Monday, December 26, 2011

Will the Real God Please Stand Up?

There is a popular kind of atheism strutting about these days. Really, it's as ancient as that cry to Christ to "come down from the cross if you truly are the Son of Man."

The "New Atheism" has clear demands and expectations. "If God is real, then God should be clear and present to us. He doesn't appear to be, so let's shuffle off this hokey religiosity. Religion, they claim, is the root of all wars anyway" (This is a tremendous fallacy by the way. Millions of people died in the 20th century alone from godless communist leaders. More than in any previous century!)

Now I'm not at all shocked that certain people question the reality of Jesus as Savior of the world, the reality of miracles, even of God's existence. This is an age that demands proof and empirical data. For many, seeing still necessitates believing. And we can't see God. Or at least the god many expect we should see. Aye, there's the rub!

This man-made idea of the God we demand appears at will, like a Genie, hovering over the lamp of the world. He fixes all boo boos immediately, or holds an invisible Hand out to stop them from happening in the first place. He answers all prayers, even the really self-centered ones we should be ashamed of actually asking. Or He is like the Force, able to be tapped into at will for all answers (like Google) and capable of making things easy without a hard struggle at all on our part. I'm sorry, but as a parent, I can already foresee the kind of kids this would leave me with: jello headed, lazy, whining narcissists. No thanks. God the Father wants heroes. Strapping lads and lasses ready and willing to build a world of selfless love for all, passionate about co-creating and pro-creating Heaven on earth with Him as their Beloved!

Here's the revelation of the Real God, and I must confess I love His style. He plays "hide and seek" with us. He appears then disappears. He draws us into the mystery of things, and lies hidden in their very hearts. He is both immanent in all things, bursting from their ontological centers, and He is transcendent above all things, weaving the fabric of the Universe together in absolute distinction from it.

He is constantly changing the game. We expect fire and He appears in water. We cry for revenge and He spills forth mercy. We want a trumpet blast and He whispers. We fear to climb a holy mountain so He walks with us in the valley of the shadow of death. We look for a king but He comes instead in a crib.

Maybe in all our searches, and in all our questions, and in all our demands for the Real God to "stand up" we should try getting down, on our knees. Perhaps we're looking in the wrong place. I've gotten the Divine glimmer a number of times in my life. It was always through the little way, the broken path, the fog of the struggle that I found Him. Gilded angels and swirling clouds and trumpets are nice, but they pale in comparison to the dark night (ironically, for even the darkness is as day to Him!) Being full really can't compete with the hollow ache that keeps us searching for More. The barren branches of December trees against the blackness point to a realm clustered with stars. I've learned that He yearns for us to yearn for Him. He looks for us to look for Him. That's what lovers do afterall.

When we learn to see and experience this reality, we discover that ours is a humble God. In stooping low, in listening, in looking with reverence we shall see Him. And be seen. Love stirs even now in that little crib. Hush, hear the heartbeat in the tiny chest of the Infant God. See His breathing now, soft and measured in time and space! See what Love has done? Love has come down to us. Love is made little for us, and we must become little for Love. It is the only way.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mass Changes and Changes in the Mass

So we've had nearly all of Advent pass by and I have yet to nail all the new responses in a single Mass. How are you doing with that?

Sometimes I get all the way to the final blessing, shiny card stock with bold responses in hand, and I toss out the old "and also with you." DOH! Old habits die hard I guess. But the kids will get it, rest assured.

Yes, we old heads often have deep ruts in the mind and heart, don't we? Change is never easy. It takes a constant act of the will and an attentiveness to the present moment. But the tracks of the years can really lock us in! Even with the best intentions, we can stay stuck in the old ways, the routine, and the stale responses to events and encounters around us that are actually very new.

For the children, however, the trail ahead is fresh. In a certain sense, all they have is the present moment. Their wonder meets the world head on, and everything is a "wow." Perhaps this is why Jesus urged us to become like them, these little bundles of energy and emotion. They live in the Now, and they respond to it with passion!

OK, here we go then. Bring on the next celebration of the Eucharist! I'm stepping in with wide-eyed wonder! God wishes us to be present and free of the baggage of the past. I pray that same sense of presence be with your spirit. Wink wink.

The Hobbit

The long awaited trailer, the awesomeness of which cannot be measured. I particularly love the chanted song of the dwarves in tones rich and deep as the mines of Moria themselves. Yeah, I'm totally nerding out on this. December 2012 can't come soon enough!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (Don't Buy it Either)

Christmas is crazy. And I'm not talking about the mind-blowing, superfluous leap of the God-Man Jesus into our world, becoming one of us, marrying himself to our humanity forever in order to love us into his eternal embrace. I'm talking about the commercials.

We all know how strongly we're pressured to purchase at this time of the year. As a father of two little ones, (and one of them exceptionally wide-eyed and wonder-filled in this season of lights), I confess it ain't always easy keeping it Franciscan, if you know what I mean.

But Advent is our saving grace... It shimmers like a little oasis in the midst of a desert of doodads and thing-a-magigs that would be "perfect" for so-and-so IF they show up at that party at so-and-so's. While the malls and the movies and the music play on their siren songs, luring us into the spending frenzy that Christmas can become identified with, Advent is the road less traveled. The still, small voice. A winding desolate path, clear, open to the skies, calling us to walk it. It has nothing on it, but Everything swirls above it; the plan of God to let His Fire fall, to consume the doodads and the thing-a-magigs we cling to. To hollow us out, to make space for a new born.

So this season, as we move through the clutter that can become Christmas, let's recall Advent's simplicity. Let's not sweat the small stuff, the little distractions and speed bumps we encounter on the way to the crib at Bethlehem. Let's look for the crazy love of God breaking through the crazy commercialism of these days. This wonder will sustain us, when the crumpled paper and ribbons fall away. This love will truly fill our hands and never fade, it will touch our hearts and truly satisfy.

Talking to Your Little Ones About the Big Topic of Sex

A much repeated sentence we hear at our Theology of the Body retreats and courses is "I wish I heard this when I was younger!" ...