Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Sound of Wings

In the underrated novel Julie by Ruth Babcock, the protagonist, a hardworking young architecture student from a working class background, learns invaluable life lessons while simultaneously financially supporting and trying to avoid a beautiful young woman with whom he eventually falls in love.  The book is one of my favorites because of its beautiful language, but also because it is from another era, and I love old things, sometimes a little too much more than new things, I think.  But this book -- well, you would love it too.  Because of lines like this: "And then suddenly I held Julie in my arms, and I knew it was the reason for everything in my life and the plan of it.  This was what made life fun and life earnest.  This was why buildings went up and cars ran on the streets and ships sailed the seas.  To give things to some woman.  To do all the things that never could be done, alone, for her." 

As Easter Vigil approaches, the third anniversary of my entrance into The Catholic Church, I look back on the trail of books, blogs, encyclicals, and other media of study behind me.  All to learn and know, to love what I was trying to avoid, The Church.  I have learned the lessons Chad learned in the novel: that poverty has many meanings and manifestations, that love is inexplicable except perhaps for its essential characteristic of selflessness, and that our first duty is to examine ourselves and our own sins, or as my sister would say, "Count your own change." 

Julie, you see, was a young woman raised in great wealth, until the day her father killed himself because of his financial losses, and she was left with less than nothing, and had to flee the luxury hotel in which they lived before she was chased down to pay the debt she and her father, Dudley Chartelow, had accrued there.  Chad, raised in a middle class home with very defined values, takes Julie to task for walking away from the debt.  She then explains to him, "You'd be surprised how little high-sounding phrases help" when one is in a desperate situation.  As Chad learns more and more about Julie's life before meeting him, he discovers that she lived in a different kind of poverty with Dud in the hotel: a spiritual poverty.  They were isolated; her mother had abandoned them long ago, and the only activities in their lives were shallow ones that revolved around spending money.  Julie had never learned to "do" anything; she couldn't cook, clean, even carry on a conversation with anyone other than an extremely wealthy peer.  She knew French, and ballroom dancing, but had no practical skills, and no sense of her own innate value when the money and frippery were stripped away.  Obviously her father didn't either, hence his suicide.

Chad has to learn not to judge Julie exclusively by the standards he knows.  For him, a work ethic could save anyone.  Anyone who was poor must have been so by choice.  He was working his way through architecture school and patting himself on the back for it.  When he falls in love with Julie, he realizes that marrying and raising a family with her is of more "real" value than any material goal he had previously set for himself.   

The Church has shown me these things, woven together beautifully, in its social justice teachings and moral teachings.  The dignity of the human person is absolute: it is neither reduced nor inflated by material lack or material excess.  So I have no reason to disdain the poor or be envious of the rich.  I cannot measure the cross of a highly paid executive because I don't know what that cross might be.  I cannot assume the woman on welfare is laughing as she cashes her check, because I don't know what circumstances brought her to that place.  My concern is to count my own change, both literally and figuratively.  Am I changing, evolving, converting, every single day?  Am I improving in areas of frequent temptation to sin?  Am I giving of myself?

The Church has also taught me that as I give selfless love, I should be able to receive it.  I can accept help from people who sincerely want to give it.  Pride is a sin that prevents us from accepting help that God may be using a secondary cause to send to us.  As Julie resists Chad's efforts to help her financially because she sees him as needing the money himself, we sometimes resist help from others, thinking somehow they are judging us and lording their help over us.  Help given in the pattern Christ has established for us should not make us feel this way, for there should be no judgment or condition placed on it.

That inherent and immutable dignity also informs our Church's moral teachings.  It is why we can never approve abortion, torture,  or euthanasia, or celebrate any disordered appetite.  It is why we fight human trafficking and slavery, and why we have closed rail communion, in order not to endanger the souls of those who would approach the Eucharist in a state of grave sin and, as Scripture teaches us, "condemn themselves."   

Chad attempts to describe Julie's impact on his consciousness and his perspective on existence: "I thought of Julie, Julie who loved high places.  Who wanted so few things for herself.  Who wanted most of all to do  something for me.  Who loved me. [Julie was] like a gesture upward.  Like something rising fine and clear.  Julie was like the sound of wings in my life." 

A convert is in a difficult place sometimes, trying to explain her joy and her discovery to those who remain in a life she has left behind.  How on earth to explain what is gained without making the listener feel as if you are implying that he is "below" or "behind" you?  I can only say that my theology forbids it!  I am the smallest of all; invisibility is the goal, the blending of me and Christ so complete that there is no positioning or ranking, only the Truth, the Teachings, the Tradition, the Love.  I have gone neither right nor left, nor do I look right or left.  The Church, for me, with Christ's own hand still gently but very definitely guiding Her, is the sound of wings in my life.  It is what calls me to look upward to my Father in Heaven for answers, not to my own selfish whims and capricious reasoning.  I didn't want to fall in love with this Church, this Church that urges me to count my own sins daily rather than those of my neighbor, but I couldn't resist what was planned and carried out by the Holy Spirit.  This love is irrefutable and inescapable.  One step is all that is needed, and the rest is all gravity.  Falling in love.  Falling down on my knees, and looking up to see all that ever really mattered anyway. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

To Know, Know, Know Him . . .

One of my most memorable debates with an atheist, whom I knocked down to "agnostic" in the first ten minutes, was one where my opponent said the following: "I see them in those worship concerts, waving their arms, and they look mesmerized. All those people believing the same thing just because someone told them to . . . it's just weird."  I took an Archbishop Fulton Sheen tack with this person (before I knew it was a Sheenism because this was back when I was a Protestant!), because the long way around the barn wasn't going to work.  This man was well convinced that he was too "smart" for religion. So I paused, and then said to him matter of factly:  "They seem a lot happier than you.  That bothers you."  The debate took a different turn after that.  My friend started talking about loved ones lost, and how he wanted to believe they were somewhere, but felt silly calling it "Heaven." He exposed something that he hadn't before: his fear that if he got to know God, He would have to become one of "those" Christians he had mocked and felt superior to all of his life.

The thing he missed, the thing so many miss, is that once you get there, you won't care about other people's opinions anymore.  The conversion is not always a lightning bolt.  Some conversions happen that way.  But a lot don't.  If you are an adult who was raised as a "none" or a "whatever" or "I'll let him decide when he's old enough," then you have some time to make up for.  You have to get to KNOW God.  You have to get to know about Him, and you have to get to KNOW Him.  Because to know Him is to love Him, and that's the plain truth.  But once you have that consistent, daily, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, the last thing you're going to be thinking about is public opinion.  It's going to only CONFIRM your faith in your decision when you are mocked.  You WILL be mocked, and here's the kicker . . . if you are really doing it right, you will even be mocked by other self-identifying Catholics!

Because time doesn't always equal commitment.  That's how we explain lifelong self-identifying Christians who still don't "get it."  They hate people.  They pick teachings cafeteria style.  They think Heaven is just an extension of this life and they will get there because they want to get there and they have never shot anyone in the head.  They may know the facts and figures, they may have Scripture memorized, they may even claim to be "born again!", but they don't KNOW Jesus, the living Jesus, who is there in the Eucharist EVERY DAY. 

A high school student of mine, in a personal talk with me about her Christianity, explained her home environment growing up this way: "We went to church every Sunday, and we were taught right from wrong.  But there was no presence of God in our house."  What an indictment!  She went on to explain how she never saw either of her parents watching a religious television show, talking about a homily, or reading the Bible.  They said grace before every meal, by rote, but it was a lifeless gesture that had become "vain repetition."  Only in her teen years did SHE take the matter in hand and research herself what Christianity was.  She already knew about God; her parents had seen to that.  But she didn't KNOW God.

How do you get to know someone?  Well, think about dating.  You're attracted to someone.  He has something that makes your insides flip flop.  So you want to do anything and everything you can to be around him, talk to him, walk past him, smell him, laugh with him, hear his voice, ask him questions, and generally have your two existences intersect.  You WORK to "get" him in your life.  And you know what else you do?  You work to make yourself more attractive to HIM.  You present your best self.  And then, over time, you give him the inner bits, the nuggets from your past that aren't so savory.  You share secrets.  But always, always, there is the coming together, the intersection of lives, the magnetic pull of one to the other.  You immerse yourself in him and he immerses himself in you.  

Some people are knocked off a horse and converted.  Some get a knock at the door and are converted.  But true conversion never ends.  Just like building a marriage or a relationship of any real substance and worth never ends.  There are a million opportunities in a day to come to God, to KNOW Him.  Why aren't you taking them?  Are you embarrassed that people will call you a Jesus Freak?  Are you afraid that you will be challenged on a theological point and not know the answer? If so, you are putting the cart before the horse.  

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and ALL these things will be added unto you.  Look for Him.  Call Him.  Present your best self to Him, and then present your worst self.  You'll find He loves both, because they are the same to Him.  He wants it all.  He can handle it all because He made it all!  No one knows you better, and no one ever will.  Ever feel a heavy sense of loneliness in a room full of people?  Even if those people are your own family?  That's a result of not letting the presence of God into your deepest core.  If He's there, if you know Him, the love will come, and it will be a part of you.  You will still have trouble in this life, I guarantee it, but you won't ever be alone. You won't ever feel like you're in a vacuum without love.  It can't NOT happen that way because God IS love.  All good and healthy feelings come from Him.  

I have been stunned my whole life by the number of families I meet who don't have a Bible in their house.  How do you not have a Bible in your house?  Now as a Catholic, I would ask, how do you not have a Bible and a Catechism in your house?  How are you not reading the Catechism and calling yourself Catholic?  How are you not talking to Christ daily and calling yourself a Christian?  How are you saying the Creed at Mass and then popping birth control pills? You don't trust Him; that's why.  And you don't trust Him because you don't KNOW Him.  If you knew Him, you'd know that He wouldn't tell you something untrue, something unhealthy for you.  Not possible.  He is perfection.  He is "I am."  He is Being itself.  The Universe hangs there because he sustains it and suspends it, and He wakes you up every morning why?  So you can ignore Him?  You are missing out.  You can call yourself anything you want.  I can call myself Miss America, and I can wear a sash and a crown, but the fact of the matter is, I don't know how to be Miss America.  I'm not doing what's necessary to even come close to being Miss America.  I'm just claiming a title.  That's not knowing; that's knowing ABOUT.

The most recent time I entered the Confessional, I started by looking at my priest and saying, "Not a banner week."  And then I talked to him just like I talk to Jesus.  It wasn't scary and weird like so many who are ignorant of the Sacrament of Reconciliation tell you it is, because the priest is there in persona Christi, and because you know Christ, you know that He has provided this for you.  I wasn't uncomfortable because, in fact, this was all stuff I had already covered with Jesus.  But, why not have another vehicle through which to KNOW Him?  These are the riches that brought me to The Church three years ago.  They are infinite!  There are infinite ways to get to know Him!  None of us has excuse.  And the reward is so important, so great.  Not just on earth, because you are still going to have sin, pain, suffering, embarrassment, and moments when you can't explain the reason for your hope.  You are going to disappoint and be disappointed.  But you will KNOW the One who never changes and never disappoints. And you will be able to hide under His wing.

In retrospect, what bothered my friend the atheist was not the happiness of the swarm of Christians at that concert, but that he felt he didn't even have the freedom to TRY what they had.  Free in Christ is free indeed.  There is no freedom living in a place of constant fear of embarrassment about your religious walk.  So someone calls you a zealot.  Get ready for worse.  I take them as compliments.  Jesus Freak?  Yep, you bet.  Holy Roller.  Well, not technically speaking, but sure.  I'll take it.  You can call me anything you want.  The names are like birds that circle and circle but never land, as Scripture tells me.  They fly by, just labels up in the sky.  Little sacrifices, so little.  To lose a friend?  Little.  To give up a vice?  Little. To prostrate myself before the altar and admit that I am the unworthiest of creatures without His grace? Little. Knowing Him?  Big.  Huge.  Everything.  

Because, friends, what else is there?  You tell me.  Almost forty four years and no one has ever been able to give me sufficient answer or been able to show me anything even close to the beauty and fulfillment of Jesus and His Bride, The Church. You know why? Because Jesus is who and what sits on the other side of every equal sign. He's the solution to every equation.  He's the answer to every question. There's nothing beyond Him.  

To know Him is to love Him, and I do. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet, and Watch

This is a pretty good week to be Catholic.  The Conclave is starting on March 12th; we know that now, and the reporting from EWTN has been nothing short of inspiring.  I have been so blessed by the comprehensive coverage this network has provided its viewers from our Pontiff Emeritus' announcement of retirement up to the present moment.  I'm also reading about, and hearing about (on NPR of all sources!) state level victories for the anti-abortion movement.  Even when they are likely to be squashed at the Federal level, trust me, they have the pro-aborts running scared.  Listening to NPR certainly confirms that!  

It has, sadly, been a very busy time for me in terms of intercessory prayers.  I am inundated with prayer requests on Facebook and in my "real life."  I feel the suffering and desperation in each request, and sometimes it is overwhelming. I know it is my privilege and duty to pray for everyone I encounter, those who ask and those who do not, so I do what the saints teach me to do: bring it to the foot of the Cross and join these petitions to the groans of our Savior.  I am praying for miracles for three persons with advanced, metastasized cancer. I am also praying for a family who recently lost their foundation, their wife and mom, Kristina, when she had a heart attack and brain aneurysm during the delivery of her fifth child. I continue to pray for the Faddis family, Chris and his two small children Gianna and Gus, who lost their Mama and wife Angela to cancer.  You are always welcome to join me in these prayers.

I am currently in prayer for for four atheists of varying ages.  One is a young, rebellious girl, one a man in his early thirties, one midlife, and one a very elderly man.  I pray for their souls and for some aperture to open inside of them so they can see God's light through whatever  darkness that has driven them to this lonely place where they hide from their Father.  Will you also join me in these prayers?

Germane to atheism, CINOism, and all manner of disobedience and just all around folks being LOST,  I've run of late up against an old difficulty: people's disbelief in the devil, demons, or any sort of concrete definition or manifestation of "evil."  Of course this is an expected offshoot of secularism and relativism, and I have come to expect it. If nothing is a sin, then the foe, too, the author of lies, the cheerleader of sin, has reached obsolescence.  And arguing to an atheist that there may be a demonic influence working on him is generally a dead end street, bad pun intended.  The concept of the great I Am has been reduced, in the atheist's mind, to a sky fairy, and the very real fallen angel nothing more than a character in a red unitard on a can of ham.

But we know, of course, that the foe is real.  And among the myriad ways he has of involving himself in our lives, there are four biggies that keep cropping up around me.  The title of this blog popped into my head as I was remembering the old Austin Powers movies . . . this colloquial phrase was the mnemonic Agent Powers used to remember how to make the sign of the cross: up, down, side to side, or, in his exaggerated British accent, "Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet, and Watch."  A crude way to bless oneself, to be sure, but in the context of the film it was rather charming, sort of an homage to a grown man's religious training as a school boy, and how he often comes back to that resource  when he is in imminent physical danger.

The saying got me thinking of four favorite ways that we let sin enter our lives by failing to practice custody of our senses or observe proper order.  Custody of the eyes is essential, now more than ever before, as we are daily, no, minute by minute, inundated with graphic visuals that should be private. I can't stand at the checkout line in a Midwest grocery store without seeing near-naked adults on magazine covers.  Enriching these images is usually some insipid rhetorical question like, "Do you know the sex move ninety percent of guys are afraid to ask their gals to perform?"  This is usually when I start saying a Hail Mary and praying for the state of the world. Or start considering buying a pallet of bottled water and going to  hide my family in the mountains. 

How many times does sin enter our days and nights via our eyes?  Just because two people are fighting or a child is misbehaving doesn't mean we have to stop in our tracks to eavesdrop and judge.  Just because someone chooses to dress with complete immodesty or inappropriateness does not mean we have to ogle that person.  Custody of the eyes means you avert your glance.  We need to monitor what we expose ourselves to out in public, what we watch on television, what posts we click on whilst cruising Facebook or other social media, and what movies we attend or pay for on home services.  

Another way to use your holy "spectacles" is to stop looking at things you are apt to covet.  If you find yourself obsessing on material possessions like clothing, jewelry, cars, vacation homes, and the like, stop looking at them.  Stop looking at people's photos of these material luxuries if they are an occasion of sin for you.  If you are given to the sin of envy of other people's material success, avoid exposing yourself to it.  Talk to your priest about it in the confessional for further steps to overcome that hurdle, one which is prevalent in our consumerist society.  

Related to custody of the eyes, especially in terms of lust, are, as Mark Shea famously terms them, "groin pieties." By this we mean the long and varied buffet of sexual goodies that we are tempted to take a tiny plate of every day.  Oh how old Fault Face loves to tempt us in the sexual realm.  We can be convinced, by media and academic indoctrination, that any sexual behavior that makes us feel good, makes us "happy,"  (read: makes our bodies react) is okie dokie.  More bad decisions have been made, more innocence lost,  more marriages snuffed out, more women's lives ruined, more babies killed, because of the misuse of the gift of sexual intercourse than any other force I can think of, including poverty.  

But poverty is next in my discussion, so you who hold your wallets closed with a rubberband and snort at the notion of giving to the poor are by no means off the hook.  The devil loves to watch us hoard our money and possessions.  The more we collect on this earth, the more we feel at home here.  Then we forget our real home in Heaven!  We make it so easy for the devil, don't we?  If this world is full of bank balances, beeping electronic equipment, and fatty restaurant food, why would anyone want to leave it to go to the Heaven described in the Bible?  Leave all of this debauchery and gluttony to sing Psalms of praise all day?  Satan would love it if you would see it that way.  Don't let him fool you.  Don't let the television shows where preparation of food is shot so close by the camera that you can see the dimples on an orange mesmerize you for sixty minutes.  It's like food pornography!  These are physical pleasures, meant to sustain us, yes, and to be enjoyed, but not to be obsessed upon, not to fill up all of our time while we neglect prayer and spiritual reading.  Trust me when I tell you that the latter will fill you with greater satisfaction and there are NO negative side effects.  You can read all the Thomas Aquinas you want and you won't gain a pound. 

The last symbol, the watch, is maybe the most meaningful, at least for me.  As you know from reading my writing before on The Catholic Revolver or watching my conversion story on Journey Home, I lost my mom to ovarian cancer when she was only 64 years old and I was the 37 year old mom of a toddler.  Nothing prepares you for the void, the palpable absence, of the single person who was positive that you were a miracle.  My mom was not only a nurturer, she was my confidante and, as it turns out, possibly my co-dependent.  

The foe loves for us to waste our time on selfish pursuits while we ignore those we love.  We become keenly aware of this when a loved one dies.  No matter how much time we have to ready ourselves, no matter how many times we express our gratitude and love to these people while they are ill, it is never enough if we look back and recall days when they wanted only a sliver of our time and we couldn't spare it.  

My mom had a habit of calling me on the phone at the exact moment I would walk in the door after work.  She knew my schedule very well, so she knew when to call almost to the minute.  Now, I had been teaching high school English all day, and I needed to unwind.  I wanted to clean my house, change my clothes, have a snack, maybe a cup of coffee, watch a television show.  My mom, conversely, had been home all day, waiting to talk to me.  She had no job, no hobbies, no volunteer work, and no kids left to raise.  She would want to summarize a magazine article she read, or worse yet (for me in my selfish mind), read me the article verbatim over the phone.  Or she would hit me with a series of questions about my day that were better suited to an interrogation room.  My poor Mom was bored.  She had dedicated her life to being a mother, and she didn't want to retire from that job.  So every aspect of my life was fascinating to her. That I didn't feel like reliving it on the phone the second I got in the door was reasonable, perhaps, but that regret sits within me to this day.  What I wouldn't give for one more chance to hear that phone ring.  I would listen to her read the phone book if I could; that's how much I miss that Mommy of mine.  The lesson here is pretty clear: don't let the sin of selfishness with your time permanently scar your relationships.  

Time is precious.  Money is necessary and nice to have.  Sex feels good.  God made it, so he knows! A wandering eye feels natural , like free exploration of our environment.  But these are the doors through which the enemy saunters into our lives, like he's strolling into a cocktail party, casual, not making a big ruckus, no alarms ringing.  We don't even notice.  Because we've seen him at everybody else's party, too.  

It's always a good time to be Catholic, because we are the recipients of a most generous God who has left us a Church full of literal and figurative treasures.  Books, Sacraments, sacramentals, priests, encouraging and like-minded friends, websites, blogs, television shows, and charitable causes for us to feel great satisfaction in giving our talents to when we are so inclined.

Catholicism is a party to which everyone is invited, and you don't have to bring a thing but your willingness to enjoy Christ's hospitality.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Who's your Barabbas?

Freedom of choice is a treasured concept in 2013.  We have bastardized and shrunk it, extrapolated it and expanded it.  We have come to the point where the thing you have chosen is irrelevant, so long as you have chosen it.  It's the idea of choosing itself that we're high on -- this is why we see people choosing silly, unnatural, and unhealthy things and them trumpeting them.  We have become a nation of the kids in the back of the room, bored, jaded and unappreciative of our teachers and fellow students, only stimulated by the occasional choice to shock the class by throwing a spitball or openly using profanity. Our overfed ennui has had a nasty side effect: we have fetishized free will, so instead of celebrating our ability to freely choose God's perfect law and delight therein, we mourn the oppressive nature of religion and tradition and cheer for choices that natural law teaches us are perilous or simply a waste of our precious time.

A choice that makes my hackles rise no matter how many times I read it in Scripture or see it dramatized on the stage or screen is the choice made by the crowd facing Pontius Pilate.  Every time I see it is like the first time.  How can they choose to free Barabbas?  As a little girl in my small Lutheran school, I would stare at the simple line illustration in my Good News Bible.  There depicted  was the crowd cheering "Free Barabbas!" and there was poor Jesus, the right choice that the majority didn't make.  I would reflect on it and speak to Him in my own heart, "I would have yelled out for you, Jesus!  Free Jesus!"  The thought of my Savior tortured and killed was heartbreaking to me.  If only they had all made the right choice.  That was a child's understanding of theology.  I didn't understand the "happy fault" that caused the fall. I didn't understand that Barabbas had to be freed for Jesus to pay my debt.  That discernment would come later.

Still, today, I weave those past threads into the tapestry of our modern mindset.  Who is your Barabbas?  What or whom are you choosing over Jesus?  Who is my Barabbas?  It isn't comfortable to face that little parochial school girl in my mind's eye and tell her, "Hon, you are whipping Him, too."  But the fact is that with every sin of omission, every moment of vanity, every morsel of gossip eagerly taken into my ear, every dollar spent on myself that could have gone to save someone's life, I am disobeying Him, and I am choosing Barabbas.  The trick I play on myself is to say, "Just for this one time, I'll choose Barabbas.  I'll choose Jesus tomorrow."  

Every time we consciously sin, we instantly formulate a rationalizing narrative.  We must set up this story so that we can go ahead with our sinful act.  I make this sinful choice in this moment, but I still love Jesus yesterday, today, and forever!  Oh, what fools we mortals be.  We really think somehow Jesus will pencil whip that sin right off of our records.  We take such advantage of His grace, watching and listening to, paying money for and speaking things He took the whip for, sins He bled for.  But we wear the Christian cross, and think that talisman makes us different from the crowds who chose Barabbas.  We think the crucifixion happened already; it's done.  The magic has been worked, the debt paid, so we have some latitude because He loves us so very much.  He paid it all, so we can have our little sins and our big sins, and still come home and pray to Him with a straight face.  

I think of the expression I used to use with my high school students when one of them would let a curse word slip out in class. "You kiss your mother with that mouth?"  Now the question has taken on a new significance for me. I have been trying with varying success to make all of my written and spoken language during Lent positive and pure.  I have attempted to fast complaining, gossip, sarcasm, and any words that do not edify or would not please our Lord.  I have had banner days and then I have had days where forty five minutes in I have felt my neck burn in shame at something I've uttered.  Oh, Lord, guard the door of my lips.  This is a Psalm I repeat often.  My words are reality.  The recipient could be changed by them.  Lord, let them be pleasing to you!  Do not let me abuse my free will to speak and write in ways that belittle others, that shrink from sharing your Truth, that elevate me at another's expense.  Because, since my conversion, I kiss my Mother with this mouth.  I approach the Blessed Virgin with this mouth in prayer, gaze at her with these eyes.  Can I let them fall also on sinful images? On a television show or magazine advertisement that I would not "choose" if Jesus or His beautiful Mother and mine were seated beside me?

Working my way through Lent has been painful, exacerbated by not feeling well, and by mourning the loss of the Pope under whom I converted three years ago.  Conversely, it has also been a Lent of great intimacy with Jesus and Mary.  I have been relying more on the saints, new saints, unfamiliar ones.  I have been talking to the Holy Spirit.  I have been reaching out to touch my Guardian Angel.  All of these movements in the dark create pinholes of light.  Eventually I have reason to hope that they will come together to form THE light, the one in whom I can bask eternally.  To see the face of Jesus, to tell Him, "I choose you over all else," that is my primary and overriding goal and dream.  That is my aspiration and motivator.  

So who or what is your Barabbas?  What are you setting free into your life that is handing Jesus over to Pilate to die?  Every single day we are in the crowd.  Every day we have free will, the freedom to choose.  Let's help each other to choose life, love, purity, generosity, smallness, humility, cheerfulness, encouragement.  Let's not undo the chains and free the criminals of jealousy, unrest, profanity, lust, Schadenfreude, gossip, gluttony, pettiness, pride.  

Identify your Barabbas, and then turn your back on him.  Then look at the sweet face of our Jesus and say, "I choose you this day and for the rest of my life."