Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Christianity is Crazy

Christianity is crazy:  it says the most important accomplishment you could ever hope to achieve with your life --- you shouldn’t plan to achieve!  It’s a gift!!
Every true Christian longs for heaven, and if we were able somehow to see that someone had failed to achieve heaven, we’d deem that person’s life a failure.  Heaven is the outcome of “a good life”, as judged by our Savior (and not our earthly standards), therefore, He can judge someone as deserving heaven even if only because of an end-of-life repentance.  We could never hope to understand such a love, or mercy.  So if we can’t see what merits heaven, it stands to reason that we can’t assume ourselves of heaven, and no matter how detailed our plans, we might ultimately fail to get there.  So … if we cannot make concrete plans, a sure-fire path to heaven, we shouldn’t strive to get there?  Yes, we should strive to get there, but no, we shouldn’t make plans to.  A man cannot “plan” to receive a gift; he can only make the giver more receptive to giving it.
If we plan to achieve heaven ourselves, we may find ourselves in the situation described at the end of Matthew (25:41), where they asked “Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not minister to thee?”  In THIER plans, they looked right at Jesus, and did not see Him.  Despite their best efforts, they were deemed not good enough.  I wrote recently about the liberal and conservative confusion over the word: “our,” how one views it in terms of a group action, and the other in terms of individual actions.  Achieving heaven is somewhat similar; there is no “group-path” to heaven --- do this, say this, act like this, and you are guaranteed heaven.  Heaven is on a spiritual plane, and things our body does cannot guarantee reaching it.  It depends upon things we do, individually, with our spirit, our very being.  We can’t just outwardly show --- put on a good front of --- holiness; it must be real, in our heart. 
Long ago, I wrote a few posts about how we must “steer” our life’s vehicle, this body, staying between the lines and following all the rules, but must let Jesus sit next to us and give us directions.  He knows the way.  If we seek heaven ourselves, we are in the dark and will get lost, for as He said, He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Light --- and when He reveals it, we’ll know the way for us.  That’s the key point about this pathway to heaven for us, for each of us there is a unique way.  He has created a plan for us, specifically for us individually.  His plan, not ours.
Jesus often spoke about His Father’s kingdom, and He even taught us to pray “Thy Kingdom come.”  Cardinal Donald Wuerl, of Washington DC, in his excellent book Seek First The Kingdom, explains that His kingdom is, in fact, not only in heaven, but it is even here, now.  As the catechism notes: “The kingdom of heaven was inaugurated on earth by Christ … The Church is the seed and beginning of this kingdom.”  Cardinal Wuerl continues: “The kingdom has come in the person of Christ and grows mysteriously (spiritually) in the hearts of those incorporated into him.  Thus we learn that Christ has established his kingdom on earth, though not in the fullness of its glory.  It is here, but it is still growing.”  The heaven we long for begins in us here!
But aren’t we considered as one in the Body of Christ, therefore we should act as one in terms of “our” mission?  Yes, but only insofar as we recognize that we are all one “in spirit”.  Faith in the heart leads to justification (Rom 10:10).  I wrote on Mother’s Day of my own frustrations and worries; I’d like to plan to do more.  But I forgot Psalm 37:  Commit your life to the Lord, trust in Him and He will act.  And: Be still before the Lord and wait in patience.
Patience does not come easily to me.  Isn’t there ANYTHING I can do to prepare for His gift, to participate in His kingdom, to act as if I belong --- even if I am not fully there yet?  If I can’t make plans with a guarantee, can I make some which might help?
Recently I felt a prod to read the Gospel of John, chapters 14-17, and I have.  John, the special Gospel writer, the one loved by the Lord, the one blessed with the longest life, the only apostle not martyred, and the one given the care of His mother:  what does this special man stress in these chapters to me?  He tells me many things there that Jesus would have me do, and patiently explains in ways I can understand why I should do them --- to be more like the Father.  But there is one thing He says over and over which sums it all up.  In fact, He says it three times:  “Love one another.”  The three times Jesus asked Peter: “Do you love me,”  Peter’s three denials, the three men on the cross, and the Trinity:  the number three always seems to focus on matters of love.  And when I had personally asked Jesus a few days ago: “Do you have something you wish to tell me?” He pointed me to John and the words He wrote:  Love one another.  It’s important; very important.  Last Sunday at mass I read in John 4: This I command you, love one another.
I’ve written in the past about that desire that I have --- the desire we all have --- to make it important that we have lived, to do something important in our lives.  And I think He has shown us how to do that, emphasizing it to me personally:  Love as He has loved.  Not by my plans, not by any government actions, and not by worrying about some measurable results, just love.  That will get me on the right path. 
The early Christians stood out and were noticed by the pagans, not because of their stated beliefs or their preaching.  One of the most often quoted commentaries was “See how they love one another.”  I think that, perhaps, is why Jesus told us to be as little children.  What do little children seek?  Love.  And what is the only thing little children have to give?  Love.
I mentioned a book I am reading, Kisses From Katie.  In the chapter I read last night Katie tells about a family she met in Uganda:  nine-year-old Agnes, caring for her seven-year-old sister, Mary, and her five-year-old sister, Scovia. Agnes was injured in a storm, and so Katie took the younger ones in for lunch at her house, “Which turned into dinner.  Which turned into bath time.  Which turned into a sleepover.”  And more.  Katie continued to house them when she found that they had no living family capable of caring for them, and she worried what to do.  She felt an orphanage was “out of the question.”  The only suitable option seemed to be adoption --- by someone.
“Knowing what adoption would entail, I thought trying to accomplish it (myself) would be crazy.  I found myself desperately praying that God would show me what to do.  And that is when it happened.  Shy, five-year-old Scovia tiptoed into my room and watched me curiously for nearly ten minutes without saying a word. And then, as though she had been pondering the question for ages, she asked, “Can I call you ‘Mommy?’”  And absolutely no one would have been able to say no to those big brown eyes.  We were a family.  The answer filled up my heart and then my whole self and spilled out of my mouth as naturally, as if I had always known, “Yes, I am your Mommy.”
And so 19-year-old Katie adopted the three children, and at age 22 she now has fourteen children.  How did that come about, this seeming fit between this young woman and God’s plans for her?  I think I saw it summed up in that little question:  “Can I call you Mommy?”  It’s about love.  Katie gave love, and young Scovia needed love, and wanted to give it back.  “Can I call you Mommy?”
So, if I were wanting to live the life Jesus has planned for me, to do His will for me, what should I be doing?  From all I have seen and felt and read these last few days, I think the answer is that I should be trying to imitate young Scovia.  I should accept the love that is offered to me, even from strangers.  I shouldn’t worry about disasters that enter my life and my family’s.  I shouldn’t even worry about if I will have enough food to eat.  And I should be willing to walk through strange doors that God appears to open to me.
And perhaps I should ask Him:  “Can I call you Daddy?”
Katie concludes that chapter:  “I knew that God had brought me to Uganda not just to change my heart to Him and for the poor but to make me Mommy.  I am Mommy when I gather the girls into a large circle for a family meeting and when I watch them all run and play in the local swimming pool or picnic beside the Nile River.  I am Mommy when several voices join together at the dinner table and say, “Thank you, Mommy, for food.” … My fourteen beautiful girls call me Mommy.  Four hundred children in the community where I live who have lost their mothers to starvation or disease or something else equally unimaginable call me Mommy.  Because so many children are constantly shouting this word, even a lot of adults in the villages around our home call me Mommy.  “Mommy to many,” they say.  Dignified men, store clerks, and parking attendants call me Mommy.  Teachers and the doctors at the local hospital call me Mommy.  I hear it in shouts as I drive down these insanely bumpy red roads; it is sung as my daughters burst through the door when they get home, it is whispered in my ear as I wake up each morning.  And every time I hear it, my heart leaps.”
“I am willing to bet this is how our heavenly Father feels each time we whisper his name, each time we shout it with joy or cry out in pain, every time we tell Him exactly what we need or feel: ‘Father, I trust in you.  Father, you will protect me.  You are my comfort place, my safe place.  You are mine and I am yours and we are family.”
These things I have read in recent days, young Katie, John, Mother’s Day (and I haven’t even mentioned Guardini’s great book and thoughts), and they have opened my eyes to the important things of life:  Love one another.
Christianity is crazy.  And yet it is all so simple.  God is Love. 

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