Thursday, August 27, 2009

End of the Lectures on the Eucharist

Last night was the last lecture in a series of lectures on the Eucharist at my parish. Even though I loved the Eucharist before it began, I have learned so much and come to a fuller realization of its importance in my Catholic faith.

The Eucharist truly is the powerhouse of my faith and my spiritual life. It was Jesus' sweetness and presence in the Eucharist that drew me back to the Catholic church and to who I am meant to be in this life.

A good percentage of Catholics, less than 60% in most cases I saw in polls on the internet, believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.

This is not surprising. Jesus' teachings on the Eucharist are hard to swallow.

In John Chapter 6 in the Bread of Life Discourse Jesus says:

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?"

Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.

For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink."
After saying this, everyone left Jesus except his disciples because this teaching was so outrageous to them.

It is outrageous. To believe in the Eucharist is outrageous. But the Truth is sometimes outrageous. The lengths that God goes to humble Himself to bring Himself to us is beautiful and outrageous.

May we continue to grow in our faith and our ability to see just how much God loves us, that He is willing to give us the gift of the Eucharist even though most of us, even most Catholics, will not believe.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Limits of Rationality

So God has really been helping me to understand something lately.

It all started with my car accident. When I was riding to the hospital in the ambulance I was very happy and grateful to God that I was not hurt. I knew that God had protected me and my friends and I truly felt thrilled to be alive.

After a few hours, however, my mind started to whir. I tried to put the jigsaw puzzle together and make deductions about the meaning of this event in my life.

Did God make it happen?

Probably not.

Did God allow it?

Of course, He must allow everything bad that happens because He is all powerful.

If He allowed it, why?

Why does He allow bad things?

What am I supposed to learn from this?

Catholics are supposed to learn from suffering.

Am I learning?

All of you probably can recognize this train of thought in yourselves. Humans are made for deducing, figuring things out and when we do not get an answer with the limits of our rationality we run in circles around the same thoughts over and over again until we are exhausted and frustrated.

Finally, the other day Brother Matthew, a Dominican who spoke at our parish on the Eucharist said something that made things click for me.

"God is not a rational being," he said.

I was shocked.

My first reaction was utter disbelief. Of course God is rational I thought. He is the smartest being on Earth, who could be more rational?

Then Brother Matthew explained.

God is not rational because He is Knowledge. He does not have to acquire knowledge. He does not have to analyze, deduce or learn. He already knows. There is nothing He needs to know beyond what He is.

What an AMAZING concept.

Then things began to fall into place for me. For some time now, I have been understanding and believing things about this world that I cannot quite wrap my mind around. The limits of my rationality prevent me from clearly communicating what I believe to others and when they look for purely logical explanations, I am at a loss. And yet, I am more sure of the things I believe now than I ever was when I was only dependent on what my mind could fully understand.

Here is an example - in high school and college I was an avid animal rights activist. I became vegetarian when I was 14 and vegan when I was 18. If there is one issue that I have thought more about, I am not sure what it is. I was constantly making deductions and analyzing my beliefs about humans and animals and the proper way we should interact with them.

1. Humans are sentient, they can feel.

2. We cannot say that humans are more valuable than animals by virtue of their intelligence because there are many humans who are not intelligent who are still valuable (i.e. babies)

3. If humans and animals are the same in the fact that they can feel pain, what gives humans the right to eat animals?

4. Humans do not need animal protein to survive, therefore it is unnecessary to eat meat

5. If humans do not need animals to survive and eating meat is unnecessary and it causes animals pain, then it should be avoided.

I never went to the extreme of saying that animals and humans were the same, but this was based on a gut feeling as well. I have a very intelligent friend who could completely silence me now with the argument that species is a figment of our imagination and there is nothing that truly separates us from the animal kingdom.

Yet reaching the limits of my own logic and rationality left me feeling like there was something missing.

Then God began to work in my soul. He helped me to see that I was more attached to what I was capable of understanding than allowing Him to work in my heart to understand the things that were beyond the limits of my own mind. He showed me that I was attached to my vegetarianism, more than I was to the Truth.

I eat meat sometimes now and honestly it does not make me feel guilty. I am not sure why, it defies my rationality.

I thank the animal for the life it is giving me when I eat it and I do not take it for granted. I hope I never do.

I still do not know the Truth when it comes to animals. I do know that animals are abused in our society and undervalued. I know that we think we are better than animals but we are only better than them if we follow God's law and raise ourselves to become more in the image of God. And in the case that we don't live as God asks us to, we can look to animals as much more noble creatures than we are. Animals are completely in tune with God's will for them. They do not have the capacity to disobey. What a beautiful gift from God they are in our lives!

But does this mean we should not eat them?

I am not sure anymore.

But I do know that God knows and He is gently leading me there.

I challenge you dear friends and family to look at where the limits of your rationality challenge you.

Does the Church's teachings on family, sexuality, or the priesthood confront the limits of your rationality? Is it difficult to understand where these teachings come from?

Don't depend on your mind to solve all of the issues in the world and in our Church. Open it up the God. If you are willing to let go of your own will and attachments, He will reveal to you what your mind cannot comprehend.