Sunday, April 29, 2012

Gray Afternoon of the Soul

I write these 'Sunday morning' posts on Saturday, then set them to get posted a little before 8:00 a.m. in my time zone. That lets me take a deep breath, think about what I've written, and even then obvious typos slip past me. Which is another topic.

A Cold, Damp, Dreary, Day

Right now, it's not one of those 'picture postcard' days here in Sauk Centre. The sky is a uniform, dim, damp, gray mass. It's been not-quite-raining off and on all day, refreshing the grass and the street's little reflecting ponds: but not my spirits.

Earlier, the vault of heaven's oozing patterns of ash and slate seemed to bleakly proclaim "be cold, and know that life is damp." Weather forecasts for tomorrow promise more of the same.

I feel like staying inside, where it's warm and dry.

I don't feel like going to Mass tomorrow morning.

But I will, anyway.

When I Gotta Go, I Gotta Go

It's not that I'm so 'spiritual' that I'm 'moved' to go. I'm a practicing Catholic, and we've got something called the Sunday obligation. If possible, I have to go to Mass each week. It's 'in the rules.' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2180-2183)

If I can't go, there are backup procedures. (Catechism, 2183) Sometimes I've done 'none of the above,' generally when I was really sick. But those are rare occasions. When it's time to go to Mass, I go to Mass: partly because it's an obligation.

Sunday Obligation, Not Sunday Fear

So, am I 'burdened with care,' worried that an OCD God will smite me, casting me into the pit because I've occasionally missed Mass? Hardly.

That's not because I think Hell doesn't exist, or that God wouldn't let anybody go there. I'm a practicing Catholic, so I have to make long-range plans. Really long range plans, since I'm going to live forever. I'll get back to that.

'Spiritual Hygiene,' Sort of

I decide to join my neighbors in the parish church each Sunday, and the occasional Saturday late-afternoon, because I think it's a good idea. I also think flossing and brushing my teeth is a good idea, and I've been over that before. (October 20, 2010)

An Obligation, a Privilege, and a Blessing

Once in a while, I find great emotional satisfaction in the experience of Mass. Quite often I enjoy moments of beauty.

Mass at Our Lady of the Angels, Sauk Centre, Minnesota. April 8, 2012.

But that's 'frosting on the cake.' Each week I have the obligation - and privilege - and blessing - of being with my Lord:
"...we'll be celebrating Mass that day at Our Lady of the Angels Church, here in Sauk Centre.

"Which means that, as I understand it, we'll be at the Mass at St. Peter's Square, too, and the Passover meal we call the Last Supper, and Golgotha - in a way. (Catechism, 1326, 1330, 1545)"
(April 23, 2011)
That, in my considered opinion, is a pretty big deal.

Feelings: Nice, But Not Essential

I hope that I'd have the good sense to fulfill my Sunday obligation even if I never got an emotional 'zing' out of the process.

Emotions are okay: and very much a part of being human. By themselves, emotions aren't good: or bad. It's what we decide to do with them that makes the difference. (Catechism, 1767) I've been over that before. (March 17, 2009)

As a practicing Catholic, it's okay if I feel all warm and fuzzy about going to Mass. It's also okay if I don't. It's even okay if I go hours - days - years - without feeling 'spiritual.' Provided that I keep soldiering on, doing what I'm supposed to:
"...Catholics recognize a prolonged dry period like that as the dark night of the soul - a name that comes from "The Dark Night," by St. John of the Cross, which described and discussed this part of a soul's growth. ... Many saints, and many Catholics who haven't been canonized, went through that experience. I can't think of one who was given as long a dark night of the soul as Mother Teresa's, though...."
(August 26, 2009)

Living Forever: Good News, Bad News

I'm going to live forever. So will you. It comes with being human, and it's not something we can get out of.

Living forever doesn't mean not dying. My body will die somewhere in the next few decades: assuming that the Last Judgment doesn't come first: which seems a bit unlikely, and that's yet another topic.

When I'm dead, I won't be a living human being. I'll be a dead person: someone whose body is dead. But the part of me that's spirit, the part that God made when I was conceived, can't die:
"SOUL: The spiritual principle of human beings. The soul is the subject of human consciousness and freedom; soul and body together form one unique human nature. Each human soul is individual and immortal, immediately created by God. The soul does not die with the body, from which it is separated by death, and with which it will be reunited in the final resurrection (363, 366; cf. 1703)."
(Glossary, Catechism of the Catholic Church) [links added]
Living forever is a sort of good news, bad news, proposition. Like I said earlier, I need to make really long-range plans: because how I spend eternity is up to me:
  • Hell exists
    (Catechism, 1033-1037)
    • "...This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called 'hell.' "
      (Catechism, 1033)
  • Heaven exists
    (Catechism, 1023-1029)
    • "Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ...."
      (Catechism, 1023)
  • My final destination gets sorted out at my particular judgment
    (Catechism, 1021-1022)

Decisions, Deeds, and Death

I decide whether I want to be united with God in Heaven, or stay away from the Almighty in Hell. It's more than 'really believing,' though. What I've done about my faith counts, too:
"Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.592 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul-a destiny which can be different for some and for others.593

"Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification594 or immediately,595-or immediate and everlasting damnation.596
"At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.597"
(Catechism, 1021-1022)
Being all 'on fire' with faith, without doing something about it, doesn't make sense to me. Maybe because I've read this sort of thing:
"See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

"And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route?

"For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead."
(James 2:24-26)
That bit from James gets me into faith and works: and that's yet again another topic.

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