Humanity is the way to Divinity

“Humanity is the way to divinity. Suffering is the fastest way to humanity” ~Fr. Michael Sullivan.

God has recently given me the grace to glimpse into suffering. And the first question that comes to mind is why? Why would a God so good, a God who is love allow us to suffer? Allow bad things to happen to good people?

First we look at the way God chose to save us. He chose to save us through suffering; through the worst, most gruesome, terrifying, painful death imaginable. That is how the God of the universe chose to save us. And I think that the more I experience suffering, the more I agree with the quote above. The times in my life I feel the most human are when I am in the midst of suffering, but these are also the times that, when I allow myself, I feel closest to God.

When we suffer we have a choice: we can believe in the lies that we are not good enough, that God no longer loves us, that it’s our fault, that we can’t change, that the world hates us, or we can believe the truth that God loves us and uses the suffering we experience as a means of salvation.

A movie that comes to mind when thinking of suffering is Unbroken. If you haven’t seen it yet I highly recommend it, but in the movie, we watch as a young trouble maker turns into an Olympic runner, who later in life is captured as a POW during WWII. Throughout this movie the main man, Louie Zamperini, is subjected to endless suffering. But through it all he kept fighting. He remembered that there was something greater, that he had a family to get home to, that there were still other men with him who he had to fight for.

Suffering is something that makes me so thankful that I am a Catholic, because as Catholics we believe that we are united in the Mystical Body of Christ, so when one of us suffers, there are always people there for love, prayers and support. One of my favorite parts of the movie Unbroken was that when Louie was trying to survive rafting in the ocean, he kept imagining his mother’s gnocchi. Mary had to suffer one of the most gruesome things in the world, watching her son die. So through suffering if we run to our Mother for comfort, just like Louie did, she will help us.

The other day I was watching one of those sappy love movies where the two kids fell in love and inevitably one of them ends up getting sick and eventually dyeing and it’s really sad and you cry for like five minutes but you have no idea why. Well I think this very human reaction tells us something intrinsically beautiful about the way God works. You see our relationship with God should be the most epic love story in the world. That’s what the Bible is, an epic love story of how God fought for us, never gave up on us because He loves us that much. How God made covenant after covenant until He couldn’t stand being apart from us any more so He made the ultimate sacrifice and sent His son, in the flesh, to die for us.

Suffering shows us that we really cared, that we loved fully; we gave until it hurt and did not stop there. Suffering means that we know there is something greater than ourselves that is worth fighting for. And although it is by no means fun, suffering is how we grow, it is how our hearts grow.

Like one of my favorite saints, St. Maximillian Kolbe said, “Without sacrifice, there is no love”. Saints are not people that did not suffer, but when they were faced with suffering, they see a path to approach God.

The Theology of Tangled By Thomas Weis

So turns out I’m not the only one in my family who is amazingly talented in the writing/theology department(and so humble 🙂 ), my little bro happens to be super talented too! So here is something he wrote! It’s quite awesome so here it is:

It may seem strange to be looking into a Disney Princess movie for Theology but with a deeper look into the story it can be seen that within Tangled, the movie means so much more. Tangled is one of those movies that when viewed with the eyes of faith a deeper and profound meaning can be discovered. Now this is the official spoiler alert to all those who haven’t seen the movie there will be parts of the movie that I describe, particularly the end of the movie, so if you don’t want the movie to be ruined stop reading now and come back when you have watched the movie!

The best place to begin is in the opening dialogue of the movie, Flynn Rider says, “This is the story of how I die. But don’t worry it’s a happy story.” Now how can death be happy? This is one of those statements that then prompts the question, what are you dying for? For Flynn Rider, this is a happy story because he dies enacting love. Let’s look at the death scene: Flynn escapes from prison and gets to the tower. He yells, “Rapunzel let down your hair!” The golden locks fall from the window, which Flynn promptly climbs up to get into the tower. When he reaches the top he sees Rapunzel tied up and then, out of nowhere the “mother” of Rapunzel comes out from behind Flynn and stabs him. So far you might be thinking, “There is no love in this, he just came and got stabbed! All that is going to happen is that he is going to die.” If you were thinking that, you are so far correct, but it’s what happens next that will knock those socks clean off your feet. Rapunzel says that if she can heal Flynn, she will never fight her “mother” and will do whatever is asked of her. What happens next is that Rapunzel goes next to Flynn to heal him and with his last dying movement Flynn cuts Rapunzel’s hair.

Now what would prompt Flynn to do this? For the majority of this movie Flynn is a self-centered guy, he only cares about himself and what he can get. But in his final act, he cuts Rapunzel’s hair, the one thing that could have saved him. You see Flynn is being a true man in this instance. Flynn recognizes that Rapunzel has a gift, and in cutting her hair Flynn has basically said, “I would rather die than to see your gift used for evil.” In the ultimate act of selflessness Flynn frees Rapunzel from what would have been a life in slavery to the woman who kidnapped her. Flynn knew what would happen, he knew the outcome but he did it anyway to save someone he loved.

Now let’s look at Rapunzel’s side of this part of the movie. She sees Flynn come up to rescue her but knew that her “mother” was right there waiting to kill him. She tries to warn him of the danger but is unable to. As her “mother” tries to bring her out of the tower Rapunzel manages to say that if she can just save Flynn then she will go with her “mother” wherever without resistance. Now why would she do this? Well, simply out of love. Rapunzel has a kind heart, and she would be willing to go with her “mother” if she knew that someone that she loved was safe. This is again a gift of selflessness; Rapunzel knows very well that after saving Flynn that she will be a slave to her “mother”.

So after Flynn cuts Rapunzel’s hair he lies, presumably dead or just hanging on to life, in Rapunzel’s arms. It seems as if all hope is lost. But then Rapunzel tear falls from her cheek on to his and a gold light emanates from it. Flynn is healed, but that is not what I want to focus on. The thing I want to focus on is the fact that all this time the gift has quite literally been inside of Rapunzel. If you think back to when Rapunzel was still a child in her mother’s womb, her mother became ill and they found a cure in the plant that was the ray of sun that came down to earth. So she receives this gift from the sun that came down to earth (Hint, Hint Jesus the Son who became incarnate) when her mother was dying (Hint, Hint for Catholics Last Rights, where you receive the body of Christ, the Son who came to earth) she receives the sun-drop flower. So in a Theological sense Rapunzel was given this gift from God. When she was younger it was evident that she possessed this gift from the effects that came from her hair (which is like Samson from the Bible) and then is misled by a woman who want to miss use Rapunzel’s gift (also like Delilah from the story of Samson) but here is where the deeper Theology come into play. From the beginning of this gift, the true power of it came from within Rapunzel. And if you want to go even farther, Rapunzel already had this gift and it was only strengthened and made whole by the flower, otherwise her mother would have also received the same gift. In simpler terms Rapunzel was created with this gift of healing but only through the sun-drop flower (Christ) did the gift blossom into its full potential. And for an even deeper meaning it is interesting that she has the power to heal physical injuries, but in the story she heals Flynn from his life of crime that he has been living.

A Story

There comes a point in every flower’s life when she begins to wonder, why bloom? In the beginning, blooming seems to emanate from the excitement of the day itself. All the adventures it holds, the people who will recognize her beauty. And then of course there is the gardener who looks upon the flower like no other, because he sustains her, gives her food and water. So those days where the excitement of the sunrise in itself is not enough, she blooms for him. To hear his voice and catch his gaze as he tenderly protects her with his strong hands.

But then, that dreadful moment comes when she thinks that the gaze of the gardener is no longer enough. Doubt begins to fester. Why does the Gardener invest so much time in me if only for himself? There must be more? So then she blooms for the world, for the stranger’s smile. Yet somehow, these passersby can never fill her like the Gardener’s gaze. He knows her, has counted every petal, examined every leaf, made note of every thorn. But these by standards seem to recognize and move on. She might catch the gaze of one person for a while, but their interest always seems to move to the next thing, the sky, the wind, other flowers in the garden. And she is left alone.

So one day, the rose decided enough was enough. Enough of being forgotten and rejected, she would no longer bloom. No longer fulfill the purpose the gardener gave life to her for. When this happened the world didn’t notice, but the Gardener did. Giving the flower extra attention, talking to her, watering her, and even though she was a stubborn flower, she saw His persistence, his passion. And then, by looking into the depths of his eyes, she knew why she bloomed. It had to be for the Gardener and him alone.

So, she was then again there for the passersby, knowing that it was not her beauty that would keep them, but the work of the Gardener. And when she was tired and scared, she found the courage to bloom, not in the eyes of the world, but in the love of the Gardener.

LIFE

Recently thousands have gathered for the Rally for Life and it got me thinking (oh no! sounds like a blogpost is coming…yep!) about just how precious life is. After original sin, humanity was separated from the full presence of God. But, God did not let this fallen state of humanity last, He had a plan; the Incarnation, God in flesh. Jesus. God didn’t stop there though, oh no! He knew that the only way to restore humanity was to give the ultimate sacrifice. The most beautiful gift of self. The most anyone can give because it was the most we are given. Life.

Think about it. The thing God chose to give us, the God of the universe, the King of all Kings, the omnipotent, who could have given us anything, chose to give us the gift of His life. That is what Jesus did when He died on the cross for us, He chose to give us the most precious thing He could; He chose to give us His life so that we could live ours to the fullest.

Life. The thing we take for granted so often. The thing that our culture scoffs at, diminishes to a complication, a challenge no longer worth it, but through God’s eyes it is the most precious thing He has given us. And now in our society of death, Satan has convinced us to disregard it, to spit at it, to mock it, just as he convinced us to do to Jesus when He was on the way to offer His very life.

This is why I am so proud of my fellow Catholics who stood up and said enough is enough! My fellow Catholics who are living lives in purity, holiness, and joy. Those of us who are living life to its fullest, by entrusting it to His care. He who knows just how precious the gift He gave us is. If we entrust our lives to Him imagine what He could do because He knows the beauty and incredibleness of life because He made it!

Jesus Christ is Born!!

Its Christmas time again, the time of year filled with joy, family, chaos and chocolate. It seems like every year Christmas comes around and things seem to be a little bit crazier. And with this, I for one always kind of expect that with the coming of God into the world things should get less crazy. My anxieties should diminish; my struggles should be taken away from me with the coming of Christ. And every year I think this I am left disappointed. When the tree is taken down but my problems remain I seem to question if God really came. If He did then why aren’t things better?

I think to answer my question it would be wise to look at the Jews in the time that Jesus so miraculously was manifested in our world thousands of years ago. If we do we will find a nation of oppression. The Israelites had been scattered, they had been enslaved, they were being oppressed and you would think that when Jesus came He would change the state of the Jewish people. If they were His chosen ones, then why didn’t he take away their problems? This is why many thought Jesus would be a military leader, so that he could regain control and renew the state of His people with force.

But when I look at the Annunciation, when I look at the coming of Christ I realize something. Jesus didn’t come to magically make our problems disappear or to make our lives magically better, He came to change us.

He came to be born in our hearts, to take away our sins and draw us near Him so that we could know Him better. And this relationship with God, this would enable us to have the hope and faith and love that we need to face the problems and struggles in our lives but it would all be because of our relationship with Him. We should encounter the Triune God and never be the same. And that my friends, is what Christmas is all about! It is the changing of a heart, our heart, because when we look at that tiny baby in the hay we see love Himself and even if our life, like that barn he was born in, is a mess, because we have encountered Him and now have the eyes of faith and a heart filled with love we will be able to rise to the occasion that is our lives.

That is how He will change the world, one heart at a time. Christmas blessings, and may the God of the universe be born in your heart so that we can change the world one person at a time.

Freedom

I was with a person the other night and we ended up walking past a bar where music was raving and he looks over and says, “I wish I could go inside”. Me, being me, says that I don’t understand how that is fun. How surrendering yourself to drugs and alcohol, drowning any voice of reason with blasting music and having drunk conversations with anyone would be fun. They replied its fun because you can let loose and relax. I respond is it really fun, you have no control of yourself and when you come home don’t you feel empty and alone? He responds that whenever he comes home he is alone.  I say yes, but there are other things that can make you feel you have a purpose. He responds yeah but it’s fun.

Now I love this person, and he could be the voice of the common secularized college student, but I think that in this instance they are missing the point. They are confusing freedom with carelessness. Freedom means I have the ability to choose, it means having foresight, and being able to sit in stillness and be completely content with yourself and your decision. True freedom leads to peace. St. Ignatius of Loyal has 14 rules for discerning spirits and although they are called rules, after studying them true freedom is revealed because through these rules eyes are open, we become aware and informed and can direct ourselves to that place where we are at peace.

My friends choice to go to a bar surrender their freedom to substance all in the name of fun may have felt invigorating in the moment, but filling yourself with chaos never brings peace. And is it really fun, or just ignoring responsibility, ignoring the things that are hard to face but matter the most? Those dragons that keep us entrapped in ourselves that if we had the courage to face, we would actually be free even though they would require struggle, patience, training and even bloodshed. After we slay the dragon however, we can actually come out of the castle of the world that promises freedom in the wonder of its halls, but is actually a prison that keeps you enslaved from the really living.

When in our lives did we have the most fun? I would say when I was little. Isn’t this the time when we also have the most restrictions or rules in place by our parents. But it is in these rules where we find true freedom. It is actually because of these rules that we can feel at peace that we feel taken care of, and then we can run, jump, discover, and create. When we were little, the world was our playground, the simplest things would make us laugh and cry, we were completely free because we surrendered to someone who loved us not something that would leave us empty.

So that was me ranting, but it is so important that we don’t settle for the lies of the world, but we face those dragons and say no! I will not settle for this lie, I will not let the easy way that leads to emptiness be my quest in life, but I will be fulfilled. I will be free and at peace. And you know what? I will have more “fun” then you could ever imagine because I will be in the Father’s arms. I will laugh, I will cry, I will breathe in the air of freedom and see the world not from the castle window but be able to step out into the air because I will have slain the dragon with His help. I will look to the stars and cry at their beauty, I will be able to dance in the sunlight and sing with the birds. And although it won’t be easy all the times, those moments of joy, of Eucharist, will sustain me. So you can have your bars and loud music, but I will have something better and you know what?  You can have it too you just have to be willing to stop settling for the false illusions of your castle, come out slay the dragon and breath in the air of freedom!

You go St. Francis!

I’ve been thinking about this idea of failure a lot. Most people are just convinced success is in the money. “Well if only I had more money, we would be happier we wouldn’t have to worry, then everything would be fine”, and although money is an essential part of life, I argue that as long as you are not at the point of real need (so you can buy food, shelter, clothes, education) then no amount of money is going to make you happy. If you can’t live in your situation and love the people around you and laugh with them, even if you find that you are living and laughing in a stable, then you can’t be happy with all the money in the world.

Once we reach the point where we live in the world and only see all we don’t have, then we will never have the heart to love the things we do. I think some people with all the money in the world still look around and say “if only I had more”, but I think those are the people who end up existing in a state that is lifeless and sad because they have nothing worth living for, nothing worth fighting for. I think maybe we need to look at the world like St. Francis and say if only I had less! Then I would not be distracted by the stuff but hold on to what’s important.

Then I could see the miracles in everyday life, like the trees and the animals. I mean have you ever really looked at a tree? What a miracle in itself the fact that it can live from the rays of the sun and that its roots take in all the nutrients it needs. Or think of the miracle that is you! The fact that we can move, that our bodies have tiny little sodium potassium pumps that make electric potential differences to move every muscle in our body, and that it took more effort for me to write that sentence then for my body to do all that!

I think that will be my goal for the week, that I may pray not for God to give me more, but less.

Catholicism, life and laughs