There’s a widespread assumption in many Christian circles that faithful families must be large. Big families have obviously been open to life, open to God’s will for their lives. They have been blessed by God, the reward for their faith … Continue reading
When I used to hear the parable of the lost sheep in the Gospel, I always thought I was missing something. I mean, what kind of shepherd is going to leave 99 sheep just to find the stupid one that got itself lost? I thought I didn’t understand something about first century Palestinian shepherds, like maybe they’d get fired for losing one sheep, so it was worth leaving the other sheep to go find the missing one so that the shepherds could hopefully keep their job. Or maybe shepherds always worked in pairs, so while one shepherd went looking for the lost sheep, Jesus’ listeners could assume the other one was watching the rest of the flock. Otherwise, abandoning 99 sheep to find one lost one just doesn’t seem logical. It doesn’t make sense. It’s stupid.
It wasn’t until recently that I learned that Jesus meant for the shepherd to sound stupid. Only a crazy shepherd would have abandoned the rest of his flock to find one lost sheep. The shepherd in the parable really is stupid. Jesus’ listeners would have known that the shepherd’s response was unreasonable. So what was Jesus getting at when He seems to be comparing Himself to the crazy, stupid shepherd?
Jesus is talking about the crazy, “stupid” love of God. God’s love for us is unreasonable. He loves us even when we are still sinners. He loves us even though we are unlovable. He loves us like the crazy shepherd loves his stupid sheep. And we can be pretty dumb.
God’s love is illogical. You do not abandon 99 sheep for the sake of one. That makes no sense. But God’s logic is not like ours. He will always go after the one. He will always seek out the lost and bring them home. The value of one life is endless. The love He has for each one of us is inexhaustible. One sheep is worth the same as 99 because their worth is infinite in the eyes of the Father. And one infinity is the same as ninety-nine. We are loved by an infinite God who can only love us with an infinite love, the kind of love that drives a shepherd to search out the lost sheep, a father to run out and embrace his prodigal son, God Himself to become man and die so that sinners might be offered the gift of eternal life. That is the crazy, “stupid” love of God.
When Jesus shared the parable of the shepherd and his lost sheep, He was looking to shock His listeners. He wanted them to stop and think about His words. He wanted them to pause and wonder, Did I hear that right? And they did. The shepherd’s decision was supposed to sound stupid. That’s what Jesus intended. The love of the Father for His wayward children is shocking. He loves when it doesn’t make sense to love. He loves those who don’t seem like they deserve to be loved. He loves those who abandon Him, those who are lost. That’s what Jesus came to show us- the crazy, “stupid” love of God.
I grew up loving Harry Potter. Nearly twenty years later, I still do. I own all the books, have seen every movie more than once. I have a favorite character (Remus Lupin), a favorite type of magical creature (Hungarian Horntail- that’s a type of dragon for those who aren’t as big a nerd as I am), a favorite book (Prisoner of Azkaban). I know what house I would be in (Hufflepuff), what kind of animal I would bring (a snowy owl), and what position I would play on the Quidditch team (Chaser). To say that I am a fan of Harry Potter would be an understatement. I LOVE Harry Potter.
When I was thirteen, I put together a notebook filled with all the spells from the books. I knew all their names, how to perform each spell, what they would do. I had a stuffed snowy owl that I kept on my bed. I had a wand that I had won at our local library’s summer reading program. If I hadn’t been trying to appear normal, I probably would have worn Hogwarts school robes to dress down days at school. I was borderline obsessed with Harry Potter.
I didn’t realize that Harry Potter was controversial among Christian families until I was much older. I didn’t know that some families forbade their children from reading Harry Potter because of its use of witchcraft, or that some Christians believed that people who read Harry Potter were going to hell. I didn’t realize that many Christians thought that Harry Potter was a bad influence on children. By the time I learned all that, I had already read every book and was halfway through seeing all the movies. At that point, I was already very deep in the world of Harry Potter.
Even as I began to take my faith more seriously, I never thought that it was in conflict with my love of Harry Potter. I just thought that I was a Christian who really liked Harry Potter. I admired the books for their tales of friendship, love, and sacrifice. I also loved the fact that the world of Harry Potter included dragons, magic, and flying broomsticks. I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t love the Harry Potter series and Jesus Christ (though not in the same way, obviously).
Now that I’m a mother myself, my opinion of Harry Potter has become a bit more nuanced. Now, don’t get me wrong- I still love the books and movies. I actually just finished rereading and re-watching the series for probably the fourth time a few months back. I still hope to one day share my love of all things Harry Potter with my children. I just don’t think they’ll be twelve when they start, like I was. Young minds are easily molded, and despite the wonderful lessons regarding love and sacrifice taught by the Harry Potter series, it also includes lessons that I don’t want my kids to learn- like dabbling in magic. The Harry Potter series is innocent enough, but it can still serve as a gateway to other, darker practices- like real-life witchcraft and occult practices. I might be able to tell the difference as a thirty-year-old, but a twelve year old might not.
I also don’t plan on letting my kids read the books on their own. I plan to experience the world of Harry Potter with them. We will read the books and watch the movies together. And we will talk about them as we do it. We will talk about the beauty of the friendship of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and the love of Harry and Ginny, and the sacrifice of Lilly Potter for her son. We will talk about the teen challenges that the characters face- the dangers of peer pressure and the overwhelming need to fit in, the struggle of coping with teenage hormones, the difficulties of dealing with a teacher who just doesn’t like you. And we will also talk about the dangers of real witchcraft and magic, and why there are some things that we are just not meant to dabble in.
Obviously, I don’t think all Harry Potter fans are going to hell. I don’t think the books and movies are evil. But I do think they can be dangerous if we let our kids explore Harry Potter’s world of witchcraft and wizardry alone. They need guidance. And that’s why I plan to let my Christian kids read Harry Potter with me.
Vicki Burbach’s “The Lost Art of Sacrifice” is the book that every Catholic (and Christian) living the cushy life in America needs to read. Surrounded by all the wonderful modern comforts of 21st century America, it’s hard to find a … Continue reading
I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist. I was a straight-A student, and I cried the first time I got a B+ in a class. My notebooks and folders were all pristine, my locker always perfectly organized, my bedroom … Continue reading
I started to take my faith seriously in high school. Along for the ride with some young women I admired, I did everything they did- including attend all sorts of retreats, Catholic conferences, and Christian clubs, like the school chastity … Continue reading
Last weekend during Mass, as I listened to the first reading, I was struck by the actions of a faith-filled family in the second book of Maccabees. It was a story that I had heard countless times before, but as … Continue reading
No one would be surprised to learn that there are certain divisions within the pro-life movement. You just need to attend a single March for Life to realize that many types of groups will be represented: Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, … Continue reading
In the wake of last week’s Supreme Court decision, I have seen a lot of articles about our nation’s decision to legalize gay marriage on a national level. As one of my friends eloquently put it, “It looks like my … Continue reading
Now that we’re several weeks into the Easter season, I’m sure there’s one word that you’ve heard repeatedly at Mass: peace. It’s part of nearly every account of Christ’s appearance to his apostles. He appears among them and declares, “My … Continue reading