Tag Archives: agape

And Hath with His Hand

[I’m finally returning to my writing challenge!  My Internet access was down for a couple of days, so I randomly selected a verse the old-fashioned way – with a real, solid, three-dimensional Bible and a quick pointing hand…]

Does God have a mouth? Does God have a hand? …Does God have a face?

1 Kings 8:14-15

And the King turned his face about, and blessed all the congregation of Israel: and all the congregation of Israel stood:

And he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which spake with his mouth unto David my father, and hath with his hand fulfilled it…”.

The human body is a beautiful and marvelous thing. A thing because each human body has physical shape and form, it is an object of flesh that exists in the world. And, yet, not a thing, and much more than a thing, because each human body is created by God in order to be a beloved creature of both flesh and spirit. Therefore, in grammatical terms, we should think of the human body, not so much as an object, but, rather, as a subject. The human body is subject to nature – and also to the human person. Above all, the human body, being created lovingly and purposefully by God, for God, is subject to God.

Okay… Maybe that’s a bit confusing. But, often, it is confusing to consider the human body in the light of the Christian faith. The confusion comes, most strongly, when we think that the body is sinful. The body is not sinful. Nothing created by God is sinful. Trees, birds, water, stars – none of these are sinful.

What is sin?

Sin is not imperfection. If that were so, then the person with the most imperfect body, one that contains genetic defect, say, and is severely crippled and weak, would be the most sinful. And the person with the most nearly perfect body would be the least sinful. And we all know that that’s not true.

Sin is also not bodily desire. The body craves and desires food – rightly so, for the body needs food in order to survive, and God did not create our bodies so that we would starve them to death. We also bodily desire sleep when we are tired and a good washing when we are dirty. All good stuff. The only bodily desires that are sinful are those that are self-centered. Yes, eating and sleeping are about self-preservation – but a kind of self-preservation that God desires. Imagine, for example, if we were locked in a room with one another, with no escape and with nothing to eat for days on end. We would, naturally, be very hungry and desire to eat something, maybe anything – maybe even one another! But, God certainly would not want us to kill each other in order that we may eat. Healthy bodily desires that turn toward selfishness, toward greed, gluttony, lust, toward actions at the expense of others – these are not God-centered desires but, rather, self-centered and, so, sinful.

For, sin is about the human will, not the human body.

Do we will what God wills? Or do we will only what we will, even if that goes against God Our Creator?

As the Baltimore Catechism states, we are created by God to know, love, and serve God in this life, and to be happy with God forever in the next. It is for the purpose of this knowing God, loving God, and serving God that God created us – body and soul. With our mouths and with our hands, with our ears and with our feet, and also, first, with our brains, we communicate with God by receiving and understanding God’s will – and then doing it. We can help feed the hungry who have no food with the bread in our own hands. We can lead the lost or the homeless who desire shelter with our feet. We can listen to those who are bereft and desire comfort with our ears and speak of God’s love and mercy to them with our mouths. We can do these things with our bodies – when our hearts and minds will to do so. If our hearts and minds are in union with God, then we will bodily love one another as God loves us.

Almighty God, who is Infinite and Eternal, the Creator and Master of the Universe, does not have bodily shape and form. God is spirit. God is not physical and, therefore, able to be broken down into parts, able to die. Therefore, it is wrong to say that God has a physical mouth or a physical hand. Or that God has a physical face.

And, yet…

God chose to become one of us.

The Word of God, which is not thought in a fleshly brain or spoken from a fleshly mouth, was made flesh. Jesus Christ is the Word of God Incarnate, made flesh, made one of us. Jesus is fully God and fully human. So, although it may not be proper to say that God has a face, that God has a mouth and hands, because of Christ, because of the Incarnation,  God spoke with a human mouth and worked with human hands… God laughed, wept, and smiled with a human face. And when Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me,” he was speaking of the profoundly intimate connection and union that God has with each and every human being through Christ, Our Lord.

When we wash the dirty face of a poor and orphaned child with our own hands, it is God working through us. We, with our own freewill, choose freely to cooperate with God’s will. To co-operate. And our hands, although they are not truly Jesus’s hands, are like his hands, are like the hands with which God gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and bread to the multitudes. Then, we are truly like Christ – we are real Christians.

And, most profoundly and awesomely, when we wash that helpless child’s face… we’re washing the face of Jesus, the face through which God smiled.

Christ Jesus, who was physically thirsty and tired, desired water to drink from the Samaritan’s well. Christ Jesus, who was physically exhausted and weak, desired bodily assistance to carry his cross to Golgotha. And Christ Jesus, who began his earthly life as a helpless little baby, desired and needed to be physically taken care of, dependent on others for every thing of survival.

So, yes, let us think of God having a face, and mouth, and hands… they are yours… they are theirs…… they are his.

© 2015 Christina Chase

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He That Loveth

Whose side are you on?

1 John 3:10

In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

In sports, some people act as though God is on their side. People actually pray for their team to be victorious and some athletes will even say that God helped them gain a victory. Is this really how God works? Does God really care about the winners and losers of a game?

The answer is, yes, God really does care about the winners and losers of a game – God cares about them as human beings, no matter whether they are given a trophy or not. It is God’s perfect intention and will to perfectly love each and every one of us. And God is rooting for us, pulling for us to willingly receive His love and choose Him – for God knows that doing this is our greatest joy, our greatest victory. God is cheering each of us on to respect, integrity, and excellence of mind, body, heart, and soul. So, you see, God has already chosen every player on the field to be a winner – God has already chosen you to wear the crown of champions. The question is… do you choose God?

Whose Side Am I on?

I ask myself this question. I profess that I am created by God in the image and likeness of God – I believe that I am of God… but my created state is not enough. How do I live? With my God-given spiritual gifts of intellect, imagination, and freewill, what do I choose? To what thoughts, words, and actions do I give myself? For, if I do not use my God-given gifts for godly things, then I cannot truly say that I live as a person of God, that I am on God’s side. To be on God’s side requires a commitment to the eternal things of God – faith, hope, and, most of all, love. If, rather, I am committed to the fleeting things of myself – pride, greed, and all things self-centered – then I am not on God’s side. I have, instead, chosen the absence of God: what we call Hell and the Devil. And I’m on the side of delusion, destruction, despair, and death.

When I come to a fork in the road, any dilemma or choice that I have to make, what do I use as my guide? Do I use those feelings of the moment that are rooted only in my ego and hedonism? Am I led by pleasure or by real love? Do I choose what feels good instead of what is good? The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. There is deep joy that is the perpetual result of choosing what is good, and this joy can provide some pleasure and good feelings – but not always. Sometimes, the good thing is the most difficult thing. Am I willing to struggle and even to suffer in order to choose God and do what God wills me to do? Am I willing to fight the good fight without heeding the wounds, to work hard for righteousness without minding the labor? Will I love my brother even though my brother doesn’t love me?

Knowing Whose Side We’re on

We can rightly say that God is on our side – every human being can rightly say that. God is on the side of every person because God is willing the true and eternal good of every person. God is rooting for the real and everlasting joy of every man, woman, and child. But, not all of us can rightly say that we are on God’s side, for we cannot all truly say that we are living as people of God. Whenever we choose payback instead of forgiveness – we are not of God. Whenever we choose pleasure indulgence instead of stewardship and respect – we are not of God. Whenever we choose power over others instead of selfless service to others – we are not of God. We are not on the side of God if we seek fame and fortune at the cost of loving and caring for the least of our brothers and sisters. For we cannot hate a fellow human being and love God. We must choose.

We must choose. The way of hate, the way of disdain and apathy, is the way of life that ends in death – eternal death that is the agony of losing eternal life. The way of love, the way of mercy and compassionate generosity, is the way of life that never ends – eternal life that is the bliss of being crowned by eternal love. We must choose every day in every way. And it isn’t easy – but there is an abiding ease in choosing God that is as simple and natural as a beating heart. The world has plenty of complications to complicate that ease. But, being on God’s side is exactly where we are meant to be, exactly how we are created to be – for we are created by love in order to love. If we are truly choosing love, then we are on God’s side.

So, the next time that you or I are really angry at someone, let us choose wisely. The path that we step out on today may end up leading us far away from where we intended to go. There is no guarantee that we will get back on the right path – but know that God is pulling for us, cheering us back to the side of divine and eternal love… to eternal victory.

© 2015 Christina Chase

And Ye Would Not

It ain’t always pretty.

Matthew 23:37

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Love doesn’t always look like a fluffy little bunny or a bouquet of pretty flowers. Sometimes, love comes as a heavy burden, or an injection of medicine, or a strong arm that knocks you to the ground just in time. Jesus is like this.

We often like to think of the Resurrection only. We have images of Jesus looking all bright and shiny and handsome, smiling, with his arms open wide in welcome – setting aside images of Jesus stripped, beaten, bloodied, his arms forced apart and nailed to a wooden beam. We’ll think of Jesus during his earthly ministry with little children gathered at his feet and blind people being gently touched by his soft hand – and not think of the whip in the temple or the rough carpenter’s hands praying in agony.

I have even seen Crosses that bear upon them an image of the Resurrected Christ, fully clothed. What’s with that???risen-christ-on-cross

That moment in the Bible when Jesus beckons the little children to come to him – this is not a purely happy moment filled with pleasant niceties. It comes with a rebuke. The disciples want to shoo away the youngsters, who are generally seen as a distracting nuisance – but Jesus says, “No.” He goes against the grain, disrupts the general practice of the time, upsets social protocol, and gathers the children to him. In the divine eyes of Jesus, every human being is a child – His own beloved child, whom He wants to hold in His arms and love unconditionally. In our modern time, to the people who, perhaps, make children over-precious and nearly adore them, this makes perfect sense. Of course Jesus wants innocent and lovely children near him. But… Jesus also wants the outcast and reviled near him. Jesus lovingly wills to die next to two thieves being executed for their crimes. Do we think of that? This is true love of humanity.

Why, then, did Jesus drive the money changers out of the temple with a scourge that he made out of cords? (John 2:15) Why did he not have mercy and forgiveness upon them and just give them a big old hug? Jesus did have mercy and forgiveness upon them – he did what he did for love of them. He spoke to them in a language that they could understand about the wickedness of their acts and the dark path down which they were leading themselves and the people. This is a moment in the Bible when we can see Jesus as most obviously human – one of us. He is upset by the callous, unloving intentions and methods of the money changers, who are not interested in helping the people to be reconciled with God. Their interest is in making a personal financial profit from people’s desire for God, using the religious laws of the time to their self-centered advantage. This cannot stand. I’m thinking that Jesus is so filled with justified anger that he cannot humanly utter a pretty speech to sway them. This is the time for Jesus to use his muscles, muscles formed hard and strong from laboring in manual construction, and shake open the eyes of the drowsing, slap the petty and cruel upside the head, and zealously protect and cleanse the Sacred Place of his Father with a show of human force. I suppose that he could have turned all of the money changers into gnutes or rained fire and brimstone upon their heads – but, instead, he did what any one of us human beings could do… and, perhaps, should do: disrupt the status quo.

Nobody likes to be told that what he or she is doing is wrong, even when it is wrong. Nobody enjoys changing his or her comfortable life for a promised, but unseen, improvement. We are naturally drawn to the comfortable, the soft, the easy, the shiny, the entertaining and sensually pleasing – yet, we are supernaturally drawn to the truth, to true love, to God. There is nothing more sublime, perfectly beautiful, and fully pleasing than God and true relationship with God – but that relationship requires a disruption of physical comfort, self-centered desires, and mundane niceties… in order to truly love.

The Savior of the World cannot simply be an extraordinarily good man who sets a lasting example of kindness, patience, and a generous sharing of resources. The Savior of the World cannot merely come to make the world a prettier place – but to set it free from such a cheap desire. How else can God get through to us and break us from our habit of, and addiction to, self-centered pleasure? How else can God work with human hands, through all times and in all places, to lovingly hold the suffering and lead the wandering home? How else can God show us the fullness of what we human beings can be, except to become one of us and to give Himself so completely and utterly to us in unconditional love that he lets us torture and beat him, ridicule and reject him, and kill him like a common thief? The dead body of God-Incarnate hanging on a cross speaks more profoundly than any Sacred Book that could ever be written, more intimately than any lightning bolt Revelation from the sky, and more fully and truly than any radiant smile of the depths of divine love and how utterly God wants to gather us to Him.ChristCrucified-father-Barron

We stone prophets. That’s what we do. We “kill the messenger”. That’s what we do. God knows. And God loves us so much that He is willing to let us do that to Him. God loves us so much that He sends His Only Begotten Son to us – to do with what we will. Christ loves us so much that he is willing for us not to like him. He is willing for us to be annoyed with him, to mock him, to try to drive him over the edge of a cliff. He is willing for us to kill him, for he will do what he has come to do – he will love us. He will show us the way to deepest and truest joy, he will become the way. Jesus gives us the promise of things yet unseen and does not couch it in niceties. He gives his very body and blood for us to gnaw upon – and if we refuse to understand it, then he is willing to let us walk away. He will not force us to love him in return, he will not force us into his arms. But, he will weep for us, weeping tears of blood, and he will be vulnerable for us, pierced through in the excruciating pain of crucifixion. And the first sign of the veracity of his promise will be an empty tomb.

© 2015 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

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

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