to strike out on our own? Do we really suppose to know more than these wise men, long dead and memorialized? When we develop our own philosophies of life, so often divorced from any theology, we find that this restlessness doesn't dissipate. In fact, it grows only stronger. Only through humility, through realizing that we can develop a new path only after walking all those trodden before, do we find peace. After all, what is the goal of this mortal life other than to find peace in ourselves, give peace to others, to share God's love with those around us? If we put an aim above the aim of eternal life, our minds and spirits revolt against us. So isn't it more right and true to be placid, to be accepting and humble, to be loving and contrite and gracious? We are here for only a short time, and our path is one that need not climb. We will climb eventually if we walk along the straight path. The internal verification of this is the affirmation of rest and placidity; if we follow the teachings of scripture, as so many have before us, the peace that comes over us is a peace of restfulness. That is our good way.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Titus 2:7-8

Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

There are so many opportunities in life to interact with people. And in most cases, this is cause for rejoice. Playing games, whether of mind or sport, is all the more enjoyable when we are around those we love and respect. Even the most mundane activities can be made joyous with someone with whom we share good deeds and good cheer. This is why we are made to be social creatures, both with friends, and family, and with our one true partner, with whom we rejoice for our entire lives. And when we conduct ourselves with integrity and do good deeds, we are a blessing and a gift to those around us. The good cheer is infectious. But of course there are interactions that can become truculent. Contrary to what many believe, however, we are in control of our emotions, even in the face of anger. We can resolve these problems in two ways; one, by always being honest and forthright; and two, by living through Christ's teachings, doing good deeds. Many people bemoan their straits by saying that they are unlucky or that others are conspiring against them. But the truth is that those of integrity leave no openings for their opponents to strike. The only way that we can assure ourselves of being pure of action is being pure of heart. And this is also the only way that we can look outside of ourselves to solve the problems of those around us. For most of the time, when a friend turns into an opponent, he is saying evil about us because he feels evil about himself. And that person needs help, not opposition and anger. The man who is pure of spirit and intention, who teaches and acts with integrity and sound speech, is assured of himself in the face of opposition and ridicule. Only with these qualities can he help others to see what they need to resolve.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Matthew 26:26

Now, as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body."

The Catholic ritual of Mass is largely the same each time a worshiper attends. To people of some denominations, this is boring, and generally not preferable. This is why many churches, some Catholic among them, have strayed from the liturgical constructs and edicts, and have altered the experience. Mostly these alterations have come in the name of making the Mass more inclusive, or participatory. But I contend that they have done exactly the opposite.

The Catholic Church is so powerful partly because of its relationship with tradition. We must learn, as humble servants of the Lord, that we are incapable of developing our religion for ourselves. This is one of the first lessons that we must learn when we realize our faith. Some, like I did at one time, may think that they can think for themselves when it comes to the mysteries of God, but these are mysteries strictly because only a chosen few have witnessed their explanations and demonstrations. If we begin to think that we can change these rituals into what we think that others prefer, we stray toward the doctrine of self-determined theology. We begin to think that we can defy all of the teachings that have been handed down from the beginning of the faith, and not just those of a ritualistic nature.

We are meant to be inclusive and participatory through a greater understanding of how we fit into God's plan. We are not meant to write God's plan for him. And the best way to be inclusive during a Mass is to reflect and ponder while enacting those rituals that have become so familiar to us. If the road on which we traveled back and forth from our work to our home changed every day, we would have to put our entire concentration into following those new turns. However, because it is the same, we find that we can ponder the other details of our day, or our faith, or our minds, while we drive. In the same way, we have no power of internal thought and reflection if we are constantly in search of what new concept is to come during a time of worship. We must be comforted by what is the same, by knowing the next turn in the road, so that we can free our minds to pray at the same time. When we first say the Hail Mary, we are concentrating on the words, ensuring that we say them correctly. Until we memorize it, we are attempting to memorize it. Only when we know it, "by heart," do we open our hearts to what it means.

The sameness of the rituals of Mass is not to be mourned. It is to be celebrated, for this is truly the one path toward participation.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Matthew 18:3

"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

There are so many opportunities to lose faith in the course of our lives. We can be pulled away from the beliefs that we harbored so stridently in our youths. The world is a cynical place, full of people espousing subjective truths, riddled with those who think that the only realities are the ones that can be proven with earthly evidence. We don't feel this way as children. As children, we are taught by our parents to believe in what those wiser and more numbered have deduced over the centuries. In fact, this is the very doorway to faith; traditions exist so that those who know little can respect the beliefs and lives of those who knew more.

We are given templates in our parents and our extended families. As children we must put our complete trust and faith in these people. Without them, we wouldn't eat or survive. And through this faith, we gain the world itself. Why do we lose this as we transition into adulthood? Is it because we think that we can deduce for ourselves what has already been explained? Or are the many tribulations and disappointments of life too numerous for us to overcome with our optimism and beliefs intact? There are as many chances to lose faith as there are seconds in a day. Every outcome we can see as an independent trial whose providence is controlled only by randomness. Perhaps the more times these trials are cast against us, the easier it is to believe this. It's truly more difficult to show the humility of a child, the continued trust in those who guide him.

In this way, we gain the kingdom of heaven through our continued belief. Like children who fall from bikes with scraped knees only to pick themselves up and try again, over and over, we must persevere. We must show unconditional love to those who support us, those who in fact give us life. As children, our parents fill this role. We can see no further than what is in front of us. As adults, we must pair the ability to see beyond what can be seen with our eyes with that same trust and faith that we showed when the world was much smaller. As our parents did, God knows what's best for us. And if we stumble, we have to let him help us up. Most importantly, we have to keep on the same path, single-mindedly following His lead. Like children.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

John 3:6

"That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

As adults, we have little memory of our lives as young children. None of us remember when we were born. So, it occurs to a man, the kind of man who thinks about such things, that he is fit to define his birth for himself. When is a man born? We find consciousness slowly, and gradually, discovering the purposes and needs of our flesh. Isn't the one true birth that of the Spirit? This is the one that we can remember, the one that we can reflect upon. This is the beginning man seeks from the moment he finds conscious thought. There must be a beginning.

Maybe the genesis of the Spirit is gradual as well, as gradual as the writhing, wriggling journey from infancy to childhood. But it's one we can track with the full span of our consciousnesses. And there is no question that it is essential to the life of Man.

This is not creation itself. This is rebirth.