Limitless

I recently read a really interesting article by R.R. Reno over at First Things talking about “What Mary Teaches” Mary in this instance referring to the Blessed Mother. If I ever endeavored to write an article about the things that Mary taught me I imagine it would quickly cease to be an article and instead become a colossal book. One that I would love to write…

All dreamy tangents aside, R.R. Reno’s essential point is that Mary is a realistic hope of what can be accomplished by God’s love, mercy, and grace. Born without original sin in a dogma Catholics refer to as the Immaculate Conception, Mary is a true masterpiece of God: a creature who perfectly responded to and cooperated perfectly with God’s grace while remaining completely human (not at all divine). She is now in Heaven body and soul as God promises we will one day also be.

This is a wonderful promise one that the author rightly points out gets dimmed in the skepticism and self-centeredness of modernity. However, the thing that struck me most about it was the horrible question that rose in my soul.

Yes, as I was reminded by the author of the universal call to holiness and remembering that a desire for holiness and expectation of God’s abundant graces are not unrealistic nor delusions of grandeur but the fulfillment of the promise of God and His design for humanity, the horrible question rose and it lingered:

What sort of limits do you place on that love? What sort of limits do you place on that grace?

Because here is the horrible truth I was forced to confront. God places no limits on His love for me, but I place many limits on the love I’ll accept. Whereas God is love and longs to lavish His mercy in my own pride and timidity I insist on accepting instead only small graces, more in line with what I feel I deserve which, to be honest, most days isn’t very much. Whereas God calls me to greatness and remarkable feats of holiness, I think of my many weaknesses and the shame of who I’ve been and accept only an ordinary destiny afraid not only to be great but afraid to even think that sort of greatness is possible.

Yet, believe it or not, I’m glad I read the article and even recommend you do too because had I not read it I might still be imagining the limits I was accepting as coming from God instead of coming from me. And what a tragedy it would have been to accept my own forgetfulness, to conform to the image of our material world, to believe that fallen things stay fallen and never rise again, when the limitless love of God stands ready and waiting in every moment to make me new, to make me something great. Because with God greatness is not marked by achievement or fame or fortune but by the thing I’ve always wanted: a complete oneness with perfect Love, an everlasting union with God Himself.

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God Isn’t Fixing This

Today I found myself pondering the mystery of why anyone would actually read the Daily News. Nonetheless, I presume people buy it because somehow the glorified gossip magazine continues to operate.

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My thinly veiled displeasure at most major “news” outlets aside, the above article was brought to my attention when I came across Patheos’ Top Ten Atheist News Stories of 2015 and found the link to the now infamous article written in response to the San Bernardino shootings. The article is essentially an accusation that Christians hide behind prayer and don’t do enough in the face of such atrocities followed by a premise that prayer is a waste of our time because God either:

  1. doesn’t care
  2. doesn’t do anything
  3. doesn’t even exist

I’m really glad this article made the list because if this is the best atheists have then I feel reinforced in my decision to practice Catholicism. Because the author totally missed the boat on this one, and this article should be an embarrassment to committed atheists everywhere, not a rallying point.

It’s embarrassing because this article comes across more like the rant of an angsty teenager against uncool parents than a sound philosophical argument. Because my Catholic faith represents truth and atheism doesn’t represent anything except a negation of the truth my religion proclaims. You may not like everything Dad has to say, but you do not disprove the existence of Dad by merely claiming that he sucks. And the article really highlights this flawed reasoning in a most delightful way. 

Because what the title of the article should have been was this:

“GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS MY WAY”

This reasoning, I would argue, is the most sincere divide between theists and atheists because it is the prime issue encountered when examining one’s beliefs as it is the essence of faith. The Christians (the most popular theists to bash) who were called out in this article were called out because they committed the secular sin of being audacious enough to believe that God exists AND retain the faith that even in the darkest of circumstances He reigns supreme. This attitude really pisses people off. If you don’t believe me, read The Littler Way

Because there is a great temptation, a human pride, that leads us to believe that if there is a God He should operate the way we do. We wonder how a God who presumably loves us can let us experience pain? Why a God who rules the universe allows such tragedy? Especially if He has the power to stop it. And I think there is a prevailing stereotype of Christians as either unbelievably ignorant white trash or the ultra preppy Bible study type who is always smiling and LOVES JESUS. And people say that “they have faith because they just don’t get it. They are not as smart as we are and if they were they also would no longer believe.”

But the truth is I continue to believe in God because I do not, nor will I ever, presume to believe that I am as smart as God or that my understandings come anywhere near His own. God by His very essence does not have the same human limitations that I do, even when He took the form of a human Himself. No, God is infinite and while there are many things about His nature I feel I am coming to understand as I mature in my relationship with God, I simply could never grasp the infinite. Not for lack of intellect or because God doesn’t love me or even that God is some jerk who enjoys being smarter than everyone else (not possible because God has no pride), but because I am still confined to time and infinite things are, by their very nature, outside of time. And in the lapse between my earthly life and my death which I do believe will plunge me into eternity, I chose to have faith not from an ignorant refusal to see what is in front of me, but rather an ignorance of what I cannot yet see in front of me. My faith is my admission that while there is much I do not know, I do know in my heart that I love God, which means that even when I don’t understand God or His ways or my trials, I trust Him. That is what confounds, angers, and upsets those who love the world and have rejected or neglected the presence of God in their hearts.

Admittedly, I was given the tools to nurture my faith through the blessing of being able to grow up among a different sort of Christian than the unflattering media narrative they parade across all “news” outlets. The kind of Christian that gets no notice from the world. The Christian who chooses love in order to please no one except their God, because their God first loves them and from that experience they have been drawn to love and serve others. And you won’t find these people just in churches, you’ll find them in hospitals, offices, charities, schools, grocery stores, bus stops, and even on playgrounds. The unspoken witnesses to the love that makes the world go round, the little acts of love and kindness that go unnoticed to the masses, meant only for those who were meant to see them, as God leads us all both to Himself and towards one another.

So tell your atheistic and cynical counterparts to calm down. We may be confined to time, but God is not and He will finish what He began in this world in a more glorious way than you or I can yet imagine. All that’s left to do now is leave you with the wise words of my powerhouse of a confirmation Saint, Theresa of Avila: