Tag Archives: Christianity

Hereby Know We

1 John 4:5-6

They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.

We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

 

St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” Being that he was a magnificently intelligent and wise man, I’m not going to disagree with him. But… I never would have liked this when I was one without faith. I have a friend, too, who balks at this reasoning. It seems like just another convenient copout – “Oh, you’re not a person of faith? Well, then, you wouldn’t understand. When you become a believer, then you will understand.” Isn’t that convenient.

It sounds too much like faith and reason are opposed to one another.

And they most certainly are not. And Saint Thomas Aquinas knew that, even proved that brilliantly and often.

The thing is…

Reason and intelligible explanations can take you far, very far. Right up to the very edge of the cliff. But, no further. You can intelligently follow St. Thomas Aquinas’ five proofs of God’s existence, maybe you can even rationally calculate and weigh with Pascal and his bet – but none of this is faith. You cannot think your way into faith in a personal God. You cannot rationalize your life into a life of a believer. Reason is utterly important – a great gift to human beings from God, even of God. But, faith is also required to be fully human, to know the fullness of truth.

And, so, reason takes you to the edge of that cliff of what you can know with reasonable certainty and you stand there. You stand upon the solid ground of what you know and…. And then, what? You could just stand there, acknowledging the precipice, reminding yourself over and over again that there is no way of knowing for certain if there is anything on the other side of the gulf, clouded and fogged as it is from your eyes. You can build a life on that solid ground… but, if your mind is fully alive, then you will wonder…

And you will never know unless you leap.

The leap of faith is not like leaping to a conclusion with no facts to back you up. It is from the firm foundation of reason that you must make the leap. You can’t just go along with what other people are saying, blindly following without much thought – that’s not a leap of faith. You cannot just make-believe, pretending that a fairytale is real and enjoy the playacting – that’s not a leap of faith, either. You must never disregard reality, you must deeply consider and, with the whole strength of your being, you must commit. The leap of faith is part surrender to the beautiful embrace of Mystery and part blood oath, bodily pledge and dedication to God.

And so, to believe in Jesus Christ is to entrust your whole self to him, to love him with all of your mind, your heart, your soul, and your strength. In the Divine Mercy prayer I pray, “… take over my life and live your life through me.”

Faith is a sacred vow, the most sacred. When you make that vow, when you enter into that vow, you necessarily change. You are still a human being with a rational mind, the God-given gift of reason, but you are also a person of faith. It’s as if the world were two dimensional before, understandable and navigable, but flat. And you never knew that it was flat until you saw that it was round. Leaping from the cliff into the unknown, you saw through the clouds and fog. Now you see that the world is three-dimensional, still understandable and navigable, but needing more than one kind of tool and map to make it through.

Before I was a believer, I thought that the world was beautiful. I looked upon it as a person looks upon a great work of art in a museum. The rich and vibrant landscape lie painted before me within its frame and I loved it all. And then…

After I took the leap of faith, not all at once, but slowly, gradually, the looking changed. It was as if someone had opened a shuttered window in the room and light poured in upon the landscape. Then, the walls around it began to crumble away and the ceiling above, too. As I grew in faith, the world upon which I looked became brighter and bigger, more rich and vibrant, until I realized that the beautiful landscape upon which I had been gazing before was but only one section of reality. Through the eyes of faith, I saw clearly, the whole of the world, big and beautiful around me, until even the frame fell away. Surely this is what the composer meant when he sang, “I once was blind, but now I see.”

Reality is still real and my rational mind is still reasonable. But, now, I understand reality in the full light of day, so to speak. When people who are not believers speak about truth, they speak about scientifically provable facts. As a believer, I also speak about scientifically provable facts as truth. But, I do not limit reality to the frame of my human limitations, and, so, I do not limit truth to this frame, either. Limitations explode and no explanations as to how are necessary. And, likewise, no explanation to one who is still limited is possible.

So…

I think that’s what St. Thomas Aquinas meant.

And when we read passages in the Bible that talk about “in the world but not of the world” or “those who have ears should hear” or “He was in the world but the world did not know Him” we should also think about this meaning. As Christians, it’s not us versus them. Just as it isn’t reason versus faith or science versus religion. Like Saint Pope John Paul II said, “Faith and Reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises in contemplation of truth.”[1] As human beings, we need both reason and faith, we live most fully through both science and religion. To have one without the other is to come up short. I believe that it is wrong for a Christian to think that faith can be had without reason. Hey, after all, there is much reason to have faith. And it is also wrong to think that reason is enough without faith. We are full-blown creatures, multidimensional, and we all must strive to be fully human and fully alive if we want the fullness of truth and the fullness of life.

How would you describe the way a flower looks to someone who has never had the sense of sight? The difficulty should not only show you the limitations of someone who is blind – but also your own limitations, even as someone who can see. How necessary is an explanation of the color pink to someone who intimately knows and appreciates the fragrance of a rose? How possible is an explanation of the color pink to someone who is visually impaired, by someone who has never been? Please read no labeling of “blind” to nonbelievers or believers. It is simply that there are words and understandings for certain aspects of reality and other words (sometimes wordless) and understandings for other aspects of reality. But, all is real.

Forgive, oh Christians, those who do not believe in your Lord, my Lord, the Lord of all. And do not pull your hair out trying to explain Lordship to them – simply share the love, strength, generosity, and joy of Lordship with them.

© 2016 Christina Chase


[1] FIDES ET RATIO (Faith and Reason)

I Will Have Mercy

What do you deserve?

Matthew 9:13

But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

I read a lot of rants on Facebook and hear many more on television. Many people are angry. And it seems that spouting off insults on posts, interviews, or in debates, makes them feel better, somehow. They can complain about the smallest, most trivial things, or about much bigger and more serious problems – and, yet, the tone seems to remain the same. Some people are genuinely discontent, and rightfully so, and they raise their voices seeking for justice. But, too often, those quests for justice just sound like so many people being mad and fuming about it.

It looks like all the world, and yes, that includes me, indulges in angry pleasures.

Why? Why do we make demands with steel in our eyes and fire in our words? Why are we so bothered with other people’s small inconsiderations that we feel compelled to type it out in a message to all of our friends and acquaintances? Why are we drawn to people who use tough and mean language with their fingers pointing, people who tell us over and over again that we deserve more, that we deserve better? Why do we continually find fault in others when we are discontent, blaming other people, organizations, or groups when we aren’t getting what we want?

Do we even know what we want?

“I shouldn’t have to pay this much for cable television, it’s ridiculous – who’s profiting from that?!”

“Why do I have to stand in line forever to upgrade my cell phone – don’t these people know that I have a life?!”

“How come that person on government assistance has a new gaming system and I don’t? That’s not fair!”

“How come that rich person gets to vacation in exotic places and I don’t? That’s not fair!”

“How come people who enter this country illegally are getting free healthcare while I have to pay these huge co-pays for mine?! They’re ruining this country!”

“Why do people get upset when we call cops/CEOs/Democrats/Republicans pigs – don’t they know that none of them give a damn about real people?! They’re selfish monsters!”

“Why do people get offended when we call Muslim people terrorists – weren’t the people who attacked us and killed thousands of Americans Muslim, doing it in the name of their religion?! They all want to kill us!”

Okay, some of those lines that I’ve made into quotes are controversial, I know. But… Don’t we just seem to love controversy? Doesn’t it seem like people enjoy stirring the pot of discord and conflict? Protesters and politicians looking to get some air time and notoriety, being as loud and brash as they possibly can be in order to tear others down – as long as they can stand tall on the rubble with their microphones, megaphones, and fingers pointing down?

And, yes, that’s my rant for the day. I am guilty. And I’m not proud.

What are we supposed to do with all of this? Obviously, there is injustice in the world, in our own country, and, yes, in our own homes. But, the injustice has nothing to do with material things. If what we want is more and better material things, then we will always be discontent. We will always want more and never be satisfied. We will be breeding discord and anger, not only in our streets and world, but also in our own hearts. We will be trying to satisfy a real and deep hunger with fantasy food and poison.

Possessions can never make you happy. Nothing can make you happy. You either choose to be open to joy and to receive it into your heart – or you spend your life looking for where you are lacking in stuff, where you are being shortchanged.

Jesus knew the deepest and truest joy. He did not doubt Infinite Love. His hope was strong in the beatific vision. But, yes, it’s true – even he was angry. Even he mourned. Even he was tempted to run from suffering. Did he not whip the money changers out of the Temple? Did he not sorrow that he could not gather all of God’s people into his embrace? Did he not sharply chastise Peter for speaking aloud the thought that he, Jesus, should be above suffering? Being fully human, this is what we would expect. But, this is not how Jesus chose to live his life every day. These were moments of justified anger, very real sadness, and very real fear. As human beings, we also experience these moments in our own lives. But, to truly imitate Christ, we will not let the anger, sorrow, or fear overwhelm us, overriding our faith, hope, and love.

For Jesus is mercy. The heart of Christ, the heart of Christianity, is loving forgiveness. That’s what makes following Christ such a difficult and daily challenge for us. If we could simply recite our way into joy, into goodness and righteousness, then we would only have to tick off our prayers and memorize pages of Scripture. But, what does that have to do with mercy? If we cannot forgive our housemate for being sloppy, or our family member for being forgetful, or our friend for being irritable, then how can we call ourselves Christians?

If we cannot mercifully consider all of the complicated aspects of another person’s life, especially a person who has done us a gravely serious wrong, then why do we think that we deserve mercy?

Perhaps, the problem is that we don’t want mercy. Not really. We want justice. We demand justice. We believe that, if everything was taken into account, then the columns would add up in our favor and we would be proven to be superior and deserving of better things. We believe that the facts in evidence show that we are the righteous ones, we are the ones living lives deserving of every pleasure and privilege. We don’t believe that we need mercy at all. We think that we don’t need to be forgiven – so why on earth should we forgive anyone else?

I can’t argue out an explanation of why. This is not a matter for systematic debate, the scoring of points, or even the cold application of reason. This is a matter of honest, gutwrenching truth. I am a sinner. You are a sinner. We are sinners. I don’t deserve anything that I have. The possessions that I own and the good people in my life who treat me well do not exist because of justice. If everyone lived only according to merit, then I know that I would be alone. I would be naked and afraid. I would hunger and thirst and never be satisfied.

I don’t want to live in a just world. I want to live in a merciful world. Because that is the world in which I live – you are not you because you fashioned yourself and goodness doesn’t exist because you deserve it. You are here because God wants you to be here. And every single person on the planet is here because God wants each and every person to be here. Whether you like it or not.

The point of the world isn’t to “like” some things and angrily comment about others, trying to be as loud as you can be. The point of the world is to be. Because God wants it to be. Tragically, human beings have never been satisfied with that. Human beings have always wanted something other than what they have. We separate ourselves from what God wants – that’s what sin is – and we turn the world into a place where there is, not only injustice, but also a horrible resistance to mercy. Most people who don’t let Christ into their lives do so because of this resistance to mercy. We don’t want to admit, to acknowledge, that we are sinners in need of forgiveness – and that that need of forgiveness is a need to forgive others as well as ourselves. Mercy is the reason that we exist, and mercy is the only true way to real joy. Everything else is a lot of noise… “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”[1]

© 2015 Christina Chase

 


 

[1] William Shakespeare: Macbeth,  Act 5, Scene 5

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

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

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