Sunday, August 3, 2014

Satisfying the Hungry Heart

Opening Prayer (PS 145:15-16)
The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing. Amen.

Would God ever ask us to offer up something for Him that He considered to be "evil" or "bad?" Didn't God always ask us to give the best and first parts of ourselves? Those parts that were "without blemish" and "first-fruits" to be set aside and consecrated to Him that we may be filled in every other way? Why then would God ask us to offer up our sexual desires in the virtue of chastity, as childlovers, if human sexuality and desire was in itself an "evil" thing? On the contrary! God, if we are so disposed (as many of us are), asks us to offer up to Him our most holy gift, our sexuality, our faculty that allows us to share in His creative power, both so that He may empty us of it and so that He may fill us with Himself. Therefore, our lives of toil and anguish without sexual fulfillment are spent as a gift, a sacrifice, because ultimately God wants to be the source and summit of all our fulfillment. 

Readings and Discussion

At church I often can't help but notice families with children and feel a deep desire in my heart for a child of my own to love and to guide. This is something I do not have, only because the Lord hasn't blessed me in such a way. There are two lines of thought one can think in this situation. The first is the "me-focused" route: "Why should I have to stand here alone while others get to be everything I want to be toward a child? Why should I be denied the ability to exemplify the charity of God and "pour myself out" for another as He did for me? Surely, the Lord must want this for me, and knows that it would make me happy, and if the Lord was all-loving, He would want me to be happy." I say this is the selfish route for obvious reasons. It's all about "me" and there's no question why I'm unable to find happiness in it. But there's another route, the "Christ-like" route: "I am happy that God has dealt such with those families and blessed them with children, may they serve them as faithfully as God is faithful. God has dealt thus with them, and He hasn't dealt thus with me, but I am thankful for all His judgments, for He knows what each soul needs, and has given both them and I what we need. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord." In this way, there is abundant happiness to be found. 

In saying this, we can't help but remember the words of Job, but remember, Job labored with intense soul-searching as any of us would when we feel we're being cheated by God. Let us consider Elihu's reprove of Job for trying to justify his own interests ahead of God's: 
"Yet you ask him, 'What profit is it to me, and what do I gain by not sinning?' I would like to reply to you and to your friends with you. Look up at the heavens and see; gaze at the clouds so high above you. If you sin, how does that affect him? If your sins are many, what does that do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give to him, or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness only affects humans like yourself, and your righteousness only other people." (Job 35:4-8)
Remember that nothing we "do" or "don't do" gives or takes anything away from God, but that, as St. Paul writes, "All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). Therefore, as Matthew Henry explains in his Concise Commentary on the above verse in Job: "We have no reason to complain if we have not what we expect, but should be thankful that we have better than we deserve." And how much better we certainly do have it than what we deserve, thanks be to God! If we expect "justice" from God, He will give us our "justice." He will give us what we deserve! If we however acknowledge His mercy, He will give us freely what we don't deserve, His mercy, and abundantly! But how do we truly live this out and acknowledge His mercy? 

As childlovers it can sometimes seem like we are given the gift of a sexuality only for our perpetual torment, that we must "burn with passion" (as St. Paul writes) simply because (for many of us) the vocation to matrimony is not an option. But consider this, if sexuality truly were an evil visited upon us for our torment, it would neither be for God's glory or our own benefit to abstain from it, just as there is no benefit from simply "not sinning." We know that apart from God, all sacrifice is in vain, but with God, all sacrifice is for our own good and His glory. Sexuality and desire is not an evil thing then, in itself, because God would never ask us to work in vain, but it is our heart that is convicted by the words of Christ against "adultery in the heart" (Matthew 5:27-28), that it is the lust of the heart that is an evil. What we as childlovers should do in response to the Lord's mercy is cease from sin (pornography, masturbation, unlawful sexual practices...etc.), because it is fruitless, but more importantly live for God, not in perpetual torment, but in perpetual sacrifice, offering up that part of us that is inherently good (our sexuality), because ultimately doing that is fruit-full. The meaning of the virtue of chastity is not a "no, you can't be sexual, you can't use this good gift God has given you," ...instead, it's a "yes, you can live to God, and you can use this good gift God has given you, for His sake, for the Kingdom." And so we come to the promise God makes to each and every one of us, as spoken from the pen of the prophet Isaiah in today's reading: 
"Thus says the LORD: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life. I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David." IS 55:1-3
Note just what God promises, that His benefits He gives without cost on our part, for they are freely given. How often though do we tax ourselves with anguish and turmoil by simply failing to acknowledge the gifts that He has given us? We hunger and thirst for things He hasn't given us, which causes us despair and unnecessary, unfruitful anguish, and yet neglect to FILL ourselves on the things that He HAS given us in abundance! What has he given us though? Many things, and all the opportunities the present moment offers for us to do His will each and every second, more than we could do in a million lifetimes. One thing He's given us IS our "sexuality," which a good thing, not that it be "put to no use" and "discarded," but that we may USE it as a sacrifice at every moment of our lives in union with His own sacrifice, saying along with Christ as He gives up His Body for us: "Now this is my body, which is given up for You." 

We read in Paul's letter to the Romans that in this nothing will separate us from the love of Christ, in fact, Paul reminds us that not only does our anguish of total self-giving not separate us from God, but actually can be used to draw us all the closer: 
"What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us." ROM 8:35, 37-39
And lest we think we need "great things" from God in order to be satisfied, He teaches us in His Holy Gospel how he was able to satisfy the hunger of five thousand men (along with many women and children) with only five loaves and two fish. Indeed, it is in the small things, the everyday things, the things we probably overlook, the little random acts of kindness, that God is able to use for our eternal satisfaction both in this life and the next if we cooperate with His grace regardless of our state of life. What He gives to us freely in His mercy is more abundant than anything we could ever "ask for" or "desire," and He gives it all to us every second:  
"Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full." MT 14:13-21
Let us as childlovers say along with King David: "Lord, You alone are my portion and my cup..." (Psalm 16:5), and " cup runs over" (Psalm 23:5). 

Remember... there were always "leftovers."

Closing Prayer (PS 145:17-18):
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth. Amen.
Grace and peace be to you. 

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