Monday, April 20, 2015

Battered & Bruished

"If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever."
St. Thomas Aquinas

Catholics believe in "one holy Catholic and apostolic Church." So, let's unpack this:

One: We are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 2:28). To claim one Church means to recognize that the Body of Christ extends across time and across continents. Our brothers and sisters are all humanity.

Holy: This one is kind of a give-away, but it means virtue. We're called to be holy and perfect, as our heavenly Father is holy and perfect.

Catholic: Well, it's the Catholic church so this one isn't really a shocker....Jk. Catholic means "universal," so to be Catholic means to extend across all things. It is the universality of the Church that allows us to walk into Mass anywhere in the world and, despite the language difference, know what is going on. We receive the same Word of God and the same Bread of Life, no matter where we are in this world.

Apostolic: from the Greek apostello, meaning "to send forth." An apostolic Church reaches out to all, seeking to make known Christ's love across all corners of the earth.

BINGO. Apostolic. Let's tackle this one today.

We're called to be apostles, but what does this look like?

It means venturing out into the unknown. It means speaking up when our culture wants nothing to do with us. It means standing up for what we believe in.

It means courage, and bravery, and one heck of a journey. If you're looking for comfort, this isn't the way to go.

But, then again, when we worship a King who died on a Cross, do we really expect a world full of comfort?

Our life as Christians isn't about surviving. It's not about avoiding causing offense. It's not about keeping our mouths shut, even if we do so out of respect for others' beliefs or lack of belief. No, it's exactly the opposite.

Being a Christian means making joyful noise. Not out of spite for others' beliefs. Not out of hatred or pride or ignorance. But out of joy: We have such a great love. We have such light. If, then, we receive so much, shouldn't we give it out? Shouldn't we share the Good News (the Gospel)? Shouldn't we tell the world what we have seen?

That's what the early disciples did. They emerged after Pentecost on fire for Christ. They shared His message to all nations. People thought they were wasted, but nope, they were just high on the Most High.

"It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard," they said (Acts 4:20).

They ran to all corners of the earth to share this news: Jesus was dead, but He has risen. The powers of hell cannot prevail against Him. What love He has for us to die for our sake. What power He has to overcome the cruelest of deaths.

Despite arrest and persecution, they preached with love and joy and passion. It was impossible for them not to do so. Many died at the hands of those unwilling to believe them. But they died in the embrace of a God who knew their suffering. And, like Him, earth's suffering soon ceased to have a hold on them as they found their eternal rest in Heaven.

Let's imitate the early disciples. Let's run from the tomb like chickens with our heads cut off, announcing that Christ has risen. Let's run from our homes to all corners of the earth, bringing others to know the Good News.

We are not a ship meant to remain pristine and safe. That's not why we're here. We're here to fight.

So, don your armor. Prepare for battle. And run out with reckless abandon. The harder your fight, the bigger your wounds, the better. Then, like St. Paul, you can look back at a life well lived and say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

Saturday, April 11, 2015

"Dear Future Husband"

Today, I was scrolling through the Top 50 songs in America right now. I recognized very few; however, one unfamiliar one stuck out to me in particular: "Dear Future Husband" by Meghan Trainor.

I was curious. Part of me hoped it was a beautiful ode, a song that nodded to the noble idea of living with your future spouse in mind, something along the lines of "6'2" by Marie Miller. I first heard 6'2 on mainstream media and was so pleasantly surprised that it portrayed a good message. However, as I read the lyrics, "Dear Future Husband" seemed to portray a different message.

Dear future husband,
Here's a few things
You'll need to know if you wanna be
My one and only all my life

Take me on a date
I deserve it, babe
And don't forget the flowers every anniversary
'Cause if you'll treat me right
I'll be the perfect wife
Buying groceries
Buy-buying what you need

Let's start here. I just picture Meghan Trainor forcibly sitting a young man down in a chair with a spotlight on his face and handing him a list of demands. Romantic.

You gotta know how to treat me like a lady
Even when I'm acting crazy
Tell me everything's alright.

Okay, this part is good. Treating a lady like a lady is noble. Maybe I was wrong about the song.

After every fight
Just apologize
And maybe then I'll let you try and rock my body right
Even if I was wrong
You know I'm never wrong.

Okay, I take that back.

I'll be sleeping on the left side of the bed (hey)
Open doors for me and you might get some kisses
Don't have a dirty mind
Just be a classy guy
Buy me a ring. I don't know Meghan Trainor, but I'd assume a lot of this was playful humor, not meant to be taken seriously. I'd like to make that disclaimer. However, the message of this song really hits the nail on the head with the way we view relationships.

For example:

"I deserve it." How much of our relationship is focused upon us--what we deserve, what we are feeling? When we look at a relationship only from the lens of "what can I get out of it," there's bound to be issues. Then, what happens when the going gets tough? What happens when the initial feelings of love fade? Do you end it? Is that all it takes to fall out of love?

In Edward Sri's Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love, a commentary on St. JP2's Love and Responsibility, he gives an example of two couples he knew. I'm paraphrasing because I don't have the book right in front of me, but basically: these two married couples lived within blocks of each other. Around the same time, both of the wives developed serious illnesses. One husband could not handle the stress of taking care of her; he no longer had time for himself and always had to worry about watching after her. He left the family and divorced her. The other husband dedicated his life to caring for his progressively ailing wife, bathing her, dressing her, and retiring early so he could be with her as much as possible. That is love. Maybe he didn't get the warm and fuzzies, but you can't doubt he loved her.

Life is going to get difficult at some point or another, and for a relationship to persist amid this stress, it must be about giving all that you can, not getting.

"Don't have a dirty mind, just be a classy guy." Trainor makes this comment after offering her hubby kisses for being polite and sex for apologizing first after a fight. So, let me clarify: sex and kisses are not bad things for a married couple. In fact, yay go you; love each other and celebrate the sacrament and the procreation and unity that results (I could go on, but this isn't a post to explain why Catholics love sex, marriage, love, etc.). Furthermore, being a classy guy isn't a bad thing. In fact, that is SO great!

Buuuuuuut. You can't hand out physical pleasure like candy and expect your spouse not to struggle with classiness and purity. Purity is a two way street, for sure, but regardless, if your relationship is only based on kissy time and sexy time, not having a dirty mind is incredibly difficult--for both in the relationship.

If you want to be able to tell your significant other "don't have a dirty mind," then don't make your relationship about the physical. If a relationship is based on loving an individual for their whole person (looks....AND soul and character and personality and intelligence, etc.), then the physical aspect isn't the priority. Being a classy guy or gal is easier because the relationship is about enhancing the dignity of the other, respecting and loving them--as a person to be cared for, not an object to be used.

Self-sacrifice, a focus outward, and respect for the dignity of the human person and the human body are just a few elements of authentic love. However, I only touched the surface. Each of these are interconnected to each other and to countless other elements of pure relationships. Perhaps I'll write on the topic more later, but to those interested, definitely check out Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love.

Now, to leave y'all with the most important point I want to make: We should be writing "Dear Future Spouse" but we shouldn't be following it with a list of demands. Rather, let's pray for him or her. Let's let them know that we're aware of the fact that one day we'll vow ourselves to them. Let's live with intentionality, not throwing away our bodies and souls to every individual we encounter. Let's practice self-giving, person-centered loving right now.

“Love is willing the good of the other…and then doing something concrete about it.  It’s not an emotion, it’s not an attitude.  It’s a move of the will.  To want the good of the other, and do something about it.  That’s love." Fr. Robert Barron