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Union With God


Happy Easter!  This Friday of Easter Week I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

 During these last 50+ days of blogging my reflections on Scott Hahn’s book, I would occasional read an entry that would stop me in my tracks, making me wonder what I had committed to.  These were the entries that would really challenge me, forcing me to look deep inside myself, focus on my flaws, and risk an admission I wasn’t sure I was ready for.  Today is one of those.

I thought I dodged the bullet yesterday.  In fact, I sorta jumped the gun with yesterday’s reflection.  When I read yesterday’s entry in Scott’s book, I began to sweat, thinking it was one of those days that would require a frank reflection.  But then—epiphany!—I escaped relatively unscathed with the evasive Shrek defense.

Brilliant!

”Onions have layers. Ogres have layers! Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.”

I escaped!  Or so I thought.  Until today, when I read the reading.

You see, I’m not the best husband.  I know it.  My beautiful wife knows it.  I’m sure my kids even know it.  And while I know it, I don’t want to be confronted with that fact.  Which makes today’s reflection all that much more difficult.

Twenty-three years, three months and six days ago, my bride and I exchanged our vows, entered into the Sacrament of Marriage and uttered those fateful words, “I do.”  On that day, I ceased being me and—joining with my bride—became us.

Unfortunately, my behavior, choices and actions have not always reflected this unity of person.  I did not immediately cease acting as an individual.  At times (too often) I have been selfish.  And my selfishness has hurt my wife.

Scott Hahn reflects that Christ’s love for the Church is the model we should look to in marriage:

“Just as God’s Fatherhood is the perfect reality that human fatherhood portrayed, through imperfectly, so the marriage of Christ and the Church is the perfect reality portrayed by human marriage.”

It’s not an original thought.  Paul said as much in his letter to the Ephesians:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  Eph. 5:25-28.

Wow!  Tough standard to live up to!  How can I give myself so completely to my wife to the degree and in the quality that Christ gives of Himself?!

When I stand at the foot of this Mt. Everest, ill-equipped for the climb, I even ask myself:  “Why even try?”

And then I remember two things:

Because she is worth it.

And

Progress, not perfection.

She is definitely worth the effort of drawing closer, of growing and maturing in our relationship.  To paraphrase Jack Nicholson, she makes me want to be a better man.

And I have to remember that, while the peak of Mt. Everest is still so far above me, and still appears unreachable, if I am to be honest with myself I also have to look back and realize that I have advanced up the slope.  I may not be perfect yet, but I’ve made progress.  To steal from Philip Morris, I’ve come a long way, baby!

Not that I deserve a pat on the back.  I’m not sure I deserve a kick in the butt, either.  But I have to keep my eye on the model that Christ gives me in His love for the Church.

Day 52-1

Sometimes bronze seems so shiny until it is placed next to well-polished gold.  Sometimes a flashlight seems to be bright until it is brought into the sunlight.  And sometimes, my relationships seem to be perfect until contrasted with the perfection of God’s love.  When confronted with this contrast, I need to see it as a reminder of what can be, not as a criticism of what is not yet, and use it as motivation to keep striving. Day 52-2

The Beautiful Bride of Christ


Happy Easter!  This Thursday of Easter Week I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

Jesus, in welcoming us into His family, gives us His human mother as ours:

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.”  John 19:26-27.

In one sense she is our mother-in-law, as Christ is the bridegroom of the Church.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul uses the description of Christ as bridegroom:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  Eph. 5:25-28.

If Christ is the bridegroom of the Church, then we—His Church—are the bride of Christ.

So I ask myself—what does this mean to me?  How am I, a member of this Church—His bride, to behave?

I remember that my wife and I—as newlyweds—were told of a lollipop rule of marriage.  It goes like this:  for the first year of marriage, put a lollipop into a bowl for each time you have “intimacy” with each other.  After the first year, take a lollipop out for each act of “intimacy”.  Your bowl will never be empty.

I place intimacy in quotes for this reason:  the physical act of love-making is often identified as the sole—or highest—form of intimacy.  But as I grow older, I understand this physical form of intimate interaction is only a manifestation of true intimacy, an outward sign of an intimate relationship.

What, then, is intimacy?  Is it enough to describe it, as one resource does, as “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group”?

To me, that definition is inadequate.  It lacks the requisite sense of vulnerability, of trust, of hope and mutuality.

So I did some digging and discovered that “intimacy” has as its root the Latin word “intimus“, which means “inmost“.  Huh?!

And then it hit me:  Shrek!

You know:  “Onions have layers. Ogres have layers! Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.”

So, am I saying ogres are intimate?  Because if that’s true, I am VERY intimate!  As in Oscar the Grouch intimate!

Not quite.

My point is this: who do I allow into my inmost layers?  To whom do I expose my inner self, under the protective layers, veneers and plies?

And, as a member of the Church, the bride of Christ, how do I let Jesus into my innermost layers to the very core of me?

Day 51-1

As Paul in his letter to the Ephesians describes marriage, it requires the self-sacrificing intimacy that Christ pours Himself into with us, His Church.  This model is difficult, as hard as Christ’s admonition:  “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.

Day 51-2

Contracts and Covenants


On this Saturday After Ash Wednesday, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

I have something to confess and I hope you won’t hold it against me. I … am a lawyer. I know: I’m supposed to sheepishly say “I’m not that kind of lawyer.” But to be honest, I don’t know of any legal practice that cannot be done with a humble heart, a servant’s spirit and a clear conscience.

So, I’m a lawyer and for over a decade my practice has focused primarily on contracts. Drafting, reviewing, negotiating, enforcing. And I read today’s reading through the lens of my experience.

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