“Everyone Is Looking for You” – A Meditation on a Short Sentence from Scripture

There is a brief line in the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel that simply and completely sums up what we all are doing, even if we’re not aware of it. The setting of the passage is the outskirts of Capernaum in the early morning.

The prior day Jesus had healed a great many people at the house of Simon Peter. As the new day dawned there was already a multitude gathered in hopes of seeing this healer. Word must have spread quickly about Jesus.

But where was He? The text says that Jesus had slipped away to a deserted place to pray.

In seeming irritation, Peter and the others went looking for Him. When they found Jesus, Peter uttered a line that well describes and decodes all human hearts. Peter said, likely in an exasperated tone,

“Everyone is looking for you” (Mark 1:37).

Indeed, they are. Everyone is looking for Jesus. There are no exceptions here. Even those who insist that they are not looking for Jesus, and that He is the last one they would ever seek, are looking for Jesus.

Yes, Lord Jesus, everyone is looking for you.

There is in all of our hearts a “God-size” hole. Only God can fill it. There is a yearning, a longing that is infinite. The world could not have given this to us. Our nature alone could not have caused it; finite realities cannot give anything infinite. Nemo dat quod non habet (No one can give what he does not have).

Only the One who is infinite could have put this infinite longing there.

Frankly our deepest awareness is so deep and pervasive that we barely notice it is there; Our depest awareness is that we have an infinite longing. 

Yes, Lord Jesus, everyone is looking for you; even those of us who forever run after worldly things to satisfy our infinite longing. Yes, we are all looking for you even if many of us do not know it.

    • The consumer who looks for the latest thing, the most recent upgrade, the bigger car, or the fancier house is really seeking you and the wealth that is you.
    • The sports fan or hobbyist who spends enormous amounts of time and money on such pursuits is really seeking fulfillment and thrill in you.
    • The discouraged or angry divorced person looking for the perfect marriage and the priest who wants a “better” parish are really seeking you and your perfection.
    • The young girl applying her makeup and the actor seeking applause and fame are really seeking you and the warm embrace of your love and acceptance.
    • The alcoholic or addict who tries to find relief at the bottom of a glass of wine or the end of a joint is really seeking the peace that only you can give.
    • Even the atheist who denies you because he cannot see you and the atheist who is angry at suffering and evil in the world are actually confessing their desire for your justice and solace.

Yes, Lord Jesus, everyone is looking for you.

Even creation yearns for you, though less consciously. Your own scriptures call you the desire of the everlasting hills (Gen 49:29). And you inspired St. Paul to say that creation is groaning in all its parts waiting to be restored and set free by you (Rom 8:22).

Yes, Lord Jesus, everyone and everything is looking for you. I am looking for you. The one who reads your Scripture is looking for you. My loved ones and enemies alike are looking for you. Help us to find you; show us your face.

Everyone is looking for you!

Nothing truer has ever been said.

Learning to love Heaven – It’s not as automatic as you think

050713It is generally presumed, at least among those who believe in God and the afterlife, that everyone naturally wants to go to heaven.

But of course, “Heaven” is usually understood in a sort of self-defined way. In other words heaven is a paradise of my own design, the place is perfect as I think perfect should be. Yes, for most people, their conception of heaven is merely what they think it should be, and this usually includes things like: golf courses, seeing my relatives and friends, there are my own self-selected pleasures, and the absence of struggles such as losing a job or saying farewell.

Thus, the heaven that most people have in mind is a designer heaven it and is built on the rather egocentric notion that whatever makes me happy is what heaven will be.

The problem with this thinking is that heaven is not of our own design, or merely what we think it should be. Heaven is the kingdom of God and all of its fullness. In heaven are fulfilled and realized all the values of the kingdom of God, values such as mercy, justice, truth, love, compassion, chastity, forgiveness, and so forth.

Further, heaven is consistently described in the Scriptures in liturgical terms, as a place, and a reality rooted in praise and worship. It is a place of prayer and adoration. In all of this is our true happiness, the heart of heaven is to be with God forever, and to be caught up in the beauty of his presence and of his truth.

And heaven, is thus a place that is not merely happy in human terms, but is truly happy on God’s terms. Regarding the liturgical vision of heaven, and the values realized, experience and fulfilled there, it will be noted that many things on the list do not at all appeal to many people. Frankly, many people are dead set against things like the love of enemies, forgiveness, and chastity. Many to find the Mass, and all Church liturgy to be boring and irrelevant.

Imagine showing up at the gates of heaven only to discover that its heart is essentially the liturgy, and that is daily fair is not only hymns, candles, incense and praise, but also chastity, love, forgiveness, mercy and compassion, etc.

Many are averse to such things and even find them odious. God will not force such souls to inherit what they hate. Thus they are free to make other arrangements for eternity. Surely God must regret this deeply, but he has made us free and summoned us to love, and thus he respects, even reverences, our freedom.

But all this reflection, reminds us that heaven is something we must learn to love. It is like many of the finer things in life. Its appeal may not be immediate and obvious, but, having been trained in its ways we learn to love it very deeply.

It was this way for me and classical music. Its appeal was not immediately obvious to me, I was more enamored of driving rock beats and toe-tapping dance music. But gradually, through stages, classical music’s subtlety, beauty and intricacy began to speak to my soul, and I became more sensitive and aware of its majestic beauty. I learned to love symphonic music, and the magnificent patrimony of Gregorian Chant and sacred polyphony. And OH how it speaks to my soul now.

And so it is also of my soul with God and the things of God. Early in my life, my rebellious flesh was only averse to God and the parameters of his Kingdom. But now I have grown deeply to love the Lord, and appreciate the beauty and the wisdom of his truth. Yes, I am learning to love heaven. I love God, and the things of God, and the people God loves.

So it must be for us all, that we learn to love heaven. And for this purpose, the Lord left us His Church, like a caring mother, to teach us and lead us to learn to love the things of God, and of heaven. He also left us a sacred liturgy as a great foretaste, and his Word as a kind of blueprint describing what he loves and the architecture of the kingdom of love and truth. The Saints too blaze a trail ahead of us show us the way. In all of this God gives us a kind of pedagogy of the heavenly Kingdom and a healing remedy for our darkened intellects and hardened hearts.

But make no mistake, we must learn to love heaven, to love God and the things of God. And here we speak of the true God and the real heaven not a fake God, not some idol we have constructed for ourselves, but the true God and the true heaven which is his Kingdom and all his fullness. We must avail ourselves of his many helps and learn to love him and his kingdom.

If we think it is only natural to love heaven, we must become more sober. The fact is we have very obtuse spirits. We live in a fallen world, governed by a fallen angel, and we have fallen natures. We tend to love that which is destructive and harmful. And even knowing that it is harmful we still tend to be attracted to it. We tend to esteem that which is foolish and passing, and to glamorize evil. We tend to call good or no big deal what God calls sinful. Yes, we are obtuse and up to 180 degrees out of phase with the Kingdom

GK Chesterton observes  astonishing facts recorded in Scripture and Tradition:

The point of the story of Satan is not that he revolted against being in hell, but that he revolted against being in heaven. The point about Adam is not that he was discontented with the conditions of this earth, but that he was discontented with the conditions of paradise. (New York American, 12-15-1932)

If Satan revolted against heaven even while still in heaven and Adam preferred something to paradise while still in paradise, how much more should we be sober over the fact that we who have not yet seen paradise or heaven can easily despise or hold of little value the glory of God’s Kingdom.

Add to this that we live in a world that is utterly upside down, a world where we are not rich and what matters to God, a world which obsesses over passing and trivial things and pays little mind to eternal and heavenly things. Learning to love heaven can mean some pretty radical things. It means often being willing to be 180° out of phase with the world’s priorities and preoccupations.

To draw free of this and learn to love heaven requires an often painful journey on our part. And many are simply unwilling to make it, or to live out of phase with the world. Perhaps for this reason the Lord recorded with sadness, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Mat 7:13-14). Perhaps too we can understand why we need a savior: we are not only obtuse, but frankly not all that bright, and we like sheep tend to be wayward. Only with difficulty are we even willing to be shepherded.

Yes, we must make a journey and learn to love heaven,

Perhaps, to conclude, we might ponder a couple brief details from Simon Peter’s life. At the lakeside Jesus asked Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Jesus was seeking an agape love (ἀγαπᾷς με). Peter, with uncharacteristic honesty, at that stage, answered the Lord indicating he had only brotherly love (κύριε, σὺ οἶδας ὅτι φιλῶ σε). The triple dialogue seeking agape love ended with the Lord’s respectful acceptance that Peter had but brotherly love.

But the Lord also promised one day Peter would find agape love, one day Peter would finally learn to love heaven and the Lord above all things, above all people, above his very self. How? He had to make the journey and learn to love heaven.

And indeed, the Lord prophesied: When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will lead you where you do not want to go. Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God (Jn 21:18-19)

But in order for that to happen, the world would have to be turned upside down for Peter. Peter would have to learn to see the world 180° differently than he did that day at the Lakeside. Of this we need to turn our lives over 180° GK Chesterton again writes very beautifully as he meditates that Peter was crucified upside down:

I’ve often fancied that [Peter’s] humility was rewarded was rewarded by seeing in death the beautiful vision of the landscape as it really is: with the stars like flowers, and the clouds like hills and all men hanging on the mercy of God. (The Poet and the Lunatics Sheed and Ward p. 22)

Yes, learning to love heaven means learning to see the world as it really its, and to seem to the world to be upside down. But God’s ways are not our ways, his priorities are not our priorities. We have a lot of learning to do. At the end of the day heaven will not change to suit us (if it did it wouldn’t be heaven any more). So we must be changed for it, we must learn to love it even if that means being crucified upside down.

Help us Lord to desire heaven, to learn its ways, to learn of you and love you above all things.

N.B. The Chesterton insights came to me from a a fine book called The Complete Thinker by Dale Ahlquist.

Demonstrating God’s Existence Through Desire

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?

Consider for a moment that your desire is infinite. Honestly, it is. When was the last time you were perfectly satisfied and needed nothing? Never happened, did it? We are a vast and limitless sea of desire. Yes, if we are honest, our desires are quite limitless, clearly  infinite.

But does this not show forth  God’s existence and that he wrote his name in your heart? Does it not give clear evidence  that you were made for God?

How does this demonstrate the existence of God? Well, consider the following:

1. Nothing can give what it does not have (Nihil dat quod non habet). For me to give you $20, I must first have at least  $20.

2. Hence that which is  finite cannot give what is infinite. That which is limited cannot give something that is unlimited.

3. Our desire is demonstrably infinite, unlimited.

4. But the Material world is finite. It is limited.

5. Thus the Material world did not confer this infinite desire upon us.

6. Hence someone or something infinite must have conferred this infinite desire upon us.

7. That Someone we call, God.

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! Think about it.

This song has a verse that says, God and God alone, will be the joy of our eternal home. He will be our one desire. Our hearts will never tire, of God and God alone.

Developing the Desire For All that Really Matters

We live in an age where our comforts are many: air conditioning, electricity, running water, cars,  many of us have large house compared to fifty years ago, consumer products are abundant, cheap and easy to find, medical advances have staved off many diseases and improved the quality of life.

But comfort can confuse us and rob from us the one thing most necessary, the desire for God and to be with Him in heaven. This desire is our most essential desire and should be the focus of our whole life. It is to direct us to our proper end which is God and the things waiting for us in heaven. Jesus rebuked Martha for her focus on worldly concerns and told her that Mary, who preferred communion with him had “chosen the better part” and the “one thing necessary.” (cf Luke 10:38-42)

Creature comforts, when available to us in abundance as they are here and now have a way of misdirecting us. We are fooled into thinking that they are the source of our happiness and so we are always looking for the next worldly trinket or charm instead of God.

Even the way Church going Catholics and other Christians pray is alarming. Very often verbal prayers are heavily steeped in requests for better health, better finances, a new and more lucrative job, a more cooperative spouse, the success of some project and so forth. It is not wrong to pray for these things but when they so dominate our prayer it is almost as though we were saying to God, “Make this world a better place for me. Give me enough health, friends, and creature comforts and I’ll just stay here forever.”  Pretty sad really, but even our prayers can become too focused on this world and manifest that we have become forgetful that the greatest gift is God himself.

Our more recent fore-bearers saw things differently. A little as the 1oo years ago, most people in this world experienced life as brutal and short. Long hard days of physical labor, food supplies that were less sure, disease and poor medicine all led to lives that were  far less comfortable and more suddenly brief that what we in the west usually experience today. Some of the prayers of that time expressed that life was a vale (or valley) of tears and longing for heaven was a more common focus of  prayer.

We understandably have a natural fear of death, but as Christians we should increasingly long to be with God. With strong faith we can come to see our approaching death not as something to loathe but as the fulfillment of all our longings, for death opens the door toward God. The early Christians had an expression as recorded in the Didache Let grace come and this world pass away. Maranatha (Lord come). Amen (Did, 10)

Getting There – 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 see, there is something quite beautiful about the  approach to death. I often see a letting go in 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 to desire God above every thing and everyone. Pray along with this beautiful rendition of the Old Song: Give Me Jesus

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.

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.

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

40 Reasons For Coming Home – Reason # 30 – You Really Want to

Reason # 30 – You really want to. – Many Centuries ago St. Augustine wrote this classic line in his Confessions: Our hearts were made for Thee O Lord and they are restless until they rest in Thee. We have talked before in this blog about our desire and that, if we are honest, we will see they are infinite. But a finite and limited world cannot give infinite, unlimited desire.

All the things we think we want are really just symbols pointing to a greater desire: God. Deep down you know he exists and it calling you. Somewhere, in the depths of your soul he is calling to you and your soul is calling for him, yearning for him. God has written his Name in our hearts and our hearts seek his face.

Come home to the Lord. Let him minister to you in Word and Sacrament. Let Him, who alone can satisfy, begin to satisfy your hunger and your thirst. Come home. You know you  want to. All your other desires are really about this one desire, to be with God.

Enjoy this beautiful video and music of Psalm 42 which says it better than I ever could.