Friday, October 19, 2018

What does God dole out? Love!

I was sitting in my car with my grandson counting dinosaurs and school buses (no, the dinosaurs were not riding in the buses, but who's to say they couldn’t have been?)

Anyway, I had brought along a little snack with me just in case our wait became longer than I expected.  A nutritionist told us about these healthy bars called LARA bars.  They only have a few, natural ingredients in them.  I am okay with them, but the rest of my family is not exactly on board.

So, I pulled out a peanut butter/chocolate chip LARA bar (doesn’t that sound good?) and offered my grandson the “cookie.”  I tore off a piece and he took a bite.  The look on his face was priceless.  I actually had to tell him to swallow it.

He scrunched up his nose, swallowed it, and shook his head as he said “no,” and handed me the other half of his bite.  Shoot.  I think I can safely say I have officially lost the LARA bar battle when a 3 ½ year old turns down peanut butter and chocolate chip.  You just can’t fool kids.

Well, sometimes you can.  

Years ago, when our oldest daughter was very young, we passed over the little creek down the road from our house.  I told her that the road had a drawbridge that had to be raised when boats came down the creek.  I thought it was pretty funny, even though it probably didn’t really fool her.  But it sure was fun trying.  

Isn’t it a parent’s right to have a little fun sometimes?

We joke about God, our Father, having a sense of humor, but I don’t think he works quite like we do.  I suppose that is an important distinction to make.  Too often, we attribute things to God that we shouldn’t.

For instance, years ago a priest helped me develop a sound perspective on things like natural disasters.  I never understood—even thought it sort of mean—when someone would go on the news and say, “God saved my house,” while they were standing next to the rubble that contained the remains of their neighbor’s house.

Does God work like that?  Does he “play favorites” among his children?

The fact is, we live in a natural, physical world, where tornadoes and hurricanes happen.  As part of this natural force of nature, tragedy strikes.  A loving God, while allowing things to happen, doesn’t make plays like pieces on a chessboard.  He just doesn’t work like that.

Father Raniero Cantalamessa (the preacher to the papal household) said in a Good Friday homily in 2011:

““Earthquakes, hurricanes and other disasters that hit guilty and innocent alike are never a punishment from God. . . . To say otherwise means offending God and man.”

A God like that could almost seem vindictive, and there is no room for spite in a loving God.  An undeveloped understanding of God can cause people to lose their faith when they inappropriately attribute tragedy in their lives to God.  Or, maybe even more common, when their prayers are not answered according to their desires.

It simply cannot be said enough—God loves us, tremendously. He extends his hand of mercy in the sacraments and blesses us as his children.

What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? Or hand him a LARA bar when he wants a cookie?”  Luke 11:11

Okay, maybe that last part was me, but you get the point.

Janet Cassidy

Monday, October 15, 2018

Looking for Peace?

When we were in the patient room waiting for the doctor to come in, I observed an electronic monitor on the wall.  It was giving a variety of information intermixed with an “inspirational” quote.  

It said:

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”

What is your first thought when you read this quote?  Are you nodding your head in agreement?  Don’t feel bad if you are; you are probably not alone, and there’s a reason why.

I am kind of a big quote person.  Lines jump out at me.  My phone is full of quotes that I wish I could keep in my head.  But this one, in the doctor’s office, stood out for a different reason.

My first instinct is to recoil when I read something like this. 


Well, I know that we make many personal decisions on a daily basis that collectively impact peace in our lives, but I also believe that God is the one in whom I ultimately find peace.  

To me, this quote smacked of individualism and immediately gave me the impression that it was implying a lack of need for God.  It seems to be saying that I, alone, can attain peace for myself, thank you very much.

Due to my inquisitive nature, I just couldn’t let it be (besides, we had a few minutes before the doctor was due.)

Looking up the author of the quote, Ralph Waldo Emerson, I learned that he went from Christianity to Transcendentalism.  Apparently, his belief system erred on extreme self-reliance, which confirmed my initial thoughts about the quote. 

Anyway, a discussion about Emerson is not really my intention here.  More to the point is my concern that seemingly innocuous “inspirations” like this probably come at us multiple times a day, causing us to absorb vague concepts about faith and religion, or confirming others we have accepted, without us even paying them much attention. 

How many other people really thought about that quote in the doctor’s office?  I would guess, not too many, and likely not even the person who designed the “ad” itself.  

It reminds me of when my husband, years ago, raised a point about John Lennon’s song Imagine.  I’ve always liked that song and never thought too much about the lyrics, until my husband brought the lyrics to the attention of a Catholic hospital that was going to use it for a promotion.

He suggested that they look closely at the lyrics and consider whether they really wanted to use a song that begins with “Imagine there’s no heaven.”  I know there’s a bit of a discussion about what Lennon meant, but still.

The truth is, we do absorb a lot from our surroundings, without even realizing it. Front and center in a culture that too often adopts ideas without thinking lies the concern that subtle reinforcement of things like this slowly moves us further into a state of ignorance.  I liken it to the frog in the pot that does not realize it is being cooked to death because the heat is being slowly raised.

Now I realize that whatever company put the Emerson quote on their monitor probably figured they were just putting a nice thought, a relaxing idea out there for a patient to read.  If you nodded in agreement with the quote, that might explain its appeal.

They probably didn’t think about Emerson and his radical ideas about religion.  Admittedly, I am not imagining there was some ulterior motive, but that’s my point.

Someone probably put it there without thinking about what it really says about individualism, God and where our peace ultimately lies. They picked up the quote and decided to use it, probably oblivious to the fact that they were reinforcing a man’s particular philosophy.

We don’t want to be like the frog in the pot.  It is important for us to pay attention to these seemingly trivial things, lest we one day find ourselves looking for peace in all the wrong places.

Janet Cassidy

Friday, October 12, 2018

What Do Young People Think about God?

Wow!  I have been following Bishop Robert Barron's month-long participation in a synod (gathering) of the Church on young people.

Here is a link to his videos, but scroll down to the one that says Word On Fire--Youth Interviews.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Have a blessed weekend!

Janet Cassidy