Wednesday, April 20, 2011

We Are the Deadliest Catch

Over the last several years, one of my favorite television shows has been "Deadliest Catch" on The Discovery Channel.  The show follows crab fisherman in the Bearing Sea as they venture out to catch king crab and opelio crap while overcoming all of the hurdles that come their way.  They face twenty-five foot waves, bad weather, ice, snow, long hours, little sleep and possible death in order to drop "pots" into the sea and come back later hoping that the pots are stuffed with crab.and see what they have caught.  Sometimes they come up empty and sometimes they come up filled in crab.  The funny thing about the show is that I really do not know why I watch it much less become entranced in it.  There is only so much of dropping the pots and retrieving the pots that one would think would be enjoyable.  It doesn't matter, I'll sit there watching and hoping that the crew members of the Time Bandit come up big, or worrying about Phil, the captain on the Cornelia Marie--even though I know what happens to him.  I'm riveted by the bickering of Sig and his brother, Edgar, on the Northwestern.

There is a more important Deadliest Catch though and one that we should remember on this Holy Week.  Jesus gave up His life, just like many fishermen in the Bearing Sea have given up their life but for a more precious catch than crab.  He gave up His life to save the souls of human beings.   In order to reunite us with Him, Jesus sacrificed Himself.  He went through worse torture than the brave men go through up in Alaska.  He was scourged, beaten and hung on a tree all so that he could "catch us."

God must feel like a fisherman sometimes.  He must have periods of excitement when the "catch" is bountiful and periods of frustration when the pot comes up empty.   You see, God can put out the bait, but we still have free will and it's up for us to take the bait and to crawl into that cage in order to be pulled up and to be reunited with him.  We can, and quite often do, chose to take the wide path outside the cage instead of the narrow path that leads us inside to salvation.

I might remind you that we are also called to be "fishers of men."  We are are called to go out into the world--which can be scarier than the Bearing Sea--and to capture souls and help others to find Jesus.  It's not an easy task and it's quite possible that we may have to put our life on the line in order to save souls.   The reward is much greater than a boat full of crab.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cuffed and Shackled

One of the reasons that many people do not like religion is because there are too many "rules."  They do not like being told what they can do or cannot do.  They do not like being told that what they are doing is a sin.  They want the "freedom" do do what they want to do.

The truth of the matter is that true freedom comes from being free from sin and not having those tendencies to want to sin.   True freedom comes from wanting to be with God more than anything and not having those urges to sin.  We are actually chained and shackled by sin.  Don't believe me?  Think of a sin that you are often guilty of and then think about how difficult it is not to commit that sin.  Then think of a sin that you do not have the tendency to commit and think how how easy it is not to commit that sin.

For instance, take the sin of lust.  Lust is something that pulls many people down. Evidence of this is that sex is all around us.  Temptation to lust is everywhere.   It's very difficult for many people to escape from and very difficult for some people not to commit the sin of lust.  

Now take the sin of murder.  True, there is violence every where too.  Violence is on television or in video games.  But not many people have the overwhelming urge to murder someone.  It's safe to say that most people are free of that sin.

Only God gives us true freedom.  Sure, He tells us what is right and wrong.  He gives us the truth.  But we are free to choose.  It's sin and the tendency to truly restrains us.   We can break those shackles of sin though.  Through God's grace we are always able to break free from sin and be with Him.  The problem is that it is not easy for us.  The first thing is often having the WANT to break free from those sins.  We, as humans, often choose to be handcuffed and shackled and to be in a state sin because it's what we are experienced with.  It's what we think is normal.  It's what society tells us is right.

Often times, we would rather wear those chains because of the fear of being free of them.  It is with God's grace that we are able to break those chains but God's grace seems like a hammer and chisel hitting upon those restraints.  As much as we want to be free, we are afraid of the pain that is we are going to have to go through in order to be set free.

So we choose to keep them on.  We lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that it's better to keep them on.  It's better to live this way than to live without that sin that we enjoy.  Nothing is more further from the truth but we choose the path to self destruction way more often than not.  We find it's easier to be shackled down than it is to experience true freedom.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Friend I Strive to Be

I am a pain in the rear.  I'll admit it.  I would hate to be my mom, my sister, my wife, my kids or my friend.  I tend to put them all on a pedestal.   The problem is when you put someone on a pedestal you start to expect a lot from them.   And then when they aren't what you expect from them you become frustrated.  You wonder to yourself how they could have messed up.  You wonder how they could have let you down.

Yeah, I realize they are human.  I know they have faults.  I realize they are human.  But I still tend to ponder why they didn't say what you needed to hear, do what I wanted them to do, call when I need them to call or be there when I needed them to be there.  They know me so well and I'm so easy to please, why couldn't they do that?  (Right now, my mom, my sister, my wife, kids and friends are laughing out loud)  After all, I only expect perfection out of them and expect them to do whatever makes me happy.  Alas, as I've been told, "It's not all about me."

Here is how much of an idiot I am.  I've gotten so frustrates lately and God hit me with a 2x4 in prayer one night.  He made me realize that only one person is there for me whenever I want them to be. Only one person is ready to hear my problems whenever I want to vent on them.  Only one person can give me the love that I truly strive for.  And I keep turning away from Him.   Yeah.   Only God can fill that perfect relationship that I am searching for in life and I keep turning Him down.

You see, just as I ask too much of my friends, spouse, kids, mom and sister, He asks too much of me.  Just like I'm looking for perfection out of them, He is asking for perfection out of me and I'm just not really sure I want to give Him what He is asking for.  Why?  Well, frankly because it scares the tar out of me.   I can't do that.  I can't be perfect and more importantly--I can't do whatever I want.

In reality though, He doesn't ask too much.  If I step back and realize that everything I have is a gift from him then I should offer Him everything I have in return.  If I realize that he wants perfection from me so that I can be closer to Him then I should strive for it too.  If I realize that he is inviting me to make these sacrifices so He can work through me so that I can draw my mother, my sister, my wife, my kids and my friends to Him then I should be anything and everything I can to be what He wants me to be.

Yeah, the closest people in my life are not perfect.  But neither am I.  Through it all, I know that Jesus is right next to me, helping me to succeed, helping to pull me up and being the friend that I strive to be.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Of Baseball and Lent

As a Catholic and as a Kansas City Royals fan, this is my favorite time of year.    As a Catholic, we are smack dab in the middle of lent---a season of penance and spiritual repair.  As a Royals fan, we are a week into a new year of baseball--a time of year where every team is still in contention.  Both are a period of setting goals and having high hopes.

I realize that most Catholics probably do not think that lent is a great time of year.  It is a penitential time. It's a time for reflection on how we have strayed away from God and trying to make amends.  We wear ash on our foreheads.  The church is decorated with rocks and dead trees.  We fast.  We abstain.  We go to reconciliation (although you CAN go more than once a year you know).  We don't say or sing "alleluia."   We prepare for the Easter season which is the season of new life.   That's when we should rejoice.  Right?

Let me explain.   I am pretty undisciplined.  Yeah, it's true.  I tend to get excited about self improvement and work hard at it.  But unless, I have someone to keep me in check, I tend to backslide and go back to being "Jamie."  Different things may trigger my renewal and excitement about improving.  It may be seeing myself in the mirror and realizing that I've been slacking at watching what I eat and going CrossFit.  It may be a "meeting" with my captain who is giving me a critique (also known in some circles as a "butt chewing.")  It may be getting hit upside the head with a 2 x 4 by a friend.  And many times, in my spiritual life---it's lent.

Lent is the church hitting me with a spiritual 2 x 4 and reminding me that I've gone off of the path and  need to get back on it.  It's a time of year when you feel like you can just jump back into the spiritual pond.  Now granted---hopefully we do this more than once a year.  That's why going to reconciliation at least once of month is a good thing---and something I NEED.  But for me, lent is a great time of year to REALLY reinvent myself.

Which brings me to the beginning of baseball season.  I am a life long Royals fan.  The Royals won the World Series in 1985 and have not been back to the playoffs since.  They really have not even been competitive for at least the last 15 years and many of those years they have down right stunk.  But it never fails.   Every year there is spring training and every year the season starts anew.  And every year I get suckered in and have expectations that they will be an improvement over last year.  I have hope!  Only to have my hopes dashed by Memorial Day.  

This year was going to be different though.  I went into this season realizing that the team hasn't made any great improvements and all of our hopes and dreams are in the minor leagues and I need to be looking towards 2012 and beyond (Baseball America has rated the Royals minor league system the best in the major leagues)   And wouldn't you know it.  They are off to a good start.  They are 4-2 and have a lot of spunk in them.  They won their last four games in walk off fashion--scoring in their last at bat.  Two of the victories came in extra innings.  And their loss today went to twelve innings.  Once again-----I have hope.  I think . . . maybe we will see some improvement this year!  We will see.  More than likely I'll look forward to September call ups and hope that that Yankees and Cardinals fall on their face and miss the play offs.

Seasons are good to the spiritual life.  In Lent, I am given a chance to look at where I am in my spiritual life.  It's a time to see if I'm on course and where I need to fine tune some things. Or if I am way off course it is a time to get my act straight.  And I do that by reflection, penance and rededicating myself to prayer and alms giving.

That sense of hope and excitement that I have towards the Royals is important to have in the spiritual life also.    You can't look at the past and get down on all of the 100 loss seasons, pondering if your team will ever finish a season over .500 much less if they will ever make the play offs again.  You can't recall all of the bumbling and dumb things you've seen on the field and in the front office.  You also can't get down and think back to all the sins you have committed and the time you've wasted pondering if you'll ever make it to confession without having to list that ONE sin that you continually have to repeat much less if you'll ever make it you heaven.  You can't recall all of the bumbling and dumb things you've done.

No, you have to have hope.  You're team may be filled with players that no one else wanted and it looks like another 100 loss seasons.  You may be filled with temptations and desires and it looks like you'll surely be in the confessional again soon.   But the grace of God is better than money (which is what the Yankees used to buy themselves 27 world championships) and God is there to help you find victory because all he wants you to do is to hit it out of the park.