My Weight Is My Love

the-resurrection-1544

Year A Easter

Charles Dickens’s book A Tale of Two Cities begins with that famous line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…” This morning, Our Lord has emerged from the darkness of the grave and into the light of the resurrection, and he is lifting us up with him. Even when our lives seem dark, when we don’t know what’s coming next and we’re anxious, the light is but a stone’s roll away.

 

Dickens describes Paris during the upheaval of the French Revolution, which was a terrible moment in human history. Blood flowed freely in the streets as power-hungry would-be tyrants attempted to impose their will on the rest of the populace. There were so many public executions that a new killing device was invented – the guillotine. In a moment of black humor, Dickens refers to it as the National Barber, and this is the situation in which he creates a fictional character named Sydney Carton. He is a deeply flawed man who fears that his various transgressions have disgraced his name, he is a sinner sunk to far down to be redeemed, but even the worst of us are still capable of great acts of charity. Sydney has his secret virtue, too – he is passionately and selflessly in love with a woman. She is married to another man but, to Sydney’s credit, his love remains chaste. The purity of his love ultimately becomes his redemption, because the husband of the woman he loves is scheduled to be executed and Sydney contrives to change places with him, thus fulfilling his love – Even if he has to die to do it, he will save the husband of his beloved so that she will remain happy. As he is led to his appointment with the National Barber, his mind harkens back to the words of Jesus Christ: “I AM the resurrection and the life, says the Lord; he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall live.” And then he puts his head on the butcher’s block and the blade does its work.

 

This is a re-imagining of the scene at the Cross and the way in which darkness makes the light of the resurrection shine even more brightly. One man dies and his death is not meaningless, it is so that another might live. Light has folded darkness into the divine goodness, and nothing, not even sin or death can withstand the brightness of sacrificial love.

 

Jesus died in your place, so that, even after you die, yet you shall live. It is important that we revisit this fact even on a morning as joyful as Easter, precisely because it is this very fact which makes Easter so joyful. Death has been defeated! Easter isn’t just some fable about easter eggs and bunnies, it is about salvation dearly bought. Jesus isn’t an example for us unless he is first a Savior for us. At the Cross; he shows what God promises to do for us and he also does what he shows us. He is both the one who throws open the gate of heaven and he is the gate of heaven.

 

For this reason, Easter is such a happy day. It is like the rising of the Sun after a long dark night, a ray of light that pierces the shadows and gives color and shape to the world. United to the Our Lord and his resurrection, it is as if we can see clearly for the very first time.

 

In our gospel reading, we encounter a clear example of this in Mary Magdalene while she walks to the grave of her Lord. She is alone and undoubtedly wracked with grief. Mary is one of the few who remained with Jesus through the darkness of the Cross, never left his side. I imagine the sense of loss she felt as this man who had changed her entire life now gave his own up. This is how John pictures her, every detail confirms it – It’s dark, she’s alone, in a graveyard. What does she find when she gets there? An empty tomb, even the dead body of her Lord has been stolen from her.

 

She is a momentary example of a life from which Jesus has been taken. If we do not have Him, then all we have are tears. His absence is like a great void at the bottom of everything. Sure, we can entertain ourselves with other pursuits and muddle through life, after all entertainment and diversion is all around us, but the darkness is always there. The absence of the Light of the World, the one who illuminates and makes life beautiful? It is like living in a graveyard.

 

Now for the good news. This doesn’t have to be you. Indeed, this doesn’t have to be anyone. Jesus died for sinners, not just those who naturally seem to be saints. The sinners, in case you’re wondering, are you and me. Jesus died for us so that we might allow our old selves to die along with Him. He calls us each by name out of darkness and into the light.

 

St. Augustine says, “Pondus meum amor meus – My weight is my love.” The darkness of the Cross shows us true love. The brightness of the resurrection shows us our true weight. He goes on, “Weight does not always tend towards the lowest place, but towards its own place. A stone falls, but fire rises. They move according to their own weights, they seek their own places…things out of place are restless. They find their own places, and then they rest. My love is my weight. Whithersoever I am moved, I am moved there by love. By thy gift, O Lord, we are set on fire, and are borne aloft: we burn, and we are on the way.” God’s love is like a fire in the heart, it burns as bright as the sun on Easter morning, and there can be no other result from the Cross other than the total and complete victory by Jesus Christ.  A fire by its very nature rises, and the fiery love of God that has set our hearts ablaze it, too, lifts us up out of the grave and to our proper place. The human soul is made to live forever. We do not sink into darkness, but united with the death and resurrection of Our Lord, we are raised up to heaven.

 

Sydney Carton sees ahead to the future after his own sacrificial death, “I see the evil of this time…wearing out. I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy …It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

 

Our lives are formed to the Cross, and faith can be demanding, occasionally it must make its way through shadow and darkness, but it always finds its true weight. Look to the Resurrection, for it is our future. It is our hope and our joy.

 

Death Daily Before Our Eyes

crucifix

A Good Friday homily

In meditating upon Our Lord on the Cross, we also meditate on the inevitable end of ourselves. The way in which life slowing but relentlessly inflicts suffering upon us and the way that disease, old age, and death close in upon us as our horizons seemingly narrow. It isn’t a happy thought, and I know that in my own life, I put myself at great risk of mid-life crisis when I look back at photos of years gone by and realize that they are gone forever. I am left with memories and pictures of family when we were younger, of friends from my college days who are now scattered around the country with families and careers of their own. When I decided to become Catholic and move back to St. Louis from Cape Cod, I remember the melancholy and difficulty of packing up my things, of seeing an empty house that only a few days before been the center of my whole world, saying goodbye to my friends and parishioners, and as I drove over the canal bridge that separates the Cape from the mainland for the last time I cried, because change hurts. Each moment that slips past is an encounter with the Cross, and the heartbreak of knowing that on this earth we cannot be truly at home in all the places and to all the people for whom want to be at home, it pierces the heart.

 

Life is change, and every change, as the monks at Silverstream Priory say, “even the smallest…are, in some way, a preparation for death. Every change, every detachment, every relocation, is a portent of death…In the Christian perspective, change is the price of life.” As far as I know, in this universe, whatever does not change is not alive, and even if change is uncomfortable it has a purpose. It is the engine of growth and progress, it is our process of becoming. This is why we shouldn’t fear it, and why it is a life-giving habit, as St. Benedict says, to “keep death daily before our eyes.” Our willingness to contemplate our own end is the measure of our willingness to meet that death head on, unafraid, and prepare to meet it. In other words, it is the measure of our willingness to advance and embrace the Cross.

 

Life isn’t all change and loss and then death, though, because once we abandon ourselves at the Cross, a miracle is achieved, because we have placed ourselves at the place of Passover through which the very destiny of the human soul is transformed and our souls, which are eternal, find a true resting place from the whirlwind of life. The Cross is the place of ultimate change but also the place of true rest – the one, quiet, still place around which all else circles. It our home.

 

Brace yourself for the struggle and don’t fall into complacency. You are made for eternity, this we know, but the question is, how will you meet it? It is all too easy to distract ourselves with the pleasures of this world, to allow the white noise to keep us from contemplating the quietness and solitude of our death. We must fix our eyes upon it and ready ourselves for it.

 

The monks at Silverstream teach, “Death is not improvised. One dies as one has lived. To die loving, I must love always. To die praying, I must pray always. To die forgiving, I must forgive always…to die gratefully, I must live in gratitude. To die peacefully, I must live in peace. To die humbly, I must life humbly.”

 

Our task is made especially clear on a day such as Good Friday. If we desire to adore Our Lord in heaven, we begin now, by gazing upon his death and seeing the pattern by which we may peacefully accept our own death as well. His death is the moment of victory, and as he is raised high it is a coming into the complete vision of our beloved Savior, and it is transformative.

 

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Live your life the way that you want to die. This is the only path that we can take to redeem the relentless changes in our lives, to redeem them, turn them into acts of love, and so find ourselves gifted with the supernatural rest of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our true home, and the one whose appearance in our hearts changes us forever.

 

O Lord, be our example and our strength as we die daily to ourselves.

 

Year A – Palm Sunday

palm sunday

Each day is a procession to the object of our love

 

On Palm Sunday, we are reminded of the infamous procession of Our Lord into Jerusalem, when he rides on a donkey and palm fronds are waved as he advances. I say “infamous” because although it is a moment of triumph as the crowds shout Hosanna, it is also the path by which Our Lord makes his way to his death. It is a procession that is only made complete with his crucifixion. This is its goal and destination.

 

Processions are interesting to think about, and there are a lot of them in the Scriptures. There is the procession of the Israelites through the Sinai desert, following a pillar of cloud. There is the procession of the Israelites around Jericho before its walls fall. In the Temple worship, there are processions during celebrations and feast days. These processions have been maintained in the Church, as we process on certain days like Corpus Christi or Palm Sunday. In rural villages in generations past, there were processions in the fields on Rogation Days when the priest would bless the crops. If we have a full complement of altar servers at Mass, there is a procession that imitates the march of the Israelites through the desert, as the incense leads the way like the pillar of smoke, candles are reminiscent of the pillar of fire, and the crucifix is like the snake that was placed on the Cross as a sign of healing.

 

These processions aren’t simply meaningless tradition. We know that everything in life, no matter how insignificant, is an avenue of God’s grace. Every natural thing is created by Him and called good, everything is blessed by the presence of God within and upholding its existence. For a Catholic, the world is enchanted, and processions, not least amongst all of creation, are a natural means by which grace is poured out.

 

Here is the spiritual link; the Psalmist writes, “They have seen Your procession, O God, The procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary.” When we process, we do so in imitation of God, who processes not only within his very own nature as the Son is eternally begotten of the Father and the Holy Spirit in turn processes as a pure act of love, but God also processes from heaven to earth and then back again. Here is what St. Paul says when he quotes this very ancient Christian hymn in our reading today, “[Our Lord] emptied himself…coming in human likeness.” Jesus makes his way down from heaven, and his movement is marked by humility. He goes from the higher to the lower, and he is motivated, as most processions are, by love. He marches towards the object of his affection. For the Israelites it was to the promised land. On Palm Sunday it was towards the redemption of the Cross, but even before that there is the procession of the Incarnation, when Our Lord removes himself from Heaven and arrives in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. There are more. After his death, Our Lord marches in triumph to the waiting place, gathers all of the faithful who had died, and led them straight to the gates of heaven which he threw wide open for them. And there is one, final procession, as Our Lord ascends to the right hand of the Father. This again, is a movement towards the object of his love. He goes to his Father, and he also assumes a place in Heaven where he can be closer to all of us.

 

When we process, or even simply consider a procession such as that of Palm Sunday or as you watch the priest approach the altar before Mass, it isn’t wasted time. We are reminded of the spiritual meaning of our entire lives, for what is life if it isn’t a pilgrimage? We are on a journey. The question is, what is it that motivates us, what causes us to put one foot in front of the other, what is it that we love?

 

A procession reminds us that this world is not our permanent home. Through the streets of earth we make our way to the streets of heaven, and as we make our way through the life that God has planned for us we are changed, because we draw closer and closer to the source of our truth and the object of our love.

Our Lord’s Marriage Proposal to a Lady

samaritan woman

 

Year A Lent 3

“Lord, give me this water that I might not be thirsty again.” So says the Samaritan woman who Our Lord meets at Jacob’s Well. Our Lord is travelling in a foreign land, taking a shortcut through Samaria on his way from Jerusalem to Galilee. Samaria was an area that most Jews disliked intensely, although the two people groups were closely related, the Samaritans had abandoned worship in the Temple at Jerusalem and built their own temple. Most Jews would have gone the long way around, but Our Lord shows no prejudice. It is here, at the local watering hole, that he meets a woman in the heat of the midday sun.

 

This is the scene that St. John sets for a truly remarkable story. If you’ve read enough of the Scriptures, this story of a man meeting a woman at a well might sound familiar. In much the same way that our culture has templates for stories that we like to tell, so too does the ancient world. So, for instance, if you go to a movie and one of the characters is walking home from the grocery store; she will absolutely have a paper bag filled to the brim with long, French rolls of bread. Or how if a character gets shot in the heart with a bullet, he will always, always have a pocket-size bible in his shirt pocket that has miraculously absorbed the bullet. Or how everyone in the movies leaves their car keys in the visor. Or if a cop finds a suspicious bag of white powder he absolutely is going to dip his pinky in and taste it even though that’s crazy and a real police officer would never do that in a million years… I have some problems with the movies. Don’t go with me, because the cynical commentary I mumble at the screen is endless.

 

One of those templates of the ancient world is about how, if a man goes to the town well, he will always find a wife. Moses gets his wife at a well, as do Isaac and Jacob. Hanging out by the town well was the ancient version of the dating game, and there were typical steps to the courtship dance. We can compare to the story of Jesus at the well.

  1. The hero enters a foreign land. Yes, Our Lord is in Samaria
  2. Stops at a well. Check.
  3. A woman is at the well. Check.
  4. He accomplishes something for the woman. Yes, Our Lord offers her living water.
  5. The woman goes home to tell what happened. Check.
  6. The stranger is brought into the household. Yes, he stayed with the Samaritans for two days.
  7. A marriage occurs. Okay…hold on a minute.

 

If you were becoming more and more horrified as you began to see the implications of that list, St. John is not implying that Our Lord married this woman. This isn’t a proto-type of the Da Vinci Code and you won’t see Tom Hanks in the movie theater any time soon portraying Our Lord as a married man happily settled in Samaria with a wife and children (If he is, I promise I’ll be there to complain about the way he carries his groceries). But this event in the life of Christ clearly fits into the traditional betrothal narrative. So what exactly is happening at step number 7?

 

In the Samaritan woman we see a type, or a symbol, that can represent another figure. In the Scriptures this happens quite often, very frequently as a way of linking the old with the new. For instance, the Israelites marching through the Red Sea is a type for baptism, the Manna in the Desert is the Eucharist, The Sacrifice of Isaac is the Cross, even in St. John’s mention that it is Jacob’s Well we get a hint that the water of life that Jesus can offer is greater than what was provided by the Old Covenant God had with the Israelites – and the Samaritan woman? She is a type for the Bride of Christ. More specifically, she is you and me, with our own checkered pasts, our flaws, and our secret temptations who, in spite of our shortcomings, are made pure and holy through grace and are drawn into the mystical Bride of Christ. This reading of the Church as the Bride of Christ is ancient, and Pope St. Leo assures us, “The Church is …the bride of one Spouse, Who is Christ.” We make our way into the Church in the exact same way as the Samaritan woman. We, who were strangers and even enemies of God because of our sins, are by a personal encounter with Our Lord forgiven, and by receiving his mercy are united with Him. He offers us Living Water, the spiritual drink that will quench our thirst so that we never feel our tongues parched by the desert air again, never experience the aridity that is the absence of God from the human heart. In every desert there is a well. In every life of temptation and struggle there is the presence of God, redeeming all things, drawing us to himself through all things. This is the spiritual marriage of which St. John is writing, and this is the reality to which our human marriages point. In marriage, two become one. It is the same in the Church, through her marriage to Christ, we become one with him.

 

In her wisdom, the Church has paired this Gospel with the Old Testament story of Moses and the water that miraculously flows from a rock in the desert. Again, this story presents a type. The Rock represents Our Lord as the one who provides the Living Water in a world that seems like a spiritual desert. There is an important point here that adds more to what we’ve already considered in John’s Gospel. The Rock in the desert is Christ, but he must be struck before he becomes the fountain of life. The nature of this wound is further attested to by John, who writes that Our Lord approaches the Samaritan woman at noon. Noon is the hour that Our Lord is placed on the Cross, and later in his Gospel, John makes note of the fact that when the soldiers pierced Our Lord’s heart at the Cross, blood and water flowed from it. This wound from Our Lord’s side is the fountain of life. The passion of the Cross is the mystical moment at which the marriage of Christ and his Church is consummated. We might say that his sacrificial death is his love letter to us, the completion of his marriage vow “‘til death do us part,” his final act as a faithful spouse.

 

God has sees you as his pure, pristine bride, the one for whom he will give anything, suffer any pain, endure any indignity. If you are having issues with doubting your importance, or struggling with your identity, maybe feeling neglected or unfairly judged by others, Jesus is waiting for you, to draw you to himself who is all love. If this world and its pleasures and distractions have caught your attention in the past but have left you dissatisfied, he offers to you the water of life that satisfies completely. Don’t miss the opportunity. This world is such a spiritual desert, take the opportunity to find Jesus when you can and cling to him.

 

Lord, give us this water that we might not be thirsty again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Links

Here are some recent articles I’ve published around the internet. There is about to be a change at Aleteia’s For Her and in the future my writing will be found in the “Lifestyle” section of Aleteia in case you’re wondering what happened to it.

TS Eliot’s God Haunted poem for Ash Wednesday – Dappled Things

Why wearing a hat is so important to me (all about the biretta) – Dappled Things

Don’t let Lent ruin your self esteem – Aleteia

Anxiety doesn’t have to ruin your life – Aleteia

A guide to dealing with people you don’t like – Aleteia

3 Ways to overcome temptations

temptation

This morning we find ourselves in desert with Our Lord as he suffers three temptations during his own personal 40 days of Lent. To set the context, this is the beginning of his public ministry. He has only recently been baptized by John in the Jordan River and upon its completion he immediately finds himself compelled towards the desert. But Our Lord would have it no other way. We are tempted to sin and so will he be tempted. He became human because he desires to know us – our pains, our struggles, our weakness. The promise of God is to redeem every area of our lives and leave nothing untouched by his grace. Because of this, each and every moment reveals the divine to us if we only take the time to see.

 

We can put it even more strongly and note that the path to spiritual greatness goes through temptation. There is no easy alternative to victory – only the way of the Cross. The world is hostile to God and always will be, so the Church will never be at home here until she finally overcomes the world. In the meantime, this means you and me facing temptations every day.

 

If the devil on your shoulder seems to be particularly persistent, that doesn’t mean that you are a bad person. Often, Satan chooses to attack us precisely when we are on the verge of victory; for Our Lord it is right at the moment when he is about to reveal the love of God to the world. But what Satan intends for harm only makes us stronger. Think about this for a second, Satan decides to place our Lord at the pinnacle of the temple to tempt him. Once Our Lord rejects the temptation, the tables turn quickly and dramatically, because Satan has unwittingly led Our Lord to a place of symbolic honor. Jesus is revealed to be the Lord of the Temple, raised high and exalted. In fact, we find here the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy from Isaiah, “Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” Temptation has brought about a moment of supreme triumph for Our Lord and all of Satan’s evil intentions are co-opted by God just as light drives out darkness.

 

It is the same for you and me. Remember that Jesus assumed all of humanity when he came to earth, so whatever temptation he overcame, we too can overcome. Each attempt by Satan to cause Our Lord to sin is a subtle attack on one, specific spiritual necessity – obedience to the will of God. This makes sense, right? Because the first sin is Eve questioning the will of God and deciding she knows a better way. The root of sin is the separation of our will from that of God, the desire to make our own choices for ourselves alone. The way in which Our Lord responds provides helpful clues to how we might overcome temptation when it arrives.

 

First, seek the will of God. We cannot love God if we don’t know him, and we can’t serve him if we have no idea what he asks of us. Ask him for clarity about his plan for your life. And don’t simply ask, take the time to listen. Go to confession so that sins don’t cloud your mind. Spend time with Our Lord in Adoration. Read the scriptures. Give up distractions.

 

Second, trust that the will of God is for your happiness. He is on your side. Satan tries to make us doubt this. He tells Eve that God is holding her back. He tells Jesus that if he denies his Father he can have all the riches of the world. The ways of God are not always the easiest ways, but nothing in life worth achieving is ever done so by the easy way.

 

Third, to the extent that you know God’s will and learn to trust him, submit your will to his. He may ask of us what seems impossible, or simply undesirable, or at odds with what we want. When we offer our will to God, remember that it is through the faculty of the will that we love, because love is a decision we make and then act upon. So seeking his will, trusting his will, and submitting your will is the greatest act of love of which we are capable. The love isn’t one-sided, either, and Our Lord is the proof. He doesn’t ask anything of us that he doesn’t first experience, and for him, obedience to God is not an easy task because it consisted of suffering, humiliation, and death on the Cross. This offers additional insight into how Satan’s temptations attack us. He finds out exactly what obedience to God means, exactly what cost Lent, repentance, and Christian sacrifice might extract from us and he twists it. Instead of seeing how such sacrifices set us free from sin and death and make room for happiness, Satan shows us only the suffering. He lies and tells us that it never gets better, that following the will of God will ruin our lives.

 

With each breath we take, we are offered a choice. Eve was offered a choice. She formed a disobedient desire and in an instant changed the course of history. Jesus was offered three choices, in the moment each one undoubtedly seemed overwhelmingly desirable, but he used his moment to make a choice that would endure beyond that moment. There are echoes of these temptations throughout the life of Christ. He conquers them, but they return again and again. He never wavers. Never takes his actions away from the will of his Father until finally on the night before his death, he says, “Not my will but thy will be done.”

 

Fulton Sheen says, “Never forget that there are only two philosophies to rule your life: the one of the cross, which starts with the fast and ends with the feast. The other of Satan, which starts with the feast and ends with the headache.” Which will you choose? Whose will is going to be more powerful in your life? The decisive moment is now. This moment is the chance for each of us to decide, right now, to allow the will of God to work in and through us, to imitate Christ and say with him – in the world, in my family, at school, at work, in the very heart of creation, I will be love.

 

Why anxiety is so debilitating, and what to do about it…

jesus-calming-the-storm

We are all too worried. Worried about the house payment, if the kids are being raised right, if we’re good enough at spirituality, if we aren’t, maybe, secretly not all that great of people and if others really knew us they might not like us so much, if politicians are ushering us into an apocalyptic, Hunger Games-style, end of civilization-type scenario. We’re also worried about small things: did I forget to close the garage door, or to feed the dog? Did that guy look at me funny? It isn’t that these worries aren’t understandable, I totally get it and am in solidarity with anyone who has worried about pretty much any of the examples I just gave. But simply because what we worry about seems justifiable doesn’t mean that the worry itself isn’t causing us problems.

 

Health-wise, worry can lead to high blood pressure, lack of sleep, and rash decision making. It makes us feel powerless and helpless, and attacks us right where we feel vulnerable, precisely at those places in our lives where we fear we have no control.

 

It is so serious that Our Lord warns us that anxiety (and I should point out here that, for those of us with medical issues that cause anxiety, this message isn’t meant to make you feel even worse, stay with me here), anxiety is so serious and debilitating that Our Lord implies it has the power to eventually separate us from our devotion to God and distract us with lesser things. St. Francis de Sales says that, other than our actual sins, anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul.

 

It is so serious, as St. Francis explains, because “Anxiety is not only a temptation but a source from which and by which many temptations arise.” I think about the ways I behave when I am anxious. Precisely because I feel helpless I become defensive, and short-tempered, and seek easy solutions even if they aren’t the right or even ethical solutions. I might lie to extricate myself from the situation as fast as possible, or I avoid it and evade responsibility. Anxiety causes our passions to become disordered and our emotions fly out of control.

 

[This homily was given at the Mass during with our Candidates for reception in the Catholic Church were present to prepare for lent] I can say this to you, RCIA candidates. When I was in the process of converting I was apprehensive to the core. Was I doing the right thing? What if I wanted to convert to something else later? Do I know enough, am I good enough to become Catholic? I don’t know how to explain it, but the Church is ever so much larger from the inside than she is from the outside, so have no fear and see before you not a last anxiety to overcome but an adventure to be embraced. The Church is a love letter from God and every day we get to ponder it and unravel new, mysterious depths.

 

But simply being Catholic doesn’t magically take away all our worries, we must be continually converted to the Lord. In the Psalms, David prays, “My soul is continually in my hands, O Lord, and I have not forgotten Thy law.” Anxiety robs us of such a serene prayer, so we ought to examine ourselves frequently, either all through the day or at the very least in the morning and the evening. The day is about to begin, am I collected and prepared for what will confront me this day? And at night, how did I do today, am I taking any anxiety to bed with me, or do I need to give anything over to the Lord?

 

Perhaps we know all this and we agree, but yet, when anxiety overcomes us, it is so hard! Lest we judge others when they’re in its grip, we might remind ourselves of how we felt and how we behaved during the times we struggled with it. It doesn’t always make sense from the outside, precisely why it is such a dangerous event and why Our Lord warns that it will separate us from God. To me, the advice to give to someone who is worried cannot be as simple as “Hey buddy, stop worrying, ya know?” “Just trust God!

 

St. Francis de Sales has some good thoughts on a remedy

 

First, focus on the present, not the future. The present is what is under our control, the future is not. Look at the birds of the sky, they do not sow or reap. See the wildflowers, they neither spin nor weave. This isn’t to say that planning ahead is bad or causes worry, but it is to say that once your plans are made, take time to live each moment and enjoy it. Give thanks to God for how he cares you and no that, no matter what happens tomorrow, He will take care of you.

 

Second, maintain a healthy perspective. We should not worry about what we cannot control. Even if the world sends suffering and frustration our way, there’s nothing we can do about it, but more importantly, God can and will use all things for the good. He will take any flaws and evils of this life and fold them into his plan for our eternal salvation. Which is to say, that even though he does not cause us ill or create events that are anxiety provoking, God will redeem any situation in the light of eternal life. If we remain close to Jesus, nothing can pull us away from him, no cross is too heavy that he refuses to bear it, no sin so bad that he won’t forgive. How do you view your life? Are you distracted by the worries of the next week, or are you living in such a way that you are prepared to be a saint in Heaven? What is most important to you? If it is God, then relax, his promise is to be closer to us than our own mothers. The Prophet Isaiah muses, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”

 

The third bit of advice St. Francis de Sales has for us is to remember who we are. God never forget’s us, so do not forget that you are God’s, more valuable to him than all the creatures of the earth and flowers of the field. One human being, you, are more precious to him than his very own life. We worry because we doubt God. We don’t think he is really in control, and this is understandable because life often seems like pure chaos, but have faith, remember that God is in control, and that you are loved by him as the very treasure of his heart.

 

Our souls are continually in his hands. If anxiety is one of the greatest dangers to our happiness, don’t let that make you even more worried, because Jesus is the cure, our sure hope and our resting place in the storm.

 

 

Stay Salty (It’s so easy. It’s so hard)

sermon-on-the-mount

I’m kind of obsessed with food, I like eating food, thinking about food, thinking about eating food… I’m akin to that person on facebook who takes pictures of all his French fries and shares it online but I actually do it in real life by holding my plate in front of your face and demanding that you call the food “amazing.” But really, is it all that amazing? I mean, the birth of a baby is amazing. Is a big mac amazing? Not so much. (BTW I like seeing those food pictures, so keep it up). So, when Our Lord raises the topic of salt, one of the best kinds of food other than coffee, I’m all too happy to use the occasion to talk about what that means to say that we, as followers of Christ, are the Salt of the Earth.

 

Our Lord gives us this identity at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the most famous part of which is the Beatitudes which we read at Mass last week. The Beatitudes are revolutionary in the sense that Our Lord is making clear that there is no “way to happiness,” and no way to bargain with God for his acceptance and love. Instead, to follow Christ is happiness, and we do not bargain with God because he already loves us, he already holds happiness before us. The Beatitudes teach that happiness is a life fully committed not to chasing our own desires but that works its level best to give happiness to others.

 

So what does that mean? It means that to take our proper place as the Salt of the Earth, we don’t need to be eloquent preachers, after all St. Paul says that he is not. And you don’t need to be smarter than everyone else and read the Scriptures in the original language; St. Paul claims that he isn’t very wise (although I think he’s being modest). But he does proclaim to the Church one, simple truth – the mysterious, never-ending love of God. To be the Salt of the Earth is to rest in God’s love, to return it, and be happy. That’s our faith. That’s our purpose in life.

 

St. Therese the Little Flower, trying to find her place in the world as a young nun, eventually realized that for all of us, God holds out a simple but challenging vision, “In the heart of the Church,” she says, “I will be love.” Therese has no great gifts that are highly visible or flashy, but she can love. It isn’t a complicated spiritual insight, but it is a compellingly sacrificial task. One does not love half-heartedly. We only love when we put our whole selves into it. At the outset, it doesn’t seem like living for others would make a person happy, but the paradox that Our Lord reveals is that in giving our lives away in love, we become truly alive, because love feeds the human soul. In fact, this is the only way of happiness. It had to be the sacrificial love of Our Lord at the Cross or nothing – All else leaves us wanting.

 

Okay, I’ve wandered from my true theme here, which is to talk about food! What makes salt so special is that it reveals the natural flavors of food.  Salt isn’t all particularly good on its own but is used in combination with other food. So think about it this way. Food without salt tastes bland, but with it, the inner beauty of the cuisine is revealed. Let’s apply the analogy to ourselves. The human soul, says St. Clare, is like a mirror. The more it reflects Jesus the more brightly it shines and the lovelier it is. We as the Salt of the Earth reveal not only our human love and compassion for those around us but also right along with it, God’s love. As salt, we glorify God and we bring out the best in others.

 

Life isn’t always simple or easy this way, and there are times when it seems we will never live up to the high opinion of Jesus, Salt of the Earth, Me? Not so fast. Does God know what I’m really like? He does hear what I say in the confessional, right? Yes, God knows you even better than you even know yourself!

 

And this is the beauty of love. It doesn’t draw attention to itself, but plays out in thousands of small actions each and every day. We can do this. At the heart of the Church, be love. At the heart of your social circle, be love. In your place of business, or at school, be love. It doesn’t mean get all emotional and exuberant. You don’t need to make Valentine’s cards for all your co-workers. The love that is friendship and human kindness is simple, it’s salty, meaning that it is the simple act of thinking of others first, not always having your own way, trying to consider something from the point of view of another, overlooking flaws in others and focusing on what makes them so great.

 

This can be difficult, but the good news is that we have the help of Jesus to get us there, and ultimately, his wish for us, the reason he asks us to be the Salt of the Earth, is for our own happiness, to make us more and more alive, more fully ourselves, and ultimately to find ourselves with him in the joy of eternal life.