Unlikely Friendships

Unlikely Friendships

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia were good friends.

In a world where rational discussion and respectful dissent is viewed as semi-impossible, these two Supreme Court justices demonstrated how it could work.  They didn’t simply clash over minute details: one could say they had almost fundamentally different views of the law and that translated into different worldviews.

My friendship with Judge, later Justice, Scalia was sometimes regarded as puzzling, because we followed distinctly different approaches to the interpretation of legal texts.  But in our years together on the D.C. Circuit, there was nothing strange about our fondness for each other.

Scalia Speaks Foreword by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Despite differences in opinion, they were able to have a genuine appreciation for each other.  In several sources, Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks of Antonin Scalia’s wit, grand presence, and shopping skills.  I don’t believe she is merely coming up with things to speak about for the sake of maintaining some public reputation of a friendship.  It has all the hallmarks of genuine sincerity–as evidenced by Ginsburg speaking at a memorial for Scalia following his death.

The friendship they share is significant to me because I, too, share a similarly surprising friendship.  Of my friends from elementary and high school, there are only a few with whom I keep up.  (Keep up is used rather loosely because I’m not really known for excellent communication where distance is concerned.)  Melissa was a close friend in high school and yet, in the years since, I think the friendship has deepened, though we speak infrequently.  Our friendship was born of mutual interests of theater, classes, and a desire to learn.  As the two ladies in calculus, we forged a deeper bond from confusion and frustration with the class.  Many of my memories from high school involve Melissa, whether it be laughter we shared, scenes she caused, or stories we told. Continue reading “Unlikely Friendships”

Unrestricted Access to My Heart

Unrestricted Access to My Heart

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

Mark 10:21

It is because Jesus loves this young man that He challenges him.  By many standards, this man has done all that he has been asked to do.  He has kept the law since his earliest days.  Yet, he comes to Jesus to ask what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Either he wants to be affirmed in how excellently he has kept the law or he feels there is something more to which he is called.

Jesus looks at him with that gaze that pierces through the heart and is filled with a great love for this young man.  The authenticity of His love compels Him to call the young man to something greater.  Jesus tells the young man to put aside everything of this world and to follow Him.  It is out of love that He invites the young man to run with reckless abandon in the race for Heaven.

Yet the man leaves saddened.  Though he follows the law, he is unwilling to set aside everything for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus issues His challenges out of love, but they vary based on the person.  Some He invites to follow Him and they cannot, refusing to leave behind possessions or family.  Others long to follow Him and He tells them to remain home, sharing the Good News among their own people.  When it comes to living in God’s will, there seems to be no one-size-fits-all approach for the Lord.  His will is customized to the individual and it often seems to be contrary to what we want.

This is why the life of contemplation is the boldest and most adventuresome of undertakings, for what could be more radical, more truly earth-shattering, than the willingness to be dismantled and created anew, not once or twice in a lifetime, but day after day?

The Way of the Disciple, Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis

He is not satisfied by things done half-way.  Our souls, though we may attempt it often enough, cannot be half His.  The young man wanted to comfortably follow the law and yet Jesus calls him to a life he did not expect.  Sell everything?  Why?  Where is that in the law? 

While I may be tempted to mentally chastise the young man (Jesus was asking you to follow Him!  How could you not?!), I must admit that I am he. Continue reading “Unrestricted Access to My Heart”

Bold Claims

Bold Claims

The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings. (Gaudium et Spes, 45)

Christianity makes shockingly bold claims.  It does this because Christ made bold claims.  If the Gospel message that you have heard doesn’t ruffle feathers or irk people, then it isn’t the same Gospel that Jesus Christ proclaimed.

Think about how people responded to Jesus Christ.  Numerous times we hear about Jesus being driven to the brow of the cliff, or people picking up stones as He spoke, or people simply becoming angry at His words.  This wasn’t because He told people that they just needed to be nice people.  His words challenged.  His words provoked.  His words called people to look inside themselves and to realize that they could not save themselves.

Though we may accept the Gospel and profess to believe it, if we are honest with ourselves, each must continue to wrestle with the call of Jesus in our lives.  There are still teachings of Jesus that have yet to be fully accepted in our hearts.

And there are bound to be things in his teachings that each of us finds offensive if we look at the totality of those teachings rather than confining ourselves to comfortable and familiar ones. (The Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics, p. 60)

For example, Jesus tells us that we are to forgive.  The love of Christ compels us to love and forgive all.  That means the survivors of the Holocaust are to forgive the very people who imprisoned them and took the lives of their friends and family members.  It means the families of those who died in 9/11 are to forgive those who applauded themselves for being the masterminds of the attack.  No, neither of those situations have impacted me in a directly personal way.  But it is the message of Jesus Christ and it is not a message meant simply for forgiving the person who cut you off in traffic or the store clerk who is annoyed that you need her assistance.  The Gospel message is precisely for those moments that seem unforgivable.  It is then that we can recognize that it must be Christ working through us, that grace must be received in order to live out this bold life.

Christianity is not calling us to a life of ease and comfort.  The King of this kingdom was crucified and the Queen watched it all unfold.  Christianity, in its truest sense, is calling us to such a death.  But it is a death that must be experienced so that we may embrace a fullness of new life.  Once we experience that death and new life, the next death doesn’t really matter anymore.  It will be a mere parting of the veil, a stepping into the throne room of the King, entering into the Holy of Holies.  From life we will pass into Life.

With such a reward, it is no wonder that the early Christians were willing to lay down their lives for the sake of Jesus Christ.  They looked upon death with no fear, but rather with joyful anticipation.  Because, in that moment, they recognized that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was for those particularly difficult times.

We cannot accuse Christ of shielding the disciples or us from the realities of what following Him would require.  He is direct and His voice is clear: if we love anything above Him, we will need to re-order our heart, even if the beloved is our family or our own selves.  For Christ, we give all up and we received it back one hundred fold.  I do not claim to have perfected this, but I know there is a tremendous freedom that is found in giving all to Christ.  When my sisters entered the convent, the bitterness I felt was a result of not letting them go or surrendering them to the Lord.  I’m a slow learner and so years later, when I actually began to sincerely let them go, I felt a tremendous freedom in my relationships with them.  Problems may still arise in my heart regarding my sisters’ vocations, but I think God’s grace has pretty much vanquished that demon as of this past summer: but it took me eleven years.  That freedom, though, is tremendous.

The Lord seeks to answer the deepest longings of our hearts.  He boldly declares that He not only has the answer but that He is the answer.  The fulfillment of all our desires is Him.  The longings we experience are for relationship with Him.  The joy we yearn to have fill our hearts is found in none other than He who fashioned our hearts.  It isn’t Titanic-style love.  It is rugged cross, pierced with beauty and sacrifice, blood pouring out that transforms hearts of stone to hearts of flesh-style love.  And it asks for a great price.  It asks for all we have.  The return, though, is worth the investment.

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)