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Category Archives: Theology

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!

 
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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.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2016 in Theology, Uncategorized

 

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.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2013 in Fitness, Theology

 

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!

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

 

Why does God allow suffering? Look to the Cross.

In light of the recent horrendous mass murder in the Connecticut elementary school, we all naturally ask the question, Why?. Why did this person commit this violence against innocent children and adults? Why did he feel compelled to act in this way? Why did he have such violent thoughts and malice? But then we also ask the question, why did God allow this tragedy to happen? Why does God permit such evil to occur to the innocent?

To provide a simple answer is to demean the gravity of the question. There are no simple answers. We can turn to God’s goodness, providence, and love to help us understand. In the end we must still admit that we cannot always see God’s intentions and that it transcends our finite human understanding. It is a “mystery”. This does not mean we cannot know some truths about suffering and God’s providence and omnipotence.

It’s a good idea first to talk about what evil is. Evil is not a thing but a privation, namely, a lack of good. And there are two types of evil – moral evil and physical evil. Moral evil is the direct result of sins, actions done against God’s law with the intention to do so. Physical evil such as cancer, earthquakes, or stubbing my toe is also the result of sin but in an indirect way. If we turn to scripture and go to Genesis 3, we recall the Fall when death entered the world through the free choice of Adam and Eve to chose themselves over God. The consequence of this disobedience was death (Gen 2:17) and all the suffering that can happen as a result of this fallen nature.

You might ask why God didn’t create humanity without sin. Well, he did. Adam and Eve were created in a state of grace. However, they were created, as we are, with freewill. For freewill is what makes us human and enables us to love. Love cannot be coerced; it can only be freely given. So as human beings, we have the ability to chose to love or to not and chose moral evil instead.

But back to the question of why would an all-powerful, all-loving God allow suffering? To help us in understanding this mystery we must direct our gaze to the Cross. God allows suffering because the blessing and good that results is greater than that would have occurred without it. Look at the Cross. The worst evil ever perpetrated was to execute the innocent only begotten Son of God, the 2nd person of the Trinity. What greater sin is there? Yet through that act of seeming injustice our redemption is obtained.

valaz Christ crucified

How the suffering of others affects us as a whole is a mystery. Presently we see dimly (cf. 1 Cor 13:12), but we do know that God wills for our salvation and for us to be in his loving arms for all eternity.

The words of St. Paul here are fitting:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; 34 who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,

“For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  – Romans 8:18-39

Some people will claim that God is punishing us for our sins. This may be true, but we cannot see the mind of God to know. But if we understand and believe God’s desire for an intimate relationship with us, perhaps we should view the allowing of suffering as a manifestation of God’s mercy. Now, we don’t believe that God directly causes us to suffer – but he can use it for our benefit. After all, when do we as sometimes immature Christians go to God in prayer? When there is a tragedy, or difficulty, or agony. We reach out to God in those moments. Even people that don’t normally view themselves as religious are more likely to invoke the Almighty. God wants us to pray in the good times too.

One final thing I’ll say is this:  In a society where we’ve driven God out of the culture, out of our public life, out of our schools, out of our arts, and relegated him into the corners of our churches on Sundays, is it any wonder that we have individuals who act out in an ungodly manner? When we devalue life and adopt, as Blessed Pope John Paul II called it, “a culture of life”, is it any wonder that we have individuals who act out in a deadly manner?

I’ll leave you with these powerful words from St. Paul again, speaking about our participation in the cross of of Christ:

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in current events, Theology