epiphany

I’ve been trying to describe how I got from agnostic to Christian in 17 very long agonizing years. So far that tale begins with the posting “Gotta get it out of my mind,” and continues with “Me and St. Augustine,” “Maternal instincts,” and “The 5th Joyful Mystery.”

In “The 5th Joyful Mystery” I talk about Pascal’s Wager. The premise of the wager being that either there is a God and eternal life, or there is no God and no eternal life. Everyone bets one way or the other, and either you win or you lose. If there is a God, but you bet against it, then you lose big time. If there is no God, but you bet that there was a God, then you lose, but what do you care – you’re just dead. So, the only logical wager is to bet that there is a God and live your life accordingly. And, Pascal believes that if you live your life accordingly, then you will eventually obtain the faith as well.

In the last few weeks, I have been amazed at how many people actually try to complicate this concept of God or no God. An atheist friend says that the question of God or no God is only a valid discussion within the framework of religion and once you remove that framework , the question of God’s existence becomes irrelevant. Hmmm. All I can say is that one can cover his eyes, ears and mouth, but that does not remove the possibility that he can see, hear or taste.

Other people think that an Eastern mystical experience is superior to the boring God of Christianity. Dig deeper. You won’t know how deep the water is unless you jump in. So far, I haven’t found the bottom.

I fell into Pascal’s wager without knowing it. I started to act like a Catholic, and became one.

But the blinding flash came nearly 2 years later.

I was going to church, most of the time. I was reading about the Catholic faith. I was pretending that the Catholic doctrine was THE TRUTH, and PRAYING that I would actually believe it. I started praying the rosary…and reading about the rosary (here is where I laugh at transcendental meditation…I didn’t need to go outside Catholicism to find it, it was here the whole time!).

And then for Christmas 1999, Bill gave me a guide to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He knew that I was very interested in learning the faith, and he happened to find this book while doing last minute shopping for me. The guide is designed to help you read the entire Catechism in one year (in just 15 minutes a day!). January 1st, 2000, I began to read it.

By mid-February (about 6 weeks into the program), I had the blinding flash. OK, I wasn’t blinded, and I didn’t hear Jesus’ voice asking why I was persecuting him. But it was an intense moment anyway.

How does it feel to suddenly have all the blinders lifted? What is it like to suddenly have one grace-filled moment when you look in the mirror and see a true image of yourself and get a glimpse of God in that image?

Let me say this: woe to he who first sees this image after death. Seeing yourself, truly seeing yourself, is not a pretty sight. It is repulsive. It is horrible. It takes some time to deal with this reality. If I had to decide in that instant: life with God or life without God, I would surely have chosen life WITHOUT God. I found myself so unworthy. How could I possibly allow myself to join God and sully heaven? The angels and saints would have rent their clothes with my entrance to their beautiful world.

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the hour glass

I am coming to realize that many people have the mistaken notion that Christianity is completely separate from Judaism. This is inaccurate. Christianity does not stand apart from Judaism and Judaism does not stand apart from Christianity (although today’s devout Jews do not believe that “Christianity” – the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Christ – have happened yet).

It is like an hour glass. One half of the hour glass is Judaism; the other half is Christianity. The middle part through which all sand passes is the Christ. Each half is meaningless without the other.

charity

From an email I sent to my family:

1 John 4: 20-21
If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God,whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

The modern concept of love involves flowers, hearts and warm fuzzy feelings. Charity is a better word. Charity is a decision. It has less to do with emotion and more to do with behavior. We can not control other people’s behavior. We can not control other people’s emotions…and we can barely control our own emotions. But we can control our behavior. Charity demands that we make excuses for those who have hurt us (perhaps I said something unkind without meaning to…perhaps someone is just having a really bad day/week/life). Charity demands that we put a check on how we FEEL and refuse to be drawn in to an unpleasant and unkind discussion. Charity demands that we accept others entirely, even if we don’t like some things about them. Charity demands that we ignore or minimize their failings and focus on their good points.

I am the first to admit that I have failed to be perfectly charitable to everyone all the time. And no matter how much you know about how poorly I may have treated you personally, I am aware of how poorly I have treated all of you throughout my life. And I am truly sorry for any and all offenses (known and unknown), and apologize to you all for any resentment you may hold in your hearts toward me…especially, I apologize to Elisabeth for years of ill will and petty behavior.

But my failure to meet the standard of perfect charity in no ways makes illegitimate this standard.

I prefer to SOMETIMES meet a LOFTY goal, than to ALWAYS meet an INFERIOR one.

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I had to post this here to give myself the required frequent reminder of how I want to behave.

It is so very hard to love and forgive when the love and forgiveness are not reciprocated.

I just found out (second-hand) that a woman I know feels that I blew her off for two years. I am completely flabbergasted by that one. I can not think of a single person I have blown off in the last 8 years (and I did not know this woman prior to that). I can think of times that I forced myself to email or call someone (not this particular person) simply because it was polite to return a phone call. This woman is not local. It’s not as though I told her I was busy and then she caught me at a local bar.

Possible scenarios:
1) she kept emailing a defunct account?
2) she got my number wrong and kept leaving messages on a stranger’s machine, thinking that I was getting them?
3) she got my number right, but Bill didn’t tell me she called OR
4) she left a message, and I heard it, but got busy and forgot to call her OR
5) she left a message and we had a power failure and we lost all messages.

Scenarios 3-5 suggest a one-time occurance…she called once and waited for 2 years for me to call back? I’ve no idea what to do to reconcile this. Since the news came second-hand, I can’t come clean with this info. We’ve been in communication as far as I know since the beginning of our relationship…the way that people who live hundreds of miles away from each other are (birthday and Christmas cards).

But my point about charity: I must assume that scenario 1 or 2 is correct. I need to reign in my own hurt feelings that she would assume I was blowing her off. I have to try to not be hurt that she wouldn’t ask me what was wrong.

I’m getting really tired of other people judging me by only looking at the bad things I’ve done. And, of course, charity demands that I keep my mouth shut and take responsibility and make amends for those things, even though I want to say “what about the time you did xyz to me?” or “cut me some slack I was going through a terrible period at work” or even “yes, I did that…but I also did this and this and this…don’t these nice things out-weigh the bad?”

the grass is always bluer?

“Mom, Billy called me stupid!!!”
“Are you stupid?”
“NO!!!”
“Then it matters not what Billy says. Truth is truth. If you’re not stupid, his saying so doesn’t make you.”

My version of “sticks and stones”.

Truth IS truth, and the sooner my children learn this the better. Around age four, kids start to get really upset if someone says something incorrect. I remember Fritz getting upset that Billy would call things the wrong color. But if Billy calls the grass blue, that shouldn’t be Fritz’s concern…unless he suspects that the grass really might be blue.

As for me, I have little doubts about truth. If something new seems truthful, but doesn’t fall into place with what I already believe to be true, I investigate the issue. Generally, I find that much information was hidden. Most truths are extremely basic – such as the right to life of all humans from conception to natural death. That is a one sentence tenet with NO exceptions (well, FEW exceptions: just war, self-defense, and, in limited applications, capital punishment). When people try to force exceptions into morality, then one must closely examine those exceptions and discover the truth about them. So far, I’ve yet to find an exception to the right-to-life tenet that holds water.

the sudan

I don’t know which is more ridiculous: the fact that my newspaper (and the main stream media and the world in general) has completely ignored the situation in the Sudan until now…..or the fact that when they do print an article about the slaughtering of 30,000 civilians and the displacement of millions of others over the last year to year and a half, they fail to mention the role of religion in this situation. The entire article skirted the issue of motive: why are these people being killed and displaced? Why are women being raped? Who is doing what to whom? Is the media afraid that if the world finds out that Muslims are killing Christians that perhaps it might be a wake up call to the rest of the Christians in the world?

The last year I taught CCD, there was a bit in one of the chapters about persecutions and martyrs. They talked about the early Christians primarily. I told the kids that it was ridiculous to talk about the persecution of Christians as though it happened 1500 years ago but it’s all over now. What a joke. Mexico 100 years ago. The Sudan today. China forever?

A few years ago, Chechan rebels took over a theater in Moscow. I happened to be at the mall buying something (not a usual thing for me). The lady at the counter had a name tag that said something or other “OVA”. I asked her if she were Russian, and when she said she was I asked her about the situation in MOscow. She said that we Americans just don’t get it. We think we can all get along, that we only lack understanding and compromise. For them, it is about chaos and conversion. Be Muslim or die.