Tag Archives: Lent

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Why Gender Matters 5: Otherness Nurtures Family

Besides the obvious reasons why a man and a woman need each other to bring forth life, he and she together help the lives that they create become creative.

That takes effort: surmounting the fear that her difference from me is precisely what I most need to thrive. And trusting God that my gendered gift supplies something essential to her. We must foster that reliance upon each other so that otherness breeds more appreciation than annoyance. Or intimidation. Or judgment. I love Bonhoeffer words: ‘God created this person in His image, not mine.’ When I am tempted to forego her vantage point for mine, I recall those words and realize that I am setting myself over the Creator by denying the gift of her difference. Disagree with each other? Of course. Deny her gift? Perilous!

Lent helps here. One discipline we undertake together in this season is daily prayer and reflection on a devotional guide. I never cease to be amazed at her take on the material. It is a window to her soul that I can only discover if I look. And listen. Her splendid difference from me is precisely what engages and challenges and summons my best. She knows that her voice matters. That frees her to respect mine with the editing rights that her conscience demands. I return the favor.

At times such engaging reveals my worst. Before her I face what I do not want to express. In tough areas that I would rather leap over than submit, I must give an answer. And there I discover an ally. In the searchlight of the one I love most, I expose my own demons so that love can have its deepest way in me. My dark silence casts the longest shadow on her. So too does the light shine most brightly when we confess our faults in order to heal each other (James 5:16).

We gathered for a family birthday for Annette last week. My gratitude lies in how our kids look out for each other. I see this as a gift of how Annette has looked out for their best interests. Each of them said just that, in the particular ways she has served them. She gives generously, a mother par excellence. Might her security in the love we share stoke her freedom to offer herself?

Maybe. If so, then I consider my love for her—freely given, with all the fullness I can muster—the best offering of my life.

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Blessed Betrayers

‘In the Church, Jesus entrusts Himself to those who betray Him over and over.’ Pope Emeritus Benedict

As we proceed with Jesus to Calvary, we linger at the Last Supper where we witness St. Peter dining comfortably with Jesus, curious of who Jesus’ betrayer might be and confident that it is not himself (JN 13:21-38).

Perhaps the purpose of Lent and Holy Week is to challenge such confidence by inviting us into the desert in order to spotlight our denials. No better lesson than St. Peter’s: after a holy meal surrounded by friends, he steps out alone into the klieg light where he strives to save his life rather than lose it for Jesus (JN 18: 15-27). I am less surprised by his and our unwillingness to be true to Jesus than by our lack of self-awareness. Only faithful? We deceive ourselves.

The seven virtues we looked at this Lent expose gaps; they highlight self-illusions. We whose hope masks unresolved grief, whose faith caves to fear in a second, and whose love dares not conflict—the desert lays us bare. In the heat and the hunger, we who champion global justice and enslave love ones, who exercise fortitude in consuming multiple episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Walking Dead’ but cannot abide with Jesus for 10 minutes, and while viewing divide our souls with more graphic violence, sex and words than our grandparents experienced in their lifetimes—that is the unchaste mess we are in.

At least Peter’s three denials were obvious. Ours are not. This Lent, I am grateful for a renewed awareness of my denial of wisdom, the truth of how things really are. I would rather frame reality as pleasant in order to please myself and sleep peacefully. I am subject to the spirit of the Israelites who implored the wise: ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel’ (IS 30: 10, 11)!

Like St. Peter, we want to honor Jesus but refuse to be personally dishonored. Peter refused a good foot-washing (JN 13:6-8). Yet he like us needed cleansing at core. We need love to engulf our clubfeet, scour the dirt and stench, and transform our moral disabilities into something pleasing to God. He sees all and summons us to give Him all this Maundy Thursday. Hobble to the altar with expectancy. Take heart: ‘The burning sand will become a pool’ (IS 35: 7).


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Chastity and Mercy 1: Beauty Trumps Brokenness | Andrew Comiskey

Chastity and Mercy 1: Beauty Trumps Brokenness

A tough woman careful to avoid the gaze of others hears a man asking for her help. She turns toward Him. Jesus needs water, yes, but more than that He wants to give her what she needs—mercy that will well up from her depths and satisfy her forever. We discover her morally broken state later on in JN 4; all that matters now is that Love has come to her and that Love alone can make her whole.

Chastity is all about wholeness. Far from the pale and passive face we ascribe to it, chastity gives generously, purposefully. ‘The successful integration of sexuality within the person’ (CCC#2337) means that we can be liberated from lust and rigorous self-concern and free to offer ourselves to others for their good.

Jesus embodied that self-giving as a man—as God yes, but most definitely as a man. He is tender and strong. Jesus is appealing, and probably as puzzling to the Samaritan woman as He was desirable to her. No matter: Jesus was clear in love; clear in what was best for her.

In that way, Jesus the merciful is also Jesus the chaste. Chastity means His gendered, sexual self is united—in no conflict–with His worship of the One. Seamless integrity: the chaste Son’s need for ‘water’ in whatever form was sourced in the River of His Father’s love for Him. Committed to the Father’s will alone, His very human encounters with women and men alike resulted in greater wholeness in their lives, as we shall see throughout these six weeks.

We are not Jesus, nor are we exact replicas of the pre-fallen pair who celebrated their loss of loneliness in bold, shame-free sexual love (Gen.2:18-25)! Today we live East of Eden, as inclined to shame and fear and exaggerated desire as we are generous self-giving. No matter. Though God’s image in us may be broken, it is not destroyed. Something deeper in us longs to become potent in love and lovely in response to it. While we have breath, we represent Him on earth as either male or female, of which the Catechism sings: ‘Each of the two sexes is an image of the power and tenderness of God, with equal dignity though in a different way’…their union grants them a share ‘in the Creator’s generosity and fecundity.’ (CCC#2335)

Bearing His image means that we can know this truth—you are a good gender gift. Marriage is but one expression of such gift-giving. Your masculinity is potent, capable of engendering life in others; your womanhood is creative in its exquisite response to such life. Whether single or married, chastity is the virtue that frees us to grow into the gift we are and to learn to offer that gift.

Scary yes. The Samaritan woman may have averted Jesus’ gaze altogether had He not met her with such kindness. Similarly, He meets us this Lent with Almighty mercy, longing only to unite us with Himself. He is the source of ‘living water’ who seeks to well up in us. Might we leave old ‘wells’ behind this Lent and journey with Him toward chastity, the art of generous self-giving?

‘Father of mercy, You made me and now You seek to redeem me. You know me better than I know myself. I ask for the mercy to linger in Your presence and wait for You. I am confident that Your eyes of Love will reveal what is truest and best about my humanity. I marvel at how I am made to be like You. I welcome You as my Source, the Love I need to live and to give as a sexual, gendered being. Spring up, O Well.’’

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Ashes for Beauty

Ashes for Beauty: Five Reasons to Pray for Chastity this Lent

‘We don’t merely want to see beauty…we want to become beautiful.’ CS Lewis

Join us during Lent; each week we will consider a different facet of chastity and how God’s mercy frees us to realize its beauty. Perhaps this Ash Wednesday would be a good time to consider: do I know what chastity is? Have I realized it? What must I do to become chaste? Let’s explore this together for the next 47 days. Consider:

1. Chastity is Beautiful: I love chastity! I discovered its meaning in the Catholic Catechism—‘the successful integration of sexuality’ (#2337) within us, which occurs as faith guides and liberates our bodily longing for connection with others. What could be better than the power of our sexuality under the kind kingship of Jesus? Could it be that His generous self-giving might become ours in the realm of our bodily desires? Beautiful!

2. Chastity is honorable: People we love most are honored when we aspire to chastity. It means we are making decisions for another’s best interests. Chastity creates a ‘highway to holiness’ in the unseen realm of our thoughts and affections. In that way, chastity frees us to honor God ‘in our inmost parts’ (PS 51) and to prepare a way for generations-to-come to discover chastity and its benefits.

3. Chastity is Hard: Our world is crammed with values and symbols that disintegrate our sexuality. When we worship the creature and its demands, we split off from our Creator and become agitated and selfish. It takes effort and training to discover the One who composes us amid the moral storm and grants us peace. Inspired chastity frees us to say: ‘When I am in the storm, the storm is not in me.’ (Matt Redman)

4. Chastity requires Help: Chastity is at once a gift from God and a hard-won goal. Toward that end, we can humble ourselves and welcome the help of brothers and sisters. As sins against chastity love the darkness, we can come into the light of sweet fellowship and partner with fellow sinners equally committed to sainthood. The unchaste provoke relational brokenness; those committed to chastity create wholeness in community, beginning with the honest expression that ‘I am not where I want to be…’

5. Chastity requires Prayer: Jesus always hears ‘the cry for mercy.’ When we are bound to sins against chastity, we know deeply the shame and pain of our brokenness. We can know deeper still the cry for mercy which invites Jesus Himself to lift us from the mire and to help us discover the sure ground of chastity. Let us do so together this Lent.

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‘The Spirit sent Jesus into the desert, and He was there forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended Him.’ (MK 1: 12, 13)

Lent exposes us, lays us bare. This year, Jesus prepared our Living Waters group to follow Him into the desert by gathering us for an all-day session on Valentine’s Day. Some wept as they considered the painful state of their stalled single lives or distressing marital ones.

We asked ourselves: ‘Is Jesus really enough for us?’ We talked and prayed together about the good gifts He is redeeming; we considered what it means to become authentically chaste and sacrificial offerings that confirm, not confuse, the dignity of others.

We acknowledged the crass and perverse ideas of worldly romance (‘50 Shades of Grey’, everyone?) that reach a fever pitch on Valentine’s; these idolatries drive us then deride us for falling prey once more to the myth that another can save us. Tempted again, we feel the ache and ask ourselves: ‘Are You Jesus really enough?’ He answers us with Lent, an invitation to follow Him into the desert.

He goes before us. We know in theory that He has already conquered the tempter and made ‘the burning sand a pool.’ (IS 35: 7) No matter: He asks us to go where we have not gone before, to pull away from any number of noisy distractions in order to face the One. Though we may have taken Lent seriously before, we have never faced these demons in this desert in the winter of 2015. Our world has revolved once more and we run the risk of devolving into yet another shade of gray unless we allow Him to refine us.

He does so by allowing us to face our hearts and to ask Him: ‘Jesus, are You really enough? If my single status does not change, or if my marriage does not improve, will I still trust You as the lover of my soul? Will I hold fast to Your call to stay true to You and others in my innermost thoughts, even as the onramps for adultery multiply?’

Jesus’ desert teems with wild beasts that seek to prey upon our deepest hungers, and angels who urge us to pray to the One; it is a place where our loneliness is exposed and where God alone can become our sufficiency.

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