Are The Lions at the Door

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In the past I have written about God giving me answers to questions, sometimes even before I ask them. The latest instance was this week when I was thinking about the Las Vegas shooting. As you know I am convinced we are nearing the end with all that has been happening: earthquakes, hurricanes, mass violence, etc. I also believe many of the problems are due to having pushed God out of the public square, completely turning around our moral compass.

I try to read something spiritual every night, whether it is scripture or some other writing. Lately, I have been reading the Old Testament, the Book of Jeremiah. The other night I opened to Chapter 5 and to my surprise, much of this chapter corresponds with what we are experiencing today.

Background on Jeremiah (from a non-biblical scholar)

Jeremiah was a prophet around the mid-seventh century B.C. and God was using him to warn the people of Israel that they were to be punished for their sins. God had already given them a chance to repent through Isiah but they didn’t. From the Agape Bible Study website:

The Prophet Jeremiah lived about a century after the Prophet Isaiah. The words of God spoken to the people through Isaiah brought the covenant people of Judah and their king to repentance, saving them from God’s judgment … However, God did not send Jeremiah to call the people to repentance but instead to announce that the time for repentance had passed and the judgment that had been delayed had now come.

As we’ll see. even though Jeremiah tries to convince God that there are some good people out there, He will have none of that. After all, God has heard this all before ala Abraham and the whole Sodom and Gomorrah thing. And if you look in Chapter 4, you will see that Jeremiah has protested to God against spreading His wrath,

Then and Now

So how does any of this relate to today? Let’s look at some verses from Jeremiah and how they can relate to what is going on around us. All scripture passages are from the USCCB website meaning that there might be slight variations in the translation you use.

We can begin at the very first verse where God asks Jeremiah to:

Roam the streets of Jerusalem, look about and observe, search through her squares, to find even one who acts justly and seeks honesty, and I will pardon her! – Jer 5:1

What he found were people who tried to make others believe they acted according to God’s will but were not. They were putting up false fronts, preaching false gospels and worshiping false gods. Jeremiah began with the common people and he thought they were ignorant of the law so he decided to talk to the leaders.

Let me go to the leaders and speak with them; for they must know the way of the LORD, the justice of their God. But, one and all, they have broken the yoke , torn off the harness. – Jer 5:5

This was the verse that made me realize that God was sending me some kind of message. Haven’t our political leaders “broken the yoke” and “torn off the harness”? I won’t even talk about those that claim to be good, devout Catholics yet favor abortion and euthanasia. Look at all the politicians out there that worship false gods: power and money are two of those gods. How many have built “alters” to themselves through pork barrel spending? How many truly care about the poor to get them working instead of depending on entitlements to live?

Let me jump ahead a few verses:

For criminals lurk among my people; like fowlers they set traps, but it is human beings they catch. Their houses are as full of treachery as a bird-cage is of birds; therefore they grow powerful and rich, fat and sleek. They pass over wicked deeds; justice they do not defend By advancing the claim of the orphan or judging the cause of the poor. – Jer 5: 26 – 28

Not only do I think of politicians when I read these verses, but I also think of others including business leaders and even some of the leaders of charities and other non-profits set up for the public good. One perfect example is the Planned Parenthood organization whose chairperson takes in $400,000 or so. Even something as noble as The Wounded Warrior Project has been criticized for excessive spending. Am I saying these people are criminals? I guess it would depend on your definition of criminal. But at the least they are taking advantage of others for their own gain.

Lions at our Doors

What happens when we discard God and His teachings?

Therefore, lions from the forest slay them, wolves of the desert ravage them, leopards keep watch round their cities: all who come out are torn to pieces, for their crimes are many, their rebellions numerous. – Jer 5:6

Are there lions, wolves and leopards at our doors? Look around you, they are everywhere waiting to destroy us. This week one named Stephen Paddock decided to shoot and kill hundreds of innocent people. No, we don’t know what his motive was, as of this writing the authorities can’t find one, but even so he was a beast who waited to pounce. There are terror attacks all over the world, some perpetrated by international terrorists, some by domestic terrorists. We can certainly relate these to Jeremiah’s beasts who are waiting to pounce.

God also laments about other sins that we are committing with impunity. Can we deny that adultery, immorality, crime and so many others surround us? All the while turning their backs on the Lord and His teachings fearing nothing, believing they will not be punished.

They denied the LORD, saying, “He is nothing, no evil shall come to us, neither sword nor famine shall we see. – Jer 5: 12

Throughout history we have seen this over and over again. Throughout the Old Testament, but even in modern history. Did the Nazi leadership and many German citizens who believed in Nazi ideology think they would not have to face the wrath of God? No. But it came. Are we here in the United States also thinking this? I believe so.

And when they ask, “Why has the LORD our God done all these things to us?” say to them, “As you have abandoned me to serve foreign gods in your own land, so shall you serve foreigners in a land not your own.” – Jer 5:19

Pay attention to this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes and do not see, who have ears and do not hear. – Jer 5:21

The Message

What is the message here? Is there one? I believe there is, the same as it was when Jeremiah first prophesied it almost 3,000 years ago. We have turned our backs on God. We have replaced his moral code with one of our own based on narcissism, materialism and relativism. We care more about ourselves than we do about others. We have created a culture of death, where lives no longer matter based upon your particular perception. And like the ancient people of Judah we too will be punished.

And as I stated at the very beginning of this rather lengthy post, I believe it may already have started.

What can we do?

This leads to the obvious question: What if anything can we do? I wish I had a good answer, but I don’t. Like Jeremiah, I am frustrated that so many don’t seem to care (not that I am any kind of prophet). We are surrounded by people who have eyes but do not see, and ears that do not hear. Not that there aren’t any good people out there. We see them any time there is a tragedy like what happened in Las Vegas or after the hurricanes and other natural disasters. The people come out in force, but too many of them, go back into hiding when the crisis is over. The crisis isn’t over.

Can we as individuals turn the tide? Can we make a difference? Although every day it gets harder and harder to believe I like to think we can. The one thing we can do is simple. Let me take a quote from Mother Teresa and change one word. “If we can’t change a hundred people, then change just one.” We need to live our lives as good Christians and maybe by setting and example we can change one person. one person will see how we are living and try to do the same.

And what is the first thing we need to remember? We need to live with the end goal in mind, and that goal is to spend eternity in Heaven.

If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one. - Mother Teresa

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Taking the Narrow Gate

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How often when faced with a choice do we opt for the easiest one? How often do we follow the crowd and do what everyone else is doing, even if we aren’t sure it is the right thing to do? Or to follow along with Jesus’ teaching and take the broad road in order to go through the wide gate? More

Where is the Bottom

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Here is one from the “How far do we have to fall before we hit bottom” department. In the news this week is a story about a website where married couples can hook up for affairs. It seems that a group of hackers has hijacked all the information and is threatening to release all the information unless the site is taken down. This information includes names, addresses, credit card information, dates, times, places, all kinds of stuff. There are at least 45 million members.  More

All Living Things are Created Equal

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I can’t make this stuff up. What’s wrong with this picture? We have two separate polls. One shows that 1/3 of Americans feel that animals should have the same rights as humans. Another poll shows that 47% of Americans consider themselves Pro-choice a.k.a unborn children aren’t humans and have no rights.  So I guess that means my dog Buttons has more rights than that unborn baby in the belly of the woman down the street?

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Are you Rolling the Dice

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Last week I talked about the sin of sloth. I followed that up with a post about choices. What better way to follow up than to write about making the best choices.

While we may or may not agree that we all have free will and are able to make our own choices, there is something we should all remember that with every choice we make, comes responsibility. We are responsible for our actions, and the affect they may have on both ourselves and on others. We live in a time when many people no longer take responsibility for their actions, always blaming their problems on someone else.

If we are able to make choices, freely, then we should be held responsible for the consequences of these actions. That isn’t the way it is in these times. Instead we live in a world where it is all about “me” and nothing is my fault. Parents no longer discipline their children, we don’t keep score in games, teachers aren’t allowed to use red ink and nothing bad is allowed to happen, at least we won’t blame anyone for anything bad that happens. This is a problem.

Here is the catch however, even when we don’t take responsibility for our choices, we still are responsible. We may be able to deflect blame to others, but in the end, when, as the old song goes, “When the roll is called up yonder” we will be held responsible. This leads us to the question: Does it matter, should it matter?

Yes and yes.

How can we learn to make choices? This isn’t as easy to answer as one might think, especially in today’s world. It really depends on what our end goal is. Where do we want to end up? When we decide that, then we can better decide what choices we should make.

When you look at the title of this blog, it says “The Wayward Catholic” which means I am Catholic. Catholics believe in life after death. We believe that when we die we have a chance to go to heaven and live there for eternity, which  is a good thing. We believe the way we can do this is to follow the teachings of Jesus and live like he did.  This leads to a problem because not everyone feels the same.

There is no God, there is no Heaven there is no Hell, is how many people think. If this is true why should we follow these rules? We should just do what we want because once we die, that’s it. Let’s look at this. The other word in the title of my blog, is wayward. Here is the definition of Wayward from Dictionary.com:

way·ward

1. turned or turning away from what is right or proper; willful; disobedient.

This is what I was, I turned away from the CAtholic faith, which means when I began my journey back, one of the questions I had to ask myself was “Is there a Heaven and a Hell?” Obviously I believe there is. But if you don’t, that’s fine, but I want you to think about something. When I was researching all these questions I had, I came across something called “Pascal’s Wager” You can click on the link to get the info on Pacal, but I will give you what you need to know.

When we look at what Heaven and Hell are, whether or not you believe they are real or just fiction, Heaven seems a lot better than Hell. Read Dantes Inferno  if you want to get a description of Hell. Therefore, if there is a chance there is life after death, and Heaven and Hell exists, wouldn’t it be worthwhile to do whatever you could to get there? What Pascal believed, and what makes perfect sense when you really think about it, is this.

You have a fifty/fifty chance of being right, either there is an after-life or there isn’t. I admit, it is a crap shoot. But wouldn’t it be better to bet there is an after-life and be wrong, than to bet there isn’t one and find out there really is? As I said above, in order to get to Heaven we need to live a Christ-like life, or at least as close to it as we can. If we do this, we would certainly be living a good, honest, caring life. We would be doing good things, treating others kindly, etc. and we will be a good person. On the other hand if we don’t live a Christ-like way, we might not necessarily be a good person. We would live for today, we would  probably be very materialistic and do anything to get ahead. There is a pretty good chance you wouldn’t be a good person.

Now, here is the point. Wouldn’t it be better to live a Christ-like life with the hope of getting to Heaven and what it has to offer and be wrong, than to not live a Christ-like life figuring there is no Heaven and find out there is a Heaven and conversely Hell? After all if you live a good life and find out Heaven doesn’t exist, at least you lived a good, honest life and were considered good. Whereas if you don’t live a Christ-like life and Hell exists, well, you will end up there. Which is the better bet?

This is where making the right choices is important. We should bet there is a Heaven and do whatever we can to make sure we will get there. This should be our guide.

Quick to Hear Slow to Speak

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James_Ch1_V19-20

How many of us are quick to speak and slow to hear? I would be willing to bet more of us than care to admit. We seem to live in a world where we never listen to each other any more. We have so many distractions, our attention spans have gone down to nothing, we can’t stop texting or answering our cell phones whenever they ring. It doesn’t matter who we are talking to, our spouse, our kids, our boss, our employee, God.

Today’s Gospel reading comes from James:

Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,  for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.

We need to listen more and speak less. Listen to what others are saying. Are they reaching out to us in some way? Are they asking for our help? What can we learn from them?

A little further down in the same reading is this:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing.

Whether you are a believer in God or not, this passage speaks volumes. Who do you see in the mirror? Do you forget what you see as soon as you walk away? Or worse, do you not like who you see looking back at you?

In the world we live in today, I wonder if this might be part of our problem, we look at ourselves in the mirror, we don’t know who is looking back at us. We don’t know who we should be, we don’t know which way of the moral compass is up, we have no guidance. How can we know if the person looking back at us is a good person or not when we have no guidelines? Think about it.

We Need More Joseph’s

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we need more joseph's

We really need more Joseph’s out in the world today. We need more people who will take responsibility and do the right thing even if they don’t need to.

In today’s Gospel, Matthew 1: 18-24, we recall the story of the angel coming to Joseph letting him know that his betrothed, Mary, would be having a baby. Joseph and Mary weren’t yet living together, the custom was  to live separately for a year, so needless to say Joseph was surprised Mary was pregnant. His first reaction was to quietly divorce her so she wouldn’t have to suffer any scandal, when the angel told him not to.

Joseph could have not listened to the angel and done what he originally intended, he could have chosen to not take responsibility, walking away, but he didn’t. instead he and Mary raised their son and we know the rest of the story. Unlike so many today who would have walked away, even when they are physically the father, Joseph stayed, raising Jesus as his own. While we do’t know a lot about Joseph, no where in the Bible is he heard saying anything, in fact the only time we learn of him again is when he and Mary have to return to the temple after Jesus stays behind, but we can assume Joseph never complained about his circumstances. He didn’t ask for help, he just accepted what God asked him to do and did his best. I am sure it was hard, worrying about how he could afford this, and I am sure he just worked harder. He didn’t run away though. Even Mary accepted her responsibility without question, again, unlike so many today.

Wouldn’t it be nice if more people were like Mary and Joseph, taking responsibility and not running away from them? Instead of the father disappearing or the mother killing the baby through abortion. I guess we can only pray that someday this will be. In the meantime we should take responsibility for our actions and especially when God asks us to do something for Him.

Here is a blog post from Catholic Apologist Jimmy Akin on this explaining this assage better than I ever could.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1: 18-21

Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives

Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration

Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection

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