Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Journey of Life


Life is a journey and every journey has a destination. The destination that awaits us at the end of our lives is only one of two places. Luckily the place we will end up spending all of eternity is totally our choice.

At one end of the journey we have heaven where we get to have the beatific vision of God. A person cannot begin to understand what true love really is until they are fully immersed in love itself. There are no words in any language that can describe what it is like to be in the presence of God.

At the other end of the journey is hell. In hell there is only total love of self. Again, there are no words that can describe what it is like to be in hell.

God created man to live with him forever in heaven. God sends no man to hell. God finds man there by his own choosing. If hell is such a horrible, horrible place why would any person ever willingly choose to go there?

God is ἀγάπη, agape, sacrificial love. It is the total love of the other. Someone who chooses hell has only total love of self. For someone who only has love of self agape is hated above all else. Agape can be physically painful. They will do everything they can to get as far away from it as possible. This means choosing hell, choosing total love of self, over being in the presence of love itself.

God offers heaven to each and every man when we pass from this life into the next. To borrow an image from scripture, we will stand alone with Jesus over a charcoal fire. For the person who had never been introduced to Jesus he will be his best advocate for them. As he did with Saint Peter he will ask each of us a simple question – do you love me above all else (agape)? Very few of us can answer that with a truthful yes. As long as our answer is not no we will be given a chance to perfect the love we do have until only agape remains.

For those who answer no to his question Jesus will honor their choice made freely and they will be left utterly alone with only their love of self. They will be in hell.

Which direction are you traveling in this life? Is what you do done for the glory of God in love and service of others or is what you do done for love of self? One way leads to eternal happiness and the other leads to utter loneliness.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Lie of Secular Happiness and Joy



Catholic happiness and joy begins with selflessness and emanates outward in love and service to others. The secular lie is that happiness and joy centers on the self and all love and service should emanate inwards toward the self. The true root of all evil is the disordered love of self. Selfishness is at the heart of every deadly sin.

Lust – Lust is the intense desire to have something for our own, whether that is a lusting for sex, power, or knowledge. Adam and Eve lusted for the knowledge God was not willing to give to them when they ate from the tree of good and evil.

Gluttony – Gluttony is the intense desire for food or drink. It causes us to overindulge. We want food even when we do not need it.

Greed – Greed is the intense desire of possession. No matter how much of the object of our desire we have it never satisfies the desire for more. Adrenalin junkies push the limits of sanity with ever increasing dangerous stunts for the high they get by doing the stunt. Greed also presents itself as an intense desire for control or power.

Sloth – Sloth is intense lack of desire to be spiritually, emotionally, or physically active. Work has redemptive value to it. Scripture tells us that God does not like people who are lukewarm, people who lack passion. Sloth is the intense lack of passion.

Wrath – Wrath is an intense emotional response. Anger is both good and useful when it is just. Wrath is unjustified anger that often leads to the desire for revenge or other malicious intent.

Envy – Envy is an intense sadness when looking at the goods or goodness of another. Envy often drives us to find a way to justify our shortcomings. This is usually done by comparing our shortcomings to ones who are worse. God, I thank you that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

Pride/vanity – Pride is unrestrained and disordered appreciation for one’s own worth. I am the best, the most knowledgeable, the most beautiful, etc. It is listed as the worst of the deadly sins for where pride leads the rest of the deadly sins usually follow.

All deadly sins reside and grow within a self-centered heart.

The foundation of this lie is Moral Relativism. God is sacrificial love and he gave us laws that flow from his very nature to insure that we live selfless lives in love for the other. For Satan to turn us from God he had to get us to freely choose selfish lives over selfless lives. He had to get us to think of the law as something subjective. When we allow morality to be personally defined by each and every person morality loses its meaning. What good is a speed limit when everyone is allowed to drive as fast or as slow as they personally deem safe?

Take the commandment Thou Shall Not Murder. Pretty cut and dried. One human shall not kill another human. Moral relativism allows a person to define murder for themselves so we get things like – one human shall not kill another human unless that human is an unborn baby residing inside the first human or one human shall not kill another human unless the other human is terminally ill and is going to die anyway. Moral relativism allows each individual to define what is morally right for them, rendering morality a useless measure of anything.

Hedonism is all about personal pleasure. Eat and drink as much of anything you wish. Do any drug you want. Have any type of sex with any person or object of your desire. With the restrictions of morality diminished or gone one is free to do whatever brings the self pleasure.

When one is the center of one’s universe it becomes easy to believe that one is owed everything just for being alive. The sense of entitlement grows proportionally to size of one’s self-centeredness. To receive something one is due is the definition of justice. To be owed something that one is not due is entitlement.

The cornerstones of this lie are pleasure, power, and money. The secular culture would have us believe that the more pleasure we have, the more power we have, or the more money we have the happier we will be. We are bombarded relentlessly with images and suggestions of things that would make us happy if we only had them. Even people become nothing more than objects to be used and thrown away. For someone caught up in this lie there is never enough. They never reach a point where they have enough money or possess enough objects. Pleasure becomes harder and harder to obtain. Extremes must be pushed to get the same response they did in the beginning. They are never satisfied. They crave more.

In the Catholic secret of happiness and joy everything starts with Jesus at our center and radiates outward in love for others in the form of service, stewardship, and shepherding. In the secular lie everything comes in from the outside in the form of I, me, and mine. Everything for a self-centered person revolves around what “I” have done, what has happened to “me”, or about the things that are “mine”.

The secular lie is a bright, shiny object that looks to be the greatest, most fun thing ever but it is nothing more than a card house built on a sand foundation. It is only a matter of time before it comes crashing down and the only thing that remains is agonizing despair and loneness.

 

Be a blessing to all you know and allow them to be a blessing to you.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Secret to Catholic Happiness and Joy



At the center of our faith is the Eucharist, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. It is the source and summit of the Catholic Faith. Everything we do as a people flows from and goes back to him. The Eucharist is the number one reason to be Catholic, to become Catholic, or to return to the Catholic faith.
 

Ephesians 2:8
                By grace you have been saved through faith; and not that from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

This is the foundation of our joy, that through our faith in Jesus Christ we have been saved and redeemed. Death has no hold on us. Through our baptism we become adopted children of God the Father. 

We have been provided the structure needed to live a joy filled life in Exodus 20, 1-17 and Luke 10:27. The Ten Commandments flow directly from the nature of God and establish morality which shows us how to live just and upright lives. Jesus focuses these commandments into the great Commandment – to love our God with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

There are three things that are repeated throughout all Holy Scripture. Anytime God interacts with his people, either directly or through one of his angels, we are always told, “Be not afraid. Peace be with you.”  When we trust in God we have no reason to fear anything. We can be at peace knowing that he will always provide exactly what we need. Even during times of great distress or persecution we can still live joyful lives through our trust that God will always be there with us. 

True Christianity is never a private relationship. Selfishness is the true root of all evil. We are called to love and serve our brothers, our neighbors, even our enemies. The more we empty ourselves in service to the other the more room Jesus has to live within us. Where Jesus is there is joy. There are three ways that Catholics fulfill this calling:

Servant – We are called to directly serve others. We are called to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, give shelter to the homeless, care for the sick, visit those in prison, and to bury the dead. These are the corporal works of mercy. The measure of mercy you give will be the measure of mercy you shall receive.

Shepherd – We are called to lead and guide others, both directly and as example in how we live our lives. We are called to instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, offer fraternal correction, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offences willingly, comfort the afflicted, and pray for the dead. These are the spiritual works of mercy.

Steward – We are called to be good stewards of everything within our care. Jesus was asked by the rich man what he must do to inherit eternal life. The answer was to sell everything and follow Jesus. When we choose to follow Christ we recognize that everything we have ultimately belongs to God and that we are nothing more than stewards of these things. We are called to care for all of God’s creation. He gave us dominion over all of the earth and its creatures to care for it and not to use it recklessly for our own profit. We are to ensure that objects under our control are used properly and not for selfish gain. With what we take we can make a living; with what we give we can make a life. 

True joy starts with Jesus at your center and emanates outward with love, service, and stewardship. The more you empty yourself in love and service to others the more God fills the space and the greater your joy becomes.

Be a blessing to all you meet and allow them to be a blessing to you.


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Repent, The Kingdom of God is at hand.


“Repent, The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

This was printed on the front and back of the sandwich board the doomsday fanatic was wearing. Few paid him much mind. Fewer still understood the message.

When most people hear the word repent they think it means to be sorry for one’s wrongs.

Kingdom usually implies a geographical location like the United Kingdom or King Author’s lands, or it means a political way of rule, as in a monarchy. A Christian usually sees "Kingdom of God" as being synonymous with heaven.

“Be sorry for what you have done wrong because heaven is almost here.” That is the general translation from what is written on the sandwich board.

This passage is taken straight out of Holy Scripture – Matthew 3, 2. John the Baptist was preaching about the coming of the messiah. Being part of the New Testament it was written in Greek and the Greek words used have much different meanings from what we understand today.

The Greek word used in scripture for repent is “metanoia” – μετάνοια. It is one of the worst translations in the bible. Metanoia does not mean to be sorry for one’s wrongs. Metanoia is the turning of the will and mind to that of God’s. Metanoia is what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night he was betrayed.

“And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

Luke 22, 41-42

In Greek a verb can take two forms. The first denotes a onetime action. The second form means to do the verb and to continue doing the verb unceasingly. In almost every instance in Holy Scripture where metanoia is used as a verb it is in the later form. Change your mind and your will to that of God’s unceasingly.

The Greek word used in Holy Scripture for kingdom is “basileia” – βασιλεία. It is from this word we get words like basil and basilica. As with metanoia, basileia is also incorrectly translated as heaven. Basileia correctly translated means kingship, sovereignty, or rule. It is the royal nature of God.

“The Kingdom of God is at hand” does not refer to Jesus’ second coming or the institution of heaven on earth as many believe it to mean. It meant that God’s royal nature was now among us in the person of Jesus. Anyone who follows Jesus inherits this royal nature when they are adopted as brothers and sisters of our Lord and become children of God.

I have inherited God’s royal nature when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and became his adopted brother. I am called to live a life worthy of that royal nature by conforming my mind and my will to that of the Father’s unceasingly.

λέγων , Μετανοεῖτε  : ἤγγικεν γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν .

Conform yourself to God for his royal nature is among us.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Let Us Not Shrink From Our Responsibilities


“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”


Matthew 25, 31-46


There is a multitude of people in the United States who do not believe we should give aid to the Syrian refugees fleeing persecution and fighting for their lives. People are proud that their government and their governors have declared, “Not in my backyard!” Memes are running rampant on social media likening the refugees to a bowl of M&Ms or gumballs with a few “poisoned” ones in the bowl. How many are willing to try one? We are constantly reminded that many of the terror attacks in our own country have come at the hands of “refugees” we have let in.

Do you think Jesus will accept the excuse that we failed to give aid to the Syrian refugees living in crisis because there were vipers among them? Do you think he will understand that we did not help “them” because of increased danger to “us”?

Christians all over this country have feigned outrage with President Obama because he once stated that this is not just a Christian nation anymore. Many of the same Christians now feign a similar outrage with the President because he wants to come to the aid of those in desperate need. So are we still a Christian nation that does as Christ taught? Do we feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty? Do we invite in strangers and clothe the naked? Do we tend to the sick, the suffering, the persecuted, and those in prison or do we only give lip service to those things as long as not much is required of us and there is no danger imposed on our way of life?


When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

            “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

             “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

             “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

             “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

             “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

             “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

             “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the   kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5, 1-12

 


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Divinely Human, Humanly Divine


Jesus was fully human and fully divine. This has been a root of much confusion which has caused countless heresies through the ages. Sabellianism, Docetism, Adoptionism, Nestorianism, Apollinarianism, Socianism, and Arianism are just a few of the heresies the early Church had to deal with concerning the dual nature of Jesus Christ. These heresies come about from many different beliefs but all wrestle with the belief that a person cannot have two distinct natures at the same time.

Think of a nature as if it were water for a moment. If I have a cup of red water and a cup of blue water and I try to pour them both equally into a one cup glass the best I can do is 50%-50%. The water in the cup would also become mixed to the point that you couldn’t tell them apart anymore. This concept has lead people to believe that it is impossible for Jesus to have a 100% human nature and a 100% divine nature at the same time. That equals 200% and isn’t possible.

Now imagine a room that has a red light in one corner and a blue light in the other. If I turn on the red light the room is filled 100% of the way with the red light. If I turn on the blue light the room is filled with 100% blue light. If I turn on both lights at the same time an interesting thing happens. The room is filled 100% with the red light. It is also filled 100% with the blue light. The red light does not displace the blue light and the blue light does not displace the red. They coexist in harmony with one another.

Another interesting thing happens. If we place an object in the center of the room, equally between the two lights, and look at that object from the side with the red light the object will appear red. If we look at the object from the side with the blue light the object will appear blue. If we look at the object from any angle that both lights shine on it the object will appear purple. We can see each light individually as well as both lights combined at the same time.

No metaphor is perfect but this one can help us to better understand the great mystery of how a divine nature and a human nature could coexist in the man Jesus totally, equally, and without diminishing the other at the same time. There are times in scripture where we see Jesus’ human nature shining through, like during his agony in the garden. There are other times when we can see his divine nature shining through, like when he is forgiving sins and healing people. Through most of scripture Jesus is seen with the perfect mix of the human and the divine.

Lost in Translation


So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.

John 21, 15-17

 

There are only two times in Holy Scripture where a charcoal fire is mentioned. The first is when Peter denies the Lord three times on the night he was betrayed. The other is when Peter affirms his love for Jesus after his resurrection. In the above passage it appears that Jesus gives Peter a chance to redeem himself from his denial by asking him three times if he loves the Lord. Peter answers that he does love the Lord and yet the passage says that Pete was grieved by this. For someone who only reads an English translation of the bible this passage can never make sense. The true meaning of it has been lost in translation.

English is a vocabulary rich language. We have many different words that can be used to express the same thought in a slightly different manner. I can walk through the woods. I can also hike, amble, stagger, skip, wander, journey, stride, stroll, saunter, meander, mosey, roam, and high tail it through the woods. Each of those hold the same basic meaning but express it in a way where someone can understand what type of “walk” occurred. English is a vocabulary desert when it gets to the concept of love. We have one word with a dozen different meanings. I love my wife. I love my pet squirrel. I love this town. I love this pencil. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. In each of those the word love was used but each held a distinctly different meaning.

Greek (the language of the New Testament) has four words for love that have distinctly different meanings. The first is “Éros” from which we get words like “erotic”. It refers to a love of a physical nature. The second is “Phillia” from which we get words like “Philadelphia” or “pedophilia”. It refers to affectionate regard, friendship, or brotherly love – usually between equals. The third is “Storge” and refers to the love usually felt between a parent and a child. The greatest type of love is “Agápe”. For a Christian this is a sacrificial love, a love above all others. It is the love God has for man and the love we are called to have for each other.

When you read this passage in Greek you come away with an entirely different understanding of it. The exchange between Jesus and Peter goes like this;

Jesus: Peter, do you love me above all things? (agápe)

Peter: Yes, Lord. You know that I love you like a brother. (phillia)

Jesus: Simon, son of John, do you love me above all things? (agápe)

Peter: Yes, Lord. You know that I love you like a brother. (phillia)

Jesus: Simon, son of John, do you love me like a brother? (phillia)

At this Peter became upset for he knew that he had failed once again. He did not love Jesus with the perfect, sacrificial love but as a brother.

Peter: Yes, Lord. You know all things. You know I love you as a brother. (phillia)

Jesus knew Peter did not yet have the love he needed to have but he was willing to meet Peter where he was on his spiritual journey. He trusted Peter to teach his people in his place and knew that he would eventually come to love the Lord with agápe.

Each of us will stand where Peter did. Each of us will be asked before a charcoal fire if we love the Lord above all else, with perfect sacrificial love - agápe. I suspect that is what purgatory is for. For those of us, like Peter, who answer that we love the Lord like a brother, phillia love, we will be given time in purgatory to perfect our love until only agápe remains. Hell is reserved for those who have no love at all for the Lord.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Catholic Prayer


Catholics are often accused of worshipping false gods because we pray to Mary and the Saints. Most of this confusion comes because of how we use the word “pray”. For many non-Catholic Christians the word “pray” is synonymous with the word “worship”. Given this extremely narrow and modern definition of the word it is understandable why many non-Catholics believe we worship people other than God. The Catholic Church is not a modern creation. It is over two thousand years old. To us, the word “pray” has a much broader and deeper definition.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines five types of prayer. These are:

1: Prayers Blessing and Adoration

2: Prayers of Petition

3: Prayers of Intercession

4: Prayers of Thanksgiving

5: Prayers of Praise

A detailed explanation of these forms of prayer can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Four, Section One. I offer the following as a basic definition for sake of this discussion:

1: Prayers of Blessing expresses the basic movement of Christian prayer. Our blessing ascends in the Holy Spirit, through Christ, to the Father. We bless him for having blessed us. A prayer of blessing also asks for the grace of the Holy Spirit to descend upon us from the Father through Christ. “Blessing” is the English translation of the Latin word “benedictionem” which means “to say well of”.

 Prayers of Adoration acknowledge that man is a creature before his creator and exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us. True adoration is worship and due to God alone. Many who accuse Catholics of worshipping Mary have no problem telling their significant other or children how much they adore them.

2: Prayers of Petition come in the form of supplications and lamentations. Supplications are prayers asking for our every need, from forgiveness, to strength, to healing, and even our worldly desires.

Lamentations are passionate expressions of grief or sorrow. Jesus prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane are a perfect example of a lamentation.

3: Prayers of Intercession are like prayers of petition except we are asking for the needs of others. Jesus is the one and only intercessor to the Father and our prayers of intercession are directed towards Jesus. We can ask others to pray for us, to add their prayers of intercession to Christ on our behalf. When I had my heart surgery I had thousands of people praying to Christ that he would intercede with the Father and grant me a safe surgery and a complete recovery. I attribute the speed at which I recovered to God answering those prayers of intercession.

4: Prayers of Thanksgiving are prayers of gratitude to a Lord that provides all things to his people. Everything we have, including our very breath, is a gift from God and we offer constant thanks in the form of prayer.

5: Prayers of Praise offer glory to God simply because He Is. In Prayer of Praise we recognize and acknowledge that God is God and is due all glory, honor, and praise we are capable of.

Even for non-Catholic Christians who believe the word prayer is synonymous with the word worship will realize that they offer these five types of prayer when they pray. Catholics believe prayer is all of the above and more. For us it is also a means of spiritual communication. God has a family consisting of his believers here on earth as well as all persons living in heaven. The definition of a Saint is any person, angelic or human, living with God in heaven.

Just as I can ask any of you to pray for me to our Lord I can also ask any of my brothers and sisters in heaven to pray for me as well. This is where prayer as a means of spiritual communication takes place. God alone can hear our prayers. If I direct a prayer to a Saint in heaven God allows that Saint to hear my prayer and intercede on my behalf. Saints can offer prayers to Jesus for me just as any of you can offer prayers to Jesus on my behalf. Saints are perfected persons living in heaven in God’s sight. Their intercession for us is great.

Mary is a very special person. She is the mother of Jesus and the greatest of all of the Saints, either angelic or human. Jesus loves his mother and will do whatever she asks of him. I can pray to Christ and my prayer will be heard but if his mother prays for me he will give the request much greater attention. Because of this we pray to Mary for her intercession to Christ on our behalf.

Catholics do not worship Mary. We venerate her as the mother of Jesus. Sometimes that veneration can be so strong that it could be mistaken as worship. Mary is not God and not worthy of our worship but she is the greatest example of what a human person is called to be like. When we honor Mary we honor her son through her. If someone were to honor and respect my mother I would go out of my way to make sure that person knew how much I appreciated the action. How much more do we please Jesus when we honor and respect his mother?



Be a blessing to all you meet and allow them to be a blessing to you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Forgive us our trespasses...

Johnny and Billie were playing catch in the back yard on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Johnny was younger than his brother and couldn’t catch as well. Billie teased Johnny about this and Johnny grew angry. When Johnny could no longer take the teasing he threw the ball as hard as he could at his brother. The ball sailed over Billie’s head and crashed through the kitchen window. The boys ran to the front of the house in the hope that they wouldn’t be caught. The boys’ dad came out of the house and looked at the window. Shaking his head he went back into the house and nothing was ever said to either of the boys.

When the boys came down for breakfast the next morning they found the kitchen full of ladybugs. They were everywhere. They were on the walls, on the table, even crawling on their pancakes.

“Where did all of these ladybugs come from?” Johnny asked.

“They came through the broken window.” Johnny’s mother said with a grumble.

“The repair man is coming.” Johnny’s dad said calmly

Later that night Billie went into Johnny’s bedroom. “You will be doing the dishes for me tonight.” Billie said to his brother.

“I will not.” Johnny replied.

“If you don’t do the dishes for me I will tell mom and dad you broke the kitchen window.”

Johnny hung his head and went downstairs to do the dishes for his brother.

The next night Billie visited Johnny again. “Tonight you will take the trash out for me.” Billie said. Johnny knew better than to argue. He just hung his head and took out the trash.

Wednesday night Billie told Johnny to walk the dog for him. Johnny grew angry and exclaimed, “No I won’t”. He walked out of the room, went downstairs, and found his parents.

“Mom, dad, I broke the kitchen window.” Johnny said through tear filled eyes. “I am sorry.”

“We know.” Johnny’s father said. “I was in the kitchen and saw you do it.”

“So what are you going to do with me?” Johnny asked.

“Son, we love you and we forgive you for breaking the window. But it is still broken and you need to repair the damage you have caused.” Johnny’s dad said both sternly and lovingly. “The repair man is coming in the morning and it will cost five dollars to fix the window.”

“But I only have a dollar and a nickel in my piggy bank.” Johnny said dejectedly. “I know, I counted it on Sunday.”

“Go get your piggy bank and let’s have a look.” His father said with a slight grin on his face.

Johnny ran up to his room and brought his piggy bank to his father. He pulled the plug out of the belly and began to shake the bank. Five, one dollar bills spilled out onto the carpet. Johnny’s eyes got big and his mouth hung open.

“I only had a dollar and a nickel in there, I swear!” he exclaimed in disbelief.

Johnny’s father picked up the money and gave his son a hug. “I will make sure the window gets fixed in the morning.” His father said. Johnny hugged his father tight with a smile that went from ear to ear.
As Johnny ran back to his room his mother looked at his father and raised an eyebrow.
"I put the extra four dollars in there last night." His father said. "I figured he would break and admit it tonight."

 

A cornerstone in Protestant theology is “once saved, always saved”. Many believe that Jesus died once for the forgiveness of all sins, past, present, and future. Because all sins have already been forgiven there is no need to confess them and seek forgiveness once you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Any transgression they commit has already been forgiven.

Sin is any thought or word, spoken or left unspoken, or any action done or one we have failed to do that damages the relationship between one’s self and God and God’s people. When one damages this relationship a debt is incurred.

Forgiveness is a word that means “to let go”. God is love and forgiveness is a fruit of love. In his perfect love for us God is willing to let go of the debt we owe him when we sin. The key words here are “willing to”. God is “willing to” let go of our debt. It is not automatic as the once saved always saved people believe it to be. If Jesus died once for all sin (which he did) why are all sins not automatically forgiven?

Forgiveness is a fruit of love but it is also a gift given in love. For a gift to be effective the gift has to be accepted, opened, and used. If I give you a gift for your birthday and you hand it back to me and tell me you don’t want it you have not received anything. If I give you a gift and you put it in the closet without opening it you have received nothing. For my gift to you to be effective you have to accept it, open it, and use it.

Forgiveness is a gift given in love. For forgiveness to happen we have to accept it, open it, and use it. Another gift God has given us is our free will. God is willing to give us the gift of forgiveness but he also respects our right to deny this gift, to shelve this gift, and to not use this gift. The only sin God will not forgive is the sin we will not allow him to forgive. This comes in two flavors; despair and arrogance.

Despair happens when we believe that our sin is so great that even God cannot forgive it. God is willing but we cannot believe he can so the gift of forgiveness is never received. Arrogance happens when we believe that we don’t need God’s forgiveness. Instead, many times we believe that it is God who needs our forgiveness instead. In neither case is the gift of forgiveness accepted and therefore the sin is never forgiven. This is always by our choice, our will, and not by God’s. Once saved, always saved violates the principle of free will for it denies the individual the ability to reject God’s forgiveness.

Like with the broken window, although the debt of our sin is forgiven there is still damage to be repaired. When the sin only damages our relationship with God that relationship has to be repaired. God’s love for us is perfect and cannot be damaged. The real repair work is on us and our side of the relationship. This is done through penance. Penance is defined as voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong. It is our way of telling God our Father that we are sincerely sorry for what we have done. Penance needs to be serious enough that it stands as a deterrent to us not co commit the sin again but not so grave that it causes further harm.

In addition to causing damage to our relationship with God our sins can also cause damage to the relationships with God’s people. For example, if I lie to someone with the intent to defraud them I not only damage my relationship to God by violating the eighth commandment but I damage my relationship to the person I have lied to. I have to seek forgiveness from God but I also have to seek forgiveness from the person I have lied to.

We are called to forgive as God forgives. Indeed, we are called to forgive even if forgiveness isn’t sought by the person who harmed us. In this case forgiveness actually serves two purposes. It does release the person from the debt incurred by their action if and when they ever are willing to accept our forgiveness. When we forgive we are also released from the affects that sin can cause on us.

When someone sins against us it often creates feelings within us that generate evil intentions. We hate the person for what they have done. We hope that they will get theirs. We pray for bad things to happen to them. In the extreme we seek revenge. All of these responses have an evil intent. When we give in to evil and respond with malicious intent in our hearts we damage our relationship with God. When hate in our hearts is not released and purged it can turn into poison and affect everything we do.

When we truly forgive someone who has harmed us we “let go” of all of the built up evil inside of us. We are released and a huge weight is lifted from our hearts. Forgiving someone and letting go of all malicious intent is not the same thing as forgetting the damage done. We are not called to forgive and forget. We are called to forgive. To forgive does not mean we have to open ourselves up to have the same damage happen again.

The evil one uses our sin that is kept in darkness against us. It gives him power over us in much the same way that Billie used the broken window to get Johnny to do his chores. Once we bring our sins into the light he loses that power over us. Once Johnny told his dad what he had done Billie lost the ability to blackmail him. As a Catholic we bring our sins into the light in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We confess our sins to a priest who is acting in persona Christi capitis – in the person of Christ the head. In effect, we confess our sins straight to Christ.

Why can’t I just confess my sins directly to God? Like Johnny’s father God the Father already knows our sins. He sees all we do. We can go directly to God in an act of perfect contrition, that is, if we bring the sin completely out of the darkness of our hearts and are truly sorry for it. For most of us that is very difficult to do. It is easy to say sorry to God and not actually mean it as long as we are not held accountable for it. The sin never really leaves the darkness of our hearts. As long as it is in our hearts the evil one can use it against us.

When we confess to a priest we bring the sin into the light where it cannot be hidden. Jesus gave authority to forgive sins and that authority has been bestowed upon the priest. When the priest gives absolution it is not the man but Jesus through the man granting the forgiveness and burning the sin away in the light of his love.

In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This is an extremely dangerous part of the Lord’s Prayer. We are petitioning God to only forgive us as much as the forgiveness we offer to others. Mercy will be received in the same measure it is given. If we refuse to forgive someone for a wrong committed against us, if we live with a grudge, or if we harbor evil intent towards someone we are giving God permission not to grant us his forgiveness. If I want to be forgiven for the wrongs I have done toward God I have to wipe the slate clean for everyone who has wronged me. This also violates the principle of “once saved, always saved”. If I am saved simply by my acceptance of Jesus as my Lord and Savior then it doesn’t really matter if I grant my brother forgiveness for anything he has done against me. I am forgiven. Who cares about my brother. God will forgive him as well once he accepts Jesus....

 I cannot do any of this on my own. I do not have the perfect love for my brother that God has for me. God knows this and will give me the grace I need to forgive my brother if I honestly wish to do so. All I have to do is look in my spiritual piggy bank. God will have put the five dollars in there for me to pay the repairman. God grants me the grace, the special favor, to forgive the same way he forgives. How great is our God?

Be a blessing to all you meet and allow them to be a blessing to you….and forgive, forgive, forgive.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Glue that Binds us Together


Today I dropped my favorite coffee cup and broke the handle off of it. Hoping to restore it to its full usefulness I reached for my old standby – epoxy glue. If you have never worked with epoxy before it is a two part glue that, when mixed properly, creates a bond that is virtually unbreakable. Part A is the resin and part B is the hardener and they need to be mixed together at a 50-50 ratio. Too much of one or the other and the bond does not form as strong.

God designed marriage in the exact same fashion from the very beginning of creation. When you combine part A and part B, one man and one woman, together in a sacramental marriage a bond is formed that no man can break. Like epoxy, two part A’s combined or two part B’s combined cannot form this unbreakable bond. Only when combined in the way God designed can this unbreakable bond form.

Some of the more successful attacks the evil one uses appear to be based in logic and compassion. This is what we see when we look at the same sex marriage debate. For the most part, same sex couples just want to live their lives in peace with the person they love and are committed to and have that commitment legally recognized. This is fair, compassionate, and logical. There is a great need to have these relationships legally recognized and protected mainly because there have been great atrocities that have occurred because they were not. I have seen firsthand these atrocities occur so I stand in solidarity with same sex couples who seek to have their commitment legally recognized in the form of a civil union. This is both right and just and does not go against my faith or the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Those words will come as a surprise to many simply because the actual teaching of the Catholic Church is either not known or not correctly understood. It is true that we do not believe that same sex marriage is possible. God created marriage and designed it from the very beginning to be one man and one woman for life. At the same time this also means that the Catholic Church does not believe that divorce and remarriage is possible either. The Catholic Church does support committed relationships and people of the same sex loving one another. Indeed, we are commanded by God to love everyone and not only love them but have Agápe love for them. Agápe is the highest form of love. It is sacrificial. One is willing and many times does give up their life for another. Show me even one truly committed relationship where the people in that relationship do not have this type of love for each other.

I love my wife and children with Agápe. I love my friends and family with Agápe. I love my brother aspirants with Agápe. I will make sacrifices for them and even give up my life for them if called to do so. I am trying to love all people with Agápe but this is the hardest thing any of us can ever do. I can only be married to one of these people, my beloved wife. If I love all of these people with Agápe and I would give up my life for any of them why then can I not marry any of them? If marriage is only about love and commitment there should be nothing stopping me from doing so.

When it comes right down to it, it is all about sex. Two unmarried people, no matter their gender, who love one another and are living in a committed relationship to one another, that have not engaged in intercourse have not sinned. They are still free to receive the Sacraments if all the other conditions are met. Two unmarried people, no matter their gender, who love one another and are living in a committed relationship to one another that have engaged in intercourse have committed mortal sin. Mortal sin separates us fully from the saving grace of God and will result in our eternal death if we do not repent. This is why the Catholic Church is so animate about this subject and it applies to opposite sex couples as much as it applies to same sex couples.

Sex does not justify marriage. Sex fulfills marriage. When one man and one woman are bonded together in a Godly marriage they form a one flesh union. Even couples who cannot have children form this one flesh union. Same sex couples engaging in intercourse cannot form this one flesh union any more than mixing two part A’s or two part B’s can make epoxy work. This is by God’s design and not by man’s desire. If the marriage cannot be fulfilled with the one flesh union the marriage cannot be completed. Epoxy can only form glue when both parts are removed from their containers and mixed together to form one liquid. Marriage can only be fulfilled when one man and one woman come together in a one flesh union forming a bond that is unbreakable for life.

What the Catholic Church does and always will oppose is changing a definition God provided to one of man’s choosing solely to justify our desires. I want to marry whomever I will. I want to have sex with whomever I want. Putting desire before commandment is exactly what the evil one wants us to do. When we choose self over God we willfully separate ourselves from God and that is the end goal of the devil. God condemns no man to Hell. He finds us there by our own choosing.

Be a blessing to all you meet and allow them to be a blessing to you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Alone in my Iniquity

The Lord called out to me
"Serve me" he said
But I threw in my lot
With murders and prostitutes
So he left me alone in my iniquity
 
Then the Lord called out a second time
"Serve me" he said
But I chose to stay
With thieves and adulterers
So he left me alone in my iniquity

And my iniquity left me alone
In a state of financial ruin
Living in the shadow of death
In despair and depression

Then the Lord called out to me a third time
"Serve me" he said
This time I said yes
So he forgave my iniquity
Restored my life
Brought me back from the brink of death
Gave me a joy I have never known

Now I call out
To murders and prostitutes
Thieves and adulterers
Those in despair and depression
The Lord will forgive your iniquity
And restore your life

All it takes is a "yes"

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My God, my God, why have thou forsaken me?


Reading sacred scripture without a guide is the equivalent of touring a foreign country you have never been to before in your life alone. You can hit the main attractions just fine but you will always miss the hidden gems only the locals know about. Reading the scriptures without knowing who wrote them, to whom they were written, the style of writing, and the reason they were written leaves the reader to interpret the actual meaning of the writing for themselves. More often than not this will lead one to an improper or wrong interpretation and a misunderstanding of what the passage was meant to convey.

There are many people who believe that they do not need any instruction when they read sacred scripture. They believe that the Holy Spirit will inspire them to the correct and intended meaning. While this can happen if it happened in every occasion we would have only one Church unified in the meaning of scripture. Instead, we have over 40,000 different flavors of Christianity all divided based upon their interpretation of scripture and the doctrine it teaches.

Most sacred scripture is polyvalent, meaning it is deep with meaning and has a number of different aspects or principles that can be learned by it. There are some that, for a Catholic, only has one specific meaning or interpretation. We rely on the magisterium to teach us the true meaning of sacred scripture so that all Catholics everywhere hold the same meaning and truth in their hearts. We are the Universal Church. The word catholic comes from the Latin word catholicus which comes from the Greek word καθολικός (katholikos), which means “Universal”. This comes from the Greek phrase καθόλου (katholou), which combines the words “about” and “whole” and means “according to the whole”. This is straight out of sacred scripture, but that is a discussion for another day.

When one does not know the author, the reason, and the culture behind the text the real meaning of the scripture is often missed or misunderstood. Take for example sacred scripture readings about Jesus’ crucifixion. There is a common belief that Jesus, in a moment of his full human nature, felt totally abandoned by our Father because he utters the words, “My God, my God, why have thou forsaken me?” If all you knew were the words of this text you would naturally come to this conclusion. You could not be further from the truth behind this scripture with that conclusion.

Jesus was a rabbi (a word that actually means “doctor” when translated to Latin). He was a devout Jew who both obeyed and fulfilled the Law. Jews of Jesus’ time (and many still today) prayed the Psalms. Indeed, they had them memorized to the point of knowing them forwards and backwards without thought. If you are Christian and I started, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” you could join in and continue the prayer with me without thinking about it. If you belong to any of the main stream Christian religions and I started with, “I believe in one God….” You could join in and finish the creed with me without thought. This is how the Psalms were and are to the Jews.

Like with our Liturgy of the Hours Jews prayed these Psalms at set periods throughout the day. One of these set periods was the ninth hour or 3:00 in the afternoon. Sacred scripture tells us that at about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” Jesus was not crying out from abandonment. As a devout Jew he was crying out in prayer. What did the Jews pray at the set points in the day? They prayed the Psalms.

Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
    “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
    since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
    you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
    from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me;
    strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
    open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
    it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.

19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
    You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
    save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will declare your name to my people;
    in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
    Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek the Lord will praise him—
    may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
    will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
    all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
    those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
    declaring to a people yet unborn:
    He has done it

Jesus was not only praying at the ninth hour but he was praying the Psalm that foretold of the crucifixion and resurrection. For the Jews present they would have immediately recognized this Psalm and had been able to recite it with him. And then, while looking up at him on the cross and reciting the words of the Psalm they would have seen the Psalm fulfilled as they prayed and many of them would have realized then and there exactly what they had just done.

I believe the word of this would have spread like wild fire and was the driving factor behind the conversion of thousands at a time after the Church was established at Pentecost.

But if you just read this passage in scripture with no instruction on the background on the culture at the time it was written you would have come away seeing a broken Jesus feeling left and abandon by the very person who asked him to go through with this to begin with. How can anyone be filled with anything but sadness when left with this interpretation? How can anyone be anything but profoundly moved and filled with love and hope when you learn the true meaning behind the text?

Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ – Saint Jerome.

Knowing scripture means knowing more than just the text as it is written. To know scripture is to know the world behind the text, the world of the text, and the world in front of the text. Any less and scripture is nothing more than a great collection of stories.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Walking Dead


Zombies have replaced vampires as the cult favorite de jour. Movies, TV shows and even commercials about zombies are too numerous to count. But is a zombie apocalypse really possible?

The honest answer is yes. It is not only possible but we have been living in one for two-thousand years.

Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” – John 6, 52-58

 

The people following Jesus hoping for a free lunch began to leave him. Eat Jesus? Is this guy crazy? That is cannibalism and I will have no part in it. What did Jesus do? Knowing the people did not understand what he had just told them stopped them and told them he was only speaking symbolically. He meant metaphorically eat him, not actually eat him.

“Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble?” – John 6, 60-61

A metaphor is difficult and people cannot listen to it? Symbolism can cause you to stumble? The act of eating a piece of bread that symbolizes the body of Jesus is so difficult to comprehend that Jesus even asks his twelve if they will leave him because of it.

The truth Catholics believe is that Jesus was not speaking metaphorically. He actually meant that we must eat his body and drink his blood if we wish to have eternal life within us. He did not reveal how this would happen until the night before his death.

“While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” – Matthew 26, 26-28

On the night he was betrayed Jesus gave us the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus himself. He did this to fulfill a promise he makes to the twelve to be with us until the end of the age. In his resurrected body, before he ascended to the Father, Jesus could only be in one physical place at a time. After his ascension back into the eternalness of time he could then descend back into the Eucharist any place or time it is consecrated. In this way and in a very real sense, Jesus is with us, body, blood, soul, and divinity until the end of the age.

Those who partake in the Eucharist worthily consume the flesh of the son of man. We eat his flesh and drink his blood and we have life within us as he promised. Those who don’t are the walking dead, the zombies among us. The eat and eat and eat their symbolic bread but are never truly filled. They hunger and are never satisfied.
The Eucharist is the source and summit of the entire Catholic faith. If Jesus were only speaking to us in a metaphor and only wanted us to symbolically eat his flesh our entire faith would be a fruitless lie.

And what would a post on zombies be without some actual zombie apocalypse video? Watch until the end. This is a great expression of our faith.
 
 
 
 
Be a blessing to all you meet and allow them to be a blessing to you.

Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?


When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” – Matthew 8, 23-27

 

March 6, 1857 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that blacks, enslaved or free, could not be American citizens and that the federal government had no power to regulate slavery in the United States. This reduced enslaved blacks to nothing more than possessions in a country that declared its independence with the line; “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

                “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”

 

May 10, 1893 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the tomato was a vegetable, not a fruit, and therefore could be taxed as a vegetable.

“Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”

 

June 26, 1963 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that immoral sexual activity was protected by a person’s right to privacy, striking down sodomy laws in fourteen states.

“Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”

 

January 22, 1973 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a person had the right to an abortion until viability and thus we started to murder the most innocent and helpless humans among us by the millions.

                “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”

 

June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that people of the same sex had the right to be married, changing the traditional definition of marriage that we have had since the beginning with Adam and Eve.

                “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”

 

                “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?”

 

I have read the end of the book. Spoiler alert – Jesus is triumphant in the end, even against stupid Supreme Court rulings. So have no fear and live your life in joyful witness to the glory of God. Don’t change as the culture changes around you and stay true to the teachings our Lord has given to us and maintained through his Church for the last two-thousand years.

 

Be a blessing to all you meet and allow them to be a blessing to you.