life

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! 

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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.

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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!

No one can explain the Gospel without proclaiming it

Just a thought that pleased me a good deal.

The Good News, of our liberation from death in all its forms, necessarily rejoices! There is no understanding of Christianity that is not ultimately a triumphant victory march. We parade around the city streets and occupy its squares, waving our flag and practising the freedom we declare to the world!

We are free, and we are bringing freedom. Life is ours, and no murderer can ever take it away.

Jesus of Nazareth has conquered death! By living fully and fearlessly, with no care for protecting or serving his finite self, His very death is life. He died giving us His life that conquers death.

To explain this without proclaiming it would be as absurd as trying to recreate a song without music. Indeed, who could say but not sing Alleluia? The word is sheer music!

Pentecost: when we received the Spirit- God’s own Joy & Freedom

God bless you! ALLELUIA!!!

Life, choice, and freedom

Here are some thoughts, looking at two ways of understanding freedom, and so viewing the world. The two ways are life and choice (do you see where I’m going here?).

The freedom of life, is when the thing in question, be it a seed, a goat, a mother or an unborn child, is given the space and opportunity to go out of itself, growing, giving itself away, revealing the secret of its nature. To be free, is to be youwith all that that entails; to live out your gifts, talents, hopes, dreams, strengths, and weakness too. To not be free, is to have not-you imposed upon you, whether by violence or deception.

Freedom of choice on the other hand, considers matters as external to an individual you which is an abstract notion of an arbitrary will. It looks at all things as essentially separate from you, and with no inherently correct choice. Freedom, then, is to have as many options as possible, or equivalently, to have as much subject to your own arbitrary dominion as possible. To not be free is to have fewer choices. (Note that freedom here is always finite, with the constraints of nature an obstacle to your freedom.)

Freedom of life views the world around us as wonderful and bursting with life, each part valuable and dignified in and of itself, in intimate relationship with ourselves, and deserving of our care and respect. It sees it as our freedom to coexist joyfully with all others, sharing freedom as we ourselves are free. My freedom complements yours and yours complements mine.

Freedom of choice views the world around me, including my own body and being, as an obstacle to be conquered by my will, with no value besides what I myself assign to it at each moment. Everything and everyone is fundamentally cut off from me, and their freedom of choice naturally competes with my own. Everything is objectified.

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Where eyes of life see a great jungle, with a cacophony that’s a symphony that’s a theophany, eyes of choice see a menu, with various prices and deals for various products for consumption.

Paradoxically, this “freedom of life” makes demands on us. But each of these demands, is not coming from outside of us, but from the truth itself, the truth of our reality within each situation. The demand comes from our deepest depths, and not from outside. In each situation, the demand is always to live as fully as possible, to be what and who you truly are within that situation. From time to time, this means heroism and sacrifice: that is life.

And as a far greater contradiction, the “freedom of choice” that tries to demand so much from the world, always ultimately enslaves me, because it makes my desires of the world, and so I am made subject to the world. In considering a matter as a mere choice, I am putting its options up for sale. Perhaps not to people, but at least to circumstances. And in the end, what am I selling but myself?

 

We have a real and inherent obligation to every creature, from algae to giant redwoods, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope, from the beggar to the prisoner, from the newly conceived zygote to the terminally ill, and to ourselves too. And we are asked to fulfil this obligation insofar as each one is our neighbour, that is, as each is within our reach. It is the obligation to live and to give life, or equivalently, to love.

God bless you

My little red book

In order to help me on my way, I’m trying something new. I’m filling a small book, with whatever I think will help me to belong to God more constantly, more fully, and more radically. The idea is to have something to refer back to, to help me go forward. Something to remind me of the heart of the gospel, and how I am meant to live that without compromise.

I want (desperately) to save the world, but I realise I must first change myself. And I want to penetrate and spread God’s message, but words are entirely insufficient for this.

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Henry David Thoreau once said, “How vain it is to sit down to write, when you have not stood up to live.” This and the words of St. Francis challenge me. I wanted to write a great book to change the world, but now I see, my life is the only book that really counts. We don’t listen to books, we listen to people.

It isn’t to make me more “religious” or “spiritual”. It isn’t a teaching. It isn’t a philosophy or theology. It’s me rephrasing the demands and encouragement of the gospel to myself. It’s reminding myself who I serve and how. It’s to radicalise me in Jesus, and thus make of me a strange new creature.

So far, it is doing well. It has a few prayers for me to say each day, many quick calls to action and to love, and a couple personal events to be humbled by and learn from. And referring back to these, I find myself restored, with a renewed sense of God’s direction for me. I see where I’ve come from, where I’m going, and how I’m getting there, just a little bit clearer.

To close, I’ll share with you my most recent entry:

The Christian should be known as the one who loves all and fears none.

This especially helped me today.

 

God bless you!

Euthanasia: Is life worth living?

That’s the crux of the matter really: Is life worth living? Every argument for assisted dying can be boiled down to that, for some people, life isn’t worth living.

Let’s be honest; it can be difficult to argue against this. Some people live in horrific pain. Some people have no hope. Some people feel incapable of doing any good. Some people feel they are a burden. Some people are lonely. Some people feel unwanted. Some people believe their lives aren’t worth living.

But I hold as a matter of faith that they are wrong. That life is always worth living, for everyone. I know this is demanding. Life is the setting of all suffering and struggle. It entails pain, weakness, failure, and humiliation. But it also entails love, and I believe that love is worth all, that love brings value to all.

If we believe when certain people say their own lives aren’t worth living, it is only natural to believe the same for people in similar circumstances who believe their own lives are still worth living. It makes perfect sense then, to persuade (i.e. pressure), these vulnerable people into ending their lives also. And so the throwaway culture goes on.

If we admit that for some people life isn’t worth living, other people, without terminal illnesses, will be more likely to accept that their own lives aren’t worth living either. I don’t have statistics, but I don’t doubt that accepting assisted dying for the terminally ill makes suicide a far less outrageous proposal for many people. If we can give up on anyone, anyone at all, anyone can give up on themselves.

It is never compassionate to give up on another’s life, even if they do it first. Compassion is about “suffering with”, entering into another’s suffering and struggling with them in solidarity. Compassion is the struggle to live, to love, in the midst of the darkness, death, and despair of all humanity. In all suffering, our own and others, we must struggle to bring love to the world; love which is all the stronger for suffering.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
-St. Francis of Assisi

Please pray for those who don’t believe their lives are worth living.

Cleaning toilets, the Holy Family, and feet, feet, feet

There are times, when the thought of doing a good deed, or anything at all, is incredibly tiring and unpleasant; when the thought of doing anything and the thought of doing nothing seem equally exhausting. These are tough times, but good news: this is the best time to do good. Being good to be happy is wonderful, but has a selfish element to it, and is too easy. But when we’re suffering, and decide we may as well do something good, it is a good for goodness sake, and as it demands more, it means more.

At these times, we are with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, and can pray earnestly, and accept the cup God offers us, or fall asleep with sheer grief with the apostles. 

 

Perhaps most of the good we do/can do, isn’t/won’t be properly appreciated. Keeping up standards won’t earn many thanks, because it is taken for granted, even though others would be horrified if it wasn’t done (emptying bins and cleaning toilets spring to mind). But these works, done in silence, are made pure this way. To continuously serve lowly and quietly, without gratitude but with love, is a way of great holiness. I wonder, how many of the saints (known and unknown) cleaned toilets?

Although it seems almost selfish to not call gratitude to the minds of others. But, we should encourage gratitude to others and to God, and not to ourselves, and firstly by example of gratitude. And when others are more grateful to God for all things, they will be more, and more perfectly, grateful to those God works through also, as seeing the utter graciousness of all existence.

The hidden life of the Holy Family perfectly illustrates this. We have no record of what Jesus, Mary and Joseph were doing for most of their lives, and yet, this was the life of Jesus, the Son of God. God came to the world in the most everyday way possible: Mary gave birth to him. He was covered in that weird, bloody slime, and crying, and couldn’t lift his own head or say a word. He had to be fed, each and every day, over and over again, and couldn’t say thank you, even if he wanted to. Jesus worked quietly (as far as we know) as a simple carpenter for years before he began his ministry. Joseph loved, supported and protected Jesus and Mary, including as refugees in Egypt. The life of the carpenter was also the life of God’s father.

Today (technically yesterday) is the feast of the Queenship of Mary, and what I love, is that God makes her Queen, precisely because she is His lowly handmaid, ready to do everything for God, from the commonplace and everyday, to the miraculous, dangerous, and even sacrificial, for faith in God. Wherever she is, she is there for God.

Of course, Jesus, Mary and Joseph were by no means unexceptional, but they didn’t scorn the lowly works, and were always persistent in faith, hope, and charity, and this prepared them for their more astounding feats. The majority of their lives consisted of the small things of life, that form a humble foundation for the bigger actions.

 

This said, we must also not lose sight by our service and miss out on the better part like Martha (Lk 10:38-42). She was distracted, caring about many things instead of the one thing, and her care for Jesus’ stomach caused neglect of Jesus himself. We need to learn to stop and sit at his feet, and to wash his feet with our hair and tears, cover them with kisses and anoint them with ointment (Lk 7:38). And we need to let Jesus wash our feet too (Jn 13:8). We should treat Jesus this way in his body, the Church, in his holy sacraments, and in the poor and needy.

 

God bless you!