Tag Archives: Bible

Quench Not

Did I just ignore the Holy Spirit?

1 Thessalonians 5:19

Quench not the Spirit.

I just prayed to the Holy Spirit before clicking on BibleDice.com to receive my random verse of Scripture. What good words to read! Go where the Spirit leads you, heed the Word of God, follow the call of the Lord as He brings you to the place where you’re supposed to be…. That all sounds good – but how?

Yesterday, while writing an assignment for a course I’m taking on the basics of Catholicism, I was reading the Gospel of St. John, chapter 6; specifically, the section that is often called “The Bread of Life Discourse”. I got to the part where the crowd first mumbles against what Jesus is telling them – and I skipped over it. As I was continuing to read, looking for the lines that I wanted to use in my assignment, I was thinking that there was something in that skipped over section that I wanted to read. What was the first point of complaint from the crowd? But, I ignored the wondering feeling and focused on the reason I had turned to John 6 in the first place. Although, in the back of my mind, I felt like I should educate myself and know what the opening grumbling was about, I thought, as I so often do, that I would get to it later.

Was I ignoring the voice of God calling me to a place to which He wanted me to go? Was I quenching the Spirit?

This afternoon, my father decided to listen to some recorded talks through his iPod while doing my chest percussion therapy. (Twice daily therapy where I lie on the bed and and get repeatedly and painlessly smacked on my chest wall and back with a cupped hand – the percussion and vibrations loosen any mucus that may be sticking to my lungs, thus keeping them as clear as possible.) The talks came from some CDs in the back of our church that are meant for anyone to take. I was glad to listen with him. One of the excerpted lectures was from Dr. Scott Hahn and the subject was… John 6. And I said to my dad, “I was just reading that yesterday!” Things like that happen a lot in life, don’t you find?

Anyway, he said many things that I had heard before. I found myself hoping that he would get to the part which says, “the flesh is of no avail, it is the Spirit that gives life. My words are spirit and life” (or something like that.) I always thought that these lines could be a way of showing that the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist is wrong, that Jesus wasn’t speaking as plainly as he appeared to in the beginning of the discourse but, instead, it could all be understood as a call to feed off of his words. Thankfully, Dr. Hahn did get to that part and address that point very well – but not before he read aloud what the crowd was saying when they first mumbled against Jesus’s claims.

Jesus told them that he had come down from heaven to do the will of the Father. And they basically thought, “Who does this guy think he is?” They said amongst themselves, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?””[1]

This is where doubt first crept into their thinking. Jesus had said that they were only there because they were hungry and wanted some more free bread. And then he starts talking about how there are more important things for them to seek in life and mentions that he has come down from Heaven. And they’re thinking – What? His mother is Mary and his father is Joseph. He is just an ordinary man, just like everybody else. In an old-school way of saying, they thought that where he came from was Joseph’s loins. But… He didn’t. Their misunderstanding of Jesus and his words began here.

Did a man’s “flesh” give Jesus life? In other words, was he fathered through the flesh, Joseph’s biological son? No. The Bible says that Joseph did not father Jesus. Rather, he was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin named Mary. We can say that he was fathered by God, the Father, through the Spirit. The Spirit gave Jesus life. This means that his identity is not as an ordinary man. Fully human is he, yes, assuredly – and, also, fully divine. But the crowd didn’t know that. They didn’t see that. And even if he had told them outright, plainly, they would not have believed it. It was only later, when he rose from the dead, that things could become more clear. No wonder they were confused.

It is only as the Son of God, fully divine, that Jesus can say that his flesh is true food and his blood is true drink and that whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood has true life within him and will never perish. And it is only because he is God Incarnate, fully human, that he has flesh to give “for the life of the world.”[2] As Dr. Hahn said in the recorded lecture, it is Jesus’s resurrection that allows us to eat his flesh and drink his blood. The crowd couldn’t simply hack off his flesh and eat it as he was standing there talking to them about it. The power of God, the work of the Spirit, was needed in the raising of Jesus and the glorifying of his body, so that we may take and eat, and take and drink. Thus was Jesus given life, and thus can Jesus give life to the whole world.

I don’t want this writing of mine to be only a brief explanation of Scripture and doctrine. So, these last few minutes of this Burst will be employed in the use of the random piece of Scripture given to me today. I believe that God wanted me to read that section about Jesus being Joseph’s son yesterday and would have led me to a deeper understanding then. God knows that I have been wondering for years about Jesus’ reference to flesh versus spirit at the end of the Bread of Life discourse. But, I didn’t listen to the “still, small voice” yesterday, I ignored the prompting of the Spirit and walked away. God works in mysterious ways, however. As Albert Einstein said, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Today, the very same part of Scripture was brought to me again. Would I “extinguish the Spirit” a second time? No. In fact, I was more prepared to listen attentively because of my brushing aside on the day before. And, so, in the end, God got through to me and told me what I needed to know. Following the Spirit, I was brought to the place where I was meant to be.

© 2015 Christina Chase

[1] John 6:42

[2] John 6:51

Nothing Wavering

“Trust me.”

James 1:5-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2014 Christina Chase

Thy Money Perish with Thee

Money, money, money…

Acts 8:17-22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Human Good

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

The Purpose of Money

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

Temptation, Sin, Salvation, and Jesus Christ…

Temptation

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

Sin

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

Salvation

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

Jesus Christ

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

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

Unpublished work © 2014 Christina Chase

The World through Him

Christ is not a condemnation.

John 3:16-17

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

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

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

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

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

For death has no power over eternal love.

None.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ is not a condemnation.  Christ is Salvation Itself.

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

Unpublished work © 2014 Christina Chase

Between God and Men

Getting to know the unknowable…

1 Timothy 2:5

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

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

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

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

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

God from God,

Light from Light,

True God from True God….

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

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

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

© 2014 Christina Chase

Life for My Sake

I lose myself…

Matthew 16:24-27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2014 Christina Chase

With a Double Heart

Am I two-faced?

Psalms 12:1-2

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

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

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

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

Do I?

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

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

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

But is this how I live?

Am I letting this come to pass?

There are ways of finding out.

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

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

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

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

So may I live.

© 2014 Christina Chase