Monday, April 27, 2009

I Want it All

There was a moment in my life when I abandoned childish fantasies of being incredibly rich or powerful. But if you were watching me at that precise moment, you wouldn't see a young man with calm expression of peace and contentment; I'm certain you'd see fire in my eyes. It was the passionate fire of a refusal to settle for less than the very best. I didn't want to be rich – I wanted to be infinitely rich; I didn't want to be happy or amused – I wanted infinite joy. And I knew, at that very moment, that I'd stop at nothing to get it.

This breakthrough came for me when I realized that I didn't want my piddly dreams to come true – they were too small! In other words, nothing I could imagine would be enough to satisfy me. My motto was no longer “let me be satisfied with what I have” but to quote Freddie Mercury, “I want it all and I want it now.”

Chesterton describes an account of St. Thomas Aquinas where, when asked by God what he wanted, Aquinas replied, “Nothing but Thee Lord.” Now in response to that question, the Stoic says “nothing” because he has learned to suppress all desire; the Mystic says “nothing” and he means that he wants to apprehend the great nothingness of the cosmos. But as Chesterton explains, Aquinas doesn't answer “nothing” in the same way that they do; in fact, he doesn't answer “nothing” at all. When Aquinas is asked what he wants, he answers: “everything”.

Conquering desire involves the early step of recognizing that the entirety of creation could not make us happy (far less the small fraction we could ever hope to attain). Jesus could have simply said, “What would it profit a man if he gained the whole world?” and stopped there. Even if you keep your soul, gaining the whole world still leaves you unhappy. Knowing all this is one thing; living it is another. That is, I still make irrational decisions based on impulsive desires for things which will not satisfy and will only lead me away from the One who will.

We can't imagine what true happiness will be like. We cannot imagine heaven. It is revealed to us metaphorically by images of temporal things. This is why it is a bad argument against Islam to point out that the Koran uses images of wine and women to illustrate the pleasures of the heavenly paradise. Forty virgins may not truly satisfy a man; but neither do streets paved with gold.

Now God walked among us for a time, and He gave us the very secret to happiness during a famous sermon. The secret was proclaimed from the mountain top and yet we remain unhappy because we I am too cowardly to believe it. When even one person believes and lives the secrets He openly shared, it changes the world.. mountains are moved and trees get up and walk into the sea.

It's as if a rich man said, “I'll give anyone who jumps into this pool a million dollars” and one by one, a bunch of pansies tiptoe in, wading just knee high. Some run off when they're contacted by the water. Oh what will happen when just one brave soul cannonballs right smack in the middle... What a splash he will make!

Chesterton again has a great line somewhere: “The young man who knocks on the door of the brothel is looking for God.” And I'll tell you, the drug addict is closer to God than the luke-warm Christian. The luke-warm Christian is the one who wades in the water knee high. The drug addict is at least seeking that ultimate happiness he was created for (though in the wrong way). But the luke-warm Christian has settled for a church with warm fellowship, a minivan and a few “mission trips” where he stays in a four star hotel.

Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for the times (like today, yesterday and everyday that I recall) when I seek the created rather than You, the Creator. If I can ask one thing Lord, teach me to live the beatific life because You know what I want: I want it all, and I want it now. That is, nothing but Thee Lord, nothing but Thee.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hypocrites

There are two types of people in this world: hypocrites, and those who haven't the backbone to speak of right and wrong.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Book Review: "Life in a Medieval City Illustrated by York in the XVth Century" by Edward Benson

Short & informative. I liked it.

My only complaint: he contradicts himself on religious life - first describing the Catholic Church in England as hopelessly ignorant, corrupt and superstitious, and then goes on to relate facts which prove, and he concurs, that the Church was the only civil thing to be found in that age.

He naively makes a comment or two about the utter darkness of the medieval Church until the radiant light of the Reformation and the age of reason. But as he progressed in the chapter and examined and reasonably responded to facts; he said that the gospel was so widely taught that wealthy merchants regularly gave large sums of money to the poor; lepers had refuge only in Church run hospitals, and the only hope women had of education was in a convent, etc... In fact, except for the very wealthiest men of the city, one's only hope for an education of any kind was the Church.

Far from being a dark force in an otherwise bright time, the Church is precisely the opposite. As Chesterton said, the Church is a bright light in an otherwise dark time. She is the bridge of civilization spanning over the barbaric centuries.

Likewise, far from being the "light" that saved men from some dark, barbaric and superstitious religion, the Reformation was man's attempt and failure at re-founding Christ's Church. Such a thing should never be called a light - rather it casts shadows on the light of the Christian faith. It hides Mary and the saints in the shadow of personal privilege, it hides active faith in the shadow of individualistic assent, and it hides the apostolic Tradition (the light we received from the apostles) behind the shadow of man's private interpretation.

As usual in my reviews, I say very little about what I liked and argue at length against what offended me. To reiterate though, it was a good book with wonderful imagery and I'd recommend this short read.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bodily Unity

Catholic Ecclesiology says the invisible Church and the visible Church exist in a psychosomatic union analogous to a body. A body is a union of the invisible soul and the visible flesh. A body is not something essentially invisible which is accidentally stuck inside a visible prison. Essentially, a human body is both visible and invisible and so is the Church.

Here are the common Protestant ecclesiological mistakes:
  • The Church is essentially invisible though she has visible parts. (Unlike the Catholic and biblical model, this is not analogous to a body.)
  • The Church is invisibly united and physically fractured. (Again, not analogous to a body. With a body, the visible parts are every bit as united as the invisible.)
We must at least admit that the ecclesiology maintained by the Catholic Church from the Apostolic times until now is more analogous to a body than the Protestant idea.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Introducing - Philippine Aid Society - Please Take a Look

Per recommendation from my good friend George Weis, my wife and I have founded a non-profit and we're extremely excited about it. This is a wonderful opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of so many people who are suffering in poverty overseas. I hope my readers will consider my humble request that you take a look at the official site of Philippine Aid Society and prayerfully consider a donation as part of your alms this Holy Week to help us get this thing off the ground.

Below is a promo video I put together.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

New Podcast - Soli Deo Gloria & Sola Gratia

Tom Riello (a former PCA pastor) interviews me and Sean Patrick (formerly of "You Are Cephas") in this third episode of Called to Communion's podcast. The topic is Soli Deo Gloria & Sola Gratia. Also, Sean's new lead article on Sola Gratia is up and definitely worth the read.