This past Saturday (Oct. 24th), families of the YBiC partnered with the Christian Brothers Automotive (CBA) located off Shawnee Mission Parkway just east of K-7 to provide free oil changes to people in need. I wanted to start by giving you a little background info about Christian Brothers Automotive, some of this info would be down played by the owners because they are simply that humble, but it’s info you should know. The owners, Scott and Tammie Green, open the doors of the CBA every year about this time and dedicated one Saturday to help those in need. What’s interesting to note is that they are closed the other 51 Saturday’s of the year. The staff, as it turns out, volunteer their time for this event as well. At first I thought this was to help reduce the cost or overhead expense of the day, but once you meet the staff you realize they are just like the owners, they do this because that is what God has called them to do. Continue reading “Christian Brother Automotive”
I am a middle-aged overweight white male.
Mathematics tell me many of the people I work with are closer to my kid’s age than my own. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has told me a body mass index of greater than 25 means I am overweight. Human resource sensitivity classes and my vertical jump have taught me that I am indeed white. Sixteen years of marriage and multiple children have confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt that, indeed, I am a man.
We are called many things. These labels come from different perspectives, experiences, motives, and occasionally – from truth. While the truth is what brings us those moments of pure joy, it is also where many of us spend a minority of our time.
The truth is the opening paragraph was mainly a cheap ploy taught by school teachers throughout the ages to grab your attention and get you to read on; and partly a way to get out of my system mid-life feelings that otherwise could come out in the form of stylish jeans, high school lingo, new sports car, or worse……
Back to the real truth. In a 2013 homily Pope Francis said that holiness is not a privilege for the few, but rather a vocation for everyone. This is a great, albeit frightening revelation. If Pope Francis is correct, then this means that holiness is not only possible for us; but it is actually God’s will for us. It is God’s call to us. An invitation that we can accept or regretfully decline. An invitation that we are called to answer one way or another whether we are married, single, or living the consecrated religious life.
National Vocations Awareness Week is November 1-7th, 2015. While we most definitely need to take the time to pray from the heart for more priests, nuns, and religious; as well as for our existing priests, nuns, and religious – we must genuinely pray for our own call to holiness to be lived more fully. Pray and sacrifice for your spouse, children, and family to discern their own personal call to holiness and the grace to live it more completely.
The reality is that many of us have made some of our most impactful decisions of long-term consequence when we were the furthest away from God. Although he was talking to the Pharisees, I’m pretty sure the Lord had me in mind when in Luke 11:40 he calls them out – “You fools!” The miracle is that any of these decisions made in the past have worked out.
Since God is outside of time, it truly is better late than never to become all that you are called to be, to grow in holiness, and live your personal vocation to the fullest. If we all answer the call, then the Domestic Church will thrive and there will be no shortage of priests, religious, devoted married, and selfless singles.
Below are a few easy ways to answer the universal call to sainthood:
- Go to Sacred Heart Church on the first Saturday of the month at 7:45 AM. A Rosary and daily Mass will both be for the intention of vocations on first Saturday’s.
- Pray and sacrifice for your former, current, and future priests. You get the priest you pray for.
*Pray and sacrifice for your spouse, children, and loved/not-so-loved ones to grow in holiness*
- Check out shoj.org vocations ministry page under pillar of prayer for links to videos and other vocation related resources.
I had this revelation recently. I felt compelled to share. As the title indicates, it has to do with the Crucifixion vs. the Resurrection. So many of our protestant brothers and sisters focus on the Resurrection. There is nothing wrong with that. I am not writing this to start an argument. There is great joy in the Resurrection. I cannot disagree. I feel like so many people wonder why we as Catholics focus on the Crucifixion. For many it is hard to focus on because there is so much pain and difficulty surrounding it. Granted, it is much easier to focus on the Resurrection as it brings so much joy and happiness. Here is my question for you. Can you truly experience the Resurrection without first experiencing the Crucifixion? I say, no. I guess you can sort of experience the Resurrection by itself but you cannot grasp the full magnitude of it’s meaning without first going through the pain and struggle of the Crucifixion. Put yourself in the shoes of the Apostles. At the time of Jesus death, they were really struggling. Most of them had abandoned Jesus because of fear. Their Messiah had just been murdered on the cross. They had been following him for three years. Hanging on to his every word. Even though Jesus had warned them that the day was coming when the Son of Man would be turned over to the authorities, I don’t think they actually believed him until it actually happened. Now they were trying to deal with his death along with their shame for having abandoned him. To say that they were in a dark place was probably a rather large understatement. Now imagine the moment when someone comes rushing through the door shouting “He is Risen!”. Now that is true joy. The only current day example I can think of would be to compare to hearing that a very close loved one had passed. Someone who had been a great mentor to you. Trying wrestle with the pain and the questions of “why?”. Then to find out that it was a mistake and they were actually alive. The joy you would feel would be incredible. But to feel that joy, you have to first experience the pain and difficulty. So again, I pose the question, can you get the fullness of the Resurrection without first truly experiencing the Crucifixion? I say, no. What do you say?
In 1996 Edward Burns wrote, directed, produced, and starred in a fun romantic comedy entitled She’s the One, which also starred Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Mike McGlone, and John Mahoney. The film tells the story of two Irish Catholic brothers in New York City and their tribulations of love, family, and betrayal. During the weekends, the brothers regularly visit their parents on Long Island where their father’s regular patriarchal advice becomes a theme of the film. It was during one of those weekend conversations that I was given an example of what became, for years, emblematic of my view of the Catholic faith. The father, played by John Mahoney, was going out of his way to convince Ed Burns’ character, his son Mickey, the importance of being a good Catholic. To which Mickey challenges him back trying to understand why this is so important given that his father is an atheist. The father looks at him in wonder, and flatly responds, “So what does that have to do with being a good Catholic?”
Obviously done for humorous effect, the moment in the film highlights a real life paradox that is funny only because it reflects an underlying truth of real people. Ironically it is another Hollywood film that explains this paradox in straight forward terms. In Godfather III the central figure to the overarching saga, Michael Corleone, is talking to Pope apparent in a garden of the Vatican when the Priest takes a river rock from a fountain and cracks it in half. Showing the two dry centered pieces of stone to Michael, he expresses his sadness that sometimes people are like the stone, surrounded by the waters of faith their entire life, but nothing of real faith ever penetrates the center.
It is from these cinematic examples, that we open the idea of Cultural Catholicism within the church. Where people are Catholic as much as they are German, Hispanic, or French. That being Catholic is a component of personal identity more so than it is a calling to Christ. Is such a thing valuable to the Church? Or is such a thing the impetus for what we have come to know as the New Evangelization?
Now why should we, as young travelers in the faith, care about such differences? Because sometimes being Catholic can seem really hard. Or, more importantly, that being Catholic is sometimes harder than it has to be.
Who are Cultural Catholics?
Last week David Masci of the Pew Research Center published a great article on the Pew Research website entitled: Who are ‘cultural Catholics?’ Please find below a significant portion of that article:
Who are these “cultural Catholics”? Often, they think of themselves as Catholic in one way or another even though many belong to another faith tradition (such as Protestantism). Others are religiously unaffiliated, identifying as atheist, agnostic or simply “nothing in particular.”
Most of these cultural Catholics (62%) say that for them personally, being Catholic is mainly a matter of ancestry and/or culture (rather than religion). But majorities also point to religious beliefs and teachings as key parts of their Catholic identity. For example, 60% of cultural Catholics say that having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is essential to what being Catholic means to them. Likewise, 57% say the same about believing in Jesus’ resurrection. A similar share (59%) say that working to help the poor and needy is essential to their Catholicism.
Sizable minorities of cultural Catholics also participate in some of the church’s rituals. For instance, about a third of cultural Catholics (32%) say they attend Mass at least once a year, and roughly a quarter (26%) say they receive Holy Communion at least sometimes when they attend Mass. A third (33%) say they gave something up or did something extra for Lent this year, and about four-in-ten (41%) say it would be important to them to receive the sacrament of the anointing of the sick (sometimes part of “last rites”) if they were seriously ill.
Roughly two-thirds of cultural Catholics (65%) were raised Catholic or had at least one Catholic parent. And about six-in-ten (62%) of these cultural Catholics who have immediate family connections to Catholicism say that this family background is the reason for their link to the Catholic faith.
Among the cultural Catholics who were not raised Catholic and did not have a Catholic parent, a plurality (36%) say that they have an affinity for the church. And 15% say that a previous or current marriage to a Catholic is the reason they see themselves as having a connection to Catholicism.
Cultural Catholics tend to show warm feelings toward the church. For example, nearly three-quarters (73%) expressed a favorable view of Pope Francis when the survey was conducted in May and June, compared with 59% of ex-Catholics (i.e., those who were raised Catholic but no longer identify as Catholic on the basis of religion or in any other way).
Some of these cultural Catholics may in the future even return to Catholicism – 43% of cultural Catholics who were raised Catholic say they could see themselves returning to the church someday, while only 8% of ex-Catholics say the same.
Common Law Catholicism
My father-in-law has been one of the great lay philosopher-sages of my Catholic education. Having hooked me with great idioms like the worst thing about the Catholic Church is the marketing department, I long ago learned to bounce questions off of him to glean the wisdom of a life long Catholic. So when I asked him recently what he remembered most about going to Church as a child I got a response of: I remember that my mother was up early every Sunday morning making the fried chicken.
When my father in law was a child, Sunday’s were spent with family – large families. The women rose early in the day to work on preparing large meals for what would be potentially a hundred people or more on a weekly basis. Was Mass important to him, sure it was, but Mass happened in and amongst a day of large family tradition with lots of other activities that occupied the greater part of the day.
Additionally, odds were strong that in such large families one or more of the boys in the family became a priest, and if those brothers, sons, nephews, or uncles were available – they would perform Mass at the family outing for the family. So over a period of years, the number of times some families actually went to Mass at the Parish building was as much dependent on the season of the year and the weather as it was their spiritual needs.
How did faith formation occur within this environment? Depends on what aspect of faith you are talking about. This was not an atmosphere in which the Catechism was widely read. This was an atmosphere in which a family’s grasp on Sacred Tradition determined the depth of their catechesis. This was an atmosphere where family stories, the practice of the faith, and life’s oral education get intertwined into one voice.
But it is also an environment, that if you have some understanding of the Catechism, is such that what you see in those family Masses will make your heart sing. My wife’s family still operates like this on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. The priest that married my in-laws and who married my wife and I still performs the Mass. The request for forgiveness of sins is open and honest. The discussion that follows the Homily brings many to tears. The prayers are deep, personal, and intimate. The children participate in the Mass with strong role models showing them a reverence for the Sacraments. Reading the Scriptures is a rite of passage. The Sacrament of the Eucharist is emblematic of Christ’s ministry with the Body domino-ing its way person-to-person through the crowd as it’s passed hand to hand. Each family member first receiving, and then presenting, the host in it’s full glory with the priest walking in cadence offering the blood. It is simply, a beautiful Holy Mass bringing the Body of Christ into communion.
God Bless America
Have you ever lived outside the United States? Many of us have traveled, but I mean lived outside this country? Having that pleasure myself, its always fun to meet another person who has done the same, because we all agree that more Americans need to spend time away from this country so they might appreciate it more than they currently do.
One doesn’t realize that you have an ideology versus a lifestyle until you experience the same basic life situations from a completely unique, commonly practiced, and generally accepted perspective that is different than your own. You come to realize that what you accept as right in the world, is sometimes just your own way of thinking versus actually being right or wrong. After experiencing this awareness, you then self-examen. After retaining and justifying to yourself why you still hold your beliefs as sacred and true, you begin to understand more why you feel that way, and what it is about your perspective that makes it your own. Having gained that insight, you also understand what it is about others that makes their perspective their own.
Probably one of the greatest books on an ex-patriot experience is Ernest Hemingway’s the Sun Also Rises. If you have never lived outside of this country, it would be a great read just to discover the reality of how simple differences in a people’s approach to living out their lives can lead to fundamental chasms in one’s perspectives and priorities about life itself.
One of the most singular spaces I see this to be extremely relevant is on the subject of Catholicism.
Catholicism isn’t American made, nor is it made for Americans. Most Americans though, either don’t know that, or more importantly, they don’t accept that. As my father-in-law mentioned above, the worst thing about the Catholic Church is the marketing department. In fact, (I looked) the Church doesn’t have a marketing department – nor does it really want one. In John 14:6 Jesus said I am the truth the way and the life. He didn’t say, come join my church so you can be as cool as these people.
Americans have trouble relating to something in a way in which they are not being marketed too. When your economy is built on consumer spending, you begin to see the world as one big value proposition; what do I get for what I am giving you? Unlike some of our protestant friends, the Catholic Church doesn’t market the great things about Jesus to draw you in and make you feel at home. The Catholic Church is the the guardian of the truth of Christ’s message; which tells us the great things about salvation, and that through Christ – through following what Christ actually taught – you find the path to get there.
The Catholic Church, again, is the guardian of Christ’s message, and it is the Church that he built on earth as a foothold of his Father’s claim to His creation. This means the Church positions itself against the other religions of the world like Islam, Buddhism, and Taoism to name a few.
So because the Catholic Church is busy fighting this global battle, Holy Mother Church can at times care little about how it can be more appealing to suburban America than that non-denominational church down the street that serves coffee during the service and plays contemporary Christian music. But….but they give homilies that relate better to my life? I know, your American, it’s about you.
See we call ourselves a Christian nation. If we called ourselves a Muslim nation, we in America might see a different side of the Catholic Church not found in our country since the settlement days. Want to see it again? Try living somewhere else for a while. Still confused? Try looking at what it means to live your life as a Christian. If you do, the US Council of Catholic Bishop’s approach to many things might start making a whole lot more sense.
On another note, under the great American Excuse System – I mean the great American Legal system, the concept of relativism has grown and grown and grown. Relativism – the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute – is arguably the single greatest modern challenge to someone “holding the line” on trying live out a fundamental faith life.
Relativism in all of its forms is where one receives the greatest blowback through “the death of a thousand cuts.” Our culture has changed to the point that if you have absolutes in your life, about anything, you are demonstrating insensitivity to the needs of someone you’ve never met.
Better understanding the challenges of relativism is beyond the scope of this blog. But let me please refer you to the writings of Mathew Kelly, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and Peter Kreeft. In fact, if your looking for a short read on this check out catholicculture.org‘s piece by Peter Kreeft entitled A Refute of Moral Relativism. Also, if your more audio oriented, Chris Stefanick (www.reallifecatholic.com) has a CD available through Lighthouse media on Relativism that is fantastic, entertaining, and from an everyday man’s perspective.
Another cultural truth about Americans is that consumerism has done significant damage to the idea of Absolutes. Walmart is credited in economic circles by many with keeping inflation in check in the United States for decades through its control of prices on the goods it sells. One could also argue that they have eliminated much of the sense of personal accountability through its return policy. Being the leader in this space through the retail world, Walmart through it’s retail leadership, has now conditioned generations of Americans with the idea that personal decisions are not permanent. If you have a change of heart, just return it.
How many of you reading this buy things in stores now with an attitude of whimsy, because you know you can return it? How many of you buy multiple versions of the same thing and return later the ones that didn’t work out? Have you heard now that you can take a car for a 24-hour test drive? See, making decisions now have become something we have become conditioned to understand are totally about us. They are personal to us. Our decisions and our actions are no longer relevant to the world around us. Our decisions don’t impact anyone but us. It really is just all about me.
But as Americans we do have absolutes we believe in, and should believe in because we have fought wars for them. Our religious rights give us the freedom to choose what those absolutes are. As Christians in a Christian Nation, we shouldn’t shy away from choosing absolutes that align with our faith and our relationship with Jesus Christ. As true Christians, we accept that Christ – not our preferences – are the way, the truth, and the life and we must adhere to the absolutes of Christ’s offering of Grace to find salvation.
Fundamentals vs. Fundamentalism
So what if you take your Catholic faith seriously? Does that make you one of “those people?” Are you the odd one out, or are the cultural Catholics the odd ones out? What do the statistics say? Given these numbers, what is your responsibility as a member of the body of Christ – as someone trying to live out your life in Christ? Do you have a responsibility? Can you be taken seriously acting out that responsibility because you get labeled as a fundamentalist?
So the question becomes, can we practice our faith openly everyday life without being labeled a fundamentalist? We live in a world in which we are over exposed to information. The human response to this onslaught of data is to categorize, label and catalogue much of what we come into contact with. In such an environment many of us struggle with the how’s and the when’s of living a faith based life should happen; while at the same time we seek to avoid being labeled in a way that makes us feel uncomfortable. The choices of being completely comfortable and openly at ease with public displays of faith are not always as reflexive as we would later like in a given day. For others, despite regular teaching to the contrary, faith is still a private intimate matter, and like other personal matters, openness requires a certain level of comfort. While finally others have retracted from the greater world seeking anonymity and an aloneness with their faith.
Regardless, it’s through overcoming our anxiety and concern, and adopting a straightforward comfort level with our faith, in all aspects of our life (getting to that place where we can just “be ourselves”), that we reach a transformative level in our relationship with Jesus Christ. In a one-on-one conference I was blessed to have with our new pastor, Fr. Pat Sullivan, in part of our conversation I challenged him about his vision for the Parish. After sharing, he asked me what my vision of Parish life was. I explained that my prayer was to live in a world in which faith was a normal part of everyday life. An environment where the sacraments and prayer were as ordinary as work, school, and Royals games. Father responded to me, “Well that would be Heaven on Earth.” To which I said – Exactly!
So should we just be nice people all of the time? A business acquaintance of mine who attends Saint Thomas More Parish in Kansas City, MO. regularly would debate me on his life motif of “I tell my kids to make decisions based on the question What would Jesus Do.” It’s fairly obvious though, when talking to him, that he – like many who instrumentalize Jesus for their own purposes – have never really taken the time to read the Gospels, or much if any of the New Testament for that matter. So the question becomes, how does he, or anyone following such a simplistic morality compass, have a foundational basis for filtering all of what the world puts in front of them? Besides, who started this rumor that Jesus was such a nice guy? Father Larry Richards regularly likes to remind people that Jesus wasn’t a nice guy. In his book Surrender, Father Larry states, “Leading a morale life is not being a Christian. We know as Christians we give up our life so that Christ can live through us.”
In his Epistle to the Galatians St. Paul tells us in Chapter 2 vs 19-21: For through the law I died in the law, that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God who has loved me and given himself up to me. I do not nullify the the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ dies for nothing.
Think about that for a minute. What St. Paul is telling us is that if you asked to be judged in your life – whether it be by the Jewish law, or by any other man ordained set of rules or morale code – you are essentially saying that Christ died for nothing. Let that soak in.
What is even more paradoxical is that if you are a practicing Catholic, and you just think all you need to do is live a morale life, you are being ironically hypocritical. How? Every time you go to Mass you are celebrating the same sacrifice that you are then walking out the door and promoting a lifestyle in which what you just celebrated is now something that really doesn’t matter. Lord, please forgive them for they know not what they do.
So if not that, then what? As those efforts and prayers to one-day reach heaven on earth continue, how can we as Christians express the fundamentals of our faith without becoming fundamentalists in our faith? In a recent interview over Vatican Radio with a reporter, Pope Francis touched on the dangers of religious fundamentalism saying that it distances one from God and that fundamentalism in any religion “is a transversal darkness which robs us of an horizon, which closes us in convictions.”
A thought I would share is that as we Christians bump into the world at large we must recognize the difference between forcing our beliefs onto others and letting them force their beliefs on us. As Christians we must recognize that we can’t force the Grace of God into others. Grace is given only from above and can only be experienced in a personal way. There is no rule set to push onto others or to judge by. As the parable states, we are the workers in the field, not the property owner. What we can do is share with others through our actions, our deeds, and when opportunity strikes our words and our joy; how the Lord’s Grace has blessed and changed our life. In First Peter 3:15 the Saint tells us but in your hearts sanctify Christ as lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you. Therefore, what we can do is sustain the truth of our faith through our own actions, our decisions, and our level of participation in the depths of our worldly behavior. What real value does that create? In the repeated mantra of Mother Angelica of EWTN, “You may be the only Jesus your Neighbor will ever see.” So how about reflecting the Christ that is inside of you?
More simply, we can openly embrace the tenets of our faith, the practice of our faith, and our vocations in the faith to allow our lives to be a witness of Christ. All of which can and should exist in the open of the world without wandering down that transversal darkness of fundamentalism.
In living of the fundamentals of our faith life perhaps we should take a page out of contemporary business management and the school of thought leadership; you should begin with knowing your WHY. As a protestant this was not very hard of a thing to recognize. Most Protestants can tell you the last month, day, and minute that they felt the Grace of God enter their lives. Many love to share their witness of being “born again” in Christ.
To the contrary, there is a high probability that half the Catholics reading this just got scared and stop reading after the last sentence and if you ask them the same question about experiencing Grace you might get an answer that sounds a lot like….uhhhh…..Baptism?
A sacrament is a visible sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace. If your a Catholic that has been surrounded by the Sacraments your whole life, there is an unfortunate probability in the world we live in today that your response to appreciating moments of Grace in your life is more along the lines of, “yeah, and….what’s your point?” Now you take a protestant on the other hand, that grew up in a church that started generations ago with the idea that we don’t need no stinking sacraments – we just need our Bible, when they experience the grace of God in their lives the experience is more along the lines of the first time the caveman saw fire. And given the individualized nature of a protestant experience versus the communal experience of Catholicism, most Protestants recognize this Grace – though they may have been experiencing it their whole lives, as adults. Hence – they know their WHY!
Of course these are generalizations to make a point. But when we as Catholics take a look at living out our faith everyday we need to take a step back and start appreciating the life God has given us. We need to appreciate the value of the Grace we have received. But most importantly, we must have a fundamental understanding as to WHY we want God as a fundamental component of our lives. So let’s put that in easier terms men can understand: Want a better marriage – let’s start with why do you love your wife? If you think about that everyday – your marriage will get better. Want your faith life to get more fundamentally sound – spend some time everyday thinking about why you love God. Living out a fundamental faith life will get a lot easier really fast.
Lumen Fidei, which translates The Light of the Faith is Pope Francis’ encyclical published in 2013 on the Solemnity of Saint’s Peter and Paul. Having began under Pope Benedict, the writing is a beautiful explanation of what our faith is as Catholics, expressed in amazingly gentle nuance.
P.4: Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which proceeds us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfillment, and that a vision of the future opens up before us.
P.7: In God’s gift of faith, a supernatural infused virtue, we realize that a great love has been offered us, a good word has been spoken to us, and that when we welcome the word, Jesus Christ the Word made flesh, the Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future and enables us joyfully to advance along that way on wings of hope. Thus wonderfully interwoven, faith, hope and charity are the driving force of Christian life as it advances towards full communion with God.
P.11: For Abraham, faith in God sheds light on the depths of his being, it enables him to acknowledge the wellspring of goodness at the origin of all things and to realize that his life is not the product of non-being or chance, but the fruit of a personal call and a personal love.
P.13: Faith by its very nature demands renouncing the immediate possession which sight would appear to offer, it is an invitation to turn to the source of light, while respecting the mystery of a countenance which will unveil itself personally in its own good time.
Faith consists in the willingness to let ourselves be constantly transformed and renewed by God’s call.
P.17: Our culture has lost its sense of God’s tangible presence and activity in our world. We think that God is to be found in the beyond, on another level of reality, far removed from everyday relationships. But if this were the case, if God could not act in the world, his love would not be truly powerful, truly real, and thus not even true, a love capable of delivering the bliss that it promises. It would make no difference at all whether we believed in him or not.
P.19 In accepting the gift of faith, believers become a new creation; they receive a new being; as God’s children, they are now “son’s of the Son”, The phrase “Abba, Father”, so characteristic of Jesus’ own experience, now becomes the core of the Christian experience.
The beginning of salvation is openness to something prior to ourselves, to a primordial gift that affirms and sustains it in being.
P.21: By their openness to this offer of primordial love, their lives are enlarged and expanded. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal2:20).
Living in the Middle
So what does living in the middle offer one in Christ? Well, I wish I had better news, but the Bible is pretty specific.
Here are a few Bible versus on just that subject:
Revelation 3:16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
First John 2:15-16 Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world, for all that is in the world – the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches – comes not from the Father but from the world.
Mathew 12:33&36 Either make this tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit….I tell you, on the day of judgement you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words will you be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.
So, why does Catholicism appear harder than it has to be? Might I humbly suggest that it’s because WE make it that way. It’s actually simple – let Christ INTO your life.
Brothers….. Are you a good Catholic?
Here is a message from Big Daddy Weave: https://youtu.be/t8TBoR-GSso
Have you ever hated the idea of going to confession? Thinking about it was just that reminder of your inadequacies in life, where going to confession was this reoccurring weight over your head?
Has the Sacrament become something of a punishment or reminder of a sin that you keep doing over and over again. Is there a sin that you just can’t kick that keeps bringing you back to the confessional over and over again seeking forgiveness?
This is so much so that you feel like the only reason you go to confession at all is because of this behavior you just can’t seem to shake? You look for different ways of saying it to the Priest and you go to different Sacrament times just to bring a little variety to the experience.
Then you start only going during lent or some annual event because you have given up on yourself. You make that annual trip, try and find a priest you don’t know, and then check that box hoping something over the next year something will change things.
Soon, whatever your sin is, becomes this albatross that hangs over your faith, and its what you think about at the beginning of Mass when the Priest asks us all to recall our sins and ask for forgiveness. You just feel so helpless….
I felt that way.
Finally, after praying and praying and praying;…………… I listened.
Someone I know and love, who I always admired because I knew they regularly attended weekly reconciliation, came up to me randomly after Mass one day and hugged me for no apparent reason. As I walked away from our moment I caught myself smiling at the shared joy; then an awareness came over me. It connected in my mind that I had been looking at the Sacrament of Reconciliation the wrong way. It shouldn’t just be my punishment for sinning…it should be a tool to use on my path to Holiness.
In that moment I made the decision to start going each week to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That was over a year ago.
My initial goal was to make it one week just so I could go in and confess something different for a change. Don’t laugh; that was more wonderful than you might think.
It was the second week of attending that real Grace started in my life. Before going in again, I sat in my car in the parking lot of the Church and really had to think of all the things I did during that week that I should confess to God. It was hard at first; I wasn’t used to coming back so fast and had to really think about it. So I developed my list and went in.
It was attending the third week that I first started to realize that the reason why I had started doing this had stopped being a part of my life. It hadn’t even entered my mind since the first week. Now as I prepared myself for the Sacrament, I put things on my list that were my human failings for that week but also began adding things in my life I always told myself wanted to be more intentional about. These included my vocational responsibilities as a husband and father.
Sometimes my penance for the week was simple prayer and sometimes they were intentional acts towards others I had confessed behavior I regretted.
One of my intentions in life is to make my wife a happy woman. Not always an easy task, I am plenty guilty of putting pressures on my wife she hasn’t always deserved. It is amazing how confessing my vocational failures week after week have lead me to be a better husband.
Our marriage is now better that it has been in a long time. My wife is happier than I have seen her in a long time. Our relationship has become playful again like it was when we first got married. I remember everyday why I love her so much, and I tell her that whenever I can. We laugh now much more now than we fight. Instead of going to bed tired and exhausted we sometimes actually hold hands falling asleep talking, and kiss and hug each other when we first wake up in the morning. We haven’t done that since we started having kids and living our divide and conquer parenting lifestyle.
My kids and I have started becoming great friends. Not that we weren’t before, but we have really started becoming friends. My wife has started wondering why my son is telling me things he used to only share with her. My daughter has started asking me to pray with her before bed, and insists on my participation in many of her activities.
My wife and I have improved our frigid relationship with her brother and his wife. Her parents have personally thanked me for making room for them in our lives.
Work, though really stressful, has been more manageable than normal. I have been given additional responsibility in our organization, an increased annual bonus, and selected for our leadership development program.
An eighth grader I know through service work I do asked me to be his confirmation sponsor. He had to introduce me to his mother as we had never met before.
Believe me, I am nowhere near perfect; my wife will still vouch for that. However as a friend of mine said, “I’m not the man I want to be, but I’m not the man I used to be either.” I cannot remember the last time I even thought about the sin that used to hang over my life. I do now easily see moments that would have lead me down the path to that sin. Now I smile, and turn away.
I now love going to confession each week. Additionally, my time in adoration now seems to take on more depth than it has in the past. Daily prayer has a richer more committed feel to it, and as Mass begins with the call to bring to mind our sins I lay down my heart like I never have.
Now my schedule doesn’t always allow me to go every week, but I seek to return to the confessional as quickly as I can if I miss. Each time as I prepare, I scramble to go through everything I can think of those sins I can throw with joy into the fire of forgiveness.
See, the best part of being a sinner is the awareness of knowing you are a sinner. Sin is not something you eliminate from your life; it’s a part of being human. Sin is why Christ is relevant to our life. Sin is why we need Jesus. But sin doesn’t have to own us. We, in Christ, can take ownership of sin as we walk in Grace towards the Lord.
Jesus Christ made my life and He saved my life. Making Christ a part of my life through the Sacrament of Reconciliation has granted me the opportunities be a person of relevance in the lives of those I love and encounter as I live out my purpose. Seeking forgiveness has granted me opportunities to share the Grace that has entered my life through knowing Jesus.
Brothers, do you know the Grace of forgiveness?
After communion Sunday I was contemplating my own unworthiness and my weaknesses. I try to ask Mary for her Immaculate Heart before I go up to receive Jesus and then enjoy the company of Jesus in Mary’s heart in me. I’m there with them, soaking up every second of it. I started wondering if that’s how St Joseph felt at times. So I brought St Joseph into my meditation, there I was with St. Joseph enjoying the company of the Holy Family. And all of this is in my heart, what love God has for us! And I realized that despite who I am and all of my faults, I really am no match for Jesus. Continue reading “I’m no match for Jesus”