Have you been to the doctor lately? Has your health been of such a concern as to warrant a visit to the man in the white lab coat? For me, yes, this is certainly the case. I’ve visited my friendly neighborhood doctor and received my yearly physical. He determined, I’m getting older, I probably could stand to lose a few pounds, and for all intents and purposes, I’m “ok” at least for now (physically speaking that is). He has pretty good bedside manner, and generally avoids too much awkwardness when I’m trying to remain calm while he is apparently prospecting for gold. So, why do we go? Do doctors have a magic pill which will ensure our long life? Do doctors have all the answers? Are doctors there for both the prevention and relieving of pain? To be sure, we go, because health in our culture is a pretty big issue, so much so, it’s now mandated everyone has health coverage. Doctors don’t have any crystal balls or special magic which allows them to keep us alive, but like any good mechanic working on an engine, they know how to keep us running if all or most of the parts work. Doctors don’t have all the answers, they are human, there are conditions even they have never seen or heard of, germs and viruses seem to be creative. At least, creative enough to always be changing, which seems to be a never-ending study as it pertains to the doctor’s edification at the behest of our health. Finally, doctors are here to prevent pain by telling us “best practices”, and when we do have pain, they diagnose it and tell us how to make it better. Why am I telling you all of this? Simple, first, go to the doctor if it’s been a while, they won’t bite, and will surely help you understand your current health condition, you probably have family members who might appreciate this effort on your part. Next, when we look to God, and realize the health of our own souls, have we made any efforts to try and heal our pain, and then at the same time look to stay healthy as our life will continue to move forward?
About six months ago, I went to confession, and as is my usual choice, I prefer to sit in front of the priest as I confess my sins. I always prefer the face-to-face encounter, when it comes to doing anything of a difficult nature. As, I sat there and confessed my sins, I looked at the priest, his eyes were closed. His forehead was contorted by his upraised brow, and yet he still looked peaceful enough as I spoke. When I was done, I half expected him to quietly say, “get out!” or “there’s no hope for you fella”. Instead, he began to nod, never opening his eyes, and he gave me some great advice. He quietly stated, “when you’re sick, don’t you go to the doctor immediately, so as not to get sicker?”, I responded, realizing his point and acknowledging him, and then he said, “God heals all that is broken, much like a doctor heals us when we are sick, and God wants you to come to him often”. The magnitude of his statement, which he’d probably told hundreds of people, wasn’t lost on me. As a Christian man, I know I want to be with God, and I know as a point of fact, the health and purity of my soul are what’s most important. How else do we attain this purity without coming to God?
Catholics attend either weekly or daily mass, as a matter of celebration of the Eucharist, we are literally consuming the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Obviously, the bread and wine don’t look like flesh and blood as we see it, but nevertheless it is. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (CCC 1393) we see truth established as:
“Holy Communion separates us from sin. The body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion is ‘given up for us,’ and the blood we drink ‘shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins.’ For this reason, the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins:
For as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord. If we proclaim the Lord’s death, we proclaim the forgiveness of sins. If, as often as his blood is poured out, it is poured for the forgiveness of sins, I should always receive it, so that it may always forgive my sins. Because I always sin, I should always have a remedy.230
Catholics, recognize this understanding, and so the focal point of the mass is the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood to purify one’s soul to be in greater communion with God, and in the most extreme way possible, to experience his beauty and love.
Abraham Heschel, an American Rabbi, who is quoted as saying, “God is an earthquake”, made an excellent statement in the magnitude (no pun intended) of God’s presence in our lives. Peter Kreeft, points out our exposure to pure goodness should make us turn away in horror at the realization of our own ugliness as we are anything but good, only God is truly good. We’ve allowed the sickness of sin to enter our lives and we’ve done nothing to rid ourselves of this perpetual pain and misery. This is where I was at, upon listening to him talk to me, a person he’d never met, and even to this point still a person he’s never seen. Astounded, almost brought to tears at the perceptible reflection of my sin, and just how sick I was in relation to God’s goodness. Then acting as a conduit through which the Graces of God might flow unfettered, the priest stated, “your sins are forgiven”. This was all, it was like a two hundred-pound weight was lifted off my chest. The cathartic experience of expressing my sin and knowing I was forgiven was transforming for me, so much so I’m writing these words today.
The priest still never opened his eyes, and I stood up, thanked him for his charity, and walked out the confessional. I went to the nearest pew, and I prayed my penance with zeal, and upon my thoughts while I was praying was a realization of this whole world before me. This world which is filled with beauty, and if we’re willing to look hard enough and quiet ourselves long enough, we can see God in all creation. Now, I know this sentiment may sound a little mushy, but I promise, if you’re willing to give of yourself, you will have a similar experience, maybe even more intense than my own.
So, where is the ethereal doctor, God, in your life? Have you said to yourself, “well I’m not bad, I don’t do anything to hurt anyone, so all in all, I’m ok”? I’ve been there and I’ve said this very phrase to myself, more times than I care to remember. I was always deluding myself. I was only concerned with matters as they existed on the epidermal layer of life, though, whether we care to admit it or not, life is much deeper than if someone is being hurt by our actions. This is right, we don’t want to hurt anyone, but if we are so unwilling to right a wrong, because it doesn’t appear to be “hurting” anyone, then what is the ever-loving point? A point of relativism, is the worst possible scenario we could ever be in; we then become lukewarm in the presence of God, and in a most arrogant way, act as if we really don’t need him. We subvert his control, we make ourselves more powerful than him, by our dismissal of his truth.
Ok, so why did I go through this long explanation to get to my point. Let me explain, my wonderful wife this morning, sent me an article by John Rosemond Your kids should not be the most important in the family. The title is obvious to my point, and as such, makes a good discussion about our culture as we live it today. As a father, I feel like my main goal is to show my son how to be a man, and my daughters how to be women. Obviously, my wife is better at teaching them how to be women, but our children need both of us to teach them about the world, and just how they should be adults. I had a wonderful choral teacher in high school who would always say to the kids in his class “the tail doesn’t wag the dog, you will do what I say”, and I’ve often used this phrase while trying to have teachable moments with my own kids. I have from time-to-time forgotten my kids are just children, they sometimes try to act so grown up, and I must remind myself they don’t know anything in the grand scheme of life. My wife and I are their teachers, we are supposed to prepare them for whatever comes their way. I have been truly blessed in life, and have made themselves available to me and any questions I would have. I didn’t always get the answers I wanted, but they taught me, how to be a man. In this acknowledgement, I would also say, they aren’t perfect, and yet they did the best possible job any parent could ever do.
Have you ever been to a check-up and the doctor know right where to touch to send you through the ceiling? Point of view is key to understanding, what we’re dealing with in all situations. A Christian’s point of view should be one of loving extremes. An extreme, whereby the Christian, is willing to understand a person’s faults and still choose to love them, or seeing although we have great amounts of sin which surround us always, we are never alone. To have the point of view which gives us perspective, is to have the graces poured upon us such as patience, or purity. The doctor we seek is God, and his medicine is love. Love doesn’t always fix the body in the simplistic puerile way we understand the world, to be. Evil doesn’t exist because God wishes us to have a hard time in life. Evil exists because the creations of God, decided on their own accord to do as they pleased, and God in his infinite goodness allowed it, all at the same time, his heart is aching.
When we raise our kids, and we attempt to take advantage of “learning moments”, these are our best advantage to preparing the way for our kids. They are bound to walk the path alone (God will always be with them though), and will face their own struggles and their own temptations which none of us can help them prevent, other than a lesson to be, fishers of men (Matt 4:19). For them to allow times of respite and recharging, they must go to be with God, and in being with God, I simply mean to be with the Eucharist. They must pursue the graces of God, which will strengthen their faith, and their devotion will inspire others. Our inactivity and lack of effort to show thanksgiving, might show more willingness to follow the great deceiver, than anything else we do. As teachers of our kids, we must be the example, and show them what real men do, we confess, we fix what is broken, we remain strong, stoicism is a must. In our culture today, we’ve been told a man is willing to show emotion, and I would resoundingly disagree with this silly notion of what culture thinks men should be. A man should feel emotion, and should be compassionate, but a spouse, isn’t moved by a man who cries so he can show he’s an emotional guy. My wife, for example, wants to know, I’m there and when I’m there it will always get done. She can rely on me to set things straight, and knows I’m not ever going to leave. This is what a marriage is, knowing when we enter our covenant with God, it is “till death”, not when it gets too hard. Men, you must be strong, and you must be willing to cast aside those cultural dispersions of who someone else thinks it would be nice for you to be. Men must be men, we must be as hard as iron and soft as cotton as the situation permits. Love your wives with a renewed passion, consider her and see how beautiful she is. If there are those who have fallen away, be a man, suck up your pride and admit your fault to her. New beginnings can’t begin unless you tear down the misaligned structure to being anew.
Don’t wait for your situation to ever get so bad, you can repair it. Don’t let this proverbial sickness with hampers your soul to weigh you down so much and give you a sense of never ending doom. The Devil, is looking for you to feel no hope and nothing but despair, it’s then he has a real shot of corrupting your soul. God is the one who lifts you up, and God is beside you always, trust in him, talk to him, know him. Listen to the silence of God in your heart, and in doing this, you will find the medicine you need to handle any sinful sickness which you will encounter.
Your family is the second most important focus of your life, second only to God of course, so focus on them and administer those helping doses of God’s medicine (i.e. faith, hope, and love). It is your responsibility to do so, it is your charge as a husband and a father, and if you don’t want to do it, too bad, you are here except your mission, and begin to make things right. I know these might sound life some tough words, but we must be willing to accept the truth if we are going to be willing to accept eternal life in God. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!