Wednesday, August 7, 2013
It may be good but is it necessary?
What a strange question. Although, if I look back own my own life, I’ve ask this question many times, particularly when it comes to school. Is this going to be on the test? (Thanks for going through every step of how you derived the equation, but do I really need to know that? Oh, how many pages of notes I took in math classes only to realize the professor is just showing us where it came from! Too bad that was never asked on the test (or maybe that was a good thing???))
The question shows an attitude of only being concerned with the requirements. It shows I’m really not involved, or at least not enough to spend any more time or effort than is expected of me. I’m not curious, I’m not really engaged. This may, in the case of math class, have been a survival instinct: since I didn’t have unlimited amounts of time to spend on figuring out the nuances of every equation needed to solve the problem, I’d skip to what I really “needed to know” (so I don’t fail the test! haha). But if I was more interested, or loved math more, I probably wouldn’t have thought “What a waste of my time! He’s deriving another equation!”
But it is an underlying, and sometimes explicit, question for many others things. Is it necessary to work out today? Eat healthy? Call my friend? Read the assigned reading? Get to work on time? Wear my seatbelt? Go to Mass? Pray? Another common way to put it: Do I have to?
Some of these things will be more of a given for some than for others. We each have our preferences and priorities. But what about when it comes to God, religion, and our relationship with Him?
During a bible study recently, I was pointing out that Jesus gave us His mother, and so she is now our mother. Being the only Catholic there, I knew this isn’t stressed to them very much, if at all. In fact, I was asked that while she may be good in that she points us to Jesus, is she necessary? I took the question to mean necessary for salvation because I’ve been asked if a number of things are necessary for salvation. She obviously was necessary in God’s plan of the Incarnation. It’s hard to be fully man if you don’t have a mother who gave birth to you…
So is accepting Mary as our mother, or just giving it any thought, necessary for our salvation? First, it’s a question that misses the point. If salvation was a math test, then perhaps asking a question like that is acceptable. But “being saved” and having faith is more than a class you get through so you can focus on other things. It’s meant to be a love affair! To ask if something is necessary for my lover should only be asked as a last resort. How strange would it be to ask, “is it necessary to talk to you every day?”, or “can I not celebrate your birthday?”, or “do I have to hold your hand?”! The answer to each of these is ultimately no, it’s not necessary. The relationship (hopefully) won’t end if this doesn’t occur constantly, or perhaps even if it never happened at all. However, add up these “not necessary” items and soon you won’t have much of a relationship. Put another way, if we lay in bed all day, or eat a whole package of Oreos, we most likely will not drop dead by tomorrow. But keep it up, and serious problems will develop.
Love looks to ask, “what more can I do?” instead of, “can I not do it and we still be ok?” Love asks “what else can I love about you?” (or better, “what more can I love WITH you?”). I would speculate that many go to heaven without ever asking Mary for help. However, Jesus gives His mother to us as a great blessing, as another way to keep us close to Himself. Another guide, another help, another example for us. And most of us, I think, really do need that. I need all the help I can get.
And that is why I fall in love with Jesus more and more. He holds nothing back. See all the good gifts He gives us! Look at the beautiful Church He built and gave to us! Through the Church, through Mary, I learn everything I need to know about Jesus, and then some. Look at the saints, who by dedicating their lives to Jesus are now able to confidently ask for real grace for us. Look at the fascinating creatures, the art man has created, the poems, friends, the stars, the Bible, the Sacraments! All of these Jesus gives us to lead us to Himself! How can we not be grateful and eager to explore what they have to offer?
Jesus wants us to behold Him. Let us contemplate the gift.