Tag Archives: Jesus

All That the Father Giveth Me

Sometimes, people come into our lives who we really wish wouldn’t.

John 6:37-38

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

I, being a fairly normal person all things considered, have often enjoyed romantic novels and movies and have been caught up in the idea of “one true love”. Knights in shining armor… starcrossed lovers… passionate embraces… soulmates… happily ever after… these ideas are part of the mainstream culture in which I live – and, actually, have been part of the human imagination for as long as we have had sculpted and written records of human imagination. The romantic notion of “one true love” can really become part of, not only our collective consciousness, but also the practical living of life. Young people looking for someone to love believe that there is one person out there just for them and either fate or chance will bring them together. Or not.

And, if the rush of feelings associated with falling in love begins to fade away after a marriage is already taken place, and married life begins to feel ho-hum or, worse, irritating, perhaps it’s because, the fairytale believing couple will think, they made a mistake. They thought that they were soulmates, but, since they’re unhappy with each other now, they must not be soulmates, so… that “one true love” is still out there somewhere. And they go looking for a relationship like the ones they see in movies and books.

Not everyone approaches dating and marriage this way, of course. Many, many couples make a real commitment to each other, choosing to appreciate, respect, and uphold each other for the rest of their lives. They work on communication, forgiveness, forbearance, patience, gratitude, consideration, demonstrations of affection, common ground, and so on and find the benefit of a long life together. Still other couples believe neither in fairytale true love nor in loving commitment and go about meeting and connecting with people on a day by day or year-by-year basis, whatever works for them at the time. It seems to me that passion does have its season in love and that, while seasons come and go, true friendship and companionship is what brings lasting joy to life. When two people can cooperate together, overcoming difficulties, forgiving flaws and errors, to make a life together of their choosing, side-by-side – that’s a very beautiful thing. And I believe that God blesses all those people who stick to it and remember to give love and mercy.

But, that’s not what I want to say in this reflection based on the given piece of Scripture. I want to talk about those ways in which people think that they will come across their “one true love”, whether by chance or fate.

A young, single woman’s car will break down late at night and only one shop will be opened nearby as the young, single male owner had to do inventory on Thursday because his father was sick on Wednesday… And so it begins.

A man will be walking quickly along a busy street and suddenly feel his phone fall out of his pocket and onto the sidewalk and, as he stops and turns to pick it up, a woman, who is walking to work earlier than usual because a sudden change of appointment means that she will have to leave work later, gets bumped by a man going in the opposite direction and crashes into the man bending over to retrieve his phone…. And so it begins.

Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-new-york-people-nabeel people on the street

These are the kinds of ways that we imagine people meeting their soulmates, an odd combination of circumstances and events that lead them both to their shared destiny. And these tales are usually romantic in nature. And, if not romantic, then perhaps violent, one of those fatal, foreboding, starcrossed kind of meetings that end up with two young punks growing up to be gangsters that kill each other. You know what I mean.

But, we rarely think about the shared destiny of two people helping each other. Yes, we’ve heard the stories of people needing organ transplants suddenly meeting someone who happens to be a willing match. But, we don’t go looking for these things to happen to us unless we are the ones in need of help, unless we are the ones searching, begging, and praying for a miracle. But, what if…

What if that very rude store clerk that waited on you today and made you feel stupid was actually being sent to you on purpose? Not to make you feel stupid, but to test you. And not to test you to see whether or not you would pass or fail, but to test you in the sense of making you stronger, improving some weakness in your character, helping you to become a better, more patient and compassionate person. What if the difficulties that you are having in your marriage is part of greater plan to help you grow closer to your spouse by forcing you to let go of old baggage, resentment, jealousy, and allowing you to trust, relax, to be more open and free in your acceptance of the other? What if the illness you contracted or the injury your loved one received was destined to be part of your life so that you could more fully live your life, learning and experiencing things that you never would’ve learned or experienced otherwise? What if every deformed person that you have ever walked by, trying hard not to stare or grimace, was put in your path for a reason? What if every over-demanding boss, lazy employee, noisy neighbor, two-faced friend, annoying coworker, and obnoxious family member was sent to you by God?

Oh, we’ll get caught up in those romantic stories of two lovers, ripe with fateful meetings and twists, sacrificing all in order to be together forever. But, the new clergyman at church who seems aloof and comes annoyingly across as stubborn and willful? No, that’s a mistake, he shouldn’t be here. That homeless man that always sits on the sidewalk by the grocery store, dirty, out of it, begging for cash so that he can get drunk or high? No, that’s a breakdown in society, someone should do something about getting him away from such a public place – but, not you, right?

You cannot even think that you are being called to learn what you can from the new clergyman instead of looking for cutting ways to teach him a few lessons on what happens when he treats people that way. If you are called to do anything, it’s to criticize him behind his back and leave the church if he stays there any longer, right? And you cannot even think of yourself as the one being called to speak to that homeless man a word of sympathy, a word of helpfulness, or to give him a sandwich, a blanket, a cup of hot coffee, or kind directions to a place where he can get a hot shower and a change of clothes and maybe a bed for the night. No, not you. Do you even think about how that could be you on the sidewalk? Do you even take a moment to be grateful, a moment to be kind? Or do you just shake your head and walk away?

Maybe if you showed genuine kindness and interest in the new clergyman and his life, you could start to break down some of his walls and learn that he had a troubled childhood with a distant father or a shyness that he found very difficult to overcome, only finding solace in routines that are familiar to him. And, maybe, in the sharing of your own difficulties with him, you will start to see your own difficulties in a new light and, in seeking to comfort him, you end up being comforted by him and you both become friends, deciding that you should work together, overcoming your own challenges, to reach out to other congregants who might be facing the same issues?… And so it begins.

Maybe if you take some time for conversation with the homeless man, you will find out that he is a veteran and that he served with your dad and when you tell your dad about it, he comes with you to meet him and they recognize each other and, not only does the homeless man start to want to improve his life with the help of your dad, but your dad is able to face some of the demons from his time in military service and becomes a lighter and happier man himself?… And so it begins.

Okay, yes, these sound like movies, too. And I, like Hollywood, am making them seem easier than they would in real life. But, are these possibilities even part of our collective consciousness? Are they even part of our own ideas of the possible? Do we look for these moments in our lives?

I think this passage from John for my Bible Burst today is rather interesting. If we just look at the words themselves without taking into context anything else that Jesus has said (which, by the way, is something that you should never ever do if you want to know who Jesus is) we might find a message for ourselves. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” Jesus receives the people that God The Father has sent to him, not because he, Jesus, has chosen them himself, but because they have come to him by the Father’s will. And Jesus doesn’t cast them out of his life (even if he might like to).

If we truly understand that God is all-knowing and all powerful, then maybe we can start believing that God has sent everyone to us in our lives on purpose – not to punish us or reward us, but to help us become the people that He has created us to be. We don’t choose our families, and we may not like our coworkers, neighbors, or the people in our community, but they have been chosen for us by God. They are part of our destiny. Let’s not cast them out. Let us embrace them and see where God is leading us… For God desires our ultimate happiness and knows how to get us there.

© 2016 Christina Chase


photo credit: http://www.lifeofpix.com/

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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

Good Will Doing

Ephesians 6:7-8

With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

They say (whoever they are) that the good you do for another will be given back to you. Do this good thing now and you will be rewarded later in kind. And all of this rather fits in with the idea of Karma and what goes around comes around, whether good or bad. But… I don’t know that I see the proof of this in real life – do you? Too often, it seems that people get away with doing bad things – and even profit from those less than savory deeds. And too many kind, generous people, who do for others selflessly, get taken advantage of and walked all over. Where’s the cosmic justice?

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these Bible Bursts. Please forgive me if I’m a bit rusty. It has never been my habit to pick up the Bible and turn to a random page when something is troubling me or just as daily instruction. I only began doing so when I conceived this writing challenge, which was originally designed to get me back to the habit of writing. You see, I was mainly interested in my craft and not really my soul. However, over the years, I have not only returned to regular and productive writing, but I have also gained deeper appreciation for the words within the Bible – as well as the Bible itself. I have begun to see the Bible, truly, as Sacred Scripture, the inspired word of God. And that’s good thing.

I am a true believing and practicing Christian, a member of the Catholic Church, which I believe to be the Mystical Body of Christ. But, I still have my little hangups. There are still some parts of the religion (that is, what is practiced) and the Faith (meaning what is believed) with which I have real difficulty. And, every now and then, I’m still washed over by the ghosts of my non-Christian past, those doubts and disbeliefs that I had once embraced. What does any of this have to do with today’s randomly selected piece of Scripture? The verses speak of divine justice, of God rewarding those who do good. Soon after reading them, my thoughts turned to doubt, didn’t they? I asked: Where’s the cosmic justice?

And I know that one answer to that question is found in the belief of Heaven and Hell. Those who do good here on earth will be rewarded, after death, in the eternity of Heaven, while those who do evil here on earth will be rewarded, after death, in the eternity of Hell. Simple. And, yet… requiring SUCH a leap of faith. We have no indisputable proof that any of this is true. And we cannot even offer the promises written in the Bible as proof – because believing that the promises written in the Bible are true requires faith and, therefore, cannot be indisputably proven as fact. I might venture as far as to say that there is enough historical documentation outside of the Bible, reporting what eyewitnesses said and did, to declare that Jesus of Nazareth’s not being dead after his crucifixion is probable. But, his Ascension into Heaven? Continuing with our “probable” case, the fact that his followers and those who knew him may never have seen him again doesn’t prove that he “went to Heaven”. He could have disappeared into the mist and kept walking, going to live far away, in obscurity, while tales of his life and death got naturally exaggerated until they were eventually written down, thus exaggerated and embellished – in the Bible.

These are the doubts. These are the doubts that got the better of me in the past and still plague me now, from time to time. These are the doubts that many, many, many people have. We are not alone. There is, however, another thing that “they” say (whoever they are) and that is this: paralysis by analysis.

One can certainly overanalyze anything. And everything. Our God-given gift of reason can bring us to many wonderful and amazing lands of discovery in this beautiful existence that is reality. But, reason can only bring us so far. We can analyze the stories told in the Bible, as well as the historical evidence for figures in the Bible and their earliest followers, and we can even, reasonably, arrive at conclusions of possibility, or even probability. But, our God-given gift of reason is only designed to bring us so far – and no further. We are not meant to prove the Messianic power and Lordship of Jesus of Nazareth. We are not meant to prove that he is God Incarnate. God doesn’t want us to prove it.

God wants us to live it.

And in order to live the truth of Jesus, we need to love it – and in order to love it, we need to leap to it.

There is something about a human being taking a leap of faith that is more beautiful, powerful, awesome, and amazing than any other act from any other creature EVER. I even dare to say that a human being taking a leap of faith is something that even God Godself cannot do. God knows everything that exists. God knows each and every one of us intimately and infinitely. But, for us to come into a personal relationship with God, we must leap with faith.

Okay. I seem to be seriously digressing. I’m obviously more than a bit rusty! My basic point is that I don’t like to say out loud, or even to think, that acts of human kindness will be rewarded after death. Something inside of me fights against the idea that God is conditioning us to “good” behavior with the promise of yummy treats at the end of the day. Surely Heaven must be so much more – even so much other – than that. And I also resist the idea that God is conditioning our behavior here on earth with a stick and a carrot. Like, “Treat your cranky old neighbor kindly and generously and then you will see – a stranger will give you a check for 10,000 dollars!” Or, “Tisk, tisk, you better not knock your little brother to the ground or else you’ll find a hornet in your shirt and get stung!” Yeah, I don’t think so. I could be wrong – I could most definitely be wrong, God knows! – but I don’t think that God meets out cosmic justice with an elaborate system of punishments and rewards.

I do think, however, and I do believe, that goodness is its own reward. And I don’t mean that feeling of satisfaction for having done something “good”. I mean what these Scripture passages from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians are hinting at. Doing “good” and being “good” isn’t about what we do or say to our fellow human beings. When God calls for acts of charity, God is calling for acts of love, and, as Saint Paul tells us in another letter to another group of people, we can perform many marvelous acts – but if we have not love, real love, then we are nothing. Doing good and being good is about being in intimate union with Goodness Itself. “Goodness Itself” is God. And yes, that can mean following God’s commandments and thereby doing God’s will – but it means so much more. Because we could follow all of the commandments – but if we do not do so with real love, then we’re missing the mark. It’s all about loving.

As the verse for today says, it’s not about the good service that we do to our fellow Men, it’s about the good service that we do for God, for the sake of God – and we can do nothing for the sake of God unless we are doing it because we love God. Not because we want to please God so that we will be rewarded and not punished. No. Because we really love God, we joyfully do the things of God, paying no mind to the consequences. This joyfully doing is real joy, true joy. Just pleasing other human beings, or doing things for the sake of avoiding punishment or getting reward, isn’t going to cut it. The most beautiful thing that we can do as human beings is to take a leap of faith – and the most joyful thing that we can do as human beings is to love God, to whom we leap freely and unselfishly.

unpublished work © 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

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

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