Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Why am I lovable?


                                    Why am I lovable?
                                            A Catholic wakes up

Seventy seven years ago I was born. I was very fortunate indeed to have been well taken care of for the nine months previous to my birth by a mother who took great care of herself, for by so doing, she was also taking thereby great care of me inside. For those nine months I had no qualities to make my mother love me except for the fact that I existed.

Once I appeared to the external world, the world could see me, hear me, feel me, smell me and experience my first movements and make their opinions about me known to others; “My, he’s beautiful”, or “he looks just like his mother (father, grandmother, auntie etc…) or “My, what a baby”, should words fail witnesses. My mother loved me then and thereafter thank God, without there having to be any particular aspect which made me “lovable”. It’s called Mother love and it was, or should be, unconditional. For the rest of our lives, my mother would love me no matter what I did or became, and there was nothing that could make her not love me. I could count on it until death. My father also loved me, but he didn’t carry me within himself for nine months, and aspects of his love often proved to me somewhat more conditional than Mom’s.

He tried very hard to override his wishes for me with his accepting me for who I was, i.e., not him, nor especially the him he had wished he had been.

As I extended out into the real world, I encountered many others who in meeting me and getting to know me would take diverse routes. Some loved me, others liked me, some didn’t really know me, others disliked me, and even few may have “hated the sight of me”. Why such different views, I can only, and usually unsuccessfully guess. Much of my life has been spent with a search for people to love and by whom to be loved, and avoiding contact as much as possible with those others. Much of that search was an attempt to make them ALL love me; a search doomed to failure for reasons beyond my control.

Added to this evolving self knowledge through which I progressed was information about myself I gleaned from external sources  educational in nature. In early grades I learned how to charm the teacher to receive a more favored status in her eyes. I grew to wish to be a good student with especial attention to achieving high grades. I won contests in athletic and academic competition. How I compared to others became the focus of all my attention. I would win at almost any events in which I participated, and learned to avoid those activities in which failure loomed.

In religion class, I learned something that nearly derailed me from the start. I was taught that no man was all good. We all sinned. The good nuns hoped that we could, as Catholics, overcome those failures through the Sacrament of Penance, or Confession as it was called then. We were trained to learn how to make a good confession and thereby have our bottle of “chocolate” milk “whitened”(If we had committed mortal, i.e., “deadly” sin) or “coffee” milk (venial sin); the bottles being of course our immortal souls. Should we die unrepentant in the state of mortal sin, our eternal destination was an eternal sentence in an awful place called Hell; in venial sin we had to go through Purgatory, a place of purification prior to entrance into Heaven. These revelations scared the shit out of most of us sensitive little kids. Confession was intended to be a merciful grace filled event through which all sin would be forgiven. Unfortunately, not all the Priests got that message, and some instead turned it into an ordeal of its own.
As I grew into and through puberty, a whole new situation arose which I thought was occurring to me alone. I became aware of the increasing impossibility of going to Confession to the same Priest every Friday and reciting a litany of miniscule faults while omitting some of the major and most troublesome struggles. I felt that I was about to be excommunicated for being unable to make the required firm purpose of amendment and the promise to not commit these same sins again. Consequently I began to omit these sins from my narrative except to include them under the repeated phrase..”..and for these and all the other sins which I cannot now remember…”. An alternative to this is when some of my Catholic friends had a car, we would travel down to South Norwood to the Lithuanian Church, where an old priest couldn’t understand English but would absolve us willy nilly.

From Catholic Dogma, I knew that at birth, all persons are in a state of Original Sin, inherited from Adam and Eve and whose condition can only be cleansed by receiving the Sacrament of Baptism. Thus although my mother loved me at birth, it seemed to me that she really didn’t know me as the sinful reality that I was.  Because of this, and the countless other “sins” that I have committed throughout my life, I firmly believed that nobody would really love me if they knew how sinful I really was.  My radical desire to be liked, to be loved, was doomed throughout my whole life to be in jeopardy should people really know me. In other words, I bought the belief that keeping the truth within me was necessary in order not to lose my loved ones. Consequently, letting myself be known was a risk. Even my mother would probably abandon me should she know what I have thought, said and done in my life.

So what happened?

Three things: I fell in love. I met two saintly Priests. And my life as I planned it fell apart.

It will take another book to tell you of these many saving Graces in my life, but it will have to suffice to say that in the first case, I found a new center within the heart of another person. I learned to listen to another, to live for another and ultimately give up all for another.
In the second instance, I was forced by circumstances beyond my control, to have a Priest who knew me as my friend to hear my totally honest confession- and yet stay my friend. The second Priest was my Abbot during my five years as a monk who knew me completely and not only heard my confession, but was also the man who taught me how to pray. He also taught me that God dwells within each of us—the greatest revelation of my life. God knows us better than we know ourselves—and here’s the rub, He loves us “UNCONDITIONALLY”; like my mother does. God is closer to me than I am to myself. This truth is Jesus’ Good News in his earliest written words of Mark 1:15-16:
Metanoeite”[‘change the way you think’] the present moment is the right time, the Kingdom of God is within you. Believe this good news!”

It is this within God in Whom I believe because of Jesus' words, and not because any process of thinking bringing me to this belief. This God is not comprehensible to scientific discovery or intellectual brilliance. I cannot prove that God exists, nor can I or anybody prove that God does not exist. The human mind can conceive of God in the same way that an unborn child can comprehend sense knowledge of the world outside the womb.

It is thus not only true that God dwells within me, waiting for me to turn to him in prayer with love and gratitude, but God also dwells within everyone else in the very same way. Jesus’ “good news” was simply this: We’ve been looking for God in the wrong place and not realizing that “the present moment is the right time”; i.e., we don’t have to look for him exteriorly nor in a future coming event from outside(?) the Cosmos somewhere, but we can find God within in our “inner room” and in our neighbor as well. The question we might ask is, “Does the Church teach us this, or has it been afraid that this might seem to lead the faithful away from the sacramental, liturgical emphases we have been taught from our youth. Shouldn’t the clergy emphasize the previous understanding of Jesus’ words both by example and by teaching, namely, that the Eucharist is a true Memorial of Jesus’ last supper in which we become one with Jesus and one with our neighbor in prayer and deed.

The essential purpose of the liturgy is to renew our expression of our believing Jesus when he said, “This is my body…This is the cup of my blood”, and “Change the way you think about reality, for the Kingdom of God is within you “ and added, “Believe This good news”. (Mark 1:15-16)

Thus, there are very few people of whom I can say, “They never lied”. Of Jesus I say that. You can try to prove to my satisfaction by reason or scientific observation that “God exists”, and it might be the best that understanding can reach, but it does not satisfy my needs. Belief does. For in believing Jesus “good news”, I can pray by entering my inner room and loving and being loved by God within, in silence and gratitude.

Thirdly, one day my son Tom was playing a John Lennon recording of “Beautiful Boy” when the words were:  “Life is what happens to you while making other plans”  when it occurred to me that that was the summation of my life. All of my life has turned out to be God’s plan, to which it has taken  all my 77 years to respond, Thy will be done!”  Thank God I finally woke up. Please God, keep me awake. 

So, why am I lovable?  I am lovable, and so is everyone else, because God first loved us and loved us  unconditionally. 

Charlie Mc                                            March 24, 2015