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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Love is a Noun That Becomes a Verb

For those of you who share in the need for perfection or the hunger for approval, let me say that I know the burden well. Whether it is achieving a high grade or making a good meal, many of us will work hard to improve and impress. However, we all know that the same fuel that drives us to impress can also be the tinder for disappointment and self-depreciation.

Essentially, the equation goes: A > B where C = B but if A < B, than C = 0.
A = Extremely high standards or expectations set for the self to accomplish
B = Achieving the minimum "high standard", usually above the average
C = The self

Please kindly keep in mind that math is something that I failed at horribly. Logic, I can handle. So.. not sure what happens when I try to combine the two. 

Anyway, the point is that it is not uncommon to equate one's self-worth with only the visible achievements or set goals that have been set forth, and to then in consequence find one's self-worth null if those achievements are not accomplished. 

What does this have to do with Love? 


In the little discussion of self-worth and achievement, the underlying system that is at work is that there is a measurable value to an individual, and that it is measured in a system or hierarchy which the individual sets up. If the individual does not personally set forth all of that hierarchy, than the immediate family, the school, society and culture set up the rest. This means that value, which is a good, must be done, or requires action. Another way of saying it is that the good requires work, or must be shown or revealed by action. 

In general, many of us can probably agree with that system. We see hungry people, or homeless people, or people who need medicine or education; we understand that they cannot have these things unless other people assist them, and unless they themselves act to change their circumstances. 

However, we need to be cognisant of what isn't being said here; that good can exist de facto. If value or good had to be active, than many things could not be considered a good. I, for one, find many types of rocks to be very beautiful. I may be a nerd because of it, but the point is that the beauty is one that is still. It is good because it is beautiful, and not because it does anything. It can be a specific kind of good when it is used in the building of a house, for example, but that does not remove the good that it has simply by being a nice looking rock. 

Further, a baby cannot do much. We all know that they eat, sleep, pooh, cry, and that is about it. Of course they smile and laugh and respond, etc... but in a world of activity and accomplishment, babies seem to be on the bottom rung. Does that remove the value they have as a human being? God forbid! Of course it does not (though there are those who argue just that!). The point is that there is certainly and clearly a good that is inherent, innate, intrinsic to the person that cannot be nullified by his or her activity or inactivity. 

And therefore, to Love. Love, my friends, is not first and primarily a verb. We certainly do love. We act in love, or we can act unlovingly. We also speak, however, of being in love. This would imply that someone has a state of being which happens to be love. How is this possible? Is he or she constantly and at all times acting the love? Perhaps he or she is constantly feeling love, but there cannot be a perpetual acting of love. Unless, of course, your being (your existence), is acting and is Love. 

Hooray! God! Yep. He is always in-action, (and you can enjoy reading St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle another time, because it will take a few pages to go through it here) and he is always Love. He is Love. That is, Love is first and foremost a state of being, and that state of being is a Person, and in fact, that state of being is a Godhead, three Persons in One God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. St. John says it so simply: "Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love" (1 Jn 4:8). This means that Love is first a state of being, a knowing, a NOUN, before love is an action-verb. 

This is vitally important for us to digest because we are going to spend our entire lives trying to love; most of the time, we are going to feel that we are failing to love adequately, or we are being failed by others who do not love us adequately, and we are not going to feel the warm fuzzies of accomplishment about that high and lofty goal of being a "loving" person or being "in-love" our whole lives.

Guess what? That's ok. It's actually a very good thing. This is because there is only ONE who is Love, and that is God. And therefore if we are to partake in love, whether that is to love another or to be loved by another, to do something good for a friend or family member, to be charitable, to be "worthy of love," we have to participate in the Noun of Love before we can act in the verb. 

So... get to praying. I cannot say how strongly my heart has been convicted of the need to pray! We must meet Him who IS Love in his revelation; first and foremost, through his Church, and in the Church, through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. This is how Love has revealed himself to us. We are to dialogue with him, to get to know him, to understand that he is a proper noun. We are to receive from him the love that he gives, which is always faithful and always true, and then we will be able to give some of that love ourselves. We need to know Jesus more and more, to understand that a living relationship means that daily we are fed by Love. As long as we keep living, we are going to need to actively love. Therefore, as long as we keep living, we are going to need to return to the source, to Love himself, to receive from his bounty. 

The value, the good of the Creator, of the Word, of the Holy Spirit, of Love himself in the Blessed Trinity, is given to us, to his creatures. We possess that goodness as a gift! Yet, we have an obligation, duty and requirement because of that gift, to nourish it and to aid it in growing, in maturing, so that the gift becomes actualized to its full potential! What is this full potential? Beatitude. Eternal Life with God, who is Love. That is the aim and the goal of the goodness inherent in us. That is the reason that we must meet Love as the Noun who is the One who came to save us all from sin and death and lead us to eternal life. We cannot give what we have not received; Love has offered himself to us. Will we accept?

The true equation must be something like:
A = B = C

Where A = God, who is Love
B = Love given to men by God, the invitation to know him and love him in return
C = The fulfillment of each of us as persons, known and loved by God, returning that love with all that we have

Monday, January 28, 2013

Tragic Law and The Tragic Truth

[this has been revised from my previous post, after further consideration]

I recently watched a video of an actual abortion taking place. It came about because I happened upon this picture and description, and was horrified (tire-tete means "head crusher" in French).

This abortion intrument's purpose was to hold the baby's head with
the spiked ends. Once the head was held, a long thin probe was
pushed deep into the skull like a sword. The instrument held the baby's head, so once it was cut off, it would not float around in the uterus.

I found myself wondering if this was a "modern instrument" of if things were "more developed" in our day. So I did a search and decided to learn more. What I found was a video of actual abortion taking place. Besides the graphic images and the heart breaking experience of watching murder, I found my senses struggling with the previous understanding I had of what abortion was. I have always been against it, but it has been legal since before I was born. Therefore, I never knew a world where this was not legal. And now, I cannot believe that it is. It is barbarism, in every sense. It is the most uncivilized, uncultured, gruesome thing I have ever seen.

We constantly read in the news about very sad and disturbing murders of innocent people, and yet this country allows by law a worse form of violent killing to take place every day. All of the arguments about "privacy" and "personal choice" are nothing but little cotton balls being thrown against the bulwark of the premeditated violence done. There is no world that should allow this to remain hidden in the dark, shrouded in mystery.

I do not pretend to know much about law making or politics, but I can be sure that there is at least one law that is not a just law: St. Thomas Aquinas said that just human or civil laws are those that participate in God's law, that work within the natural law, which is established by God. The acceptance of infanticide, the murder of children, is not just, nor natural, nor abiding by the law of God.

This is the link to that video: it truly is disturbing, but the more I have thought about it, the more I have felt convinced that I am thankful that I know the full truth. Let us be clear - the works of evil prefer to stay hidden. Christ is the light that shines in the darkness, and for Christ, even darkness is not dark. The truth is that we must face evil head on, and see all of its ugliness, if we are truly going to reject it and fight against it. It is often said, "know your enemy" - moreso when the enemy is in many ways hidden and hard to pin down.

Furthermore, besides the fact that no media feels like child-murder is a topic of humor of common conversation, very few people talk about alternatives. No one seems to mention that the high rates of infertility among women mean that there are more than ever families looking to adopt children. Adoption is the best option for the many young women who feel that they are ill prepared to handle the motherhood that they have undertaken. And for anyone who in any circumstance is unready, unwilling, afraid or unsure of giving birth to a child, and the life after, there will be an adult, a couple, a parent or family, who will want that child and will take care of him or her. Murder is never the option. It should not be. It must not be.

Here are a few links (I cannot vouch for them but I believe they are trustworthy):
National Adoption Agency

Catholic Adoption

Catholic Charities Adoption (for the Archdiocese of Washington)  (there are other Catholic Charities Adoption agencies in different areas, just search for your local diocese or city)

Adoption: For Your Marriage (from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)

There are also some various organizations that offer to help women with pregnancies, including medications, counseling, diapers, etc... Some links:
Gabriel Project (this is in the Diocese of Arlington)

Life Matters: Responding to Unplanned Pregnancies (from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)

Catholic Medical Center Pregnancy Care

Catholic Charities Pregnancy Care (Archdiocese of Chicago)

And there are also websites, programs and retreats to help for healing of mothers and families after abortions:

Project Rachel

Rachel's Vineyard

National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing (NOPARH)

Infant Jesus of Prague, have mercy on us and give us your peace!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Agony and Scourging

I have but a moment to meditate on this, but I found myself very taken aback this morning as I was considering the second mystery of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, the scourging of Christ. Many have seen Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," and were probably moved by the scene of the scourging. It certainly depicted serious physical pain.

As I was considering the mystery, however, I wanted to think about Jesus' feelings rather than what his body was feeling. I don't think many of us know what the pain is that he suffered in his body, but perhaps we can relate to the emotional and psychological suffering he endured at that time.

Consider someone you love; a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a daughter or son, a close friend, a boyfriend or fiance. If your personality falls along the lines of "people pleaser" than you will certainly know how important it is for this person you love to accept you, and to be happy with you. If your personality falls along the lines of "don't really care what others think" than perhaps this is a concept that will be more challenging for you to empathize with. Still, there is a universal human understanding of the pain of rejection when it is from someone in whom you have placed great trust, and in whom you confide, and to whom you reveal your heart. The idea of that person deciding that they are tired of you, or that you are no longer enough for them, or that there is another who can take your place, or in any other way injuring you - it is painful. I try to imagine my parent or sister or husband being the one to hold the whip at my scourging, and my heart immediately leaps to my throat! It is a much easier thing to understand some stranger, full of hate, beating me in some senseless anger. It is also much easier to then forgive that person, at least in the idyllic sense. But to imagine that this person hurting me so severely is one who knows me, who has loved me, and who chooses to injure me now... it is unbearable. It is disgusting. It makes the idea of forgiveness seem nearly impossible. It is so very tragic.

Therefore, while perhaps the soldiers who were ordered to scourge our Lord did not actually know him and love him as our parents or spouses or friends might, he knew them. Christ suffers the agony in the garden because he submits his will to the Fathers'... the suffering which the Father asks him to accept is revealed to him, and he knows that the pain he will endure, the offering up of his whole self, will be extreme and total. He also is aware of the entirety of the plan of salvation, which is the mission and reason for his Incarnation. So he is able to knowingly and willingly accept the passion and Cross because his love is so great for the Father and for those whom he so desires to have with him in Heaven. And there it is - every single one of us. Everyone who has been offered the Good News of the Gospel, who has been made part of the family of God through Baptism, who lives knowing of the grace Christ offers us to live holy lives; we all sin. We all reject him. We all are the soldiers whom he knows and loves, and yearns to invite to Paradise, and yet we push him away and desire other things.

Of course, I am too practical to say we really scourged him - of course we were not alive 2,000 years ago. However, the offering he made of himself was a once-and-for-all offering, that spans all of time, as he is above and beyond time, being the Alpha and Omega. Therefore, while we did not directly participate in his literal Passion, we still participate in the ongoing work of salvation for our own souls and the souls of those around us. We do have the option, every morning, every day at work, every evening, to take one path or the other: the first path is the one of embracing our Lord. Like Jesus in the garden, we can willingly submit to the Father's will. We can choose to take up whatever suffering, whatever little or big passion, might be given us for the day. No, we are not privy to the knowledge of the whole plan. No, we may not even see the good of the momentary or daily suffering we partake in. But still, we have the choice to say, "not my will, but yours." We can be assured that this is for our benefit and the good of the souls of others. We can know that this sharing in the suffering of the Lord teaches our hearts about truth, about love, and about the grace we need to enter the Kingdom. The other path is the one of rejection: we can simply say, "I'm bored," or "it's too hard," or "I have another who will not ask so much of me," or any other form of avoidance or rejection. If we know of the love that Christ has shown us in offering his very self at that moment of agony and the following hours of passion he endured....if we know that he had every soul in mind, including us, though we had not yet come into existence...if we know that he is still and at every moment willing to forgive us just as he forgave the people who actually whipped and killed him, if only we repent and confess our sins...can we live with ourselves when we are too busy, too bored, too entertained, or whatever other excuse we have? Can we really be standing by while he is scourged and believe "it has nothing to do with me"? We do not get that option. Like it or not, we were created and given all we have by God. Like it or not, he sent his only Son into the world for our salvation. Like it or not, when we die, we will face judgment, and we will see the truth of God in all his power and glory. Like it or not, we will spend an eternal life either with the Lord or apart from him. We do not actually have the option of "having nothing to do with Christ's passion" - we are implicated by birth and we will remain affected after death; it is our choice to participate or to reject.

Besides the sweeping idea of "accepting one's cross" in life, whatever it may be, the other very practical way to understand the sorrow of a heart which has shown all its love and has been wounded by those who persecute and hate it, is for us to be very humble when our own hearts are so wounded or rejected. We all know what it is to feel very justified when a friend or coworker or even family member does something rotten or rude or hurtful or spiteful, and we wash our hands of him or her. We know how our other family and friends who know the situation will agree with us and support us in our "being done" with the bad apple. Sometime we do need to remove ourselves from bad relationships - that is not a question - but the point is that too often we take liberties where our pride is injured and suddenly we are justified in being a total jerk to the person for as long as we feel it appropriate pay back. That is not sharing in the cross of Christ. That is a failure to see another fellow human being and repeat the words of our Lord, "Father, forgive them,  for they know not what they do." We are obligated to forgive as best we can, with as much sincerity as possible, and to pray for the grace to be at peace with those who hurt us, even if that peace does not mean continuing a friendship. If the one who injures us is our family member or spouse - all the more! We must seek reconciliation and healing, in what ways we can. These little acts of dying-to-self, of letting-our-pride-be-stabbed-by-a-lance, of letting go of things which perhaps are very hard for us to let go of: these are the ways that we can be present to our Lord at his scourging and bring some tiny bit of comfort to that Most Sacred Heart which must have agonized so over the many who would never understand or appreciate the Love which poured its very self out for our sake!