Monthly Archives: August 2014

For the Faithful Fail

Q: What does it take for evil to prevail?

A: For the good to do nothing.

Q: What, then, happens to the good?…

Psalms 12:1-2

  1. Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.

 

They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.

How much of what you deal with every day is truth and how much is error and deception? When we hear something over and over, from different sources in different places, we tend to take it as reality, without really thinking about it ourselves. Have the different sources just been repeating what they heard without thinking for themselves, likewise? Take, for example, religion.

Going to church

Perhaps, you have heard that church is for sinners – this from God-believing people who don’t feel the need to attend a church. My great-aunt Gini told me this several times. At first, I tried to rebuke her statement because she was trying to use it to prove that attendance of worship services should not be an integral, or required, part of faith. But, I soon saw my error. She was saying something very true: Church, or church attendance, or religion itself, is for sinners. And every human being is a sinner, because no human being lives up to the fullness of his or her potential every moment of every day.

Accepting the truth

To be a sinner is not to be damned to Hell for eternity. To be a sinner is to be a fallen human – and we are all fallen. To recognize and acknowledge oneself as a sinner is to understand the divide between human and divine, between temporal love and eternal love, between partial beauty and goodness and the fullness of beauty and goodness. This doesn’t mean that the divide is impossible to traverse – we, as humans, do not possess the inherent ability, but God grants us the ability through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is fully human and fully divine. Through his life, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension and through our acceptance and reception of the divine mercy and love that pours forth from this Paschal Mystery through Christ’s Mystical Body, we are saved, we are redeemed.

Listening and understanding

See? You might hear and repeat that “church is for sinners” and think that you don’t need to go to worship service – but you don’t understand what a sinner is or what church is. As goodhearted a person as you may be, you will be dealing in errors and lies. After realizing this, I responded to my aunt’s statement by saying, “Yep. That’s why I go to church. Because I’m a sinner.” I didn’t point fingers at her – I pointed them at me.

“God is for sissies”

Or, perhaps you have heard that religion itself – that the worship of God – is for the frightened and weak-minded, the elderly, the suffering, the disabled, and the poor. This false idea is much harder to rebut in the world, though it must be rebuked if we are to live in the truth. The belief in and worship of God, or religion as I will call it here, is not merely a comforting mythology to keep the less-endowed people from feeling the sorrow of their pathetic lives. How arrogant and deceitful a thought!

Prove it

Yet, how do we convince the self-deceived liars about the truth of religion?

Well, we certainly can’t do it by living in lies and errors ourselves. We can’t demonstrate to the world the profound and universal power of religion for good, for beauty, for justice and for love if we gossip after church about all the things that we think other people are doing wrong in their lives, gossiping in lowered voices lest those other people hear us.

We can’t prove to the world the transcendent and imminent presence of God who loves every human being infinitely and intimately if we pass by panhandlers on the street with shameful looks, wondering what drug addiction those beggars are trying to use our money to fill, or if we respond to other calls for charitable donations with a closed, cautious wallet, stating that we can’t afford to help – and then open our wallets at Starbucks or for a third, fifth, 27th (?) pair of shoes.

We can’t show the deep and abiding need for God and God’s mercy in every human being, even the richest and most successful, if we do not ourselves allow God’s mercy to flower in us so that we may forgive those who have hurt us, or even just irritated us, and be healed by that forgiving.

Good people

I just watched the movie Philomena. Although I would not use it specifically as Catholic apologetics, I would share with you the “little old Irish woman” as she is portrayed in the film as an example of a healthy Catholic response of truth in a world full of deception, anger, shamed secrets, and lies. She is a devoutly believing Catholic and, it would seem, a very simple human being. She is certainly not well-educated or well-versed, and she is not going to be able to rebut her atheist, fallen-away Catholic companion with well-reasoned arguments or clever repartée.

But, she is very straightforward and humble. She is not afraid to be a sinner – because she knows that everyone is – and, so, too, she is not afraid of sinners. She is horribly wronged, wounded, betrayed, and deceived by nuns who profess the faith that she loves. And she is angry. So angry that, even though she seeks the healing of the Sacraments of her Church, she passes by them, so overcome with emotions is she. In the end, however, she is able to do something that the witty, atheistic reporter accompanying her cannot: she can forgive.

Forgiving the nuns is hard for her, one of the hardest things that she’s ever done, but it is how she lives. Forgiveness is how she lives because she has been living deep and true belief in and worship of God all of her life. While some Catholics, like the reporter, have been swayed by their own disappointments, failures, cynicism, and the clever deceptions of the world to deny their faith and deny God, Philomena has remained true. And he, the reporter, is smart enough to see the amazing and powerful value of Philomena’s faith.

Blessed are the poor – not because they can be easily fooled into believing comforting and valuable fairytales, oh no. Blessed are the poor because they are not easily fooled into believing that God, who is the source of all existence and the truth of every loving life, is nothing but trivial nonsense.

© 2014 Christina Chase

In the Midst of Wolves

The world can be scary.

Matthew 10:16

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

 

Someone who is healthy, fit and strong can take care of herself. She is self-sufficient, working a job to earn money for food, clothing, shelter – and fun, too. She can get herself to and from work and wherever else she might like to go, she can feed herself, dress herself, and keep her body maintained, as well as her housing. She does not need to depend on anyone particular, as she is a fully functioning part of society.

But, someone who is not healthy, fit or strong cannot take care of herself. She is completely and directly dependent upon others for food, clothing, shelter – for survival. She has no money with which to buy the things that she needs and, even if she did, she cannot physically put the food in her mouth, put the clothes on her body, or even move from one point to another. If she were to be alone without another human being for more than two days, she would die. I know because this is a description of me.

And it’s scary.

The only reason that I am not scared every day is that the little world of my family is a loving and gentle place. My loved ones are not wolves. They do not prey upon me in my vulnerability, but, rather, pray for me. They are not heartless and careless, but, rather, thoughtful and attentive. They are not selfish and stingy, but, rather, kind and generous. My parents are living examples of sacrificial love – willing to give up their own time, energy, resources, and even physical comfort for my sake, so that I may survive and even thrive. I am grateful every moment of every day for them, without end.

But…. They are getting older.

After 30 years of taking care of my physical needs all by themselves, we began getting assistance from home health aides a few hours a day, 2 to 5 days a week. Right now, it’s four days a week for a total of 11 hours – assuming no one calls out. I won’t say that it’s easy having strangers come and give me personal care. It’s a lot like, “Hi, I’m Christina. Would you like to see my bum?” But, although the women who come start off as complete unknowns, after getting to know each other we usually like each other and get along very well. In fact, although I have had many aides for only one day, those that last longer have been good people, genuine caregivers, no wolves among them. Although, sometimes one might be a little rough or another a little sloppy, they generally give adequate care and sometimes even more than adequate.

The problem is that they are not my loved ones. I cannot completely depend upon them because they have their own lives. If my parents suddenly can’t take care of me because of their own health issues, none of them will jump into the 24/7 care. Right now, my mother is unable to take care of me because of her severely injured back. It’s all upon my dad… who woke up from back pain himself this morning. And with one of my home health aides unavailable for much of the summer, the other one has had to fill in – even though she herself has back problems and I know that I am breaking her, too.

And that’s when I think about the world in which I live, my own helplessness, and how scary it all is.

I don’t want to go into a nursing home. What fully cognitive person of 40 would? Yet I know that this is my ultimate fallback. And, truly, I am grateful to live in a society where someone like me will always be taken care of physically, one way or another. We are not such a cruel and heartless people that we will allow the most vulnerable citizens of our country to perish because of disability. Well, so far we aren’t. So far, so good. I know that I might very well end up in a nursing home one day, and I know that it will scare me. Yes, physically, I would be in fatal trouble if I were without another human being for more than a day (dehydration is very serious for such a small, fragile body as mine) but, mentally, I would not make it more than an hour without another human being within earshot. I have a terrible, paralyzing phobia of not being able to be heard. Even a few minutes without someone responding to me makes me realize how utterly and completely helpless I am and I just freak out. The wolfish fears of my mind have the power to devour me.

You know how believers always profess to love and trust in God? I do that. I profess to love God and to want to give my whole self to God, and to let Divine Will, not my will, be done. But do I really mean it? My test is this: if something horrible happened to my parents and sister and I had to live in a nursing home with nurses and aides who begrudgingly looked after my survival needs but who were not kind, who were mean – if this was my life, would I still love God? Would I still thank God every day that I am alive? Would I still be the accepting, joyful and loving person that I am? Sometimes, I let the full terror of this scenario fall upon me, the dark misery of it, and my deep, deep answer is: Yes. That’s what commitment is. That’s what faith is. I will love and serve God no matter what, no matter how painful, no matter how horrifyingly difficult it may be to live up to my beliefs. I will not betray my love!

But I pray that I will not be put to the test!

The truth is that everyone everywhere is vulnerable. We, as human beings, are all dependent in some way. First of all, of course, we are dependent upon God for existence itself. Then, we are dependent upon the created order, upon the earth and the resources of earth, for our survival. And let’s not forget our absolute dependency in the womb, as well as our dependency upon adults in our infancy and early childhood. Our dependency continues – even if we are physically healthy, fit and strong, for it is rare to find a hermit who does not receive something from someone or a self-sufficient survivalist who has not hoarded up a collection derived from others’ work. And we know that the world can be a rough place. Getting employment and housing can be difficult, living in a safe neighborhood is never a guarantee. There are thieves and liars and murderers everywhere that humans live. And even the kindest, gentlest people can be victims of horrendous crimes. We are often sheep among wolves.

So, what are we to do? We are to remain gentle. We are to be loving and kind, selfless and generous. But, we don’t want to be mindless. To be thoughtful is to think of others as they are – beloved children of God who do not always live up to the divine image in which they are created. Sometimes, people turn away from their humanity and become ravenous in their self-centeredness, using up others and tossing them away. We must be mindful of that. But we must not harden our hearts against them. We must never seek to give them a taste of their own medicine – for then we would become vicious ourselves. No, rather, we must be smart and use reason to work around people’s tendencies toward evil acts. If I end up in a nursing home, I will know to use my sweetness, my patience and understanding in a very obvious and outward way, so as to disarm people in their brisk harshness and unthinking. I will use my wits to discover their vulnerabilities – and I will have true sympathy. I will do my best to become a friend to them – and then they will be more willing to be a friend to me. And if this doesn’t work? I will never turn mean myself. I will try my best not to be vicious toward them. Rather, I will accept the fullness of my vulnerability. I will be as harmless as a dove. And perhaps, someday, in some way, this will be for someone a sign of the Holy Spirit.

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

 

 

Arise, O LORD

Psalms 10:12

Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble.

We who are weary here, crushed

beneath the burden of our existence in the world,

who cannot lift our heads for the weight of sorrow…

Some of us mutter to ourselves of our own misery,

defeated by the darkness to spurn any talk of light,

so drenched in wallowing are we that only the sharp

cutting of our tongues (and other weapons) upon the happiness of others brings

us any unpained recognition of being alive – and we curse that, too.

And some of us, bowed down with sadness and fatigue,

still cast our sight, like fishing lures, for any bite of hope,

bobbing along the surface, waiting for the nibble of a small comfort, or,

if brave enough, diving into the deep, submerging

the whole breadth of our brokenness into the ocean of divine mercy,

to be swallowed up by a greater being than ourselves,

one that is quick and liquid ready and eternally alive…

 

Rise up, O Lord, and bring with thee from the depth of the waters

all who have given themselves over to faith in the gulf of hope,

all who have sunk down in their littleness and plunged into their wounds

so they may seek and discover the love that abides there –

not their own miseries, but thy joy and thy triumph!

Lift thy hand, oh God, and with it, the multitudes

who, in their weeping and wretched afflictions,

did not spurn thy name, nor destroy thy images,

nor deny the gift of hope though the world made a mockery,

but who, rather, cast into the deep and trusted thee in the swim.

 

The One who lit the stars and set them in motion,

who pulls the tides with light-reflecting orbs,

and teems the earth and every body with the rush of life,

this is the One from whom I draw my living

and in whom I will pour all my tears and laughter and blood –

though the world forsake me and taunt me with their miseries,

I shall not be overcome… for I am already drowning in love.

 

© 2014 Christina Chase