And the winner is…

“If one does away with the fact of the Resurrection, one also does away with the Cross,
for both stand and fall together,
and one would then have to find a new center for the whole message of the gospel.
What would come to occupy this center is at best a mild father-god who is not
affected by the terrible injustice in the world,
or man in his morality and hope who must take care of his own redemption.”

Hans Urs Von Balthasar, The Cross For Us


(empty tomb image courtesy the web)

The hype has been rising to an unbridled level of hysteria—
with the grand and glamorous culmination reaching a deafening crescendo.

Flashing lights and snapping cameras…

The Oooos and ahhhs ripple along the magical red carpet.

Glittery, showy and dazzling
or
Empty, shallow and fleeting…

All breath is held at the utterance of the enchanted phrase…
‘And the winner is…”

All of us who so choose to believe…

There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us.
There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered.
There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us,
and does not now bear with us. And on the far side of every cross,
we find the newness of life in the Holy Spirit,
that new life which will reach its fulfilment in the resurrection.
This is our faith. This is our witness before the world.

St. John Paul II

“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown.
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice.
Christ is risen, and life reigns.
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages.”

St. John Chrysostom,

a humble heart

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.
Saint Augustine

“It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment.”

St.Bernard

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(a humble snail near the Cliffs of Mohr / Country Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s hard balancing a humble spirit when one is living in the land of the free and home of the brave…
Whose fighting force boasts “the few, the proud, the marines”…
We are accustomed to being a world power, a superpower, a leader among nations…
When others run away, we rush in….
We are stivers, fighters, winners.
If we’re ever knocked down, we get back up.
We love those come from behind stories of triumph.
We are like the cream, always rising to the top.
We prefer being accomplished, polished, knowledgeable as well as rough, tough and scrappy…

That’s just how we are and we like it that way.

Yet at times we forget that we are not the be all to end all.
We forget that we have come to and by this rather lofty position of ours by hard work, toil, suffering, bruising and bleeding by digging our way out from under plight, oppression, depression, aggression…doing battle——battles we have considered as necessary, right and just within our purist of freedom for all.

We speak of unalienable (or inalienable depending on what you’re reading) rights given to us by the Creator–meaning that such “rights” cannot be taken away as they have been pre and hard wired within our being as human beings, granted to us at time of “creation” by the Creator. A Creator we now no longer have much time to listen to let alone give any sort or credit or credence to…

Some of us see that from time to time it can be hard to remain humble of heart and spirit when we’re accustomed to being large and in charge. Sometimes arrogance slips in along with haughtiness.
As we grow proud over and by our accomplishments and endeavors, we tend to gloat and boast more than we should. We pride ourselves in our self-efficiency, our knowledge and in our very “freedoms.”

Yet I fear we lose sight of our humble beginnings.
We begin to take things both tangible and intrinsic for granted.
We puff up our chests while resting on the laurels of our predecessors–forgetting that it could all be taken away tomorrow, or today…leaving us where we started, with little to nothing to call our own.

We assume perhaps more than we should.
Many of us have forgotten what it is to “go without”
We place our actors, sports figures, entertainers, politicians, successful entrepreneurs, slick talking religious leaders and leading officials in the limelight and up on pedestals, touting them as heroes–forgetting what a hero actually is and that these individuals are merely fallible human beings as we seem to sickly marvel and oddly enjoy watching them fall. Funny how that is with human beings.

Yet we continue to yearn and covet what it would be to “be like them” for we too want to be in the limelight and one of the “beautiful people” as we want the glitz, the glitter, the money the success—as we rationalize that we would handle all of the “pressure” of being famous far better, not allowing it to go to our heads while giving “x amount” to charity…

How many of us rationalize that if God would just let us when the lottery, we’d be so good with the winnings by giving a designated share to charity, we’d remain just a plain and simple are we are…yet deep down, we feel as if it would be the money, the abundance of which, which would make our lives so much easier and better…and perhaps for a while it would as we would set off in the pursuit of paying off only to obtain and to have…new cars, new homes, new vacations, new clothes…

We must be mindful that there are those around this planet of ours who don’t rationalize about winning a lottery…rather they dream of escaping their lot in life and fleeing to America because that is the land of freedom and of choice and of abundance and of safety…

It’s all a matter of perspective I suppose…

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(seagull rest on the head of a statue / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

And yet it is those voices of ancient wisdom and those voices of the past— those who were able to see through the haze of brilliance, pride and self efficacy–who understand that it is the humble heart which is the true attainable goal.

Being able to yield to the one who is always Greater–as we are the ones who are finite and it is He who is the infinite.

I fear we have lost sight of our own humility of being as we have forgotten that it was the king of Kings whose birth was predestined to take place in a lowly stable, of lowly parents in a small and lowly village of insignificance. . .seems this humility business is not an underlying theme by random chance.

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 28-29

Often all it takes in order to knock one down a notch or two is for a bird to rest over or simply fly over ones head, doing what birds do– reminding one of one’s place in life…as the birds neither discern or discriminate as to whom is better than another–

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(a seagull surveys the city of Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

These feet were made for Love

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We live in a society that is obsessed with the pursuit of perpetual youth and beauty. We spend thousands of dollars for things to make us have less wrinkles, less brown spots, less pounds, less grey, more hair, bigger eyes, brighter smiles, longer nails, prettier nails, prettier toes, less sags, less bags…. that list goes on and on into the next list of the thousands of dollars spent on cosmetic treatments— the cosmetic augmentation, not because of a medical need such as a breast reconstruction due to a battle with cancer, but rather simply because we want to look prettier, handsomer, lighter, thinner, taller, younger……lift the eyes, the boobs, the butt, the stomach, fill in the lips, the cheeks, the calves, add the hair, smooth out the wrinkles—on and on it goes….It makes me wonder if any one is happy with themselves?

I wish things like all of that didn’t matter. I think it would make all of our lives better; we’d probably be happier and a little wealthier as we wouldn’t be throwing money to the pursuit of glamour and youth. Our society is so obsessed with the physical attributes of a person that we sometimes forget about the internal attributes—the quality of the soul and of a life well lived. Turn on any television and the reality shows, the “entertainment” news (I use the word news very loosely here), and our obsession with the Hollywood who’s who and who wore what and how did they look and oh my how they’ve gained weight…

When I was in the classroom, I kept a copy of this photograph on my classroom door. Adults are bad enough fretting over the glitzy and the glamorous—adolescents have a doubly difficult time dealing with the whole issue of the “image of self.” If you don’t understand that ask any kid who struggles with anorexia, bulimia, cutting, addictions and suicidal goals.

The photo I placed on my door was backed with a simple black sheet of mat board. I had written on the mat “these feet never complained—they just kept moving in the name of Love”
I can’t take credit for the photograph as it comes for a most wonderful book:
Works of Love are Works of Peace
Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the
Missionaries of Charity

A Photographic Record by Michael Collopy

As the kids would walk in and out of class, or the multitude of other kids just walking down the hall, many would stop to look at the picture. They stopped because the image is somewhat troubling. Teenagers aren’t the best equipped when it comes to tact—they tend to be brutally honest in their observations—there were a lot of “ooo, gross”, “man, those are some sorry looking feet”, and then there are a few things I can’t repeat (or I choose not to repeat). Many of the kids did not recognize the iconic striped white tunic. I don’t think if the image was in color, bearing the lovely blue of the stripe, that many would still recognize whom it was. That was where I came in–offering a simple answer.

The kids would ask whose feet. When I told them, that pretty much answered what I knew to be their next question…why would I have a picture of such “ugly” feet up on my door? All I had to say was “oh, those feet you ask…those are Mother Teresa’s feet.” That pretty much answered everything else. Mother Teresa is good that way.

She was 85 when that picture was taken. They are the feet of someone who didn’t care about the shiny nail polish or the latest pedicure. Nor was there any concern for the latest designer pair of shoes. There wasn’t time for such frivolous things when there were people hungry and dying that needed tending to.

I’m certain by the end of each day, Mother Teresa’s feet hurt. I’m certain that as she got up each morning and took that first step, there was pain. But in Mother Teresa’s world there simply wasn’t time to worry or bother with aching feet. She had to be about the important tasks of each new day—and that was tending to the basic needs of other human beings. No worries over fancy new shoes, no worries with whiter teeth, no worries about lifting things that are sagging or coloring things turning grey…nope, just the tending to people who are hungry, lonely, sick, dying, scared…

Maybe we’d be better off if we thought like Mother Teresa. I kind of think we would be, and maybe happier too.