life

Time

Yesterday morning the clocks went forwards an hour. Which sounds very dull, admittedly. But when you break down what is really happening, there’s something much more interesting going on.

Imagine if you didn’t understand our modern concept of time. If you understood time in terms of the natural rhythms of life, sunrise and sunset, full moon and new moon, birth and death. What would British summertime even mean? (and while we’re at it, what would British mean?)

It would mean that we all simultaneously agree to wake up one hour earlier/closer to sunrise, and move our schedules forwards an hour too. Incredibly, we all make this change at once, waking an hour earlier every day, so that we can enjoy one hour more of sunlight. Millions of people, most confessing that they are “not morning people”, all doing what they need to do to wake an hour earlier every single day.

It is astonishing that we think of it as losing an hour’s sleep and not as simply waking earlier every day. It says something about our separation from nature. For us, time has become something artificial, something primarily about other people’s rhythms, not the natural world’s. It has become something we create and define, a rhythm we dictate rather than dance to. In this note, thank God for the Church’s liturgical calendar, with its lumpy organic character, giving a bit of rhythm to the life of the soul. Thank God we don’t have a sterile religion, without feasts and seasons and God given rhythm.

We should also recognise the power of reframing our ideas. If we were all told to move our lives to be an hour earlier, we’d say no. If we asked those who wake up at 7 to suddenly start waking up at 6 each morning, they’d say it’s asking too much. But if we reframe it as just changing the clocks and missing one hour of sleep, we can all do that and we hardly even mention it (except for me, it seems). We have made a significant change consistently across a large population, just by a small change to our thinking, a slight shift to our frame of reference.

God bless you!

Am I wasting my life?

(tl;dr: Yes, definitely)

The other day I had to delete a couple of games from my phone because I realised they were a) addictive b) taking too much of my time and c) not even very fun. So yes, I definitely tend towards wasting my time and therefore my life.

Then there’s the time I spend watching TV. Multiple hours each day in front of the box. That can’t be good. And then there’s all of the things I do and then regret.

I like to imagine that when we die, God shows us all of the stats for our earthly lives, like you can see on a video game. Things like jokes told, total time spent on mobile (excluding phone calls), friends made, friends lost, total time spent in prayer, total money donated to charity, biggest expense, total time helping others, total time laughing, total steps taken, total carbon footprint, time dominated by gluttony/lust/envy/greed/wrath/pride/sloth, total apples eaten, etc. etc., and with breakdowns for all the data over time. But I don’t think my stats would look very good.

I also like to imagine we get to see a highlights reel showing all of our best and worst moments. I’m not sure I’ll like watching my highlights reel either actually… Too much bad and not enough good.

I’m glad to say that we’re not judged on the basis of these stats or highlights, and don’t have to reach certain thresholds to enter heaven (although they maybe give a rough idea of purgatory time). But I don’t want to die and realise I wasted my life. Or even just a portion of my life.

Why did God make you? A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next. [From the Baltimore Catechism]

So what am I going to do about it?

  1. Delete any apps that waste my time
  2. Use the daily examen prayer to make sure I use my time/energy/life right each day
  3. Commit more time to prayer
  4. Watch less TV

God bless

Jesus is the answer.

The difficulty of being a Christian is learning to really believe the above sentence. Jesus is the answer. It is not morality and it is not clever words and it is not any programme of action. It is not hidden from the masses and it is not available for a price. It is not something we earn or accomplish or even discover. It is not hard work and it is not natural gift and it is not good luck.

Jesus is the answer.

How am I meant to live? How can I make any sense of the chaos of my life? How am I to face my problems? Jesus.

By Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, I am to live in this world. Accepting Him as my life, and following Him as best I can, and above all else, trusting Him, I am to face the world, with all of its confusion, indifference, and death.

And what’s more, we must reject every other attempt at an answer. No “Jesus + X”, whether it be a politics or a theology or a good work or anything else. Nothing else will do. Nothing else will ever save you.

As insane as this may sound, this, and nothing else, is Christianity. Hold on to this one truth no matter what.

Jesus is the answer.

My life is not important

“What if my life isn’t important?”

This question came to me a few weeks ago, and I realised, of course it’s not important! Why would I assume that it was? How did I acquire such absurd and unjustified pride?

We can’t all be a “big deal”. Not even most of us can – there’s not enough space for so many big deals. So, what if in the course of my life, I don’t ever become a big deal? Who cares?

Why in the world would I care about being important? It doesn’t appear that many others do. At least no one else seems to have assumed they would be. It seems I’ve been thinking of myself in terms of how history will view me. But that’s not who I really am at all.

If my life is unimportant, does this mean my life is meaningless? No. But the meaning of life is no more than to live and to live fully. My purpose is not something outside of me.

We don’t have a mission from God – we are a mission from God. My mission is not to do something, but to be who I am and who I’m made to be. Our mission, our meaning, is to let God love us into being what we already are: His children. He asks nothing at all from us except ourselves. As Mother Teresa said “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.” St Therese understood this too, knowing herself as a worthless but beloved toy in the hands of the child Jesus, while also knowing that she would become a great Saint.

If God wills that we should become a “big deal”, even then it doesn’t really matter. No matter how “important” we may become, this will never be our purpose. To speak tongues and move mountains and work miracles without love is worthless. All of our importance is just grass in the fields, here today and gone tomorrow. Even work done for God, the only work that lasts, is entirely and solely His; our part is merely that of a child, in their father’s workshop, carefully guided and protected and supported at each step. We were allowed to cooperate by His grace, and should rejoice in that, but we are still just children at play.

‘The rose is without “why”; it blooms simply because it blooms. It pays no attention to itself, nor does it ask whether anyone sees it.’ – Angelius Silesius

God bless you!

The Solution

I saw a book on tidying recently, and it set me thinking about how we keep seeking solutions to fix our lives, and answers to the mysteries of our lives. There are a lot of books like this today, and I suspect the genre must be growing. And of course, most of them will be very helpful. But they’re never enough. The problems and riddles remain, and we buy another book soon after.

I couldn’t help feeling the solution to it all should be incredibly simple. And it is.

It’s Jesus.

It’s the cross.

It’s love1.

Of course, problems remain. The cross won’t teach you how to tidy your house. But it does make the problems and riddles no longer of ultimate importance, and provide the way through them all. And it will lead you to find the solutions too.

So, there you have it. The secret to life. It is completely free, but will cost you everything. And it will also give back even more.

God bless you!


1But we only know what love is because of Jesus and the cross (1Jn3:16)

Victorious

The Resurrection should be understood as a challenge to the world. Death has been overcome, and now, the children of God have nothing left to fear. 

There’s a lot to leave us feeling hopeless in the world today. There’s war, poverty, loneliness, abortion, hatred, murder, human trafficking, racism, addiction, euthanasia, exploitation,  ignorance, terrorism, sexual abuse, genocides, corruption, divorce, torture, and the list just goes on and on. We live, undeniably, in a culture of death and indifference. 

And of course, a culture of death requires and creates for itself a culture of indifference. When we’re surrounded by so much death, the easiest way to deal with it is simply to die inside, closing our eyes and hearts. We package away the suffering in little boxes, which we’ll return to occasionally, to cry a little, give some money, and so relieve what’s left of our consciences a little bit. If we let our hearts open to all the misery and death around us, we’d be unable to let it go on. We would be compelled to stand against the forces of death that surround us.

But what use is it? Who can fight against the empire of death and win? Especially when death reigns even in our own hearts?

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! ALLELUIA! 

You cannot kill a Christian! We cannot die! God is on our side! God has justified the crucified! Nothing can ever overcome the children of God. Nothing can stop the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, we must live in a new manner. The dying things of the world no longer matter. Nothing matters, except the true life we have been given, the life of absolute love, the life of the children of God, the life of heaven. 

Jesus is vindicated, and His way is proven right. And so we can accept Him, His love, His truth, in all His weakness. His death is only half the story. 

And so we can and must walk in His ways, taking up our crosses, the pains and injustices around us, and entering them, transforming them, with a fearless love. Nothing, not even death, can stop the children of God, and that is what we are. 

This is the freedom we must live out in the face of all the death surrounding us on every side. We must live in the victory already won. 
God bless you! Christ is risen! 

3 years on

3 years ago today, I was baptised, confirmed, and received first communion in the Catholic Church. In the time since then, I guess I’ve become something quite strange.

Back then, I was certainly keen to be Catholic. I devoured everything I could find about the Church: theology, apologetics, writings of Saints etc.. Perhaps I was falling in love with the Church, and wanted to know every little thing about her.

Now, I love the Church in a much deeper way. I no longer desire to know about the Church, but to be ever more fully immersed in her.

And why love the Church? Because in the Church I have found Jesus. In the Church I receive Jesus. In the Church, I am united to Jesus.

Three years ago, I loved God. But in the three years since then, I have come to love God intimately. He is close to me, always. He is not only my friend, but also my food, and I find Him in my flesh and in my heart. 

In fact, I find Him in my wounds, even in my sins. He shares all my wounds on the cross. He touches them, and identifies with them, in His love. He gives them His life whenever I surrender them to Him. He lives in my wounds.

Back then, I was an enthusiastic convert. I was much more careful with expressing my faith, but it was my joy, and the foundation of my life. But now, I feel I’m a crazy Catholic. It’s no longer just the foundation, it is my life. I told a friend I was just getting back from a Church thing, and she laughed and said I am a Church thing. 

Still, I may be getting crazy, but I’m not a Saint by a long shot (just ask my friends). But God is merciful love, and He ‘welcomes sinners, and eats with them’ [Lk15:2]. My love of God is deepening, but only by His goodness. 

I should mention the 3 places that have really formed me in these 3 years. The first is the Catholic society at my university. These are the people who formed me. We have shared our lives, in the life of God. At times, they have been Christ for me. They are my family. 

The second is a Youth 2000 retreat in Walsingham last summer, and the third is the World Youth Day in Krakow last summer. At these events, I found God’s love and mercy for me, in such a powerful way that I don’t think I’ve been the same since.

Honestly, I feel like I’ve grown so much in these years, that I’ve become a whole new person multiple times, but only by becoming more myself. Like I’ve doubled in size every year.

So I say THANK YOU to God and to everyone who has been a channel for God in my life, and I look forward to the future, seeing what God has in store for me. Please pray for me.

God bless you! 

The Sabbath

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you… Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
(Deuteronomy 5:12, 15)

One thing we need to get straight: God’s rest is not about “recharging”, “recalibrating” or “resetting” yourself like some machine. In fact, that’s the opposite of true rest. God commands us to rest for today’s sake, and today’s alone.

What does it mean for us to rest? It means to finally take the time to just be you, putting aside everything that is forced upon you by the necessities of life, and actually enjoying life for exactly what it is at this moment. When we rest, we’re not existing for some external or future purpose. We are for our own sakes.

6974513-park-grass-nature-hammock-dog-rest

Liberation

When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, they were given no rest. Even their eating, drinking and sleeping, were to make them work better for Pharaoh. Everything they did, everything they were, was a mere tool for some supposed greater good.

But when the Lord liberated Israel, He commanded them to be free. No matter what may happen, whatever worries or troubles came their way, they could never lose sight of the freedom the Lord gave them, to simply be. This rest, this freedom, is the point and purpose of the Exodus, of all of salvation history, of all life, and in fact, of all things.

True rest is so absolutely crucial, that viewed from any other perspective, it is completely pointless. That is, rest is so divine, that like God Himself, it has no cause but itself.

Creation

In God’s creating of the Heavens and the Earth, God repeatedly takes time at the end of the day to “see that it was good”. Then on the Sabbath, God rests. On the Sabbath, when all is said and done, God simply enjoys His creation.

He did not work hard for six days in order to improve His work on the seventh, and then the eighth and so on. When His “work week” was over, He didn’t want to take the fruits of His labour and reinvest it immediately for an even better creation come day eight. He made the whole of creation for its own sake:all of creation, is created to rest, with Him and in Him. 

At the burning bush, God reveals Himself to Moses as YHWH, “I AM THAT I AM”/”I SHALL BE WHAT I SHALL BE”. God thus reveals Himself to us as the One that is entirely unconditional, undefinable, and uncontrollable; the One Who simply IS; the One Who gives being to all that is. So it should not surprise us, that the One who tradition calls “Being Itself” desires above all, that all things should simply be what they are. He is not something separate, but your very being, and for you to be, is for you to do His will, to make Him present. 

If you’re wondering how anything could conceivably be anything but what it is, the answer is what we call “sin”. Sin is the denial of being/truth/life/God Himself. That is, the truth of what something is, is denied, and something else is imposed upon it from outside. Sin is to make the world, and so ourselves, empty, unreal, lifeless and Godless. Everything is reduced to the will and its power to dominate the lifeless universe it inhabits. Life is a great war fought without reason. Essentially, sin is oppression. 

So we see, that true rest is the opposite not of work, but of sin. Rest restores us to us, and in doing so, restores us to God, who is closer to us than we are to ourselves. 

Rest means dancing

To rest is to throw away every plan, every aim, and every objective, and fully live as you are. If you find within yourself singing, you must sing! If you find within yourself dancing, you must dance! However you find the life & love that are you within yourself, you must obey! Even if it will exhaust you.

This obedience is much more difficult to cultivate than you might have thought. Our modern world has us all caught up with programs and fulfilling our desires, and has no time for the utter pointlessness that is rest. At this point, chasing after desire has become a second nature to most people, and to stop can cause real stress. We can get so immersed, that we become genuinely afraid of having any truly free time, in case we miss out on something, or realise just how unfulfilled we still are, even after all our striving.

Because it’s so difficult to cultivate true rest, and especially to cultivate it across a whole society (since societies, like people, are made to rest and be free), we desperately need the Sabbath. It’s not enough to rest as a side note, or whenever we get a spare moment.

Rest needs to be recognised as the priority that it is. We need the day, which exists entirely to itself, without even the necessities of life intruding. They can wait, because today, God commands me to dance.

And yet, I cannot spend all my time dancing and never work–but then again, true rest is the opposite of sin, and so should be sought always. It is true that not every day should be treated as the Sabbath, but the Sabbath should infiltrate the whole week, training us to live our entire lives at rest. All our work, all our strivings, all our aims, should be undertaken from the love & life that is within us, and done and enjoyed for their own sakes. We must accept all as a gift from God, and do all as a gift to Him and to all.

“Work without love is slavery.”
-St. Teresa of Calcutta


Jesus

‘Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’
(Matthew 11:28-30)

What rest does Jesus give? His rest is Himself, His love, His cross, His Resurrection. In Him, we find the truth of ourselves, obscured in us by sin, and we are restored to ourselves, to the world, and to God. We are united to God, through the cross and Resurrection, and rest perfectly with God Himself. 

God bless you!