Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam

Jesus, don’t want me for a sunbeam
Sunbeams are never made like me
– The Vaselines

I’ve always wondered why the Jesus narrative is so compelling. Why is Jesus the focus of so much cultural reference. Why, for instance, is the name Jesus Christ considered an expletive whereas Buddha is not? I guess in Christianised societies it may have to do with a rejection of the past. People consciously going against the “not allowed”. But is there more to it than that?

The song by The Vaselines, covered by Nirvana, Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam always hits me when I hear it. It is somehow a tragic song. The simple lyrics seem to hang heavy with pain. And perhaps that’s the reason why so many people relate to the song. Because they feel the pain of not being perfect. Or not being perfect enough, after having been told their whole lives that they needed to be a “sunbeam for Jesus”.

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Tragic figures seem to be drawn to the suffering of Jesus. Jesus is a tragic figure himself and I think subconsciously, a lot of people see themselves in Jesus as he hangs alone on the cross. But there is also something repulsive about the murder of an innocent, the injustice of Christ’s death, which I think affects people deeply.

Why did Kurt Cobain cover this song? Obviously I can only speculate but to me this song is a prayer. A truly honest prayer. It’s something like the tax collector at the back of the temple.

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

Luke 18:9-14

There is an element of fatalism in both this song and the tax collector’s prayer. The tax collector’s job was considered “sinful” by many Jews at that time as he would have collected tax for the Roman oppressor. There is no indication he plans on changing his job and it would probably have been quite difficult to do so, but he acknowledges honestly, in front of God, that he is imperfect, and lives in an imperfect world, in an imperfect situation.

The song does something similar. “Jesus, don’t want me for a sunbeam, sunbeams are never made like me”.   Playing off the children’s hymn, I’ll Be Your Sunbeam, it seems to be saying, “I’m not perfect, and I can’t be”. However, the song’s most tragic element is its ultimate rejection of Jesus – “don’t ever ask your love of me”. Despite the catchy tune and tempo, that is an emphatically angry line! And I suspect that, although the addressee of the song is Jesus, it is actually addressed to the Church.

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This anger at the idea that we are born sinful, that we enter the world already damned and need to be fixed is an understandable anger. And to question that idea is a sound theological question which brings you to the table with the likes of St. Paul, Augustine, Origen, and Justin Martyr, just for starters! It can be a damaging idea – which I am not putting forward my own views on here (maybe in a future post) – but it is an idea which seeks to explain suffering in the world. An attempt to answer the question: Why is there evil?

The reason I call it a tragic song is because although this sort of rejection of Christianity is usually equated with liberation from the “shackles of religion”, this song doesn’t hold that feeling – It feels like a goodbye song; a break up song. There is a real sense of loss and disappointment. Or maybe I’m just projecting.

If I could take away a message from this song, and from the prevalence of Jesus in modern culture despite its seeming rejection of religion, it would be that people know they are broken, hurt and wounded. People see the pain and suffering in the world and they direct their anger at the one institution which was supposed to take it all away but, ultimately, ended up adding to it. It is anger against hypocrisy.

I feel that this anger, while justified, is short sighted because the Church did not create Jesus, Jesus created the Church… and we are the Church – and so we need to ask what does Jesus really want me for? Jesus doesn’t want me for a sunbeam, that is completely right – He wants me to, first of all, love and forgive myself, and second, to do the same for others. Forgiveness implies a conscious decision to love a person who you know is imperfect and you know will possibly hurt you again – and this applies to yourself too.

“Don’t ever ask your love of me”. Is the singer telling Jesus he won’t ever love him, or that he can’t accept Jesus’ love for himself? It is difficult to love ourselves and we often forget that the golden rule, “Love your neighbour” also includes “as you love yourself”. A rewording of this rule for our time might hold more weight: Accept your neighbour as you accept yourself.

Do I accept myself?

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments…”

“Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him,

“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

10:17-31

How Can I Believe?

God? Gods? A God? Goddess?

If you are anything like me, you’ve probably seriously questioned how on earth you can believe in any form of supernatural being. Or perhaps you wonder how you can believe in any of the world religions which seem to be a quagmire of complicated doctrines that people argue over incessantly to no avail.

I’m sorry, I can’t help you! Because it is hard.

A vast majority of the human population professes some form of faith. Some form of belief in a higher power. This in itself raises an interesting question. Is our desire for “religion” innate; Part of our makeup somehow? An evolutionary failsafe developed to placate our growing self-awareness? Or is there something to it?

I’ve been taking a course in the history of Western Philosophy this semester and what strikes me is how many philosophers have argued for the existence of God. In some ways, it seems to have been one of the primary discourses of philosophy up until the modern period.
One particular writer who I have found interesting is Anselm of Canterbury, an Italian bishop who lived in the 11th Century and was considered one of the greatest minds of his time. He was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury (in Catholic England) and is considered a saint in the Catholic and Anglican Church.

His idea that God is “that of which a greater cannot be thought” can at times seem like a ridiculously stupid argument and at others, pure genius.
His basic argument being that if you don’t believe in God, you must concede that you can think of the idea of God and understand the idea of God as something that transcends all other things. i.e. the greatest thing that can be thought.
But then he says, if you are thinking of something which nothing greater can be thought, then it must exist, because if it doesn’t, then it isn’t something which nothing greater can be thought! Because any existing thing would by default be greater by the mere fact that it exists!

There is obviously more to his arguments (see Proslogion) but my point is to show that the intellectual discussion and reasoning that went into many philosophers’ discussions about God was remarkable. This is in stark contrast to how people perceive “believers” today.

But perhaps the hardest thing to wrap our heads around is why there is suffering in this world. In light of the terrible conflicts and terror attacks around the world recently, you can be forgiven for questioning whether a divine being exists and if it does exist, what is its nature that it leaves us to suffer? There are of course arguments and discussions around this topic, but much of that rhetoric falls flat in the face of the reality of human suffering. You cannot spout philosophy or apologetics to a mother who has lost her child.

I remain, however, positively biased towards God’s existence. I mean this in the sense that even though I may doubt, I have not written off the possibility of a God and I have not written off the possibility that I can know something about this God; that relationship is possible. How we achieve this relationship? That is a question of faith!

The last few months have been quite a rollercoaster ride for me personally. Living in Leuven is amazing and I love my course immensely (despite the stresses!). I’ve learnt a lot about myself too, about my strengths, my faults and how to approach both of these things. I’ve enjoyed intimacy and I’ve hurt people, I’ve been reckless and I’ve been too cautious, I’ve been joyful and I’ve been terribly sad. And this is where, perhaps, philosophy falls short because what is logical about emotion and life and pain and joy? And this is where, perhaps, theology steps in and says, “I am not sure either, but I have some ideas.” And finally, faith steps in and says quietly, “I’m here.”

Lord my God, teach my heart
where and how to seek You, where and how to find You. If You
are not here, 0 Lord, where shall I seek You who are absent? But
if You are everywhere, why do I not behold You as present? But
surely You dwell in light inaccessible. Yet, where is light inaccessible?
Or how shall I approach unto light inaccessible? Or who will
lead me to and into this light so that in it I may behold You?
– Anselm of Canterbury

Thoughts on Holiness

Seagulls over Lac Leman
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his
heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

These are ideas I’m still fleshing out but humour me for a bit.

I’ve found, as a Christian, a tendency to conflate the word chastity and the word holiness.

Consider a situation where a believing Christian (i.e – someone who accepts the main concepts of the Christian creed) is also sexually active and okay with it. There are many Christians who might view said Christian’s behaviour as sinful or wrong. And there could be many theological arguments as to why it is or isn’t wrong ranging from “the Bible says so!” to “pre-marital sex is contrary to the natural order.”

Therefore this Christian cannot be “holy” while they continue living in such a way. But say you are this Christian, and you are living a sexually active life but you still believe in social justice and caring for the marginalized in society; Mirroring Christ in compassion and the bravery to stand up against injustice. With “fornication” as the measuring stick for holiness removed, the places where you are really not practicing are highlighted. Sex is often the Christian strawman. If I’m not doing it before marriage, I’m okay! It is somehow the “prime achievement”.

Now I think chastity gets a bad rap. As it is often misconstrued, it is not the same thing as celibacy.
Chastity as defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church is “successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.” CCC2337
It goes on to say “Chastity presupposes respect for the rights of the person, in particular the right to receive information and an education that respect the moral and spiritual dimensions of human life.” CCC2344

It is essentially the calling of humankind to become less selfish, less attached to material things, less sexually irresponsible and more self-aware.
To be chaste is then a part of holiness but to narrow chastity to mean “no sex before marriage” is to simplify its meaning.

I don’t think holiness is something we can see. It’s something I’ve thought about many times in Mass while I am kneeling or bowing down to pray. I’m torn between being able to worship with my body, to pray through my posture and with the concern with what others may be thinking. Whether positive or negative.

I shouldn’t care what other people are thinking but whether I choose to stand and kneel as required or bow before receiving the Eucharist, there is an internal monologue worrying what people might assume about me based on how I participate. Which is very silly – And why it is silly to look at other people in Mass and make assumptions about their participation. We can’t see holiness.

Cross in Wilderness

I believe holiness is brought about by an internal disposition of being open to our own insecurity and fallibility. Which is why someone like a drug addict who steals in order to support his habit could still be holier than a pious church goer; If he acknowledges his actions are wrong and admits he can’t beat his addiction and knows he is unlikely to stop stealing and lays this before God consciously or not, I believe God’s love and mercy are extended to that man incalculably! i.e. He is made Holy.

Holiness is a gift. Grace is an undeserved favour. And when it comes to faith working in love (what we do as Christians), we are accountable to God and to no one else. He knows our situations, our circumstances and our hearts.

There is no need to prove our holiness to others, and their view of our commitment or zeal is irrelevant. Whether we choose to pray standing up, on our heads or quietly in the corner, it has no bearing on our holiness whatsoever.
I’m not saying we can do what we want but that morality is complex and we are all flawed. We cannot make assumptions about other people’s relationship with God.

The way I see it is we should take care of each other, and God will take care of our holiness.

Doubting Faith

Rural Eastern Cape, South Africa (Transkei)

I doubt a lot. Sometimes I feel that instead of having faith and some doubts, I have doubt and some faith.

But, I am aware of a deep desire within me to know God. Something inside knows I cannot be satisfied by anything in this world.

As I write this, I am sitting next to a rural home in the Transkei, looking out at green hills that rise and fall into the ocean. A sheep bleats and a strong offshore wind rattles a piece of corrugated metal lying against a chicken wire fence. The thought comes to mind that I cannot force faith. Faith is a gentle surrender to God’s presence within me and all around me.

Christianity is not about proselytizing moral values, nor is it about intellectual pursuit. It is not about being good and it certainly is not about being guilty or feeling ashamed. For me, the starting point of Christianity is the crazy idea that God, the God who created everything from the cosmos to the smallest particle, chose to become a man; Fully man. Not a superman but a flesh and blood human being with likes and dislikes, friends and family, hopes and ideas about what his life should be. Yet, he was also fully God. This is the mystery of Christianity.

Jesus’ life convicts me to be more, to do more for the outcasts of society. He himself was an outcast. It brings me comfort to know that he comes into my life as it is. He doesn’t ask me to move aside my mess, he comes into the mess. He is the friend who sits with you quietly as you weep; he the friend who knows that words aren’t always necessary; he is the friend who thinks you’re great as you are.

The last few days in this rural village have been peaceful and restful. At night, the stars gently astound. And in my doubts and in my faith I become aware of these moments when nothing else can explain this small life form, self-aware, marveling at creation. In a vast universe, my insignificance makes me realise how incredible my existence actually is. Life is too beautiful to be accidental.

Helplessy Hoping

Wordlessly watching he waits by the window and wonders
At the empty place inside – Crosby, Stills & Nash
Taize

The last few weeks have been quite a special and important time for me.
But if I could underline one main feeling that has threaded its way through this time it would be empty longing.
Faith is a bit like this for me. I’m walking through a desert and every now and then I find a small pool of crystal clear water. Pure and cool, it soothes my parched tongue. But I have to move on and I stagger onward through the shimmering heat.
But always I long for the next pool, the next place of revival. They are always unexpected. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever reach another one and sometimes I doubt if I did in fact actually find one.
Often I feel foolish for entering this desert, frustrated and angry. Sometimes I want to stop, or maybe turn back but somehow I know that I must keep walking and somehow I do.

This longing for that cool water, this desire to be filled, to be content to me speaks of a deep human desire for God. I believe everyone can relate to the feeling of not ever really being completely satisfied. We’ll never have travelled enough, seen enough, done enough, made enough or received enough likes on Facebook.
But why do we have this desire in the first place? How can we desire a perfect contentment if we have never experienced it? How can I crave the water if I have never seen or tasted it? I was created to drink water. I need it to survive. So, I can conclude that I was created for perfect contentment too.

Water in Taizé

If we distract ourselves enough we can fool ourselves into thinking that desire is not there but in the loneliness of a dark night, we know.

Coming back to my empty longing, this can sound quite bleak at first but this empty longing is paradoxically a feeling of closeness to God. In the very fact that I desire God to be with me and within me and the frustration at the feeling that He hasn’t satiated that desire is a closeness and peace.

I spent a week in The Taizé Community in France at the start of December. In the people I met, in the chants we sung, in the quiet presence of the brothers I was drawn into a stillness and calm. There was no lightning bolt moment or emotional outburst but just a contentment with my discontent.
Perhaps this is what joy is. An underlying “okayness” despite exterior circumstances or feelings.

This empty longing has underscored my experience of Advent this year. It wasn’t conscious. Advent is traditionally a time of waiting, waiting for the birth of a saviour, but also for the ultimate fulfilment of our longing for God. But I didn’t try very hard to enter into this waiting, the waiting came to me.
This Advent has placed Christmas in its proper place, the pinnacle of this waiting. The point I can stop and realise that although I am walking through a desert, God is walking next to me.

Happy Christmas!

Lost Faith

Lost
“Your hope is not a mocking dream… We cannot hope until we know, however obscurely, that there is something to hope for…”
Maria Boulding

Some may have noticed a lack of posts the last month or so. Rather than explaining I will share some journal excerpts that I wrote this weekend during a retreat at Worth Abbey:

______________
I’m finding a slowness in my soul. A pain that is just ahead of me that I want to feel but, like in a dream, I’m weighed down and can’t catch it. I only ever get the tail end – a dull unsatisfactory ache. I long to pass through the pain, to weep it out; the fear, the insecurity.

I long for peace, for healing, for forgiveness. Where have I gone? Father…
______________
There is a firing range nearby, I can hear the shots through the forest. In this peaceful place, a faint reflection of war.
Somewhere deep inside, hidden in the woods, a battle rages – but on the surface it seems calm.

Where will peace come from? From Christ? I’m told… I want to believe that.

But the echoes of the firing range follow me as I walk up the muddy path back to the monastery
______________

Advent has begun. A time for new beginnings. This advent I want to let go, to be okay with being lost.

My journal entries speak of a desire to feel. To encounter my emotions, letting them flow and to encounter Christ. These are my prayers for advent.

“If you want God, and long for union with him, yet sometimes wonder what that means or whether it can mean anything at all, you are already walking with the God who comes. If you are at times so weary and involved with the struggle of living that you have no strength even to want him, yet are still dissatisfied that you don’t, you are already keeping Advent in your life. If you have ever had an obscure intuition that the truth of things are somehow better, greater, more wonderful than you deserve or desire, that the touch of God in your life stills you by its gentleness, that there is a mercy beyond anything you could ever suspect, you are already drawn into the central mystery of salvation.” – Maria Boulding – The Coming of God

Sometimes We Break

Diary

I am the sum total of every moment that has lead up to now. Memories of night swims with friends in the Newlands Resevoir, the intimate moments of vulnerability, soft kisses and gentle tears, mistakes of pride, mistakes of shame, darkness, joy, finding Christ, losing Christ, losing myself, letting Christ find me… letting Christ love me.

And life whirls on in a blur of autumn leaves, winter nights, and spring-filled pain that summers into new beginnings. Every wound, strike upon my back, my breast, self inflicted, yet mirrored upon Him. Not in judgement but in Love. As I break He holds me together and the storm rages on.

I remember a reflection I once did. It was from a spiritual guide. I was a statue, a construction of time and weather; crafted with care and precision. Imagine, the reflection lead, that you are a statue. What do you look like? And finally, how does Jesus see you?

As I followed the instructions, I pictured a broken, flawed statue; Blackened by time, cracked and chipped and slowly crumbling. Over my arms were chains, locked into the ground.
I imagined Jesus coming to see me, this ruin. What could He possibly see in me, how could He love this? And yet, in my minds eye, quite unexpectedly, He embraced me. With all the chains and cracks and flaws and brokenness, He just loved. I could only cry in response.

As I’ve travelled through Europe the last three weeks, I’ve met beautiful people from all over the world. Sometimes it was a long discussion in a backpackers, and other times it was a brief encounter in broken French and dramatic gestures. But each moment was another chip into the stone face of my life, creating definition, refining me. And yet, in the whirl wind of isolated travelling, what I thought would be a chance to escape myself, my thoughts and fears, has been just the opposite. I left, but it turns out I came with too. And there have been many moments of looking at myself, this broken scultpure, and trying to remember what it felt like when Jesus embraced me in my brokenness. Because sometimes that is hard to believe.

Often thoughts will turn against me and I will think there is no way I am worthy of following Him. He wouldn’t want me. This hypocrite. This blind guide. Yet I remember His followers – The tax collector, the zealot, the denier, the traitor… All broken, all called.

And perhaps that is the key. He calls me, not because I am worthy, but because He loves me.
In every broken moment, He is there. In every quiet forest walk, He walks beside me. In the silence of a dark night, He whispers my name.

“For our courteous Lord does not want his servants to despair because they fall often and grievously; for our falling does not hinder him in loving us… He wants us so to take heed that he is the foundation of our whole life in love, and furthermore that he is our everlasting protector, and mightily defends us against all our enemies, who are very cruel and very fierce towards us, and so our need is great, the more so because by our falling we give them occasion.” – Julian of Norwich

Our Own Calvary

Look at a crucifix. Reflect on whom that corpse embodied.
The Architect of the Universe, compacted into that bleeding mass.
Can I honestly say, and accept in the depths of myself:
“Yes, it’s inescapable. I am worth that.”
-William J. O’Malley, Holiness

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I recently watched the film Calvary and I found myself deeply affected by it.

What really stood out to me was the rawness, the brokenness of the characters. How they represented our woundedness, a fallen world. It was real. And then how the protagonist, Fr. James, like Christ, meets his flock where they are. He loves them and accepts them in their brokenness.

We all carry our own crosses. We all trek towards our own calvary, bearing the weight of past failures, grief, imperfections, regrets…

and Anxiety…

As I walk my weary way on this earthly pilgrimage, I often consider the weight of my own cross. I wonder what my life would be like without Anxiety, without Obessisive Compulsive Disorder. The days when I struggle to focus, when I notice my jaw clenched tightly shut and my shoulders tense and I have to remind myself to relax. Days when I feel both happy and sad simultaneously. A deep pain that can’t really be explained but which is overlaid with a gratitude. A gratitude that my hurt, my brokenness is not who I am, and that there is a hope beyond any earthly experience, no matter how horrific.

My burden, as small as it is in relation to the world’s pain, helps me to love and appreciate goodness both in myself and in others. What I notice too is that without Christ’s help, without Him walking by my side, helping me carry my cross, if He were to leave me for just an instant, I would be crushed by the weight.

Redemptive suffering is not easy. It can sound romantic sometimes to “offer it up”. To offer ones hurts and sorrows up to God as a prayer – a way of asking Him to enter into our suffering and bear it with us and for us. Which He does.
And as beautiful as it is, it is not easy. When we suffer, we want to not suffer and when I was in my darkest space a year ago in London, I wanted to die. I didn’t want to “offer it up.”

Yet… God was with me in that darkness and that Calvary I experienced in London has been followed by a resurrection. New life, joy, peace… Am I still burdened by anxiety? Yes but I have come to see that I can do nothing by my own strength. And that takes the pressure off!

When we look around the world today and see a broken, fallen world. When we see “nothing new under the sun,” and we feel hopeless, all we can do is trust in the ressurection. Trust that God will have the final say and He will make all things new.

God loves us. We’ve become so desensitised to that saying but I challenge you now to reconsider it. God, the Creator of life and the One who holds everything in its place, who is holding this moment, right now as you read, in existence. This God loves you.

Have you ever been so frustrated and hurt that all you want to do is smash something or hit someone? Well Christ took our blows. He saw our pain, entered into it and as we poured our rage, pain, turmoil, confusion, hatred into each lash, each hammering and piercing of flesh, as we lifted Him up
and mocked Him from our own insecurities, mocked Him from our own fears and pride, He took it all on and loved us, and forgave us.

And now we are weary. We’ve poured and poured and poured our pain out, we’ve tried filling the emptiness with everything we can think of, and now, exhausted we collapse.

It is here, with our faces in the dust, that Christ comes to us.

If the world seems hopeless to you right now, consider that dark day on Calvary as God hung from that Cross. The day God died. And from that darkness and desolation, when all seemed lost, Christ’s victory was won.

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
— St. Teresa of Avila

Why Have You Forsaken Us?

F1090023Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy – Psalm 126

Here’s a question to ponder: What is the Kingdom of God?

I love that line of the Psalm… But looking around the world today I would say we’re doing a lot of sowing at the moment and not a lot of singing with joy.

Which sucks.

I think I’d be a good atheist. I’d be vehemently anti-religion and I would believe that needing a God in order to do good in the world was archaic thinking. I’d accuse religion of suppressing woman and manipulating people with propaganda and fear. I’d look around the world and say, “How do you believe this God stuff when there is no evidence of His existence. Children die, catastrophes strike, where is God?”

But I am not an atheist. So perhaps I am just a bad Christian.

So where is God?

You know, God asked Himself the same question. My God. My God, why have you forsaken me?

As a Catholic, over time my understanding of Christianity has evolved. I’ve come to believe that Christianity is not a “belief system”, it is a way of life. The most radical way of life there is.

It is not about devotion or piety, because those things are meaningless without love.

In the Church there seem to be two ways of thinking when it comes to “The Kingdom of God”.

There is the idea that the world is shot and it’s going down in flames and so we better batten down the hatches and hold on tight and hope we make it through the other side when Jesus comes back.

But that doesn’t fly with me. The reason is, yes, the world is a mess, God may seem to be absent to us but Jesus gave us a mission to “go and make disciples of all nations.” He also said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.”

Why would Jesus give us a mission if it were an impossible one to begin with? If that was the case he would’ve said, “Okay listen guys, go and make disciples of all nations. I will be with you until the end of the age… not!”

Christian’s believe that Christ has conquered death and evil and we believe that when He returns He will set all things right but I like to build on that and say Christ wants us to bring His kingdom now. To go out into the fringes of society and love.

There is no point sitting around, claiming righteousness and waiting for the end. That’s like sitting on the nose of a plane as it heads for the ground when you actually know how to fly the plane.

We have been sent and that is why I have hope for the world. I believe that we don’t have to wait for the fireballs to start falling from the sky to say “at last God is sorting this mess out.” If we do that, He’ll step out of a cloud and ask, “Um, what did you guys do while I was away?”

Instead He has given us everything we need and more to change the world and to bring peace on earth.

He’s the exasperated parent who bought his kid all the new running gear and then when the clapper goes at the start line the child bursts into tears and sits down. He loves us anyway but it’s a bit of a waste!

So I believe we shall reap in songs of joy. The world will be okay. We will all be okay.
It will hurt,it will take sacrifice, it will be very uncomfortable but I really and truly believe it is possible because God has tasked us with making it so because even when we are faithless He is faithful because He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13) .

Thomas Merton on Free Will

Motivation at a low in recent days.

I’ve spent the last week working on a passion project; A typographic animation of a lecture by Thomas Merton on Free Will.

I posed a theological dilemma to our parish deacon a few days ago. In tongue and cheek I asked him how someone could be held accountable for his or her actions if that person was brought up in an environment that provided more opportunities to choose a life of gangsterism than opportunities for education and employment. Who’s to say that person would have turned out the same if he was given the same opportunities and privileges that I have had in my life?

He replied by asking me how Cain new it was wrong to kill Abel. In the moment I didn’t have an answer. How did Cain know it was wrong to kill Abel? He was essentially the first murderer and he had no “preconception” of right and wrong. After a bit of thought, the answer seems to be that Cain had the knowledge of what is right and wrong already written in his heart. We know he knew he had done wrong when God questions him he responds, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. Having God’s law written on his heart may not be the most satisfactory answer but when I think of someone born into a situation where gangsterism seems like an appealing life choice, that’s the key: It is still a choice. A harder one than any I’ve had to face, but a choice nonetheless. Does God take that into account?

I’d like to believe that.