Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Certainty We Joyfully Await

There I sat, waiting. I was in a strange place (by this, I mean a restaurant I don’t normally go to), waiting for a teen I did not know very well. The teen was only a few minutes late, but those few minutes taught me a great deal about waiting and about certainty.

As the clock ticked past 4pm, and I sat staring at the parking lot from inside – coffee in hand – my thought process shifted from “I’m looking forward to this meeting,” to a series of doubt-filled questions:

-Am I in the right place?
-We said 4pm, right?
-I wonder if this meeting will happen.

The moment I saw the teen walk across the parking lot, the doubt subsided and we ended up having an enjoyable conversation.

What I’ve just described is a fairly typical (unless I’m abnormal, which could be the case) human experience – one of uncertainty. The most important point is not our ability to very quickly slide into the shadow of doubt cast by uncertainty, but the strong desire we truly have for certainty.

This afternoon coffee meeting is analogous to my life as a whole…and quite possibly yours as well. I have a real longing for truth and certainty. I can strain, and pine, and doubt, and ask a million questions, but until the truth walks across that parking lot, until it breaks into my life, I ultimately remain uncertain.

Insert Christ Here.

This is quite literally how the certainty of Christ comes into our uncertain lives. He surprises us, but the surprise brings peace and understanding. “Christ came that we might have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). Christ came that we might have certainty – certainty about who we are and that we are loved in the midst of this mysterious thing called life. This is the power and essence of the Christian Event.

Think of the encounter the old man Simeon had with Christ at the temple. Here he is, an old man, who had been promised he would see the Messiah. But he’s old, and getting older. We can imagine his thoughts, “Lord, I’m going to die soon. Is this really going to happen?” But it does happen. “Lord, let your servant go in peace, your Word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen the salvation you have prepared in the sight of your people. A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.”

Your Word has been fulfilled. I have seen your salvation. You are the light of truth, the light of revelation.

O holy night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world, in sin and error pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

He appears! He comes and because He, the spoken Word of the Creator, comes, we can know ourselves and our worth. This is the certainty we long for: to know that we are loved and have the capacity to love in return. And not only to love our fellow brothers and sisters, but God.

Christ, Certainty broke into the lives of the apostles, of John, Andrew, Peter. He broke into the lives of the woman at the well, Zacchaeus, and even Pontius Pilate. He comes to us because we cannot attain the full certainty we want on our own. People have tried for thousands of years. The answer to the problem is Christ. He is extraneous to us. He comes from outside, yet He wants to be one with you and I.

“Certainty comes as a result of a life lived within the Church.” Luigi Giussani

Why? The Church makes Christ known. It is through the Church that the resurrected Christ can still be encountered today…

Check out this quote from Lorenzo Albacete:

“To believe that one becomes a Christian through the proper philosophy, theology, spirituality, morality, or cultural project, is a presumption; it is to see our efforts as the cause of our belonging to Christ. Instead, we become Christians because the Incarnation happened in history, because the Paschal Mystery happened, because Pentecost happened, and because those events continue to happen in the world today. They happen now because they happened then and because the Church exists in the world as the life of a communion of persons created by these events, and making them present today through the sacraments. They happen because Christ has risen from the dead and can be encountered today with exactly the same results experienced by Andrew, James, John, Peter, Mary Magdalen, the Samaritan woman, the man born blind, Zaccheus, and the criminal at the cross next to His. Something happened to them.”

“The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.” (Gaudium et Spes 22)

And so it is with great expectation that we joyfully await our encounter with the certainty of Christ, both now and at our final judgment.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fall 2011

At the Dec. 11 Youth Night I promised a blog post that would recap the semester.  I will now deliver!

The Light Shines in the Darkness...

We opened our semester with a high-energy Kickoff that celebrated our 25th year of Youth Ministry at the Parish, and introduced our theme for 2011-2012:  "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (Jn. 1:5).  This theme centers upon a personal encounter with Christ, the Light of Life.  This encounter is really an invitation into a relationship that illumines, awakens, and renews one's humanity.  The light of Christ really can change your life...and it really does cut through the darkness of fear, doubt and sin....but only if one allows it to.

Where do we encounter this light?  Through the Church.  Christ is alive and well (thanks to the resurrection!) and he can be encountered today, just as he was encountered 2000 years ago, through the Church - her witnesses, words and Sacraments.

In an attempt to grow in this relationship with Christ, and as witnesses within the Church, we looked primarily at our words, the words we said at Mass, and the Word made flesh and encountered in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

John 6 lays out Jesus' insistence upon the Bread of Life being one and the same with his flesh.  As the crowds begin to realize that he is speaking literally, they walk.  Will we?  Read more about this Youth Night HERE.

Each Mass opens with a time of preparation, called the Liturgy of the Word.  We are preparing ourselves for a real encounter with Christ, the Light of Life, in the Eucharist.  The Church looks to Christ's walk on the Road to Emmaus as a pedagogical example - and fashions the liturgy as such.  Christ breaks open the words of Scripture in light of the saving action that happens at Calvary.  Then, he breaks the bread and gives it.  The Word of God in Scripture is encountered in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  The Word of God in Scripture prepares our minds and hearts for receiving Christ, the true Bread of Life, in the Eucharist.

From this point, we launched into the nitty-gritty elements of the Mass itself.  We used the New Translation as a catalyst for our understanding.  The words to the New Translation are a bit loftier - they better signify the transcendent realities of the Mass - through which we are invited into a deeper understanding.  Our Catechetical Mass helped in this regard, as we took a slow stroll through every element of the Mass and had our questions answered.

We wrapped up the semester by turning to Mary, the first disciple.  Through her faith, humility, obedience, and receptivity, Mary received God's Word and goes forth as a disciple to proclaim that Word.  So too, we receive the Word of God (by listening to the Scriptures and in the Eucharist) and are literally sent ("Go forth!") to be witnesses to the Light, after each and every Mass.

I can't forget to just mention our big events this semester:  Credo, Fall Retreat - Into the Darkness You Shine, Run, Jump,-n-Play, and Ice Skating! 

The Word that we receive in the Eucharist also shines light into our lives.  This semester, we specifically looked at the words we use...whether in daily life, or when utilizing social media.  You can access both of these talks below:

 ...and the darkness has not overcome it.  

Next semester we will take steps to walk in the light, to follow Christ, to live in the light.  We'll do this by examining the relationship that we have with Christ.  All relationships, even the most loving ones, demand certain things in order for them to bear fruit.  Our relationship with God is the same.  The morality proposed by the Church ought not be viewed as a list of heavy demands placed upon us.  Nor should they/the Church be viewed as an oppressive authority.  The morality of the Church is actually quite reasonable.  It is one that centers around the Christian event - the relationship with the Person of Christ.  We will explore this relationship and the call to achieve greatness (not mediocrity) next get excited!

May the Light of Christ break into our lives once again this Christmas, and may our ongoing conversion draw us deeper and deeper into the Mystery of God.   Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Soft Spot Heart Beat

Baby's have soft spots in their skulls.  Those of you who have younger siblings, or children yourself may recall that first moment of passing your fingers over a baby's head only to encounter a -sink hole.  This may have caused you to wig out a little bit, or perhaps throw up in your mouth a little bit.  And rightfully so.

It is weird, sick and intriguing all at once. 

The soft spots, properly called "fontanels" exist because the bones in the skull are not yet fused together, which allows flexibility during the birthing process.  This fusion happens between 12-18 months. 

Here's a somewhat lame video explaining this phenomenon:

What is really remarkable to me, is not that finding the soft spot is freaking, or even that it exists in the first place.  Instead, it is the fact that you can view the baby's pulse by looking at his/her head.  Watch closely:

I gawked for a while at my baby's soft spot the other day, watching it beat, and I was gently reminded through the observation that we really are mind/heart creatures.  The fullest expression of the human being is a life lived within this unity:  reason and affection. 

Now, the soft-spot analogy limps quite a bit, but its implications are worth some pondering. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Calling All Witnesses

In a recent address, the Pope had the following exhortation for members of the lay faithful:

The man who reawakens in himself the question of God opens himself to hope, trustworthy hope, which makes it worth his while to take on the effort of journey in the present (cf. Spe Salvi, 1).

How can the question of God be reawakened so as to make it the fundamental question? Dear friends, if it is true that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a Person” (Deus Caritas Est, 1), the question of God is reawakened by the encounter with those who have the gift of faith, with those who have a vital relationship with the Lord.  God is known through men and women who know him–the road to Him passes, concretely, thorough those who have met Him.  Here your role as lay faithful is particularly important. […]You are called to offer a transparent witness of the relevance of the question of God in all fields of thought and action. In the family, in work, in politics, and in economics, contemporary man needs to see with his own eyes and touch with his own hands how, with God or without God, everything changes.