Friday, May 29, 2015

Jesus Saves

Jesus saves.

I know; you've heard it a million times, right? It's not like you'd ever say "Who cares?" but sometimes -- even if you only admit it to yourself -- in the back of your mind you wonder: "So what?"

I think about this often. The people of Jesus' time were so amazed at Him. Some were afraid, some felt threatened, others found hope. People would travel for miles -- literally -- in the hope of touching his shirt -- literally. We hear the stories of the man whose friends tore a hole in a roof in order to lower him down to Jesus, the woman with the  hemorrhage who dreamed of only ever touching the hem of His garment, the Samaritan woman who was so astounded by His words she went and told everyone in town...the list goes on. 

Jesus transformed, Jesus terrified, Jesus uplifted, and Jesus unsettled. Jesus was so wildly loved that His Apostles were consistently frazzled trying to keep Him safe from pressing crowds; He Himself often retreated into solitude and silence to avoid crowds. He was so powerful that He stirred a deep and unshakeable fear in the hearts of the religious elite of His time, so much so that they convinced a mob to elect to kill Him. He performed miracles. He made wild claims. He boldly proclaimed a kingdom, a dawn of hope, and a coming judgment -- and onlookers hung on every word.

When He died, the sky turned black and the earth shook under the weight of His cross. When He rose again, His disciples couldn't decide between being afraid and being overjoyed.

He was shocking. He was amazing. He was groundbreaking.

Jesus was not boring.

And yet we find ourselves more bored than in awe at the sacrifice of the Mass. After we manage to survive sitting through prophecies and foreshadowings of the Incarnate Love of God and a ten minute sermon about it, Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, who was slain at Calvary, is presented to us on the altar. And we're thinking about what sounds good for lunch.

It is beyond my comprehension why God would become so small and humble that He becomes bread. Bread, of all things. Sure, bread is a staple in our lives, but it's probably one of the most simultaneously overlooked and taken for granted staples we have. We much prefer steak and potatoes and cauliflower and chicken, don't we? But bread. He chooses bread.

But then again, God is beyond my comprehension. I am learning to stop analyzing Him and to start worshipping Him. And the humility of this moment strikes me:

"This is my Body, given up for you."

The most important words ever uttered by a human being that will ever be heard by human beings met with snot bubbles and yawns. We don't care. Why don't we care? Why don't I care?

Why don't I care that the Man who has saved my life in a very real and tangible way wants to consummate a physical and spiritual union with me by giving me Himself as bread to eat in order to give me a share in His divine life? He pours Himself out in love, over and over again, and as I'm writing this I wonder if it's something like a mother and her baby.

God help me, I have the attention span of a fly (do flies have attention spans?). I go to Mass every Sunday and try -- I try, guys -- to focus and listen and take in the grace which overflows in abundance from the chalice and the host. And every. time. I'm lost, thinking about something else.

But Jesus remains wholly focused on me. He has heard my cries from the past week from heaven and He now comes down to meet me and soothe me. First, He comforts me with words. Through the opening strains of the Mass and through the readings, it's almost like He is trying to calm me; "Be still; I'm coming; I'm here now; I've got you." And all the while, perhaps I'm still screaming, at least in my mind. Itching, restless, searching, yearning. Unfulfilled. Discontent. And He meets me there. And He gives me His flesh, His life, for food. I am nourished by His body, whether I'm paying attention or not, and for a short while after Communion He holds me even while my mind wanders.

Maybe I'll never know why we're so distracted. I'll probably never know why I'm so distracted. I may never be able to fix it, but I do know one thing is for sure:

Jesus saves, even when I'm not paying attention.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Remembering Mary on Mother's Day

I'm usually annoyed by Timehop, mostly because I was annoying when I was younger (and like to pretend I'm not anymore and never was). But today, Timehop reminded me of a Facebook status I posted a year ago, before I had a blog to put it on, and I'm really glad it did. I've copied and pasted the entirety of the status here.

It is fitting that Jesus would give us His Mother from the cross. It was prophesied to Mary when Jesus was presented in the Temple that "a sword would pierce her own heart also, that the secret thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." Without a doubt, when Jesus' heart was pierced, Mary's own heart was pierced -- she who loved God totally, so totally that she conceived Him in the flesh in her very person, and bore Him into the world. He truly, as any mother would say of her son, is her heart.

There is a reason Jesus gave us His mother from the cross -- a reason that her own heart was pierced with His. The Catechism says that Jesus died, not as though He was being "punished in our place," but because, by His death into our death, He wanted to bring to us a share in His life.

And so, while giving His life for us, so that He could give His life to us, on the cross, it would only make sense that He would also give us His mother -- the woman who gave Him life, that He shared the majority of His life with. It is fitting that He who calls us to be born again, finishes His work on the cross by giving us a mother to be born to, through that work.

Giving us our Mother Mary was important to Jesus. The Scriptures say He didn't give up His life until He saw that "all had been accomplished" when He had given her to us to be our Mother.

Mary's maternity over us is a fruit of our Redemption. It is not the most important fruit, but it is a very important one. It is one we should never take for granted. After all, as my friend Joey pointed out today: Jesus got to pick His own mother. There really is something special about this woman, and I would definitely encourage every Christian who doesn't already have one to develop a relationship with her. She is the greatest treasure in my life apart from God Himself. I take her for granted so often -- but she has never, ever let me down.

Happy Mother's Day, Theotokos. Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Day the New York Times Saved Me From Evil, Evil Catholicism

I remember it vividly -- the day an army of grossnasty Vatican men came to force me into their grossnasty men cult. I was just finishing my daily meditation on the magnificence of the Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren, daydreaming in spurts about how much I love abortion and freebleeding and stuff, when I heard three loud booms against my front door. "Who iiiis it?" I sang, with exactly none of the frilly princess nonsense of Disney damsels. "Oh, you know, just the ice cream man, here with a boatload of chocolates and unicorns, just for you!" Awesome!

I twirled to the door, not realizing it would be the last time I would see my home, my feminist utopia set apart from the rest of the patriarchal mainstream society I found myself smothered by everywhere I turned. I opened the door, but there was no ice cream man there. It was instead a bunch of old white men in dresses trying to tell me who I should and shouldn't sleep with even though they're all like virgins or something so what the hell do they know anyway.

I was terrified. Naturally, I couldn't defend myself from these scary old dudes, each of them shouting random slurs such as "Birth control is a sin!" and "Women shouldn't be priests!" I was aghast, and each exclamation shot through my heart like a martini tossed at an abortion clinic. Unable to retaliate, I was easily bound and gagged, and not in the cool way they talk about in Twilight fanfictions. In the bad way. I was thrown into the back of a big scary black van and held hostage for five years, brainwashed into accepting an ancient faith which undoubtedly holds no relevance in the world today, let alone in my life...until one day, the New York Times delivered a breathtaking and astonishing reality check on everything the Catholic Church has been wrong about for centuries. With a new surge of #womynpower coursing through my lady veins, I broke free of my shackles, kicked all those grossnasty men in the face, and crawled out into the real world again. The real world where I could change my profile picture to "Ready for Hillary" without receiving a flogging. The real world where I could receive Communion from any Catholic church I wanted while living in "serious sin" without being tackled to the ground by a bunch of grossnasty old virgin dudes who don't know the first thing about having a vagina to look after anyway.


I hope it didn't take too long to get your bullshit radar blazing.

Recently, the New York Times put out an article decrying the Catholic Church's alleged sexism, especially in regards to the all-male priesthood and teachings against contraception, pointing out that priests are called "father" but women religious are called "sister," and reminding everyone (except Catholics, who never forgot) that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdelene after His Resurrection. The writer seems to easily forget -- or, if my inclination is correct, he has never actually researched anything he's talking about -- about Mother Teresa, and every woman in her same position who shares her title, and the ages-old title given to Mary Magdelene, the Apostle to the Apostles.

But, I'll try my very best to put my feverish desire to correct all of his atrocious attempts at exegesis and explaining Catholic theology aside (it comes with pursuing a degree in Theology, which I'm allowed to do, even though I'm a woman. Calm down. Control your shaking and vomiting, please.) to point out how brilliantly arrogant it is for a non-Catholic man to accuse every Catholic woman on the planet of Stockholm Syndrome.

I love being a member of the Catholic Church, the Church I ultimately chose to be a part of. The Church I chose to be a part of even after a fierce internal wrestling match with everything I held dear about religion and God and a mountainous heap of the Church's teachings. Yes, there was some discomfort with the ban on contraception, the weird obsession the Church seemed to have with sex and gay marriage, and the all-male priesthood. Yes, there was some hesitating. No, I wasn't forced into this religion against my will and no, no one coerced me into submitting to the Church's authority on these matters. I chose to for myself.

How bitterly insulting to be told by this man that I can't think for myself, that half of my personal heroes were little more than victims. Many of the intellectual, spiritual, and social giants I admire most were Catholic women, many of them now Saints. I'd like to see his feeble grasp on theology square up against the minds and writings of Teresa of Avila, Edith Stein, and Therese of Lisieux. I'd like to see him tell Mary Magdelene that her dear friends Peter and John, the latter of whom she clung to as her Lord died in agony, were out to oppress her and make her subservient to them, even though they showed her a profound respect and admiration she would not have been shown by other men during her time, let alone religious men, by regarding her as their equal. I'd like to see him tell Dorothy Day to run for the hills from the Catholic Church. I'd like to see him tell Flannery O'Connor to abandon the Eucharist in pursuit of a more century-appropriate vocation for her as a woman or something. But most of all, I'd love to see him stand before the throne of Mary Immaculate, the Queen of Heaven and Earth and the Mother of God Almighty, and tell her that the Catholic Church undervalues women and their role in society by only ordaining men and preserving spiritual symbolism which exalts men over women...somehow.

There is much more I can say. Like I said, theology students seem to all come together in the habit of wanting to defend the Church's teachings from those who haven't tried in the slightest to understand them. But, I'll leave that to someone this man might actually listen to. Why, I wonder, would he listen to me anyway? I'm just a Catholic woman, oppressed and sad and all that. What could I possibly know anyway?