Monday, September 22, 2014

Let There Be Light Analogies

Light is a special thing. The book of Genesis tells us that light is the very first physical reality God created. Light not only radiates its own beauty, but also reveals the beauty of other things. It stands to reason then; there is nothing quite like a good light analogy to help us “see”.

St. John of the Cross
You might already be familiar with light through a pane of glass from St. John of the Cross. A modern day version for this one could involve a car. On a bright sunny day, as you drive away from the sun, you may think your windshield is not perfectly spotless, but pretty darn clean. As you turn and drive towards the sun, the dirt, blotches, smears & chips in the glass make their presence known. The sins in our life are like the imperfections on the glass. Moving away from God, our faults are barely visible if noticed at all. Facing God and moving toward Him, we see everything as His grace shines through. We then may experience an intense desire to clean our souls.

Here are a few more analogies that are perhaps not as famous, but just as “enlightening”…

The Little Flower
The sun provides the same light upon everything in the forest, from the most towering tree to the smallest flower provided that there are no obstructions. In this same way Saint Thérèse of Lisieux describes God grace as being available to the holiest people and the most towering saints as well as a little flower like herself.

Moon on the Water
Here’s one inspired by lay apologist Frank Sheed. On a clear moonlit night, we can observe a perfect reflection of the moon off a calm body of water. To the degree in which the water is disturbed, the reflection of the moon will become distorted. Even one small rock thrown into the water can set off a ripple effect that can completely distort the surface and thus the reflection of the moon. Of course in a torrent of wind and rain, the added distortion of a small rock would never even be noticed.

So it is with our life and sin. We are meant to reflect Christ to others. The more we are disturbed by sin, the more the reflection of Christ is distorted. Even one small sin can distort us, but in a torrent of sin, smaller faults can go completely unnoticed.

Sun & Distance
Anything seen from a distance seems smaller than when viewed up close. The sun is many times larger than the earth and this never changes, but with all the intervening space between the two celestial bodies, the sun can seem as small as a pea and any small object can block-out its magnificent rays.

So it is with a person’s soul. The further a soul is from God the easier any trifling thing can block His magnificent grace. The closer a soul is, the more God may pour in His grace unobstructed.

The preceding inspired by Fr. John Tauler. O.P.

Mediarix of all Graces
Mediarix basically refers to the intercessory role of the Mary as a mediator in the redemptive role of her son. The CCC is clear about the title. "…Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix." Paragraph 969

We notice that the phrase "of all graces" is missing. Does Mary simply pray to her Son that he may give us grace or does God also use her as an instrument in distributing that grace? Mary's role as an instrument in the dispensation of ALL graces flows logically with the help of an “illuminating” light analogy.

If we are in a room with one window, the sunlight passes through the glass to light up the room whether we know the glass is there or not; whether we like the glass or not. The glass is in no way the source of the light, but ALL the light passes through the glass regardless. The glass can also help to keep bad things out of the room like insects, wild animals and cold air. Incidentally, if God were to make a piece of glass for the light of the world to shine through, would He choose some dirty, cracked or chipped glass that would block and distort His magnificent  light, or would He create an immaculate piece glass?

 As long as we are talking about Mary and light, think of a magnifying glass placed in the sun. What happens? The rays of the sun that go through the glass are concentrated and the heat & light is greatly magnified. How many ants discover this at the hands of mischievous little boys? Mary’s soul magnifies the Lord (Luke 1:46). Mary acts as the “magnifier” of God’s Grace and magnifiers also work both ways. Mary will magnify our feeble efforts before God if we go through her.

Inspired by a book called "33 Days to Morning Glory" by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley and the teachings of St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Louis de Montefort.

"I believe in God as I believe the sun had risen, not because I can see it, but because by way of it, I can see everything else."
C.S. Lewis

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Riddle me this...

As you last recall…
We were able to find your age using your cell phone number.

Step 1: Take the last two digits of your cell number
Step 2: ×2
Step 3: +5
Step 4 ×50
Step 5: +1764
Step 6: Subtract your birth year (example:1965)

You will get 4 digits.
  • The first two digits will be the cell numbers.
  • The next two digits will be your age.

How can it be so?
Answer below…

I found this intriguing when I stumbled upon it since I do some analytical problem solving for a living.  I employed some of the methods we use at work when faced with a perplexing situation. There is also a Faith & Reason connection in here somewhere, so here we go…

1. Identify base premise or premises
For this case:
Your cell phone number and your age correlate. This should NOT be happening!

2. Separate & clarify the situation
Breakdown the situation into specific/actionable elements to minimize/alleviate:
  • Over-generalizations
  • Assumed cause-effect relationships
  • Reality confusion
  • Rationality overloaded by feelings
  • Being overwhelmed by the scope of the problem

3. Make thinking “visible”
Since this is about numbers and variables, knowledge and experience with algebra can be used to simultaneously breakdown the problem and make the thinking visible.

x = last two digits of cell #
y = your birth year
z = your age this year

(2x+5)50 + 1764 - y = 100x + z
100x + 250 + 1764 - y = 100x + z
100x + 2014 - y = 100x + z

4. Sort relevant data from irrelevant data
“100x” is irrelevant because they cancel out in the equation above, so "x” is also irrelevant.

We are left with:
2014 - y = z

5. Track assumptions
Is “2014” just the current year used to calculate your age?

6. Verify assumptions
Pretend it's the year 2024 (you are 10 years older) and re-try the riddle. It doesn't work.

7. Form conclusions
  • The cell phone number (“x”) is irrelevant data in terms of your age.
            - It can be any number.
            - It is not used to find your age.
            - Your cell number is in the riddle to freak you out.
  • The other numbers are a clever way to get you to calculate the current year (2014).
Call the current year “c”
  • We are left with “c” and “y” as the only relevant data in terms of your age “z”.

c - y = z
current year - birth year = age

No concern here.

What kind of faith & reason connection can we make from all this? Perhaps it’s that we cannot reduce the reality around us to only surface observations, or only one way of looking at things. This may not sound very “Catholic” on the surface, but I think it is, as long as we deal with reality in its proper context.

Much in the riddle was invisible to us in the beginning which made it unsettling. It seems your age just “magically” appeared by itself out of some arbitrary numbers and steps, but things became visible with some time, effort and a rational approach that brought clarity and deeper understanding.

Far from being something born of chance, we see that there must have been a mind behind it all, and a very clever mind at that. All I did was discover and sort facts that were already there, and think about what was already thought of before. In the end we found the riddle to be “intelligible”, which ultimately implies “intelligence”. We don’t know how or why the riddler thought of this, but we do know that it requires thinking.

I think the same can be said about the riddle of our “being”, about the course of our lives, about mankind as evolutionary “overkill” (in terms of surviving & reproducing), about how our planet and the entire universe just happened to “magically” appear and “calculate” itself in our favor. Intellectual honesty tells us that it’s all beyond what mindlessness can do. As Albert Einstein once said, “The most incomprehensible thing about our universe is that it is comprehensible”.

Going beyond just deism, when we grow in our catholic faith, we grow in the right perception of all reality, as we say in our creed, of all things visible AND invisible.

“…when we reflect on ourselves as knowers, it is clear that we are pattern-seeking and pattern-loving creatures, creatures curiously made to be curious amidst an order curiously designed to be sought.”

From “A Meaningful World” by Benjamin Wiker & Jonathan Witt