God does not love us because we deserve it. God loves us
because we need it. Does that sound startling? It shouldn't.
If there is one prime idea in the Bible, it is God's undeserved
love for what God has created.
There is no accounting for God's love. God's love is not
earned. There is nothing we can do to attain it or even to
lose it. All we can do is surrender to it, trust it and let
it flow through us.
The significant difference in this world is not between those
who are worthy of God's love and those who are unworthy. (In
truth, we are all various degrees of unworthy.) The significant
difference is between those who know and enjoy God's love
and those who do not know and do not enjoy it. God does not
love us because we are good. We are good because God loves
us. That is a major transformation of consciousness! It moves
us from life as an obstacle course to be endured to life as
a banquet to be eaten and shared.
It can be difficult for us to be comfortable with this truth.
This is especially so if we have come to think in terms of
a merit system where we can change God's feelings about us
by doing good or doing evil. We cannot absorb the good news
through conventional thinking, but rather the gospel must
subvert our normal patterns of merit, reward and punishment.
Before conversion, we tend to view God as a parent who controls
and punishes and rewards according to usually very legitimate
criteria. How else could we think? But God's love doesn't
work that way. We can never keep our side of the bargain,
never measure up, never be good enough. But that does not
keep God from loving us.
This is what makes the Bible absolutely extraordinary and
different from the other literature of the world. The meritocracy
system has been destroyed once and for all! It is the great
and central theme of grace: God's unearned favor, the steadfast,
unilateral covenant love of God.
Human love depends upon the merits of the object in question:
Is the person worthy of my love? Is he/she attractive? It's
because we find something good and beautiful that we are attracted
to it. That's the only way we know how to love. God's love,
however, is completely different because the object does not
determine it. It is determined by the subject, by God's self.
By loving us, God is being true to God's self more than working
out some arithmetic about our degree of worthiness.
Perhaps nowhere in the Bible do we see God's covenant love
manifest more than in the recurring theme of the free but
resented banquet. For example, in Matthew 22, the master is
sending his servants to call everyone to a wedding feast (note
the symbolism of loving union). But, one by one, the invited
guests make excuses: One has just bought some land; another
has duties of business. They are not interested.
The master becomes furious and sends out his servants again,
this time to the "crossroads in town" to collect "everyone
they could find, bad and good alike." The banquet hall is
finally filled not with worthy people but with willing people!
Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus constantly enacting this
banquet symbolism. Along with the little child, it seems to
be his primary audio visual aid. He eats with sinners, invites
the outcasts to share a meal with him, does not wash his hands
or the food, allows a woman at a male symposium meal, apparently
gives "communion" to Judas. He is always expanding the meaning
of the table, even breaking clear social conventions, to communicate
the hospitality and inclusivity of God.
If we are grateful for and deeply confident in God's grace,
we will spend our lives trying to give back to others what
has been so graciously given to us.
RICHARD ROHR, a Franciscan priest from Our
Lady of Guadalupe Province in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is
the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in
Albuquerque. His newest book is
Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis
in an Age of Anxiety (St. Anthony
Extending the Invitation
By Judith Dunlap
God calls each of us to a close, intimate relationship.
Toddlers and teens, grown-ups and elders are all invited
to this banquet of love. The invitation is extended in all
sorts of ways: through Scripture and study; through friends,
relatives and acquaintances; in quiet spaces and noisy places.
But God especially counts on parents to issue the invitation
to children, introduce them to a loving God and nurture
the relationship with Jesus begun in Baptism. Our Church
baptizes infants because we trust that children will be
nourished by their parents' faith until they are old enough
to claim their own.
How is this done? Three ways come to mind: home environment,
family ritual and, most important, personal witness.
A Christian home environment is easily created. A cross
or crucifix, Bible or blessed palms are all reminders that
God is with us. Family rituals and prayers are also a simple
way of bringing God into everyday lives. Saying nightly
prayers and lighting Advent wreaths, for example, can become
pleasant childhood memories that set patterns for life.
A Christian environment and family rituals offer subtle
reminders of God's presence. But the most effective way
for children to know who God is and what God asks of them
is by listening and watching the people who are most important
to them. If God is going to be a reality in their lives,
children must see in actions and hear in words that God
is a reality in the lives of their mothers and fathers.
For children, God's invitation to a forever relationship
is best delivered personally through the example and witness
of their parents.
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By Frank Frost
In Spy Kids, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez has created
a family classic that is as thoroughly modern as it is traditional.
The tradition lies in the primacy of family as treasure.
The movie begins with Ingrid Cortez telling her two preadolescent
children, Carmen and Juni, a "story" about two 007-quality
international spies who fall in love and then decide to
tackle the "most difficult and dangerous mission of all"marriage
and a family. A spy career may be exciting and challenging,
Ingrid says, but "parenthood is a compelling career in its
Ingrid's story turns out to be "true," and when the parents
of Carmen and Juni Cortez take on one final mission, their
children are sucked into the maelstrom.
The two get rocketed into virtual reality. They encounter
a wide variety of bad guys: some who are human who are not
what they seem, others robotic creations. Chief among the
humans is Floop, a fey host of a children's show that Juni
watches religiously. But unbeknownst to Carmen and Juni,
Floop has captured their parents, from whom he seeks an
artificial brain that will empower an army of robotic spy
children and unleash an unstoppable army at the service
of evil powers.
But Floop himself, it turns out, is really the dupe of
an evil assistant, and in the end turns his energies from
evil to goodness, thanks to the inspiration of the "spy
kids," Carmen and Juni.
The totally unabashed values of family love and solidarity
become totally cool through the film's thoroughly modern
idiom. The fantasy story is wrapped and spun in colorful
visual graphics, nonstop action and unbelievable feats,
and a good dose of humor. It capitalizes on cyber gadgets
and high-tech sight gags. In its most up-to-date way it
also presents to kids the question of what is real and what
is illusion. Floop's seemingly idealistic admonition to
his audience of children, "Believe in your dreams," takes
on a novel twist. When Floop is overthrown by his evil servant
he is imprisoned in virtual reality, only to be rescued
by a child. Manipulative adults are not what they seem to
be. Media reality deceives. Only the reality of family triumphs.
Noteworthy is the film's natural biculturalism. The Latino
flavor is subtle and always present, but the story is universal.
The father's name, Gregorio Cortez, is reminiscent of legendand
gives a wry second level of meaning to Juni's grouse, "What's
so special about being a Cortez?"
The story is such an enjoyable roller coaster of live action,
computer graphics and special effects that only the most
surly viewer will find fault with the totally up-front moral
at the end. When Carmen and Juni are asked by the powers-that-be
to go solo in place of their parents on a new mission, they
respond, "You want one of the Cortezes, you take us all.
This is the power of family."
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SAINTS AND HEROES AMONG
By Judy Ball
Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680)
In the 24 short years she lived, Kateri Tekakwitha experienced
and accomplished more than many of us do in a full lifetime.
Born in what is now upstate New York to a Christian Algonquin
mother and a non-Christian Mohawk chief, she was orphaned
at age four. The smallpox epidemic that took her parents
and younger brother left her with a disfigured face and
impaired eyesight. Rather than live the conventional life
of a married woman in the Mohawk tribe, she chose a bold,
Drawn for some time to the teachings of Jesuit missionaries,
she asked one of them to give her instructions in the Catholic
faith. She was baptized at age 19, taking the name Kateri.
Shunned and abused by members of her family for embracing
the faith, Kateri made the 200-mile trek to a Christian
Indian village near Montreal.
Now that she was able to freely live her faith, Kateri
devoted herself to serving needy Native Americans. She grew
in holiness under the guidance of spiritual directors, including
an older Iroquois woman. Kateri gained a reputation in the
village as a woman of prayer and penance who lived an austere
lifestyle. At age 23 she took a private vow of chastity,
again an unexpected choice for an Indian woman who would
be expected to depend on a husband for her support. When
she died one year later she was immediately regarded as
In 1980, exactly 300 years after her death, Kateri Tekakwitha
was beatified by Pope John Paul II, making her the first
Native American so honored. Prayers continue for her canonization.
Her feast is July 14.
Father Daniel Coughlin
Vicky Blair can still remember being drawn to the statue
of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha during her grade school days
at St. Michael School in Arizona on the Navajo reservation.
Something about the Native American woman it depicted intrigued
the young girl.
Kateri's life and legacy continue to speak to Mrs. Blair
today as an adult, and keep her praying and working for
Active in the Kateri Circle at her parish of St. Isabel's
in Lukachukai, Arizona, Mrs. Blair, a member of the Navajo
tribe, looks forward to celebrating the first Native American
saint. Even today, 350 years after Kateri lived, she relates
to her "as a strong woman of faith. She was a Native American
but she was Catholic too." There is no contradiction between
the two, Mrs. Blair told Every Day Catholic.
The mother of four adult children, Mrs. Blair and her husband,
Hank, own one of the two trading posts in their community.
When she is not behind the counter waiting on customers,
she is often found assisting at her parish, visiting the
sick and elderly or passing along quilting skills to young
mothers in the community. She also serves on the board of
Talbot House, which serves the families of alcoholics. In
May she participated in a 100-mile Walk for Wellness to
raise awareness about the alarming increase in diabetes
among members of the Navajo nation.
This month brings the annual meeting of the national Tekakwitha
Conference in San Diego. Mrs. Blair will be there, celebrating
her Native American and her Catholic traditionsand,
no doubt, praying that the Church will soon name its first
Native American saint.
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to this month's themes:
The following articles
are available in full text at AmericanCatholic.org: