Friday, June 24, 2011

The Point of Everything

Try to answer each of the following questions in five words or less.

1. What is the deepest desire of the human heart?
2. What is the center, the point, the meaning of life?
3. How I can be truly happy?
4. What does it mean to be a woman?
5. What does it mean to be a man?
6. What does God look like?
7. How can we bring about peace in the Middle East?
8. How can we end world hunger?
9. How can we know if there is life after death?
10. What is the greatest of the seven sacraments?

OK, I’ve deceived you. There is a one word answer for each of these above questions, and it’s the same answer for each one. Can you guess it?

Some scientists and philosophers have been trying for years to compile one overarching, all encompassing "Theory of Everything." I believe we have it already in our midst. Present in millions of places worldwide, nestled in golden boxes beneath glowing candles that never go out, for two thousand years the secret has been with us; the center, the point of everything, the Answer to our questions. You’ve guessed it… the Eucharist.

“Here is the Church's treasure, the heart of the world, the pledge of the fulfillment for which each man and woman, even unconsciously, yearns.” 


- Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 59

This is the month in which the Church celebrates the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ. We’ve been celebrating it for years. We’ve been proclaiming the wonders of the Blessed Sacrament for centuries. We don’t want it to be a secret! It’s the elixir of life, the miracle cure, the fountain of youth! Hmmm, really?

So why don’t people come a’runnin’ to our churches and our adoration chapels? Why aren’t the phones ringing off the hook asking for our daily and Sunday mass schedules? Is it poor marketing skills?

The following was supposedly overheard by a monsignor at a papal mass, who was standing beside our beloved Blessed John Paul II (though it sounds a little pessimistic for him). Watching thousands come to communion in St. Peter’s Square he is supposed to have whispered, “So many coming to communion, so little change.”

Ouch. Oh we of little faith.

I did some calculations in preparing this article and have deduced that since making my first Holy Communion at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Browns Mills, NJ back in the 1970’s, I have received the Holy Eucharist roughly 4893 times. Wow. At this point I should be the spiritual equivalent of Chuck Norris, with the ability to roundhouse kick any temptation before it even rears its ugly head. Sad to say, most days I feel more like the spiritual equivalent of Napoleon Dynamite.

Nonetheless, the power for transformation remains, and is available at our neighborhood Catholic Church.

You know when you think you have an answer, you say “It’s on the tip of my tongue!” Exactly. In the Eucharist, the Answer to our questions is literally in our hands. The Gift has been given, it’s just that we have yet to fully unwrap it! But the saints and mystics are our examples here, for they are the ones who opened wide the doors to Christ, and He filled them to capacity. Being filled with God is our destiny in fact, for we are all capax dei – “capable of God.” Dr. Peter Kreeft said it well, “Your heart is like an infinitely large hole, and only God is big enough to fill it.” And in the Eucharist He has become just small enough it fill it.

Do we believe this? Do I believe this? Or do I keep trying to stick cheap imitations in the hole in my heart? C.S. Lewis called it the long, sad story of humanity, this attempt at seeking something other than God that will make us happy. The singer-songwriter David Wilcox has a verse that looks at this hollow in our hearts; “There's a hole in the middle of the prettiest life, so the lawyers and the prophets say.
Not your father, nor your mother, nor your lover's ever gonna make it go away.” But God can.

God has designed a way into these foolish hearts of ours. “Do I have to spoon-feed you?” a frustrated teacher might ask a stubborn student. Our God does this with delight. Psalm 81 sings “I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. Open wide your mouth that I may fill it. But my people did not listen to my words; Israel did not obey me.”

Oh Jesus, Source of Joy, Filler of Hearts, Food of Angels, Drink for the Thirsty. Draw us to you, show us the way to this Table, this Banquet, this Feast of Love. Let us respond in a new way in this month of the Feast of Your Body and Blood, a way of absolute surrender. Give us a hunger in the pit of our stomachs, a yearning for You alone to fill us. For You are “the Church's treasure, the heart of the world, the pledge of the fulfillment for which each man and woman, even unconsciously, yearns.”

______________________________
Originally posted at TOBInstitute.org

Monday, June 20, 2011

What is It?

Our little boy has broken into the powerful realm of words and of communication; he has transcended the monosyllabic plateau! Yes, he is leaving his wee sister in the dust, for now. (I think her babblings are actually more advanced than any of us know)

When a road sign appears as we drive down the highways and byways, the oft repeated question comes, "What is it? What is it Daddeee?"

The signs are familiar to us, we've passed them by a thousand times. But for the Boy Wonder, everything is new. So we repeat them, we echo those words for him and he responds. The Greek word is katekhein. We call it catechesis!

Last week, at a beautiful retreat center in Lancaster County, I felt privileged to teach an intensive course on Blessed John Paul II's Theology of the Body to over 70 people from across the country and the world. In a certain sense, it was the same "old" Catholic teaching we've heard a thousand times; it was philosophical, densely theological, soaked in scripture, straight up Thomism. But for many of us, including myself, everything was new. It always is. Why?

Because we stepped out of our way to ask the question again, "What is it?" about the one thing we all, I have a feeling, have been assuming we already know so well; Christianity.


Herein lies the genius of John Paul II. He assumed nothing. He put his finger on the pulse of modern man, starting with himself, and asked the question, "What is it? What draws our hearts? What do we live for? Who am I? Who is God?"

This past week, we immersed ourselves in the Answer he had rediscovered. And it was not a program, or a list of prohibitions or principles, or a philosophy. It was a Person. A Communion of Persons to be exact. It was Love, rekindled.

“Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it…. The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter into him with all his own self... in order to find himself. If that profound process takes place within him, he then bears fruit not only of adoration of God but also of deep wonder at himself… In reality, the name for that deep amazement at man’s worth and dignity is the Gospel, that is to say: the Good News. It is also called Christianity.”
- Redemptor Hominis, 10



"What is it, Daddeee? Christianity?"


It is Heaven kissing earth. It is the Divine Rescue of the fallen who cannot get up on their own. It is the Romance that fires all romances, it is the embrace of all of our eros, our passion rising up, with all of God's agape, His Fire of Love rushing down upon us. It is our deep amazement, our deep wonder, at Life itself, at the superfluous beauty of the Gift! And behold, unless we become as little children, asking our questions again and again on the roads of this life, we cannot enter into that Wonder, which is also called... the Kingdom of Heaven.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Into the Wild

So it begins, the summer. I've a number of talks lined up and projects to continue but what I'm looking forward to most of all is getting The Boy outside. He is ready. 

The plan: pull into the nature preserve, and release him. Let him be drawn to anything and everything that he desires (except poison ivy), to see, feel, romp and roll through. Throwing rocks, splashing in streams, chasing geese. "We need the tonic of wildness" said Thoreau, and I heartily agree!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Caution: Contents May Be Hot

A few years ago there was a famous (or infamous) lawsuit filed against a certain fast food chain, claiming they were negligent in neglecting to tell the consumer who burned herself while spilling coffee that the contents of said coffee cup could potentially be, get this, HOT.

In lieu of this apparent no-brainer, many wagged their fries and threw up their cheeseburgers (sorry, that didn't come out right); "Are you kidding me? Everyone knows coffee is HOT!"

Next Sunday in beautiful Lancaster County, PA, I'll be starting off a week long Head and Heart Immersion course on Blessed John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Sure, it's been around since 1984, and the addresses began in 1979, and the seed form for this whole teaching can be found in his epic work Love and Responsibility written in the 1950's, and it's all inspired by the Bible itself which has been around for some time.... but I would daresay we'll need a label on it... CAUTION: CONTENTS MAY BE HOT.

Why? Because sadly many think that the Church is quite cool, if not cold, when it comes to the topic of human sexuality. It's all about the rules, the prohibitions, the commandments. "Control yourselves! At least until you're married!" And worse still, many imagine, sexuality has nothing to do with God or the "spiritual" life Catholics are supposed to be all about. Many seem to think of God's love as an insipid, disembodied, "nice uncle" kind of love. We think it's enough to be "nice" to one another, as God has been "nice" to us. Blah! CONTENTS: LUKEWARM. And we know what the Bible has to say about what is lukewarm (Rev3:15-16).

The real version of the truth of who we are and what we're called to be is a blazing and consuming fire of love in the visible universe! The Catholic Faith is a living flame, carried by Apostolic runners throughout the centuries, despite any who have perhaps lost that fire in themselves or in their delivery of the Flame to us. But the Flame is the same that burns in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Who said "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!" (Luke 12:49), despite perhaps any poor filters that have carried it to you.



We grow up hearing words like chastity and we think it's a cold no to passion, when in reality, it's "a vivid and separate thing... Chastity [therefore] does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming, like Joan of Arc." (G.K. Chesterton, The Daily News, Nov 4, 1905). 


The papal preacher, Fr. Cantalamessa, who gives retreats to the Pope and the College of Cardinals (talk about a high pressure job) said, "In the world we find eros without agape; among believers we often find agape without eros." 


This must change. It's all about rediscovering our Faith, human love in the Divine plan, and redeeming the language of love! As St. John Climacus once wrote, over 1400 years ago: "The chaste one is he who drives out eros with Eros." Lust pales in the light of true love. Human love is perfected and purified when it's open to the Divine Fire! Eros and Agape are meant to be married, and in Jesus they truly are. In the theology of our bodies too, they are meant for marriage. God is simply awaiting our response to His wedding proposal.


Please pray for me as the teacher (holding the torch!) and for the students of next week's course, coming as they are from all over the world (from Haiti, China, Mexico and Canada and across the United States); the relay racers who will receive the flame. May we all be open to the Divine Love starting this Sunday, which providentially is the Feast of Pentecost!


CAUTION: CONTENTS MAY BE HOT!