Author Archives: Christina Chase

About Christina Chase

Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog, and I've written a book titled It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.

Nothing Wavering

“Trust me.”

James 1:5-6

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

We are told to trust that God will give us every good thing, that everything given to us by God will be for our well-being and joy. Sometimes, though… Sometimes, it’s so very difficult to trust. When something happens to us in our lives that is just so horribly sad, so painfully overwhelming… something that pierces and cuts our hearts so that even breathing seems a torment… it is then that we question God’s wisdom – or doubt that God cares anything for us, that there is any divine power at all to hear and answer our prayers.

And where does that leave us? In the dark world where we are shut in with our own workings, our own troublings, our own ways through, which are made of depression, anger, resentment, vengeance, or violence against others and ourselves. We are no longer open to the workings of the Divine, to the providence of God, to the ways of hope, forgiveness, compassion, generosity, and peace. The world will always be imperfect – and we, self-centered creatures, imperfect within it – but, we cannot choose to be subject to the world. We are each created by the Infinite/Eternal One and all of our joy, all of our fulfillment, is dependent on Him, depends from omniscient God. If we give up faith in God’s love and give up hope in the power of our own God-given gift of loving, then we miss the entire point of life, the very reason for our own existence. And we are left to fruitless desires, despair, and the hellish resistance of truth.

What if we had real wisdom? We are told that the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord. Too often, however, our thinking of this “fear” leads us to walk on tiptoe lest we arouse the wrath God and bring down upon ourselves horrible sorrows and pains. Our sins, we think, justly bring about God’s punishment and are the reason for every ailment, loss, or difficulty in our lives. As God is just, this must be true. And, yet… And, yet, the truth is that we human beings are designed in such a way that, when we sin, we punish ourselves. Not consciously do we punish ourselves, most of the time, but, rather, by our turning away from faith, hope, and love after we sin. It is the turning away from God that is Hell. And, if we had real wisdom, we would know not to do it.

Instead, our fear of the Lord would be the all-consuming recognition that God is God and we are not – the wholehearted acknowledgment that God, our creator, is free to crush His Creation if He so chooses. Know this. Know it, and let the knowledge cause you to tremble and quake. Submit to the fact of your own littleness and be utterly and completely humbled by the omnipotent Majesty of God. This is the beginning. And then…

The apostles on Mount Tabor fell down on the ground in fear of the Lord when the voice of God thundered above them. But, they did not remain with their faces buried in the dust. They were lifted up. They were lifted up by the touch of Christ, who bid them to stand upright and follow him. Christ, who told his followers over and over and over again to not be afraid, brings us God’s mercy, and bids us to rise and to advance in expectation of things not seen – in trust. For the action of hope and faith is trust and the fruit is the reception of everlasting love.

God chooses not to crush us. God wants to lift us up. God is ever generous, giving of Himself by creating everything in love, and lovingly sharing His own divine life with human beings by creating us in His own image with the spiritual gifts of intellect, imagination, and freewill. The question, then, is what will we choose to do? What do we want?

The life of faith is not an easy one. There’s nothing facile or mindless about it. Faith requires desire. We need to want something in order to have faith. We want by lacking and recognizing our lack, a process of pain and sorrow. It is in that humble recognition that we then ask. We ask God for what we lack in ourselves – not in the world, in the manner of possessions, sensations, or accomplishments, but in ourselves – patience, empathy, wisdom. By believing that God will, indeed, grant us every truly good thing, we give our whole hearts and lives to this belief. And, no matter what happens to us in the world, we do not let heartbreak, pain, grief, or any suffering batter us about like a mindless, purposeless, directionless thing. We act in faith and we live faithfully and we are brought forward through our lives by the endless gifts of God, led by the touch of Christ – carried by the love of Christ, with whom, in whom, and through whom we are wise… from beginning to eternity.

© 2014 Christina Chase

Thy Money Perish with Thee

Money, money, money…

Acts 8:17-22

Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

“… He has died as a ransom to set them free…” (Hebrews 9:15)

There is much Christian theology that seeks to explain redemption, the salvation that comes through Christ on the Cross, with financial analogies.  I don’t like any of them.  It’s not that the analogies don’t make sense or fail to hit the important point – that through Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross comes forgiveness of sins – but money and purchasing and possessing just seem to have nothing to do with spirituality and divine grace.  Christianity isn’t about reconciling the account books.  The religion is, rather, about love – about being loved and loving.  And even the Beatles know that “money can’t buy me love.”

And, yet… In Catholic Christianity, people pay for Masses to be said on behalf of deceased loved ones and the salvation of their souls.  “Free will” or “love” donations are asked of people attending Christian services or revival meetings, and a basket is passed around.  In some denominations, members are required to tithe, to give 10% of their earnings to the church.  It seems that money certainly does matter – even in religions that are about spirituality and God’s unconditional love of souls.  How do we justify this?  With human good and the purpose of money…

Human Good

We are only human.  Our divinely created bodies of flesh and blood live upon this earth and are dependent upon earthly things for continued life here.  God looks upon all that He has created and sees that it is good – earth is good, all flora and fauna are good, and the human body is good.  As GK Chesterton once wrote: “There are no bad things.  Only bad uses of things.”  And what is good for the good human body is good food, good water, and good shelter.  Companionship with other human beings is also good for the body – as it is good for the soul.  For, every human person is both body AND soul.  Our souls animate our bodies.  In our desire to save our souls, we are not to forsake our bodies.  When Scripture and theologians address the “desires of the flesh” as being contrary to the good of the soul, the flesh does not merely mean the body.  Rather, “the flesh” is all of our self-centered desires and tendencies – the human will when it is contrary to Divine Will.  God wills the good of the human person – which is the good of both the body AND the soul.

The Purpose of Money

All that money really is is a “modern” substitute for the bartering exchange of goods and services.  I raise sheep and have a lot of wool.  You have the talent and tools for turning wool into clothing and bedding.  I give you my wool and, in exchange, you give me an agreed-upon amount of bedding and clothing.  You will have extra woolen goods with which you can barter with someone else for firewood to keep you warm.  That person who has a lot of firewood also gives some to me in exchange for some lamb or mutton.  I also exchange some of my sheep for food, which a local farmer grows and I cannot.  We all get along, giving and receiving just what we need to maintain our lives as we are living them.  It’s all very simple and, yet, rather complicated as villages grow larger, more goods are introduced into the market, and more services are required.  Buying and selling with standard currency merely standardizes and simplifies this process.  I now sell my wool at the marketplace for money and use that money to buy what I need from others.  Money, therefore, is to be used for the good of the human person.

Temptation, Sin, Salvation, and Jesus Christ…

Temptation

In the simple bartering process, some people had the clever ability to gain more goods than they needed and to be able to exchange them for luxuries.  Money makes it even easier for those clever people to gain more and more.  And the temptation is to amass wealth, with rich foods, luxurious clothing, and elaborate shelters.  The human body naturally responds to good food, warmth, and comfort, experiencing these things as pleasure.  And there is nothing wrong with that in the sight of God.  What is wrong, what is out of order for the good of the human person, is when greed for these things causes the person to lose sight of the good of his or her fellow human beings – or even to lose sight of his or her own immortal good.

Sin

Greed, lust, and gluttony are the sins that we commit when we want, not what is good in the sight of God, but, rather, what is pleasurable for our own flesh.  There is a self-centeredness at the root of these sins, from which also stems envy (wanting what others have) and sloth (wanting to gain without working or giving) and pride (wanting to be the one who gains, who is envied, who controls).  Pride is also this self-centeredness itself.  For, we put ourselves and our own selfish desires at the center of life and of how life should be lived – denying the good that God, Our Creator and Sustainer, intends.  And we are wrathfully angry (another of the deadly sins) when we are thwarted from getting our way.

Salvation

The reason that these self-centered, self-worshiping kinds of sins are called “deadly” is because, when we succumb to them and live our lives in sin, we use our God-given spiritual gifts of intellect, memory/imagination, and free will to live lives that end only in death.  What hell.  Amassed wealth is not eternal.  Narcissistic pleasures are not immortal.  But, the human person is made for the eternal, for the immortal.  The human body must be cared for with physical nourishment, sustenance, and protection just as the human soul must be cared for with spiritual nourishment, sustenance, and protection.  I am one creature of body and soul.  Neither my body nor my soul are to be indulged at the expense of who I am: a physical creature with a spiritual soul, made in the image of God to reflect God, embracing and sharing all that is of God, in this life on earth and continuing my divinely created life in the world to come, which is Heaven.  When I love and live in the good things of God, and make use of these good things in a way that is keeping with the intention of God, then I know and will perpetually know eternal good – the good that is God.  Lovingness helps us keep this divine perspective, God-centered, eternally experiencing what is truly good.  Selfishness, with all those deadly sins, turns us away from what is right in God’s sight and makes us self-centered, living lives that will end with the death of the body.  No loving eternity.

Jesus Christ

God became a human being to set us straight.  Christ Jesus, being God-Incarnate, eternally sanctifies the human person – the human body and the human soul – in the most profoundly intimate way, by living as we live, hungering and thirsting as we do, dining as we dine, sleeping and waking, working as we work, tiring as we tire, enjoying human companionship as we so enjoy.  God lived bodily on earth.  And it was so very, very good!  And, at the end of his earthly life, Christ Jesus agonized as we agonize, suffered as we suffer, and died as we die.  But, the blood that he shed on the Cross was beautifully given to God his Father with the perfect fullness of love.  He was not self-centered (even though we might foolishly, semantically argue that he was, since he was God, and he was God-centered) for all that Christ did, he did for our good, for the human good.  It is God’s most perfect intention for human beings to flourish here on earth and eternally in Heaven – to know real love and to be really loving, for love is the one immortal good.  This perfect human good was most perfectly and fully realized by Jesus Christ in his sacrifice on the Cross – and this perfect human good is perfect alignment with the good and goodness of God.  It is our salvation, Christ is our salvation.  Saved from selfish sins and lives that end in death – Saved for immortal good and eternal love.  If we just follow him.

We don’t need to think of redemption as Jesus paying a price.  Christ Jesus was and is willing to do anything for our good.  The Crucifixion and the Resurrection is most definitely for our good.  The Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit is most definitely for our good.  It is not for our pride, for our greed, for our lust, for our gluttony, for our sloth, for our envy, or for our wrath.  Christianity is living the Mystery of Christ so that we may not die in sin, but, rather, live in the salvation of love – forever – our resurrected, glorified bodies and our souls reunited after this earth passes away and our minds and hearts most fully opened, infinitely and eternally opened, to the good that is God.

Unpublished work © 2014 Christina Chase

The World through Him

Christ is not a condemnation.

John 3:16-17

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

The world is not divided into two camps: Christians and non-Christians.  For God created everyone and loves everyone, with perfect, divine love.  God loves everyone with love that is purely and perfectly self-giving, so wondrously and endlessly generous is God.  God set us all to live in the world – but God knows that if we center our lives only in the world and give our hearts only to worldly things then we will perish with the finite things of creation.  God knows that it is only by centering our lives in the Source of all life, in God, and by giving our hearts to the eternal things of God that we shall be saved from this perishing and have life everlasting.

We, human beings, as fickle and selfish as we can be, cannot center our lives in God by ourselves and cannot give our hearts to God on our own.  We need a Savior.  We need, not only someone to show us the way and lead us on the way, but also someone to be the way.  Someone who is both fully human and fully divine.  The Son of God who is the Son of Man, the Word of God made flesh, God-Incarnate: Jesus Christ.  Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world, comes to have salvation and everlasting life through him.  But… How?

Christ Jesus is Love incarnate and lives Love in the world.  He wills his human nature to be united with Divine Will and, thus, sanctifies all of human nature, lifting us up to the Divine.  In his human nature, he loves God, his Father, with all that he is and all that he has, giving his heart completely.  We see this love in the Son of God’s obedience, emptying himself in the Incarnation – and also in his sacrificing of himself on the Cross.  It is not blind obedience that impels him – but, rather, real love.

For death has no power over eternal love.

None.

Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day and ascended into the pure realm of God, which is Heaven, forever.  Through this great Mystery, we, too, though we are not divine, may rise and ascend with Christ to heavenly glory.  But, only if we also love, love purely and selflessly, with no end other than divine love.  This is the way of Christ – and it is only in him, with him, and through him, that the eternal reality of divine love can be reached by us, mere humans.

So, people say that only those who believe in Jesus Christ and follow his teachings can have eternal life in Heaven.  And this, it would seem, excludes people who do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world and who do not, therefore, practice Christianity.  For nearly 2000 years, we have seen people divided by Christianity.  But, this is not the perfect will of God, this is not the pure divine intent.  Although the Word of God may cut like a sword and divide brother against brother, the sword is designed to cut the human heart.  The Word of God is Love – Love that surrenders, Love that is pierced, Love that pours itself out ceaselessly.  Who receives this love?  Anyone whose heart has been opened by Christ – and every human heart has been opened by Christ, through universal sanctification of human nature – and who wills not that his or her heart shall be closed.  Anyone who keeps the soul vigilant to the workings of the Holy Spirit – even if they cannot identify the Holy Spirit by any spoken or written name – receives the blessings of God through His Spirit.

Without Christ there is no salvation, for there is no opening of the human heart and no intimate outpouring of God’s love.  Anyone and everyone who truly loves is only able to love because he or she was first loved by God – and that love is made manifest, is fulfilled, is ultimately perfected in being, through, with, and in Jesus Christ.  It’s like… There is no divinely human love without the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, his life, Passion, Sacrifice, Resurrection, and Ascension – the full identity and reality of Divine Love in and for Creation cannot exist without Christ Jesus, for Christ is the love.

In a far-off desert or jungle there may be a woman who loves simply and sincerely, with all that she is and all that she has, open to God’s love and the workings of God’s Spirit, willing to give her heart, to give her whole self, completely to all that is divine – to all that is good, true, and divinely beautiful.  This same woman may never have heard the name of Jesus spoken or seen it written.  She may have no idea what Christians are or what Christianity is.  And, yet, she lives it.  Her humanity has been sanctified and, so, her heart opened by the Paschal Mystery of Christ Jesus – and she, in her human intellect, memory/imagination, and free will, chooses every day to live in love, to work, think, speak, and act in genuine love, genuine love that is only possible through, with, and in Jesus Christ.  She shall not be condemned.  She shall have everlasting life – through Christ, the Savior of the world.

How can this be if she is not a professed Christian?  Because she is a living Christian, she is a genuinely loving human being who, if she knew the truth of who Jesus is would praise his name forever – not because it will give her eternal reward, but because she has loved him her whole life, without even knowing his name.  She has been more faithful to him, without knowing his earthly identity, than one who has spoken his name a 1,001 times without true love.  Some so-called Christians might not recognize her – but Jesus Christ will most certainly recognize her.

God loves us, not in order to condemn us and not in order to break us to His liking.  God loves us because that is who God is – and God becomes one of us because God has created us to be like Him.  In this lies all of our happiness and all of our glory: to love as God loves us.

Christ is not a condemnation.  Christ is Salvation Itself.

Do you do all that you do in the name of Christ Jesus in real love?  Let us be patient with one another and nurture one another gently, with real love – for that is how God is with us.

Unpublished work © 2014 Christina Chase

Between God and Men

Getting to know the unknowable…

1 Timothy 2:5

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

The source of all Creation – the universe (the multiverse) and everything within – is ONE.  Every living thing has the same source, the same initiator, the same Creator – and is part of what has been created, of what is being created, of the great unfolding of time and space.  Nobody invents himself, nobody makes herself.  Everybody is made by the Unmade Maker, everybody is dependent upon the Unmoved Mover, and everybody’s reason for being is from the Uncaused Cause.  No exceptions.  No escape.

We, human beings, are intelligent creatures, who often think that we can know everything.  But, we cannot.  We cannot find every living thing that the Creator has brought into being, for our visions and our lifespans, like our intelligence, are limited.  But, we like to look.  We like to try.  We experience great wonder and awe when we uncover the existence of a creature or created force that was heretofore unknown to us and, for a moment, we glimpse the vastness of the created world and the workings of our brains stop in utter astonishment, sensing the gap.  That great rift, that great chasm, is not a gap in our knowledge to be filled in with the later workings of later minds.  No.  It is the schism between finite intelligence and infinite intelligence.  It is the divide between human and divine.  And we have nothing in our earthly, limited, creature powers with which to traverse it.

We might always lie languishing on this side of the ravine, continually wondering, perpetually speculating, knowing this much and then knowing more – but never knowing the Something More definitively beyond our sensual reach.  Unless… unless it is not we, creatures, who reach up, stacking our stones into a tower to extend beyond our sky, igniting our clever ambitions to soar beyond our home planet and explore others.  What microscopes, telescopes, and rocket ships cannot bring to our senses, cannot deliver to our understanding, only God can.  We can comprehend how the human eye evolves from a cell of light-sensitive pigment, but we cannot comprehend the immortal living light that is ever undetectable to any pigment, any cell, any creature’s eye.

But, we can be personally introduced… we can know Him… we can love Him…

God from God,

Light from Light,

True God from True God….

The divine scope is limitless, the divine touch without boundaries.  Though there be an abyss between the minds of creature and Creator, it is not one that cannot be crossed.  Creatures alone cannot cross – but the Creator can.  The crossing of the Creator to the creature is a marrying, a uniting – the crossing of the Creator is a taking up of creaturehood.  God becomes one of us.  For the only way to know God is to love God.  And though we may love God in the wondrous contemplation of His universe, which He alone willed into being, and though we may, like children, love the giver of good things and fear the punishment that comes from being disobedient, it is in the fullness of our humanity and the fullness of our maturity as creatures of spiritual intelligence, memory, and free will, that we are grasped by God, that we choose to take the hand of our Creator/Sanctifier/Redeemer and become redeemed.

The Source of All Life does not remain distant, even though the Source is beyond calculations.  The One And Only who willed me into being, who willed you into being, who willed the existence of everything in existence, who set the scope and boundaries of creatures, wills to become one creature – and in being, unites every creature, unites all of the created world to a real and true human heart that loves as humans love when clasped by the divine –  unites us to the Heart of God that is the Heart of Love, loving as God loves when lowing and emptying to cross to the human.

If you seek what cannot be sought, then you will find in the God-Man, Jesus Christ, the fullness of divine love, given perpetually to you, so that you may take the Hand offered you and cross over.

© 2014 Christina Chase

Life for My Sake

I lose myself…

Matthew 16:24-27

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

When we are deeply engaged, with all of our senses and thoughts involved in something, we say that we lose ourselves.  How many people lose themselves in the playing of video games – and how many people think that that is sad?  But, one can also lose oneself in the admiration of a great work of art, the enjoyment of a song or concert, or in the pages of a novel.  We say that we lose ourselves in the excited activity of a city or in the expansive view from atop a mountain.  Most sweetly of all, however, is the losing of oneself in the loving gaze of one’s beloved… which is much like losing oneself in the deep communion of prayer.

Jesus says that whoever loses his or her life for His sake will then find it.  This “loss of life” is most obviously associated with martyrdom – if we are killed for our beliefs or because of charitably saving another, then our souls will go straight to Heaven and we will find the immediacy of our eternal lives.  But these particular words of His, as is true for all of the words that issue forth from the mouth of Jesus, have deeper and more complex meanings, too.  To lose one’s life is linked in meaning to denying oneself and to taking up one’s cross to follow Christ.

Self-denial in medieval times, and even now in some religious minds, meant the barest minimum of food, the poorest of clothing, and the scantiest shelter.  It even meant self-flagellation and other forms of self mortification designed, it would seem, to make the person feel as though he or she was nothing and that the body and earthly needs were a sinful burden.  The human body is, of course, not a sinful burden – for then Christ, who was without sin, would never have assumed a human body, and He would never have eaten meals or accepted shelter or even rested when fatigued.  And Jesus Christ did all of these things.

One of Christ’s great disciples was a man who lived more than 1000 years after His time on earth, a man called Francis of Assisi.  This man denied his wealthy inheritance and chose to live in low poverty.  But, this kind of self-denial was, for Francis, not a hatred of the body and its needs, but a love for his fellow human beings.  He wanted his focus to be solely on Christ – Christ who commands that we love God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength and that we love our neighbors as ourselves.  Francis did this while being attentive to the basic needs of his body, the needs of earthly survival, and, throughout his life, he celebrated the beautiful wonder of the earth and had great affection for the animallike aspects of his body.  Why?  Because he saw Christ in all of this.

His love of God was so deep that he did not consider his own individual life to be his own – rather, he saw himself as belonging utterly and completely to God.  And he wanted to be like Christ, God Incarnate, in this.  He believed that his very reason for being was to emulate and image Christ in the particular and unique way that God had chosen for him.  So, anything that he could, through free will, have claimed for himself only – for his self-centered whims and selfish desires – he chose to give to God and to God’s beloved creatures.  He chose to live his life for God’s sake.  And in this ongoing act of giving himself to Divine Will, he lost himself in Divine Love, he was daily losing himself in Christ… and was truly found.

We are not all called by God to be like St. Francis.  But, we are all called to be like Christ – we are all called to be saints, the holy ones of God.  We were created, not to have our lives end here on earth with the deaths of our bodies, but to live eternally.  And, as eternity has no beginning and no end, our eternal lives have already begun, here and now, within God’s blessed Creation, beloved creatures that we are of both flesh and spirit.  So, we are called out of self-centeredness and into God-centeredness.  Our true fulfillment lies, not in indulging fleeting, selfish desires, but in engaging the fullness of our lives, our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls, in things eternal.

To work solely for the body and its appetites and pleasures is to live a life that has its only end in death.  But, to work solely for God, through, with, and in the body, is to live a life that has its end, its aim, in eternity.

By denying the soul and feeding only the body, we are only half human, half alive.  Denying the soul will result in the loss of the soul, which is the loss of eternal life – and, thus, we will be deprived of becoming fully ourselves.  This is a “loss of life” that goes against Divine Will, that causes God to mourn and the one lost to moan and gnash teeth.  Christ shows us the better way, the truer way, by being THE Way, Truth, and Life.  We are to feed both the body and the soul, not losing ourselves in fleeting and eternally meaningless things, but, rather, losing ourselves in the giving and receiving of divine love, in, with, and through all that is good, true, and beautiful, all that is of God.  In small but generous acts of loving kindness, through the simple willingness to suffer for the good of another, and with the loving and active respect for the Created world and for our fellow human beings, who are all beloved by God, we can strive to be like Christ.

Taking up my cross in order to follow Christ is not merely the taking up of a heavy burden (for a burden of love is never heavy).  It is the placing of myself at the apex of human and divine, at the intersecting and marrying of my will with God’s will… It is losing myself in the outpouring of love that is the realized fullness of who I am.

The true I of myself is waiting to be discovered, waiting to be fulfilled…

© 2014 Christina Chase

With a Double Heart

Am I two-faced?

Psalms 12:1-2

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.

We say one thing – and then we do another. We say that we believe in something – and then we give all of our actions and attention to something other. If we who profess a creed, if we who weekly attend worship services and make charitable donations and pray every day, if we cannot then speak kindly of others, with compassion and love, then who can? If we who believe in the eternal value of virtue do not consciously practice patience, then who will? If we, who laud the mercy of God our maker and sing the praises of forgiveness, cannot, in the spirit and action of forgiveness, work toward reconciliation of conflicts… if not us, then who?

We see the great turmoils in the world and the faults and failings that result in sufferings and troubles – and we believe that someone should do something about it. Someone with integrity and courage should step up and do what needs to be done. Someone should seek always to do the right thing and speak the truth with the gentle assurance of truth. But… do we? Do we?

Do I?

In the living of my every day, do I have integrity? Do my actions flow from my deeply held beliefs? I believe that in my heart, the core of my being, the Infinite/Eternal dwells with me – the core of my being, the heart of my existence, is union with the divine, with all that is holy, all that is good, true, and beautiful. To this I am wed… and the two hearts shall become as one.

To understand my words, you need to first understand who Christ is. Yes, Christ is Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary. And yes, Christ is Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God. Christ is the Word of God made flesh – who, “by the Holy Spirit, was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became Man.” Christ Jesus is the divine Logos made Man. He is fully human and fully divine in the great Mystery of the Incarnation and hypostatic union. He is the incarnation of the Divine, God Incarnate.  And, so, Christ is truth itself. Goodness itself. Love itself.

Because of His Paschal Mystery (through Christ’s Incarnation, life, Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension) Christ is Truth, Goodness, Love – Divinity – in union with sanctified and redeemed humanity. In union with me. For I have been sanctified and redeemed by Christ Jesus and, now, God the Holy Spirit dwells in me… with me. My human heart is beating ever more closely in rhythm with the Sacred Heart of Jesus by the power of God – our two hearts are being made as one.

But is this how I live?

Am I letting this come to pass?

There are ways of finding out.

Am I two-faced? Do I knowingly smile and flatter someone even as they are being unkind or spreading gossip? Yes. Do I overly criticize someone for being overly critical? Yes. Do I want to squirm out of difficult situations where there is conflict and the difficulty of dealing with the truth – and then later complain on paper how no one has the courage to stand up for the truth? Yes. I could have helped the person who was struggling with living up to the Christian standards. Instead of giving a half smile and backing away from the words of complaint, I could have come forward with gentle guidance, loving correction, and steadfast assurance in the blessings of the ways of God. But… sadly… I did not.

My human heart alone, my fallen heart, takes over and I march to its fickle and failing beat. I do not seek out and listen to the heartbeat of my Beloved. I do not lay my head upon the bosom of the Creator who loves me enough to become a Creature like me in order to save me and transform me into a divine being like Him. No. I return to the merely physical, the way of dust and ashes, not letting the Breath of God fully and truly animate me so that I may, in, with, and through Christ, be a redeemed and sanctified human being with God’s law written in my heart of divine love. I want to be that holy person!  … Don’t I?

If I do, if I want the Sacred Heart of Jesus to be the beat and power and flow of my life, then I must seek out what I desire. If I believe that I am being transformed when in a state of grace, then I must seek to live in grace and speak and think and act and move in grace. It is not I who will be virtuously kind, it is not I who will change the world, but God through me. In Christ, my Lord.

No more speaking and acting from my fallen heart, the heart that was blind, deaf, and dumb – no, I have been saved, I am being saved, and I believe that I will be saved because God has transformed my heart like unto His Own. It is with His heart, the heart of love, the heart of goodness, the heart of truth, that I, body and soul, have life, true life, abundant life.

So may I live.

© 2014 Christina Chase

The Error of His Ways

Who am I to judge?

James 5:20

Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

“Judge not, lest you be judged,”[1] we are told directly from the Bible. And yet, we are also told that we should correct people when they are wrong and work with the Holy Spirit to convert sinners. But… how do we know if someone is wrong or a sinner in need of conversion if we aren’t supposed to judge? The conflict here, I believe, arises from a confusion in language – not a confusion in moral guidelines.

First of all, what does it mean to be a sinner?

And, second of all, what does it mean to judge?

Every one of us is a sinner. How do I know? Because we are human – not divine. We have been divinely created with the gift of free will and that means that, sometimes, we choose poorly. To sin is to miss the mark of our full potentials, of the ideal – to choose poorly. Now, sometimes, we can choose poorly by making an innocent mistake and, in this case, our “sin” is less severe and we are less culpable for it (it’s easier to get back on the right path.) But, then, there are other times when we know that we shouldn’t do something (because it isn’t good for us or for someone else) and, yet, we choose to do it anyway. This second scenario is certainly more serious, but in both cases, we are committing sins by heading in the wrong direction – away from truth, away from love, away from goodness… and, so, away from God. If we continue making decisions that take us down inferior paths, straying further and further from who we are created to be, further and further away from God who is truth, love, and goodness itself, then we will have failed our souls, the very essence of we are. And that’s not good.

So… what if we see someone that we love making bad decisions and straying further and further away from love and goodness? Do we throw up our hands saying, “Who am I to judge?” Or do we try to help them? So many times, Christians are accused of being judgmental. The Catholic religion is sometimes seen as a system of harsh judgments imposed on people. But the people who think this way simply don’t understand the true meaning of Christian correction. Of course, there will be people in every religion who are, no doubt, overly critical and condemning, but I want to look at the Christian religion as a whole.

In Christianity, the right kind of “judging” is a prayerful and compassionate discerning of God’s ways – in our actions as well as the actions of others. Who among us would judge the murder of a child as the right thing to do, as what God wants us to do? Is it loving? Is it kind? (You know… as I’m writing this, I’m thinking that I should have written “the murder of a healthy child”, since some claim an act of mercy when putting a disabled child “out of her misery” – and I think that I will probably have to also add “the murder of a healthy child who has already been born”. How sad is it that I’m having a hard time phrasing this bad act so that everyone can agree that it’s bad?!) Is the willful, systematic torturing of a four-year-old a good thing? Can’t we, at least, all come together on this and judge – yes, judge – it as a bad act that should not be committed? Who are we to judge? We are human beings. We are compassionate human beings who want to help those who are suffering. So, we should judge the bad act and remove the victim from the control of the perpetrator, and we should protect other children by making sure that the perpetrator doesn’t hurt anyone else. As good Christians, we should also give the perpetrator the help that he or she needs in order to make better choices and to stop cruelly missing the mark of love. Yes, our “judgments” must be designed to help. We are to love one another. And we cannot love one another if we let each other stray and stumble down dark and dismal paths without breathing one word of warning or correction.

To put in a simple way…

You love your child. Do you let your child run out into traffic to play? Your child is happily and willingly running out into the middle of the street – what do you do? Do you spoil your child’s fun by yelling out “Don’t!”? Or, do you let your child figure things out for herself – after all, who are you to say what should or should not be done? You make mistakes, often, yourself.

Of course, if you truly love your child, then you will instruct your child not to run out into the middle of the street. You will inform your children about the dangers of cars and traffic so that they will know what NOT to do. And, if they forget or ignore your wisdom, you will correct them – even if that means yelling so that you can be heard or pulling them by the arm so that they don’t get hit by an oncoming vehicle. You do these things because you love.

Applying this to the larger world, to society, I can hear the argument that this is good for a child. But, adults need to be allowed to make their own decisions, right or wrong. Well… I have a friend who smokes cigarettes. She also has allergies and asthma that requires an inhaler. She knows that she shouldn’t smoke – but she does it anyway. Should I agree with her when she says that one cigarette a day isn’t that bad? If she is truly my friend, and I lovingly care about her, then I will not agree to that. No, I’m not going to bash her over the head with her poor decision again and again every time I see her – but I am going to gently remind her, every time she is wheezing or coughing, how much better she would feel without smoking and how much healthier she would be. Sometimes, with just a loving and pitying look. She knows.

Everyone needs help. If I see a man in the street talking to his wife as if she’s nothing but dirt and then hitting her, will I just stand by, mute, thinking, “Who am I to judge?” Or will I take action to help both the wife and the abusive man? I am certainly not doing God’s work, I am certainly not being a kind person, if I do absolutely nothing to help. I need to make a judgment. I need to take action. If I don’t… well, then, I am not a good Christian. I am a wuss. And worse, I am an enabler of violence.

So, what is Christianity to do in the world? We, as people in a society, regardless of religion, should be able to identify bad acts that are hurtful to people and do what we can to help. But, we don’t always. We trip over ourselves trying not to offend anyone, trying not to be too “judgmental”. And the bad acts multiply. The Church wants to be clear. There are paths that people can walk upon that are destructive – not only to others, but also to the people walking along them. And the Church wants to do everything possible to help people get off of the paths of destruction and get onto the path of life. Although we can say that full conversion would be conversion to Christianity, the first conversion, very often, must be to humanity. Recognize when people are straying from the fullness of being human – from love, goodness, decency, compassion, kindness – and help them back to the fullness. Help them to see the error of their ways, to reconcile relationships broken and damaged by bad behavior, and to deal with emotions and past experiences in a constructive way that will lead to healing and wholeness. This is what Christ teaches. (This is who Christ is.) And anyone who wants to live the Christian life must take up the mission of Christ and not shrug shoulders in a completely misplaced idea of mercy that is actually only apathy.

While we are helping others, we must make sure that we, ourselves, are keeping to the path of love and goodness – that we are always acting in selfless compassion, strong in the truth, strong in love, ever kind, ever generous, and always gentle when needed. Full conversion comes when we bring Christ to people who are suffering (and who among us isn’t suffering in some way?) bringing Christ by being like Christ. And when those who need help witness and experience the joyful, loving way in which we give help… well, that is the path of the Holy Spirit and, as we follow Christ, we will lead by example. That’s what Christianity is and does.

© 2014 Christina Chase

[1] Matthew 7:1

Servant

I want to be of some use. But I don’t want to be used.

Matthew 20:27

And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

We don’t want to be anyone’s fool. We won’t let anyone put one over on us or walk all over us.  We are strong.  We are independent.  We can think for ourselves, thank you very much, and don’t need anyone telling us what to do — or what not to do.  If one of us is asked to do some menial task, we think that such a thing is beneath us and say to the person asking, “I’m not your servant!”

We will not be used.

But…

Are we of any use to anyone but ourselves? What happens when we are the ones using ourselves for fruitless pursuits, enslaving ourselves to our own whims and selfishness?  I’ll tell you what happens: we become the worst kind of fools — our own fools.

I was once self-centered.

When I was an atheist, I spoke like an atheist, I thought like an atheist, I reasoned like an atheist. When I became a believer, I put away with atheistic things.

I was not a mean and nasty atheist, angry at the world, disgusted with people. I was one of those secular humanist kind of atheists, appreciating beauty and kindness, concerned with the plight of others, and wanting to make the world a better place.  You would not have known by my interactions with people, by my words or by my actions that I was a “godless heathen”.  But, well… I was.  I did what I wanted and what I wanted was what made me feel good about myself.  That very sentence can describe many people — including those who claim belief in, and love for, God.

The thing is, even when I might have said or done something that was of service to another, I cannot say that I did it purely for that other.  My act of kindness was not a selfless act, it was not true charity, because I was doing it to bring myself pleasure.  You know that pleasure that you get when you do something good for another person?  It gives you a kind of lift and can lead you to think very lovely things about yourself, and you are happy for that moment.  In this way, I can see how some people could actually get addicted to do-gooding.  But, what kind of good does it really do?  The other person who was helped is benefited.  But am I who did it?  I don’t think so.

You see, there were always people, who I helped out in some way, who did not experience the same pleasure as I did from my action. Sometimes, they received my kindness with ingratitude.  Sometimes giving meanness in return.  And, believe me, I snapped back at those people in a hurry.  “You don’t want me to help you?  Fine, then.  Suffer.  See if I care.”  Because, well, I really didn’t.  I centered all of my goodness, my talents and gifts, my beauties and strengths, in myself.  I did these things, I deserved full credit, I, I, I….  I hoarded any good quality of mine like a treasure.  I might pay out some of it somewhere if I thought it was a good investment and would give me a pleasurable return.  But, if it didn’t, then I would withdraw very quickly.  I was self-centered.

And then I became God-centered.

What does it mean to be God-centered? Well, it could be explained in many ways, but to explain the difference between being self-centered and God-centered, I’ll continue along the same lines that I wrote above.  As an atheist, I gave full credit to myself (including my genetics and experiences) for any of my gifts and talents, and anything that I thought, said, and did that was good, true, or beautiful (I was the determining judge of what was good, true, or beautiful, anyway).  But, as a believer, I give full credit to God (the true judge of truth, being Truth Itself) for all of my gifts and talents, and everything good, true, and beautiful in my thoughts, words, and actions.  God is the treasure and the treasure house.  God is the center.  And, by the love and mercy of God, God chooses to dwell within me.  Not because I deserve this.  But because God loves.

It’s like this. God created human beings in His own image and likeness and saves us from our sins, from our waywardness (a kind of drunk-on-self stumbling stagger, which is life that ends in death) by becoming one of us.  Christ sanctifies all of humanity through his Incarnation, Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension: the Paschal Mystery.  And when we choose to enter into the life of Christ, we first enter into the death of Christ — and then we are reborn.  And we are not reborn in order that we may serve ourselves, our own whims and pleasures.  We are born again from above in order that we may truly become ourselves by serving others.  It is that entering into the death of Christ that allows us to truly be of use — without being used.  We Christians sometimes say that we “die to self”.  And that can sound kind of scary and weird to non-Christians — even to Christians who have not come to a fuller understanding of Christ’s sacrifice, yet.  But, you see, it is by emulating Christ, in giving ourselves away, that we are able to fully recognize God as the center and then able to give tirelessly and selflessly from the Divine treasure house within each of us.  No need to hoard.  And no need to be thanked or even recognized for the good service given to the other.  All glory to God.  For we are doing what we simply must do as true believers.  In much the same way, a rose must breathe sweetly and a flooded stream flow quickly.  It is the true nature of who we are and we cannot weary of it as long as we remain who we are.

And, so, as a believer, I know that I can be of use to others without ever being used. If someone wants half of my desert, then I should offer them the whole thing.  If someone needs help with a computer problem, I should patiently give it and not begrudge one moment extra spent doing more than might be “necessary”.  Yes, this is the God-centered life.  (God, help me live it!)  And it can be tiring, and thankless, and even lonely, sometimes.  But, the greatest human that ever lived, and ever will live, was humiliated, abandoned, tortured, and killed cruelly.  And, yet… He was willing to go through it all for the sake of the very ones who hurt Him… and so He is is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  To be like Him is more than a good idea, a pleasure, or something that might be rewarded — it is simply and profoundly who I am as a human being, first, foremost, and always.

© 2014 Christina Chase

To Confound the Things Which Are Mighty

Nothing but a cripple.

1 Corinthians 1:25-27

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a cripple. (I can use that word, because my body is crippled, too.)  The world was kept from knowing the extent of Roosevelt’s disability by the compensation tricks he developed to give the appearance of his walking — and also by the willingness of journalists to keep secret his difficulties in getting out of automobiles.  Why did he have to hide the fact of his weak legs from others?  Because Roosevelt wanted to lead the people as President of the United States, and he believed, as they believed — that a true leader cannot be perceived as weak in any way.

What is physical strength?

Because Ken Burns documentary film on the Roosevelts is on my mind, let’s continue for a moment with Franklin Roosevelt — a physically disabled man who used a wheelchair, and who not only became President, but also became the strongest and most influential president of the 20th century. He was a great world leader, a man of confidence, vitality, strength, and action.  He was not a weakling.  No one knew him to be a pushover — even though he could have easily been pushed over by the slightest jostle when he was ambulating on his braces and crutches.  The fact is that the paralyzing effects of polio did not diminish Franklin Roosevelt’s inner vitality and confident action.  In fact, because his paralysis made him physically weak and dependent on others for daily acts of survival, he developed a strong, intimate compassion for others who felt helpless.  Enduring his own sufferings made his heart and his resolve stronger.  Being fatigued more easily in the body, he grew more tireless in his mind.  Some experts believe that he might never have become president at all, if not for the timing delay that the polio caused for his candidacy.  Most experts agree that his muscle wasting illness made him, instead of just president, a great president.

So, again, I ask: what is physical strength?

I have often been told that I am an inspiration. And I have often wondered why.  Most of the people who have told me this have done so after knowing me for only a few minutes.  Usually, I don’t have to say much of anything at all except the usual casual pleasantries.  I know it’s because of the wheelchair.  They see me all crippled up and crumpled up and they, if they are normally functioning humans, feel a kind of pity, or sorrow, or even scared, nervous repulsion.  Exactly the kind of reactions that Franklin Roosevelt did not want to elicit.  But, then they see my smile.  They look into the intelligence of my eyes and witness my genuine joy, smiling across my whole expressive face, they hear the normalcy of my voice — and they are surprised.  No one expects joyful strength from someone who is physically weak.  Those who personally witnessed Franklin Roosevelt’s physical struggles, and knew something of the suffering and the fatigue that his disability caused him, admired him with a deeper intensity than those who only received the illusion of physical mobility.  They got to experience, as we do now, the fullness of who he was as a person and exactly how brave he was — how strong.

That’s something people have also told me: that I’m brave. But… I don’t really know what they expect me to do.  Should I dampen my natural tendency to joy because of the underlying sorrow of my disease?  I mean, I don’t like not being able to walk.  And I am frustrated, disappointed, and annoyed that other people have to take care me.  Hate is a strong word and I rarely use it — I will say that I hate to exaggerate — but, the way that I feel about my utter physical dependency on others… we could say that I hate it.  Do I let that take over my life and who I am?  No.  Mainly, because I am loved.  And being loved, being truly loved and knowing it, is a kind of freedom.  I, who I am as a person, body, mind, heart, and soul, does not need to be chained by my chains.  We all have limitations, all unique, some more obvious than others, some more minute-by-minute limiting than others.  But, there is no limit to love. Real love.

It may very well be impossible for you to do some particular thing. It was impossible for Franklin Roosevelt to walk unaided.  It’s impossible for me to walk at all — it’s also impossible for me to scratch my head, wipe my bottom, feed myself, etc..  However — and this is very big and important, way beyond wishful thinking, justifications, or petty comforts — I am not limited in becoming who I am created to be.  I may not get my way.  But, if I am willing and cooperative, then all of who I am (especially including my limitations) will result in the accomplishment of Divine Will.  God’s way is above my way.

No matter what your limitations, there are no limitations placed upon your ability to be fulfilled in who you are. A hero, a martyr, a warrior, a mystic, a sage, a saint — all are within the possibilities of every human person.  Should somebody not even be able to utter a word or express any kind of personal communication, he or she still has the ability to teach.  God, who created each and every one of us, has given each and every one of us the particular abilities needed to reach our full potentials and to become great in God’s sight.  We will not all become President of the United States or any other kind of a world recognized leader — but everybody has the ability to lead.  By following God’s love, we can not only become who we are destined to be, but we can also lead others to their destinies.  The very fact that we are simple, that we are small, the very fact that we are seen as foolish to many, the very fact that we are pitifully weak — that is how we become able.  It is how Jesus saved the world — just look at a crucifix.

It is through the human wounds that we can see the Divine.

Unpublished work © 2014 Christina Chase

Of a Good Courage

Yes, what the world needs now is love. And also courage.

Joshua 1:8-9

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

We think of having courage as having no fear — but that’s not so. Bravery is not the absence of fear.  It is the willingness to face what one fears.  Often, we think of firefighters, police officers, and soldiers as being courageous, walking into burning buildings, chasing down bad guys, putting their lives on the line in horrific combat.  I say that the men and women who do these things out of real love — in order to save the helpless and protect the innocent, defending others with their own life’s blood if need be — they are, indeed, courageous.  Heroes.  But, those who, through a kind of arrogance, force themselves to walk into danger for their own vainglory — well, there’s no courage in that.  Only willfulness.

For where there is no real love, there is no real courage.

If you’re willing to face what is scary because you’re figuring that you will profit somehow by it, then you are simply gambling. You are taking a risk, a mighty huge risk that may give you some trepidation, but one that is calculated toward a particular reward.  I don’t mean that there is anything wrong with this boldness in and of itself (although, there may certainly be something wrong about the means and/or the end) I just mean to say that it isn’t the holy kind of courage akin to a life of divine virtue.  The holy kind of courage is the kind spoken of in the Bible.  It’s what Christ has.  It’s what the Holy Spirit can inspire in each and every one of us.

Let’s think for a moment about everyday courage, which is, quite possibly, the best kind of courage there is. Perhaps, you will never have the opportunity to run into or flee from a burning building with people trapped inside, perhaps you’ll never come face-to-face with a gunman.  Chances are, you probably won’t.  But, every so often, perhaps every day, you will have to spend time with someone that you don’t like.  Or you will come to a merger with a stranger in line or in traffic.  Or you’ll be disappointed by something that you tried and failed. Or you will be slighted by someone that you love.  Or you’ll get sick.  What then?  What will you do?

Will you be strong and of a good courage and listen to that person that you don’t like for his or her own sake, attentive to his or her needs?

Will you defer to that stranger in line or in traffic with no expectations of thanks or even acknowledgment, sacrificing your moment for the stranger’s?

Will you accept your own failures, setbacks, and disappointment and keep trying to do what you believe is right even though you know that you may never succeed?

Will you forgive the slight of your loved one and not hold it in grudge?

Will you patiently bear your sickness in a kind of loving solidarity with all people who suffer, without lashing out to make others near you feel pain?

Do you have the courage to face your fears, to face your dislikes, irritations, annoyances, and sufferings, out of real love and concern for someone other than yourself? If so, if you find yourself practicing some small, everyday sacrifice for love, then, my friend, you are courageous.  You are a hero.  A hero that will never receive an award or accolade, a hero that may never even be recognized, not even by himself or herself, as a hero — but who will be known as a hero in that moment through the eternal reaches beyond time and space.

Actions speak so much louder than words. And the smallest actions can resound the most greatly.  All teachings of goodness and justice, of mercy and compassion, of helpfulness and healing, are not taught in order to be taught.  All wise and loving teachings must be meditated upon, must be pondered in the heart and taken to heart, so that they may be lived.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you know that if you do what is truly right and good you will probably suffer in doing it — and then you do it anyway… that, my friend, is real love.  Real courage.  Because real love requires a good courage.  Will you be eternally rewarded for it?  Some say that you will.  Some say that you will not. Do it anyway.

Unpublished work © 2014 Christina Chase