Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Giver of Gifts

There's nothing quite like a three-year-old in a princess costume chiming, "School's out! School's out! Teachers let the fools out!"

Her brothers have warped her sweet little mind, no two ways about it. But this was a welcome comic relief in the midst of my second migraine of the week.

After this brief electronic foray, I plan to retire to the rocking chair and pray the rosary with the little people. Earlier in my life, I found the rosary sooo monotonous, kind of a spiritual drudgery. As my life has stepped up a notch or two (or seven) in intensity, I find myself taking comfort in a slow, quiet type of meditation I could previously engage in out of devotion, but never out of joy.

I glanced at the older boys during Mass on Sunday and fully recognized the distant, bemused looks on their faces.

It's easy to space out.

Especially when Mass is long. And when the sound system is seriously mediocre. And when the little people are restless. And when our pastor speaks with an accent.

We have to choose to be present, to enter into the gift that Mass is.

As I was thinking about the gift the rosary is, I thought back to a post I had read over Light and Momentary. Jamie was looking back on joining the Catholic church. She wrote:

This morning at Mass I was thinking about all the gifts I didn't know were waiting for me. Lots of life's transitions are gradual, but that one is a bright line. Life with and without the Eucharist, life with and without reconciliation. I never even suspected what I was missing.

The Blogosphere has been a buzzin' with commentaries of all sorts. Elizabeth Smart recently spoke at Johns Hopkins University. Among her remarks were criticisms of abstinence-based sex education. Teachings Elizabeth was exposed to left her feeling that she was damaged goods, a chewed up piece of gum. Who would want that?

I am not prepared to beat the drum for abstinence-based sex ed (or sex ed of any other variety) because a) um, migraine and b) far more articulate writers than I have tackled the topic.

Calah at Patheos wrote Sloppy Seconds Sex Ed. It promptly went viral.

Mary at Better Than Eden offered a thoughtful response with Abstinence Only --  A Quasi Defense From a Former Teacher.

Betty, also at Patheos, added In Defense of Abstinence (As Opposed to Abstinence-Only Education) and followed up with Redeeming Abstinence.

When I hear of people thinking of themselves as backwash or recycled gum or Swiss cheese or some other twisted metaphor, I am sad. Sad because so many people have so obviously missed the main point of Christianity. Not just the point of human sexuality, but the whole point of Christianity itself.

Christianity is about redemption and healing and wholeness.

It's about grace and blessing.

Weeks ago, I responded to the Liebster Award. Among the questions I answered was this one: What message would you give your children?

My response came from 1 Corinthians 2:9: Eye has not seen; ear has not heard, what God has ready for those who love Him.

Upon further reflection, I would also point out Revelation 21:5: Behold I make all things new.

And if they were still listening, I would add 2 Corinthians 5:17: If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.

And Romans 8:38-39: I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow -- not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.

And I would also whisper in the ear of my children -- these boys sometimes bored at Mass, these young men now sifting through this faith for themselves, now facing on a daily basis the wide gamut of human temptations and blessings and failings -- and what I would whisper is this: There's always a way back.

There's always, always, always a way back. 

And the process isn't complicated.

In the atrium, we meditate on the Kingdom Parables -- those parables that Jesus uses to explain to his followers the nature of the Kingdom of God. Among these parables are the stories of the pearl of great price and the hidden treasure. The Kingdom of God is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds the pearl of great price, he sells everything he has to acquire it. The Kingdom of God is like a man who finds a hidden treasure in a field. He buys the field.

In Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, we break our objectives into two parts: direct aims and indirect aims. When meditating on the Kingdom Parables, one of our indirect aims is to draw the children into a crucial, pivotal understanding about God: He is a God who can be found.

And I would add this important message so obviously over-looked by people throwing around terms like sloppy seconds and images of chewed up gum: He can be found again.

And again.

And again.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: God is a giver of gifts.

Grace is a gift. Wholeness is a gift. Prayer is a gift. Human sexuality is a gift.

Many of us are like Jamie: We can look back and wonder at all the gifts that awaited us -- gifts that we never imagined; gifts, like the rosary, that we didn't fully appreciate. In the Catholic church, this is the Year of Faith. Faith itself is a gift -- a gift I pray God will give to these sweet children of mine, a gift I pray they will accept and cherish always.

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