165. Failing to Forgive Yourself May Be Holding You Back from the Freedom God Has for You!

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I saw this young man out of the corner of my eye while I was meeting and greeting people and signing books after a recent speaking event. I could tell he was waiting till the end of the line in order to speak with me. It had been a long night, but I could tell he had something heavy on his heart and needed to talk, so I was happy to offer him a little time.

“How do I forgive myself?” he asked me. “I’ve done a lotta bad stuff. I’ve been to Confession. I believe God forgives me. But I just can’t forgive myself.” I can relate. In fact, this young man reminded me a lot of myself.

TIME & THE MYSTERY w/ Mike Mangione

Behind The Song: Fields Of Evermore (Birth Through the Broken Body… And Of Course Johnny Cash)

[Mike Mangione is a nationally touring musician and podcast host. To subscribe to his podcast, Time & the Mystery, on iTunes click here. To learn more about his music, click here.]

I remember being taken back by Johnny Cash’s description of his childhood in his autobiography, Cash. He spoke about the hardships of moving to government subsidized land in Arkansas with his family and having to work the land with his father. The land was littered with stone and needed to be cleared in order to field a potential harvest. Even then their efforts would be at the mercy of nature’s elements. Early on in his story, I was mesmerized by the amount of faith, hope, and perseverance needed to obtain their dream, to provide and survive. Cash spoke of the grueling labor he and his father had to endure removing the fields of stone and working the earth to suitable soil. Once cleared, they began tilling and caring for what they hoped would be a profitable cotton harvest, which was never guaranteed. At stake was everything but beyond it lie nothing. During harvest time their hands would bleed, scab, and bleed again from the hostile cotton harvest. That which gave life broke their bodies.

Life comes through labor, grows through pain, and blooms from the agony – this song rests in that thought. Separate from Mercy, Grace, and faith we are mere broken bodies; conjoined with these we are thriving farmers, reaping a bountiful harvest though our bodies, sustaining and truly living in the field with our Father. Put your hand to the plow and work for the harvest that lasts forever.

“Fields of Evermore” is available on Red-Winged Blackbird Man by Mike Mangione & the Union.

Fields of Evermore

Lonely is the shadow lit by the moon
Heavy is the burden that comes too soon
The fields are hot and heavy and filled with stone
I’m going to work the land of my father ‘till the seed has been sown

I’m going to make it rain somehow
I’m gonna make it rain somehow
On the fields of evermore

My hands have learned from watching, my heart from pain
When the bundle falls we’ll burn ‘em all to refine the yield again
My cracked hands hold the rhythm
I walk the furrow with an offering
I cant wash my hands too often boys on account of the burn and sting

I’m going to make it rain somehow
I’m gonna make it rain somehow
On the fields of evermore

Mercy come and hold me now and get behind the plow
Mercy come and hold me now get behind the plow
Mercy, mercy hold on get behind
the fields of evermore

COR THOUGHTS 166: We’ve Been Invited to an Eternal Wedding Banquet

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In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about being invited to a wedding banquet. It seems a passing reference before getting to the point about humility. But whenever we read about weddings in Sacred Scripture, we should take note. From beginning to end, the Bible tells the story of marriage. Biblical scholar Dennis Kinlaw observes that when the Bible speaks of “the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven ‘prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband’ (Rev 21:2) … the human story that began with a wedding comes to its end; the wedding in the garden of Eden and every other wedding in human history … prefigured this end – a royal wedding – the one in which the Father gives a bride to his Son.” This means that marriage was designed by God “to teach human creatures what human history is really all about.” God wants to marry us. He’s not an ogre or a tyrant or a cold legislator. He’s an infinitely loving Bridegroom. This is what the second reading is getting at when it tells us not to fear some “gloomy darkness” in approaching God. “No, you have approached Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” – these are all references to the Bride – “and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.” There’s the Bridegroom and his proposal of an eternal marriage – the new covenant.

164. Joy-filled Lovers Know How to Balance Love as Desire and Love as Benevolence

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“The most fundamental passion is love, aroused by the attraction of the good,” says the Catechism. “Love causes a desire for the absent good and the hope of obtaining it; this movement finds completion in the pleasure and joy of the good possessed” (CCC 1765). True that – we all know the experience of desiring something and the joy we receive when we are finally in possession of that good thing we desired.

But there’s an important distinction between love as desire and love as benevolence. If love as desire says “I long for you as a good” love as benevolence says “I long for your good,” “I long for that which is good for you.”

Love as desire is not itself a problem or a defect, but it is incomplete. It must be balanced out with love as benevolence for love to be fully itself. Speaking of marital love in particular, Pope Francis observed that it “cannot be seen purely as generous donation and self-sacrifice, where each spouse renounces all personal needs and seeks only the other’s good without concern for personal satisfaction. We need to remember that authentic love also needs to be able to receive the other, to accept one’s own vulnerability and needs, and to welcome with sincere and joyful gratitude the physical expressions of love found in a caress, an embrace, a kiss and sexual union” (Joy of Love 157).

Still, the person who truly loves longs not only for his or her own good, but for the other person’s good, and he does so with no ulterior motive, no selfish consideration. This is “the greatest of loves,” as Francis says, and it also brings the greatest interior joy.

I’ll always remember the day I realized Wendy (my wife of twenty years) loved me with this kind of disinterested benevolence. It caught me so deeply by surprise that I could barely believe it was real.

163. Are You Loving In An Unloving Way?

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Have you ever felt like someone has barged into your heart or manipulated you into a level of emotional or physical intimacy you weren’t comfortable with? We often justify these behaviors in the name of love. But, as St. John Paul II observed, what we often call love, if we look at it more closely, is its exact opposite: manipulation and use of other persons for our own ends.

In his document The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia), Pope Francis writes that “the deeper love is, the more it calls for respect for the other’s freedom and the ability to wait until the other opens the door to his or her heart” (99). These words remind me of a very important teaching from Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body drawn from this evocative line in the Song of Songs: “A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed” (4:12). While John Paul II explores both of these metaphors – “garden enclosed” and “fountain sealed” – primarily in connection with the truth about marital love and sexual union, we can extend the important lessons learned in that regard to the more general point Pope Francis is making.