Righteous Not Riotous

There are so many miscommunications in the course of a normal day. Just small, trivial things and, yet, they can be so very frustrating. I don’t know how many times I have rolled my eyes or grit my teeth in aggravation. And then there are the habits of the people with whom I live – the simple, normal things that they do every day… over and over… inexhaustibly… things that can just plain annoy and irritate me to no end.

And then I wonder why people riot in the streets against real injustice…?

I in no way support or condone the recent actions of the rioters in Baltimore – they were being meaninglessly destructive, violent, and, well, stupid. There is no cause for such ridiculousness. Whatever cause they think that they were acting out for was completely lost and obliterated amongst their rioting. They were being punks and should be ashamed of their actions.

And, yet… When I am frustrated, irritated, and angry, do I not envision violence in my mind? Do I not want to hurt people with my words, slam my hand against the wall, or just break something? I hold back, I don’t do these things – like most human beings. But, there is an instinct within me, within all of us, to react violently, to wreck something when we are feeling wrecked, to basically freak out when our emotions overwhelm us. Usually, however, we don’t fall apart and descend into madness, into rash rioting, looting, arson, and assault. We may imagine that it would be a pleasurable release to throw a brick through a window or to grab and steal something that we want just because we want it – but we know better. We, if we are not mentally ill, know that that temporary release, that temporary and mad pleasure, will only lead to a mess that needs to be cleaned up, broken relationships that need to be healed, wildernesses that will need to be escaped – consequences that will demand to be met. And, so, we control ourselves, with true courage and strength, we remember who we are and we do not let ourselves disappear into chaos.

The brave person of consequence is the one who will never have to run away from the consequences of his or her actions – because that person has done nothing shameful. That person thinks before acting. Those who are peacefully protesting in Baltimore for justice and a decisive end to police brutality, those who are standing up for what is right, for positive and concrete change, appealing to human reason and compassion boldly, with no hesitation – they are heroic. For, unlike the morally and spiritually weak person, the truly strong person chooses love instead of hate, chooses building up instead of destroying, chooses correction and true justice that makes things better – instead of vengeance and violence that only makes things worse.

In my own simple life, I know that it is hope that will allow me to be the better person – the strong and brave person that I am created to be.

And from where comes this hope?

So many people are aimless and hopeless. There are far too many news stories of young people committing random acts of violence. Far too many police officers caught on camera being vicious and brutal, abusing their power to the point of killing. And there are far too many cell phone videos of groups of teenagers whooping it up as a mob of them beats up a defenseless person. What is wrong here??? What I ask is – where is the mercy?

Perhaps… Where mercy lacks, hope is already absent.

Every person on earth wants to belong – that’s because God made us and we belong to God. To belong to a mob of brutality can never satisfy that desire… for our hearts are restless until they take rest in God’s love. Lives of mere pleasure and gain are easily devastated and lost – because they are empty without the core of being, without God… for true joy can only come in fulfilling our eternally intended destiny. It seems like no one believes this anymore, even leaders in our nation don’t want to hear this kind of talk … so we need to testify.

If young people knew – and if we could all remember – that we are of divine origin, lovingly brought into being, not by creatures or happenstance, but by the Infinite Power that is the Creator of the universe entire…. If children and young adults knew – and if we could all remember – that we belong intimately to the Creator and Master of the universe, to whom we can never be lost and by whom we will never be abandoned…. If those wandering in darkness knew – and if we who have seen the light could remember – that we each have an eternal destiny that is unique and exquisitely particular for each of us as we are known by our Maker, who lovingly brings us into being for love…. If every human being knew that, no matter what happens in life, no one dies in vain – and no one lives in vain – as long as our souls remain rooted in Christ, in rightness, and, when wounded, we bind others’ wounds with love… then the hopeless would have hope, and the wayward would have direction, and the unloved would know love.

Naïve and overly optimistic? Maybe. But, how hard do you work in helping juvenile delinquents know that they are infinitely and intimately loved?

Okay, I didn’t mean to make you feel guilty with that question… well… maybe I did. But, if we, believers, don’t go out and tell people the truth, who will? I know that I need (as most of us need) to more bravely and consistently act on my beliefs – to be Christ to others and, so, bring others to Christ. And faithfully pray. We too often feel that we are powerless to change anything and we succumb to that powerlessness… and the stress of that only makes the descent into chaos worse – and more imminent. So, let’s remember our faith, our hope, our love, and let’s change the conversation.

Practical approach in my everyday life: I will think of the terrible waste that is the rioting in Baltimore whenever a small injustice – even of conversation, any kind of he said/she said – befalls me or someone that I know. When I am hurt or upset, I will think of how easy it is to descend into anger and destruction – and I will remember that I am made for more. Summoning my courage and my strength, I will remember that I am rooted in Christ and I will reflect mercifully upon the foibles of being human. I will remember God’s mercy. I will forgive myself and others. And I will overcome. I will lovingly forgive my adversaries, even the ones of a trivial moment, and I will put my energy and effort into building respectful relationships and joint works for the good of humankind, even just the work of deciding what’s for dinner – all through Christ the Lord.

May we all overcome. No matter how long it takes or how much it hurts, the truth of Life as Love will set us free.

© 2015 Christina Chase

Descended to the Dead

underwater

Have you ever submerged yourself under water, like a lake or a pool, and gone down, down, down? The light, if visible, is far-off and distorted, while all around you, enshrouding you, is a seductive, numbing kind of darkness. There’s an oblivious kind of quiet down there and you would stay below. But, within you is the instinct to rise.

You are made to rise – from the pool, the grudge, the self-pity, the addiction…. You are made to rise up, to see clearly, to breathe freely – you are made for the Light.

But, what if your ability to rise is deadened by self-abuse – by sin? Then, all that is good within you will drown. And your soul will die. It is for this reason that Jesus sacrificed himself on the Cross – he descended to the dead so that he may always be with you, so that he may always be with you even in the deepest, darkest abyss. Christ Jesus is there and stretches out his hand, and parts the drowning waters. You need only to reach out for his mercy and he will take hold of you – and raise you up to the land of the living, to the Light.

© 2015 Christina Chase

This concludes a trio of short reflections for the Paschal Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Blessed and Joyous Easter, everyone!

Mercy Is Joy or It Is Nothing

What is a joyful Catholic? What is a joyful Christian? Let the answer not be: “a rarity”.

A joyful Christian is not someone who dwells in fear, mistrust, and misgivings. Rather, a joyful Christian is someone who lives in hope and trust and generosity. “By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:3.)We are not to go about in gloom, covered always in ashes and sackcloth, bemoaning and wailing the waywardness that is man, groveling in a flood of tears for our sins. Jesus died for our sins. He took on the responsibility of our waywardness and let himself be crucified for our sakes. And then… the glorious “and then”… Jesus rose from the dead. Because of the Resurrection, the true Christian dwells in joy. We are an Easter people.

People often say to me that I am an inspiration. This is not an uncommon thing for a person in a wheelchair to hear. But, not all of us will hear it. Simply being disabled is not very inspiring, after all. But – I am a naturally joyful person. God created me with a sense of humor, an easy smile, and a deep love for the beautiful in all things. When I became a Christian, therefore, it was easy for me to be a joyful Christian – because, even as an atheist (when God spoke to me in secret, a secret kept even from me) God has always spoken to me in the language of joy. So, when people see me all crumpled up in my wheelchair – and genuinely smiling – they are inspired. Loss and limitations, disease and suffering, deformity and pain, fragile body and pending death – none of these things can kill the joy in the human heart, the joy placed there by God. To know this is, indeed, divine inspiration. I did not create it nor do I produce it – it is a gift from God, it is the gift of God, flowing through me.

Today, on this Divine Mercy Sunday, two great popes are being canonized by the Catholic Church as saints. And I am struck by what these two men have in common. Yes, yes, they were both popes. But, they were also, perhaps most importantly, joyful Christians. John XXIII was known for his smiles, jokes and friendliness, his enthusiasm for people. And John Paul II, more widely known by people in our time, was renowned for his love of life and his joy in all things beautiful – especially his joy in humanity. Oh, these men knew suffering, deep suffering. And these men spent many hours on their knees, these men cried and wept, these men could be angered by injustice – but nothing squelched the joy. The joy that is Christ, Christ Risen, Christ Glorified. Alleluia.

Jesus, while he walked and talked upon the earth, told his followers over and over again, “Be not afraid.” If we truly have faith, that is, if we truly trust in God, then what do we have to fear? If we have hope, believing in the resurrection of Christ, who is our living hope, then we not only know mercy, but we are revolutionized by mercy, living it day in and day out. And if we have love, true love… then we know true joy, deep, eternal joy.

And we are ever and always an Easter people.

Let us go to those who are wounded, and to those who inflict wounds, and let us pour out the healing mercy of God with all of our faith, with all of our hope, and with all of our love. With the knowing peace that is joy! Let us live the mercy of God, thus living the fullness of humanity, the fullness of life.

© 2014 Christina Chase

When I Die

This is a message that I plan to leave behind for my loved ones… and so… for everyone.

Yesterday, April 6th, I celebrated a milestone birthday – but, really, every birthday has been a kind of milestone for me since I was 13. For, when I was diagnosed with my motor neuron disease at the age of two, the doctors told my parents that I wouldn’t live to be a teenager. Thankfully, I have been given the gift of triple that prediction. With the fragility of my health, I am ever mindful that each birthday I celebrate may be my last – and I love life with all that I am. So, the words that follow are not mere words for me.

When I die – as all of us creatures must – I believe it will be according to God’s Perfect Will. If I am killed – because of murder, or because of injuries sustained in an accident, either negligent or willful – or if I die through neglect or the malpractice of mistake, then my death will be by God’s Permissive Will. God will permit the consequence that is my dying even though it will not be at the Divinely appointed time or in the Divinely appointed manner – but I believe that God will grant me, if I am one who truly loves, special grace so that I may spiritually experience the blessings that were divinely intended for me should I have lived out the fullness of my God-given lifespan.

And when I die, I want all of the people that I have loved to understand that in God there is only loving mercy. No matter the time, cause, or manner of my death, God’s love pours forth enough forgiveness to heal every wound, to right every wrong, to mend every broken heart, to save everyone in need of rescue. God’s love prevails. Eternally. And, so, joy does not end. If those who have loved me are unwilling to accept this truth, then, perhaps, they never truly loved me. When the time for heartbreak, anger, sorrow, mourning, and grieving is fulfilled, then those who have truly loved me will continue to love me without end. They will continue to love me without end by turning to God for Divine mercy and healing and by accepting the forgiveness that God’s love offers to everyone who seeks truth. The truth? The truth is that I have always belonged to God and I always will.

We creatures live and breathe upon the earth for only a short while; like the daffodils in the springtime, the blueberries of summer, all the autumn foliage, winter snowflakes, and animal life of soil, forest, field, water and air. We bloom in our season and then are seen no more by eyes that can weep, eyes that can close. The earth is ever full of beauty to behold, of tenderness and delight, and for as long as our earthly bodies draw in breath, let us breathe in the rich fragrance of life, never jealous of what God has created – never holding on too tightly or wresting too vehemently in the self-centered wish to possess. Everything belongs to God and that is the true glory of every thing, every place, every moment, every person. Nothing exists without God. With God is every experience of joy, of love, of beauty, of goodness, of life. And the suffering that we experience as we live and breathe upon the earth are reminders that we are not our own, that we are not God, and that we do not create the beauty that we behold.

The sufferings of life are reminders that can return our minds and hearts to the Source of Being and, so, to know the peace that the world cannot give, the peace that is the fullness of joy. If we do not let our sorrows, pains, losses, frustrations, angers, afflictions and conflictions serve us as reminders, then we stray into the abyss.

The abyss is of the fallen, of those who turn away from God’s mercy and healing, of those who turn away from the truth. It is the destruction chosen by warlords and the perverse abuse that is the domain of the selfishly wicked: the terror and trauma inflicted by those who will not accept the truth. Those who will not love the beauty of Creation as God’s creation, those who will not love human beings as images and likenesses of God, those who will not love themselves as sacred creatures belong eternally to God – these will choose to turn away from truth, to reject holiness, to deny Divinity and so will close themselves off from the Divine love, mercy, and healing that can only be received by those who are open to reception. They will fall to deception and will not be able to recognize true beauty and delight in true life.

I pray my loved ones will not fall to such deception when, after mourning my death, the time comes to heal. Everything is in Divine hands. God is all in all. If there is any joy in life, if there was ever any beauty in my being upon the earth – then it is the joy and the being of the Beautiful One who made me… and Who holds me, with the tenderest loving embrace, eternally. I am where I belong.

God loved me into existence. And God has already saved my life. When I die, see and recognize the grace among the living… Turn to the Infinite/Eternal One from whom all life comes, to whom all love returns, and know peace, forgiveness, healing, strength, joy. Life is beautiful… because the Beautiful One lives.

Christina Chase

He Descended to the Dead

Have you ever submerged yourself under water, a lake or a pool, and gone down, down, down?  The light, if visible, is far-off and distorted, while all around you, enshrouding you, is a seductive, numbing kind of darkness.  You would stay below.  But, within you is the pure instinct to rise.

You are made to rise – from the pool, the grudge, the self-pity, the addiction….  You are made to rise up, to see clearly, to breathe freely – you are made for the Light.

But, what if your ability to rise is deadened by self-abuse, by sin?  Then, all that is good within you will drown.  It is for this reason that Jesus suffered – he descended to the dead so that he may always be with you.  Christ Jesus stretches out his hand and parts the drowning waters.  You need only to reach out for his mercy and he will take hold of you and raise you up to the land of the living, to the Light.

Christina Chase