Tag Archives: St. Augustine

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Become Who You Are

The full stature of our humanity is always just outside our grasp. Someone truer, stronger, more tender-in-love awaits his or her true revelation.

As God made us in us His very image, He has wired us to represent Him more nearly, more authentically. For this we must reach. Joseph Pieper describes such inspired aspiration as magnanimity, our ‘yes’ to realizing the greatness He stamped upon every cell of our being.

He is faithful. We have all experienced leaders who have witnessed our childishness, roll their eyes, and mutter: ‘Grow up.’ Not our Father and Son. When we fall short of greatness, fumble the ball or even foul out, He loves us through our shame and gently commands that we become more. He wills what He commands. Nothing less than the power that elevated Jesus from the tomb infuses our weak ‘yes’; He helps us to break through the invisible wall that keeps us crowned by childish things.

The other day, in response to an attitude Annette witnessed in me as less than godly and manly, I sought the Lord and He invited me: ‘I want you to become bigger in this area. As you stand tall and refuse to bend, I will give you victory.’ He has. I must choose daily to stand in that higher place. As I do, I grow into the freedom for which Christ set me free.

It hurts but helps us to bump against low ceilings of immaturity. Growth requires our ‘yes’ to Spirit-inspired commands to break the previously unseen wall.

How sad when we don’t. I know a good man who loves Jesus and leads others in His Name who is convinced that he is intrinsically ‘gay.’ Though he refuses explicit homosexual behavior, he is bound by boyish dependencies that belie his 39-years. These friendships are flirtatiousness and campy; his immaturity confuses others and keeps him a pre-teen, emotionally speaking.

It’s hard to grow up. And our Father helps us. He knows we tend to familiar, lesser selves due to laziness and lack of vision. You could say St. Paul wrote most of his epistles for just that reason, to remind faltering Christians to become who God made and redeemed them to be.

LGBT+ month reminds us that we live in an age that has stripped ‘compassion’ of magnanimity; we have lost vision and spiritual power. Let us reclaim both. St. Paul’s words ring truer than ever: ‘For you were once darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord. Live as children of the Light’ (Eph. 5:8). St. Augustine says it another way. ‘Live up to what you have become.’ Become who you are.

freedom naturally lady gaga

Freedom, Naturally

I chuckled as Lady Gaga decried Vice-President Pence ‘as the worst representative of Christianity’ because his wife took a job at a school that defines freedom as reserving sexual love for marriage and thus requires employees to deny themselves other forms of behavior or identity. Gaga was nearly outdone by Ellen Page who branded fellow actor Chris Pratt a ‘hater’ for attending a church that believes similarly.

I guess Gaga and Page equate freedom with doing whatever one desires. To live one’s desires is to live free. Besides the absurdity of two women who pride themselves on being non-judgmental damning anyone who disagrees with them, I think it might help to say a few words on Christian freedom.

Christians certainly recognize that persons possess desire in many directions—Jesus Himself speaks of the heart as a fountain of feelings that can result in self-harm and damage to others (MK 7:14-23.) St. Paul takes this a step further when he theologized about the evident sexual immorality of ancient Rome; he claimed that humanity knows better and must suppress what they know in order to act unnaturally, under the power of enslaving desires (Rom. 1: 18-32). That rang true.

I was free to identify and behave homosexually but became a slave to my desires. Passion did not liberate but rather dominated me. Instead of learning to direct my sexuality in a way that engendered life in others, I became self-concerned and chaotic in seeking to find myself in a series of cracked mirrors. You could say I was being true to my bad self. That has a morbid integrity all its own but thank God for persons who advocated for me beyond the superficial intercession of a Gaga or Page. This slave needed freedom beyond ‘to thine own self be true.’

One’s true nature is bound up in another: the person of Jesus Christ. Christians know this with childlike profundity. Rather than rail at other’s addictive symptoms, they accompany wanderers unto Himself, the only unchanging mirror of the true self. Jesus, at once Creator and Redeemer, has gentle authority to summon who we are from a host of weak options, including LGBT fragmentation.

Then comes the good hard work of becoming chaste, which is all about harnessing desire in a way that dignifies everyone. No stranger to sensational enslavement, St. Augustine says it like this: ‘Through chastity, we are gathered together and led back to the unity from which we were fragmented into multiplicity’(CCC #2340).

What a guy. He gave language to our divided hearts which will flail about in vain for a center until we find ourselves in Jesus. Gaga knows something about this in her stated regret over partnering with abuser/rapper R. Kelly. This gifted woman now aspires to dignity, even to Christian faith. Why cannot she allow others to pursue theirs without demonizing them? She might just benefit from knowing how Jesus takes slaves of LGBT freedom and makes us fruitful sons and daughters.

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

Chastity and Mercy 4: River Near

‘She who has been forgiven of much will love much’ (LK 7:47).

Turning from our unchaste ways becomes beautiful when we turn toward Jesus. It’s not only family and friends we violated with our jagged divides; we pierced Him too. He retaliates by releasing a fountain of affection for us (Zech. 12:10-13:2) that cleanses and feeds us like the best mother and confirms us like the best father. St. Augustine said that the Church herself was born from Christ’s wounds– the blood and water released at Calvary (JN 19: 34). I would add that her chastity was born there too as we the divided bathe and become whole in the river of His life, poured out for our freedom.

No-one better reveals the magnetic pull of Jesus’ mercy than the sinful woman in LK 7: 36-50. Somehow she knew that He alone could set her free from the shameful divisions in her life (probably related to sexual immorality). Socially, the religious elite withered her with just one glance to remind her that she was unfit for holy love. That did not stop her. When she saw Jesus dining with a Pharisee, she seized the moment, enduring the shame for the Mercy sitting before her. She threw herself at His feet and offered her all to Him with great sobs of repentance. I like to think of her positioning herself before His flood of blood and water until it engulfed her and surpassed her tears.

All the while the Pharisee looked askance at the messy encounter. The woman had to contend with his scorn and judgment, a divide that had separated her for too long from the Source of her wholeness. No more! Mercy had permeated her in the person of Jesus and she drew near to Him, never to let go of Him as the link to the life she wanted to live. Her faith saved her; she proceeded in peace (v.50).

She demonstrates to all of us who struggle with moral divides and shame that our cure lies in positioning ourselves before Jesus. Our chastity depends on Him. And it depends on the moral effort we make to abide in familiar, intimate communion with Him. The Catechism is clear that our chastity is ‘a long and exacting work’ that can never ‘be acquired once and for all’ (#2342). Yet it is also ‘a gift from God, a grace’ granted to us by the Holy Spirit to become like Jesus (#2345).

The beautiful thing is that we become like Him through Him; we position ourselves before His merciful flood. That should include stirring up the waters of our baptism in multiple confessions, and many trips to the communion table where we unite our ache with the feast of His body and blood. It may involve extended silence before Him, meditating on Scripture, singing simple love songs to Him and listening to Him sing over us. He has given us a host of ways to live in the river. He is near. It is up to us to get in the water.

That means all of us, regardless of our sexual sin. Though no person’s disintegration is exactly alike, the source of our wholeness is: Jesus Christ. It is inspired that we do not know the ‘sin’ of the sinful woman–was it lust, masturbation, pornography, fornication, or lesbian activity? Was she a prostitute, perhaps the victim of rape? All of these are included in the Catechism as offenses against chastity (#2351-2359). We who have fractured and been fractured find freedom at His feet. Like her, may our weeping be assumed in the river of Mercy.

‘Jesus, we love You. We thank You, Lord of the Universe, that You draw near to us in our divided state. Help us to see Your mercy more closely than we see the Pharisee. Thank You that You are our one thing, our everything, the consummate friend. Thank You that You are the gift and the goal of our wholeness. Holy Spirit, remind us of the many ways we can live in the river. May we act on those promptings with surety of will and so contribute to the freedom of many. Grant us patience for the lifetime plan of becoming chaste.’

 

We are looking to hire an Assistant Director for Desert Stream Ministries. Here is the job description if you’d like to know more.

A Glutton for Nourishment, Part 1

‘It is not the nature of things we use, but our reason for using them, that makes what we do either praiseworthy or blamable.’ St. Augustine

The greedy grasp after ‘things’; gluttons and sexual sinners (our last two ‘deadlies’) attach to pleasure. You could do worse. Jesus never raged at the unclean and overweight the way He did the religiously proud. Still, freedom from the Pharisee does not atone for sins of the flesh. Lent demands that we face with integrity our temptation to satisfy our desires our way.

Unlike sex, food is a necessity for everyone. We are weaned on it, fortified by it, and blessed by feasts at which we thrive in the joy of fellowship. Food can be a human pleasure, a delightful accompaniment Jesus shared many times with His disciples. In fact the Pharisees tagged Him a glutton. Food is praiseworthy–relished by God and a gift from God for our social and physical nourishment.

Food can also become an arm of our grasping, controlling selves. We become gluttons when we look for food to feed the deepest longings of our heart. Though food can enhance friendship, it cannot be our friend. The glutton romances food. One colleague confessed to extended fantasy over potential meals-to-come; another admitted to a fantasy parade of dancing BBQ meats that tempted her.

Both women are Christian, lonely, and share a history of early trauma and neglect. For as long as they can remember, food provided a kind of nurture, a reward that no human being offered as consistently. Food became the friend they could control, until it began to control them. Benign food became a brutal master.

Addicted to the rush of calories, they experienced consolation in overeating but suffered physically and socially from it. Gluttony thrives in the dark; my friends ate politely with others but binged alone, shamefully. Instead of drawing them into relationships, food barricaded them. Their oversized bodies reflected a kind of self-protection, an evident sign that another relationship was mastering them.

St. Paul said: “Everything is permissible for me but I will not be mastered by anything’ (1Cor 6:12). The Christian mastered by food can confess that mastery and like all addicts admit his/her powerlessness. Then grace alone can begin to activate the will to gather with others and face the heart’s true desire for love and intimacy. Quite apart from which diet works, Jesus wants to be the premier love through which we gauge the health of all our other relationships, including the one we have with food.

He helps us to go without and to experience our real hungers; He teaches us to turn wordlessly toward Him in the ache that arises when we refuse counterfeits. He wants us ‘to taste and see that He is good,’ that He is able ‘to satisfy our desires with good things.’ For that goal, the 40 days of Lent is but training for how God wants us to live all year.

One-third of Americans are overweight. Our sin of gluttony is obvious but not chronic. We can turn to the Source of our nourishment and begin to be reconciled to the good gift of food and of our bodies, through the Love that satisfies.

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