Tag Archives: Faith

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)

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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

For the Faithful Fail

Q: What does it take for evil to prevail?

A: For the good to do nothing.

Q: What, then, happens to the good?…

Psalms 12:1-2

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

 

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

How much of what you deal with every day is truth and how much is error and deception? When we hear something over and over, from different sources in different places, we tend to take it as reality, without really thinking about it ourselves. Have the different sources just been repeating what they heard without thinking for themselves, likewise? Take, for example, religion.

Going to church

Perhaps, you have heard that church is for sinners – this from God-believing people who don’t feel the need to attend a church. My great-aunt Gini told me this several times. At first, I tried to rebuke her statement because she was trying to use it to prove that attendance of worship services should not be an integral, or required, part of faith. But, I soon saw my error. She was saying something very true: Church, or church attendance, or religion itself, is for sinners. And every human being is a sinner, because no human being lives up to the fullness of his or her potential every moment of every day.

Accepting the truth

To be a sinner is not to be damned to Hell for eternity. To be a sinner is to be a fallen human – and we are all fallen. To recognize and acknowledge oneself as a sinner is to understand the divide between human and divine, between temporal love and eternal love, between partial beauty and goodness and the fullness of beauty and goodness. This doesn’t mean that the divide is impossible to traverse – we, as humans, do not possess the inherent ability, but God grants us the ability through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is fully human and fully divine. Through his life, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension and through our acceptance and reception of the divine mercy and love that pours forth from this Paschal Mystery through Christ’s Mystical Body, we are saved, we are redeemed.

Listening and understanding

See? You might hear and repeat that “church is for sinners” and think that you don’t need to go to worship service – but you don’t understand what a sinner is or what church is. As goodhearted a person as you may be, you will be dealing in errors and lies. After realizing this, I responded to my aunt’s statement by saying, “Yep. That’s why I go to church. Because I’m a sinner.” I didn’t point fingers at her – I pointed them at me.

“God is for sissies”

Or, perhaps you have heard that religion itself – that the worship of God – is for the frightened and weak-minded, the elderly, the suffering, the disabled, and the poor. This false idea is much harder to rebut in the world, though it must be rebuked if we are to live in the truth. The belief in and worship of God, or religion as I will call it here, is not merely a comforting mythology to keep the less-endowed people from feeling the sorrow of their pathetic lives. How arrogant and deceitful a thought!

Prove it

Yet, how do we convince the self-deceived liars about the truth of religion?

Well, we certainly can’t do it by living in lies and errors ourselves. We can’t demonstrate to the world the profound and universal power of religion for good, for beauty, for justice and for love if we gossip after church about all the things that we think other people are doing wrong in their lives, gossiping in lowered voices lest those other people hear us.

We can’t prove to the world the transcendent and imminent presence of God who loves every human being infinitely and intimately if we pass by panhandlers on the street with shameful looks, wondering what drug addiction those beggars are trying to use our money to fill, or if we respond to other calls for charitable donations with a closed, cautious wallet, stating that we can’t afford to help – and then open our wallets at Starbucks or for a third, fifth, 27th (?) pair of shoes.

We can’t show the deep and abiding need for God and God’s mercy in every human being, even the richest and most successful, if we do not ourselves allow God’s mercy to flower in us so that we may forgive those who have hurt us, or even just irritated us, and be healed by that forgiving.

Good people

I just watched the movie Philomena. Although I would not use it specifically as Catholic apologetics, I would share with you the “little old Irish woman” as she is portrayed in the film as an example of a healthy Catholic response of truth in a world full of deception, anger, shamed secrets, and lies. She is a devoutly believing Catholic and, it would seem, a very simple human being. She is certainly not well-educated or well-versed, and she is not going to be able to rebut her atheist, fallen-away Catholic companion with well-reasoned arguments or clever repartée.

But, she is very straightforward and humble. She is not afraid to be a sinner – because she knows that everyone is – and, so, too, she is not afraid of sinners. She is horribly wronged, wounded, betrayed, and deceived by nuns who profess the faith that she loves. And she is angry. So angry that, even though she seeks the healing of the Sacraments of her Church, she passes by them, so overcome with emotions is she. In the end, however, she is able to do something that the witty, atheistic reporter accompanying her cannot: she can forgive.

Forgiving the nuns is hard for her, one of the hardest things that she’s ever done, but it is how she lives. Forgiveness is how she lives because she has been living deep and true belief in and worship of God all of her life. While some Catholics, like the reporter, have been swayed by their own disappointments, failures, cynicism, and the clever deceptions of the world to deny their faith and deny God, Philomena has remained true. And he, the reporter, is smart enough to see the amazing and powerful value of Philomena’s faith.

Blessed are the poor – not because they can be easily fooled into believing comforting and valuable fairytales, oh no. Blessed are the poor because they are not easily fooled into believing that God, who is the source of all existence and the truth of every loving life, is nothing but trivial nonsense.

© 2014 Christina Chase

In the Midst of Wolves

The world can be scary.

Matthew 10:16

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

 

Someone who is healthy, fit and strong can take care of herself. She is self-sufficient, working a job to earn money for food, clothing, shelter – and fun, too. She can get herself to and from work and wherever else she might like to go, she can feed herself, dress herself, and keep her body maintained, as well as her housing. She does not need to depend on anyone particular, as she is a fully functioning part of society.

But, someone who is not healthy, fit or strong cannot take care of herself. She is completely and directly dependent upon others for food, clothing, shelter – for survival. She has no money with which to buy the things that she needs and, even if she did, she cannot physically put the food in her mouth, put the clothes on her body, or even move from one point to another. If she were to be alone without another human being for more than two days, she would die. I know because this is a description of me.

And it’s scary.

The only reason that I am not scared every day is that the little world of my family is a loving and gentle place. My loved ones are not wolves. They do not prey upon me in my vulnerability, but, rather, pray for me. They are not heartless and careless, but, rather, thoughtful and attentive. They are not selfish and stingy, but, rather, kind and generous. My parents are living examples of sacrificial love – willing to give up their own time, energy, resources, and even physical comfort for my sake, so that I may survive and even thrive. I am grateful every moment of every day for them, without end.

But…. They are getting older.

After 30 years of taking care of my physical needs all by themselves, we began getting assistance from home health aides a few hours a day, 2 to 5 days a week. Right now, it’s four days a week for a total of 11 hours – assuming no one calls out. I won’t say that it’s easy having strangers come and give me personal care. It’s a lot like, “Hi, I’m Christina. Would you like to see my bum?” But, although the women who come start off as complete unknowns, after getting to know each other we usually like each other and get along very well. In fact, although I have had many aides for only one day, those that last longer have been good people, genuine caregivers, no wolves among them. Although, sometimes one might be a little rough or another a little sloppy, they generally give adequate care and sometimes even more than adequate.

The problem is that they are not my loved ones. I cannot completely depend upon them because they have their own lives. If my parents suddenly can’t take care of me because of their own health issues, none of them will jump into the 24/7 care. Right now, my mother is unable to take care of me because of her severely injured back. It’s all upon my dad… who woke up from back pain himself this morning. And with one of my home health aides unavailable for much of the summer, the other one has had to fill in – even though she herself has back problems and I know that I am breaking her, too.

And that’s when I think about the world in which I live, my own helplessness, and how scary it all is.

I don’t want to go into a nursing home. What fully cognitive person of 40 would? Yet I know that this is my ultimate fallback. And, truly, I am grateful to live in a society where someone like me will always be taken care of physically, one way or another. We are not such a cruel and heartless people that we will allow the most vulnerable citizens of our country to perish because of disability. Well, so far we aren’t. So far, so good. I know that I might very well end up in a nursing home one day, and I know that it will scare me. Yes, physically, I would be in fatal trouble if I were without another human being for more than a day (dehydration is very serious for such a small, fragile body as mine) but, mentally, I would not make it more than an hour without another human being within earshot. I have a terrible, paralyzing phobia of not being able to be heard. Even a few minutes without someone responding to me makes me realize how utterly and completely helpless I am and I just freak out. The wolfish fears of my mind have the power to devour me.

You know how believers always profess to love and trust in God? I do that. I profess to love God and to want to give my whole self to God, and to let Divine Will, not my will, be done. But do I really mean it? My test is this: if something horrible happened to my parents and sister and I had to live in a nursing home with nurses and aides who begrudgingly looked after my survival needs but who were not kind, who were mean – if this was my life, would I still love God? Would I still thank God every day that I am alive? Would I still be the accepting, joyful and loving person that I am? Sometimes, I let the full terror of this scenario fall upon me, the dark misery of it, and my deep, deep answer is: Yes. That’s what commitment is. That’s what faith is. I will love and serve God no matter what, no matter how painful, no matter how horrifyingly difficult it may be to live up to my beliefs. I will not betray my love!

But I pray that I will not be put to the test!

The truth is that everyone everywhere is vulnerable. We, as human beings, are all dependent in some way. First of all, of course, we are dependent upon God for existence itself. Then, we are dependent upon the created order, upon the earth and the resources of earth, for our survival. And let’s not forget our absolute dependency in the womb, as well as our dependency upon adults in our infancy and early childhood. Our dependency continues – even if we are physically healthy, fit and strong, for it is rare to find a hermit who does not receive something from someone or a self-sufficient survivalist who has not hoarded up a collection derived from others’ work. And we know that the world can be a rough place. Getting employment and housing can be difficult, living in a safe neighborhood is never a guarantee. There are thieves and liars and murderers everywhere that humans live. And even the kindest, gentlest people can be victims of horrendous crimes. We are often sheep among wolves.

So, what are we to do? We are to remain gentle. We are to be loving and kind, selfless and generous. But, we don’t want to be mindless. To be thoughtful is to think of others as they are – beloved children of God who do not always live up to the divine image in which they are created. Sometimes, people turn away from their humanity and become ravenous in their self-centeredness, using up others and tossing them away. We must be mindful of that. But we must not harden our hearts against them. We must never seek to give them a taste of their own medicine – for then we would become vicious ourselves. No, rather, we must be smart and use reason to work around people’s tendencies toward evil acts. If I end up in a nursing home, I will know to use my sweetness, my patience and understanding in a very obvious and outward way, so as to disarm people in their brisk harshness and unthinking. I will use my wits to discover their vulnerabilities – and I will have true sympathy. I will do my best to become a friend to them – and then they will be more willing to be a friend to me. And if this doesn’t work? I will never turn mean myself. I will try my best not to be vicious toward them. Rather, I will accept the fullness of my vulnerability. I will be as harmless as a dove. And perhaps, someday, in some way, this will be for someone a sign of the Holy Spirit.

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

 

 

Tell the Stars

Do I believe?

Genesis 15:3-6

  1. And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.

  2. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.

  3. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.

  4. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom… You who fear him, trust in the Lord… God’s ways are above man’s ways… The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?… Fear not, for I am with you always….

Great stuff. As one who holds the Bible as Sacred Scripture, what do I do with these words? Do I hold them as sacred, as the most powerful and significant meaning of and for my life? If so, then I surely would not be suffering from a paralyzing phobia. But, I do have a phobia – a very serious one.

My particular “persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it”[1] is a fear of not being heard. I realize that this may seem to have some cosmic, mystic overtones, but I don’t mean it that way. I am literally afraid that nobody will hear me when I call out for assistance. Being completely physically disabled by a motor neuron disease, and, therefore, utterly dependent on others for every physical need – I cannot even scratch my own cheek – I have been told that my fear is reasonable. But, it isn’t. The phobic panic begins when my mother is simply vacuuming in the next room. Every time I hear an outside door open, my insides jump and I call out to make sure that someone is staying in the house with me. My parents know my phobia very well and they would never intentionally leave me alone to suffer. But, mistakes can happen, I know and I tell them – but I very much would like to trust them more. And, even if they are human and fallible – at least, I should trust God that nothing bad would happen to me even if no other human could hear me for 10 minutes or even an hour. God’s grace can surely even calm a panic attack. Right?

Is this a matter of a lack of faith? A priest, whom I greatly respect and admire, has told me that it is not. This is, obviously, a psychological problem. Maybe I need to go see a therapist. But, it does raise serious questions about human fears and how the faithful trust in the Lord.

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me…”[2].

Abram believed God when he was told that God would change his lot. Abram believed in the power of God to work miracles and to make the impossible possible. And Abram put all of his trust, all of this faith – all of his heart – in the LORD. “I believe” or “credo” means to give one’s heart. Abram followed God with utter trust, even though it meant leaving everything that he knew behind him. His leap of faith was a life-changing experience – it was even a name changing experience. This man did not merely believe, in an intellectual kind of way, that the words spoken to him by God were true. He believed in God. He was willing to give over everything to the One in whom he believed, the one to whom he had given his heart. Even when he didn’t understand. Even when he sorrowed over it. And God counted it as righteousness in him – Abraham was exactly who he was supposed to be.

But, we humans crave certainty. We want to know for sure. We want proof. But… Where there is proof, where is trust? Because there is no dead certainty in the life of faith (no, there is nothing dead in God) people are often uncomfortable in it. They turn to concrete matters and science for answers and guidance. If something cannot be methodically tested and, therefore, scientifically verified, then it is dismissed. But, by doing this, we miss out on the fullness of life. For there is something beyond certainty that is precious and powerful. There is something more beautiful and profound in the leap of faith than there ever can be in sure knowledge.

Am I sure?…

I am a messy, mixed up human being. And I am in love… and I am believing…

 

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

[1] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/phobia

[2] Jeremiah 29:11-14

With Open Face Beholding

Lord, change me, make me new. Make me like you! – the plea of the sunflower.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD.

Sunflower

There is a flower in my garden which is named for the sun. In appearance, much like the sun is she, golden arrayed, burning bright from the center with flaming colors outward spread. But there is more – much more meaning to her identity, because with the sun her whole existence is so lovingly aligned.

She does not mean to mimic or fool by merely sporting appearance – for what bird would dare to perch upon an orb of fire, and, so, what would she have to gain if she would scare away her own propagators, the midwives of her progeny with which she will be so heavy pregnant? She is humble and knows that she is merely a creature bound to the life-giving sun, and by no means desires to be a substitute. Yes, she stands tall and bold, but her height and breadth is but a measure of the depth of her humility, for her only wish, as far as a flower can wish, is to look up to that which she adores. It is the looking up that has raised her. It is the love of heavenly light that has opened wide her green-leafed arms. It is her submission to her Master that has given her flowery majesty.

For, all day long, while the sun shows forth his open face, shining full with glory, her rapturous gaze is all caught up in him. Every minute of every hour that passes, she faithfully follows his path with steadfast love. No matter what may come between them, whether mist or cloud or dark of night, it is him she always seeks, it is him that her hope will always find. Some dark days will fall, when a downpour may weigh her head too heavy to lift, but when the rays of the sun are visible again, the drops will slip from down her sunny cheeks and she will pay them no mind, not even to shake them away. She looks upon the sun again, never having lost him, for she has kept the thought and memory of him, the warmth of the gift that he has given, deep in her heart.

Yes, even when the sun slips over the edge of sight and pulls the veil of night down behind him, she is patient and trusting, and does not collapse in the darkness. Her head she bends down low – but not in despair, for one who loves as she loves can never hold despair – but in ever recognition of where her beloved lives. Though invisible to her petal eyes, her heart is not deceived and senses, with true love’s faith, his presence beneath the surface of the world. And so her vigilant gaze, ever fixed upon its deathless source, follows him as he shines on realms unknown and unseen, far from his touch get ever near to his soul. And when the night is opened slow, with tender, aching rush, the sun’s rays find her ready face, expectant in faith, and she receives anew the outpouring love of him whom she adores.

From this cause, then, is this flower called for the sun. He is her love, her reason, and her destiny. Her blossomy pledge of devotion is her very blossoming – and she is transformed by and into the one whom she loves.

© Christina Chase

Witness

Exodus 20:16

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

My neighbor needs me.  Nope, I don’t live in a commune or some other kind of cooperative.  I live in a house on over an acre of land, which abuts four other properties, with a house across the road.  Though this sounds congested, the trees bordering the property make my home private, and the road is quiet and peaceful.  I can go days without even glimpsing sight of any of my neighbors.  The town picks up our garbage and plows our road and there isn’t even a sidewalk or common mailbox space to keep clean together, or shared fences to maintain.  And, yet, I profess that my neighbors need me.  Why?

My neighbors need me to be honest.  They need me to not accuse them of things that they haven’t done, like stealing my Wi-Fi or trashing my yard.  They need me to not call the police to their doors for some contrived reason or blame the litter in the road on them, even though I know they didn’t do it.  They need to be able to trust me because we live on the same spot of earth, sharing lawn and trees and air and road.  Keeping this in mind, I see that everyone is my neighbor, for we all live on the same earth, sharing flora and fauna, sun and air and water.  My fellow human beings need to be able to trust me, for our common Creator has entrusted me with my own unique space in one particular slot of time.  What I do with that space in that time has consequences on everyone around me, near and far, as a pebble dropped into the center of a pool causes ripples that stretch out to the shore.  Those nearest me feel the effects soonest and most strongly, but even the ever decreasing waves can be felt in further places and more distant times.

This is not merely a call to better ecological awareness and to actively reducing my carbon footprint on the planet.  No, this is about the fullness of the truth.  (For I don’t want anything less than fullness of life.)  And the full truth is that I affect people by simply passing by them in the mall or on a sidewalk in the city.  My presence beside someone in a restaurant or a church pew can have an influence on that person’s day – and, yes, even on that person’s life.  A miserable demeanor or attitude can be contagious and set people out with a bad feeling, though they might not even know why, and cause them to fall into meanness themselves.  Thankfully, a joyful demeanor or attitude can likewise be contagious and set sensitive people out with a positive outlook, spreading good feelings and actions.  This isn’t overstating anything.  We humans are sensitive creatures and we pick up signs and stimulations from the others around us as naturally as we absorb nutrients and toxins from food.

My neighbor needs me to testify to the truth.

Perhaps, I feel this reality more acutely because I am so very noticeable among others in a crowd.  I am never the person who blends into the background causing no reaction whatsoever.  Not only am I in a wheelchair, which is different than most people, but I am also crumpled in that chair by severe scoliosis that causes my head to rest sideways on my left shoulder/hunchback.  Not a pretty picture, I know.  I may be the most deformed person that some people will ever see in person.  And if I were a negative type of person, wholly self-centered, living a “woe is me” existence, then the people whose eyes inevitably fall upon me would have a sense of miserable sadness and that melancholy would stick with them for the next few minutes, or even hours or days, of their lives, affecting their thoughts, words, and even actions.  Happily, I am naturally a positive type of person (though sometimes self-centered) and I live a grateful and joyful life, loved and loving.  I know for a fact that strangers who just look at me can feel uplifted somehow, having more optimism and appreciation for the goodness and beauty of life than they had a moment before.  To share one story:

One day, after Mass, a man, who was just visiting our parish and saw me for the first time as I sat across from him, came over and told me that my smile was exactly what he needed that day.  He said that he was going through a rough time and feeling low, but seeing me all crumpled and crippled, obviously intelligent enough to know how bad a shape I was in – and, yet, genuinely smiling, genuinely taking in everything around me with appreciation and gladness – this, he told me, was like a wake-up call for him.  My presence snapped him out of a funk and reminded him that life is inherently good and beautiful and that he had many blessings for which to be grateful.

It seems to me that the effect we have on others is stronger if we are people of faith because our presence is deeply rooted in Presence, and our joy is more than just a passing smile.  Perhaps, also, the effect is felt most strongly on people who are struggling with faith.  To whom much is given, much is expected.  As a believer, I believe fully and deeply in the goodness of God and God’s Creation – I have utter faith in the goodness of being itself.  Through Christ, I have an eternal perspective and know that all works out for the good through God – my hope is in divine and endless mercy and, so, is never squashed.  And, knowing that I am infinitely and particularly loved, I am free to give love, and loving kindness, to everyone around me.  I know the truth and the truth has set me free.  If what I were to portray and give out to the people around me was doom, gloom and meanness, then I would, in effect, be bearing false witness to life itself.  Sure, I may honestly be feeling like crap one day – but, knowing that it is just one day and having deep faith, hope, and love in and for life and the joy of goodness, for me to lead other people into misery and melancholy would be a deceitful act on my part.  My neighbor needs me to testify to the beauty and goodness and joy of life itself – crippled and crumpled as its forms may be – and to the power of love.  For that is the fullness of truth.

Christina Chase