U2, Doubt, and Faith

In honor of  U2’s phenomenal show last night at FedEx Field (“Cardinal McCarrick is in the house!” -Bono) I’d like to discuss the themes in their hit “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”.  In 1987, the song was performed during their Rattle & Hum celebration tour at Madison Square Garden featuring the gospel choir, New Voices of Freedom. It is a powerful arrangement, and today I found the original video on YouTube.

You would think, by the joyful praising of the choir, that they are singing about faith, but the song clearly states that this person has considered the Jesus thing but still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. When asked by Rolling Stone about the meaning of the song, Bono himself said it was an “anthem of doubt more than faith”.

How can someone say “You broke the bonds and You loosed ths chains” and yet doubt? How can someone say “You know I believe it” and yet still be searching?  Interestingly, there is a line in the new U2 song Crazy that says, “How can you stand next to the truth and not see it?”

I think the answer comes down to a person’s daily life experience. When I am having a philosophical or theological argument with someone about some specific topic, I always end up wanting to ask the questions, What in your life would have to change if you changed your view? Would you have to create a new relationship with your mother? Would you have to stop sleeping with your significant other? Would you have to make time in your schedule to serve? Would you have to start taking better care of your body?

We all know people who seem to be very stubborn in their lack of faith. Conversation after conversation, they still won’t budge. But I would suggest being a little more curious about their daily life experience. What are they holding on to? What are they scared of on the other side of of the doubt/faith decision? Far more than any rational argument, your curiosity, love, and personal concern may be what they are looking for. And may be the reason they stop looking, and believe.

What are You Longing For? Guess What? It’s God!

Just below is a wonderful new reflection from Fr. Robert Barron. In it he ponders the growing secularism of the day. In many ways, especially in Europe, faith has been almost completely kicked to the curb. Questions about who is God…Who am I in relationship to him….what is the meaning and destiny of my life…..Questions like these have been suppressed; dismissed as irrelevant.

But here’s the problem: We are wired for God! We have within us an infinite longing, an unlimited desire for completion and fulfillment. God has written his name on our hearts and we simply cannot be happy without his ultimate presence and place in our heart. Oh, I know, many claim they can, but in the end we all know its a lie. This world simply does not satisfy us. It is limited and our desire is unlimited. Sooner or later we confront the absurdity of the world’s claim to be cure for what ails us. Go ahead, get it all: power money, sex, popularity, possessions, even people. I promise you it won’t be enough. And even if you do get it all, then you die, end of story.

In the end, we are made for God. The modern world may have kicked God to the curb but the absurdity of that becomes more and more evident as we descend further into addiction, lust, unhappiness, stress, suicide, you name it. You may say “We have always had these.”  Yes, but the doses are so much higher today. For all our creature comforts, (and we have many), we seem less happy, less content, less fulfilled, more stressed out more suicidal, more addicted, more divorced or never married, more  than those who went before us without all the comforts we “enjoy.”

Living without God is painful. We are wired for God. All those longings, yearnings, the sighing with you? It’s about God:

  • Our hearts were made for thee Oh Lord and they will not rest till they rest in thee.”  (St. Augustine Confessions Book 1 Chapter 1)
  • Come,” says my heart, “seek God’s face”; your face, LORD, do I seek! (Ps 27:8)

Feeling Worthless?

The next time you feel like GOD can’t use you just remember:

Noah was a drunk, Abraham was too old. Isaac was a daydreamer. Jacob was a liar, Leah was ugly. Joseph was abused. Moses had a stuttering problem. Gideon was afraid. Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer. Rahab was a prostitute. Jeremiah and Timothy were too young. David had an affair and was a murderer. Elijah was suicidal. Isaiah preached naked. Jonah ran from God. Naomi was a widow. Job went bankrupt. John the Baptist ate bugs. Peter denied Christ! The Disciples feel asleep while praying. Martha worried about everything. The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once. Zaccheus was too small. Paul was too religious. Timothy had an ulcer. Lazarus was dead!

No more excuses now. God can use you to your full potential. Besides, you aren’t the message, you are just the messenger.


Here’s another more soul searching meditation by Nelson Mandela:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Faith as a”Drug Problem”

In the Gospel for this Sunday’s Mass Jesus says: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me, draws him.” (John 6:44)  Now the Greek word here is Helkuein which means “to draw or to drag”  and the word always implies some sort of resitance. In a way Jesus more than implies that all of us who do believe offered some resistance and the Father had to drag us along! “Oh, not me!” you might say, “I have been a believer since my youth!” Well, get used to it, all of us are a “hard case” to God. Truth is, our flesh (our carnal “sin-nature”) does not want to believe, does not want to be told what to do. God, working through others has to drag us along. It is true, some of us are harder cases than others but all of us are still in the category “hard case.” We can be very stubborn, willful, and stiff necked. We can also rationalize very easily and convince ourselves that sin is no big deal and even not sin at all.

Yes, indeed we have to be dragged along by God and our carnal nature resists. So, if you’ve come to Jesus, thank the Father, he had to drag you and me here! And, like wandering sheep, he often has to go out and drag us back. “No one can come to me,” says Jesus, “Unless the Father draws (drags!) him.”  Again, if you have faith, thank the Father! You might say we have a “drug problem.” The problem is that we have to be “drug along” at every stage of our lives.   

There is an old Internet standard you may have read elsewhere that reflects this need to be “drug”

I had a drug problem when I was young: I was drug to church on Sunday morning. I was drug to church for weddings and funerals. I was drug to family reunions and community socials no matter the weather. I was drug by my ears when I was disrespectful to adults. I was also drug to the woodshed when I disobeyed my parents, told a lie, brought home a bad report card, did not speak with respect, spoke ill of the teacher or the preacher. Or if I didn’t put forth my best effort in everything that was asked of me. I was drug to the kitchen sink to have my mouth washed out with soap if I uttered a profane four letter word. I was drug out to pull weeds in mom’s garden and flower beds and to do my chores. I was drug to the homes of family, friends, and neighbors to help out some poor soul who had no one to mow the yard, repair the clothesline or chop some fire wood. And if my mother had ever known that I took a single dime as a tip for this kindness, she would have drug me back to the wood shed. Those drugs are still in my veins; and they affect my behavior in everything I do, say, and think. They are stronger than cocaine, crack, or heroin, and if today’s children had this kind of drug problem, America might be a better place today.

Here is the Video for this Sunday’s Gospel from the movie, The Gospel of John available at Amazon:


Here’s recorded homily from today in mp3 format: Sermon for 19th Sunday: Our “Drug” Problem In the Sermon at the end I quote a gospel song by Kurt Carr which is here:

Maybe It’s God!

All of us face many trials and difficulties in this world that serve to remind us that we are really in a foreign land, far from home. The world can bewilder us, and beguile us, disappoint us and demand of us. But what if our dissatisfaction with this world was not merely a selfishness, or a lack of gratitude for what we have? What if this dissatisfaction is supposed to be there? If your desire is infinite and insatiable, unlimited and unremitting, maybe its about God. Why should this world satisfy you? It is puny and passing compared to your heart’s truest longing. Maybe it’s God you are really longing for!

This video is entitled “Come to Jesus.” It was  produced for young people but if you still have any of that “young at heart” in you you’ll enjoy this beautiful invitation.

On Being Catholic

Did you catch the piece in the Washington Post last Saturday called “On Faith”? It featured an interview with a woman writing a book on Catholics on the Supreme Court. If Judge Sotomayor is confirmed there will be six Catholic justices. The author, Barbara Perry, opines that the number of Catholics is related to liberal and conservative politics more than religion. When asked how she thinks Judge Sotomayor’s Catholicism will play into her decisions if confirmed, she describes Judge Sotomayor as someone who attends church for family and special occasions, guessing she will be more liberal—a social justice type of Catholic. Whereas justices like Scalia and Roberts are conservative on issues such as abortion and church and state matters.

This kind of conversation is so common in political discussions and in church conversation and it is really misguided. There is only one kind of Catholic; the person who is baptized saved by God’s grace and called to share in the very mission of Jesus Christ. Happily, once baptized a Catholic, or baptized in another Christian community and later received into the Church through Confirmation, one is forever a Catholic.

The only real Catholic is the one who daily strives to love God through prayer, love the people God sends into one’s life, and regularly receive the sacraments, beginning with Sunday Mass. The sacraments are not magic and though Baptism is forever, one must continually grow in faith and love, one’s faith needs to mature in much the same way we mature physically, psychologically and socially.

Unhappily, we know that there is a wide range of ways in which people stop growing in the faith. In the field of Evangelization we try to identify (one might say label) stages in the practice of the faith in hopes that we can call all Catholics to full and active participation in the faith.

We speak of unchurched Catholics who were Baptized and maybe received Eucharist and confirmation but were not raised in the faith and so have no real understanding of what it means to be Catholic. We also speak of inactive Catholics, those Catholics who identify themselves as Catholics but go to Mass no more than a few times a year outside of weddings or funerals. A third group is called alienated Catholics and they are Catholics who though they call themselves Catholic, they stay away from participation in the church because of a negative experience of some sort. In many case there is a desire for reconciliation and healing in order to feel welcomed or at home in the Church.

Like a family, all of these people are Catholics and considered part of the Catholic family. We who are fellow Catholics or work for the Church have a responsibility for seeking out, listening, inviting, and encouraging these sisters and brothers to deepen their faith and rediscover the gift of the Catholic tradition.

Labels like liberal, conservative, cultural, or radical Catholic tend to suggest that it’s possible for an individual Catholic to decide what it means to be Catholic. When I think of some of the American Catholic saints, life Mother Katherine Drexel or Elizabeth Seton I discover women who would defy all of our popular labels. They were passionate in their love of God, their love of the Church and their love for others, especially the poor and the marginalized. Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., once Master General of the Jesuits captures the passion that faith brings to life in this prayer.

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love

in a quite absolute, final way.

What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination,

will affect everything.

It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,

what you will do with your evenings,

how you will spend your weekends,

what you read, who you know,

what breaks your heart,

and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”

Who is a Catholic? Enjoy this video displaying the rich Tapestry of the Catholic Church!

What Are You Longing For? What do you Want?

There’s an old Gospel Song that says, “I heard my mother say, ‘Give me Jesus. You may have all this world; just give me Jesus.'”  In my own life I heard people get to the mature point in their life when they could really say those words without any simulation or exaggeration. In particular I have in mind those I’ve been privileged to accompany toward death. For many of them these words become very real. My own mother died suddenly so I did not have the privilege of making that journey with her along the way. But My Father died after a year-long illness and my Grandmother too. I was able to walk with them in their final stages and I heard them say these words. And I knew it was time because only God can get you ready to say those words in a true and authentic way. I knew they really meant it and God was getting them ready for the great journey over to the other shore.

In the end, we have to desire heaven more  than this world and only God can cause this change and purge us from the many attachments we have to this world. It usually takes the dying process to get us there, though I suppose it shouldn’t have to. But, painful though it is to behold there is something quite beautiful about the  approach to death. I often see a letting go of those who approach death;  perhaps it is of worldly glories, old grudges, preoccupations and many worries. Little by little these things fall away and the “one thing necessary” replaces them. It is merely this:  that we sit at the feet of Jesus and wait for him to bring us over. There comes a moment when those who are dying with faith can truly saying the words of Psalm 27 : There is only one thing I ask of the LORD; this alone I seek: That I  may dwell in the LORD’S house all the days of my life and gaze upon his  beauty.

What do you want? What do you long for? Maybe it’s God! I know, its probably a lot of other things too. But if you’re faithful God can get you to the point where you can truly say: Give me Jesus. You may have all this world. Just Give me Jesus.

Pray along with this beautiful rendition of the Old Song: Give Me Jesus

God does not love us because we are good but because He is good.

 People stay away from the Church for many reasons. There are some who struggle with sins and a sense of unworthiness. Why would God be calling me? I am a sinner and I am not even sure I can give up my sin. If you are among those who may stay away for this reason, I wonder if you might consider watching this video. It is the end of a talk by Christopher Cuddy, a covert to Catholicism. He ponders our unworthiness to have received this call from Christ and encourages us to simply accept God’s love for us. God does not love us because we are good, we can only be good because God first loves us.

Christopher Cuddy is a convert to Catholicism from Evangelical Protestantism