Friday, May 16, 2008

Conquer the Summit

The summit? For a soul which has surrendered itself, everything becomes a summit to conquer. Every day it discovers new goals, because it does not know how, or want, to limit the love of God.
- St. Josemaria Escriva, The Furrow #17

By the time in entered my junior year of college, I had developed a love for learning. At that time the love was focused on mathematics which was my major. Now that love for learning has spread to different areas. But I have especially learned to love the study of theology and scripture. One thing has become quite clear to me as I continue to study: I don't know much. What I mean is, the more I learn, the more I realize I have to learn.

I believe that it true with our relationship with God. The more I come to know God, I am confronted by the fact that I am still so far away from Him. The good news is that He makes up for what we lack. Every time God burns away an imperfection, five more seem to become exposed. Such is the spiritual life. Our salvation is a journey that lasts a lifetime. God is continually molding and shaping us. Sometimes the summits are tougher to conquer than others. Many times it seems like there are multiple summits to overcome at one time. Regardless of the situation, God promises to complete the good work in us that He has started.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Culture of Life vs. Culture of Death

Turn on the TV and it is a matter of minutes before one is inundated with gratuitous sex and violence. Why is that? What is it with our infatuation with death and sex? And what do they have to do with each other? All around us we see death. However, true discussion on death is often avoided due to the fact that there are not many things that are more frightening or misunderstood. So the conversation gets suppressed. Sex is another topic that isn't usually discussed appropriately. Most conversations regarding sex are very uncomfortable and awkward unless it is the punchline of a joke or put in your face (literally) in the media. The problem is that when things are suppressed, they tend to resurface in ways that are not very healthy. In the beginning, man and his wife were both naked and they were not ashamed.(cf.Gen. 3:25) In the beginning, there was no death. Naked without shame and no death. What happened after "The Fall?" Death and shame both entered the world. The Theology of the Body addresses the connection with death and sex. It is worth quoting at length:

Thus, each man bears within him the mystery of his "beginning" closely bound up with awareness of the generative meaning of the body. Genesis 4:1-2 seems to be silent on the subject of the relationship between the generative and the nuptial meaning of the body. It will be necessary, then, to raise again the questions connected with the appearance of shame in man, shame of his masculinity and femininity, not experienced before. At this moment, however, this is in the background. In the foreground there remains, however, the fact that "Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore . . . " This is precisely the threshold of man's history. It is his "beginning" on the earth. On this threshold man, as male and female, stands with the awareness of the generative meaning of his own body: masculinity conceals within it the meaning of fatherhood, and femininity that of motherhood. In the name of this meaning, Christ will one day give the categorical answer to the question that the Pharisees had asked him (Mt 19; Mk 10). We, on the other hand, penetrating the simple content of this answer, are trying at the same time to shed light on the context of that "beginning," to which Christ referred. The theology of the body has its roots in it.
7. Awareness of the meaning of the body and awareness of its generative meaning come into contact, in man, with awareness of death, the inevitable horizon of which they bear within them, so to speak. Yet there always returns in the history of man the "knowledge-generation" cycle, in which life struggles, ever anew, with the inexorable perspective of death, and always overcomes it. It is as if the reason for this refusal of life to surrender, which is manifested in "generation," were always the same "knowledge," with which man goes beyond the solitude of his own being, and, in fact, decides again to affirm this being in an "other." Both of them, man and woman, affirm it in the new man generated. In this affirmation, biblical "knowledge' seems to acquire an even greater dimension. It seems to take its place in that "vision" of God himself, with which there ends the first narrative of the creation of man about the "male" and the "female" made 'in the image of God": God saw everything that he had made and . . . it was very good (Gen 1:31). Man, in spite of all the experiences of his life, in spite of suffering, disappointment with himself, his sinfulness, and, finally, in spite of the inevitable prospect of death, always continues, however, to put "knowledge" at the "beginning" of "generation." In this way, he seems to participate in that first vision" of God himself: God the Creator "saw . . . , and behold, it was very good". And, ever anew, he confirms the truth of these words. (TOB 22:6,7)

Pope John Paul II is absolutely correct; life will always win. However in our culture, the value of a life is based on what it can produce or what it can provide. Individuals are looked upon as objects to be used and then discarded when they are no longer useful. We were not created to be objects to be used. We were created to commune with God and one another. This desire to "know" one another is stamped in our very being. The world calls it a "sex drive"; the Church Fathers called it "paternal desire."

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Wedding to Remember

I was glad to see Art posted in regard to his wedding. I know how much thought and effort went in to everything that took place. I was honored to be in attendance, but Jennie and I were more honored to be a part of such a beautiful ceremony. I have been to many weddings, but I can honestly say that none of them compared to Art and Melissa's. It was obvious to all in attendance that there was something special happening. Now granted, there is something special taking place at all weddings. However, often times the wedding becomes about the event. It is the part that takes place before the party. All of the time and energy goes into creating the reflection of something beautiful. This wedding was different. It was beautiful. It was beautiful because we witnessed two young people who understood the fact that they were about to become one. Not one in the sense of one household or one checking account or one bathroom- but they were going to become one in the communion of persons. Art and Melissa were about the embark on the journey of becoming the image and likeness of God...and they knew it. Pope John Paul II explains:

If, vice versa, we wish to draw also from the narrative of the Yahwist text the concept of "image of God", we can then deduce that man became the "image and likeness" of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons, which man and woman form right from the beginning. The function of the image is to reflect the one who is the model, to reproduce its own prototype. Man becomes the image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion. He is, in fact, right "from the beginning" not only an image in which there is reflected the solitude of a Person who rules the world, but also, and essentially, an image of an inscrutable divine communion of Persons.(Theology of the Body 9:3)

Nowhere was this more apparent than at the reception. Usually the reception is where the "holy stuff" ends and the party begins. Just like Sunday is where we put on our nice suit or dress and play church and Monday through Saturday we get to live as we wish. But not at this reception. Sure the reception was a great party. However, the fact that Art and Melissa had just entered in to a covenant with eachother was not lost at the reception. In fact it was confirmed during one of the most typical reception events...the tossing of the garter. Now the tossing of the garter is usually where all the single guys get up with beer in hand and try to act cool while staying as far away from the garter as possible. Don't catch it because then you're the next one to go...the next single guy to get shackled to the "old ball and chain." After the tossing of the garter, Art had a bowl of water and a couple of towels brought to him. He then proceeded to wash Melissa's feet. It was beautiful. Right in middle of the party, the groom kneels down and humbly washes his bride's feet. Art showed at that moment that he would have been the one to climb over his buddies to snatch the garter. Because he understands something that most people miss. He understands that he just entered into something very special. Art has found himself in the gift of himself:

Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, "that all may be one. . . as we are one" (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. (Gaudium et Spes 24:3)

Art and Melissa, may God bless your marriage and may you continue to be a blessing to all of us in the way you live out your vocation.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Are You Finished Yet?

So here is the scenario: My wife and I go to a local store with our four boys ages 9, 6, 3 and 9 mos. Our 3 year old is a "big boy" and wants to walk with his older siblings. So now we have the Cox Family convoy walking through the store: Mom leading the way pushing the cart, 3 brothers holding hands and Dad bringing up the rear with the stroller. It is quite a sight. Eventually, after we have stopped the flow of traffic in the store a few times with our regular duck crossings, someone stops and makes a comment on how cute the baby is--he really is cute, looks just like mommy. A short conversation ensues and inevitably the question arises, "Are you done?" No more needs to be said; we understand the question. "Are you done?" is the universal question for any family who has more than 3 children. "Are you done?" is the "polite" way of saying, "you need to stop having children." I have been told by a friend with 5 children that the questions eventually change. They become: "Are these all yours, or did you adopt?"

The reactions that large families receive from folks in public really fascinates me. Why are people so comfortable questioning the fertility of others? When did having more than 2.3 children become "irresponsible?" Our culture has not only embraced the idea of having dominion over creation, but we are now trying to control it to the point of deciding whether or not to allow life at all. When did children become a commodity; a box to check on the to do list of life?

Genesis 1:27 says, "And God created man in his own image: in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. " What does this mean, " the image of God he created him: male and female he created them?" It means that together man and woman image God. That is why God creates a "helper suitable" for him. With what did Adam need help? He needed help living out the fact that he is created in the image of God; a communion of persons. Eve fulfills this communion of persons in the sacrament of matrimony. God is a communion of persons..."man" is to be a communion of persons. This becomes obvious to Adam when he recognizes that the animals are not suitable to help him. The human body is intended to be a reciprocal gift. Man gives himself to his wife and the wife to her husband. And this gift is to be free, total, faithful and fruitful. The fruit of the love is the life that it produces. The love between the Father and the Son is so real, that it is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. The love between a husband and wife is so real that from it comes the third person of our family.

We ought not look at the responsibility of parenthood as a duty that we tolerate until the kids are old enough to do things for themesleves. We ought to celebrate the fact that God gives us the ability to become "co" creators by being procreators. And by the grace of God, we will have the perseverence to live out our vocation and through this vocation share in the love of the Holy Trinity.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Wedding At Cana

We all have an idea on how busy and sometimes even a little stressful wedding planning can get. For myself, I left a lot of details and planning to Melissa. She had a good idea of what she wanted for our wedding, and I loved every part of it. However, the one thing that I wanted to be a part of more than any other was deciding the scripture readings for the Ceremony.

This was one of the better things we enjoyed about our wedding, but also the most difficult. The toughest part was narrowing it down to four passages from Scripture. The Old and the New Testament, the Psalms and the Gospels all have so many great passages, and we did our best to decide which ones we wanted for our special celebration.

Here I want to focus on the Gospel of John Chapter 2, and more specifically, The Wedding at Cana. I’ve taken the time to study this chapter over the last few months looking at it light of two key points, the Eucharist and The Blessed Mother. It’s been both illuminating and enlightening for me. And I want to take the time right now to share with you what I initially hoped to hand out to everyone who attended our wedding but unfortunately never found the time to do so until now. Most important though, I would like to thank Father Scott for his homily at our service. Revealing to us to the connection between Mary (who Jesus refers to as ‘woman’) and Eve (who God refer to as ‘woman’ in the Book of Genesis). Father Scott explained to us as Eve was called to be the mother of all living in the Old Testament, Here in the New Testament we have Mary being called as a new Eve, the mother of all living. And again, its not coincidence that Christ refers to her as ‘woman.’

Here we are at The Wedding at Cana. I sometimes wondered why Jesus chose a wedding celebration for the scene of His first public miracle? Then I remembered somebody in the Book of Exodus who preformed a smiliar miracle, Moses. Moses changed the waters of the Nile into blood (Exodus 7:14-22) in the Old Covenant. Jesus now changes water into wine, ushering in His New Covenant. He offers the New Wine, purchased by the shedding of His blood on the cross for our redemption.

Moreover, the wedding at Cana prefigures the marriage feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7). We should all understand how weddings play an important role in our lives as they do in Sacred Scripture. I like to ask, whose idea was marriage anyway? Does the sacrament of matrimony make any difference from just living together? Or is it just a matter of a piece of paper as some might suggest? Since Jesus and His Mother, Mary, chose to attend this wedding and then played instrumental roles in it, it might help to look at the sacrament of marriage a little more closely.

Marriage was at the hear t of God’s plan from the beginning. God said, “it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). Therefore, in the very act of creation, God creates woman and brings her to the man, that they may become one flesh. God has been in the matchmaking business from the very beginning. And just as the couple at Cana invited Jesus to their wedding, Melissa and I have invited Jesus into our marriage relationship. We invite God to be the third person who holds our marriage together.

We all know how marriage has come under attack in contemporary society. The permanence today of one man and one woman faithful until death has come down to partners deciding to walk away from marriage whenever they wish. So, how can marriage withstand the storms and tribulations that occur in life if the Lord is not invited? Without the presence of God and the grace of the sacrament, marriages begin to turn and fall, especially when they remain in the same direction that society has come to accept. The couple at Cana invited Jesus to their wedding. In hard times, one spouse may lift up the other and when both are down, Jesus can hold them together in the midst’s of the storm. God’s grace is always available in the sacrament, for those who call upon Him and seek His help.

I’d like to leave with a quote from Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 48.1

Marriage is God’s Plan. Sacred Scripture begins with creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and concludes with a vision of the “Wedding Feast of the Lamb.” The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator. . God Himself is the author of marriage.