Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Limit on Hugs?

The host of the late-night radio talk show was commenting about a politician being sued for “abusive hugs.”  It was how long they lasted, what body parts touched, and where the hands were --- all commented upon as having limits.  “Three seconds is a proper limit --- one, two, three, let go,” the host said.  And he commented that priests, camp counselors and teachers have learned the rule: “You don’t hug children.”
And it made me sad.
We teach children to expect no loving actions from adults; “you must love yourself, and what you want.  Be wary of adults loving you.”  We allow and encourage pornography of all kinds, then seem surprised and object when anyone acts that way.  We make all these things visible in the public arena, and imply you can do them --- but not in public.
All this detailed “what you can do in public” reminds me of the Pharisees’ rules for the Sabbath; they were concerned about rules, not actions done in love.  Today’s Gospel (Jn 5:1-18) is about the man ill thirty-eight years, who waits at Bathzatha for healing in the pool.  But, “he was a lonely man.  He didn’t have any friend or family member who could help him down to the pool after the stirring of the waters” (The Better Part #252).  This was a man who no one hugged, until Jesus came along.  And a miracle happened.
In Divine Intimacy I read (#130): “O holy, sanctifying will of my God, I want to love You above everyone else; I want to embrace You at every moment of my life.”  --- with no time limits.
This past week I hugged a lonely, smelly poor woman; a stranger asked to hug me in the adoration chapel, and a friend greeted me with a hug.  And there was no time limit, no worry about proper body positioning; there was love, even as Jesus had shown to the man at the pool.
Even as this society creates more rules requiring you to be alone, I yearn for heaven where I know I will never be alone.  And yet --- I will not give up on this world.  I will seek out the lonely and let them know they are not alone, and I will seek out and form like-minded groups, to go out and share Jesus’ love.
And I’ll give hugs, and look forward to receiving them from the old and from the young.  And I will see and feel Jesus in every one.

Friday, March 9, 2018

How Am I Loved?

God has sometimes opened my heart, to see His workings amidst my life.
The Bible Study guys continued in Romans this morning, and the discussion centered around the fate of those “who don’t know Jesus.”  Paul spoke about some of the Jews who didn’t accept Jesus and the ones, like him, who did.  Would the rejecters not see heaven?  What about non-Christians in the world today?  And then I think God gave me some thoughts on the matter, blending in some of my life’s experiences.
I told the guys of a recent reflection I’d heard in church.  It was on Exodus and the Jews in the desert.  They constantly turned to Moses to complain: “Egypt wasn’t so bad; we had food and work.  Now we’re short on food, water, and wandering.”  And Moses had to remind them of all the wonderous things God, in His love for them, had done.  They so easily forgot.  We too, I was reminded in the reflection, so easily forget.  We get focused on this problem or that in the world or in our lives.  We so easily turn to despair or anger.  And I was reminded how my spiritual director had told me that it’s a good thing to keep a journal --- and I now do --- of God acting in my life.  I don’t think my director specifically said what to write in the journal, but I seem to only write the good things that happened.  This recent reflection on the Jews forgetting the good things God had done should be a reminder, I was told, for me not to forget the good things He has done for me --- to go back and read my journal, especially in bad times.  I’d never done that, I told the Bible Study guys, but it seems a good thought, and it applies to what we had been discussing today; we were focused on who wouldn’t get into heaven, rather that the good things of the Word.
Later, I offered an analogy.  It’s like the relationship of parents to a child.  There are some great loving parents; there are some not so great parents, and there are even parents who give their child up at birth, and the child never even knows them.  Now imagine all these children of these differing parents learn something:  their parents have written a will, and the children will get everything upon the parent’s death.  What will these children think?  Will that knowledge affect their lives, how they relate to those parents?  Certainly, there may be some --- a very small number I’d expect --- who would react with hate, perhaps even promising to reject their inheritance.  And certainly, there will be many who will think: “I knew that they’d do that, because I know how much they love me.”  And I’m sure there will be many who hear of the will and who will stop and think: “Why?  I don’t understand.”  But even in their confusion they will perceive that the reason for the will must be that in some way their parents must love them, likely more than they imagined.  Will this knowledge then change the children’s lives in relation to these still-living parents and perhaps others?  I think so; being loved changes us.
I told the Bible Study guys about Nick, my gym trainer, who gave birth to his first child last week.  For months I’d heard of all the preparations and plans, and Nick even texted me from the hospital.  But then at the gym last week he told me of the moments after the birth of his son in the hospital, and how he held him “skin to skin” in his arms --- and Nick paused with a big intake of breath, and said: “I can’t describe the feeling.  I’ve never felt love like that before, and it was instantaneous; it went all through me.”  And then this man I had perceived as perhaps a so-so Christian said: “I’m sure that must be how God loves us.”  Wow.
The Bible Study guys were discussing how God may relate to some people, or how they may relate to Him.  We can’t not be in this world, and can’t not see --- and judge --- others, but the really, really important thing is how God loves us, and therefore how we should love.
Jesus said for us to love God and love our neighbor --- not only neighbors we think (in our great wisdom) He loves, but ALL our neighbors.  He loves them all.  And if we sometimes forget, we need to recall (or read in our journal) how He loves us --- and all the world.
For God so loved the world,
that He gave His only-begotten Son …
I think we often get hung up on so many things we think are important --- even Bible Study time --- that we forget the really important thing underlying all our worries:  How am I loved?  And the answer to that question should be the thing changing our lives.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

All You Have to Do is Believe

It’s almost funny how scientists once believed the earth was the center of the universe.  They KNEW it, and you were delusional if you did not believe.  How many people today say they know things, when all they really know is what is right in front of their nose, and even then, they often don’t see things clearly.
How often have you asked: “Where are you, God?” 
I wrote a blog post about that a few days back, and even titled it that question.  I wrote about how I was blessed to see God’s workings in 6 strangers, who all were there, in the right place, at the right time, doing just what was needed --- all part of God’s workings, and I was blessed to see this, this miracle.
And a few days later, a woman came up to me in church and said: “God told me to help you.”
And Fr. John Riccardo, who I know reads probably almost as much as I do, said in Friday’s homily that he had a book he wanted to recommend for Lenten reading:  The Crucifixion, Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ.  And so, I went out and bought copies for my Bible Study friends, and began reading it myself.  “The cross is the heart of Christianity,” I am reading.
And tonight, I picked up a video, one of a pile a friend gave me, and without even glancing at what it was about, opened the package ---- it was unopened; she had not even seen this one herself before she gave it to me --- and then put the disc in the CD player.  The video is titled:  Do You Believe, Experience the Power of the Cross.  It was a most moving video, about not 6, but 12 unrelated people, and how God worked among them, through the crosses in their lives --- the bad things that turned out to be so good, in the big picture of things.  Twice as many people as I had personally experienced, so I guess the movie was twice as good as what happened to me. 
And perhaps it was.
Fr John recommended the book; I think I’ll recommend the video for him, on the same topic, that God in his way put in front of my eyes.
Where are you, God?  He’s in my life, and in yours, if you let Him.  If you believe.