Thou Shall Not Censure

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In my last post, I talked about the “Lost Books of the Bible“. I briefly mentioned that there were many theories regarding why these books were left out of the accepted Bible. Most of these theories seem to point out to a specific agenda of the early Christians to make the bible say what they want it to say. This may or may not be the case, but some of those same critics are doing the same thing today. More

Are the Animals Lining Up

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As I am sitting here listening to the rain tattooing the roof of the building I am in I am wondering if  this will be going on for another 39 days. Of course, I know that God promised Noah that it wouldn’t happen again, but could he change His mind? No, because he doesn’t renege on His promises.

I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth. – Genesis 9:11

Now that isn’t to say that the end isn’t going to come some other way, in fact, we can pretty much count on it. When it will come we
do not, nor will we ever know, but it will come. Which is another reason to live each day as if it will be our last, always keeping the end goal in mind. What is that end goal? Come on, you know, I’ve told you before. Anyone? The end goal is to do whatever we can to get us to heaven so we can spend eternity with the Lord.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me;  and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. – John 10:27-28

Follow Him and receive eternal life. What a deal.

The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore. – Psalm 121:8

Life is what you make it. About five or six years ago I was diagnosed with fibro
myalgia. It basically drains the life out of you. (Yes, you can buy my book here). I decided I had two choices, I could be miserable and let it beat me, or I could go on living and beat it. I beat it. It is the same with anything we do. We can wake up and decide we will have a good day or a bad day, it is our choice. We can decide if we are going to live as a good Catholic and Christian or if we will follow Satan. In other words, we can choose to live with the end goal in mind or not.

You Just Never Know

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First I must apologize for yesterday’s post. In reviewing it today i realized there were numerous typo’s. This is what happens when you are rushing to get the post done.

Today’s gospel is Matthew 25: 31 – 46. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” We never know when Jesus will be standing before us. We never know if that is him standing on a street corner and begging for spare change. We never know if that is him over there struggling to change a flat tire. We never know if that is him asking us for directions. We never know and we never take the time to even fleetingly think it might be.

We may never know but when it comes time to separate the sheep from the goats, the shepherd will know.

Can you give to every pan handler? Can you help everyone in need? Of course not, but let me ask you this – do you even bother to wonder? Do you at least pause or do you just keep walking or driving, going about your business? Do you even see or does it all just blend into the landscape? Is there so much (okay you know what’s coming) noise that you don’t even see?

So that brings up this question: Obviously you can’t help every beggar you see. There are some pan handlers out there who are probably making more money than you or I are, they are just scammers. I remember on in particular who used to stand on a corner in Harvard Square in Cambridge. One afternoon I saw her packing up her cardboard sign and other goodies into a shiny new BMW. I am pretty sure she wasn’t living in the beamer. So how can you tell? How do you know which one might be Jesus?

This brings up another interesting, almost related thought. I was listening to a Catholic talk radio show this morning and the host was discussing a new movie called “The Shack”. Since I was only half listening I am not quite sure what the discussion was about except for one thing I caught. Evidently God appears to the main character in several different human forms. One was as a old black woman and another was as a Muslim I believe. There seems to be some controversy among Catholics about this since this is not how God is generally pictured. What do you think about this? What do you think God looks like? Can not God manifest in any shape or form he wishes to? Read today’s gospel reading again, it sounds like he is appearing in different forms to me.

As I said I really wasn’t paying full attention as to why people were upset about this, but I look at it like this, God can be anything he wants to be, or more accurately He can be “in” any form he wants to. I think of God as a being, definitely real but not necessarily something you can see or touch. I also think of Him as being in all things, in everything you see, touch and hear. I guess it’s hard to explain, but when you actually take the time to look, you’ll see God everywhere.

 

Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell

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Warning: We are about to get into some pretty deep theological discussion, well at least deep for me. As I wrote in my last post, my sister passed away last week and as one who has to analyze everything on different levels (maybe over analyze would be a better way to put it) I began thinking about Purgatory. As far as I know, I believe this is a uniquely Catholic belief.

Let me give you the textbook definition of Purgatory, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.  The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.

Basically we can look at Purgatory as being somewhere between Heaven and Hell, this is the place where our sins are washed away before we can get into Heaven. Of course in order to go to Purgatory, we have to profess our belief in God, even if it is on our deathbed. We have three choices of places to go after death:

  • We can go directly to Heaven
  • We can go directly to Hell
  • We can stop in Purgatory on the way to Heaven.

Once in Purgatory, we may stay there for awhile, but from what I have read and heard, we will eventually get to Heaven.

Alright, so what was I thinking about regarding Purgatory and my sister? Is it possible for us to be in Purgatory while we are still alive? As I had mentioned in my last post, my sister suffered from mental illness. For the last 35 years or so, her life (at least as I see it) wasn’t all that good. She suffered from Paranoid Schizophrenia, with all the attendant symptoms, delusions, hearing voices, paranoia. For the record, she wanted nothing to do with me for the last ten years, so I don’t have first hand knowledge of this, but I don’t imagine she was very happy or that her quality of life could have been all that good. Again, this is an assumption om my part.

Therefore, if this were in fact true, could this have been her Purgatory? If she were suffering, was this the suffering she needed to go through in order for her to get to Heaven? We as Catholics are taught that only Saints go directly to Heaven, everyone else has to go through Purgatory, but is it possible that my sister had her Purgatory while she was alive?

We always hear that God has a plan for all of us, and I believe that, but I wonder what His plan for my sister was? It wasn’t her fault she had this illness, yes, some of her actions may have contributed to it (a subject of debate between my siblings and I) but it certainly wasn’t something she chose. We all have the free will to sin or not sin, but we don’t have the choice on whether or not we suffer from mental illness.

I don’t know the answer for this, at least not yet, but I will continue looking into it. If anyone has any input, please feel free to leave a comment.

Some resources on Purgatory:

The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: Inferno (Penguin Classics)
The Seven Storey Mountain
The Biblical Basis For Purgatory

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Kicking God to the Curb

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One of my favorite Catholic talk show hosts talked about a recent Gallup poll yesterday that reported on recent trends in the acceptability of things that used to be considered immoral and now are accepted as moral. (see Gallup poll here) I did write a little about it in my other blog, the more political one, but I feel it needs to be talked about here as well. ( Patrick Madrid, Right Here, Right Now)

The last caller, or maybe the next to the last really hit the nail on the head, when she said if we hadn’t kicked God to the curb, we wouldn’t have such a problem. Okay she didn’t use quite those words, but haven’t we done that? Haven’t we allowed others to remove God “from the public square” as the current saying goes? Now I am no scientist, nor do I even play one on TV, but isn’t there some law of physics or one of the sciences which basically says if you create a vacuum by removing something, something else has to fill its space?

What is going to fill the space that removing God has created? Um, how about Satan? I was never much of a Paul Harvey fan, but he once made a recording, I don’t know if it was on his radio show or somewhere else, entitled “If I Were the Devil.” If you have never listened to it, you should. It was very prophetic in 1965, especially since so much of what he predicted has come true today. Now before someone out there gets all in a tither, I know there is some controversy as to who wrote this, when it was written, etc. etc. and I chalk that up to the same people who are kicking God to the curb.

The sad thing is, we have allowed this to happen, especially we Catholics. Yup, I said it, I am blaming my fellow Catholics and myself, in fact, I am putting  a good part of the blame on my fellow Catholics and I. The reason I believe we are to blame is two-fold.

First, we are too nice, we are too Christian. We tend to mostly keep to ourselves and not push our religion and our beliefs onto others, at least until recently and even on ourselves. I only need to look at myself and my own life. I honestly do not remember the church ever catechizing (teaching) me why contraception was wrong, why abortion was wrong, only that they were a sin and that was that. They never fully explained these things. (Now whether or not I would have listened is another thing) The point is we have kept quiet and sucked it up, letting others push their secularist agendas on us without fighting.

The second point, and this could very well be a result of why we haven’t pushed our beliefs, is we have been convinced, or at least our pastors have been, that we can’t preach politics from our pulpits. We have bought into the “separation of church and state” myth and how f we preach politics, our church would lose its tax exempt status. This isn’t true as you can read here. When is the last time we have heard a good homily about what the left is doing to the country and especially religious freedom? Our Protestant brothers have no problem with this. Why even Michelle Obama says it is a good thing, so why  don’t we Catholics do it?

Yes, I do think things are changing for the better. We Catholics are beginning to come around. After all this is partly what the “New Evangelization” is all about, re-evangelizing Catholics about what we as Catholics are supposed to believe, and why we are supposed to believe.

The focus of the New Evangelization calls all Catholics to be evangelized and then go forth to evangelize. In a special way, the New Evangelization is focused on ‘re-proposing’ the Gospel to those who have experienced a crisis of faith. – USCCB

We need to relearn our faith, understand it, follow it and then share it. We can no longer be silent. If we remain so, it won’t be long before we no longer have any religious freedom left. I’ll leave you with this, written by Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.

Yes Virginia, it could happen here.

Either You Are Catholic or You Are Not

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You are either Catholic or you aren’t. No, this isn’t an attempt to convert everyone out there to Catholicism, but rather it is directed to those who claim to be Catholic, yet don’t follow the teachings of the church. They pick and choose which tenets of the faith to follow and decide the others aren’t right.

This is especially a problem when it is very public figures who claim they are devout Catholics yet believe in things such as abortion or same-sex marriage. Of course at the top of this list for me is Nancy Pelosi the House Minority Leader from the San Francisco area. Why Nancy even believes she is more catholic than San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. She recently sent him a letter asking him not attend the March for Marriage event.

“We share our love of the Catholic faith and our city of San Francisco,” Pelosi wrote to Cordileone, who, as head of the 560,000-member Archdiocese of San Francisco, has become the Catholic bishops’ point man against gay marriage. She urged him to abandon an event in which some of the participants show “disdain and hate towards LGBT persons.” – SFGate.com

I’ll make one point on this then move on from my minor rant about Pelosi and go onto my main idea. The debate about same-sex marriage as far as the Catholic Church goes has nothing to do with “disdain and hate towards LGBT persons” but the fact that the Catholic Church believes it is against the teachings of our Savior Jesus Christ. They have always taught this and they aren’t going to change it now. Catholics, and any one else for that matter especially Christians, don’t “hate” anyone, rather they hate the sin and love the sinner. But enough of my political rant against another democratic politician who thinks she has all the answers and is smarter than the rest of us.

The problem is this: If you claim to be Catholic, then you should be following all the teachings of the Church, not just the ones you agree with. And for the record, I used to be one of those who claimed to be Catholic, who picked and chose the teachings I would follow.

The Catholic Church has taught the same things since its inception after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Whether the Catholic Church is the “true” church of Jesus can, and has been debated, but the fact remains Catholics haven’t changed their beliefs since that time. They have never succumbed to changes in public opinion, they have never changed due to pressure from the media and certainly not because of any politician. One only needs to look at the history and beginnings of Protestantism for evidence of this. Sir Thomas More, now a saint, was beheaded because he refused to bow to the political pressure put on him by King Henry VIII and agree that the King’s divorce was okay in the Catholic Church.

If you don’t want to follow Catholic teaching, then you can leave the Catholic Church. The church should not and will not change to fit you, you can either change to fit the church or join the over 20,000 other Christian denominations out there. In fact you can even start your own if you would like.

Again, I am not claiming that Catholicism is the one true faith and all the others are wrong. What I am saying is if you don’t like what it teaches, then you should leave, not call yourself a Catholic and get on with your own life. For too long we have let groups with their own political agendas change the way we think and act, they continue to take away our religious freedoms and our right to believe what we wish to believe. This is true whether you are Catholic, Protestant, Mormon or Muslim.

So forgive my rant but at least give it some thought.

Here are some resources you might be interested in:

The Life of Thomas More

Catechism of the Catholic Church

History of the Catholic Church: From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium

The History Of Protestantism…

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Confession is Good for the Soul

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Today we celebrate Easter, the day Jesus was raised from the dead in order to free us from our sins. We can look at this like He wiped our slates clean in order for us to start over. How many of us have kept it clean? I would imagine not too many of us.

No matter how hard we try to not sin it is going to happen, we aren’t perfect and God knows it. For those times we do though, we can ask God for forgiveness and we will receive it, wiping the slate clean again. Catholics do this through the Sacrament of Reconciliation or as we old Catholics still call it “Confession”. In my limited knowledge of other christian denomination practices, I believe we are the only one which has such a thing. No, I am not trying to convert anyone to the Catholic faith, of course you are always welcome. I only want to talk about forgiveness and responsibility.

I remember when I started my journey back to the faith and going to confession for the first time after maybe thirty years, I honestly can’t remember the last time I went. I stopped going because I figured God knew what I was doing, He knew when I sinned, and He would forgive me, even if I didn’t ask. As most Catholics my age, we all figured we knew better than the church fathers. “Rules? We don’t need no stinking rules!” So why even bother you might ask? After all God DOES know your sins, why should you have to go through a third party? How about because Jesus, and therefore God tells us to.

This sacrament is rooted in the mission God gave to Christ in his capacity as the Son of man on earth to go and forgive sins (cf. Matt. 9:6). Thus, the crowds who witnessed this new power “glorified God, who had given such authority to men” (Matt. 9:8; note the plural “men”). After his resurrection, Jesus passed on his mission to forgive sins to his ministers, telling them, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. . . . Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:21–23). – Catholic Answers

But there is even a better reason, or maybe two or even three.

One, it feels good to get all these sins off your chest. Now maybe the word “good” isn’t the best to use, the time I went after having not gone wasn’t “good” in the sense of “happy” but it was “good” in the way of cleansing. Did I k now my sins before hand? Absolutely, but it felt good to get them out there.

Second, it does feel good, in the sense of happy, to be forgiven. I guess some can still argue you don’t need to tell a priest your sins to be forgiven, you can just ask him for forgiveness. But as a Catholic I truly believe that Jesus passed down the power to forgive sins to his apostles and when Catholic priests are ordained, this power is passed down to them. And how can he know your sins if you don’t confess them?

Third, and what to me is the best reason, when you confess your sins to the priest, you are taking responsibility for them. Here is an article from Patheos which talks about what is meant by Jesus taking away our sins. The author talks about how we are quick to blame others for our sins, so we can feel good about ourselves. In today’s world so many of us fail to take responsibility for our actions. Everything is someone elses fault, why we even blame some things on God. It is time we realize this isn’t true, it isn’t always someone elses fault, we have free will and more control than we think. But blaming someone else is the easy way out.

Confession forces us to truly examine our consciences and take responsibility for the sins that are truly our fault. Of course you need to believe in God, believe in Jesus taking away our sins and I suppose, most importantly, knowing God is the ultimate moral authority.

I will leave you today with the Lord’s Prayer”

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever.
Amen.

Understanding “Our Father”: Biblical Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer Framed Plaque

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