Sunday, April 22, 2012

Are you ready? Are you sure?

A documentary I just watched talked about the beatitudes. How that each one called us to a further detachment from the world, and a radical attachment to God. Then it spoke about how happiness, true happiness, was doing God's will... All of that I believe and have thought of on some level...  In fact, detachment is such an appropriate word for how we as exiled children of God should see this world.

I believe sincerely that God created each man with a spiritual void in his heart, one that can only be filled when we are in communion with our God. Just like those little blocks we had as kids, with the ball or cube that had a hole for each one. The star went in the star shaped hole, the block went in the block shaped hole, the triangle in the triangle shaped, etc. We as humans often try to fill that hole with something other than God.. and just like when we were kids sometimes we could shove the triangle into the square shaped hole.. but it had to be beaten in.. and it never stayed comfortably. Sometimes we even had to dig and pry to get them back out.

Thomas Aquinas said there were four attachments in this world that we usually try to fill the void of God in our hearts with. Wealth, pleasure, power and honor. Four of the beatitudes (the negative ones) deal directly with those four things.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3) (wealth)

This one reminds us to not be attached to material things. It is not necessarily a call to radical poverty, nor a demonization of wealth. It is though a reminder that love for money is an evil, and that we must have the right attitude with money. We must be detached from it so that if we are blessed with it, we can reach out and bless others with it. We must have a radical gratitude that makes us want to share that blessing with others. Not so very common in our society.

“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4) (pleasure)

Here again we see a powerful call to detachment! A detachment from pleasure. So often we think that we have to be comfortable, we have to be happy all the time. We then go out and try to take things in this world and make them make us happy. This doesn't mean that we have to be dour and taciturn, on the contrary, it means that when we are detached from personal pleasure we can begin to see pleasure in our lives by doing things for others, and by serving God. That we can be happy, comforted even, when we are suffering! That we can follow the will of God, even when it means suffering, without fear but with joy!

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land” (Matthew 5:5) (power)

Ah, in this video by Fr. Barron he described this in such a powerful way. That only when we are weak do we truly have power! Only when we are detached from wordly power, when we are meek indeed, can we get out of the way of God and let him work through us. As he phrased it, free from the addiction to ordinary power — you can become a conduit of true divine power to the world.  Think about that for a moment... we, mere humans, can become a conduit of grace into the world. When we are no longer seeking power... we then can be channels for divine power... wow!

“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10) (honor)

The most difficult at all, at least from my perspective. It seems like society calls out to us to have 'honor'. They tell us to strive our best, to always come in first! Our society is so consumed with the concept of honor, that we even give trophies to the ones who come in last or ribbons to those who don't even try. How wonderful a person we must be when we can forget honor, forget reocgnition, forget our own personal comforts and desires.. and put God first? When we can go do whatever God asks, even when that path involves being ignored, dishonored, and, at the limit, persecuted

All of that above is powerful! It's amazing in it's simplicity! It points to Christ as our ultimate example. It's all something that I have pondered in my own words already in my life, though not as vividly or as beautifully as he phrased it. It was the next part of the video that blew me away. The next part that challenged me to be a better Catholic.. to be a better human being. I know we must be detached. I know we must put things in their right context and put God first... but look at this image:

Fr. Barron then contended that the man on the cross, is the ultimate example of the beatitudes. I have  for the last few years of study always concluded that Jesus was indeed the way to live the beatitudes.. his life, what he stood for, his words.. his actions.. But the image in my mind was always the 'happy' Jesus. The laughing man surrounded by children, the loving man breaking bread for 5000+, the praying man with his head covered in linen... all of these was the Jesus who was living the beatitudes to me...

But there he is.. the man.. the God... completely detached from all things. Wealth? He doesn't even have clothing! Power? He's nailed to a cross, he can't even move to defend himself... Pleasure? If you've seen the Passion of the Christ you and both know there can be no pleasure on the cross.. his broken body bleeding out, his torn flesh pressed against the splintering wood! His lungs gasping for breath, forcing him to pull himself upwards to breath.. all the while pulling his nerves against the nails of his hands... His worn and aching body hanging in the sun.. with nothing to drink, no comfort to be had.. no pleasure.. Honor? The soldiers were mocking him, he had been spit on, beaten and bloodied. He was suffering the death reserved for the most heinous of criminals.. for the murderers, rapists, and scoundrels. There was no honor in the cross.. at least on the surface...

So this man here had nothing left. He had none of the four shapes to drive into the God shaped hole in his heart, in his flesh.. but he didn't need it.. because there he hung on the cross.. doing the will of God.. He didn't need any of that, because the flesh that was human just like yours and mine, the human heart that needed something in it to be complete, that part of all of our human flesh that calls out to God for completion... was already complete... he already had God in his heart.. not just because he was God.. but because this man, this messiah... gave his flesh over completely to God's will.

There he hangs.. on the cross. A happy man... Are we strong enough to be happy? Are we strong enough to go through whatever it takes? Will we hang on the cross and stretch our arms out for love of God and one another? Will we respond to God's call until we have nothing left but love in our hearts?

The next time you go to the Eucharist, picture for a moment that what you are about to hold in your hands is that man, that God, who died such a horrible death.. with happiness in his heart.. not because of his contentment.. not because of his wealth, his power, or his honor.. all of which he could have had... all of which he had been offered!!! No the happiness in his heart was for YOU!   He is there with open arms, offering himself for all eternity for you and me. Will you accept that call? Will you in turn walk forward and give yourself completely to him? Will you once again take that oath as you place God in your body? That is what we are called to do... Are you ready for that? I pray I am ready. I pray not only that I am ready for it each time I step forward.. but that God will make me ready for it, and that he will help me to strive to live the life that he calls me to live!

His servant, and yours.