In the Tomb

Happy Easter! Yes, it’s still technically Easter in the Catholic Church. It’s going to be Easter until June 4, the feast of Pentecost. But anyway… I was musing about a homily I heard from our parish priest a few weeks ago. I’m sure it’s nothing new, but every now and then, people need to hear the same thing they’ve heard before as a reminder.

The message was deceptively simple: Put it in the tomb. All your worries, fears, anxieties, grudges, grievances, anger… anything icky inside your soul. Make a good confession. Take all that mess in your soul, put in the tomb and roll the stone over it. Then forget about it. It’s in the tomb, and it’s gone.

Sounds easy, but the reality of the task is more difficult than you’d initially think. I imagine sins as clinging, heavy wisteria vines draped around a person’s soul (just without the beauty and lovely scent). You have to work to pry them off. You may even have to cut them, and it may be painful. Rolling the stone over the tomb is not easy either. After all, it’s a heavy burden, and keeping your past sins and grievances out of your head is hard, especially when you are faced with daily struggles and memories that threaten to bring them all back.

One day, when the stone is rolled away from the tomb, we will find that our sins have been defeated and our weakness has been made perfect. Until that day… we struggle to remain close to God and keep our Baptismal promises to Him.

More Reasons I Give Up Music: Sacrifice and Love

Lent is almost over, and I’ve done what I’ve been doing for the past 15 years or so: giving up music. (I also gave up caffeine, so if any of this post is incoherent, that’s why.) The ultimate goal of this annual Lenten sacrifice is to get myself to the point where I cease to listen to popular music at all. I did pretty well at that for about nine months last year, but the silence got to me, and I had to fill my head with something that wasn’t useless worries. Nature abhors a vacuum, as they say. So the music turned on and my brain turned off.

Anyway, as I’ve said on here before, the point of making small sacrifices for Lent is to train yourself to become more self-disciplined and to get more used to making sacrifices, so that if the opportunity to make a huge sacrifice comes, it will be second nature to be selfless. This may be a profoundly negative outlook on life (or maybe just a product of me reading far too many books about World War II), but I always think about what would happen in a pre-apocalyptic scenario where food and water are scarce and the world as we know it essentially shuts down because of a great war or natural disaster. Would I be able to sacrifice for the people I love (or even the people I dislike or just tolerate), or would I become bitter and angry over the loss of modern conveniences and necessities?

The other, less dramatic reason I give up music is because most popular music is, objectively speaking, garbage. Much of it talks about “love,” but it’s a manufactured, clean, processed, idealistic, happy-go-lucky, purely hormonal infatuation that makes no effort to get through hard times and does not last. Many “love” songs are about the honeymoon phase of a relationship, before reality sets in and both partners become visible for who they actually are. Young people mistakenly believe that infatuation is love and that the type of “love” that is portrayed in music and movies and TV shows is real and lasting.

I, being more sheltered and naïve than most teenagers, used to believe this. That if you loved a person, you would constantly be infatuated with them, that my relationships would never be like the “bland,” “stale,” unsmiling, everyday thing that exists between my parents or my friends’ parents. Music got into my head, and to this day, I believe that I subconsciously absorbed the message that love is superficial.

Now I think that love, more than anything, is perseverance. It’s getting up in the morning and choosing to love your partner. As the cliché goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and it takes time and practice. Love involves sacrifice for the greater good of the relationship or for the greater good of the other person. It is hard to sacrifice when you have been single and done things your own way for many years, but one can train oneself in sacrifice. There is hope.


Too Much Entertainment

Once upon a time, I was in ninth grade and there were two things I liked more than almost anything (besides reading): music and video games (namely Pokémon and Unreal Tournament). So when I came home from a rough day of being a freshman in high school, I would blow off steam by sitting in front of the family computer (that is, if the seat wasn’t already occupied by my brother) and destroying pixelated soldiers in Unreal Tournament.

One day I had the brilliant idea to enhance my killing sprees by listening to music while playing the game. So I was merrily running along in a fictional militaristic world, flak cannon in virtual hand, blasting enemies into freshets of imaginary blood while listening to Bon Jovi. Pure nerdy bliss. My blood pressure was low, my ears were filled with the sounds of the game and the music, and then my mom looked over at me and said, “Maggie, that’s too much.” (Or something like that. At the time, I was angry at having my joy interrupted and didn’t bother to remember her exact words.)

That was back in 2002, before everyone on God’s green earth had a cell phone, before social media really took off, before mp3 players and iPads and Kindles, and before video games looked so realistic that you couldn’t tell the difference between animation and a live-action movie. I feel sorry for teenagers today, who have three or four times as many modes of entertainment and thus three or four times as many distractions. It’s not just too much. It’s way too much.

I help with my church’s youth group, and this past Sunday’s session was about how we are consumed by technology, social media, materialism, and other modern-day distractions. The teenagers were given a slip of paper on which they were asked to estimate the number of hours per day they spent on social media, browsing the Internet, texting, and so forth. The findings weren’t shocking to me or any of the adults present, especially because a few of the teenagers were tied to their phones during the night. Even so, we hoped the exercise made them realize that there was a lot of unnecessary “noise” in their lives and that the noise can prevent them from being able to sit in silence, to meditate, and to pray.

We taught the teenagers that there is a simple solution to escaping from all the “noise,” and that is spending time before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, AKA Eucharistic Adoration. Just a few minutes of silence and/or prayer per day can put things back in perspective and stop the noise long enough to help one remember that the world and all its distractions will pass away, and all the “entertainment” we have can never fill the gap in our souls that yearns for God.