The most difficult part of a difficult situation can be the fear that an embarrassing, or even shameful, situation becomes known. We are frequently surprised that the world des not end when the truth becomes known. Even though it’s rocky and painful for awhile, it most times is liberating and freeing – especially when we remain with Jesus during these times.
Sprinters are usually more fun to watch than marathoners. They definitely appeal to my attention span. We need their bursts of energy to inspire us and get us going, but we also need to recognize that most things require more than a sprint. And there is no contradiction between the two. Even marathoners sometimes have to inject a short-term burst of speed into their routine. Lent has characteristics of both in various ways. Lent is a “sprinting period” through the year-long marathon of following the Lord. And it is more than an Ash Wednesday and Good Friday sprint – it’s 40 “long” days of extra praying, sacrificing and charity. So it can appeal to both the sprinter and long distance runner in us.
The powerful trio of guilt, blame and responsibility all occupy the same emotion space in our psyche. Well, maybe not exactly the same, but pretty close. Sometimes they even impersonate one another and engage in identity theft. So here’s how I like see them and separate them. (Note: I’m not saying this is THE way to see them, just my way.) Guilt is what I feel about myself when I do something wrong. Blame is what I impute to another when they do something wrong. Responsibility is what I accept for my actions and their consequences. I am not going to spend a lot of time teasing this out or giving examples. Let’s just think about these differences and supply our own examples. Note: There is a time and place for all three of these, but it’s useful to distinguish.
As it gets closer to Holy Week, we focus more closely on the terrible price that Jesus paid to win our salvation. This is not a “pretty” part of the story of our salvation. It is profound, central and essential. The movie, The Passion of the Christ, a few years ago was a bit too gory for my tastes, but it left no doubt of the human suffering Jesus endured to save us. There are many in our world today who are experiencing similar pain suffering and even death as the hands of terror, persecution and other oppressions. The cross of Jesus provides hope for transformation.
On this episode of JustLove, Monsignor Kevin Sullivan will be speaking with Fred Parrella, Professor of Theology in the Department of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University in California, and Mehnaz Afridi, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College in the Bronx.
Msgr. Sullivan and Prof. Parrella – who has been teaching at the Jesuit university based in Silicon Valley for 40 years – will be discussing the religious faith and practice of today’s college students, and what their often self-description as “spiritual, but not religious” bodes for the future, and what – if anything – can be done to counter this trend.
Prof. Afridi – who is also the Director of the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College will be discussing the practices of fasting, charity/service, and prayer in the Islamic Tradition as a continuation of our Lenten conversations on “Making Lent Great Again 2017!”
It was perfect in the Garden of Eden – not so much since then. If you want to blame it on Adam & Eve and the apple, fine with me. In any case we live in a world that is not perfect and very unfair at times. It’s more unfair to some than others, but we all experience times when we are confronted with injustices, small or big, not of our own faults. We need to react to them in a way that remains faithful to the values that guide us – disciples of Jesus. Another’s unfairness to us does not give us liberty to be unfair to others. Let’s be clear we do not seek to be treated unjustly and we need to try to fix them. There is no value in “playing the victim.” But try as we might, we will not remedy every injustice for ourselves and others. We need to maintain the discipline to live faithfully in these circumstances.
Sometimes God lets his anger out and let’s us know he’s fed up with us not listening to His commands. If we examine ourselves we know it’s true. And sometimes we concentrate so hard on avoiding what God tells us not to do that we forget that he bulk of his commands have to do with treating each other well, especially when someone is in need (e.g. the Good Samaritan). God is merciful, but He’s still annoyed when we do not love each other and help each other out – even when it’s inconvenient and requires some sacrifice.
Sometimes human analogies are helpful in thinking about our relationship with God. I recently heard someone say the most important thing she valued in a relationship was time spent with the other person. Put negatively, she was not interested in having a relationship with someone unwilling to spend time with her. Gifts, money, pedigree, etc. all came in a distant second to “spending time.” God has so much to offer, but it’s hard to take it in if we don’t hang out with God and allowing his presence to be with us. As with human friends we don’t always have to have a plan, a topic or an agenda. Sometimes we should just “hang out with God” and let it be.
Our words are not as powerful and miraculous as Jesus telling a man to pick up his mat and walk, but let’s not underestimate the healing power of solidarity with someone who is ill and suffering. Emotional or psychological isolation and separation are added burdens to many who are struggling with serious illnesses.
Periodically it’s worth taking time off from complaining about trials and tribulations, worrying about problems and asking for things we think we need. God gets tired and so do we. Both God and we need a break. Now mind you, complaining, worrying and asking are legit – and we better do them a lot, but not incessantly. Reflect on one or two good things that have happened to you recently – even if you are generally going through a bad time. Say a simple thank you God and praise his name. It will make you feel better.