Category Archives: essay

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

Shall Prosper

Steeping in Spirit…

Psalms 1:1-3

  1. Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

  2. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

  3. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

We know that radio waves go through our bodies, television broadcast and cellular signals, invisible energy that is all around us and part of the workings of our world. We have crafted instruments with which to detect them, those waves and signals that are propelled by man and those that exist naturally. But, what of spirit? There is no man-made instrument, no technology, no mathematic formula that can detect or prove the existence of the spiritual realm. Although infinity is worked into mathematics and given a written symbol, no science-only person would equate personal beingness with infinity. Reason tells us of the Uncaused Cause and the Unmoved Mover and that the finite cannot be applied to the infinite. Yet, it is faith that tells us that our souls, the animating principles of our beingness, are not finite – they are of spirit.

Spirit is utterly whole and cannot be broken into parts – and is, therefore, undetectable by anything finite. Spirit is infinite – everywhere and all through. The Uncreated Creator created matter and, eventually, inevitably, human beings, creating our individual, finite bodies and choosing to animate them with Spirit – the Breath of God. We are created by, and of, and for, the Infinite One. This is the truth of who we are, the fullness of our identities. And the fulfillment of our destinies is in fully living in the infinite.

But, we don’t, do we? Rather than recognizing the finite as the precious flower of the Christ seed, we use and abuse it for our own finite ends. For, any self-indulgence, any dominance of the temporal over the eternal, will come to a definitive end. Their end is death. With and in the soul of spirit is the gift of intellect, imagination, and free will – if we direct our souls and their gifts toward finite self-centeredness, then they will lose their intrinsic recognition of the infinite and, ultimately, of the Infinite One who is the Source and the All in All. When the finite comes to its necessary end, what can the soul know but loss? What can the soul know but dying? And, because the soul is immortal, that loss, that dying, will be eternal, with no end.

To keep the soul healthy is the most important thing that a human being can do. A healthy soul, through the innate, God-given faculty of faith, recognizes the infinite through the finite and lives within Creation in order to delight in the ways immortal. Creatures of flesh and spirit are we, and the temporal and immortal dwell as one in the core of our beings, in our hearts. Therein, we – unique, beloved creatures of the Uncreated Creator – can come to recognize and experience the fullness of reality. Temporal and eternal, finite and infinite, mortal and immortal, come together in us. There is no escape from the temporal world – there is only redemption. To understand the body as some thing from which to escape is to not understand the body at all. We exist, we are who we are, because the soul of spirit is given a body in which to live – not merely in which to be contained, but to live. Living, body and soul as one, faith and reason in accord, is the reason and the meaning of our lives – is life.

Recognizing, acknowledging, and embracing the Infinite in the finite, the holy in the mundane, I walk in the ways of righteousness, which is what truly is. Truth is my path and fullness is my journey, as my destination is my destiny, willed before time and space. My eternal life, being eternal, has already begun and I am living life – bathed in the light of the Eternal One, submerged and steeping in the Immortal good, and the fullness of the fruit I am created to bear is my sweetness, which shall never perish, sheltered and sustained in the evergreen bower of my willing heart, with all that I have and all that I am consecrated to Holy Truth. And all that I do shall prosper unto Infinity…

May I be so blessed…

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

Peace Himself Give

Careful what you wish for…

2 Thessalonians 3:16

Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

Peace by all means.

There are two groups of people fighting against each other, destroying property and killing. It looks as though they will never get along with each other and the fighting won’t end, the warring won’t stop, until one group has completely annihilated the other. We could say that there will be no peace until one side is dead. But, is that peace? Or is it merely the cessation of fighting?

A third group might get involved in the fight, before that terminally decisive end, and try to find a way to bring about a cease-fire without the annihilation of a people. That third group will come into the fight with their own weapons and tools, their own fighting, and beat the two groups into submission, forcing them to make peace with one another. But – is this really peace? Or is it merely the putting down of guns?

If peace is defined by the absence of war, then peace is only a mediocre, lukewarm kind of state, with nothing truly noble in it. It would be akin to defining the absence of hate as apathy. The absence of love can also be defined as apathy. Do we want an apathetic world?

I’ve often thought that the cooling down of violence in Ireland has not been brought about by wondrous peacemakers and and a true acceptance of each other’s differences, a true love of one another. No. I think that the growing “peace” in Ireland is a result of cultural and religious apathy. The economic situation in Ireland has improved, and, so, people are enjoying more jobs and more money. The focus is on the increased availability of wealth and the things that it can do – not on love of neighbor. If an Irishman doesn’t have to compete with his neighbor over a limited number of jobs or resources, then there’s no reason to fight. Because, really, the reason for the violence wasn’t so much cultural or religious – it was always about finances. The great cause for which the young willingly gave their lives, for which countless civilians were killed – this great cause was not of the heart, or of the soul, or even of the mind, it was always of the wallet.

And it is easy to think (rather cynically, I admit) the same about every war in every region, across the world, throughout history. If the belly is full and the senses are sufficiently entertained, then the people are at peace. It’s the “bread and circus” mentality of life. We can see the truth of it when we examine the unrest caused by the desperation of the poor or the reckless boredom of the rich – but it is much more difficult to see when we are in the midst of this bread and circus peace.

We, of the middle class, who can pay our budget-wise bills without worry and still have enough for big-screen TVs, take out, and twice yearly vacations, with the occasional bungee jump and impulse purchase thrown in – we have no cause to amass a militia and start a war. Hungry, desperately poor people who are that way because they are being seriously oppressed may have cause to start war – but no one else. The crazy people in civilized countries who do that sort of thing are, well, crazy. They’re either zealous nuts who believe in the rapture, or Armageddon, or seven virgins in Paradise, or some other superstitious drivel like that. Or, they are ruthless power mongers, monstrous villains, bent on world domination. Or they are seriously mentally ill. Perhaps they are combination of all three. If only someone could calm them down by enlightening them away from religion, getting them to talk to a trained therapist, or making sure that they are well medicated, then, maybe, we could have peace. Make sure everyone has enough to eat and that premium cable channels, antidepressants and cosmetic surgery are available to everyone and then we will live in a civilized and peaceful world. [Insert your sarcastic and cynical take here. Well, actually, at the bottom of this post.]

The problem is, of course, that human beings will always long for something more. Not just more food, more money, more pleasure, and more fun – but also more… How many humans have asked themselves, and anyone listening, the timeless question: “Is this all there is?” Not, “is this all the chicken there is?” or “is this all the bonus pay?” or “is this all the orgasm?” or “is this all the tequila?” or “is this all the comedy?” Well, yes, people ask those questions, too. But, these are finite things and, so, naturally, they are limited in supply. They are also limited in results. Chicken, bonuses, orgasms, tequila, and comedic acts can only do so much for the human person. The purpose of life is not to amass as much as possible so that there are no gaps or lapses. No, in fact, if one is able to live one’s life this way, then one will always be stuffed and entertained and, therefore, oblivious to want. And the absence of want is not joy. The absence of want is not plenty.

When I was little (and sometimes still, now) I would ask my father for something by saying that I wanted or would like it. To which he would respond with two alternate phrases: “Now you know what it’s like to want,” and, “It’s good to want.” I always thought he was just being annoying for the fun of pushing my buttons. And, yes, in a way, he was. But, he was also right. If I had everything that I ever wanted before I could even ask for it – before I even knew that I wanted it – then I wouldn’t be happy. I would be surviving very easily and perpetually entertained, but I wouldn’t know satisfaction and I wouldn’t know joy.

Now, I’m not saying that the poor are blessed because they wake up every morning with hungry stomachs and go to bed every night with their stomachs still wanting. No. But, when anyone wakes up with a hungry stomach, that first bite of food is extra delicious, isn’t it? In strictly financial terms, a good or service gains no appreciation in value if there is an overabundance of supply of that good or service. In fact, if supply is low and demand is high, then that is good or service has great value. Appreciation grows when there is want. So, yes, it was good for me, as a child, to want something to eat or to want a toy – for, then, my appreciation for that food and that toy grew.

What am I trying to say with all of this?… What am I trying to say with all of this…? The very fact that we can imagine the infinite opens up our longing for it. Finite goods and services – no matter how wanted or how plentifully received – can not give us the ultimate fullness of joy. It is good to feed the body. And it is good to feed the mind. And it is also very good to feed the heart and soul. Material things aren’t bad. In truth, material things are good. But… What do we do with them? If we use material things to numb us to the fullness of reality – to blind and deafen us to spiritual things – then we are making very bad choices. We’re getting it all wrong. Think of the arrogance, the patronizing condescension of those high and mighty rulers who planned bread and circus to keep their people “at peace.” Do we really think that God is like one of them? He hears us wishing and praying for material things, for material comforts and material pleasures, and He does not turn away in hoity-toity disgust. No, God understands our material needs – better than we even do ourselves. God does not want a child to starve to death. God sees the overfeeding of one child’s belly and the under feeding of another’s, and the solution to the problem should be obvious to us. But it’s not. Because we’re blinded by bread and circus. God wants to give us good things and for us to use those good things well in loving service to ourselves and to our neighbors, to all of our fellow human beings. And God also knows that the best thing is no thing. God did not make us solely for the material. God also made us for the spiritual, for the eternal and the infinite. God made us for… God.

God wants us to be fully satisfied and fully joyful – and God knows bread and circus won’t cut it. God hears us pray for peace and knows that true peace is not merely the absence of wanting. Sometimes, in order for us to know true peace we have to have our eyes and ears opened wide, opened wide with wanting, with sorrow and grief. It is in the stillness and the silence that we are able to be open and receive the infinite goodness that God is pouring down on to us. If we are too stuffed and occupied here and now on this earth, we will never know this earth for the fullness of what it is – we will never know ourselves or one another for the fullness that we are – we will never know what it truly is to be fully human and fully alive. God will grant us peace… peace by all means.

© 2014 Christina Chase

Good Stewards of the Manifold

The one thing of which you’ll never run out.

1 Peter 4:10                                                                   

As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

We are finite creatures living in the limits of space time. We can only eat so much, only move so much, and only own so much. No more. But… How much can we love?

It seems that even in our ability to love there is a limit. We can love our family and our friends – but not our enemies. And yet, Christians are told precisely to do that. We can love our loved ones with our whole selves, as we may say – but, yet, we do not give of ourselves completely, for we believe that we must keep something in reserve for ourselves. If we have nothing for ourselves, what do we have to give? And yet, Christians are told to give the entirety of their beings, the entirety of their lives, to God and so, also, to the loving service of our fellow human beings. To love the Lord, our God, with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, with all of our strength, and with all of our souls, is to hold absolutely nothing in reserve for ourselves. But, surely, if we do that, we won’t be able to survive, right?

The wonder and beauty of love is that it is unlimited. Though we are, most certainly, limited creatures with limited abilities, true love, real love, is purely of God – who is perfectly unlimited. Because of our flawed nature, we can only open ourselves up so much to the reception of God’s love, which is always and everywhere pouring relentlessly upon everyone. But, even just a little bit of perfection goes a long way. It depends upon whether or not we are truly allowing, with the best of our abilities, God’s love to love us. To move us. To shape us. To feed us. To heal us. To guide us and guard us. To revolutionize us. God’s love is not something that we can own or even hold onto. God’s love, like the Holy Spirit, flows without ceasing. You can take a cup of water out of a stream, but, if you do so, that water is no longer a stream. If we hold on too tightly to the feeling of lovingness, it ceases to be loving.

I would like to feel always the warmth and peace that floods me in the rare moments of deep and grace filled prayer. However, the moment that I recognize the “feeling” and desire to keep it, the warmth and peace changes into a mere sensation and not the actual goodness of deep prayer itself. I’ve stolen water from the stream, if you will, and am disappointed to look down into my cup and realize that the stream is not in there. So, too, with love. When I love someone – (no, wait, when I am loving someone, for love is not something passive with which I should identify my relationships with certain people, so let me make it clear that love is a verb). When I am loving someone, God’s love is being received by me and flowing through me to the other. Love is eternal, so there is no stopping. Love is infinite, so there is no damming up.

This is why forgiveness is key in Christianity – because Christianity is most fully and completely about the receiving and giving of God’s love. If someone hurts us, we become less willing to engage in loving that person – and that’s a dam in the flow of divine love. Only forgiveness can break down the dam and restore the stream. Perhaps, it’s almost as though the hurt caused by the other leads us to think that we need more of God’s love for ourselves in order to make up for that hurt. But, of course, we can never receive more of God’s love. There is only one quantity of God’s love that we are given: all of it. This is why Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, surrenders his life completely on the Cross. We are to understand through his sacrifice, and to be reminded by every image of a crucifix, how much God loves us. Completely. As I told my nephews when they were very little, Jesus on the Cross is God’s way of telling us, “I love you thiiiis much” – and his hands hold no limit, they are pointing out infinitely. Our hands, too, must hold no limit, for, if we are truly to be loving, then we must give without ceasing. It is the flow of love that heals us, that binds every wound, and that gives us the joy and peace that mere survival cannot give. It is only through the flow of loving that we are fully human, fully alive – that we are fulfilled as the beings that we eternally are: images of God.

May all of us open our minds and our hearts to receive the love of God and, by so receiving, let us all be good stewards and give fully, wholeheartedly, of what we are being given. Let us give fully to God and not let the fear of the unknown or the limits of mere practicality impede the gift. This is how it should be. If what we call love is to really be love, then there can be nothing partial or part-time about it – no stops, no dams. By allowing God’s love to flow, we become beings who are loving all of God’s Creation, loving every thing, tiny or gargantuan, and loving everyone – because God does.

 

© Christina Chase 2014

All Rights Reserved

And Every Tree Therein

By the one who has created me, am I fulfilled.

Isaiah 44:23-24

Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.

Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;

I did not make this beautiful Maple tree that stands amid the grasses, its secret roots buried in the earth, its winsome branches flourishing toward the sky. Nor do I make my home among its limbs, nor take my sustenance from its bark, nor slake my heated body within its shade. I gaze upon the loveliness of the tree, delighting in its shape and form and the myriad intricacies of its lush and verdant leafing, its dark and curving limbs sublime.

Perhaps I am the one who first caught it, as a seed, as it flew downward upon its single wing from the parent tree. Round and round it whirled, spinning like a dervish, mindless of its surroundings, its beauty embryonic, waiting to unfold. Perhaps I am the one who split open the earth with my fingers and tucked in the Maple seed, hoping for and envisioning the great unfurling growth to come. Perhaps, then, I feel a relationship, sense an ownership of this tree that has taken root in the spot that I chose. But, the tree is not owned, regardless of whatever documents or boundaries humans may draw up. The tree does not relate to me as owner, friend, or kin and owes me absolutely nothing. The parent tree itself has no further relationship, no more than any growing thing has with another. For neither the parent nor I brought the Maple into being.

This tree was first envisioned, its growth first optimistically planned, its beauty first enjoyed, by none other than the one who set the sun to shine and every star in the heavens. With a silent word and a motionless movement, this tree, those grasses, that cloud, these birds, this sky, this earth, and I were created from nothing; a spatial matter allowed to exist because it was willed to be, unfolding from density to diversity through the eons of newly recognized time, stopping for nothing and nobody. Until the day that I can see this tree is here. And as I gaze upon its loveliness and delight in the wonder of its dark and curving, its green and fluttering, its strong and delicate, its deep and reaching shape and form, time is not recognized nor are the boundaries and definitions that we humans draw up. There is beauty here, and life. A past, a present, and a future, here in this now that is eternal in this clear moment of seeing, this moment of awe.

I did not make you, beautiful tree. You were created by the one who is uncreated and your fulfillment is in your being just as you were created to be. Nothing less and nothing more will bring you greater worth. Your flesh may or may not be used for building shelter or burning heat; your flowing blood may or may not be sucked up, or drawn out and boiled down, for sweet eating. Yet, you will be you. Whether symmetrical or crooked by the situation of your growing, you were chosen to exist – you were loved into being by Being and, so, you are always beautiful in the very truth of your existence. Should I never have seen you, should no human eyes ever have rested upon your living form, your life would have been beheld by the Ever Living One, the one who delights most in you, and, therefore, you will always be fulfilled. For trees have not the legs with which to run away from the truth, nor the lips with which to deny reality… you are your endless song of praise and thanksgiving.

Not like me. With mind to wander and will to obscure, I wrench my roots from out of love and pull down my branches lest they reach for the unreachable. I claim that I am a realist, my feet firmly on the ground without my head in the clouds – but I am a fool. The truth is given me, ultimate reality is here – yet I too often refuse to receive, refuse to see, what is eternal, what is unseeable, what is the beauty of this tree.

 

© Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

Every Man That Hath This Hope

Does hope purify?

1 John 3:3

And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

Dozens of people have been murdered in the United States, in the last 18 months, by young men on killing rampages. When teenage boys killed their fellow students at a high school in Colorado in 1999, our country was shocked and appalled. But, this wasn’t the first mass killing in a school. And it wouldn’t be the last. About a year and a half ago, the murders of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary terrified and enraged us again. Just this week, a killer shot and murdered a student and shot a teacher at a school in Oregon, and then ended up dead himself. There seems to be an epidemic. It’s even worse than you might remember – take a look at this timeline starting from 1984: http://timelines.latimes.com/deadliest-shooting-rampages/ Men from the ages of 55 to 11, most of them under 30, have made the decision to seek out human beings and kill them, arming themselves for the rampage, wanting to destroy their lives. Sometimes they commit suicide directly. Sometimes it’s almost a matter of suicide by police. None of them get away. Why do they want to do this?

Why?

Why???

The President of the United States has said, in light of the most recent killing, “this is not normal.” But isn’t “normal” a relative word? Certainly we would agree with the president’s assessment, I mean, it’s kind of a no-brainer to call this “not normal” – but isn’t it becoming normal? For some people in our country, perhaps for some young men who live just down the street, these killing sprees look like the exact right thing to do – they look perfectly and brilliantly normal to them. For me, the most chilling murder by young men is one that hits close to home, literally. And, I think, it points to a reason why the abnormal is becoming normal.

In 2009, in the small town of Mont Vernon, four seemingly normal young men, ages 17-20, took a drive, armed with knives and a machete, looking specifically for someone to kill. Anyone. They broke into a home in the woods and found a woman and her 11-year-old daughter sleeping there. They brutally and viciously stabbed, slashed, and hacked the woman to death, hacking away at the little girl as well, so violently that they not only smashed bones but also hacked bones into pieces. The little girl only survived by playing dead. Why did these four boys do such a thing?

No, they were not mentally ill. They wanted to know what it was like to kill people. One of these boys, even after the fact, thought that this was cool. The four of them had called themselves the “Disciples of Destruction” and enjoyed violent music and images. In an article on CrimeLibrary.com, Michael A. Washburn writes, “Like many suburban kids with too much time on their hands, the “Disciples of Destruction” were drawn together by a shared fascination with the cultures of death and mayhem.” When Judge Abramson sentenced one of the killers to life in prison with no parole (the harshest penalty allowable) +76 consecutive years, she said to him that she wanted “to ensure that you stay in that cage for the rest of your pointless life.”

His pointless life. Indeed. I think that’s exactly the point.

Many of these serial killers who do all their murdering in one rampage were, I’m quite sure, mentally ill. But, people who think that other people are not worth anything, people who want to feel the thrill of killing, are not necessarily mentally ill. We, as a nation of people, absolutely have to get together and truly help people among us who are suffering from mental illness. We need effective ways to find them and treat their illnesses. But this won’t be enough. Just as banning or regulating guns won’t be enough (as the Mont Vernon attack shows). As these killings more and more become the new normal, we have to be aware that there are young men among us whose lives are pointless, who have no positive direction, who are drawn to darkness and destruction – who have no hope.

What are we, as a society, offering them? Meeting beautiful women in bars, drinking alcohol, getting laid, playing video games, and putting up with a crappy job with a jerk for a boss so that they can afford the beer, the games, and maybe a hot set of wheels? Isn’t this the ideal life of a twentysomething? And, no, the answer isn’t to provide better jobs – Please! Is no one listening? Is no one watching what young men are watching, hearing what young men are hearing? Frankly, I can see why some are rejecting “normal” behavior. I can see why young men might want to neither become couch-sitting gamers with five kids from three nagging baby mamas nor workaholics with professional prestige and empty, materialistic lives. I also see why some would not want to be neatly dressed, mild-mannered fathers-of-two, whose biggest excitement is an enthusiastic “Amen!” on a Sunday or the thrill of an amusement park ride once a year. Is this really all we’ve got? Have we nothing of real value to offer?

Meaningful relationships. Yes, that’s a start. But… what do relationships mean? Working with their hands to create something solid that actually helps real people. Yes, that’s good, too. Are you making your sons do that? If you are, are you making them do it so that they can be “nice”? If so, it’s not going to work. Nice ain’t gonna cut it. Real love is the only thing that makes a relationship meaningful. Real love is the only reason to build improvements for other people’s lives. And real love is the only thing, the only thing, that keeps our lives from being pointless.

No, I’m not going to blame the parents. Unless, that is, we, as a society, are the parents. It does take a village to raise a child, because often the parents can’t do it by themselves, either because they are too busy, too ignorant, or too wounded themselves to know what real love is. So… What is real love?

Let’s take the qualities that the young killers at Mont Vernon were attracted to: courage, bravery, honor in brotherhood, something different than ho-hum-get-through-the-day, the newness of discovery, the experience of something hands-on, pushing themselves beyond where they had ever been before. Yes, I know, even I’m feeling kind of disgusting writing down those words in light of what they did with their desires. But, now, take those qualities to the classroom. Now they don’t seem so chilling, but, rather, exhilarating and exactly right. Take those natural desires of young people to the home and give them a direction in which to go. A path to take that is beyond ordinary. Help them to love something, really love something. I don’t mean a particular someone – how many murders have been committed because a young boy put all of his energies into one girl? I mean a love of nature, a love of construction, a love of science, a love of arts – poetry, music, performance arts, literature, painting, sculpture, photography, film, etc. – a love of travel, a love of commerce, a love of sports (maybe, at least they won’t have “time on their hands”) a love of community. Teach them not to look down on other people. Teach them that we are all interconnected. Teach them that every human being has – that they have – inherent value that no one and nothing can take away. Teach them about the human soul! Every human longs for something more! Don’t misinterpret, and therefore stifle, that longing to mean more money, more clothes, more accolades, more excitement, more thrills. The something more for which we all long is Something More. Something more infinite than the outer reaches of space-time… Something more intimate than the inner depths of feelings. Infinite and intimate love that calls for courage in making new discoveries and bravery in giving of ourselves completely; infinite and intimate love that doesn’t merely help us get through the day but pushes us beyond ourselves to the sharing of that infinite and intimate love – real love.

I know that I can’t change the world. And I certainly know that these words are too abstract to be translated into any concrete action. But, we seriously need to take a look at hope in our country. (Not the kind of hope that’s marketed and branded by politicians, who are too narrow-minded in their understanding of hope, and who invariably disappoint anyway by getting bogged down in politics, selfishness, or even just the practical, and lose sight of the big picture – lose sight of Something More.) Every person is unique and has unique gifts for the building up and the giving of life. Every person is loved into being – hope in that. There’s the point. No person is worthless. No matter how bored, how small, or how voiceless. A culture of life would understand this. A culture of life would make decisions out of real love and not out of fear or hopelessness. But… ours isn’t a culture of life, is it.

Christina Chase ©2014

All Rights Reserved

Them That Love Me

Who loves God? (Hands shook up in the air amid choruses of “Oo, oo, I do! I do!”)

Exodus 20:6

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

(Weird! I promise you, even though this verse is the one directly after the verse I received last week, it, like the other, WAS RANDOMLY GIVEN to me! Freaky weird. But, I guess that is true randomness… or perhaps divine providence…. Anyway…)

Who can we say really, truly loves God? Perhaps some may think of the Pope or a very pious nun, others of a peaceful and devout Imam or a deeply spiritual Rabbi or a wise and generous Lama – or an innocent, joyful child or that elderly person you know who has given so much of his or her life to taking care of other people and serving the local community of worship. The ones who love God, we can say, are the people of peace and charity, of forgiveness and goodwill, of compassion and joy, who are steadfast in their faith, unwavering in their hope, and self-giving in their love, people of deep prayer and spiritual belief. Of whom does the question make you think?

I don’t usually recommend thinking of other people when a question is asked or a teaching is given – usually, I try to apply the question or teaching to myself so that I won’t get caught up in pointing fingers. But, in this case, I believe that it is good if, when hearing the question “Who loves God?”, our minds instinctively go to other people whom we believe to be most worthy of a title such as “One Who Loves God”. Otherwise, we might be too full of pride. I do consider myself as one who loves God and would even gladly identify myself in this manner. But… I know that loving is not something that one merely feels or even chooses by assenting in a kind of intellectual way. Loving must be lived. We love, not only with our thoughts and words, but also with our actions, our souls – we love with the entirety of our beings. So, I ask myself, with my whole life, with my every living moment: do I love God?

In the Bible Burst that I wrote just previously to this one, I explored the question of who hates God. My ultimate answer, which I realize now is very startling and seemingly harsh, was that anyone who hates a human being hates God. I stand by that statement. Truly, because I believe that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and loved by God, I believe that if I hate another person – or even hate myself – I am despising God, upon whose image and likeness I am directing my hatred. Yes, humans are capable of the most vile, willful cruelty and disgusting acts of evil – but no one, no human being is irredeemable to God so long as he or she has a functioning will. Any person, no matter how viciously minded, can choose at any moment to change. A mass murderer can want to do good and, in the course of exercising some small mercy, may come to see his murderous deeds as wrong and experience true remorse and repentance. This is the start of one who hated God journeying toward reconciliation with God and it is a gift that God gives to everyone.

We must want this journey of mercy for every mean hearted person if we are truly going to be people who love God. We must hope and pray for the conversion of all sinners – especially of the worst and certainly including ourselves. If we truly love God then we will want what God wants – and God wants every one of his beloved human beings to know mercy, to know love, to know faith and hope. And how can they know unless they are told, unless they are shown? And who will it be that shows them? Are we waiting for God to take care of it with lightning bolts or plagues or a visiting host of heavens angels? God wants us to love one another and sends us to the needy (those who suffer from the poverty of love and mercy and hope) and to the imprisoned (those who are captives to greed and vengeance and selfishness) to bring hope of salvation, which is the gift of God’s love. We, created in God’s image, are to minister to our fellow divine images, especially to those who may have lost the loving brilliance of their identities. It is a privilege, an honor, and a blessing to be able to show the Light of the World to those living in darkness – showing the radiance of the Light by reflecting it with our souls. For, Divine Love shines forth through us in our every act of true love – “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”[1]

So, again, I ask myself if I really, truly love God. Only God knows the truth of my heart. Only God can see with infinite clarity the brilliance of my soul – and know whether or not I have sullied it with hate.

 

Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

 

 

[1] Romans 10:15

Them That Hate Me

Cycles of violence … Who hates God?

Exodus 20:5

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Who hates God? The easy answer that comes to mind might be atheists. But, of course, a true atheist doesn’t believe in the existence of God – how can someone hate something that doesn’t exist? Satanists are another group of people that we could point to and say that they hate God. Certainly with their creed, their words and their rituals, they seek to align themselves with the mystical enemy of God and eschew all things upright and wholesome. But… I would wager that most Satanists in action, in the world and in their families, are no less destructive and unwholesome than some who profess to believe in God. Oh, there are certainly Satanists who choose evil deeds, who hate and curse and torture and kill. But, are there not God believing people who do the same, calling on a different name?

How many Muslims, how many Christians, how many peoples throughout history around the world have preached and practiced acts of violence and cruelty in the name of their gods? Enough to make a person think about wanting to be an atheist – indeed, some want-to-be influential people, like Bill Maher, for one example, blame all the wars that humans have fought on religion. However, in all truth and reason, we can clearly see that wars arise from ideologies – which often claim no god. Stalin’s communist regime was one of the most brutal in history and he did not systematically kill for the honor of any god, for he was an atheist. He was vicious and destructive for himself, for power and greed (maybe even for his own amusement) for the sake of his way of looking at things, his ideology. And is that not the true cause of every war? Is not the real reason humans are bent on cruelty and domination that they want to be? Wars are fought by individual soldiers in trenches and on front lines who may very well have loving reasons for being there – but wars are instigated and created by people who want what they want and will gladly have killed or destroyed anyone who they think gets in the way. Even smaller-scale acts of violence – the cold-blooded murder of a girlfriend, the rape of a stranger, the lethal shooting of a dozen kids in a school – are not caused by religion. Man’s cruelty to man has nothing to do with the love and worship of God.

The people who hate God are the people who hate other people. For every person is created in God’s image. If you hate anyone in the world – even if you hate the most horrible and vilest of persons – you hate God. We often think that it is right and good to hate evil doers. We laud all talk of destroying the enemies of freedom and justice. Although it is true that anyone who is an enemy of true freedom and true justice is choosing to go against the ways of God, if we choose to hate that hate-filled person, then we, too, are choosing to go against God’s ways. Christ said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” God does not close off divine mercy from anyone – and neither should we. For, if we are to live as we were created to live, we must strive to do as God does and struggle to walk in the ways of mercy and selflessness – of real love.

Yes, people do horrendous things and claim to do them for the love of God – but that’s not really love. Or, perhaps more accurately, that’s not really God. It’s very easy to think of God as meting out pain and vicious punishment on those who would seek to go against Him. The Bible has many, many verses that tell of God’s wrath and vengeance and the hurt He puts upon His enemies. In the verse from Exodus 20, about the Commandment against worshiping false idols God says, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.” What we often think of as God’s willfully wrathful punishment, however, is, I believe, simply the natural consequences of our own willfully wrathful choices. Do we not know that violence begets violence and those who live by the sword die by the sword? Do we not see the rational truth of this in the world, even in our everyday lives? It doesn’t mean that the One and Almighty God will smite anyone who seeks to worship through a religion other than the one and only one prescribed by Him. If it did, God might welcome arguments that escalate into violence about which religion is the true religion – but, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” God gives us freewill and allows us to freely choose, pouring His love and mercy upon each and every one of us, relentlessly. That loving mercy can feel like eternal pain to those who never want to receive it, not even in the last moments of their lives; or it can feel like eternal sunshine and grace to those who long for the forgiveness and love of God.

If a child is taught to hate by his parents, he will usually become a hater. If his child, then, is taught to destroy the hated ones, then he will usually become destructive. The person in the family who first chose, in freewill, to hate a human being or human beings, who first saw cruel domination as a good, set up a cycle of hate, a cycle of violence, that is, as we know, very difficult to break. But, then, there are those people who willfully choose to have mercy. Though, sometimes, they are punished by the hating people, their acts of kindness and selflessness do not go unseen. Their true love, that choice to walk in divine ways, inspires others for generations upon generations upon generations… as are the saints of old, and new, ever inspiring, ever celebrated even after 2000, 5000 years. And their individual lives do not end with the death of their limited bodies, their self-centered thinking, as do the lives of those who hate God by hating human beings – the lives of those who love God by selflessly loving human beings are as eternally beautiful as the Beautiful One, Who Is Eternal Love.

 

Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

 

In His Integrity

 

What’s left?

Proverbs 19:1

Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

“Blessed are the poor…” yes, yes, I know, but I’d like to be rich – who wouldn’t? To live in a beautiful house surrounded by comfort and conveniences and beautiful things, to not have to worry about how I’m going to pay the bills that pile up in front of me, to have nice clothes and cars and delicious foods and to be able to travel wherever I would like or give financial assistance and material help to worthy people in need whenever I am moved to do so – who wouldn’t want to do that? When we think of all the things that money can buy, we think in our minds – and even in our hearts – “Blessed are the rich.”

The stories that we hear about lottery winners always fascinate me. They win huge sums of money by luck and buy all the things that they’ve always wanted to have – and they admit that they aren’t happier. Some spend and live richly while still wisely saving and investing enough money so that they will never have to worry about blowing it all – and they say they were happier before they became rich. Friends and family members become jealous and manipulative, trying to get some of that financial boon for themselves. People everywhere seek them out with tales of woe in hopes of getting charitable contributions. And some, in resentment and also in greed, will make the lottery winners feel guilty if not enough of the winnings are spent upon things that they, the non-winners, believe are important. And then there’s all the stuff – so many things to buy, experiences to purchase, and no extra time in which to enjoy them, no extra heart-space in which to appreciate them. And the stuff has to be taken care of – or the employees hired to take care of the stuff have to be taken care of – it’s a lot of work. Some lottery winners become depressed, some commit suicide. And even the rich who earn their money never seem to be able to get enough of it, are always wanting more. Rich celebrities live glamorous lives – lives of broken relationships, drug abuse, waywardness. But, still… Knowing all this, I would still like to be rich. I would be one of those few who can handle it, who can do wealthy well. Wouldn’t I?

I don’t know. How am I doing with not being wealthy? Am I doing middle-class well? Actually, my parents are middle-class – but they physically take care of me in their home because of my severe disability. I, financially speaking, am poor. In fact, it is rightly said that I am a beggar since I can do no labor, no work inside or outside of the home, to earn my bread. I depend completely upon others for all of my needs for survival. So, to go back to my question – am I doing that well? I think I could handle wealth – but that would only be true if I can handle poverty.

Jesus did not say “Blessed are the financially destitute.” He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I imagine that “poor in spirit” has been interpreted to mean different things over the centuries through different schools of thought. But, the point I want to make here is that poverty itself – the deprivation of material resources, of those basic needs of survival – is not blessedness. Merely being poor is not going to make one blessed, is not going to make one happy. There are many, many people who do poverty badly. Broken relationships, drug abuse, and suicide affect the poor as well as the rich. (Perhaps, though, we may think it affects the poor more because there are more poor people than rich.) The truth is that selfishness, greed, and unhappiness abound in humanity, no matter how much, or how little, money is ready at hand. If, however, one is “poor in spirit” – well, then, one belongs to the kingdom of heaven. What does that mean?

To be poor in spirit is not to have some kind of solidarity with the poor, that is, feeling deep compassion for them in their plight and helping them however one can by donating time and/or resources. The blessedness, the happiness, comes in truly being poor – in being a beggar. For, what do we have that is truly our own? You can be robbed of possessions. Your house can burn down and your insurance company go bankrupt. You can lose your savings through disastrous investments. You can lose your job or lose your breadwinning spouse and get evicted or have your house foreclosed upon, watch your car get repossessed and sell off your jewelry, your collectibles, your furniture, until you have nothing left. Even that body which you use to earn money and go to the store and enjoy leisurely comfort – even that can lose its functionality through injury or disease. That mind that you use to make sure you have all that you need and with which you appreciate what you have – even that can lose its abilities of cognition and/or memory. And then what is left? All that is left is what has always been, what is eternally: your belongingness to the kingdom of heaven.

Whether rich or poor, if we live our lives separated from our true identities, we will never be truly happy. We were all created by the Uncreated Creator. We all belong to this Infinite/Eternal One. Your true identity, my true identity, is as a living image and likeness of God. But, is that how we live? Or, do we rather live as our own inventions for our own purposes? I’m not talking about altruism here. I’m talking about knowing who you are. You could be blessed by living your life “looking out for number one” and understanding that that most important one is yourself – but do you know who you are? If you think that you are your physical pleasures and enjoyments, then you are always going to miss the mark of blessedness. If you think that you are your accomplishments and achievements, then you will never be fulfilled. If you think that you are the praising people around you, then you will never know true love, true happiness. If you think that you are the weight of your possessions, monuments, and money enjoyed now and left behind as legacy when you are dead, then you are most sadly missing out on the fullness of your one, unique life.

The Uncaused Cause has given you an immortal soul to animate your being – and has given you Godself to restore you to true likeness so that you may know blessedness and know it eternally. Who you truly are is who you are eternally. When passing things pass away, what is left? What has always been and always will be: a beggar. May our begging bowls be open and outstretched toward the Source of Being, the Infinitely Generous One Who truly gives us our fill.

Whether rich or poor, I can be a fool. Better to have no material pleasures to distract me from knowing who I am, then to go about my life as a fool in perversity. May we not choose to live our lives perversely, obstinately desiring to do what is unreasonable – and what is unreasonable is all that is is contrary to who we truly are.

Christina Chase

Nigh Unto Me

What do I want?

Matthew 15:8

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

What is your goal in life? What do you spend most of your time, energy, and talents toward? I seem to answer the first question one way but then the second one in another. For, I say that my goal in life is to be the person that God created me to be. But, then, if I look at where I spend most of my time, energy, and talents, it seems as though I want something else. It seems as though what I truly want is material comfort/security and the pleasure of aesthetics – and, when I’m really ambitious, the praise of others. Did God create me to be comfortablNighe? Did God create me to be lulled in contentment? Did God create me to win compliments?

I am created in order to know, love, and serve… To know, love, and serve what? Myself? My pleasure sensors? My ego? Oh, what a limited life I would live then, blind and deaf to the fullness of reality, crippled in my existence. Such was my endeavor once. As a committed atheist, I saw no meaning to life, to existence, and so did whatever I wanted, thought whatever I wanted, making up my own meaning for my own purposes. I lived for myself. I humorously (but seriously) saw myself as the center of the universe – everything that existed before me was mere prologue; everything that exists after me, mere epilogue; everything that exists with me, mere background. And why not, since, at that time, I thought that there was no center to the universe anyway, no center to anything? Looking back at myself then, I see that I was a very selfish person. Self-centeredness is something that I always have to deal with in my personality but, then, as an atheist, I could let it run rampant and become a kind of religion. The doctrines of Looking out for Number One, What’s in It for Me, and If It Feels Good Do It were all I needed to live the life that I wanted, to be happy.

Or so I thought. However, I could not be a rational and serious person and shut out the Source of Life forever. If I had stopped thinking altogether and just go on feeling without thoughts beyond my own comfort and pleasure, I may have remained an atheist. If I hadn’t wanted the truth, if I hadn’t wanted to know what really is, then I could have kept my ignorance. But, the whole reason that I became an atheist was in order to find the truth, was in order to know reality as it really is. I thought that there was no such thing as God. And I was right – in a way. God is no thing. Rather, that which we call God… IS. One day, sitting beneath the grape arbor, I let my thoughts, my focus, go deeply into the reality around me – green leaves golden in the sun, long grasses in the breeze, birdsong up in the trees, and, pealing back the layers of sound, the silence of nothing behind reality. And it was in that silence that I became aware… that I knew. Without words or images or sensations or emotions, I knew. Infinite… Eternal… Present Presence… Being Itself…. I wanted to be an atheist again for the lack of complications and (as I see more clearly now) for the centering of the universe in me. But, I could never be self-centered again without knowing that I was in error. I did not invent myself. I did not create myself. Everything that I can see and hear and taste and smell and touch did not come from me or from my parents or from bacteria. There is Silence beyond silence… the Uncaused Cause, the Uncreated Creator, the Unmoved Mover… and, much to my surprise, I came to understand the truth of “the ultimate reality that everyone calls God.”

What did I want then, after that epiphany? To know. And to know Truth really is to love. And to really love is to serve – that is, to be who I was created to be. To believe in God is not to merely profess with our lips a set of tenets that we think are true, nor to assent with our intellects to those tenets. To believe in God is to accept the reality of my existence, who I am. I – with my self-centered pleasures and pride – am not the end-all and be-all. I come from somewhere. I come from someone. From Pembroke and from my parents – but, if I open my eyes and my ears fully, if I dare to look up from my life and step out of my own way, then I understand that everything in life comes from the same Infinite/Eternal Source, born forth in the creative power of loving. Something out of nothing – by the sheer will of Being Itself.

To say all this is one thing. To live all this is quite another. I can say that I believe in God and explain how one can “prove” God’s existence until the cows come home. But, to know is to love. God, who is all-knowing, is all-loving. The Fullness of Being whom we speak of as God cannot be grasped, cannot be avoided, cannot be controlled – cannot be denied without denying reality itself. What I want, then, is to be where God is… And where is God? God is nowhere… now here… everywhere… God cannot be pinned down… or flattered, or appeased, or manipulated in any way. For God is love, pure love, pure loving. Perhaps the better question is Where am I?

Where is my heart? Where is the center of my living life, the core of my principles, the aim of my pursuits? The question is not only on whom do I depend for life itself – but also, to whom do I turn whenever there is any question? What is the pulse of my life, with what beat am I keeping time? The life that flows through me is the love that flows through me and I am not its source. The source of the universe(s), the source of existence, flows life, sustenance, love through all – and what do we do? Where do we go? There is no escape from the Infinite/Eternal One, and yet we would keep our hearts for ourselves so that we may satisfy our own self-centered pleasures and pride; and yet we would try to hide our vulnerability from the One who loves us into existence and hoard up things to fill the void left from turning away from our Source.

So that the One who loves us into existence might not seem to be far from us in our sensory-dependent blindness, God became one of us. Christ Jesus lived in humility, unknown by most of those who passed him by. His beloved disciple leaned his head against Christ’s heart one day and asked, “Who is it, Lord?” The young man wanted to know which of the disciples was going to be the one to betray Jesus by selling him out to those who wanted to get rid of him. Shall I banish Him as well so that I may seek my own self-centered pursuits?… I bow my head this day and rest upon the heart of love, the heart of reality, the heart of life, and I ask my Lord and my God, “Is it I?”

May my heart always burn with love for Him who is the Lord and seek shelter in His ever-generous, all-consuming love. Lord, may I seek only You, want only You… let my heart not be far from yours…

Christina Chase