Tag Archives: C. S. Lewis

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
who you looking at jesus

Who You Looking At?

Easter opens the eyes of our heart to see the Risen Christ. For the first time, again. He is here! He has walked through our walls; His gaze, lit with tender mercy, catches ours and enlivens our hearts, summoning us from the dead.

On Easter Sunday Annette and I experienced together that slight disappointment which one more often experiences on New Year’s Eve—high expectancy, low return. We were weary and subject to the slumber of small disturbances. We stalled at the empty tomb, our gazes cast down and dulled to the marvel of Jesus on the lam. I was jolted to life by the angels’ words to grieving tomb women: ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen!’ (LK 24:5).

I immediately went into prayer, looking for this holy Rover. I found Him in my Divine Mercy image, the Risen Christ regarding me kindly, His wounds yet visible and pouring forth a life-giving stream of blood and water. I love this glimpse of Jesus and I centered on it like a spent child hungry for a parent’s attention. I’ve stayed near merciful Jesus since then as I journeyed to the Philippines for our biggest training there yet, one distinguished by Chinese translation and many participants from that great land. Challenges of size and language came easily as I fixed my eyes on Divine Mercy in the meeting hall and in my room. Wherever I went, I knew He was nearer than a brother–looking, loving, and sustaining my efforts through pure mercy.

During the first night of ministry, Jesus said: ‘Now that your heart is clear due to the way I look at you, I want you to look at every person that way, the way that I look at you’! What? I protested: ‘God, I am a busy man: I put my head down and charge to the next thing. ‘Linger’, He instructed, ‘Look with marvel at each one I have sent. Be My loving gaze upon them.’

DSM Staff in Manila.

I did what He said. When I was tempted to race, I looked up and out and inquired visually of each one’s well-being, blessing each in a Spirit of generous mercy. Especially with frustrated or annoying faces before me, I maintained a stream of merciful contact. I was helped by Acts 3:4 when Peter said to the hurting man pleading for healing: ‘Look at us.’ The cripple obeyed and was instantly healed when he gazed at Peter and John. I claim no such apostolic power but I know that an inspired look of love to a soul cast down steadies the uncertain heart.

After a while, I began to see other things—from the merciful gaze came prophetic sight as to who these ones actually were. Prospective burdens became beautiful sons and daughters of our Father. A royal procession emerged from the ash heap: kings and queens, lovers and warriors, exquisite representatives of Jesus. The prophetic vision lasted throughout the week and only increased when God knew I would say what I saw. These ones now know that Jesus has destroyed the low ceiling that stunted their stature. As they emerge into their full, original form, we together proclaim in awestruck wonder: He has risen, and we with Him!

‘It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as what you meet…only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities…that we should conduct all our dealings with one another.’ – C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Little Monsters

The ongoing outing of men acting badly (Les Moonves of CBS, new evidence against Weinstein, Cardinal McCarrick and his cronies, hundreds of American priests who abused in the second half of the 20th century) may tempt us more to disgust than self-examination. I refer here to my brothers who may not be big players in the Catholic hierarchy or media but who are familiar with sexual disintegration—ways we have squandered our powers of life and love.

The cycle is all-too-familiar: high stress, low significance, mounting pain, decreasing words, sensational pleasure, greater shame, riskier business, escalating shame, huge-consequences-if-caught, SILENCE. Until exposed. Then the glare of public scorn burns off hope of restoration.

We may never have coerced another person sexually but our sins of omission and commission have doubtlessly wounded others. And fractured our dignity. We thank God that we are not felons yet we share in the wound of corruption common to men, disordered desire which results from mistaking random sexual release with power. Then the delusion: ‘it’s what I need’, or ‘(s)he likes it.’

This is especially tragic when paired with religion. Many of the abusive priests were orthodox in their understanding of purity. They just failed to become what they believed. Mastered by lust and shame, they learned to compartmentalize, to live elsewhere, to tune out the lament of a dying conscience and conjure an unreal world. Then religion becomes part of the defense against reality. I dreamt last night of a priest who wrapped himself tightly in scholarly and spiritual vestments; instead of guiding or cleansing him, these garments protected then mummified him, hastening a shameful death. ‘If religion does not make you better, it can make you a whole lot worse’, to quote C.S. Lewis.

What good purpose can these monstrous sins have? They can reveal our little monsters, men, and invite us to do urgently and persistently what Weinstein and Moonves and McCarrick never did: we can expose ourselves before the throne of grace and receive grace to help us’ (Heb. 4:16) so that our little monsters stay small and cease to govern us. Rather, we tame them, and learn to direct our sexual energies in alignment with the dignity afforded us by God and His friends.

We must be the first to confess our sins, to reveal our monsters before we are silenced by shame and dwell in darkness. Presumption and pride fall away, and the narrow way which leads to life becomes lit for our brothers. That is precisely what we as men accomplish together in Living Waters. We live in the light of mercy for 6 months of daily accountability; connection rather than shameful isolation begin to define our lives.

In the shaking, the exposure of monstrous things, we can fall on the Rock before it falls on us.

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Behold the Lamb 2: Domesticating the Lion

Yes, Jesus is at once Lion and Lamb, our Almighty Creator and Redeemer who surrendered to our sin and its consequence of death. The Lion became the Lamb.

Yet His sacrifice makes little sense if we fail to comprehend who He is as Lion. Literary images help. In his ‘children’s’ books on Narnia, C.S. Lewis tells us more about the God who roars with love than a host of philosophical tomes. There we discover Aslan who is always good but not safe, the God who never harms us but who allows us to hurt in order to become whole. Lewis gives us a King Cat with claws who upholds us but eludes our comfortable, controlling grasp of Him. His thoroughly masculine love is endowed with power to win us over; as He dies to pledge Himself to us, He commands a choice–will we pledge ourselves to Him?

In brief, Aslan is exciting. He does more than personify a sacrificial death. He becomes One worth dying for. Why then are our images of God so banal, so dull, as dimensional as perfect, pastel cards of the saints?

Lewis’ friend Dorothy Sayers writes: ‘So that is the outline of the official story—the tale of the time that God was the underdog and got beaten…became a man like the men He made, and these men broke Him and killed Him. This is the dogma we find so dull—this terrifying drama of which God is both victim and hero…If this is dull, then what, in Heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Jesus never accused Him of being a bore; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified Him meek and mild, and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.’

As a 7-year-old Catholic, I must confess that my greatest grief with the historic Church is that many who surround me seem dead to their own inheritance. That we process dully to feast on the Lion who became the Lamb to gain us, shedding neither a tear nor leaping for joy, amazes me. I want to cry out: HE is here! HE wants you! You need not feed on garbage; EAT GOD!

Or maybe many of my peers have never been alive to Him. Yes, maybe aware of their family tradition, or a vague peace in participating in the familiar ritual. But never really knowing Him! I recall my friend, the son of a well-known Catholic healer, recounting why he became an evangelical: ‘I grew up Catholic but was clueless to who Jesus was. I needed a Baptist to make clear to me what the Cross was all about.’ Another ‘cradle’ Catholic: ‘I always appreciated the sacraments but understood them only in the light of Love, the truth that Jesus died and rose again to have a personal relationship with me.’

Archbishop Vigneron of Detroit writes in his splendid pastoral letter, ‘Unleash the Gospel’: ‘The core message of the Gospel can only be proclaimed effectively by a first-hand witness, one who has met the Lord personally and can speak of what He is doing in one’s life.’ We need ‘a radical openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit’ if we are ‘to invite every person into the fullness of life that is found in Jesus Christ alone.’

So we repent on behalf of our churches who claim to gather around the One but who often fail to light the fire of Jesus in our hearts.

‘Sorry God for concealing You in our abstractions and paring Your claws. In our dullness we have hidden You from those who will perish without You. Forgive us for contributing to a tidy Church for the obliging rather than an exciting, messy place of encounter between sinners and the Lion who became a Lamb to win us over. We ask for mercy to forgive church ‘faces’ who failed to make You known; set us on fire with Your blazing love. May we not lose time bemoaning our church ‘misses’ when You have ignited us to become ministers of Your unfailing Love.’

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Justice 2: Holy Tears

‘Justice without mercy is cruelty.’ Thomas Aquinas

When St. John (JN 8:1-12) describes the Pharisees hauling the adulterous woman before Jesus in the hopes of exposing His inability to unite mercy and justice (Lev. 20:10), with whom do we identify?

Like me, you can probably admit that you are both prostitute and Pharisee. Many of us who come out of sexual disintegration have worked hard at coming clean and helping the Church clean house. Congratulations. We now are less tempted by unclean spirits and more inclined to religious ones. What else explains the shock we feel when a real sinner shows up in our midst?

God is faithful. Might we recognize in our Christian ‘enculteration’ a flash of the inner-Pharisee whose outrage over the gender meltdown in our day tempts us to look with disgust at the unidentified gender being before us? Have we forgotten the bullies who beat us up at school before we were LGBT-anything, just lost and alone in our uncentered selves? What about the religious who squinted through their smiles at us? The idiotic counsel from church men who punctuated their platitudes with ‘just don’t tell anyone…’?

It is good to forgive and also not to forget how tough it is for outliers to find footing among the holy ones. And if we do forget, just wait. God is merciful to bring up old struggles of the flesh just to remind us of how vulnerable we still are and how somehow, we need the saving love of Jesus more today than yesterday. Let the accusing voices roar. Let the demons howl and chase us right back to the feet of Jesus where our divided souls can find refuge from the stones and stony gaze of Pharisees. C.S. Lewis is right: ‘If religion does not make you an awful lot better, it can make you an awful lot worse.’

Maybe your sins are not sensual; you cannot relate to the prostitute. Then think about adultery as illicit virtue, not sex. Have you quietly begun to pat yourself on the back for your ordered life rather than to thank God for His mercy? Perhaps you spend more time praying for your holiness than for saving a tortured soul from the flames of hell. Many of us can confess honestly that we needed the disordered son or daughter or spouse or friend to rouse us from our self-centered faith and to cast ourselves once more on the saving love of Jesus.

The sweet, savory truth: Jesus is God’s justice for broken ones like us! And it takes a good break in order for us pilgrims to be made new by His mercy, a cleansing love which engulfs and transforms our injustices into something good.

All we have left is tears, evidence that we have lost our way, grown cold in the light, weary in well-doing, unmerciful. Tears are good. They show us that we still have hearts that can break. What better time to break than now as we walk with Jesus to Calvary? Maybe our broken hearts are required to make room for persons who will perish unless they receive a share in His heart through ours.

‘The fire of divine love, which burns on the altar of our hearts…miraculously turns itself into water, the compunction of tears, which purifies us from sin and commends our good works. When our works are sprinkled with tears, splendor shines upon us, and a ray of light radiates from our depths with a serenity of delightful brightness.’ St. Peter Damian

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Breaking Water

When Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles opened our Truth and Love Conference last week, his words about how we participate in Jesus’ baptism brought this to mind. C.S. Lewis describes a diver breaking the water’s surface then descending into the depths to retrieve treasure from the ocean floor. He breaks the water once more in ascent, joyfully holding out his ‘catch’ for the world to see. So Jesus reclaims our true natures as the Father’s beloved sons and daughters from the depths of enslavement (Gal. 4:3-7; Rom. 8:15-18). In so doing, He reveals His glorious mercy through grateful children.

I marveled at the Archbishop’s clarity; due to Jesus’ baptism (and baptism of suffering of Calvary), we who were slaves to the world’s system of defining ourselves can be free and shining expressions of the Father’s design. He cleared the way for people like me who experience same-sex attraction to forego all worldly claims (LGBTQ, etc.) upon our identities. Instead, we can settle deeply into the truth of who we are as children of the Father who delights in engaging with us in order to impart what we need to grow into maturity.

No small or easy thing, this baptism of Jesus and our own which makes all things new. The stakes are huge, for us and for others; in a world that invites persons made in His image to create their own ‘gender’ reality, we uphold a deeper truth of the Father’s claim upon His children. Let’s start 2017 by actively engaging with our own baptism and the Father’s will for our sonship and daughterhood. Toward that end, I would encourage you to:

Behold the Lamb; we become what we behold. Turn off your screens (after you read this of course) and be still before the Crucified. It helps to simply gaze upon the Cross, which conveys in an instant the watery death He died and His ascent. In the Cross lies all that we need to know: the Son won back for us our true selves. Gazing on the Beloved mediates who we are as beloved children.

Devour Scripture; we become what we eat. Meditate on verses that summon who He is and who we are. The aforementioned passages from St. Paul are a good starting point, as is Song of Songs, a love letter from the Father to His kids. Open the Book and let it permeate you. I memorize key verses so I can summon the truth at hard moments in the day.

Listen to the Father’s voice; we become what we hear. Turn off devices and be still. Listen in quiet to what He wants to say; His sheep hear His voice (JN 10:3). Don’t worry if at first all you hear is clutter. He loves your effort and will honor it. Quiet your heart in the Spirit of Jesus who upon breaking the water heard: ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’ (Matt. 3:17). You please Him; He loves you, His child.

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