Sunday, December 30, 2012

Eternal

I have some math in my background, though I admit to not making excellent grades in it during college.  I know - an engineer who wasn't really great at Calculus.  Don't worry, I'm not using Calculus in my job right now.  Anyway, I do know enough about math to tell you that 100 out of infinity is 0.  There's some fancy terms we could use there and I think a graph I could draw, but for all practical purposes 100 compared to infinity is 0.  It is too tiny to even notice relative to infinity.  As infinity is, well, infinitely large, 100 looks infinitely small.  One could easily ignore 100 out of infinity.  The 100 isn't really all that important.

If I have insomnia, one single night can feel like forever.  If I'm sick, three days can feel like forever.  Let's say we live to 100.  That's 100 years old or 36,500 days or 2,190,000 minutes.  Approximately.  That seems like a very long time to us now.   But it isn't when compared to infinity, to the eternity that occurs after our lives.  In theory, nothing in those 100 years matters much next to eternity.

Insomnia doesn't matter next to eternity.  Sickness doesn't matter next to eternity.  Losing my job, my house, my wealth, or even my own life doesn't matter next to eternity.  My moments of anxiety and worry are like taking 1 out of infinity.  They're reduced to nothing.

The only reason why what we do in our time on Earth matters is due to God.  Our purpose here is to love Him and serve Him and know Him, and then we will go on to be with Him for eternity.  Only God can turn our tiny tiny moments in eternity into something.  Only God can give our work eternal value.

We all know this.  We all say we want to live for God.  I know that's what I would tell people.  And yet I wake up in the morning and go about my business as though today, by itself, without God, with only me, matters.  That my life is somehow more important than God's will for me.  I have moments where I remember God.  I do well there.  But a lot of time is spent on what I want, on my will.

How often do we think of God's will for us?  And what if His will doesn't line up with what we think we want from life?  What if it sounds risky?  What if it sounds boring?  What if it isn't normal?  What if it is too normal?  The God who created the universe has a plan.  We say we trust Him and His plan, but are we seeking it?

A few days ago, the church celebrated the Feast of St. Stephen.  St. Stephen was the first martyr.  From Wikipedia:
According to Chapter 6 of The Acts of the Apostles, Stephen was among seven men of the early church at Jerusalem appointed to serve as deacon. However, after a dispute with the members of a synagogue of "Roman Freedmen," he is denounced for blasphemy against God and Moses (Acts 6:11) and speaking against the Temple and the Law. Stephen is tried before the Sanhedrin. His defense is presented as accusing the Jews of persecuting the prophets who had spoken out against the sins of the nation:
"Which one of the Prophets did your fathers not persecute, and they killed the ones who prophesied the coming of the Just One, of whom now, too, you have become betrayers and murderers." (7:52)
While on trial, he experienced a theophany in which he saw both God the Father and God the Son:
"Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:56) This vision of Christ standing differs from other Scripture which indicates Jesus sits at the right hand of God - perhaps implying that Christ stood in honor of Stephen whose martyrdom was near.
He is condemned and stoned to death by an infuriated mob, which is encouraged by Saul of Tarsus, later to be known as Saint Paul the Apostle

I read that and think, "Wow, that's interesting.  Interesting that someone would become the first martyr.  I guess someone had to be first.  Of course, we aren't called to do anything like that.  That would be scary.  We don't live in those times.  God would never ask me to do anything difficult like that."  Or am I really thinking, "I just don't have that kind of faith?"

Check out this entry from Conversion Diary.  I won't quote the whole thing here, but it boils down to a family who couldn't afford to adopt felt called to do so.  They adopted internationally after finding a child with significant medical needs.  The diagnosis in his home country wasn't accurate and he ended up with far more needs than they had anticipated.  A little more than a year later, the little boy died.  Can you imagine?  She wrote awhile before his death:
That moment…
When your adopted child rouses from post surgery anesthesia on a vent searching frantically with his eyes… And his meet yours… And his whole body softens and relaxes and he squeezes your finger and slowly and peacefully closes his eyes again.
Yeah, that moment…
Worth every penny, every sleepless night, every hardship.

I find a significant disconnect between what I know to be true and how I feel.  I know that being stoned to death is nothing compared to the eternal reward, and yet I have serious reservations that I could be as as bold as St Stephen.  I understand we're called to care for the least of these, but just think doing something like that family sounds downright crazy and bound to bring suffering.  Am I really saying, "God, your will be done, so long as it isn't too hard?  Too scary?  Too dangerous?  To painful?  I want to help other people so long as it doesn't cost too much?"

Jesus knows about cost.
And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luk 22:41-44) 
Our Lord knew what was to happen to Him.  He prayed that it might not need to come to pass, but entered willingly into His passion. He suffered, died, and was buried so He could rise again and spend eternity with us.

I pray that in 2013 God would grant me the strength and faith to be as bold as necessary, to trust in His will and not mine, and always keep in mind the eternal value of my words and deeds over my temporal concerns and anxieties.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Some Links

One of my favorite bloggers to read is Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary and the National Catholic Register.   She raises kids, fights scorpions, and writes about faith.  I think she's hilarious and now has a three part tv show.  Find out more here, and watch the first episode on You Tube.  (Dad, no subscription required.  Just click the play button below.)



Here's a faith filled tale of love and grace on CNN:  Comatose since Christmas 1969: A tale of unconditional love and miracles

Did the slaughter of the innocents really happen?

A cop finds the Cross on the streets of New York

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Conversion vs Education

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been watching the Catechism series by Father Corapi recently, while reading the Catechism itself.  The series seems to be aimed at Catechists, people who are instructing others in the faith.  He said something early on that stuck with me.  We frequently assume that people have already converted, that they already have a relationship with Jesus.  We assume they know Him and love Him and want to serve Him and learn more about Him.  So we hop right in with telling them all about it. 

As Father Corapi rightly points out, none of it sticks if they haven't actually been converted.  He noted this is frequently apparent in Confirmation classes where the parent drags the kid in and the kid has no interest whatsoever.  Then they just leave after they receive Confirmation.

I saw this myself when I was teaching a Confirmation class to some young women in my parish.  Several of them were truly interested, but several of them were just there because it was on some sort of check list of things to accomplish at a certain grade level.  The information provided isn't bad in that case though, as they will hopefully come back to at at some point.  But we can't always just jump in and assume people know Jesus.

Father Corapi also discussed the idea that we would know Jesus and be completely disinterested in learning anything more about Him.  We're called to love Him for all eternity and for some reason decide we just don't need to know anything about Him or what He might want from us.  We wouldn't expect to have a human relationship on these terms, why do we expect it with God?  This highlights why we should study and understand our faith.  And probably why the Pope made this year the Year of Faith!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

and... we're back!

After a long hiatus, the blog has returned!  I'm sure you're all very excited.  I know I am.  I look forward to 2013!

I had a wonderful Christmas with family this past weekend.  Much, too much, food was had.  My diet consisted of fritos and something my sister named "Christmas crack," as well as loads of various types of fudge and other candy.  My stomach will not recover for weeks.  I also had a wonderful time going to Mass with my father both Sunday and again on Monday to the Christmas Eve service (though not the Midnight Mass - we were both asleep by then).

Christmas Eve I also was able to go on a hike at a local conservation area.  It was quite cold, but well worth it!  The trail was considered difficult, and went for 3.25 miles. It took me just over an hour, and my legs were feeling it the rest of the day.

I find the woods a great place to pray and focus my thoughts.  All too often I am distracted by my surroundings, and hiking takes away a lot of that other material that can draw me away from my conversation with God.  It seems like I have ADD when it comes to prayer.  Anything and everything will throw me off.

The New Year is coming next week, and I've already been thinking about areas I'd like to work on:

1.  Pray more.  Pray daily.  Pay attention when praying.  The funny thing about prayer is I love it.  I know my day goes better with it.  I know that although life still goes on much as it always does, when I pray I find the day to be so much more peaceful.  I find I react better and think on the eternal perspective versus the right now perspective a little more often.  And then my alarm clock goes off and I hit snooze up until the point I have to walk out the door, leaving no time for prayer.  Instead of praying in the car, I'll turn on the radio.  Instead of praying at work over lunch, I'll play with my phone.   I find a lot of reasons to avoid something I know I want to and need to do.

2.  Read more.  In this I primarily mean my Bible and other spiritual things, but any books would be good. 
  • I started a "read the Bible in a Year" plan in October of 2010.  I'm just over halfway done.  Not very impressive!  I've been reading, but not really following the plan so there's significant chunks I miss as I just go back to the same things over and over again.  So I need to do that daily.  
  • It is also important to dig in and read a bit deeper, so I'd like to go through one book at a time with a little more detail.  I've decided to start with John.
  • I also want to read the Catechism along with the Year of Faith.  I started on that already and am about 20% complete so I'm hopeful that will go well.  To compliment my reading, I've started watching Father Corapi's Catechism Series.  Yes, I am aware he's been accused of some awful things and has basically disappeared.  But the series came before all that and is just fine.  Once that's done I'll move on to the Vatican II documents.
  • Other items in the line up include the Catholicism series (book, DVD, workbook) by Father Barron and the early church fathers' documents my Bible study software have.  We'll see how far I get!
  • Finally, I will for sure be doing a study with my sister.  I can't wait!

3.  Work out more.  I now have a membership to the Y and want to make sure I take advantage of it.  I'd like to increase my running endurance and then speed, do some lifting, and generally improve my fitness level.  I don't want to lose weight though, so I think that probably makes me the odd duck.