Monday, February 15, 2016

I've heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night

The other day I read an article about how that the current generation of children are being raised to believe that not recycling a soda can is just as bad or worse than looking at pornography.  I thought that must be complete bunk.  How could that even be possible?  So I asked a few teens myself.  Guess what?  It's true.  So much so that even in one of our classes we started to see that notion of environmental responsibility being the utmost of responsibility for a holy life.  We were discussing what the world would be like if God's kingdom was a reality here on earth.  What would it be like if people really didn't take more than they needed?  If they shared what they had?  if they loved instead of hated?  What would God's reign look like?

We got some of the answers I expected: peaceful, no war, less worries, etc.   Then came other words I would never have expected.  "We'd all be robots."  "No one would have any fun."  "Life would be boring."  After talking with them a few minutes they began to open up and say things like, "I couldn't use my cell phone because it would create pollution."   That's not what God's reign is about.  It's not about taking away fun, but people are convinced it is.  They are bound by the rules they have in their head, not the rules that we have in our faith.  They associate holiness and piety with dryness and boredom.  How do we get past this?  How do we find our way beyond a superficial understanding of what God has to offer and realize that what he is offering is pure happiness, joy and freedom?

In tomorrow's Gospel we see Matthew's version of the Our Father, this is the one we as Catholics use in our liturgies.   In that prayer I believe lies the truth of the happiness that God has to offer.  The first line itself speaks volumes, but we more often than not take it for granted.   Our Father.  God is not a distant deity that transcends everything and never interacts with us.  Rather, we are in a personal and intimate relationship with the trinity.  We have been given the honor and blessing of calling God Father, Abba, Papa, Daddy.  That's closeness... that's tenderness... that's family.   God is offering us a family of peace.  A family of love.  A family of understanding.

He's not asking us to give up pleasure, no, pleasure can be good.  Rather he is asking us to use those good things, those good feelings, those enjoyable devices and technologies responsibly and reasonably.  We don't have to give up our cell phones, our gaming devices, our televisions, or our hobbies to be Catholic.  What we do have to do though is to do those things with not just ourselves in mind, but with the entire world.  Yes, technology can create pollution.  More over, it can create a moment in which our lives are consumed with our self, with our ego.  Those are bad things.  The cardinal virtues though remind us to be detached from that.  That doesn't mean destroying these things and living a bland, meager existence.  It rather means that we take steps to make them enjoyable and responsible.  Solar chargers, limiting our time, sharing our experience, making sure to watch things that bring joy but also avoid temptations, etc. 

We pray in that same prayer "thy kingdom come, thy will be done."  That isn't just speaking of Jesus return at the end of time, but also of the present moment.  God's kingdom is going to be fulfilled in a completeness at the end of time that may not be possible in the here and now, but it is also present and tangible imminently.   You and I as members of the body of Christ have a responsibility to bring about the Kingdom.  Through temperance, through fortitude, through prudence, and justice.  It does not mean that we cannot enjoy ourselves.  It does not mean that life should become dry and void of entertainment.  It does mean that we should consider God and our fellow man in everything we do.  If we are enjoying an expensive meal while our brother starves?  There is something wrong with that. If rather, we are enjoying a similar meal for less money and inviting our brother to dine with us?  That's justice.  That's peace. That's the Kingdom.

Here it is Lent and many of us are trying to grow closer to Christ.  We are giving up things.  We are trying to participate in the three methods the church encourages us to use: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Let's not forget those people who are still struggling in a land of limbo... the persecuted Christians being chased and murdered by ISIS.   The refugees fleeing their countries trying to find a life for their family and children.   The men, women, and children being murdered by the drug cartels just across our border.   The homeless, underemployed, sick and homebound in our very own neighborhoods.   That's what Lent is about.  We aren't supposed to fast alone, but to give as well.  So take the extra money you might save by eating smaller meals and buy something for someone who is struggling.  Shovel a driveway.  Take up someone's garbage cans at the end of the day when you bring up your own.  Smile. Hug.  Remember, one of the most important things to do at this time and throughout the whole year, is to work on those corporeal works of mercy:

Feed the Hungry
Give Drink to the Thirsty
Shelter the Homeless
Visit the Sick
Visit the Prisoners
Bury the Dead
Give alms to the Poor

I think that's our lesson today as we examine the words of Christ when he teaches us to pray "give us this day our daily bread."   This speaks of a super substantial bread, a bread that is Eucharistic in nature.  It's our duty as Catholics to take that bread into the world both physically and spiritually to provide the needs of others.  Us.  Not give me.  We are praying for us.  You are receiving something powerful in the Eucharist, something that should be given to others.. in your thoughts, in your words, and in your deeds...

His servant and yours,
Brian

"He must increase, I must decrease."