Saturday, November 22, 2014

Encountering Mary: Her Heart and Mine

When I first encountered this image it bothered me...

But why? Notice the sword piercing her heart.

I was living in the Old City of Jerusalem at the time and had many opportunities to visit The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Having been raised a Protestant/Evangelical Christian I had no category in my mind to know how to accept massive churches, statues, paintings etc...apart from this one:

What made this one acceptable and the others off-limits I'll probably never know.

At any rate, the reality was, images of God, in almost any form, were thought by idols.  When I saw the pilgrims bowing down to statues, lighting candles in front of them I thought I was witnessing pagan rituals and  straight-up idolatry.  I desperately wanted to inform these poor ignorant Catholics/Orthodox Christians that they were upsetting God.  The image of Mary, above, is placed adjacent to this image of Jesus on the Cross...

The thought occurred to me that this is NOT what the crucifixion looked like.  It wasn't pretty, glittery and fancy.  Why would they represent it this way?  Being idolaters, Catholics wouldn't know any a sense their idolatry had made them completely ignorant.  This is why they thought they had to rely on fancy buildings, Bishops, Confession to a Priest...eeeek...the list went on and on.  But why did I need a representation of the Crucifixion to meet my own requirements?  Why was any "image" (other than an image in my own mind) of the Crucifixion a problem?  I didn't know, at the time, that my views fell into the category of Iconoclasm. But that's a discussion for another day...though this view is still held by many Christian denominations even up to now.

What I want to pass on is that the image of Mary, above, left a very lasting impression on me the entire time I was in Jerusalem and even up to now.  The fact that Mary suffered, little by little, allowed me to know and understand more fully the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.  I had very misty, foggy and very "quaint" images in my mind regarding the life of Christ.  I was not very acquainted, at the time, with the very human nature of Jesus Christ (yes Jesus is also fully divine) me he was to be kept a very foggy, distant, image that wasn't close, cold, hungry, tired or killed in a bloody way. I wanted Mary in the background and a spotless Jesus.  This is why I believe I rejected these all-too-man-made images...they weren't "perfect" and therefore couldn't fit with my view of God.
What I have since discovered, as a Catholic Convert, many years later, that my time "facing" these images helped me come to an ever deepening understanding of the power and importance of the Incarnation (Nativity) of Jesus Christ and how very important was Mary's, "Yes" to His will.  When the Angel Gabriel came to Mary (a real event in real history) her response has changed everything...

And Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38
Most importantly, in all of this, was my realization that God came to us, NOT in a noble way but in a very close, personal way.  Mary, for me, has helped make things more personal, more real, more close...she has shown me how God can act in a heart simply willing to say, "Yes."  What we call her "Fiat." Our own "fiat" is essential not as a once-in-a-lifetime event but as a daily disposition toward Our Father, Jesus Christ and the bidding of the Holy Spirit.  As we prepare for the coming of the Christ-child, once again, this Christmas. Let us continually ask ourselves, how is it I can further imitate the call of Christ in my life?  How can I imitate the true faith of Mary and say a greater YES to my Lord and my God?  As Christ was born of Mary, so let Mary help us to allow Christ to be born in our hearts.  Her heart was pierced, yes, but she who knew great suffering, even now, experiences the greatest and most eternal reality of JOY.  Let it be done to me, as to Mary, according to your Lord and my God. Give me the heart of Mary.

 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,“Behold, this child is set for the fall[d] and rising of many in Israel,and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also),that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed. Luke 2:33-35

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

You Call This Joy?

Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

You know that feeling when you’ve been told,

“I’m sorry sir, your flight has been delayed for at least three more hours…” (kids are already bonkers and you’ve used up all your bribery options. You’re appalled at yourself...wishing, if only, the overpriced airport nicknack shop sold duct-tape)


“Yes, your dog might need eye surgery because the cleaner your son sprayed in his eye might have caused significant damage…”
(who says kids can’t be responsible dog owners?)


“Hey, it’s Mike from the’re not really able to figure out what’s wrong with your van until we open up the transmission and…”
(All I need to hear is, “transmission” before losing consciousness)

I hope you’re suddenly thinking something like…”Spare us your First-World problems already!”

St. James was not likely referring to carburetors or corn-chips when he wrote about, “trials.”  It is more likely that he was speaking to Christians of the Early Church who stood a decent chance of being crucified, beheaded, or fed to some hungry lions.   

I have to confess, this has long been a gripe of mine with my fellow Christian brothers and sisters. Nauseating!  I’ve heard my brethren whine and complain about the most trivial things...and then I look at myself.  Ouch! My, my, how the mirror can injure my own false self-image!

I must confess, however, that I have come to the point, thanks to God’s grace, that I see (almost) every event in my life (and yours) is a sign from God...I now (sort of) KNOW this and this is a huge step for me!  Well, I might need to qualify that a tad bit…

But Our Lord does speak through every circumstance we encounter IF we ask Him for the grace to see our lives in such a way. In fact, Our Lord is always speaking to us even if we’re not listening.

Yes, if we’re honest, this is our typical orientation toward the “quiet whispers” of our God. But are we truly so faithless that we would not at very least desire to have Our Lord TRULY impact our lives...even IF it is often seemingly trying?

“If we are surprised that God foil our plans and lead us down a different road than the one we imagined, let us recall that it was the same in the life of the Blessed Mother. Mary also thought of her sanctity, her road, her mission differently. The one who gave up motherhood was called to an exceptional and unique motherhood. This call foiled all her plans. By responding to the Annunciation with her, yes, Mary did not fully realize was she was agreeing to. However, that did not diminish the value of her consent, which she later confirmed with her continual yes throughout her life. God so loved Mary that He chose this very harsh way of treating her. We know that this is the way He treats His friends. This is the best method for allowing the shaping of a person in the image of the Son of God.”
 -Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012), 116

We know from other places in Holy Scripture our Lord seems to have it in, almost constantly, for His own people.  But can this be a sign of love?  Much like any good parent who administers the proverbial, “Yucky medicine!” Or the physician who lovingly administers that life-saving inoculation or surgical procedure. We need to see the acts of the Lord that we detest less as punishment and more for what they truly are, a sign of the faithfulness of Our Father to His beloved sons and daughters. This is how Our Lord opens our hearts to Him. We won't always like it.

If we learn to see differently, through eyes of faith, we will be truly joyful.  It is this joy that can carry us through even the most terrible of circumstances.  I pray for all of you who have read also pray for me...that these truths may not simply continue to bounce off my thick skull and truly find their way to my/our hearts.  I need the Lord to change me...I can’t do this alone.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Joy and/or Suffering: How To Get It Right

The Big and Small of Suffering

A primary reason people struggle with placing faith in God is due to, “all of the meaningless suffering in the world.”  The question arises easily in our minds, “How can a God who is supposedly so loving and merciful allow such terrible evil, suffering and pain in the world?”  This is not a matter of doubt on their part, necessarily, because any honest believer has themselves (if they will admit it) struggled with this very question, perhaps daily, as they make their way through this life. One difficulty for those who hope to explain the “why” of suffering must first contend with many layers of very real, very deep, and very reasonable scars this world has left on the hearts of their listeners.  After all, why should they, “listen to you” because YOU have not likely suffered as they have nor have you shared the same experiences.  So, “who are you” to explain such things.  Many will end up concluding that God, “must not love” because he has allowed such things to happen and therefore is at very least absent or at worst a cruel master. What is it all for?

Though it would take volumes to explain the meaning of suffering to some souls, I would offer the possibility that it doesn't have to take volumes but, perhaps, only a few simple glimpses to “renew our view” of suffering, life and what it all might mean for us. Okay, down to it then.

One need not look far and recognize acts of senseless evil.  Our most recent examples would be the atrocities currently taking place in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, North Korea (the list goes on) to see that people, good people, many peace-loving Christian people being surrounded, gunned down, mutilated, dismembered, tortured, beheaded (this list could also go on). We could reason, quite easily in fact, that God must not really be concerned...doesn’t he seem to be standing aloof?  Holy Scripture in many places presents to us the notion that God will deliver us from our enemies:

“This was the oath that he swore to our father Abraham: so set us free from the hands of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.” (from the Canticle of Zechariah, Gospel of St. Luke Ch. 1)

These words don’t seem true at first.  Did God make a promise or not?  Here is the first layer of our misunderstanding...

  1. We don’t see the “Big Picture.” 
    Being human beings, tied to this earth and the things of this world our eyes aren’t always easily turned toward God’s view of things.  We believe that what we see on the surface of things is what must be happening in total. We trust our own view, understanding and apprehension of things to be quite reasonable and solid.  I would offer that this view of reality is, very much, an unstable view. We tend to place too much stock and value in our own way of seeing things.  This is understandable, of course, because we are only really granted one small view of the universe and all that it contains. We assume that our view is the right view because we lack all other views upon immediate takes a certain turning of our gaze to see even the smallest matters from the point-of-view of another person. Consider for a moment only taking your view for what it truly view.  How could that change your view?

Our family recently passed through Tucson, Arizona and paid a visit to the Flandrau Planetarium on the University of Arizona campus.  Here’s a picture.


I had been wanting for our family to visit the San Xavier del Bac Mission in Tucson but due to time constraints we could not do both.  I have fond memories of visiting this place with my dad many years ago.  It is so beautiful and certainly is more my preference.  That said, since I’ve recently been re-reading a book called, “The Gift of Faith” by Tadeusz Dajczer (which I highly recommend: Click to view The Gift of Faith) it has encouraged me to, simply put, see the things that come my way as the whisperings of God.  To see circumstances and difficulties through the, “eyes of faith” which encouraged me to give up my preference to visit the Mission.  See below.

San Xavier Mission.jpg

This was not an easy thing for me to surrender but I asked the Lord to help me. What he showed me at the planetarium was exactly what I had needed to hear. This is something to take with you, Our Lord speaks to us through all circumstances in life.

As we were taking in the presentation at the planetarium they were projecting images of space, constellations and planets etc we moved from a close up view of Saturn to a much wider view of the universe.  We were transported from our own solar system to a view that made our “gigantic” system look small.  We kept backing out away, away, away until we were looking at a view from outside our Milky Way galaxy.  Earth was shown as a speck of nothing from this view.  We backed out further until we were looking at our galaxy alongside other galaxies...ours looked like nothing.  Our widest view that we were able to see was a view of the “known universe” as they presenter so aptly put it.  Our galaxy was no longer visible among the many other galaxies of which ours is only the tiniest speck.  This is similar to the image shown.

Known Universe.jpg
I asked why there were blank areas of the image and the presenter explained that these were areas were are still unable to view because our own “arms” of the Milky Way block our ability to see beyond in certain directions.  It then struck me just how infinitesimally small we truly are and it also struck me that the God who created this whole universe is so very far above and beyond me that words cannot begin to express the half of it.  My mind immediately recalled a wonderful verse of Scripture:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.For as the heavens are higher than the earth,    so are my ways higher than your ways    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”Isaiah 55:8-9

I then recalled…

"The heavens are telling the glory of God;    and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.Day to day pours forth speech,    and night to night declares knowledge.There is no speech, nor are there words;    their voice is not heard;yet their voice goes out through all the earth,    and their words to the end of the world."Psalm 19:1-4

This was a fantastic reminder for me as I have been struggling a bit with immense stresses at work and at home lately and I realized just how small my view of things must be as we can’t even see beyond the next horizon.  I am not able to even see tomorrow and I am barely able to get a clear glimpse of my own small view of yesterday!  I would offer the simple notion that in order to see the, “bigger picture” we must first realize just how truly small we are.

When, therefore, the question of our view of suffering is brought into focus in light of our relative, “smallness” in comparison to God’s, “bigness” (put in very simple and desperately lacking theological terminology) we can at very least begin to see ourselves as Christians we understand God to be infinite. It is reasonable to then understand that our view can’t possibly be adequate in light of the fact that there will always be more that we don’t understand (even about ourselves) than can be understood about precisely “why” things might be the way they are.  It is reasonable to believe that God has a plan that currently extends beyond our tiny reach.  This is one reason, for me personally, why I am able to understand God as “Father” and myself as his “very small child.”  This does not yet get at why God “would allow” anything but it does certainly clear the way for this understanding to be formed within us.

The Short and Long of Suffering

It is normal to avoid the unpleasant thoughts that can arise when we think about our own death. We know it’s going to happen, we don’t often have the chance to know when and we don’t always know how. The great spiritual writer Thomas à Kempis wrote: “Every action of yours, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out."  This might seem morbid to some because the thought of death is something so sad, tragic and perhaps even terrifying. Perhaps worse is fearing the manner of death we might encounter.  As a teenager I can recall occasionally discussing the question, “What do you think the worst way to die might be?” Teen boys can come up with the most horrific imaginings, normally as a sort of contest, to see who has the most imaginatively terrible death-method. Teens can more easily jest this way and we might say this is because, “they believe they are immortal,” and death, “can’t catch them.” I would suggest that, in part, they are very correct and this attitude, with adjustments should be our mindset throughout life...which brings us to our second misunderstanding.

  1. We fear the wrong form of “death.”

Similar to misunderstanding 1 above we are deeply convinced that what we see is more important than what we do not see. Therefore we will go to great lengths to prolong our physical-life...our “temporal” existence. We avoid this food or that habit. Just as we attempt to adhere to this exercise regimen or get enough sleep. We live in what can be obviously recognized as a “health-obsessed” culture. This is in part due to the fact that we are first obsessed with our physical appearance~ different subject for a different day there. Of course, being healthy, we know is a good thing and taking care of your body is responsible...put down the Oreos...and step away from the Diet Coke...and recognize that your body will break down at some point no matter how healthy you try to will surely fail. Our cultural tide pulls us along toward the goal of “wellness,” and this isn’t a bad thing entirely.  To put a very different spin on this way of thinking consider the words of Jesus Christ who clearly informs us of the type of death to fear.

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him!”Luke 12:4-5

Jesus also said,

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”Matthew 6:19-21

And Jesus says again later in the same chapter,

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” Matthew 6:31-33

Jesus shows us the proper perspective to hold toward life and death.  There are many other examples of his teaching on these subjects, however, the essential thing for us to recognize, through eyes of faith, is that the Lord is primarily concerned with our souls and not our bodies.  He said these things, in part, to establish a clear hierarchy of understanding in our minds. Our, “heavenly Father knows that you need them all,” yes, and we can trust Our Father for such things.  Yet, we must conclude that our earthly lives are not, “what life is all about.”

People of faith are called to adjust their paradigm about life and death.  When we find ourselves asking, “Why did this happen to me?” we can recall that this life, as one of my favorite Saints puts it:

“The world's thy ship and not thy home.” St. Thérèse de Lisieux

We are called to develop the view that our physical life is temporary temporal and the life of our souls is eternal.  How then can this impact our view toward this life and toward suffering? This brings me to a third point.

  1. This life is given for us to prepare for the next.  

This world is our ship and not the shore.  This life is a journey and not the destination.  This is something the Saints of old clearly understood.

From St. Paul the Apostle

“For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I shall not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith…”Philippians 1:19-25

We know this, from the depth of our souls, that we are made for, “something more.”  We know that we are not merely destined for a trying life with a dismal end.  In our hearts we have a longing for something, always above and beyond ourselves. It is very easy to become depressed if you were to wrongly think that this life is all there is to life.  How sad would that narrative be?  “First your born, then you age, you go to work, you get married, you have kids, you work more, you retire then you die.”  The joy experienced by a person of faith offers so much more as St. Paul informed us in his letter to the Roman Church.

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.”Romans 8:18-21

We are called to sufferings that we might experience true glory.  We are called toward liberty and not decay! It becomes very clear that this life is given for the sake of the next life in Christ.  We are given this life precisely for the sake of the next. Our true meaning and purpose and their purpose of everything in all of creation is for the sake of us to recognize and learn to rely on Our Father who has called us what we truly are...children of God...called to his kingdom.

Consider further…

“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”Romans 8:28

And more, and what might be the crowning verses of all of St. Paul’s letters…

What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,“For thy sake we are being killed all the day long;we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:31-39

This understanding of suffering and even death, that is has a clear purpose and a glorious end, truly brings a great deal of peace to the soul.  Also this understanding serves to set realistic expectations for all of life. We can know, as people of faith, that all the “bad” we encounter in life...all of the sufferings, sadness and pain are meant specifically to help us walk the path of Christ more closely. He came and experienced OUR suffering that he might lead us through our own suffering, that he might show us a more glorious resurrection.  When we are tempted to say, “Why God? Why have you done this to me?” We can know that is because he is working “all things for good…” He is not so much punishing us as he is seeking to help us to seek first his kingdom! We desperately need to encounter these sufferings, in short, that we would not be convinced that this world is our home.  He has called us to overcome and not just so we can prove our own toughness.  He has called us to overcome, by his grace (through faith), the present trials so that we might more greatly conform to Jesus Christ.  Is suffering meaningless? I pray that I may always answer, “of course it is.” Likewise that we may always be able to say, “My Lord and my God, my life is in your hands.”

With Mary we can say...

“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”Luke 1:38

And with Jesus Christ we can say…

“Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!"  
Luke 23:46

He came that we might have life...both here and in the hereafter. Jesus said,

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”John 10:10

It is one thing to write something like this and yet another thing altogether to truly, deeply, live this way.  I am simply not able to do this.  It is only by calling on the Lord himself, and by his mercy and by his grace that anyone could even begin to view (and live) life according to his glorious plan.

Lord, grant us the grace to live by faith.

So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.2 Corinthians 5:6-8

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Fine Line: Faith in God~One in Christ

My Way vs God's Way
Recently I have been having a healthy discussion with a friend of mine about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. No small potatoes to slice on that subject! What I have realized through the conversation is that, at times, I have felt as if I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth. I’m hungry now because I just mentioned potatoes (which I like perhaps too much) and my mouth which I like to fill with potatoes if given the opportunity.

Why do I feel like I’m (almost) saying two opposing things at once? Here’s a basic breakdown of my problem…I also suggest that it’s your problem too...

It is logical, for me, to assume that any nation, when attacked, would choose to defend herself. Similar to a bully on the playground...the person bullied would be within their rights to “fight back” or, at very least, exercise their right to be “bully free” in whatever manner might be best. But what is “best” depends entirely upon the “force” presented by the bully, right? Consider it, it wouldn’t be appropriate for the kid being bullied to pull out a shotgun if the bully comes at him with mean words, right? Now if the bully came at the person with a tire-iron and took a swing and said, “I’m going to kill you!” then pulling out a shotgun might seem a bit more appropriate. (God forbid a child arrive on the playground with either a tire-iron or a shotgun...this is merely for illustrative purposes) What I’m getting at with this first consideration is that our Catholic faith allows for a certain degree of self-protection...whether we’re talking about individuals or nations. We have a God-given right to avoid harm and to avoid being injured, killed, etc. This is part of the notion of, “Sanctity of Life” as we consider life to be sacred and fundamentally, a gift from God, therefore we have a basic right (even a duty) to protect this gift. We can even take it so far as to say, “We are not our own possession.”

Now for the “fine line of faith…”

There could be a time in our lives when we would choose to, “turn the other cheek” as Jesus Christ encouraged us to do. But this is NOT a call for every believer to become a door-mat. So back to the bully above. It is good in many cases to allow people to mistreat us as Christians but this has to be in a case by case basis. How, you may ask, would one determine what is “right” in a given circumstance, after all Jesus Christ offered Himself up to death on a cross! My suggestion: prayer. Daily prayer. If you are a Christian who does not have a regular prayer time every day you are like a boxer entering the ring who is not adequately trained. You will be able to get in a couple punches but you will not have the stamina, technique, strategy or the physique to encounter the many “punches” the world, the flesh and the evil one would throw at you. Prayer is the most basic NEED for every believer because it is what connects us more completely with the ONE who knows what would be “best” versus what we might consider “best” in any given circumstance. This is why on some occasions Jesus Christ would respond with warmth to certain people in certain situations and why He would, at times, upbraid people in other situations. He KNEW the will of the Father. So those folks who want to have the “easy answer” to all of life’s questions are seriously out of luck. The bottom line here is that we need to walk the fine line and knowing this, call it, “narrow way” requires an attentiveness to Our Lord on a regular basis. We NEED to hear His voice and not simply on occasion. So in regard to the question, “when is it right for me to defend myself?” versus, “when should I (or my nation) turn the other cheek?” There is not any one answer...there might be multiple answers...which is precisely why a believer might begin to sound like they’re waffling when others seem so clear in their convictions. A Christian’s conviction is that they may not personally know what is may take some time for them (perhaps longer than the average person) to come to a plan of action when action is required. This is not always a lack of concern or a lack of understanding (I have been accused of both) but it may just be they understand things more clearly...which, generally speaking, people who see the bigger picture may have more, “dots to connect” than someone who hears one side and has a less informed understanding of things.

To connect some dots here and now...Israel, many believe, has a right to defend herself against aggression (both within and without) her borders. Can I argue with this? After all, if Canada began launching missiles into Minnesota we might respond in a way that would be surprisingly, “cruel and violent” to some. Some people castigate Israel for exercising her right to defend herself. But perhaps there is another “fine line” at play here in these circumstances? What Israel has been doing in Gaza, to the casual observer, may seem inhumane and an exaggerated response. It is almost represented like Hamas (which is the real aggressor in this circumstance and NOT the “people of Gaza” in general) is coming at Israel holding twigs and berries and Israel is responding with tanks and F-18’s. This is not the case. Back to the bully scenario...Hamas has been launching rockets that can kill people...launching them into Israel. Israel took the approach, “enough is enough.” This is NOT a new situation for Israel to be bombarded by their neighbors and as the bully approaches and lands a couple Israel has a right to respond. But the fine line much is too much? I will not pretend to know what Israel, “must do” as a nation in this circumstance but I can say that from all appearances it looks as if they have gone above and beyond what one might consider a “reasonable action.” Hamas, however, continues to send missiles into Israel...the “bully” continues to mess with the same kid on the same playground. The bully has not chosen to relent.

But what can one say when looking at this through the eyes of faith? Some Christians, I believe, are blind when it comes to their support of Israel. They try and associate the current State of Israel with the biblical Israel and this connection is tenuous at best. This is NOT to say that Israel (the state of) may not play a role in biblical prophecy and/or world events of an apocalyptic nature...I can’t claim a great deal of clarity on this matter and I believe that those who DO claim to have this, “all figured out” are simply naive and carry on an overly simplistic view of Sacred Scripture. Again, I have to say (as Scripture does say) that though the end is closer now than it was we do not know “either the day nor the hour” when Christ may return. I also have a storehouse of examples in history in mind where people were convinced they had reached the, “end of the age” when in reality we keep right on trucking. For those who adhere to the Christian faith...I suggest the following...stop making connections and predictions about these matter and live your faith! Stop making the state of Israel such a high priority in what it means for you to “follow the Lord!” Be concerned more about the teachings of Jesus the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew Ch. those things FIRST and then, after much prayer and deliberation (if you need to) speak your opinion. I am not advocating for door-mat Christianity and I’m certainly not able to say, as many do, “I support Israel no matter what because Israel is ‘God’s chosen people!” This, in my mind, is not in line with biblical revelation.

Another important matter of faith is the fact that Jesus Christ came to establish a, “New Israel.” What is this New Israel? It is the Church. Jesus Christ did not come to set up (and certainly didn’t choose to preserve) ancient Israel from outside invasion. Could God have chosen to do so? Yes! Of course. He didn’t do this however and this should be instructive to any believer. What did Jesus Christ choose to do in regard to Israel? He chose to give His life so that Israel (the ancient and contemporary Jewish people) and Gentiles (people who are outside of the people of Israel) would be ONE PEOPLE within the Church. Many of Jesus Christ’s initial “enemies” (Pharisees, Sadducees, Romans etc) became His most ARDENT followers! Those who were once His greatest “enemies” became the ones, after the Resurrection and birth of the Church at Pentecost, who followed Him even to the point of their own martyrdom! What should this tell you dear believer? This should instruct any person of faith in Jesus Christ that our enemies are no longer “flesh and blood” and we are not, as a general rule, meant to support a militarized notion of faith. We can see the state of Israel as our ally and I won’t argue against that point. We, as a nation, need allies who are of like mind to stem the growing tide of global Islamic fundamentalism. To support Israel in this manner isn’t wrong and in fact is likely very necessary for stability and eventual peace in the region. This, in my opinion, could only be brought about through the peaceful, “heart to heart” conversion of the Muslims (as well as the Jewish people) to Christianity...but this is another point for another day.

Lastly, I have to stand against the mentality that thinks thusly: “I need to support Israel because Israelis are the, “chosen people of God” and therefore I would be going again God Himself if I were to speak against the state of Israel.” Though I fully understand this is a weak connection to make. St. Peter (who we Catholics consider the first Pope) wrote the following from 1 Peter Chapter 2:

“1 So put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; 3 for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. 4 Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; 5 and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame." 7 To you therefore who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe, "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner," 8 and "A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall"; for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were no people but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. “

So what does this mean except that those who believe were “no people” but we are NOW God’s people. Israel rejected Jesus Christ and it will be their salvation to become, once again, part of the New Israel...the Church. We have ALL been called out of darkness but to leave this darkness we need to adhere to the Lord Himself Who truly is...the ONE in whom all people, Jew, Gentile, Man, Woman, Young, Old, Rich, Poor etc will find salvation. Salvation, remember, is the goal of this life and this is only to be found in Our Lord Jesus Christ...not in support of one regime or another.

This is a fine line isn’t it? Our Lord spoke of following the “narrow way” that leads to salvation. Consider your own life in relation to Scripture and in light of world events and ask the Lord, daily, “Lord, help me to follow you wherever you may go.” Walk the fine line and by His mercy, “ you have received mercy,” you will not fall to the left or to the right but you will remain in His love and peace forever...regardless of what the world may do.  We must not deny that we are to love all people...but we must also make it our priority to seek the Lord and His Kingdom above all else~ this is the way we must go.