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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Poetic Last Days

I have decided that the last day of the month should be a day for poetry. We'll see if I remember this decision in 30 days from now, but at least for today I will give it a go.

It's cheating but this was a "children's book" that I wrote some time ago, which is just a poem without the pictures. It's kind of fun, so here you go:

On a cold winter day
Not so very far away

The kind that make your bones ache

There came a breeze
That smelled of cheese

And whiskers, not far away

Naddie the Cat
Who was a bit fat

Curled up near the fireplace warm

But the breezes of cheeses
Brought her dreams of meeses

And suddenly up she sat

I know that smell
She thought to herself

And blinking she looked to the ground

Little footprints she saw
From some little mice paws

So a yawn and a stretch and she pounced

But nothing was there
Left in the air

Just the miniture trail to see

Naddie sniffed and meowed
But could not see what she smelled

And decided this was not fair

Like a good little kitten
She put on a mitten

And to the mice home she went

She knocked at their hole
With her claws covered whole

With the promise no one would be bitten

The mice were afraid
Of this large fluffy grey

And out they refused to come

Naddie begged and she pleaded
But a moment she needed

And she promised she would not stay

One small toe peeped out
Chip, brave and stout

Extended his head just an inch

Hello? Was all he said
And then ducked down his head

Scared that he'd entered a bout

But Naddie laid flat
(on her stomach, not back)

And spoke in a gentle voice

Little mice I smelled cheese
And here is the thing

I have never tasted that!

Well the mice were shocked
To think such a thought

That any had never had cheese

They laughed and they giggled
And started to wiggle

As certainly mice ought

Naddie patiently waited
Till quietly she stated

Her one and only request

Dear mice friends, all I ask
Is just one little task

Please, oh please may I have just a crumb?

I will always be kind
And never you mind

This promise will always last

No mice will I eat
Only dairy and cheese

For the rest of my time

Moments went by
Then a joyful mouse-cry

And out came a sliver of cheese

Naddie jumped and she cheered
And all the mice drew near

And she nearly started to cry

Naddie tasted that cheese
On that cold winter's eve

And forever she loved it since

People still stop and stare
For snuggled in there

What do their eyes perceive?

Nothing at all
But curled in a ball

A cat and five tiny mice
The End
I'll leave you with that for now... though I feel more shall come soon enough.

Monday, August 30, 2010

At His Feet

I sometimes get carried away when writing and then reality hits. This is what most romantic idealists encounter, I believe. It's a "wake up" moment.

Today, I want you (that would be the reader) to come with me. In my imagination. In my heart. I am inviting you. This is a journey I try to make often, but today I realized I need company. I don't actaully want company, but I need it.

We're going through some Scripture as the first leg of our travels, beginning with Luke 7:36-50:

"A Pharisee invited him to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee's house and reclined at table.

Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.'

Jesus said to him in reply, 'Simon, I have something to say to you.' 'Tell me, teacher,' he said.
'Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days' wages 12 and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?'
Simon said in reply, 'The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.' He said to him, 'You have judged rightly.'

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, 'Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love (emphasis added). But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.'
He said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.'
The others at table said to themselves, 'Who is this who even forgives sins?'
But he said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'"

The next Scripture passage I would like to offer to the reflection is John 20:1-18:

"On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, 'They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him.'

So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned home.

But Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping?' She said to them, 'They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him.'
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?' She thought it was the gardener and said to him, 'Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.'
Jesus said to her, 'Mary!' She turned and said to him in Hebrew, 'Rabbouni,' which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, 'Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'
Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord,' and what he told her."

The last one I want to add is Song of Songs 3:1-4:

"On my bed at night I sought him whom my heart loves- I sought him but I did not find him.
I will rise then and go about the city; in the streets and crossings I will seek
Him whom my heart loves. I sought him but I did not find him.
The watchmen came upon me as they made their rounds of the city:
Have you seen him whom my heart loves?
I had hardly left them when I found him whom my heart loves.
I took hold of him and would not let him go till I should bring him to the home of my mother, to the room of my parent."

The journey I explained is one that leads to a very special place - the feet of Christ.

It is an extremely simple message that is carried through these passages. It is what faith is. It is the hope that is inspired in any heart that is stirred in love.

Mary Magdalene, coming into the house of a Pharisee and falling at the feet of Jesus, a Rabbi, and weeping there as if the world did not exist. Transfixed perhaps? Audacious? Bold to the point of recklessness? What kind of love is this? Perhaps the question is who is this love?

What she gains is what gives her the courage to trust no matter what happens. This woman discovered that she needed to obey her heart. Her heart yearned. It ached. It was hungry and nothing would satisfy. So she went where she had not gone before, in search of what she knew she needed. I do not think she was seeking forgiveness when she wept on the Master's feet. I think she simply had all this love, real and authentic love, that had been passed around and rejected by men for years. She had not been able to give her love freely and fully because no one would allow her to, nor could anyone show her how to love in the truest sense. Yet, Christ could. He did.

He looks at her, and in the way she needs to love on him, through her tears and her hair and the ointment, he sees such beauty. He sees her, in the unique way of her heart as she pours her love out. He sees her generosity, her apology, her remorse and the visible way in which she cries out, "none of this matters at all! I have money, and I have been called beautiful, but they are empty!"

He loves her, as he loves how she loves him. Her heart, in its own special character, is giving him all it has to offer. As the Apostles walked away from steady jobs and lives they had built up on their own work to follow a man who called them by name, so she was leaving behind everything she had to show him that she was in need of only one thing - him.

So she receives forgiveness, and in her freedom we find her following the Lord who released her from so many bonds. At the tomb, the same lesson she learned at the washing of his feet is fresh in her mind and heart. She went seeking wholeness, though she knew not by what end. So she goes to the tomb, once again seeking healing from her Master, though she knows not how. As she searches, her heart is again aware of that need, the hunger that drives us towards him. When she finds him, she clings to him as she did that day in front of the many Pharisees and guests - completely unabashed and ready to do whatever he would command. Just as he told her then to go and not sin anymore, so when he tells her to go and tell her brothers that he is risen, she immediately obeys. The joy of a heart that is freely given and received! Nothing can hold it back from accomplishing the good it is set out to do.

I often feel like the women on the Song of Songs, and therefore I love Mary's journey for it is so often my own. How many times do I realize I have looked for my lover and been unable to find him? Where am I looking! And I realize I have wandered far from his safe arms, and once I find him all I can do is weep at his feet in gratitude that he is still there, and that he still wants me.

If I can find peace in anything, it is the meditation of being at the foot of the cross. To just lean there, against that wood, with his toes right near my face, bloody and gross but perfect and wonderful. To touch his feet and to know that he knows I am satisfied only with the promise of eternally doing as he asks. To know that I am letting go of so much, but gaining infinitely more in return. To know that as I have so often yearned for another to walk this road of life with me, I can be there at his side on the road of suffering for us. Surely, I change nothing of his suffering, for I am far too weak to bear much of anything. Yet, he knows, and I know, it is the courageous hope and faith that counts. If a woman begging for bread crumbs can stir his heart to miraculous love, so too can a woman determined to stand by him stir his heart to many good things.

I don't know how to end this, because there's not meant to be any end. Remain with him. Just be. Be there, and know that he is God.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Life and the world are full of contradictions.
One may also call them paradoxes.
A perferred term is actually "cruel irony."

We find them all around us, and not in the way that song that isn't really about ironies says. Things that seem to be rightside up are often upside down, and the other way around. It can be confusing!

For example - I love to be alone. I hate that I love to be alone because I know I shouldn't love being alone because it doesn't take much alone time before I hate being alone and only want people again. Yet, the more you end up around people the more you miss being alone... it's a vicious cycle, really.

Another great one would be suffering in general... love-hate relationship, of course. No one really loves hardship, right? Yet, we love the fruits. We appreciate the formation, the growth, the lessons learned that come from hard times. Then, we begin to love the experience of the hardship because we understand what comes after it. We don't love the pain, but we love what it can bring to us. So there is often some balance of appreciation and loathing that work together in our minds and hearts when we endure trials.

Among the million and one things I need to write about, and the other million and two that are based solely on reflections drawn from things I have read (for that is when my mind most often explodes), in particular a recent excerpt from Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II caught my attention.

John Paul is reflecting on the nature of sin and concupiscence in humanity. The context of anything out of this extremely rich text is necessary for a full understanding, but I will dare to expound on a sentence and hope for the best. He says, "Concupiscence is to be explained as a lack, as a lack, however, that plunges its roots into the original depth of the human spirit."

I had to read that line over and over for a while to get the imagery down. The privation of anything is only a deep as what has been deprived. The depth of human goodness, of the original innocence man was created in before the fall of sin, sets the boundaries and limits for how far concupiscence, directly as the lack-of this innocence, reaches.

This should elicit a few responses from us. Immediately, it should be impressive. We are rather aware of the negative effects of sin in our world... clearly concupiscence has paraded its power all over our society and ourselves. Adversely, this should mean we were doing pretty well prior to the invasion of sin in our world. If it's black and white, and the black is dark and pervasive, it can only imply that the white is bright and stunning. This is encouraging! Despite the many failures we experience in the game of "being good in life" we should be both motivated and confident because according to this paradox, we were made for something much greater than what we have known.

Consider the fullness of the freedom mankind knew before the effects of sin! John Paul discusses how concupiscence deals with man's desire. It is the yearnings in our heart that are corrupted. We do not want the good, we want what we decide is good. We are not able to see clearly to know the true good from what appears good, and so we often are mistaken in our wants. Also, our desires, being thus blinded, become habitually more self-serving as we are given the dissatisfying gratification of what we had thought was best for us. Rather than building up a freedom for our hearts, we build instead a cave, that leads further and further down into disappointment. When we are looking for fulfillment outside of ourselves but allowing only selfish desires to guide that search, we aren't bound to get very far.

So rather, John Paul points to the glorious freedom we possessed when we were created and living without any lack. The purity of our hearts and our desires allowed us to simply be in the good. We were good. There was no need for yearnings for things which would not satisfy. We discovered ourselves in free-gift to the other. We found our capabilities, our glories, our joys through service and gift. These ways-of-being were the culminations of freedom, for since we possessed ourselves so fully through such pure intentions, we were able to so fully give ourselves over, and through the gift rediscover the affirmation of our individual self in its fullness. Again, this is all much easier to understand if you sit through the many pages of the Pope's entire text.

As it is, the point is simple. This paradox, just as the Incarnation or the Cross and Resurrection, contains such depth precisely because of the power of the original good. The understood "lack" of good ought to set our imaginations free to create the idea of just how full of good we must have been. This imagining should simultaneously set our personal goals and hopes for living in authentic freedom. Clearly we will never be able to be completely free from sin - yet, we certainly could make great progress towards that beauty that first dwelt in the soul and body of man.

If nothing else, the symmetry and consistency of such truth - that the lack is only as deep as what was once present - whispers of recreation and hope that is absolutely overflowing with confidence and energy. Even that is a contradiction! Whispers of things that enthrall and eventually lead you to explode with the amazement at the promise God makes to us. That we could be so healed, so filled, so named, so remade, so broken and then so complete... it is worth the reflection.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Romantic Idealist? Yes, please.

I was recently "accused" of being a romantic idealist. My friend did not mean it in a negative way, and I did not take it as such. Rather, I am quite content with the idea.

See what we mean here?

This formation of my mind, however, did not come about from the classic hammer and chisel. Though Jane Austen will always be one of my favorite authors, I did not come to her until late in life. Although my class on Renaissance Culture (art, literature, philosophy, history) certainly encouraged me, that, too, came after the original seeds were planted.

Then, what was it, exactly, that placed my mind on such high precipices, and convinced it that nothing, absolutely nothing, should even bring it down?

I am not entirely sure.

I can recount these things for you.
As a little girl, my mother highly encouraged my imagination. Anything that I could pretend, I did. This included (most often) being "Robin Hood" or "Peter Pan" and rescuing my damsel in distress (try not to judge, I just like being heroic.. another sign of idealism). I never had a gender identity crisis, but I certainly saw valour, honor, courage and defending justice as prized qualities. Once again, this does not explain how I became the idealist, for already I was chosing ideals I wanted to live for.

I attribute much of this romanticism to my Catholic upbringing. Let's be serious, Scripture if flooded with romantic language and the very highest of ideals. Also, saints lives, given up for love of another, certainly gave me an example I wished to follow. The rest I would leave to my personality, because as I recently wrote, beauty has always captivated me, and the romantic ideals that still hold me are those that are true, good and beautiful.

One may ask, does this idealism leave you as one who is irrational or impractical? Sometimes. I am certainly balanced, because I force myself to acknowledge the truth in any situation and be as aware as possible of the reality of things. Yet, why think of my cubicle that I am currently sitting in as a windowless-rectangle that I sit in for hours on end? Why not focus on the glorious achievements for the Kingdom of God we all hope to accomplish that keep us toiling away at our menial daily tasks? I'll take curtain number two, thank you.

The point is, my romantic disposition means that if there is no sacrifice involved, I probably won't think it's valuable. If it isn't hard, it may not be worth my time. This could be seen as masochistic, but it isn't. It's idealistic. I can't help but find challenges inspiring and tackling them to be the greatest reward. This kind of thinking has kept me going in many frustrating and scary times of life when only the fun of taking  on the (literal) "game of life," keeps me fighting back. This mentality also buoys the spirit on any given cold, rainy, dark or dreary day. Basically, I will find something ficticous and imaginative to surround any given day of my life. Dramatic? Yes. I know very well no one is going to watch me go dance in the pouring rain. I know no perfect "Mr. Right" is going to sweep in while I'm dancing and start singing to me (thank goodness). I will still go dance in the rain. I have and I will again. Let's just be honest here - it feels beautiful. Being sick afterwards might not feel so great, so go take a warm shower. But the point is, do things. Experience things. Live out what magic you can create.

I will, of course, insist on prudence, responsibility, committment, etc... These things are highly prized and valued and I will most often be calm and rational in my decision making, especially when others aren't. Even then, however, I am most likely secretly thinking about how my "not-giving-into-fanciful-wishes" is a martyrdom or something dramatic like that. It's all interior, but if I can't find some amount of heroism, it seems less-than-worth my time.

Anyway, I feel there's been far too much "me" and "I" in this post. The idea behind the ideas is to love ideas. God, Father and Creator, loved ideas to the point of giving them life. They came to be. They continue to be. We are held in existence as we are held in his thoughts. He wills us, and we are. Will we not join him, participating in small ways, in being creative lovers and thinkers?

Christ, the Son, is the living Word of God. All of his life is a manifestation of the gorgeous power of true love. We should participate in this! We should hope to, and yearn for, and quickly dive into any opportunity to experience what real goodness is. We should be happy to suffer, happy to lay down our lives, happy to give things away, happy to be reproached or forgotten or unwanted, happy to know that our Lord has loved us eternally, and in that find our peace.

If your ideals are the right ones, and the romantic notions the ones that lead to holiness because they are based in the loving sacrifice of the cross, then let nothing hold you back. As Thomas a Kempis said, "Love flies, runs, and rejoices; it is free and nothing can hold it back." That sums up my sentiments exactly.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

O Beauty Ever Ancient, Ever New

St. Augustine said, 
"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! 
You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. 
In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. 
You were with me, but I was not with you. 
Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. 
You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. 
You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. 
You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breathe and now I pant for you. 
I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. 
You touched me, and I burned for your peace." 

In simpler terms, Dostoevsky said, 
"Beauty will save the world." 

I am lost in so many beautiful things. Sometimes, it is quite a downfall. For example, music. I Love music. In many forms. Therefore, if I hear a song I love or lyrics I like or a note I am fond of trying to hit, I may, at any given point in conversation, go to another place all together. I will be singing, and listening, and not paying a lick of attention to the conversation I just left. Now, is this some form of cruelty or snobbishness? Of course not. It's simply that I got lost. I will make my way back, most likely as soon as the music ends. I am certainly sorry that I disappeared, but then, it was beautiful. 

Beauty is worth...everything. I must insist that you read Hans Urs von Balthasar at your earliest convenience (or inconvenience), for his reflections on the transcendentals, on Truth, Beauty and Goodness, are powerful and heart-changing. These three are aspects of love, and they assist us in coming to know and enter into love through their very nature. They can be likened to the most vibrant colors in a rainbow or the three-part harmonies of a song - each its own beautiful thing, but together, they make up something monumentous, and something that pulls you out of yourself so that you are quite lost in the other. 

Love is meant to do this to us, for how else would we be able to learn what Trinitarian Love is like? The three persons of the Trinity can dwell in constant and total loving gift of self to another, the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father and the Spirit the generation of their mutual loving gift. For us to come anywhere near perfect selflessness, perfect goodness, perfect truth and the ultimate beauty, we must begin with what is right in front of us. Person or hilltop, music or vista, artwork or literature, the things that stir our hearts and bring us to a new understanding of what is good are the things that beauty has used as a net. We have been caught. We are no longer our own. We will happily stay lost, right where we are. 

I can easily list some of the other beauties that save my life, that save my world, day by day. First of all, the sunrises. The light on the buildings of the city, on the river as we drive over, on the arches of the bridges and tunnels, on the grass, setting it aglow. The smell of summer air, heavy with rain, or thick with freshness, or laden with growing things. The baking of the sun on your arms and face, feeling sleepy and refreshed all at once by its warmth. The breeze, coming to flirt with you and play with your hair, filling your shirt and skirt and gently moving you to and fro. The thunder and the clouds that billow up into the sky, dousing you with water and turning the temperatures upside down. The night, the glorious coolness after the heat of day, when things find rest and others come awake. The crickets chirping and the lightning bugs blinking around. The smell of a bonfire reminding you that somewhere there will always be kids with gooey fingers trying to get chocolate on their graham cracker before their marshmallow lights on fire. The sound of laughter from your neighbor's porch, gently whispering to you that no problem is really a problem, for you can laugh it all away in the safety of your family. 

These are just the summer beauties. Don't get me started on the fall or winter, for those seasons tear my soul out of me like nothing else can. The intoxication that comes over me from the smells of those seasons would make you weep for me. I am blessed that they are not long lived, for otherwise I am sure I would always live in "another" place. Reality changes for me when I encounter beauty. 

The challenge for myself, and for all of us, is to never turn off our "beauty sensors." It can be exhausting trying to flit through all the stimuli of beautiful things in life. It can be burdensome to be so taken off guard at any and every moment. We might think it safer, or better, for us to dim our sights, and to stop up our ears. We might think beauty can be recognized by us safely enough, but not entered into. We might wish to rein in our wild hearts. This is a terrible idea. 

We should always burn for beauty, always be ready to die for what we find so sincerely good. It is vital. For our lives and for the world, beauty must never cease to captivate us. I'll never forget in seventh grade when I was in a writing competition called "Power of the Pen." We had 40 minutes to write whatever came to us on a single-word topic. The word was, Spellbound. 

I could think of a million things for this! I didn't know how to narrow it down. So I just went there, in my mind, to that "other" place where I was lost in the beauty, and I started to scribble what I saw. Later in life, when I read the Narnia Series and the Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, I was surprised to note that some of his descriptions of beautiful things were just as I envisioned this beautiful place. It was a hillside, but the grass was the most brilliant emerald green that has ever been, and its movement was like the tide of the sea coming in on the shore, so brilliant was the effect when the wind moved through the blades. I cannot recall much of the landscape now, but I did the best for that round out of my competitors. The following round, whose topic was beyond dumb, I did very poorly in. This is a perfect example of the true goodness of beauty. When asked to be in something that takes the imagination and invites it to see what lies beyond every perviously stated border, why, of course it's ready to go! When something says, enough is enough, let's calm it down, that is when I know I have lost something precious. 

If we would only open our eyes more! How much I miss. How little I am thankful for! How many times are the clouds just so perfectly colored that I would die to see them, but I am too busy to notice their perfection? How many times is a leaf left in my path or a tree touched with light in just such a way as to make my heart soar, and I do not allow it to touch me? Oh! I need, how I need, the beauty. When we know beauty, we know wisdom. Our Blessed Mother was and is the most beautiful creature on earth and now in heaven. She was the most wise. She loved the truth and goodness of everything. She dwelt in the beautiful. I yearn to do the same. 

Let us consider sincerely what is true in our lives. Let us seek the truth at any cost. Let us recognize all the good, and never settle until there is more and more of the good around us. Let us find ourselves lost in the beautiful, and let there be no hurry to return when our hearts are happily surrendered to its love.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ode to the Desperate

"I need you Jesus to come to my rescue, tell me where else can I go? There's no other name by which I am saved, capture me with your grace! I will follow you. This world has nothing for me. I will follow you."
-Desperation Band

(If you don't know this song, check it out here -

AH. Lay down. Just lay on your face. Please. Try it. Have you? Are you? NO, because you're still reading this. Stop. Go lay down on your face. Well... read just a tiny bit more and then go lay on your face.

Who hasn't been in a place where they need this? If you don't think you have, you haven't seen your heart. It can be broken, ugly, dirty, smashed into tiny fragments. There is one Healer, one Binder-of-wounds, one Love that can take away all of that and give you something new. Only he can do it. So you need to go to him. You need to find that place in your heart that you haven't invited him into yet, that you might have been holding onto for "later," and you need to bring him there. You need to go ask him to come there. You need his light there. The cold is killing anything that could grow there. You need his heat.

One of my favorite Scripture passages is Hosea 11:1-4. It reads as follows:
"When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me, Sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols.Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks; Yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer." 

My brothers and sisters, we don't even want to hear his Name. We don't want to know his titles! We don't want to acknowledge that he is the Healer, and Father, and Maker. These all imply so much. So much. C.S. Lewis said something profound along the these lines (paraphrased) "Christianity either means everything, or nothing. It cannot be mediocre." If God is God, who he says he is, then we are his. Or we are to be his if we have any hope for life. This is profoundly frightening to those who may not have confidence in his perfect goodness and love. They would be frightened of nothing, because he is nothing but goodness and love! His is the only Heart ever fully worth surrendering to! His is the only love really worth living for! His is the only Beauty truly worthy of your life.

So please, go to him. Go to him. I hear in my head the Blessed Mother's words at the wedding feast at Cana - "Do whatever he tells you." So simple. This is the mandate for our lives. If we could only lay them at his feet - lay ourselves at his feet - we would be undone. And then we would be re-done. Remade. Anew. It is no coincidence that Christ uses the analogy of wine being poured into old wineskins and bursting! He desires to make us new wineskins, that we may receive from him the love and mercy he wants so much to pour out. The only way this can be accomplished is if we will "do whatever he tells us." Faith and trust in him must be the exuberance that leads us to fall at his feet time and again, day in and out, moment by moment, tear by tear.

The last words of Sirach chapter 2 are these, "For equal to his majesty is the mercy that he shows."
Fathom this, my siblings! Now is the time to go fall at his feet and believe! Do you have any imagination? Can you recall the stories of the Old Testament, when God splits seas into two walls, or brings down fire to burn up water-logged sacrifices? Or can you recall the Gospel accounts of Jesus rubbing mud into blind eyes and bringing sight to the darkness, or speaking just a word to a broken body to be made whole for the first time? Can you not imagine the depth, height, breadth and length of the majesty of God? His mercy is this great! His desire for your humbled, open and willing heart is just as brilliant as every miracle and glory that he has revealed. In fact, this merciful love is the glory. It must be.

He says, "they did not know I was their healer" - ah! How many times do we live this out? Giving credit to our peace in something like coffee or a bed, instead of his love? And how far down has he stooped to feed us! My goodness, this is Jesus Christ made man, offered on the Cross, now offered at the Mass! He has stooped to the Eucharist, to be in us and with us every day. To be one with us. Yes, this is how he is our healer.

How Jesus' own words echo the Father's from Hosea when he speaks to his Apostles in John 14. He says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where (I) am going you know the way."
What does Thomas say in reply to this amazing promise of love? What we all say. "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?"

Oh, we need to be more like Mary Magdalene. Just lay it out there. Just go to him. Sins and all. Embarrassment and shame. Just go to his feet. Love him there. How could he resist you? He already loves you so! For you to bring yourself, humbled and weak, broken and needy to his feet - he will indeed stoop to hold you. He will indeed show you the way. He will indeed take you there himself.

There are many promises in Scripture that captivate my heart, but this one has always held precedence. To be taken on the way by Jesus, who is the Way. He does not even say, "I will take you there myself." He says, "I will take you TO myself." It is Him, the Way, that we are seeking. All our lives, it is simply to be where he is. He plans to bring us right into his heart.

One night I was fooling around on my keyboard that I don't really know how to play, and after repeating a few chords a song started to form in my head. I play it now over and over when I find myself failing to believe all of this joyful goodness. It goes like this:

I give you my heart.
It was never mine at all;
So I don't mind if it breaks or falls,
You'll restore it to life after all. 

Cause you never stop making us new,
More and more into the image of you!
You never stop making us new, 
More and more into the image of you.

If we don't recognize our need yet, we should, and will. If we haven't seen our full weakness, it will be revealed. When it is, there is only one place we can be. On our faces. On the floor. At his feet. Tears or kisses or both - before him in our sorrow and humility we will discover the truth of his words, for he is our healer. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Emmanuel, Our God is Here

The lyrics to this song run through my head often, most especially when I am at mass.
"Emmanuel, Emmanuel, Emmanuel - Our God is here!"

Let it sink it.

I am not married, nor engaged, nor even in a relationship, so you may judge my analogy here. However, you shouldn't.
Think, please stop and think, about what it is like when someone, the one, who loves you is before you. He or she is in the same room. He's standing there, just loving you. She's holding your hand. Beside you, before you, always with you. He holds you close, even with his gaze. If you are in her arms, you know; but even when you aren't, just her presence is enough. The simple existence of the other person allows you to live, to breathe, to be. How amplified that is when he is right in front of your face! Eyes locked with yours, forehead against your forehead, hearts beating in the same rhythm. What passes between these two hearts, through the gaze of the other, is everything. The words, the emotions, the stories, the lessons, the memories, the hopes, the dreams, the doubts and fears, the excitements, the stengths and weaknesses, the promises, the love. Before you is the one who loves you more than himself.

Could we enter into this at every mass? Should we enter into this at every mass? How can we not? How can we settle for a "bare appreciation" of the sacrifice of the one who loves in epic ways? We cannot truly understand the power of a love that is wholly and totally pure and freely given, unconditional and perfect. Since we cannot seem to grasp the reality of what is before us, we allow ourselves to be told it is real and assume the best. This cannot be enough for us!

I do not wish to live my whole life being told there is a man who loves me with all of his heart and soul, who would do anything for me and forgives all my quirks and failures instantly, but who I will never meet. I cannot know him because I refuse to believe anyone could love me in that manner? What? That is terrible. I do not want that at all. I want to believe. I want to see.  I want to hope. I want to know what this love is, that is so great and terrible, that it can uproot the deepest sins and heal the darkest places and give wings to the smallest of creatures. I want to believe that there was something in me that captivated him so richly that he is never satisfied without me in his life. I want to believe that he saw the death I would die, knew the agony I would bring upon myself in my weakness and selfishness, through my vain pride and spiteful hate, and that he couldn't bear it. I want to believe that because he knew this end, he offered himself instead. He wanted me to be preserved, and was willing to endure a punishment he neither deserved nor incurred, that I would remain safe and whole.

I wish to believe that this lover is real, and that I can meet him. I demand that I do. I can't bear to be told that he is real, and to experience the effects of his love, only to have to perpetually be in the dark to his person. I want to know him. I need to. How else will I be able to return his love? How else can I thank him, with all I am, for chosing me? How else can I express the intoxication his love has brought to me?

When we are before the Eucharist, in mass or in adoration, or even before the tabernacle, we need to remember. We need to know that this is a Lord and a lover, a God and King, but a lover. He has been so thrilled by us, so filled with us, that the sacrifice he has made was worth it. I am worth his life. Somehow. You are worth his life, too. How can it be? I do not have an answer to that. But it is truth all the same.

When we sing "Emmanuel, our God is here" we are proclaiming that love has come to us. It is here. He is here, before us. He is looking at us, with all the intensity of a lover's stare. Will we meet his gaze? Be lost in his eyes? Let him reveal to us more of who he is? Allow him to reveal to us who we are? Let him speak to us? Will we speak in return? Will we say "yes" as he offers us a life in him? Will we open our hands and our hearts to receive whatever love brings?

Our God is here, the one who saves! Let us dare to meet his gaze.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Where The Heart Is

I have a few things to say.

First of all, love alone is credible. Truly. Tell me when you remember counting anything as worth that didn't involve deep love.

Secondly, where you give love is where you will find yourself home. I miss, oh how I miss, the places I have travelled that have become "like home" to me. Mainly, Gaming, Austria and Dandann, Haiti. Why, though? Why is it that I am so intoxicated with these memories, so inebriated with the desire to be on that soil once again? Why can I be so sure that if my feet where only back on those trails I would know more about life? Sometimes it's as if they hold the keys to the knowledge I've sought all my life. What makes them so illustrious in my head and heart?

It is because in both of these places, I have laid down my life in a truly unique way. I have given up my will, my desires, my needs, time and again, for those around me. In Gaming, I spent a semester unlearning much of the pride and selfishness that I still carried as your "typical American teenager." I spent four months coming to a point where I meant, with all I was, the commitment of my life to God. I spent four months undoing myself that I could be remade. I prayed until I heard God's voice. I sat in silence and waited. I travelled far and wide. I sought him. I was a hunter, and I did not give up. I knew my soul needed more, and I was tireless until I possessed it. I suffered, was lonely, felt unwanted and misunderstood. These were only part of the trade for coming to see the face of God as I had never known before. I waited in that chapel day after day to allow him to penetrate through all my smoke and defenses, all my excuses and safeties. He did. He always triumphs. It can be the worst waiting for him to show up, but that light always breaks through, and the darkness is always scattered. His victories are sweet, and worth all the anticipation. So I know why my heart knows it is home there. It has bled there. It has died there. It has been reborn there. It is a womb for it as my mother's was for me. Within the bounds of that town, those mountains, that church, I grew richly. I developed senses for truth, beauty and goodness. I had the mud rubbed in my eyes so that what was washed clean was brand new, and able to see so much more clearly.

In Haiti, in just a few short days, I found much of the same transforming spirit at work on my heart. The sacrifices of one friend for another, of a sister to her family, of a "stand-in" mother for the orphans. Putting band aids on blisters, passing sunscreen to those who needed it, giving out granola bars and cliff bars and candy and toys. Moving to the job you wanted to do least, because someone else wants to do yours more. Giving your friend the better paintbrush, the less-smelly kid, the non-oozing diaper, the better piece of bread. Being silent when you want to talk so that others can. Being happy when others are sad even if you want to go hide in a corner too. Picking the child who wants to be held up, even when your arms just can't hold any more babies. Sitting through another sweaty night when you just wanted to feel clean for a few hours. Laughing when you fall off horses, when you have blisters in places you didn't know were possible, when you can't hold any food in you for the life of you, when you're deathly afraid of spiders and they seem to gravitate to your cot. Praising others when you feel so in need of appreciation. Loving others when you just want someone to hold you instead. Seeing past your own neediness, which is real, because your friend's neediness is more real. Wanting to shout to the world that your feet HURT and then spending the time listening to them share how their blisters are killing them instead. Feeling like you can't take another minute of noise and then smiling as little children's hands are all over your skirt and their voices are filling your ears. Wondering if you have the strength to keep standing sometimes, and then somehow being so rejuvenated because you picked up a child and kissed them.

This is exactly why these places are home. This is why any of our literal homes remain places we yearn for in our hearts. It is our families, those we have laid down our lives for, whom we have loved profusely and unconditionally, that make our "home" for us. This is why friends become like-family, and why places like Gaming and Dandann create the atmosphere of home for us that is perhaps more tangible than when we walk into our parent's homes.

They say "home is where the heart is." I say, "the heart is where your home is, and the home is where you have given the most love." Home is where you have served. Home is where you have died. Home is where you have surrendered and sacrificed and discovered all the joy and excitement you hoped for. Home is where you have truly lived.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Joyful, Joyful

I would like to have it marked down that although I can be a moody person, and although my happiness may seem to ebb and fade from time to time, there is lasting JOY in the Christian life that should be proclaimed!

I was reflecting on how sufferings or trials bring us closer to the Lord. This is one of those Christian principles that almost seems cliche or therapuetic rather than a foundation for our lives. Yet, that is what it is meant to be. Sin, my friends, is the alien here. Sin, was not part of the original plan. God our Father created us all in a state of original innocence, where we were free from the stain of evil and filled with the spirit of love and trust in our Maker. We were created with free will as well, and by this we did choose to disobey our Father, to lose our trust in him, to break away from his love.

God, being as good as he is, for he is all good and the true good, did not leave us broken and in our misery but in time, sent his only beloved Son to become one of us, and to suffer and die that we might be redeemed from the eternal punishment of that first sin. Though we still sin and fail to recognize and understand God's love and mercy working in our lives, we are always the recipients of the invitation to forgiveness and mercy. The Lord is infinitely patient with our failures, and so perfect in love that we need only confess our brokenness and be sincere in our sorrow and we will be healed. He leads us to his heart time and again, where we can experience the abyss of mercy that is greater than any baggage we can bring with us.

So when we bear heavy burdens or loads, or when sufferings weigh us down, we are experiencing the effects of sin in the world. Not as if it were a direct correlation to our own sin - Christ clearly states in Scripture that God is not retributive in that way - but the effects of sin in the world at large bring about evil and sad things. The repurcussions of hate, malice, evny, greed, lust, selfishness, idolotry, vanity, pride and other evils are that people suffer. Sometime we suffer from our own bad choices. Often we suffer because satan still has a hold on this earthly world, and he has worked hard to bring us away from the heart of Christ. The paradox is that, for the Christian, the sufferings can be turned into experiences of Christ's love and mercy that are greater than if they had not suffered.

I think often about the analogy of the blind. If you begin life without knowing what colors and shapes are, any experience that would assist you in opening your eyes and seeing in light rather than in darkness would be worth it, even if it was painful. The man in the story of Scripture who is brought to Jesus and has been blind since birth, has mud rubbed into his eyes from Jesus. Not necessarily the most pleasant experience. When Jesus tells him to go wash, he's probably just thrilled to stop the burning that he is experiencing. Yet, what happens after, the fruit of that pain, is glorious. He can see. He can see faces and colors and can recognize people who he has only known by voice until that time. This joy, the celebration of the change, far outweighs the pain that it took to get him there.

Likewise, I have heard it said that women and men who await the birth of a child suffer quite a bit as the birth approaches, especially the mother herself during childbirth. Yet, all say that the peace and joy that comes from holding your baby in your arms leaves no room in your memory for the pain that was just endured. All that is left is the new glory, the dramatic change in life that has created a newness about everything.

This is what I mean when I say that Christian's can experience good and joy in understanding suffering in this way. We have to be humble enough to acknowledge that we are blind in many ways. That can be the hardest challenge, the greatest suffering. We may not want to accept that God truly knows better than we do, especially in matters that are most personal to us, such as our hearts and their attachments to others, or our life goals/dreams, etc... Things which we feel have always been ours to conceive or to give away, are suddenly first requiring our surrender.

But this is why suffering is so beautiful. We might not have ever let Jesus spit in the dirt and rub that muck in our eyes if we knew what was happening. Moreover, if we weren't blind first. Since we are blind, we are forced to need him, to need the initial experience. Once the experience has been had, we realize how trustworthy he is. One mircale ought to be more than enough for us to know that he will always be faithful to his promises. We should then expect great and better things from his hand, because he has revealed himself as the one who loves us. That is his title, the One Who Loves. Love is a gift. Therefore he is the One Who Gives - gives of himself. And because he is Love itself, all that he gives is love. And so it is a beautiful cycle of receiving from him and rejoicing as we surrender again all that we are and have.

So I do not challenge people to be fake, to tell others everything is great when it isn't or to smile when we need to be weak, but I do challenge everyone to deepen their faith. Whether it is in prayer at mass, before the Eucharist in adoration, with Scripture in your room, at Confession or with friends or family...take the time to pray and meditate on where your faith is currently. How much, really, do you trust him? If you can, read through the book of Job. It will suprise you. You think you've heard it enough, and then all of a sudden he's speaking about all that your heart has felt or is feeling. Meditate with the journey he goes through. Where is the Lord calling you to give up control, to trust his love, to surrender to him? Is it in little ways, like the traffic to work or the creamer that wasn't at the grocery when you wanted it? Is it in larger ways, like the relationship that isn't working or the job that you just can't seem to land? Is it your relatives or family who don't understand you or who are suffering? Is it your own fears of judgement or dislike or indiffernece from others that hurt you deeply?

He has felt these. He knows them. He has gone before you in these pains and he is still with you. He will not leave. The blind man was brought to Jesus in person, but Christ knew him before and had loved him in his mother's womb. Jesus had yearned to open his eyes. He desired the joy to live in that man's heart.

Most of all, there is no better example for us than Our Lady. Even at the beginning of her great journey, at the moments of the annunciation when she was faced with the most beautiful Gift that has ever been given, she also was faced with the prospect of possibly being stoned, as the Jewish law called for when women were pregnant "out-of-wedlock." Mary's response is honest, "how can this be since I have not known man?" As soon as Gabriel informs her that she can conceive by the power of God, she simply rejoices! Fear has been banished from her heart. She will trust, and she will be radiant with joy. God is all goodness, all perfection, all love! She will know nothing else.

Let us come to Our Mother and ask for her guidance and teaching, that we too can rejoice in sufferings, and with her, allow our soul's to proclaim God's greatness always.

Friday, August 6, 2010

For He Cannot Deny Himself

"This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself."
- 2 Timothy 2:11-13 

I need to write about the eternal state of love that is given. So many have said it before, and many will say it after me - it remains true throughout the ages, and therefore will continually be rediscovered by every heart that learns to love. Yet, that does not mean I must withhold.

Retreating back to childhood, I think about the important day when mom taught me what "indian giving" was. I wasn't allowed to do that, first of all. Secondly, what mom was trying to communicate was that a gift, in its very nature as a gift, once given, is given over wholly, completely, and forever. There was no "half-given" gift. I was either to allow my sister to "borrow" my clothes, or I was to just give them to her. I couldn't "give" them and then decide I wanted them back.

As we get older we find the lines can be blurred on whether something is a "gift" or just a "loan". Your housemate eats your food... it was yours, but now it's in their stomach. Gift? You didn't offer it. Or perhaps you did offer it, but in that hesitating voice that means, 'only if you're starving and you have absolutely no income should you accept this offer, and I know that isn't the case so you better say no.' However, it's gone now. Do you expect them to repay you? Buy you more? Even acknowledge that they took it? That probably won't happen.

So the conundrum faced is as follows: we understand the "black and white" of something freely given or something clearly not given... but what about all the in-between? What about when things are taken? How do we understand a Christian response that respects our dignity but comes from charity? The answer is probably to be found in that last question - Christ instructs us in Scripture to give, to be generous. He tells us not to expect to be repaid and to give more when someone asks than what they've asked for. Right after the Beatitudes in Matthew chapter five Jesus says, "If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well." The Lord is obviously not encouraging stinginess or selfishness here. Yet, some have more than others, and we have responsibilities to take care of ourselves and our families and so we are often challenged to find a balance between generosity and imprudence. To be conservative in our spending is not a bad thing.

The focus should thus be on our hearts, as it is for Christ. When he responds to the Pharisees about divorce, he says Moses allowed it "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (Matt. 19:8). It is the charity that is either burning in our hearts or being put out by our fears that determines much of when we are generously giving and when we are either being selfish or being taken advantage of. It is important for us to learn to listen to our hearts, especially when it comes to money. If we are being moved to give, we will feel that tug inside. We should not fear, but listen to the voice of generosity within us, trusting that the Lord will provide. However, if there are those who consistently expect from us what isn't theirs, or who choose to take advantage of us, we are not wrong to refuse or to express that they are wrong. Listen to your heart to find the Holy Spirit leading you to truth. If you take time to decifer what your motive(s) is/are and what the truth in the situation is (removed from your initial emotional response), you will find clarity in the right action.

So back to "gift." As I mentioned, the Holy Spirit can teach you to learn to listen for his call, to feel his tug, to know when it is right to "let go." This is applicable in the small things of life, as whether you should call a friend or not, or go to an event or not, etc... but it is also very applicable in the larger things of life, most especially with those that involve all of your person. Issues of the heart, for example, very much require guidance. When is it right, when is it time, to "let go," to trust, to give someone else your heart? When is it right to disclose your love for another? When is it time to accept the invitation of another who is offering you the gift of their time, their heart, or even their life?

This is a deeply Eucharistic concept.
Before you, upon that alter, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in unity with the Father, Jesus Christ is made present. His very flesh is in the hands of his priest. He chooses, desires, does give himself to you. Not just a piece of himself or a part of himself. Body, blood, soul and divinity. He understands what "being a gift" is in its fullness. He holds nothing back. There is nothing else he could give you once he has offered you himself. That is saying a lot, since he is God. God has given you everything he is. He chooses to be in you. To come to you. To be part of you in an extremely intimate way. This is a great humbling on his part, a great stooping down to his children, unworthy as we are.

Reflect for a moment. What would be the hardest thing for you to give up right now? If you had to let something go? A computer you just bought? A car? A friend? Your mom or dad? A treasured memory of someone or a special experience? Think about Job. He had a great life - money, a wife, many kids, tons of animals and land... they all died in a day. House collapses and there's one servant to go tell him they're dead. He is stripped of all he has, except himself. He has his heart, and his will. His mind and body. The person he is remains intact. Everything else is gone. He faces a choice at this point - does he reject God, for he has nothing when he had everything, and this seems a harsh reward for one who was faithful and loving of God, or does he accept it, and in turn, give himself even more fully to God?

This is the point I am driving home - gift, as "free" as we may think it is, may yet have many layers to go. God leads us further and further down the path of self-gift because he yearns to be united with us in a deeply intimate way. He has already given everything he is. Can we say the same? Of course not! We may try, and we may succeed to some extent. Perhaps we have become so accustomed to letting go of the things of life and trusting the Lord that when things are removed from us we barely notice, or do not complain, or even thank God because it means he is teaching us how to more fully surrender everything to him. Yet, even the accustomed heart is not fully given. We will not be able to fully give ourselves to him until death, or perhaps at the resurrection of our bodies, when every part of us will be before his glory worshiping and loving him for eternity. For now, we offer him all we can: in joyful times, we give thanks and praise; in hard times, we offer our suffering and we give thanks and praise; in our daily decisions, our trials, our business, our bills, our friends, our families, our relationships, our hopes, our dreams, our responsibilities and expectations, or worries and anxieties and fears, our quiet times and our loud times, our mornings and our evenings... these we freely hand over. These we lift to him. These we unite to him. These we ask him to participate in, to lead us in, to teach us in, to make us new through them.

What is so beautiful is how this understanding of freely giving oneself in a total way is so clearly and easily seen through relationships, most especially between a man and woman in marriage. The process of coming to know and love one another (usually before marriage, of course) and of continuing to know and love one another more each day is an obvious analogy for the trust and gift of self we should offer to God above all. When you grow to love someone you learn not to be afraid. You do not fear allowing them to see your heart, your flaws and your good aspects, nor do you fear that they will injure you or disregard the gift you've offered them. Will they let you down? Of course. Will they fail to give you 100% sometimes? Of course. Will you feel like you're the one doing all the work sometimes? Yes. But the opportunity to give yourself over and over, to let go, to trust, to surrender, to have faith in another and their love for you - it is a beautiful mirroring of the true, faithful and full love of Christ and his invitation to you to respond with all you have.

Love is eternal. It does not end. Once given, even if it is let down, separated by time or space, or even by death, it cannot be taken back. Love is perpetual. It is the one gift that keeps on giving. It is like giving someone a plant that cannot die. It just keeps growing. It goes with them where ever they go. They can forget about it, neglect it, fail to water it, or even abandon it. It may not bear much fruit, but it will still be there. It leaves its mark. It forms a hollow space where only it fits, and the heart cannot extract it. Nor does it want to. Rather, the roots sink deeply in, and the heart thrives on the goodness of the love that grows inside.

Let us recall these three things: 1. Our God gives us everything he is, his whole self, body and soul, in freedom and truth, in his fullness. He invites us to receive this gift and to return it. 2. We learn to give all we have to the Lord especially through the gift of self we make to others each day, most clearly seen through the gift of ourselves to a spouse in marriage (or to the Church through religious life, I don't mean to leave that out, although that is a whole other reflection). 3. Love lives on, and we live through it and in it. We must never hesitate to give, to love freely, to forgive quickly and let go fully, to rejoice because we have been brought close to Christ by the gift of ourselves.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Beatitudes, Part IX

Matthew 5:1-16

"Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven."

This is the last of the Beatitudes Series.

Is there a reason the Lord saves the seemingly-worst for last? Why is it that these "guiding lights" for holiness begin with generally simple or positive challenges and then end on such a note?

First, I love the qualifying word here - falsely. We are to keep in mind that when we undergo sufferings such as persecutions or judgements or slander from others, we must not be worthy of their criticisms. This is also a challenge to human nature's instant desire for self-justification or revenge. How often when we are little do we consistently and incessantly inform our parents that what our brother claimed we did, was not actually how it went down at all? We do not want blame. We retreat from accusation, and if we are innocent we immediately seek to clear our name of any falsehood. Truly, it is not wrong to wish to be cleared of lies or false accusations - if they aren't true then we naturally want to reveal the lie. However, as usual, the Lord decides to give us a challenge akin to "be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect." Our natural reaction to "just let their stupidity, lies, slander and hate roll off your back" is something similar to - "really? really? I mean... they're wrong. Shouldn't we say something?"
If nothing else, we would like to clear the air of the smoke from the lie. If something more, we would love to give the fibber a good kick in the pants - maybe return lie for lie, or rumor for rumor, or reveal a secret that should have been kept hidden. We aren't too slow to take up the fight when it's personal.

Yet, St. Paul says so explicitly in Romans, "Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' Rather, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.' Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good" (Rom. 12:19-21).

Certainly there are appropriate times for challenging another in truth and holiness, asking them to consider their deeds or words in light of faith or natural human goodness, or opening their eyes to the ways they have done injury so that they may change their behavior. Yet, here first and foremost we find Jesus asking us to imitate him, so that we may imitate the Father. How often do we read through the Old Testament and discover the Lord reaching a point of threatening destruction and ruin for the people of God who have fallen away from Him, or have worshiped false idols, or have broken His covenant? Yet, every time we also find a God who opens his mercy and love to the people and spares them on account of those who repent, and simply because he is love. God the Father has infinite patience and fidelity. "This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself" (2 Tim. 2:11-13).

Jesus looks at his little lost lambs and his heart is moved. He is willing to teach us. He desires to lead us to holiness, to love, to peace, to joy in him. He yearns that we be united with him and the Father and the Holy Spirit. He therefore offers us these instructions that we might know how to live and love as he does. To forgive when the forgiveness is unearned, and even unasked for, or worst of all, is unaccepted. To still love, even when you are hated. To be still and peaceful when the accusations you know are false come pouring in. To find a way to lovingly point to the truth. To trust that the Father sees and knows what you are enduring and holds you in his hands through it all. To recall how often you have deserved his wrath and have been treated with such mercy and tenderness instead. To trust him and forget the faults of others.

We need each of the beatitudes to build up to a state of faith that assists us in this kind of mercy. We will be so much quicker to forgive and forget when we have learned the lessons of humility and patience and all the other virtues of the beatitudes. From there we can begin a journey of love of neighbor until, hopefully, one day we can say with our Lord, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do" (Lk. 23:34).