Monday, March 19, 2012

Holy Joseph, Husband of Mary

About nine minutes into this broadcast, following the scriptural readings for today, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary, begins a beautiful homily on Joseph that I could not resist sharing out of love for the saint, because I could not speak better of him than Father Landry does here:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Faith, Or Learning To Ride A Bike

The Transfiguration of the Lord occurred, according to Scripture, following Jesus’ teachings “that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31) According to Mark, “He said all this quite openly.” (8:32)

“Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them…” (Mark 9:2)

Saint Leo the Great explains in today’s Office of Readings: “The great reason for this transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples, and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that lay concealed.” (LH 2:149)

But indeed, that faith was disturbed. We know that in the time of trial when the Master was undergoing great suffering, and fear overtook the sheep as the Shepherd was struck, that the disciples seem to have disregarded the “glory that lay concealed,” even though they had seen it with their own eyes six days before.

It is much the same for us when we are confronted with something that brings us to a state of anxiety or distress. Everything that was right and good yesterday flies out the window today. We immediately respond in the flesh, so to speak. We feel the trouble, whatever it might be, pierce our hearts, contract our stomachs, and fill our nerves with prickly needles. We physically react to the situation, and presuming we are operating in a state of sound mental health, our response is appropriate on that level.  

What is called for by faith, however, is an interior move away from what is seen and felt toward a willing embrace of what we know to be true, in spite of what we see and feel. To have faith goes against our flesh for sure, and it is in part an act of the will. Therefore, it involves our thinking.

Where we can go awry there, is by applying reason. I know it sounds absurd that reason could lead us astray, but even reason can betray us in such a case because of its collusion with the human ego. When we mix reason with ego, faith is not going to happen.

So we are bid by God to have faith in opposition to the feelings of our flesh and in opposition to human reason informed by egotism. God Himself has given us faith as part of the Baptism package, so we do have it. Tricycle faith was instilled in us when we were baptized.

Then something happened in our lives that called us to step up to the bike-with-training-wheels-level of faith and maybe that didn’t work out. Maybe we went back to the tricycle. Or maybe we stepped right up, faith-wise, and eventually graduated to the bike without training wheels.

I, myself, could not accept the two-wheeler for a long time. As a kid, I debated with everyone and wanted to hear a scientific explanation of how it was possible that a person could balance on those two skinny wheels without tipping over. Even though I had seen with my own eyes, many times, other people riding two-wheelers, no one was going to get me to do it. That’s reason with ego at work.

At last I agreed to it with my best friend’s mother holding onto the back of the seat and the handle bar as I mounted and began to pedal. She let go of the handle bar and began running next to me, holding the back of the seat. Assuring me she was still there she fell behind and eventually let go. When I realized I was riding the bike, it was like a whole new level of human existence opened up for me. The world became larger because I could travel farther. I became more autonomous and independent. I ventured out and encountered new people and places with my bike and grew more mature, riding that bike.

Over the years there were lots of different bikes, each one moving me through new levels of maturity until I became seasoned enough for a car. That, I imagine, called more so upon my parents to have faith! But, you see where I’m going with this.

The exercise of faith can bring us from a place where we are frightened or doubtful or being barred from movement in some way, to a place of freedom. When we choose faith in response to our circumstances, taking into account and not dismissing feelings and reason, we become more fully human. For we follow in the way of the Master, whose life among us teaches us how to be human in the way we were created to live our humanity.

As we respond in faith to the difficulties and hardships we encounter in life, we grow more and more mature, becoming the version of Christ we are uniquely meant to become, and we move toward a sort of “transfiguration” of our own—in our case called conversion—in His image.