Study Notes 1 (June 2020)

Blessed are those who hunter and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied
Excerpted in part from the writings of Sr. Patricia of Mary Magdalene

Historical context: The Jews hungered for liberation from Roman rule and a restoration of the Davidic kingdom
-they wanted a savior who would liberate them

There is still injustice in the world, and the innocent and vulnerable still hunger for a “savior”

Justice is one of God’s attributes, along with Mercy, Love, Beauty, Compassion, Goodness, etc
-humans are made in the image and likeness of God with free will to distort these attributes

“As contemplatives, it is our ideal and goal to ‘feed the hungry’ through our prayer, to ‘quench thirst’ through our meditation, and to appease justice through penance and sacrifice.”

The hunger for justice builds/strengthens the virtue of patience

“Our first and primary model for this virtue is Jesus Himself. The ultimate example of injustice was this loving and forgiving Savior being slapped, spat upon and nailed to the cross by the very people He came to save. Yet, the richest example of patience was His silent humility as He accepted the insults and physical blows to His most precious cheeks. If ever there had been a time for the vengeance and justice of God, it was then.”

“…patience is the main intermediary between justice and mercy.”

“If justice is thought of in its good or proper aspect, it will lead us to the hunger and thirst spoken of in the beatitude: a hunger and thirst that desires to feed the starving, assist the downtrodden, bring freedom to the oppressed, instill peace where there is strife, establish unity and fellowship among all peoples.”

“As contemplatives, our “action” is prayer. As contemplatives, our prayer should be
continuous, night and day, without ceasing. We, like St. Therese, should be missionaries of justice by our example of honesty, integrity, morality, and spirituality in a world hungry for all of these.”

“Being just doesn’t only mean being severe in punishing the guilty, it also
means recognizing good intentions and rewarding virtue.” St Therese

 

Certain Death

This is a fictional reflection of the Gospel reading from this past weekend: the story of the woman caught in adultery. Most of it I made up since only a small part of her story is told in the Gospel. I just thought it would be interesting to see what might have taken place after she walked away.

We had only just got married, Isaac and me. Then he left. He didn’t really say where he was going. Just on business. He was a merchant: had some things to sell. He was a smart man. He would buy things that smiths and carpenters and other people made or grown, and then sell them for profit, but he had to travel a lot. It made me lonely. So that was how I ended up with Michael.

We were only friends at first, but then we were more than that. People got suspicious since he would come to our house a lot. People started asking questions. I kept getting strange looks in the market, and our neighbors would even avoid me. I could tell they at least thought we were up to something. I told Michael that we had to stay away from each other for a while, and we did. It didn’t really work out, though.

He came to me late one night. We were both feeling lonely. The thing was, he had been set to be married a year before, but his fiance got sick and died. It would have been alright, except that my neighbors were noticing, and that night, Isaac came back. I didn’t hear him come in. I hadn’t expected him to be coming back in the night. He threw Michael out of the house, and he didn’t press charges against him, but he was very angry with me. He slept in a different room, and the next morning, he brought me to the authorities, and they took me to the temple. I was so scared.

There was this new teacher, though who was there, and for some reason, the Pharisees didn’t like him. I was terribly afraid of him because he seemed to have some kind of authority. They said to him that the law said they should stone me, which I knew was right, but they asked what he would say. I don’t know why they asked him, but then he did something scary and weird. He asked me my name. I told him it was Elizabeth. He wrote my name on the ground, and he wrote what I’d done. Then he said that if any of them didn’t have any sins, they could kill me. He gave them kind of an odd look, and I didn’t really know what it meant, but they started walking away. When maybe half of them were gone, he bent down to where he’d written, and wiped it away with his hand.

There were some people left, but they walked away slow, too. When nobody was left, I was still scared. I didn’t know if I should leave or stay or if he was going to do something or what, so I just stood there. I felt pretty awkward, and I was embarrassed of the whole thing, and I kind of wanted to cry, and I didn’t dare look at him. He said, “Hey, look at me.” I didn’t dare not, so I looked him in the face, and he smiled. “Has nobody condemned you?” he said, and I said, “No.” I looked away because I still felt bad. He walked over to me, and touched me, so I looked at him again. He smiled and said, “Neither do I. Now go. Make amends with your husband, and don’t do this again.” I nodded, but I couldn’t say anything. I just walked away.

It wasn’t normal, what he’d done. I was still really anxious while I walked home. I had to go through the market to get there, and I hoped I wouldn’t see my husband until that night when he got home, but he saw me at the same time I saw him. We both stopped for a couple of seconds, and then he started walking over. He didn’t look angry. I couldn’t really tell anything by the look on his face. I didn’t know if I should try and get away or wait for him, really. I didn’t have time to decide, though. He caught me, but he wasn’t angry.

“I’m so sorry for what I did,” he said. “Can you forgive me?”

I wanted to say, “You just almost got me killed!” but I didn’t. I told him what had happened. I said, “There’s a new teacher. He got even the pharisees to go away.”

“Who is he?” Isaac said.

“I don’t know,” I said, “but you could ask around and find out.”

“Okay,” he said, and then he said again, “Can you forgive me?”

I thought of what the teacher had done, and finally, I said, “Yes, I forgive you.”

It took us a little while, but eventually, things got back to normal. We found out that this teacher’s name was Jesus, and that he’d done quite a few strange things. I was glad of it, though. They were all good strange things. A few months later, by chance, Isaac had to go away again. This time he said I should stay with a cousin. I thought that was a good idea, so I did. It turned out that my cousin knew some of the teacher’s followers. That’s how I got to know some of his friends, and I finally got to know him.

Idols And Heroes

Last night, my dad and I ended up laughing at a musician we heard on a Spotify playlist who was trying to be a poignant country singer, but really just came across as whiney and corny. His lyrics were really quite terrible. Then, of course, because I’m a musician, we ended up talking about songwriters who are actually good at what they do. A songwriter I admire very much is Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam. My dad agreed that Pearl Jam was a really good, original band, but, he said, Eddie can try to hard to “be his idols” when it comes to his own side projects. I know, for example, that he “idolizes” Neil Young. I don’t know that I totally agree with my dad because I love Eddie’s music, especially the weird stuff, but I also love Neil Young, so there’s that.

Our conversation then moved to an idea my dad had for our house in Maine. He said we should have a bookshelf with work from all of our “Idols.” He started listing off people he admired, and I noticed, he stopped using the word “Idol,” and switched to “Hero.” It’s an interesting distinction. Our God commanded that we are not supposed to have idols because there is only one God, and only He is worthy of worship. Another interesting question is: when does one cross the line from admiration to worship? I have a very long list of people I admire, but I don’t worship any of them. I don’t worship them because I know my God, and I know what worship is, and how to worship. I had to be taught, though.

I think worship invariably has to be taught, whether it is worship of God, or worship of some other human or thing. Catholics, for example, have specific religious practices that are forms of worship. Perhaps worship of a certain musician, for example, would involve getting a guitar and learning to play all of their songs, playing them at open mic nights, and listening to their songs all the time, and seeing them live whenever they’re in the area.

This is not to say one cannot do all these things and be an avid fan without worshiping them. A better example than Pearl Jam for me might be Tenth Avenue North. I know and love almost every one of their songs. I’m more of a singer than a guitarist, and I can harmonize on plenty of them. I recently went to see Mercy Me just because Tenth Avenue North was opening for them. I’ve seen them several times by now. Still, they’re just dudes, and I don’t worship them.

In the end, whether it comes to awesome humans or awesome things, I think everyone at one time or another needs a reality check. Everything and everyone in the world, whether it’s a black hole, or a baby has an ultimate Source, and if the effort is taken to find that Source, there’s not much that can be done but to worship Him. The uncreated God created this universe and everything in it out of love because He wanted it–wanted us–to exist.

Truthfully, I think that’s why I love mythology and I admire good fantasy writers so much. If there is any writer I aspire to be like, it’s J.R.R. Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and the universe it takes place in is genius. Right now I’m rereading the four books of the Inheritance Cycle, by Christopher Paolini. I admire this writer, too, not because his universe is genius, but because his style is eloquent, but easy to follow, and his story is enjoyable.

I loved my dad’s bookshelf idea because I do have heroes. I have a long list of heroes. Some of those heroes are Catholic, some are non-Catholic Christians, and many are not Christian at all. In fact, I have no idea what they believe, or believed, but they are or were admirable. There are still more whose names I don’t even know, but whom I consider heroes. With all this in mind, I submit to you all my list of heroes. These are in no particular order, and are not separated into categories. It’s also probably not exhaustive, but these are the people who come to mind as heroic.

-J.R.R. Tolkien
-Seamus Heaney
-William Wallace
-The Astronauts of the first Apollo mission
-J.K. Rowling
-C.S. Lewis
-Fyodor Dostoyevsky
-Christopher Paolini
-Eddie Vedder
-The members of U2
-The members of Tenth Avenue North
-Neil Young
-The Indigo Girls
-Any martyr of any faith
-Anyone who stands up to injustice in any way
-Saint Faustina
-Saint Dismas
-James Gallagher, the first person to fly nonstop around the world
-The crew of the HMS Challenger

NOTE: Jesus and His Mother are not on this list simply because they’re too obvious and I didn’t think I needed to put them on here.

The Lady At The Bank

On Friday I had to go to the bank with my brother and mom. My mom was helping my brother get a credit card, and I just happened to be there because we had just got lunch. An employee took my peeps to his office while I hung out in the waiting area. Admittedly, I have a habit of going off on wild adventures in my head when I’m bored, and I can go very far away given enough time.

While I wasn’t on a wild mind quest this time, I was sort of staring into space and making patterns with the tiles on the floor. There was another man sitting in the waiting area, and another employee came over to help him with something. She took him to her office, but had to come back out to do something. When she noticed me, she asked my mother in the nearby office, “Is she with you?” The employee was standing right in front of me. I didn’t hear her, but my mom answered in the affirmative. Then the employee looked at me and said, “Just checking. Hi.” I said, “Hi,” and she walked off.

What I wanted to say, and what I should have said, is that when you see someone in a wheelchair, regardless of where they are or how odd it might appear they are acting, you don’t ask someone in another room if that person is “with them.” By doing so, you are making assumptions about a person you don’t know, you are being rude, and most importantly, you are stripping that person of a degree of dignity. It is exactly like seeing a dog and asking a person nearby if that dog is “with” them; if that animal belongs to them.

That employee was ignorant, and I can forgive ignorance. I want to make an attempt now to correct some of that ignorance. Only about fifteen percent of the world’s population has some form of disability. These range from anything from psychological to physical. Obviously physical disabilities are much more noticeable, and unfortunately, physical disabilities often do come with issues like Downs Syndrome. That means that people sometimes automatically assume that this is the case, and assume that people with physical disabilities will not be able to communicate with or understand them.

I want to touch on another issue, too, however. A huge mistake people often make is essentially doing one of two things to people with intellectual disabilities: things like Downs, Autism, etc. They either have a tendency to treat the vast majority of them as though they were less than human, or if someone with one of these issues does something that seems “normal,” they are turned into a hero. At worst, people with intellectual disabilities are often the victims of cruel humor. Though we preach that this is wrong, our society still accepts it because many assume that the people being mocked don’t know they are being mocked.

In any situation when interacting with someone with any kind of disability, start by assuming the best. Recognize that the person in front of you is firstly, a stranger whom you know nothing about, and secondly, they are likely capable of much more than you might assume. Understand, too, however, that every human being perceives the world in their own individual way. I, for example, do not like crowded areas because I am always sitting and I can get somewhat claustrophobic if I have many people standing around me. This is also due to the fact that I’m simply introverted. Another person in an almost identical situation as me might love crowds and large parties simply because they are extroverted.

Lastly, I have noticed from time to time, that disabilities can put people on edge. I can only attest to this from personal experience, and it happened more when I was younger. I think people were sometimes afraid that they would offend me if they said the wrong thing or asked the wrong question. Again, this is a subjective issue, but I am not offended by questions about my wheelchair, or my disabilities. I’m not offended when people point out that I’m “driving” badly, because sometimes I’m not paying attention, and I know I drive badly. Lastly, and this is particularly for parents: don’t pull your kids away when they’re curious about a wheelchair. It’s good for kids to be curious, and it’s good for someone like me to be able to assure them that I’m just a regular human trying to survive like everyone else. I would like to emphasize that. I am weird and quirky, but that’s because I’m a writer, not because I use a wheelchair.

An Unpleasant Bedtime Story

I’m a writer, so naturally, I love stories. I love weaving together my own for my mythology. I love reading or watching or listening to stories I’ve gone through thousands of times or never before. Lately I’ve been listening to the Myths and Legends podcast, which I recently discovered, and highly recommend. I sometimes listen to these stories as “bedtime stories,” but I have wireless headphones and the battery ran out on them last night, so I asked God for a bedtime story.

He directed me to the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector. It didn’t take much, but I realized that lately, I’ve been acting like the pharisee in that little story. I’ve been prideful about my faith, and I’ve been judging people for not having the same faith I do. I’ve also been forgetting that nothing I can do will ever get me to Heaven. Certain things can help me live more like Jesus which is obviously what he wants, but he’s doing all the actual work. I’m just cooperating, and I forget that.

I spent a while sitting outside today sulking about all this. I feel like I’ve betrayed myself. Sometimes I think it’s actually good that I don’t have any Christian friends around because it makes it more natural to go straight to Jesus and say, “I can’t do this.” I had to say that over and over, and I’ll say it over and over from now on because my thinking has been that I can do this. I can get home. I can get to Heaven. While that may be true, it’s only because Jesus wants me there. Otherwise, it has almost nothing to do with me.

I’m writing this down because earlier I was royally pissed off at myself. I still kind of am, and again, I think it’s because I’m prideful. My thinking, of course, is, “I should be better than this. This should have been obvious. I should have seen this sooner.” Well, I didn’t. It wasn’t the kind of bedtime story I was looking for, but I needed to hear it. I’m not exactly sure where to go from here, but I can at least stop being stupid about how I think about other peoples’ faith. Otherwise, I desperately need Jesus to help me figure this out.

I Made Up A Conversation!

“Jesus saved us from our sins.” Okay… so what does that actually mean? What is sin?

It’s basically two things: rebellion against God, and by extension, death.

How does one rebel against God?

Basically, “in the beginning,” however you want to interpret that, humans were told to obey and trust God… we didn’t do that. Thus, evil entered the world and was passed down through the generations. Later, Jesus tells us that the most important thing for us to do is to love our God and to love our neighbors (friends, family, etc, as well as our fellow humans in general). We’re generally pretty good at loving our chums, but peeps tend to forget about the first part.

Why do the actions of some people a wicked long time ago affect us now? How is that possibly fair?

It’s more like a genetic defect than a crime we inherited the guilt from. It’s not your fault per se. It’s just a part of you. It’s really your choices and actions as a result of the inherent evil within you that matter.

Who or what defines “good” or “evil?” Some things that are good for, or help some people hurt other people, so isn’t it all relative?

If morality is relative, one has to assert that nothing is good or evil. Therefore, things like murder should have no repercussions other than perhaps they would be seen as distasteful. Therefore, morality cannot be relative. If it is not relative, it has to be defined by someone or something. Only someone or something that could understand the concept of morality could define it. Therefore, someone intelligent must define it. Furthermore, absolute morality must be defined by someone who could understand how a small action in Boston could affect someone in Afghanistan. Only God can see the whole of humanity through all of time. Thus, God defines morality.

Can you prove God exists?

Not without using some personal experience (my own and that of a lot of others).

Okay, fine. Assuming God exists and sin is a thing, why did we need Jesus to “save” us, and what does that mean?

This gets a little complicated. We don’t just have evil in us. We think evil things and do evil things, even if they’re small and we don’t mean to. Jesus is God in human form. He died in our place so that we would be forgiven. He taught us how to be good in the eyes of God so that we wouldn’t do evil things. We have to believe in him and follow his example because he is God, and is, therefore, the ultimate good.

What happens if you don’t believe?

I think it depends from person to person. I can say that I’m much happier knowing Jesus than I was when I didn’t know him, and faith matters in this life. What happens when you die? I have only a very vague idea, and I can’t really say. All I know is that God judges everyone. How he does that, I don’t know. I do know that Jesus died to save everyone, and I figure we at least owe him our faith.

Humans! Send me more questions and I will attempt to answer them!

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

I Get It!

Over the past year I’ve been working on reading the Bible cover to cover. Right now I’m in the book of Jeremiah, and man, that is not a happy thing to read. It’s all about how God is going to punish his people for betraying him and not adhering to his laws and teachings. He’s angry, and he speaks of his anger through the prophet Jeremiah. There’s not a lot of hope to be found there at first glance, especially if you don’t know where this story is ultimately going, and it’s literally scary to read. What I’ve found, though, is that God’s anger is relatable. There are little moments in what he says where one finds genuine hurt. In these moments he’s really saying: “I love you, and I just want you to love me back. I love you so much, but I don’t know what else to do. You’ve abandoned me, and the only thing left for me to do is to show you what that feels like.”

Today I found this: “I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering. You will turn back to me and ask for help, and I will answer your prayers. You will worship me with all your heart, and I will be with you and accept your worship.” Jeremiah 29:11-14. God repeats over and over in this book that he will punish his people, but he makes sure to promise over and over that he won’t punish them forever. Even in his anger, God’s love shines through. He likens Israel and Judah to an unfaithful wife. I don’t know a whole lot about infidelity, but I have witnessed it from a distance, and I’ve seen how it hurts people. Forgiveness in that situation is hard.

Still, God wants, more than anything, for his people to love him back. He refuses to give up on them. He makes this very clear when he goes so far as to sacrifice himself and suffer real, physical betrayal and pain. Jesus took God’s judgment on himself. Said differently, he took on our betrayal. We can never pay that back. I don’t think it has ever hit me quite this hard. It is a love that cannot be reciprocated. I found myself actually thinking, “That isn’t fair…”

I guess that’s the point. No one will ever love God the way he loves us, no matter how hard we try; no matter what we do; no matter how nice we are; no matter how much we scripture-spam our Facebook friends; no matter how much we talk about God’s love, we can never come close to what he’s done for us. That’s just not fair, and to be perfectly honest, it’s a little hard to process. It’s unthinkable. There are no words to describe it. I can’t even say “Thank you,” because that would be inadequate. The only thing I can offer is genuine worship, and I think I understand a little better now what that is. I’m not sure I can put it into words yet.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!