Jesus

Self-destruction on the other hand…

‘Self-improvement is masturbation. Self-destruction on the other hand…’

I’ve written before about my love for this Fight Club quote. Now, it’s coming to my mind again as we begin lent.

There’s a common tendency to view lent as another chance at New Year’s resolutions, and with it self-improvement. An opportunity to diet and/or save. To become a better version of yourself.

But originally and traditionally and essentially, it is about self-destruction over improvement. That is, it is about uniting ourselves to Jesus upon the cross. It is about putting yourself to death.

Why do we do this? Why have many saints down the ages gone to extreme lengths for lent? Because our selves are prisons to break out of, into the freedom of divine love. Because true life is not a matter of preservation, but of giving ourselves away, even to death. Because God Himself lives in this way, dying and giving Himself away.

If we are nourished and taught and loved by such a God, we will come to imitate Him. God expresses Himself to us in love, and therefore His image is impressed into us. We love, because He first loved us.

So I just want to encourage you to destroy yourself this lent, because God loves you.

It is true that we can only destroy ourselves and take up this freedom because we have received His love. It is not possible in ourselves, but only in Jesus Christ, by the power of His death. And yet also, the more we willingly submit to the consuming fire of the divine love, the more freely His love will enter us and transform us into Itself.

God bless you!

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Have we become worldly?

Can I honestly say, that when I look at myself or at my Church, locally or universally, that I recognise followers of Jesus, the Body of Christ, or the Kingdom of Heaven?

‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!’ [Lk12:49]

Where is this fire?!

I don’t see it in my life. And I rarely hear it in homilies. And I hardly see it in the Church. I start to wonder if we’ve forgotten Jesus.

There are saints amongst us, though. There are holy bishops and priests and religious and lay people, living the gospel. There are orders, and movements and organisations and just people. There are many people out there who sacrifice themselves with Jesus, living the reckless, radical love of the Father.

I just wish it were the rule. I wish that I heard this fire in every homily, and saw it in every Church activity. I wish that we were obviously so much more than a club, or an NGO. I wish that this fire was burning in all my flesh, down to the marrow.
But I’ve read, that all that’s needed to become a saint, is to will it. God wills it already; we just need to cooperate, accept His grace, obey His gospel.

And the truth is, there’s no real life apart from Jesus’ life. It’s a choice between life and — far worse than death– not-life. I could perhaps call it half-life, but I think not-life better captures the emptiness I’m thinking of. Or being, “lukewarm”. 


I hope I’m not alone in feeling this way. Please pray with me, that we will together be set on Jesus-fire.

‘Dip it into the sauce of the blood of Christ’

‘If ever anything sad befalls you, or anything grieves you, or if perchance something causes you weariness or bitterness of heart, or sweetness of soul turns insipid, lift up immediately your eyes to your Lord hanging nailed to the Cross. Look upon Him, His head crowned with thorns! Gaze upon the nails, the iron nails which fasten Him to the Cross, and upon the lance piercing His sacred side. In all trying moments, picture and contemplate the wounds in His hands and feet, picture to yourself the wounds in His most blessed head, the wound in His sacred side, the wounds of His whole body. Call to mind that He was wounded for your sake, that he suffered for you and that His sufferings were so great because He loved you beyond compare.

‘Believe me, a glance at such pictures and thought on such sufferings will quickly change your sadness into joy. What was heavy to bear will become light. What causes your weariness will become something to love. The rugged and the difficult will be changed into sweetness and relish, so that soon, with Holy Job, you will begin to exclaim: “The things which before my soul would not touch,” now when I look upon the “anguish” of Christ “are my meats” (Job vi, 7.) It is as though you were to say: The good things which were distasteful to my soul are now become through the passion of Christ, which I realise, sweet and savory.

‘In the Chronicles of the Franciscan Order there is related the following story (Cf. Chronicles xxiv, 3): A certain man being converted and having entered the Order eventually became impatient with the frugality of the Friars. The discipline of the Friary, too, upset him. Once, being very perturbed and lost to all patience on account of these things, he threw himself down before a crucifix. With bitter tears he enumerated the intolerable hardships he was called upon to endure: the burdens of the religious life, the scant and frugal fare, the tastelessness of the food and drink. While he poured forth his grievances, suddenly blood began to ooze from the side of the image of Christ nailed to the cross. As he continued his weeping and wailing, the bleeding image of the crucified Christ spoke to him these words: “When you find your food or drink distasteful, dip it into the sauce of the blood of Christ.”’
-St. Bonaventure, Holiness of Life, Chapter VI: Remembrance of Christ’s Passion

How does Baby Jesus love us?

At mass on Christmas day, I wondered, how does the newborn Jesus love us? What does it mean that He loves us?

Babies are sort of pathetic (in the nicest way). They pretty much do nothing, apart from eating, sleeping and crying. They are dependent on others for literally everything.

This is how the newborn Jesus loves us. Not by being powerful and doing us favours, but by being powerless, giving Himself into our hands and accepting our care.

Jesus gives Himself away, and opens Himself to receive us. Whoever welcomes Him with their care, is more truly being welcomed into Him.

Merry Christmas and God bless, to you and your kin!

Sacraments

The sacraments contain the reality that they signify.

They are like onomatopoeic words. Buzzzz. Fizzzz. Sizzle.

Click. Crackle. Snap.

Whallop! Crash! Kaplow!

They don’t just talk about something, they recreate the moment, re-present the truth contained. They draw us into the story, place it in our ears, before our eyes, and on our tongues. A sudden BANG! can make the listeners leap, just as if they were there.

But the sacraments are so much more than onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia makes a reality only almost present, but sacrament makes a greater reality truly present. The sacraments are God’s words, and as St Teresa of Avila said, “His words are deeds.”

The sacraments make God intimate with us. We don’t just speak about the gospel, or the kingdom, or Jesus, we touch them, consume them, are immersed in them. It’s not history, it’s our story. We are invited to live Jesus life and death and Resurrection and Ascension into heaven.

And this touch of God, speaking His word over us, feeding us, makes us different. We are initiated into God’s love/life, and can now live by His logic and in His power. And if we don’t, we are truly rejecting His life in us.

God bless you! Have a blessed advent!

Thomas Merton, St Joseph, and Tyler Durden

I was thinking today about what sort of man I want to be known as. My answer was “strong”. But then I realised, that this is my false self (in the words of Thomas Merton) speaking. How do I know? Because it looks at how I’m seen, not how I am.

I was reminded of St Joseph’s great silence in the Bible. Joseph was a good and righteous man, and didn’t care what others thought. He fathered God, but never made a big deal of it. He simply got on and did his duty, or equivalently, did God’s will for him.

St Joseph is the dreamer, but doesn’t fulfil his dreams by words, but by humble, consistent, grueling work. He never sought glory, but was content to contribute to the glory of God, whether he was seen or unseen. I pray God let me imitate my namesake in this [Ignatius is my confirmation name, and Joseph my baptismal].

I also remembered a very different character, with different wisdom: Fight Club’s Tyler Durden said, “Self-improvement is masturbation. Self-destruction on the other hand…”

I absolutely love this quote.

Self-improvement is masturbation because it’s self-pleasing and doesn’t bear any fruit. It’s infantile and revolting. It’s a waste of life to please yourself by becoming “better”. Stop pleasuring yourself in public!

Self-destruction on the other hand… liberates us. Fight Club is about men abandoning what Jesus calls, “the world”. Tyler Durden is captivating because he’s almost St Francis, who was almost Jesus. He recognises and abandons the emptiness of the world, of the self. But in chasing his self out, he is still stuck chasing his self.

Why? Because he believes God doesn’t care about him; his self is all he has. There is nothing beyond his self to be reached.

But St Francis, (and even more truly, Jesus) can totally destroy his self and be free, because the destruction of his self, through all his mad penances and lifestyle, is in the love of God. The falsehood of the self that Tyler Durden could see so clearly, can only be destroyed by the Truth that is God.

God bless you!

We’re forgiven before we ask

‘Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.’ [Luke 15:11-24]

prodigalson

Did you notice, that the father actually ignores his son completely? He doesn’t hear a word he’s saying. He doesn’t even let him finish, but starts talking to his slaves.

 

The father forgives his son, when the son hasn’t even dared to ask forgiveness. And it couldn’t be any other way. We couldn’t ask forgiveness, if we were not already forgiven. We have no right to ask forgiveness, nothing to appeal to. Except that the Father loves us, and rushes out to embrace and forgive us. His grace always comes first.

 

An excellent prayer of repentance: Say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” And then feel the Father put his arms around you and kiss you, tears of joy running down His face.

 

God bless you

What good is God’s love?

God doesn’t stop us suffering, and doesn’t make us happy, so what good even is He? In what way does He love us at all?

The question is expressed perfectly by Jesus’ crucifixion. God allows His Son to be tortured and brutally executed. So really, what good is it to be God’s children, if God will abandon us, at the moment we need Him most?

The answer is Jesus’ resurrection. He was never abandoned, and never alone. God didn’t numb the pain, or provide pleasant distractions. But in His love, the Father shared in that pain, and brought it, and brought Jesus, to glorious fulfillment. His suffering was not removed, but it was made fruitful and glorious and even joyful.

Jesus could give His suffering, humiliation and death, in love, because He knew that His Father loved Him no matter what, from all eternity. He could accept the loss of everything as from the Father’s love, and offer it to the Father, in the love of the Father that lives in Him (in fact, that He is). And in this way, His suffering, humiliation and death are made divine.

Love wills the good of the beloved, but not merely their happiness. It wills their fullness of being and life. This requires our self-expression, and ultimately, our self-emptying in divine love. We need to be torn apart like bread, and poured out like wine, in order to be fully alive. The best moments of life are usually born in great pain and humiliation, embraced in love.

‘Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ (John 12:24)

So when we suffer, we can trust that God is with us, and will bring our suffering to fruition and glory, if we’ll surrender and offer ourselves to Him, in His love.

Abba, Father, I surrender myself to Your love. Amen

God bless you