Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Why is it so hard for some people to believe in God?

Some nonbelievers will say that science has all but disproved religion. 

I am always fascinated by those who believe that the “big bang” tells us everything we need to know about creation. They adamantly insist that all creation can be explained by this burst of energy. And yet, it seems to me that the “big bang” theory is itself the clearest clue of all that the entire universe - including matter and energy - is completely conditional on an outside force. The idea that the universe created itself is beyond scientific proof and completely illogical. It is only logical that whatever started the universe was not subject to the same laws as the universe. Something … or someone … would seemly have to begin the “big bang.”

Of course ardent anti-God people would say that this is nonsense, that science gives no evidence of God's existence. Which is in fact a truth we can all agree on. Science deals with realities and relationships within the world … and the Creator, by definition, is not an ingredient in the world he made. So we can agree that science can give no empirical evidence of God’s existence. But … this is not the real question. The real question is whether all reality is restricted to what the empirical sciences can measure. Some would say that science alone deals with reality. However the truth is that this statement in itself is a contradiction; because it is scientifically unprovable. How can one prove that reality is restricted to what the empirical sciences can measure? No one can prove that! To say that science alone deals with reality is in and of itself an unscientific observation.

Other nonbelievers will point to the fact that so many awful things have been done in the name of religion.

People struggling with the question of God often comment on all the horrors inflicted on the world by religious people. They say that in the name of God many moral outrages have been inflicted on the human race, such as: the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch hunts, support of slavery and most recently, the clerical sex abuse scandal? This line of thinking seems to allow many to merely dismiss religion rather than prove false any religious argument. But the truth is that the existence of bad Catholics does not in itself demonstrate that Catholicism is a bad thing, anymore than unethical scientists prove that all scientists are unethical. Good science was used to produce nuclear weapons. Does that mean that all scientists are evil? Of course not! In its humanity the Church is easily broken. The failings of people in the Church does not undermine the Churches claim to speak the truth.

The Bible presents some who are opposed to God with another avenue of attack. They say:  "How you can account for the obvious contradictions and bizarre stories in the bible? It hardly seems a cohesive proof for the existence of God." 

The truth is that the bible is a group of books gathered together from thousands of years of literary and social environments. To read it and judge it without an educated understanding of this is in itself an irrational act. Clearly the bible is made up of texts from a wide variety of genres and written at different times for varying audiences. Without studying the great minds of the Church, like, Irenaeus, Origen and Augustine (to name just a few) all of whom dealt with the complexity of the Bible ... one is merely speaking in unqualified generalizations about something of which they know very little. 

The truth is that one must study the entire Bible in the light of Christ crucified and risen from the dead. All of the bible must be read with the filter of Christ who took on himself the sins of the world and brought forgiveness and love to us all. Without this filter it doesn’t make much sense. The Old Testament tells us about man’s struggle against sin. And the New Testament, all the way to the image of the slain lamb in the Book of Revelation, is a story about salvation history. The peaceful Christ, who took upon himself the sin of the world and returned in forgiving love, is the interpretive key to the Bible; only in that light does it all make sense.

Proving God … proving the divinity of Christ … proving the Resurrection … is not the point. Experiencing God … in the imitation of Christ … and embracing the hope of one’s own resurrection is the point. God is love. And the more connected to others one becomes … in love … the more obvious God will become.

How does religion make sense?
Only in loving as Christ loved us …
to intellectualize is a dead-end street.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Reflection - The Cross

One of the most poignant scenes in the movie Passion of the Christ is when Jesus is handed his cross and he embraces it.   Clearly the cross was Jesus’ reason for living a human life.
The cross for Jesus was his instrument for the healing and transformation of human history.  Who would ever look for a savior on a cross – an instrument of humiliation, torture and defeat?  Why would we look for God in something so painful, tragic and immoral?  How can something so awful be the high point in human history?  But there it is …  a total paradox … this way of Christ.
The cross is the doorway to resurrection.  The pain and sorrow of Good Friday lead to the joy of Easter Sunday.  Pain and glory all wrapped up in some mysterious and glorious dance; a dance that Jesus invites us to flow into with Him.  "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  (Matt 16:24)  We are called to be conformed to his death if we are somehow to attain the resurrection ( Phil 3:10-11).  The challenge for most of us who call ourselves Christian is to even recognized, much less choose, our crosses; to recognize the cup which we must drink from, the baptism we must be baptized with in order to be bona fide followers of Jesus.  (Mark 10:38)  Embracing our cross is counter to everything our culture values and all of our natural instincts. 
What is your cross?   Experience tells me that our crosses transform to our stage of life.  We all need to pause before the cross we face each day and ask ourselves – Do I have the courage?  Can I conquer the fear?  Can I embrace this mystery of suffering and joy – sacrifice and reward?
 The goal of the Christian life is
to be wonderfully terrified
and accept the invitation
to dance.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Come out!

The Reading:
The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.”  When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  

The reading: Gospel of John chapter 11 verse 1 to 45

The Homily:

The story of Lazarus is a story about death and despair … but … it’s also a story about life and hope. It is a story that mirrors all of our lives. If we look carefully we can see ourselves in every character.  We recognize our own despair, our own sense of powerlessness in the face of death.

Wars, earthquakes, super storms and tsunamis make life seem so fragile, so unpredictable; and death so powerful. In the face of death we are so often like the crowd that day; as Jesus approached Lazarus’ tomb, the crowd shook their heads in disbelief saying:    
"If only he had done something!

Like Martha and Mary we whisper: "Lord, if you had been here,” as we watch death overcome life, especially when it’s someone we love. “Lord, if you had been here," then death would not hold power over us. 
“Where were you Lord when we needed you? 

Lazarus represents all of us as well.  We are so often buried in tombs of our own making through sin. Tombs designed by our selfishness.  We become bound up by negative feelings. We live lives dominated by … worry … fear … resentment … guilt … or greed.

We fashion tombs of addiction.   
Tombs of regret for the mistakes we’ve made ...
Tombs constructed from our prejudice and narrow-mindedness.
Jesus calls each of us by name to come out of our self-made tombs, 
and to help others to do the same.

To those who are addicted … he says … “Lazarus, come out!
To those who are hurting and unhappy … “Lazarus, come out!”
Today can be the beginning of a new life!  
Because, I am the resurrection and ... the life!                                                                                         
He asks us the same question he asked Martha … “Do you believe this?”
Do you believe … 
that Jesus can mend all the brokenness and wounds of your life?
Do you believe … 
that Jesus is saying to you: “Be unbound and go free?” 
Do you believe … 
that Jesus calls you to enjoy the fullness of - his life - now!

Clearly Jesus promises future resurrection for those who believe in Him. BUT, He also invites us to share now in the fullness of His life. The resurrection of Lazarus is not just a promise about the future for each of us. It is also an invitation from Jesus to enter into the fullness of his life in the present ... right now.

Jesus wept that day. John doesn’t tell us why. It was not because his friend had died.  He knew that would not last. Perhaps He cried because he experienced the lack of faith and hope that is so often present in the world.

Today let’s accept Jesus’ invitation. Let’s walk out of any tomb we may be in.  And allow ourselves to be unbound and go free, to really live a GRACE filled life.

How do we do this?

Our Gospel story began by Martha and Mary sending a message to Jesus.  We too have to send a message to Jesus and we do this by spending time in prayer and sharing our wounds, hurts and anxieties with him. By making the same profession of faith that Martha did – saying to Him – I believe that you are the Christ the Son of God. If regular daily prayer is not part of your life perhaps Jesus is calling to you ….
Come out! … and spend time with Him each day.

During the season of Lent we are encouraged to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. If you haven’t been to Confession in a while, Jesus says to you today …                      
Come out! … and receive my life-giving forgiveness.

For some of us Jesus may be calling to us saying:
Come out! … and join that 12 step program you’ve been avoiding.
Come out! … and find a spiritual director.
Come out! … and attend that bible study or retreat you’ve been invited to.

Jesus also calls us to be there for each other too.  He told them that day to "Unbind him and let him go!"  He challenges us to be the body of Christ to each other. When someone we know needs help unbinding themselves; we need to be there for them. Sometimes the best way to do that is to just be a good example. Or, maybe invite them to Mass with you one Sunday.

Let's ask Jesus during these last few days of Lent to bring the light, the life and the power of His Holy Spirit into our life. To liberate us from our tombs and give us the grace to unbind ourselves and others. So we can live life fully.