RSS

Category Archives: Catholic

The Goodness of this Friday

 

crucifix

Today we remember the death of Jesus of Nazareth. If this were a mere historical fact, then we could call it Tragic Friday, Bad Friday, Injustice Friday, Evil Friday. But it’s not; it’s Good Friday.

The Old Testament book of Isaiah prophesies in chapter 53, the famous suffering servant passage, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; … he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed” (v 4-5)

And also, in verse 12, “… he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

While Jesus was hanging on the cross suffering humiliation and excruciating agony, he cried out “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

What does this mean? Is there any greater sin than murdering the incarnate God, the God who created and sustains life? There is no sin too big for God. There is no sin that can overcome his mercy. No sin that cannot be conquered by his love! Jesus, the eternal son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, enters into death – the wages of sin (Rom 6:23) – to bring about a new and eternal life.

Christ defeats sin from the inside out and offers us his mercy. Love, lifted up on the cross, personified in Jesus, is victorious. This is love. To humble yourself for the other. What greater act of humility is there than the God of the universe offering his life for us? What will we do in response? Will we accept his mercy and live it out?

This is not an ordinary Friday. Yes, evil was done on this day, and is done each time we choose our selfish desires over love, but good wins out for it is eternal. Will we live out this goodness in our lives to lift it up for the world to see?

Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world. Come let us adore!

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 14, 2017 in Theology

 

Sin makes you stupid

Sin makes you stupid. It’s something I repeat often not as some empty phrase but as something I experience every day. Sin is a disorder. It’s an act against the natural order of our humanity. The Catechism defines sin as “an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.” (CCC 1849).

God doesn’t make moral laws to restrict us but to keep us from hurting ourselves by doing something that is contrary to our nature. Everything in nature was designed with a purpose and intent in mind. When a tree behaves like a tree, it is fulfilling it’s purpose. If a tree acted like a bird, we would think something was wrong. When we sin, we are acting contrary to our human nature.

We were designed to love and to enter into communion with the source of love, God himself. When we sin we no longer honor love and thus fail to honor God. Romans 1:21-22 states “…although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…” How often do we justify and excuse our sins as Adam and Eve did in the garden (Gen 3:8-13) ? They even hid themselves from God. Hiding yourself from the creator of the universe – the eternal and almighty, all-seeing God – yeah, that’s stupid.

Oftentimes, the more we sin, the easier it becomes. Our vision become darkened and we lessen our ability to recognize God’s presence and our true meaning. We don’t think rightly; we become blind to our actions and how they affect our lives and the lives of others around us. This makes it very difficult to discern God’s will for our lives. Thankfully, the mercy of God is constantly offered to us through his Son, Jesus Christ, who came to give sight to the blind (John 9:41)

One of my favorite scripture passages is from Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”. Jesus comes in our lives to transform us, to recreate us, to be reborn to our true humanity. So, we need to admit our stupidity and accept the mercy of the One who enlightens our minds.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 6, 2016 in Theology, Uncategorized

 

What Christmas Means

By now most of us are suffering bloated stomachs from feasting or paper cuts from opening too many presents. And some may feel already a sense of relief or even of disappointment. You may have enjoyed the company of loving family and received that special present you’ve been hoping for, but really we’re longing for more. While the things of this world can bring happiness and contentment and pleasure, they cannot bring joy, the joy that is only possible in Christ Jesus.

Christmas is of course much more than all the good things we were able to take in today – all these things are shadows and symbols of what can truly fulfill us. Yes, Christmas can make us feel warm and perhaps make you want to be a better person. After all, didn’t Jesus preach love and forgiveness? Yes, but if we stop there, we are missing the point of the person and mission of Christ. God became Man not just to teach us to be nice to each other but to reconcile us and save us. Even more, he came to espouse himself to us.

No more shall people call you “Forsaken,” or your land “Desolate,”but you shall be called “My Delight,” and your land “Espoused.” For the LORD delights in you and makes your land his spouse.As a young man marries a virgin,your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you. – Isaiah 6:4-5

Christmas is about God proposing to us and inviting us to enter into his house and abide in him (Jn 15:4), and to partake of his divine nature (2Pet 1:4). At the Annunciation, 9 months earlier, Mary said yes to God, and the Son of God took on our human flesh and entered into our fallen humanity. The incarnation transforms our finite humanity and elevates it. God humbles himself over and over and gives himself to us to demonstrate his love.

So, while we settle into our late afternoon Christmas drowsiness, let’s not forget to thank God for offering us this gift of Christ who alone can fulfill all our desires and hopes. But even more, to say yes to his proposal.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 25, 2013 in Catholic, Liturgy and Practices

 

I have found my sheep which was lost

massi bicycleRecently, I went cycling on what was to be a 28 mile bike ride starting in Angleton and through some country roads. I was hoping to have an uneventful cycling workout and enjoy the outdoors. Well, things turned out a little differently and I ended up encountering God.

I drove out to Angleton with my bike racked on the back of my car. It was warm but little wind (too much wind makes biking no fun!). I parked near a small church, unmounted my bike, got on, and started pedaling.

Maybe around mile 10, on a back farm road as I passed a house, a vicious and angry dog started chasing me, dragging a broken rope attached to his collar. I think it was something like a rottweiler. I nearly ran the thing over as it ran in front of the bike but I was able to speed ahead past it. I pedaled faster and faster while the dog chased and nipped at my heals. Finally, it gave up. I looked at my speedometer and I was going 24 mph – against the wind, mind you.

Around mile 12, it started to lightly rain. I was hoping that it would just be a passing stray shower but it persisted. Now, when I bike, I have a mount for my mobile phone to use as GPS. So as it started raining, I had to cover it with my hand. Eventually, though, I had to pull over and wait under a big tree. It didn’t let up. It only got heavier. I stowed the phone into the saddle pack that I used to keep keys, food, etc. under the seat and proceeded onward. Every now and then I would have to pull over, check the phone for my location to ensure I was still on the right route, and continue cycling.

Eventually the rain slowed and then ended. I pulled over once again, rested, and mounted my phone back on its mount. I checked my location – I was on the right route and only 3 miles away from my car. The end was near, thankfully for my weary body.

When I finally got back to my car, exhausted and drenched. I went to the saddle bag to take the keys out and unlock the car. Much to my shock, the bag was unzipped. Reaching in, I tried to find the key but to no avail. It was gone. I started to panic, realizing it must have slipped out during the ride and fallen who knows where. How could I have been so careless and not have made sure I zipped up the bag? I felt very frustrated for having lost them.

I thought I could call my brother or my dad to get a spare set of keys for me and bring them down for me. But the thought of having my keys out there lost made me wonder if I could find them. I mean, surely there on the edge of the road for me to see. Perhaps they fell out the last time I pulled over when I had remounted the phone.

So, determined to find my lost keys, I got back on my bike to retrace my steps. With my eyes scouring the edge of the road, I pedaled back on the route. I figured I could go the 3 miles to my last stop and if I didn’t find them then I’d have to call. But I had hope! Though I was already tired, I journeyed back the 3 miles.

I pulled over and looked through the grassy culvert over and over, inspecting every inch of the ground but to no avail. They weren’t there. Disappointed, I got back on my bike and started my return back to the car. Maybe they fell out during the ride to the car though. So I continued scouring the edge of the road, hoping to find my valued possession, the keys needed to get home.

lost keysAfter about a mile, I spotted them! Just laying there, unharmed, on the side of the road, waiting for me. Let me tell you, the amount of elation I had was incredible. The sheer joy of finding these lost keys after such a long and tough ride brought tears to my eyes. I praised God for helping me find them and for protecting me.

But even more, I thanked God for speaking to me in a way that was profound. I had found my lost keys. I was so happy for finding them. My way home. I immediately thought of the joy God has when one of his lost children are found, when one of his sinful sons or daughters returns to him and comes home. It shook me to my core but also comforted me. I was reminded of this parable of Christ from Luke’s Gospel:

Luke 15:3-10: So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman, having ten silver coins,if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Also, I recalled the famous parable of the prodigal son when he returned home, his father was overjoyed and welcomed him with open arms, saying to his servants, “… my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:24). And then it says, “they began to make merry” and have a feast. Notice how joy leads to eating – I’ll write another post about this later.

So, instead of a 28 mile uneventful ride, I had a 34 mile ride and the realization of God’s love for me, for us. I had had an epiphany of sorts. I am a lost sinner. Each day I need to find my way home. Though we go through storms in life and are chased by danger, we have to persevere. Don’t give up hope. God will find us. We just have to be willing to go the extra mile.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 22, 2013 in Fitness, Theology

 

How is a Catholic born again?

The baptism of Christ

The baptism of Christ

The Sunday following Epiphany the Catholic liturgical calendar is the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. I thought it’d be timely to describe the Sacrament of Baptism, its effects and Biblical roots.

The sacrament of baptism is our initiation into the Christian life and our membership into the Body of Christ. As infants we are born with the stain of original sin; the dis-graced state inherited from Adam and Eve (See Rom 5:12-19). In baptism we die to this old life and are reborn into the new life in Christ. Notice St. Paul’s striking words that connect the baptismal act to Christ’s death and resurrection:

[Romans 6:3-4] Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

See also Mark 10:38 where Jesus connects his suffering and death with the term “baptize”. Jesus’ last words to his Disciples, the great commission, includes the command to baptize.

[Mat 28:19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

And so the Church places great importance on this sacrament. The effects of Baptism include the removal of original sin and actual sin, being Born again as children of God, incorporation into the Body of Christ, and reception of the grace of justification.

Removal of sin

When we are baptized original sin is removed from our soul and we are forgiven of any actual sins we have committed. One of the main Biblical passages that reveals this is when St. Peter is evangelizing the crowds on the day of Pentecost:

[Acts 2:38] … Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Another relevant and important passage is when St. Paul is baptized by Ananias after his conversion:

[Acts 22:16] And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.

Born again as children of God

We often hear the phrase, born-again Christian, but all Christians by their baptism are born again. It is in baptism that we are reborn as children of God (refer to Romans 8:14-17, 1 John 3:1). Jesus refers to this being “born from above” when discussing the supernatural character of baptism with Nicodemus:

[John 3:3-5] Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

This water and Spirit is the same that is present at Baptism. We can see these present when Jesus himself was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist:

[Mat 3:16-17] And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Note that Jesus did not require Baptism as he was without sin, but in this act he establishes this sacrament of baptism and shows its importance. It was not Jesus that was changed in his Baptism, but the water that was transformed to be a channel of divine grace when used in the sacrament. What is interesting to note also, is that after the encounter with Nicodemus quoted above from John 3, we see in verse 22 that Jesus “remained with them and baptized.”

Incorporation into the Body of Christ

The Church is often called the Mystical Body of Christ, mentioned in scripture several times. It is by this partaking of the divine nature of God in Christ that we are saved. Baptism is our membership into the Church, Christ’s Body:

[1 Cor 12:12-13] For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

[Gal 3:27] For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

All Christians are united by their baptism. Even non-Catholic Christians share this brotherhood with Catholic Christians, although our unity is imperfect due to other divisions. But the Church affirms the baptism of other Christian faiths that use the Trinitarian formula commanded by Jesus (see above Mt 28:19).

Reception of the grace of justification

The following quote from St. Paul uses the term “washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit”, which is understood to refer to the sacrament of Baptism, and it shows that we receive the grace of justification:

[Titus 3:5-7] he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

Baptism necessary for salvation

With all these effects of baptism, and with what Jesus says in John 3:5 about entry into the kingdom of God, it’s clear that it is necessary for salvation. St. Peter in his first letter speaks of the prefiguration of baptism in Noah and the ark being saved through the water. But then he adds:

[1Pet 3:21] Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Jesus also shows the necessity of baptism as well:

Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

What is important to note, as the Church teaches, is that faith is necessary. Although we may have received baptism as an infant, we still need to accept and affirm our baptismal identity through faith in the promises of Christ. Given this necessity, it is important to clarify the distinctions the the Church applies in baptism. Along with the normal sacramental baptism there are also baptism by desire and baptism by blood. The former covers the situation where an individual is desiring to receive the effects of baptism but dies before receiving the actual sacrament. The latter is reserved for martyrs, those who die for their faith in Christ.

Infant Baptism

What about the practice of baptizing infants? Many Protestant Christian faiths object to this as many view it as merely a public symbol of their acceptance of Jesus. However, we know that Jesus did not deny little children (Mark 10:14-16, Luke 18:15). Also, as the Jews had circumcision as their entry into membership of the people of God, so Christianity replaces it with baptism. And since the Jews circumcised infants, so we correspondingly should baptize infants:

[Col 2:11-12] In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

This “circumcision made without hands” in context of verse 12 must refer to baptism. The practice in the early Apostolic Church also has examples of entire households (with more than likely small children or infants) being baptized. Passages that refer to this include Acts 16:5, 18:18, and 1 Corinthians 1:16. Acts 2:38-39 also tells us that the promises of baptism “is to you and to your children.

Old Testament signs

As with many of the Christian mysteries, types and prefigurations and prophecies are present in the Old Testament. This is also the case with Baptism. One of the more interesting and explicit promises of Baptism that God gives is from this passage in Ezekiel:

[Ezekiel 36:25-27] I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 9, 2013 in Beliefs, Sacraments

 

Epiphany: Christ is the Light of the World

epiphanyThe second Sunday after Christmas we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany of the Lord. This solemnity commemorates the visit of the magi to Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem sometime after Jesus’ birth. Why is this event so important to us Christians? In fact in most of the world, the true celebration of Christmas happens on this day, January 6, especially in the eastern Orthodox churches. It’s the “12th day of Christmas”. Let’s look at the Biblical text from St. Matthew:

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” … they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. – Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11

The word Epiphany is a Greek word that means “manifestation” or “striking appearance”. What made these Gentiles from the east travel so far to an insignificant little town and visit an infant? They somehow realized Jesus was no ordinary child. God entered into humanity by becoming one of us.  The 2nd person of the Trinity, the eternal Son, humbled himself and became incarnate to show us the love of God to all of humanity. Whether the wise men understand this or not, they knew that this child was a king and worthy of adoration.

Notice how they follow a star of some significance. This light in the dark sky leads them to the Light of the World (John 8:12), the savior of humanity. These wise men were not Jews but yet they came to worship the King of the Jews. Already here is a foreshadowing of the Crucifixion where the title “King of the Jews” is mockingly placed on the Cross. In the darkness of these days, Christ shines forth in splendor in the hearts of those who believe. Notice the prophetic words of Isaiah:

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD. – Isaiah 60:1-6

Christ is revealed to all the world! Not just Jews but to all the nations. That’s why these kings came from the East – to show the universal (“catholic””) nature of God’s redeeming love. Indeed, Christ’s words after his Resurrection, his great commission, are to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). All nations. This is our mission. The Church exists for this mission.

The gifts they offer are linked to this manifestation, this mission. Gold is meant for a King. Frankincense is a perfume used in prayer. And myrrh used for anointing or funerals. These three gifts mirror the three-fold mission of Jesus: Priest, Prophet, King. As a Priest he offers his own body as a sacrifice to the Father for our redemption. As a Prophet, he is the Word of God who proclaims God’s truth and love.  And he is the King of kings who manifests and invites us to enter the kingdom of God.

When we are baptized we also enter into this three-fold mission and make it our own. One of the ways the Church describes our baptism is by calling it “enlightenment” (see CCC 1216). We are given the Light of the World and we are made “sons in the light”.

Like the wise men from the East, let us kneel and pay Jesus homage and shine forth his light to the rest of the world. Christ be our light!

 
 

Why do Catholics call Mary the “Mother of God”

mary-mother2On January 1, the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos, “God bearer”, in Greek). This proclamation derives solely from the belief that Jesus Christ is God incarnate (John 1:14, 8:58). It affirms a foundational belief about the doctrine of the Trinity. This follows from simple logic:

  1. Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ
  2. Jesus is God, the 2nd person of the Trinity, of the same substance as God the Father and the Holy Spirit.
  3. Thus Mary is the Mother of God

Many protestants disagree with this title Mother of God and state that Mary was only the mother of the human nature of Christ. To answer that, however, a mother doesn’t conceive and give birth to a nature; a mother gives birth to a PERSON. And the person that Mary, conceived bore and gave birth to is the divine person of God, who took on human form. This naturally follows, since Jesus was truly God from the first moment of His conception. The following passage affirms this:

[Luke 1:31,35] And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. [35] The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy,  the Son of God.

Mary is even called “the mother of my Lord” (Luke 1:43) in Scripture itself. The “Lord” is synonymous with God, thus further providing validation for the title “Mother of God”.

As mentioned above, this title is meant to reflect a Christological truth. This ancient title of “Theotokos” was affirmed by the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. in order to combat the heresy known as Nestorianism, which claimed that Christ was united as two distinct persons, human and divine. This differs from the true Christology as affirmed by the Christian tradition that Jesus is ONE person, God, in the form of man.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Beliefs, Catholic, Mary, Theology