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Over the past few years I have used the opportunity offered by this blog to reflect on many questions about Catholicism – my faith home. Along the way I have left my career as a Catholic religious educator and more recently I have left my home in the Catholic Church for a new faith community in the United Church of Christ. It would be inappropriate to continue to comment on the Catholic Church as if I were a member, and so I will be changing the blog’s name to Christianity in the 21st Century.

I have a new book coming out that tells the story of my faith journey and my journey through grief and loss, if you are interested in my full story.

http://www.amazon.com/Traces-Hope-Surviving-Grief-Loss/dp/1937943275/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426982211&sr=1-1&keywords=Mona+villarrubia

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What do we know about what pleases God? We might as well be sacrificing the first born child or burning the first sheaves of wheat, reading the signs of rising smoke or success in battle. But more important than what pleases God is: Why do we feel the need to please god? Is it because we are hoping for reciprocity? In human terms how often is gratification of someone else pure gift? The norm is surely tit for tat, quid pro quo, back-scratching. Certainly in business and politics. So here lies the problem: our view of God assumes that God is as self-serving as we are. If we look at the bible there seems to be ample support for this view all the way back to the Patriarchs. Serve me, worship me, obey me, follow me and then and only then will I …

And that is where contemporary Christian faith has it all absolutely wrong. Just as the Christmas Story has lost sight of the Christian Story, the Easter Story has lost sight of The Cross.

From the point of view of God, the life of Jesus was Absolute gift. We can do nothing to deserve it; we can do nothing to equal it. We can simply accept it as Absolute Grace, Absolute Love. As Jesus was always trying to teach, the best metaphor for God was not king or judge but parent, and parents don’t love on a quid pro quo basis. Wise ones anyway.

The life of Jesus was Gift but what about his death? Did the Cross please God? Did God need a death – another sacrifice? Is the Christian God to be measured by the standards of the pagan priesthood with their high altars and animal bloodletting? Or was Jesus the Ultimate Jewish Paschal Lamb? To me, any attempt at an interpretation of the Cross after the fact that makes it God’s intention, paints God with a pagan brush. And that is just bad theology.

aztec god

We simply don’t know what pleases God. But as a mother who lost a son, I can say unequivocally that the death of an innocent child is not pleasing to a parent, and that is the metaphor Jesus pressed us to use – parent – again and again.

So stop trying to please God with prayers and petitions and fasting and novenas. We don’t have a clue what pleases God. But we do have a clue what pleased Jesus. Let’s stick with what we know.

More about that in another Easter reflection. But if you want a hint, Matthew 25:40 seems a good place to start.

My brother sent me an article about Mr. Rogers and his profound impact on a writer, Tim Madigan, who interviewed him and subsequently wrote a book called, I am Proud of You. My brother said that the second page of the article brought him to tears, and as soon as I read it I knew why.

For those of us with poor relationships with our fathers, it is deeply touching to learn how Mr. Rogers’ acceptance of, and un-self-interested affection for, another man could reach this man’s heart and help heal his father-wound. The secret? Mr. Rogers, an ordained Christian minister, saw his profession as a ministry, a way of bringing God’s grace into the lives of others. He imagined that as he looked at the camera he was giving his undivided love and attention to each child. And that is how he treated the writer who interviewed him–undivided attention, acceptance, and eventually a parental kind of affection.

“In the book we learn how intentional he was in his television show, understanding it as a ministry and lovingly using it to impart the values of the gospel that was so dear to him: grace, forgiveness, kindness, and trust in an Unconditional Love.”

The author of the article in Christianity Today, Jason Gray, continues,

I’m Proud of You is an understated and modest book, competently written. But within its pages you find the best kind of story—the kind of story that not only inspires you to be more human, live an ennobled kind of life, and to love better than you thought you could, but that also reveals the grace that makes these things possible.”

As Gray ponders the affect of the book on his own life, he asks a question which each of us needs to ponder,

 “What might my life look like if I better incarnated the grace of God? How would my wife’s life be different if this were true of me? My kids? My friends and those around me whom my life touches?

And he concludes with a statement of hope:

…in Mister Rogers I find a man, a broken sinner like me, set free to love and live the kind of life that Jesus points to. If Mister Rogers can find that kind of grace, maybe it’s available to me, too.”

John Paley

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