Love

Don’t be the best version of yourself

‘Just try to be the best version of yourself.’

No thank you. I’d rather try to just be me.

I don’t want to be any “version” of myself. They’re fake, every last one of them. I’d know – I created them. They’re just different masks I wear for different people.

And what on earth does it mean by “best”? Whose standard am I using? Who am I supposed to please? Others? Myself? God???

The simple truth is, God doesn’t love “the best version of me” – the “me” that acts “best”, and no one else does either. No one ever could. You can’t love a dead thing.

He loves me. Not this or that version of me. He loves me, with all my wounds and all my weaknesses. I have nothing to hide, even if I could.

Not that I shouldn’t improve and grow. But I can’t do that by pretending. The only way to truly grow, is to live in God’s love, being stripped of my illusions and defenses, and made more truly me. And this, this death to my selves, is to be made into Christ. ‘It is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me.’

God bless you!

[P.S. One more issue with this phrase, is that it suggests there is one best version, and you can’t possibly better it. If there is a “best version”, there is a limit. And it doesn’t imply that the “best version” is all that great. God bless!]

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The root of all sin is fear

‘The root of all sin is fear: the very deep fear that we are nothing; the compulsion, therefore, to make something of ourselves, to construct a self-flattering image of ourselves we can worship, to believe in ourselves — our fantasy selves. I think that all sins are failures in being realistic; even the simple everyday sins of the flesh, that seem to come from mere childish greed for pleasure, have their deepest origin in anxiety about whether we really matter, the anxiety that makes us desperate for self-reassurance. To sin is always to construct an illusory self that we can admire, instead of the real self that we can only love.’

– Herbert McCabe, OP, quoted in ‘Why Go To Church?’ by Timothy Radcliffe, OP (a very good book so far)

God bless!

Secrets, Sex, & Spirituality

As with so many things, I learnt this the hard way. Some things, even (and especially) beautiful things, are meant to be kept secret. Some blessings can’t be shared without being corrupted, and sometimes exclusion is necessary for a deeper inclusion.

The obvious natural example of this is sex. I hardly need to explain that the less exclusive it is, the more it becomes “cheap” and the more it is objectified. What you have received is given to you alone, for you alone, and no one else matters in it. Within such intimate gift, a whole microcosm is built, in which there is no one but lover and beloved, and therefore love can become all.

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But I didn’t intend to write about sexuality. As per usual, this is even more true on the supernatural level. Sometimes God gives us certain insights, experiences, blessings, or gifts, and it’s not about anyone else– it’s just Lover and beloved, together in their own microcosm. To try to share these things, is to try to make them about others, and it only does violence to the gift given. Others won’t properly understand and appreciate them, because they’re not meant for them. Instead, we ought to harbour these secret gifts, treasure them, and savour them ourselves, regularly reentering our hidden world and praying to our Father “who is in secret” [Mt 6:6].

If you feel concerned about the seeming exclusivity, and perhaps selfishness, of this, don’t. Just as sexuality naturally overflows into new life and deeper love for all, so this hidden intimacy with God supernaturally overflows into spiritual children and deeper love for all. These loves, like every authentic love, reach out to all, but only by moving through us, transforming us into love.

God bless you!

P.S. I honestly had no intention of writing about sex, but then I never know what I’m going to find when I write. You can probably guess I’m reading Theology of the Body for Beginners at the moment, and am honestly blown away. I can’t recommend it enough.

God bless you again!
P.P.S. This was originally published as ‘Intimate secrets with God’, but honestly, that title was boring, and it didn’t fit as well as the new title.

God bless you!

A mountain of mercy

This Sunday at mass, I was thanking God that by His grace, I have been given life in Him, so that at that very moment, I was blessed to be communing with Him, loving and being loved, genuinely touching my God. I was thanking God for every sin that by His grace I haven’t committed, and I realised I ought to thank Him for every sin I’ve ever committed being forgiven. I am with God at this moment, because every single sin, throughout my entire life, has been forgiven.

I saw that all the sins of my life would amass to a great mountain, made of all the filth, waste, and excrement of my soul. But where that mountain should have been, there was instead an even greater mountain of God’s mercy, and in my mind’s eye it was gold and precious.

I can’t just thank God for His recent mercy and forgiveness, because if He didn’t forgive my oldest sins, I’d be just as cut off as for my newest. This one moment with God, is thanks to a whole life of forgiveness.

God bless you.

Thank you Lord! 

A late quote for St. Francis

‘How is it that we, wretched as we are, have such cold hearts that we are not prepared to endure anything for our Lord’s sake? Our hearts neither burn nor glow with love. Ardent love is a quality of the heart and the stronger this love burns in a person’s heart, the more heroic and virtuous are his deeds. Do you desire to imprint Christ crucified on your heart? Do you long to be transformed into him to the point where your heart is aflame with love? Just as iron when heated to the point it becomes molten can take the imprint of any mark or sign, so a heart burning fervently with love of Christ crucified can receive the imprint of the Crucified Lord himself or his cross. Such a loving heart is carried over to the Crucified Lord or transformed into him. That is what happened with Saint Francis.’
-St. Bonaventure’s evening sermon on St. Francis, October 4th, 1262

Thinking about hell…

Lately I’ve been reading ‘The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life’ by Fr. Charles Arminjon, and have now begun the section on hell. And it’s got me thinking…

What is time even like in an eternal hell?

Fr. Arminjon makes the point that if hell is not eternal, but only a temporary punishment before joining the saints in heaven for eternity, then it’s of no real consequence or threat. A temporary hell makes no dent in the sinner’s eternal bliss, even if it were a billion years long, and those in hell could comfort themselves that their sin was worth it to get what they wanted, when they wanted. Ultimately, rebellion against God and obedience to God would achieve the same eternal end.

This got me thinking, what does the passing of time feel like in the context of eternity? When there’s a change coming up, we feel time as how close we are to that change. With no end to hell, what concept of time could there be? What difference does it make, and so what does it mean, to have been there for ten, twenty, a hundred, or a million years? Time seems to collapse into meaninglessness. I imagine something similar can sometimes happen to those given a life sentence, although even then, there is the end brought by death…

Or is there change, and therefore time, in hell? Perhaps there is change within the person, but not in the environment… Perhaps the type or intensity of punishment changes…

I imagine those in hell would find eternity itself another torture, as impatience tries to grasp at something, and achieve some kind of progress. ‘Gnashing of teeth’ seems to express this impatience very well to me.

Heaven’s eternity must be different… No impatience for one thing, firstly because we’ll be perfect, and secondly, we’ll have everything we ever desired in full. I wonder if there is change in Heaven? If not, it is not because we have only one moment for the rest of forever, but because the fullness of time will be ever present to us, as it is to God. I believe we’ll be co-creative with God in Heaven, and so there must be some kind of change, though perhaps, like God, our creativity will occur in changing time, while we ourselves are not constrained by time…

 

If it weren’t for hell, would I have given up?

I think pretty much everyone is tempted to despair at some point. Hell makes sin an absolute decision. If I hadn’t been warned about eternal punishment in hell, would I have accepted both sin and punishment as inevitable parts of my inevitable journey to Heaven? I think I might have… I’m naturally pretty lazy and pretty short-sighted in my decisions (I’m working on this).

These days, I know I don’t enjoy sin even when I’m sinning, and hate being separated from God for any amount of time. But would I have learnt to love God and hate sin for themselves, if I hadn’t known of the eternal consequences?

I suppose if I could have seen God clearly enough, and so seen sin clearly enough too, I would have… I think the issue is, I wouldn’t see either of these realities, because I’d be too caught up with the finite realities of pleasure and pain in each action. I need to look to the infinite reality in each of my actions, and pointing forward to the time when that’s all that’s left of them seems to be a pretty good method of doing this.

 

If anyone is lost, does God not lose? How will God then be ‘all in all’?

The Father Almighty desires all to be saved (2 Pet 3:9, 1 Tim 2:4), and that at the end of time, He shall be ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28), with all things subject to Him. So if anyone at all goes to hell, has God failed? Has God not got His desire? Is it enough for God that some things to be subject to His justice, but not His mercy?

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[Thanks to The Catholic Gentleman for the picture]

My question isn’t whether eternal damnation is just, but whether it is good and glorious enough to be befitting of God and His creation at the fulness of time?

There is a common theological explanation of hell today, that says that those in hell choose to be there, in their rejection of God, and that this privation is the pain of hell. C.S. Lewis, for example, said that the gates of hell are locked from the inside. This works nicely to shift the blame away from God, but it means some eternally refuse to bend the knee and submit to God at all. I think it would be better, and kinder too, if those in hell loved and desired God, even though they could not have Him.

This question really has me stumped…

 

If you have any answers, thoughts, comments or questions, please comment or, better yet, write a post about it. I think we don’t talk enough about hell. I don’t mean that we should start threatening people with fire and worms, but it is too important to ignore, and we are far too ignorant. What’s more, I think we seem on the one hand, incoherent, believing in both mercy and hell, and on the other hand, like we don’t really believe at all, because we seem to quietly ignore the scary or inconvenient parts.

Thanks for reading, and God bless you!

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…Jesus-Host is perfect love for me…

‘At the [Youth 2000] Walsingham retreat, at the communion for the Sunday mass, I realised in a powerful way how incredibly Jesus loves me in the Eucharist. Realising how he’s there, completely, in perfect love for me, giving me all of himself, hit me like a ton of bricks, and I was shaking and crying with love as I received Jesus, and I wanted only to accept him entirely, to love him perfectly and give myself entirely to him.

‘I know God’s love more deeply, and it’s changing me.`

This is how I expressed what God showed me in Walsingham, of how He loves me. It was an incredible experience, and it’s stuck with me.

The fact that Jesus-Host gives me all of Himself, body, blood, soul and divinity, in their entirety, for me to eat, is incredible. Whatever image of closeness and intimacy we might enjoy, does not even compare. If we like to visualise Jesus’ closeness to us, by imagining Him hugging us, or holding us like children, we are wrong not for imagining too much, but because the truth is so much more!

I saw that Jesus-Host is perfect love for me, and I wanted to become perfect love for Him. Jesus-Host gives Himself to me perfectly, body, blood, soul and divinity, and I offered Him my body, my blood, my soul, and His place of divinity in me, that I usurped by sin.

As I looked at Jesus-Host, tasted Him, digested Him, I knew that I was beholding and experiencing, and digesting, absolute love. He is what absolute love looks like, tastes like, feels like.

After communion, I remained a little while in front of Jesus in the monstrance, and prayed St. Therese’s ‘Act of Oblation to Merciful Love’. I had also prayed this during the night/early morning at adoration (there was perpetual adoration :D). I really recommend making this beautiful and powerful act.

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Youth 2000 retreat, with Jesus on display above the “burning bush”

 

The whole retreat was incredible. It had brilliant worship, incredible speakers and workshops, great people all around, and best of all, Jesus was there, in the Eucharist and in the people surrounding me. Youth 2000 is really incredible, and I strongly recommend you to go on one of their retreats. This was my first, but I want another already.

God bless you, and praised be Jesus Christ!