Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

God and cars, Part 1

Now, I was thinking about God and cars (I have deep meditations about this sort of stuff) and I was thinking about Porsches, because they had been in one of the industry publications I get. The best selling Porsche 911 of 2004 is one called the Carrera 4S Convertible. Hold that thought, OK?

When you think of Porsches, you think--unless you are deeply maladjusted--of sports cars and races and that sorta stuff. And a sports car has a specific purpose: to run races. Now in the case of Porsches, the car you want for this activity is the GT3. The GT3, however, is not a particularly popular seller though. It's the cheapest Porsche, so that's a bit puzzling. It's also the fastest, so that's puzzling too. So why is it the least popular? Well, it doesn't have electronic this, electric that, a top that comes off, a cushy suspension, power steering, power brakes, soundproofing etc. Most people seem to want all this "stuff" on their Porsche even if it makes the car less and less adept at what the car's intended purpose (or "end," to quote the Baltimore Catechism) is.

We are like that. We overload ourselves with things which have merit in OUR (i.e., human and imperfect) eyes, but will not only not help us, but actually hinder us in performing according to our purpose.

One such aspect of our purpose as human beings is to extend God's forgiveness to others. I was thinking about this as I was driving back from Palm Beach. I had to discipline my oldest son for being egregiously lackadaisical in his homework tasks, but I held no grudge against him. He has/had to learn to do his homework, not forget his books, etc., etc., so it wasn't a function of my being angry with him. In that sense, I forgave him, even as I was disciplining him. So, if we're called to love (and therefore, to forgive) why is it usually so bloody hard, but not in the case of a dad forgiving his son? Then it hit me. Because I love my son unconditionally. And true love, the love of Christ, the love to which we are called must be unconditional love. Anything that is not unconditional is "like" not "love."

That's why Scripture runs riot with things such as "Love thy neighbor" and not "Like thy neighbor." If we have a reason or condition attached to our love, we will eventually lose that love, because that love is dependent on something else.

If we love Person X because he is really funny or Person Y because she is really pretty, then that love is doomed to fail, because X may get dull and boring in old age, and Y will get all wrinkled and grizzled one day. Perhaps that's why so many marriages turn into smoldering heaps of debris. (In my own case, I can testify that love is blind, but marriage is an eye-opener) God wants us to love unconditionally, like He loves us unconditionally. This doesn't mean people should be shielded from consequences to their actions, but that even as we are being corrected, we are being loved unconditionally. I didn't understand this until I became someone's dad and had someone whom I love NO MATTER WHAT. To think God's love for me is eleventy gazillion times more intense, and far less earned than my love for my son, is humbling in the extreme.

A useful way to look at God would be as pure, concentrated love. And God's love is so great and powerful it automatically responds to our faith in Him. This is the central message, to me, of the story of the woman with a hemorrhage. She touched Jesus--in faith, as Sr. Lourdes noted--and He felt the power go out of him. Jesus didn't think to Himself "Ah, someone has touched the hem in faith. Perhaps I should send a little zap of power at her, yeah, that'd be nice." No, nononononono. The action of faith causes an automatic reaction. God's love is so incomprehensibly great and vast and strong that it responds automatically to our faith...and our faith alone. In St. Mark's Gospel (6:1-6) we see how a lack of faith impedes Jesus. Had the woman touched Jesus, instead of in faith, just to say "Ooh. Nice raiments. What is this? Flax? Where did you get this? My husband's birthday is coming You know if these go on clearance?"

God has chosen to respond to us, but not to cram his love, forgiveness, healing or mercy down our individual or collective throats. You'll never read in Scripture: "The Lord saith unto them 'Sit thee down, you oaf, and lay still for I shall cleanse thee of...Sit down! Quit thy wriggling! Bartholomew, Simon Peter...hold thee this Jebusite down, whilst I show him abundant mercy. Sheesh.' and thus, Jesus smote the thrashing man and he was healed."

Scripture, rather, is shot through with instances where someone's faith has saved them or, better yet, made them whole.

The core of all this, and where practical Christianity announces itself, is in that indisputable fact we must learn, as a spiritual habit, to show God faith. In a certain way, this means to trust God, but that means to trust His mercy, His message, His salvation, His sacrifice, His endless love for us.

Even me, and I'm a sinful twerp.

Don't get too excited.

I just got here, and you seem to be expecting an awful lot.