CCC Blog

“Like a Rock”

Throughout the bible there are many people we remember for the great things they did.  David slew Goliath.  Joshua knocked down the walls of Jericho.  Elijah conquered 400 Canaanite prophets on Mt. Carmel.  But of all these great men who did great things, the greatest may be one we remember for what he didn’t do…  Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus.  Imagine Joseph’s situation.  Shortly before his wedding to Mary he finds out, from a stranger no less, that Mary is pregnant with someone else’s child.  Wouldn’t Joseph be justified if he canceled the wedding, left Mary and went off to find a partner he could more fully trust? 

Yet, Joseph is known not for any of these things he could have done, but for what he does not do.  Joseph did not run away.  Whatever hurt, anger or insecurity he may have felt, it did not get in the way from his hearing the angel of God tell him, “Don’t leave, because this child needs a father in his life and you are the one who can fill this role.”  And so he stayed… for the child’s health and happiness, if not for his own.  An infant and toddler Jesus didn’t care what kind of emotional roller coaster Joseph might have been on after the angel Gabriel sprung all of that news on him.  An infant and toddler Jesus needed Joseph to be there for him, even if he couldn’t properly say it, or understand it.  So Joseph chose to be present in Jesus’ life and to be the father that both Mary and Jesus would need.  Not only did they need Joseph, we all needed him.  Without him the story of salvation could not have been written.  Long before Jesus was able to save any of our lives, Joseph saved his.  Remember that when King Herod ordered the infant Jesus be killed, it was Joseph who sheltered and protected Jesus in Egypt until it was safe to return.  

Being a father doesn’t happen when you have your own biological child.  It  happens when we see the world through the eyes of the children you are raising.  It is to recognize their needs and to strive to meet them, even if it means sacrificing the fulfillment of our own.  And what children need more than anything is a father (and mother) present for them – there for them. 

Throughout my childhood and upbringing, my father was always there.  He organized and coached my baseball teams, kept stats for my basketball teams, took pictures at every concert and sold concessions when he wasn’t doing anything else.  He arrived early enough to watch every pregame performance of the marching band and picked me up from nearly every football practice.  He got there early for those pick-ups too.  He’d always get there to catch the last 15 minutes and all the guys learned to watch for dad’s arrival knowing that when he came practice was almost over.  A few years ago, I received an email, completely out of the blue, from an old friend.  We played junior high football together.  His dad was a big-time college football coach and a bit of a local celebrity.  I hadn’t talked with him in twenty years, but he had read something I had written about my dad’s death in 1998.  Here is a portion of what he sent me:

 …I’m sorry your dad’s gone.  I want you to know that I always looked up to him and was a little jealous of you.  He was always there.  He shared an amazing gift with you and, in a sense, with me.  My old man was always gone.  I loved him for doing something he was passionate about, but he was always at work.  I think about your pops quite often, because I’m doing what he always did.  You should know that he played an important role becoming the man and father I am today.

As much as I love hearing wonderful things about my father, this email really isn’t about my dad or his dad.  It’s about what children need – rocks of strength, support and stability in their lives.  As Joseph reminds us, having a child isn’t what makes us a parent.  True parents ask not “What is best for me?” but “What is best for the children in my life?”  Which is exactly what God – our heavenly parent did and does for us.  God walks with us, lives with us, died for us, and rose for us.  God is our rock and refuge, always there, whether green pasture or dark valley.  So fathers, make time for your children.  Be there for them.  Work hard for them and provide for their future, but not at the expense of spending time with them.  Years from now, they will remember this as the most significant thing you did.  Men, you don’t have to have children of your own to be a father.  Remember, Jesus wasn’t Joseph’s flesh and blood.  There are many children today whose own fathers can’t or won’t be the fathers they need them to be, and you may be the father figure they need.  And when you are there for them, you will be following a wonderful biblical model of fatherhood.

Blessings – Michael

Posted by Michael Karunas with

“The Good Place”

I recently watched the first season of a television series called “The Good Place” which deals with the afterlife. Once people die, an architect determines    whether people end up in the Good Place or the Bad Place. Conversations among the characters revolve around why someone would be assigned to one place over another and broach significant and complex philosophical questions. 

As season one came to a close, one of the characters realizes she is actually in the Bad Place, though (spoiler alert) she thought she was in the Good Place all along. A   noteworthy observation was made that fits with themes of our reading from I Corinthians 13 this past Sunday. Motivation matters. When the character protests to the architect that she helped raise 60 million for charities during her life on earth and that this should be sufficient criteria for being assigned to the Good Place, she is reminded that her intent (motivation) was the good favor she would receive from others.  Thus, being turned inward and doing things primarily for the good feelings or accolades afforded oneself – even if, consequentially, beneficial outcomes are derived in the process – is ultimately not “good” at all. 

The Dalai Lama similarly said in a recent interview, that all suffering has as its origin individuals turned inward on themselves. When we seek to serve our own interests, the inevitable outcomes will be pain and sorrow – for ourselves and others. Perhaps not right away or in the short run.  But over time this will always be the case.

This is the essence of I Corinthians 13.  Paul says that all the talent and ability in the world – even the spiritual giftedness we have received from God, as generous and benevolent our actions may be, are nothing if not rooted in love.  Such things are as useful as a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (read: not useful at all!). Love is the desired motivation. For Love is necessarily and primarily turned outward and seeks first to satisfy the interests and well being of others over its own. Love is actively and voluntarily sacrificial, seeking the best for someone or something else, regardless of the benefit it may receive in the process. 

It is human nature to satisfy our own interests first, which is why Paul speaks this way about love.  The love he references is really God’s love for us.  God is forever seeking to sacrifice Godself for our best good.  This was revealed most clearly in the gift of Jesus Christ given up for our salvation (our ultimate “best good”).  And it is witnessed countless times over, in every moment when God is patient with us and not irritable with us (though we provide plenty of reasons and occasions for God to be impatient and irritable). And in our humble acceptance of this love, we are able, by grace, to live in that love and for that love.  And when that happens???  We help build a beloved community and the Good Place is not merely something we enjoy in the afterlife, we experience it in the here and now. 

Blessings – Michael

 

Posted by Michael Karunas with

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