Three words for a simple day

Coffee cup in hand, I sat down at my keyboard this morning, my mind a complete blank. “Lord, what would you like me to say today?” was all that I could summon to my mind.

There’s no deep wisdom in my thoughts this morning. I haven’t had any really deep insights into the meaning of the Mass, work, charity or mowing the lawn. I’m just sitting here, ready to do your will. I am not on fire with the Holy Spirit; nor am I in the grip of the evil one. I’m just here. What’s a Christian to do on days like today, when everything around us just feels so…ordinary?

Last week, my wife put a sticky-note on one of the kitchen cupboard doors. On the note she wrote the word, “Praise.” It’s a reminder to her that she should praise God in everything and all the time. It’s a simple reminder that there is a God, that He is both within us, coaching us and guiding us, and that He is the Almighty, the cosmic creator of everything. He helps me to love at the same time that He gives the sky its unique pale blue color this morning. Praise, indeed.

A good friend and advisor is always encouraging me to be grateful. Particularly when I am in a funk, he tells me to make a “gratitude list,” a list of the gifts that I have been given. The list is ever-changing, but it’s always fairly long. God’s been pretty good to me.

Before sitting down at the keyboard this morning, I offered up my day to God. No specific petitions; no healings or miracles; no insights. In fact, all I asked for today was that He use me to do His will, whatever that may be. It was a short, “Here I am, Lord,” Samuel-type prayer.

Praise, thanksgiving, and surrender. That’s all I have for today. It’s probably enough.

More on this simplicity-complexity thing

In my last post, I questioned whether my belief that Catholicism is “simple” could be squared with the immensity and depth of the Catholic Church. I compared Christianity to breathing: it’s so simple you don’t have to even think about it and at the same time so intricate very few of us can fully understand it.

This week, Bishop Robert Barron threw another challenge at us “Simple” Catholics. I started listening to Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire podcasts. (I highly-recommend them; he’s a genius and he’s fun to listen to.) In Episode 7 he talks about the Second Vatican Council and the (in his opinion) mistake the church leaders made by “dumbing down” the message of Christ. Bishop Barron was called upon to respond to proponents of new atheism, proponents that the Bishop said were intelligent, well-spoken and believable. He argues that defenders of Catholicism need to remember the depth of our faith, and to study the works of the many, many brilliant men and women who helped describe that faith for us. By oversimplifying the message of Christ, we run the risk of seeing people peeled away by the seemingly-thoughtful and logical atheists.

So, which is it: simple or sophisticated? Deep or easy? Do you need a Phd or the faith of a child?

I think the answer is “yes.” You bring everything you have to the Catholicism game. God created you and guided you in the path to become what you are. He wants to relate to that version of you. If you’re a bishop who can speak several languages and is conversant with philosophers, God wants to talk to you about how Balthasar and Plato agree or disagree. If you’re a simple carpenter who works hard to craft new homes, God wants to understand why you think maple is a better species for cabinets than birch. God wants to talk to YOU. God wants a relationship with YOU.

The reality is our universe is complex; more complex than anyone but God can ever hope to understand. The other reality is that God created each one of us as a unique part of that universe, with a unique role to play. We each have a unique set of tools, tailor made to help us play our role. Bishop Barron was given gifts of great wisdom, intelligence and communication to answer questions about atheism and philosophy. My simple carpenter father was given the gifts of deep faith and clear speech to convey the strength of God’s personal love for each of us.  

Each of us have a mission that is our own; no one can fulfill that mission for us. It’s that simple.

God’s wisdom is pretty simple

When it comes to the kind of learning that really matters, the best degree from the most prestigious college doesn’t seem to carry any more weight than a few words of “horse sense,” from someone who can’t read a cereal box. Wisdom isn’t counted by IQ points. This is another one of God’s paradoxes. We don’t have to be brilliant, wealthy, or well-educated to be wise in the sight of our Lord. In fact, to the degree that brilliant, wealthy and well-educated people are also self-confident and self-reliant, it’s probably a liability.

God doesn’t need our brilliance. The One who taught the atom to spin can get by without our advice. He wants our willingness, our kindness, and our love. Why did He make the world this way? I don’t know. But it works.

“And he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” (Mt 18:3-5)