BY REBECCA HAMILTON
BY REBECCA HAMILTON
I don’t believe that anyone ever asked me what I would do if I got a bad breast biopsy result. But if they had, I’m pretty sure that feeding a sudden craving for classic rock music would not have been among my answers.
Silly me. I just didn’t know.
Monday was a hard day. My husband and I drove to Dallas and I had a biopsy on my breast. Then, we drove home. For those of you who are wondering, driving 200 miles in a Honda Fit after having had your breast rotter rooted is not a fun time.
The surgeon told me at the get-go that he thought “it” was benign. Then, he turned me over to the radiologist for a little look-see. I went into that encounter hoping that they would be able to determine that everything was good with scans. No such luck. After doing a set of mammograms, with a more hyped-up machine than the one here in OKC, the doc turned serious.
It’s funny, in a non-humorous way, how they keep doing that. They walk in all sunshine and light, then get a good scan and switch to all business. The results came in yesterday, and are a bit too technical for this post. Long story short, I’m still out there, wondering exactly how bad “it” really is; only the questions of it being harmless and of no matter have been settled. It’s not harmless, and it is not of no matter.
Next week I go under the knife. Bizarre as this sounds, I can hardly wait. I want this over with, and I want to know exactly where I stand and what I’m in for.
Do you love me more than these? Jesus Christ
The good ‘ole Supreme Court may have outdone itself in destruction to this country.
Their decision on gay marriage has set friend against friend and brother against brother.
I wrote a post about this earlier.But I’ve continued to hear from people who are concerned about their own families and friendships falling apart since then. So, I’m going to write about it again, in a more personal way this time.
Catholics in high places at Catholic institutions have announced their own gay “weddings.” This is clear rebellion against the Church by those who are tasked with teaching theology to future generations of Catholics. I can’t say it any more bluntly than that. In the meantime, far too many of our priests are either staying silent or actually giving tacit support to gay marriage.
The business of Catholic institutions allowing this behavior from their employees is a scandal of gigantic, Church-destroying proportions. Church institutions that actually teach against something as core as the nature of the family, and who allow their prominent teachers to publicly practice and celebrate defying these teachings, are bankrupt to the core.
There is one small gleam of light in this. We can now see why the children we have sent to our Catholic institutions of higher learning have been absorbed by the cultural nihilism rather than protected against it. It was because of these people and their defiance of the Church, hollowing out our institutions from the inside.
So how are we, out here in the pews, supposed to live out our faith with this anti-Christ leadership coming from the top? More to the point, how do we manage to deal with the onslaught of pressure and blackmail to abandon our beliefs that is coming at us from our dearest friends?
As I said, I’ve been asked for advice, and the truth is, I don’t have a way out to offer. All I have is a story of my own painful history in this culture war arena.
I’m going to share my own experiences in trying to deal with the question of saving relationships in the face of gay marriage and abortion. I don’t have a magic bullet to offer. What I bring instead is a hard reality.
Here’s what I’ve learned in my own life about the question of keeping your gay friends and following Christ: You can’t do it. They won’t let you. And that’s it.
The deepest personal wounds I’ve suffered since I became a Christian have to do with gay friends that I loved and trusted with all my heart. Two of my gay friends turned on me in a sudden, absolute and public way.
One of them, in particular, I loved with all my heart. He was — and is — as dear to me as my own blood. We shared so many good things through the years. I trusted him and cherished him.
I never once tried to change him or argued with him about these differences in our beliefs. In fact, I tried to avoid talking to him about it altogether. When he realized that I did not support gay marriage, he flew into a rage and … well … it was a horrible experience.
Among other things, he accused me of lying to him because I hadn’t been more up front on the issue.
Then, he went on the internet and publicly attacked me.
The other friend turned on me over abortion. I know, gay men and the abortion industry seem to be bizarre allies, but the gay men I’ve known are pro abortion fanatics. In fact, a good many gay men work for Planned Parenthood.
I do not have one encouraging word to share with those of you who want to keep your relationships with gay people and still follow the Church. My experience is that, no matter how you try, you cannot keep your relationships with your gay friends and follow your faith. They will not let you.
Even sadder, my experience is that they do not just end the friendship. They then go out and do everything they can to hurt you.
I can honestly say that I have not retaliated. I have never broken the confidences they shared with me. I have never attacked them. I have never tried to hurt them. And I never will.
In truth, I still love my friend who meant so much to me with all my heart. I pray for him daily. But we will never be friends again. He is part of my past.
And that, I think, is the way it should be.
The hard truth is that these relationships are encumbrances in the eternity work of following Christ. They make you careful. They force you to dip and dodge, shuck and jive, as you try to avoid offending them or doing something that will cost you their “friendship.”
If you’re up front with them. They’re going to attack you and dump you.
If you try to hide things and avoid confrontations, they’ll accuse you of lying to them, and then they’ll dump you and attack you.
I know one homosexual person who has been willing to accept me as an individual and at least be professional friends with me. When I told her I opposed gay marriage, she said, “I would never try to force you to violate your personal morality.”
I was so grateful to her I almost cried.
But she is unique in my experience. And, as I said, we have a professional friendship, not a deep personal friendship.
So. What advice do I, an abysmal failure at keeping my gay friends, have to share with you?
My first advice is to go ahead and be up front. I wish I had never dipped and dodged at all.
My second advice is to realize that you are going to have to choose. Choose Christ, or choose them. They will not let you have both.
My third advice is don’t get too close to your friends on the other side of the culture wars. I know this is harsh, scalding and terrible advice. But if you confide in someone in today’s world, the culture wars may very well turn and turn and then that someone will be your hate-filled, spiteful enemy on a vengeance trek to destroy you. Every tender thing you ever told them could end up coming back at you as a bullet, aimed at trying to publicly humiliate, degrade and destroy you.
It is sad, it is terrible, to say that. But it is true.
We are going to have to choose. Their demands are the winnowing fork John the Baptist prophesied.
Christ, or them? You choose.
I choose Christ. I may dither and try to keep from offending people in order to hang onto them as friends. But if they force me to it, I will choose Christ.
And every single time I choose Christ, I cut another cord that has kept me in touch with that other life, that life before my conversion. Every single time I choose Christ, I suffer the loss of the person I am not choosing. A few of them, like my friend, are wounds that feel like amputations. Even after the emotional blood has stopped running, I feel the loss.
There is no salve for this. It is a real and painful sacrifice for following Christ. It is our own Gethsemane.
The rewards are eternal and temporal, both at once. Christ has promised us rewards in heaven, but that is not what motivates me. My motivation is simply that I love Jesus. He saved me from eternal death and He forgave my unforgivable sins. He loved me from death to life and He continues to love and guide me each step of my way to Him.
I love Jesus.
And that is the most important reward, not some nebulous reward in the future, but the concrete reality of loving Him and being loved by Him now, in this life.
Do you love me more than these? He asked Peter — and us.
The answer has to be yes.
Our call as Christians is to convert the world. Witness to your love of Christ with your life, your words and your actions.
It’s been a while since I posted this. I think it deserves another look.
… and this one from Downey, California.
… and Market Square in Knoxville, Tennessee
2.000 years ago, a man gave his life for me, for you, for all of us. This man was the Son of God: Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Saviour and Messiah. Join the Catholic Church! http://catholicscomehome.org/ From YouTube posting.
Jesus told us that when a lost soul repents, there is abounding joy in heaven.
I experienced this joy when I found Christ. I was driving to Enid Oklahoma to make a speech. I felt — actually felt — an Other. I felt ecstatic love and joy rushing into me. I’ve tried to describe this joy and love, but I can’t do it. Our language does not have the words.
Human language is inadequate to describe true encounters with God. The reason for this is simple and obvious, and yet we forget what it means.
God is not us. God is the I Am. The standards by which we measure reality do not apply to Him because He made what we call reality. Without Him, there is nothing. Not a vacuum, not non-existence, not oblivion: Without Him, there is nothing.
The concept of nothing in this eternal and absolute sense defies both our understanding and our imaging. We can not describe it any more than we can describe Him.
God is not an idea or an intellectual construct that we can manipulate and bring down to our understanding. God is a Being, a Personality, with a will and emotions of His own.
I did not convert to an idea. I was not embraced by a concept. I met another Being and this Other, even though He is transcendent, reached into my finiteness and loved me from death to life. The Way by which He did this is Jesus Christ.
Unlike those who lived before Christ, we can see the face of God and live. All we have to do is look at Jesus. He, and He alone, is the Way that leads to eternal life.
The idea that all faiths are equal is nonsense. There is only one empty tomb, only one Way out of the abyss of our sins. No one will ever approach the throne of God and live unless he or she is marked by the shed blood of the Lamb of God.
The Church teaches that it is possible for those of other faiths and those who have not heard His name to be welcomed to heaven, but they must come by way of their works and their sinlessness. They have to earn heaven.
Even then, the only entry, the only Way, is through Jesus. His grace and His mercy are the only hope that any one, anywhere, has. Without Him, we are damned, every one of us, by our own sinful and rebellious natures.
Jesus told St Faustina that unbelievers and those who had never heard His name were in His thoughts as He suffered and died two thousand years ago. He didn’t die only for you and me. He died for everyone, everywhere, for all time. He ransomed lost humanity with His blood — all of humanity.
All anyone has to do is choose Him over the world. Just as He did with the Israelites, God places before us Life and Death and lets us choose between them. Eternal hell is not a punishment. It is a choice that we make as free human beings clothed in radical freedom.
We are called to do more than glory in our salvation. We are called to be the Light in a dark world.
God has set us free, and now we must free others. The universal Christian vocation is the conversion of the world. We must offer Him to those who are perishing right in front of us, even if they rebuff us and shriek with the agony of devils touched by grace when we do it.
We Christians of the laity are conduits of the informal graces of life and love to the larger world. Our lives are the testimony and witness to our faith. We are the ones who go out from the churches, who step away from the altar and enter the fray of bashing and bloodletting that is modern society.
We go into the hospitals, schools, legislative chambers, court houses, construction sites, grocery stores, gyms and on-line com boxes. We go into all the places where ordinary life is lived and we enter them without the confining otherness of the collar. We are part of this larger world and we move inside it with the intimacy of fellow travelers.
Our priesthood is the priesthood of the laity. It is the priesthood that will either convert the world, or leave the world to die in its sins.
We are the People of God. We are the Easter people. We serve a Risen Lord. Our home is in heaven. We are, all of us, wayfaring strangers in this world of woe.
Even though you die, you will live. Jesus told us. Where I go, you will follow, he said.
We are going to die. I don’t write that to upset you, but to free you and comfort you. I want you to understand that there is nothing in this world for a follower of Christ to fear. You and I are just passing through this life. We are going to die. But when we die, we will live. Because of His Mercy.
So what should we do about those unbelievers who attack Christians? What should we do for those who have never heard His name?
Jesus says bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me.
He tells us that He was thinking about them when He suffered and died. His love for them is the unfathomable longing of God Who is love.
I don’t know which ones they are, but I believe that future evangelists for Christ are hiding among today’s Christian-bashing unbelievers. One day, they will say “yes” to Him, and He will fill them with the same love and joy that He poured into my soul and into yours. He will lift them up to testify to Him with all the fervor of someone who understands what it means to be rescued from eternal death.
I also know that among those who have not been told about Him there are people who will one day carry the news of His love to others who have not heard of him. Jesus is the Way, and that way is open to everyone.
But on this Easter Monday, they are still lost. They wander in the acrid bitterness of their unbelief, the noisy silence of their lack of knowledge. They are lost.
Christ’s mercy is the living water that enlivens our souls. Christ’s mercy is beyond our understanding, greater than our ability to reckon. It, like Him, is infinite. His mercy transcends time and place. It is available to everyone.
Please pray the Divine Mercy Novena today. Bring the lost souls of the world to Him and His mercy. He can change hearts that you and I think are beyond reaching.
I was once such a person myself.
“Today bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me,
I was thinking also of them during My bitter Passion, and their future zeal comforted My Heart. Immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.”
Most compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who do not believe in God and of those who as yet do not know You. Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy; and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who do not believe in You, and of those who as yet do not know You, but who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Draw them to the light of the Gospel. These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You. Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.
*Our Lord’s original words here were “the pagans.” Since the pontificate of Pope John XXIII, the Church has seen fit to replace this term with clearer and more appropriate terminology.
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons
And Jesus said
I AM the way.
I AM the bread of life.
I AM the light of the world.
I AM the good shepherd.
I AM the door.
I AM the way, the truth and the life.
I AM the true vine.
I AM the resurrection and the life.
Before Abraham was, I AM.
What do you think He meant?
Copyright: Wonderlane used with permission.
The wise men r us.
By that I mean they are that vast reach of overlooked humanity that had no part in God’s Covenant with Abraham. The wise men are you and me, who will be, at long last and as St Paul put it, “grafted” onto the original tree of life that God planted when He raised up first a man and his wife, then their family, and finally, a people, to be the flame of flickering light in the darkness of fallen humanity.
We sorta know the story of the Wise Men. We’ve seen it acted out in Christmas pageants when, at the end of the story of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the manger, three little boys walk in to the tune of We Three Kings. They are wearing bathrobes made of shiny fabric and carrying three boxes marked “gold,” “frankincense” and “myrrh.”
The little boys put their boxes next to a makeshift manger which holds a doll wrapped in a baby blanket. Meanwhile a little girl, dressed in a her mother’s bathrobe and a little boy dressed in his dad’s, look on. The shepherds are already there, along with a couple of little girl angels.
It’s Christmas and the people rise to sing Joy to the World with the gusto of those who know in their hearts that this story, however simply it is told, is true.
These Christmas pageants are simple, fun and they do tell the essential story. But the layers upon layers of meaning that the story holds are not touched. That’s to the good, of course, since belief lies not in layers of understanding but in the simplicity of ultimate truth.
Christmas is about the end of the endless night of ultimate hopelessness. It is the story of The Light breaking into human history. As such, the simplicity of small-church Christmas pageants are all we need to tell the story.
But for those who want to look past the dust jacket on the story, the questions and the answers are there. Before Jesus, God’s direct work with humanity had been limited to this smallish family turned nation that He had settled smack along the most important trade route of the ancient world. The bread basket of Egypt, the spices and riches of the East, traveled along this narrow way near the sea on their journey to Europe.
Rome fed off this route, as had numerous empires before it. Of all the places in the ancient world, the one most likely to be fought over, invaded, battered and beaten, was this one. Why did God put His people here?
My guess is that it was because the story of the Jews is not just the story of the Jews. It is the story of Jesus’ family. The Bible itself is, from the first page to the last, the story of Jesus, of God’s redemption of us, all of us, everywhere. He chose to send His redemption first through a man and his wife, then through a family and finally through a single nation.
When Jesus was born, He repeated the story and went back, once again, to a man and woman, a husband and wife. It seems that God always begins His beginnings with humanity with family.
The Chosen people were chosen, as God told Abraham, “to be a blessing.” They job was to bring that first flickering point of light to the world at large. The nation of Israel was in the one best place best situated for sending the message of redemption to the whole world. The location that made it a perilous location of great political and economic interest, also made it the perfect jumping-off place for spreading the Good News outward until it met itself circling the globe.
Thus Jesus, when He finally came, was a Jew, born to Jews in a vassal Jewish nation residing in the crook of the elbow of the ancient economy.
He was, from the beginning, the Light of the World. Not, notice, the light of the Jews. Jesus, a Jew, born of Jews, came for every person who walked the planet. Salvation came from the Jews, but it was for us all.
That is the meaning of the Epiphany. It is the underlying message of God calling three wise men to, as the hymn says, “traverse afar” in their quest to find Him. These men were not Jews. They were us, the unsaved sea of humanity that had been, up until then, standing outside the door.
The epiphany of the Epiphany is that we are part of the story now. Salvation came from the Jews, but it is no longer theirs alone. From the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life, He called all humanity to Himself. It began with three men who followed a star and it is unfolding to this day.
Pope Francis surprised the pundits this week by raising up cardinals from far-flung locations about the world, many of which are places where Christians suffer desperate persecution. The mustard seed is just being planted in some of these lands. Those cardinals are the successors to the wise men.
… the Gospel must be preached to all nations, Jesus told us.
And it will be.
And it is.
Like every other story of humankind, the story of our salvation begins with a man, a woman, and a baby. It begins with a family, and it ends with eternal life.
Mixed into this story is the tale of three wise men who “traversed afar” to pay homage to a newborn king laid in a manger in a stable. They visited the Romans’ vassal king of that land, King Herod, on their way to Him. In doing so, they alerted a ruthless and insecure man to a potential threat. Their indiscretion cost the lives of innocent children, executed by King Herod in a drive to safeguard his throne against prophecy. They were the trigger that sent Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus into exile in Egypt.
Their part in the story of salvation, was germinal in every way. But the most important part of it is also the most often overlooked. The wise men were not Jews, they were not of the Chosen people. The blood of Abraham did not flow in their veins. But God called them and guided them and over a long journey led them … to Him.
In this way, the epiphany of the Epiphany is that we are welcome at the table now. The doors to God’s salvation opened wide on that night when He was born, allowing any who will take the step to enter in. It began with a star, a journey and a baby.
Because the wise men r us.