Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Holy Week Reflection

There is little in life that foments anxiety as much as being misunderstood. Our intentions belong only to ourselves, yet we make the common error of presupposing that our intentions can be clearly inferred by our actions or historical “goodness”. Reality finds us defending our activity and its meaning on a fairly regular basis.

To be misunderstood is a common cross for those who follow Christ. The way we choose to live, the decisions we make for our families and for ourselves, and the priorities we set can be seen by others as condemning and judgmental. Our fidelity to the Church carries with it the notions of all those who oppose her, who observe and note our words and actions to confirm their prejudice.

More disturbing are those circumstances in which we who should be of like mind and heart do the same to one another. A wise man once told me, “What we don’t know we make up, and it’s never good”. How often we speculate the intentions of others maliciously, yet we are indignant when the same is directed to ourselves.

We are not alone; as in all things the Bible teaches us that being misunderstood and misunderstanding others is a historical trait of our kind.  Who among those present at the Passion of our Lord understood the magnanimity of that moment? Who among those who mocked and spit comprehended the earth-shattering event taking place? I consider the centurion’s words: “Truly, this was the Son of God!” Mt 27:54. It took an earthquake, the opening of tombs, and an eclipse to get him to that epiphany. We have been given the meaning of that day as a great gift of grace, a gift we are meant to share and to translate into love. That’s where we fail – in the translation.

If God calls us to love one another, we need to learn to be gentle, kind, and patient. We need to presuppose the best in others, and respond with love. We need to endure personal attack with gentle reserve and reflect honestly on our intentions. Sometimes that is best done in silence, at other times in conversation marked with a generous spirit. Most of all, “what we don’t know” we should never make up…it only gets us into trouble.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ill from the monotony of my suffering...

My wife has quite irritatingly lost somewhere near six gazillion pounds over the last year through no conscious effort of her own and has suddenly achieved the figure of her youth.  She smugly announced recently that she currently weighs the same that she did on our wedding day.   I, contrarily, weigh somewhat more than I did that blessed day; somewhere in the vicinity of a side of beef more.  I wear my wedding tux pants like leg warmers on cold Buffalo nights while dreaming of what my washboard abs might look like without all the wash piled on top.

Ironically, I live directly across the street from a gym.  I have stared with envy many a morning as lean, health-conscious men and women trekked from their Subarus to the elipticals, sipping their Evian and sporting pricey athletic shoes purchased with home equity loans.  I considered membership, but somehow felt my zubaz pants and Sabres sweatshirt stained with chicken wing sauce might contrast with the sculpted UnderArmour worn by the gym's "membres favorises."  Oh bother.  Angst is easily cured with a honey glazed cruller and a French vanilla cappuccino from the drive-thru at Timmy Horton's.

I finally tired of breathing like an emphysematic chain smoker after minimal activity about a month ago, walked the previously unfathomable chasm across the street (approximately fifty feet), and purchased a membership.  This was just six weeks ago.  So much has transpired since then.  Such pain.  Such agony.

After three weeks of frantic exercise, staring at the "no pain, no gain" sign emblazoned on the gym wall, sweating like Mike Tyson at a spelling bee, I have achieved two significant milestones:  I lost ten  pounds and herniated a disc in my lumbar spine.  I spent two days in the hospital enduring stern looking nurses injecting massive doses of steroids and narcotics in my veins like a major league baseball player on a Toronto holiday.  After nearly three weeks of walking like Quasimoto, I have finally regained the ability to walk erect, and to sit comfortably in the car while eating a cruller.

It has been about a week since the pain has gone, and the gym taunts me.  I tell my friends and family that I will go back, that it is only a matter of time before I'm back on the treadmill and perspiring profusely.  I have convinced myself that I have kept the ten pounds off.  But who am I kidding.  That gym is a house of horror, and I'm in the throes of post-traumatic stress.  I'm going to Timmy's.

Monday, March 29, 2010

My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?

I don't suppose there is any coincidence that the latest barrage of journalistic and political attacks against the Church and the Holy Father correspond with the final days of preparation for those receiving the sacraments at the Easter Vigil. Satan has perennially made this a time of struggle for candidates and catechumen, and this year he's going straight to the top to reinforce doubt. There are countless eager to assist him; some blindly, others with eyes wide open.
Then Jesus said to them, "This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written: 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed'; but after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee." Matthew 26:31-32
As the attacks continue, the danger grows, not only for our beloved converts, but for the life-long faithful as well. Satan is counting on us behaving like skittish sheep; he's worked hard to instill anxiety. His greatest ally seems to be our penchant to resort to the base nature of our sexuality. With it he foments skepticism in the moral validity of the institution, and consequently the entire faith. He is striking at the shepherds; too many have been complicit. Others have misapplied mercy. The sheep are wide-eyed and fearful.

We are truly a Church suffering. We suffer for victims. We suffer those who misrepresent the love of Jesus. We suffer those who condemn, who mock, who despise. We suffer the reality that the vast majority of our shepherds are good and holy, but have been cast in a shadow of suspicion. We suffer marginalization in a society bent on reducing the image of the faithful to uneducated peasants clinging desperately to irrelevant myths. By far our greatest suffering is our own sinfulness. We expect so much of ourselves and our shepherds; we set ourselves up for disappointment.

Psalm 22 speaks to me.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish? My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the glory of Israel. In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted and you rescued them. To you they cried out and they escaped; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

But I am a worm, hardly human, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me: "You relied on the LORD--let him deliver you; if he loves you, let him rescue you."

Yet you drew me forth from the womb, made me safe at my mother's breast. Upon you I was thrust from the womb; since birth you are my God. Do not stay far from me, for trouble is near, and there is no one to help. Many bulls surround me; fierce bulls of Bashan encircle me. They open their mouths against me, lions that rend and roar. Like water my life drains away; all my bones grow soft. My heart has become like wax, it melts away within me. As dry as a potsherd is my throat; my tongue sticks to my palate; you lay me in the dust of death.

Many dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me. So wasted are my hands and feet that I can count all my bones. They stare at me and gloat; they divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.

But you, LORD, do not stay far off; my strength, come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my forlorn life from the teeth of the dog. Save me from the lion's mouth, my poor life from the horns of wild bulls. Then I will proclaim your name to the assembly; in the community I will praise you: "You who fear the LORD, give praise! All descendants of Jacob, give honor; show reverence, all descendants of Israel! For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out.

I will offer praise in the great assembly; my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him. The poor will eat their fill; those who seek the LORD will offer praise. May your hearts enjoy life forever!" All the ends of the earth will worship and turn to the LORD; All the families of nations will bow low before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, the ruler over the nations. All who sleep in the earth will bow low before God; All who have gone down into the dust will kneel in homage. And I will live for the LORD; my descendants will serve you. The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought.