Monday, May 20, 2013

What Does God Want From Me?

I concluded my last post here with a question: Considering the way in which so many of us are “looking out for number one,” are we that much different than Judas?  I titled that post “Was Judas a Good Guy?” not intending to say that he was, but to bring out the point that all of us think we are good guys.  Even the worst of us thinks that whatever we do, we do for a good reason.  It is not in man’s nature to hate himself, but to love himself and only see the good in himself. 
Would that we could look at our neighbor in the same way and only see the good, as in the manner in which Jesus saw his neighbor.  It doesn’t seem natural for us to love others that way, but then: He came to teach us how to love.
Most of us ARE like the apostles before Pentecost.   We know Jesus is a prophet, perhaps even God, but we don’t know the full truth of his message or his life.  We see Jesus healing many people, and we hear him say that if we only have faith in him all things will be possible, but what things do we think of?  We think of those things we want for ourselves.  We pray: “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief,” but I think our belief is in his miracles and so we call on him to work miracles for us, and our unbelief is in that he expects similar great things from us, too.  He wants us to be one with Him, with a precious Life flowing not only from him, but from us --- together.  He sends his Holy Spirit to dwell in us that we might love as he loves:  that we might love the Father and our neighbor --- together. 
This is the belief that he asks: that we trust in him, and in his trust in us.  He asks that we live our life with a self-giving love, as he did, freely giving to others wherever we are, in whatever we do.  In our role as parent, as teacher, as neighbor, as citizen, or as a stranger passing on the street, first and foremost we should see Christ in all we whom we meet, and we should love them.  We should act, not thinking of what we want or need for ourselves, but first and foremost in love.
That is what God wants from us.
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I awoke with a start on Pentecost Sunday morning.  The 8:45A mass I attend lets me sleep hours beyond than my normal waking time, but so often my internal alarm clock says: NO; it’s time to get up.  And as I lay there in bed, I remembered vividly the dream I awoke from, and there was a fire in my heart:  and in my mind, I wanted the dream to continue.
I had dreamt of seeing two old college professors in the library.  They were looking over a section entitled: The New Evangelization.  I heard them laughing and talking loudly, like they wanted to broadcast their opinions for all to hear.  “Look at this nonsense,” one said, as he looked at CDs and books on the shelves --- ones, I noted, that I had heard and read, and recommended.  “These people have no idea who God is!  I can’t wait to get some of the youths who are being fed this trash into my classroom.  I’ll prove to them that there is no happy God like this presents.”
“God is God!” he said loudly.  “They don’t even understand the concept of God.  By definition, man cannot know the mind of God.  God means all powerful, not all playful!  (If there even is a God,) He created everything and set it all in motion, and his creative actions have evolved to where we are today.  Even the Catholic Church has come around to accepting evolution as a thing of God.  This New Evangelization talks about people finding some new relationship with God, as if he’s changed!  No, what these young minds need to accept is that MAN has changed, and the man of today is not the man God first created so long ago.  Man is now so much better, so much wiser.”
“We need to teach these young minds not to go out and have fun and dance with God,” he continued, “but to go out and use the talents we now have, to use new scientific discoveries and reason to finish the plan of creation, to change the world.  This is the task of the educated mind: to make the world a place of no more pain and no more suffering, to ensure that everyone has their fair share of God’s gifts.  This is how God wishes us to honor him.”
At that point I couldn’t contain myself any longer, and I walked firmly over to where they were loudly advertising the wonderful truths taught in their classrooms.  “You talk so proudly about how far man has evolved, but listening here to your self-congratulatory babble, I think I now understand those who say that man is no different than animals; I think you’re both poster examples of that thinking.”
Not used to being talked back to, the two stood and faced me, and were about to start to “put me in my place,” but I wouldn’t hear any more of their tripe.
“You talk of man evolving to the point where his science and his reason can change the world to how he wants it, but this isn’t any evolved man.  You’re describing the first man in the Garden of Eden who wanted to change the world to the way he wanted.  You’re describing his son who killed his brother for what he wanted (and I suspect you’d probably approve similar actions, in order to create a “fair” world).  You’re describing the Roman Empire which gave the people all they wanted, in order to keep them happy.  They too wanted no more wars and accepted a Senate who decided what was best for them (not unlike our Congress of today), only what they decided most often was what was good for themselves --- (probably like you:  What are your salaries, anyway?)  You talk of giving man all that he wants, but your science and your reason can’t begin to measure or obtain what man wants most:  he wants love.”
“You say man cannot know the mind of God, yet you claim to know man’s destiny as intended by God, and you desire to bring it about.  So then you (and only you) know what God has intended?  You hypocrites!  You liars!  You self-deceivers!  You claim to know what you tell us cannot be known.  Even the blind leading the blind listen for sounds around them, but you listen only to yourselves.”
And with that, I awoke with a start.  (And I’m guessing my blood pressure was up.)  Glancing at the alarm clock, I saw that I had at least an hour before I needed to arise, and so my thoughts went back to that dream, and then they drifted to the date:  Pentecost Sunday. 
I spoke in my last post about how self-giving love is a unique focus of the New Testament.  I think this is a key point which Judas – and perhaps even most of the rest of the apostles and disciples --- didn’t understand about Jesus.  He came to give us “new life,” and he said he WAS “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  He said that he had to leave so that the Holy Spirit could come, but what did the Holy Spirit bring at Pentecost?  What changed?
Catholics have a prayer to the Holy Spirit:  “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, enkindle in them the fire or your love.”  The Fire of Your Love came at Pentecost.  Love is what changed; a self-giving love came upon the apostles and into the world, and it was of such intensity that they could only experience it as a fire.  Love is what changed them.
In the Old Testament the Ten Commandments set man in obedience to God’s laws, but Jesus came to clarify further the meaning of those commandments.  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (Jn 13:34-35)   This is what so noticeably set the preaching and actions of the Christians apart:  they loved one another.  St. Augustine said it simply: “Love, and do what you will.”  We can study the Bible and Jesus, we can study science and reason, but love and the understanding of true love, a self-giving love, is a gift, a gift of the Holy Spirit.  It is a love which drives all the actions of one who loves.  It is the innermost desire of our life, and what Jesus promised us would be ours, in union with the Trinity, forever.  And it first entered the world of common man on Pentecost.
O God, you are my God, for you I long;
For you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
Like a dry, weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
For your love is better than life.
   – Psalm 63:1-3
I’m not sure that Psalm-writer knew the meaning of love as it is known in the New Testament.  The Old Testament people were concerned with their individual relationship with God, and that “God is on our side.”  They wanted a Messiah who would lead them to change the world, but we now know that what we need in order to change the world is the Holy Spirit, as he came on Pentecost.  It is not for us to design a world of perfection, but rather to trust in the words Jesus said, not that God created us and now we must change the world --- alone, but rather trust in what he said to us: “I will be with you always.”  And together, we can change the world.
He said he’d give us living water that we might never thirst again.  He did not mean we’d become like a reservoir full of water and so we’d never want for more.  Rather than just giving tons of water to us, his gift was to change us, to be like Him.  We don’t become like dammed waters, but rather like a free-flowing river, so that the Spirit’s unending waters flow to us and through us, to our neighbors.  His love is a giving love; when we receive it we also readily give it. 
Each morning I pray: “Make me a channel of your peace.”  In one sense, I mean that literally.
I got up and went to mass on Pentecost morning.  Looking around the church, I had the feeling that I was at an Ohio State football game, as the bright red color was everywhere and on everyone.  (Note to self:  You need to buy a bright red shirt.)  You could say that we were rooting as a team at mass, or as a family. 
If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1Jn 4:12)  If we would love perfectly, as Jesus taught us, we would love one another.  If we still have a trust in God, if we can get beyond only wanting things for ourselves, and if we would really want to make the world a better place, we would first pray that the Holy Spirit might also come upon us, that we might love as Jesus loved, and that we might be a channel of his peace ---- and not of our will. 
This, I believe, is what God wants from us.

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