Sunday, February 20, 2011

What Do You Want?

I was reading the latest book by Anne, a lay apostle, titled: Lessons in Love (it was a wonderful Christmas gift to me, from wonderful friends). I liked some of the lessons in the book, said to be from Jesus, and the simple way things were explained.

In talking about entering heaven through the “narrow door,” Anne said: “I think that means that we cannot get through it if we are carrying too much of our own stuff. I believe that things like attachments to the opinions of others, addictions, materialism, pride, greed, anger, holding on to hurts … carrying things like these add weight and girth to us.” How simply put! The door to heaven isn’t too narrow or restrictive; we are too fat if we carry all those earthly attachments!

In talking about a time of purification, a time He says the world is now undergoing, Jesus tells Anne that it is like a doctor doing surgery on a sick person. Afterwards there is pain for a while, but then they are restored to purity and joy. Jesus describes Himself as the doctor, and we, the world, as a seriously ill person, but only the doctor understands how ill. Only he can see inside us, and the need for surgery. So we needn’t worry about the pains we feel now, or those to come … He’s an excellent doctor!

At this point in the book, Jesus tells Anne: “Ask me more questions.” And somehow my mind wandered at that, and I found myself asking those who appeared to be troubled in these days, those who are rising up in cities around the world: “What do you want?” If you were asking Jesus, our God, what would you ask Him?

Since I am a man of the world, like those rising up, I thought I knew the answer to that question, but as I considered the things I knew, I found I could not reach a firm conclusion, a definitive answer to what people are rising up about today. In some way, that bothered me. Is this unrest like a patient coughing, making noise and upset, but not really sure what is wrong with him? Are we like the story Jesus told, about Him being the doctor and the world being ill? What is this noise we are making; do we know what we want?

There are some who say people are rising up for “freedom”, but I don’t think that is the answer.

I read a great book by Richard Spinello titled: The Genius of John Paul II --- The Great Pope’s Moral Wisdom (I gave many away at Christmas). One of the things he wrote which sticks with me is that we are often confused when we say that something is “good.” He notes: “There are two types of human goods: (i)instrumental or useful goods (such as a hammer), not valued in themselves but valued for their utility in achieving some end, and (ii)intrinsic goods, that is goods that are inherently valuable for any human person.” JPII notes that: “Freedom is not an intrinsic human good, rather it is an instrumental one.” It is a tool by which we can do good, he says. So saying that some who protest today are wishing for freedom is like saying they are wishing for a hammer --- but what will they do with it? Do they know? Do they really know? Perhaps that is why some fear these marches and uprisings: perhaps the newfound freedom will be used for bad things, and not good.

Unlike much of the world, where people are rising up for change, here in the United States people are marching in the streets to stop change. Unions and others want things as they are. They too are shouting that what they want is freedom, a freedom to let things be. All of these uprisings seem to be about freedom, democracy, and the will of the people, but again I would ask them: “What do you want? Do you know?”

What do you want? I don’t know your answer to that question, but if you are a Christian I know what your answer should be; you’ve probably heard it preached hundreds of times: You should want the will of God. Jesus said it dozens of ways, but most directly as “Not My will but Thy will be done.” The popes, the saints, and even Christian music proclaims: “Put on Jesus Christ!” Paul, the apostle, in one of my favorite lines says he wishes to proclaim that: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me.” Following the example of Jesus Christ is what we as Christians should want first and foremost. “What do you want?” You should want what God wants. So if you are protesting for freedom; if you want “change,” then I’d ask you to be honest about why you want these tools: What is the good that you want with this change, with this freedom? If your honest answer is that you want things for yourself, things that you say you “deserve,” then I would ask you to answer honestly one more question: In this world today, what do you think God would want?

Some in their anxiety are saying that perhaps this IS a time of purification for the world, as Jesus said to Anne. For the past fifty years, many seers and mystics have been saying that a purification is coming. Perhaps this is that time; I don’t know. But if the focus of most human desires in this world is indeed what we want for ourselves, then perhaps we do need to be purified of these desires. Throughout all of Christian history, holiness has been defined as a growing closer to God. The first step to that, I believe, is to stop wanting to be more like a god ourselves. We can’t put on Him until we let go of ourselves and our desires for earthly things. We can’t get through that narrow door of heaven holding onto all the things “we want.”

The sin of Adam and Eve, of Cain, and of the angels in heaven: what is this sin that they all committed? It is the same sin any child commits against his father: thinking he knows more that his father; pride: that egoism run amok: “I know more than you; you don’t understand! I will not obey!” Every parent has heard those words, and so has God. Perhaps He hears it loudly today.

I suspect that some who are rising up today would claim that is a bad analogy for their actions. “But I have been wronged! Evil is being done to me! Should I not want this to end (even if this does happen to result in getting something for myself)? That can’t be wrong, can it?” I don’t have an answer for that question; every man must answer it for himself. However I did hear something about the matter in the Gospel today. Did you?

You have heard it said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.
MT 5:38-48

It sounds to me like He is saying is that we should want the will of the Father, not our will. And what is the will of the Father? It mentions it: Love God and your neighbor, even if he persecutes you. If those rising up for “change” are only seeking to change who gets their way, or who gets the most of things in this world, and does not prioritize what God wants and his neighbor needs; if the “change” coming is just another form of greed in this world, if that is the change people are clamoring for, then perhaps a purification IS indeed needed. Our minds and our hearts have forgotten why we exist. We don’t exist just for ourselves, and what we want. Our neighbor is here too.

There is one final point, an important point to be made in the Gospel today. Look at who Jesus is speaking to: YOU love your enemies; YOU pray for those who persecute you, that YOU may be children of your heavenly Father. Your state or your country doesn’t love anyone; it doesn’t pray for anyone; and it definitely is not a child of our heavenly Father. YOU are called to do and be those things: YOU. So even if you believe that all your political motives are pure, and you have no need of a purification, I’d ask you to read the Gospel again: No matter how efficiently it does things, the state can never love anyone or pray for anyone, only you can.

What do you want? Do your motives need purifying? Only you can answer that question. Can you be honest?

And as for me and others who may be anxious about your answer and the answers of others seeking change, I guess we’ll re-read the title to this blog, Do Not Be Anxious, or perhaps listen to the words spoken to Anne again: out of all these things, there will be purity and joy. Walking with God, I look forward to the future He promises us.

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