Month: April 2017

The Test of Happiness is Gratitude!

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thank you

This week I was researching for an article I am writing about G.K. Chesterton and I came across this gem of a quote from Chapter 4 of his work Orthodoxy. He states, “The test of happiness is gratitude.” There are few phrases that make me pause when I am reading and this was one of them. I have thought about this quote a lot today and figured it would be a good message to pass along.

Gratitude is defined as the quality of feeling or being thankful. Why a feeling may be arbitrary and susceptible to change “being” thankful has a more lasting feature to it. Because of this, I want to make this slight change to Chesterton’s quote– the test of happiness is [being] thankful!

According to a recent article I read online about the success of the restaurant chain Chik-fil-a, the power of saying “thank you” is quite tangible. The main thrust of the article states that Chik-fil-a’s leadership stresses the importance of manners and expressing gratitude towards customers in their employee training. As an occasional customer of Chik-fil-a, I can attest to the superb customer service and appreciation among workers when I visit their establishment.

On a more profound level, the Catholic Church has been proclaiming Chesterton’s message “The Test of Happiness is Gratitude” for over 2,000 years. In fact the most important thing Catholics participate in on a weekly or daily basis– the Mass– is centered on thanksgiving! The sacrament of the Eucharist, housed within the Mass, along with being the source and summit of the Catholic faith, actually is a transliteration of the Greek word eucharistia which means “thanksgiving”. I always come out of Mass being happier than when I came in. It is nice to have a reminder of thankfulness to re-orient myself if I stray away from this mindset during the week.

I do not believe it is a coincidence that the Catholic Mass and the success of Chik-fil-a are both connected to being thankful. God knows that mankind can only be truly happy when experiencing life as a gift. So to conclude, I want to thank all that have read my posts and for anyone who is reading my writing for the first time. I thank God for my faith, family, and friends. I hope you find at least three things to be thankful of today after reading this. Thank you again!

Will Our Resurrected Bodies Grant Us Superpowers?

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superman

Superheroes are a huge part the American culture. In recent years, blockbusters like The Avengers franchise and Superman v. Batman along with television shows such as The Flash headline our entertainment. I am a huge fan of the Flash and I love his abilities of super speed, phasing, and time travel. However, at the end of the day, these characters are still human–just with amplified powers. Each Easter season I ponder the mystery of the Resurrected body of Jesus. Nearly every Sunday during Easter has a Gospel reading talking about the Apostles encounter with the Resurrected Lord! Please do not misread my topic, I am not trying to equate the resurrected body with a superhero from a comic book. What I want to reflect on today is what exactly can we deduce are the qualities of the resurrected body as evidenced in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition (ex: Thomas Aquinas).

Here are four properties of the Resurrected body as outlined by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Contra Gentiles IV, 86 and supported by Scripture:

  1. Impassibility (Incorruptible): St. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:42, ” So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible.” St. Thomas builds on this to mean that the resurrected body is not subject to deterioration from disease and death.
  2. Subtlety (Phasing): St. Thomas uses the term subtlety which refers to the ability to pass through material objects. While still being material [I will explain this below], the resurrected body is able to pass or phrase through things. The prime example is Jesus passing through the closed and locked doors in John 20:19.
  3. Agility (Super speed): We get a hint at this ability through Jesus’ miracle of walking on the water [this is pure speculation– his movement was so quick he was able to move across water with ease]. One of the more famous post-resurrection appearance instances of agility is when Jesus leaves suddenly in the Emmaus episode in Luke 24:13-35.
  4. Clarity (Brightness): According to Thomas Aquinas, “The bodies of all men alike will be organized as befits the soul, so that the soul shall be an imperishable form giving imperishable being to the body, because to this effect the power of God will entirely subject the matter of the human body to the human soul” (Summa Contra Gentiles IV, 86). He also cites Matthew 13:43 which states the just will shine brilliantly in the kingdom of God. This quality of the resurrected body is the vaguest for me so I am not going to deviate from Thomas Aquinas’ words on this point. I encourage you to read more about this quality in Summa Contra Gentiles.

There is so much more to ponder when it comes to the nature and qualities of the resurrected bodies of both Christ and the saints. However, I will want to wrap up this post before I get too speculative in my theology. To be honest this past year, I have become enamored with superheroes of all sorts—in particular DC Comics’ The Flash. I often joke with my wife how cool it would be to acquire the power of the Speed Force and don the mantel of the Scarlet Speedster!

the flash

On a more serious note, I want to make sure that I am clear on this point, I am NOT equating the Resurrected Lord with the powers and abilities of superheroes such as Superman or The Flash—that would falter close to the heresy of Arianism. What I want to stress is that there is something mysterious and attractive about the resurrection of the body. Christians proclaim this belief each week in the Nicene Creed. It is important to realize that we follow God’s commandments and promote charity to our neighbor not because of the promise of the resurrection but due to our love for God. It is neat to think about the powers and abilities of the resurrected body. Until then I will ask for God’s grace through prayer and the sacraments to increase my love of the Holy Trinity and people I encounter on a daily basis. True heroism occurs in acts of love and virtue!

3 Reasons Why I Am Thankful for Divine Mercy Sunday!

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divine mercy.jpg

On April 30th, 2000 Pope John Paul II officially designated the second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. The designation was in celebration of the canonization of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska– the Polish nun who received the devotion from Jesus! Today we celebrate this same feast 17 years later. My wife’s Confirmation saint is St. Maria Faustina and in recent years of our marriage I have been more familiar with her teaching by reading the Polish nun’s diary. While I could write for pages about the joys of today’s feast I will limit myself to three reasons for why I am grateful for Divine Mercy Sunday.

1. Judgment + _____________= Love I bet you can’t guess blank to fill out the equation. Let me give you a clue: the word is in the title of today’s post.  You guessed it– mercy! The Church’s renewed focus on Divine Mercy to start the new millennium gave me a renewed focus as well. I grew up usually thinking about the power of God and His ability to judge us. For whatever reason I viewed God more as a judge and less like a merciful Father. Divine Mercy Sunday is a gift that helps remind me that God, though a judge, is a merciful judge and will give me many chances to correct the mistakes I make.

 2. Confession: The reading associated with this Sunday’s Mercy Sunday comes from John 20:19-31. Jesus’ first words to his apostles are, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). That is one of the effects of divine mercy. In a world that is constantly pulling me each direction, it is nice to listen Christ’s words. A second major point from today’s gospel reading is the institution of the sacrament of Confession. Jesus confers this sacrament of healing to his apostles when he say, “”Peace be with you [a second time]. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained'” (John 20:21-23).  Time and time again Jesus reminds us of God’s mercy. In the 20th century, Jesus gave St. Faustina this same message. She states in her diary,

“’Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God. All the works of My hands are crowned with mercy.’” (No. 301)

3.  My marriage: Along with the fruit of the sacrament of Confession, Divine Mercy Sunday infuses life into my marriage. As I stated before, my wife’s Confirmation saint is St. Faustina. It was through the graces received through praying the chaplet of Divine Mercy that quelled any doubt in her mind of joining the Catholic Church. Additionally, I am thankful for Divine Mercy Sunday because this feast day is a great reminder of the amazing mercy my wife shows to me on a daily basis! When I get short or angry at a home situation, my wife is always willing to bestow mercy by the end of the day. I would like to think that I too am making progress– due in large part to St. Faustina and my wife’s intercession– but I have great strides to go still.

If you have never heard of St. Maria Faustina, I urge you to check out her diary from a local library, a friend, or your parish. For those pinched for time, I recommend simply printing off a small list of quotes from her about Divine Mercy and read them a few minutes a day during this Easter Season. I close with Jesus’ words [revealed to St. Faustina], “The prayer of a humble and loving soul disarms the anger of My Father and draws down an ocean of blessings” (Diary of Maria Faustina No. 320). Thank God for the gift of Divine Mercy Sunday!

I May Be Experiencing the Same Loneliness as Jesus and Why it is Good

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loneliness

For several years of my life, the final words of Jesus before his death on the Cross puzzled me. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).  The word forsaken according to a thesaurus has many synonyms but the two that stand out to me are quit and desert.  Let’s insert these words into the previous quote and read it again. On the Cross Jesus cries out, “My God, my God why have you quit on me and deserted me?” I think that everyone relate to Christ’s words. Within my own life I feel God has quit on me too many times to count and I believe I may be experiencing a period of abandonment and loneliness currently.

Why am I telling you this? Is my accusation of God’s commitment to me a grave danger to my Catholic faith? Is my feeling of abandonment caused by outside factors such as my work, stress, the winter weather or something else? Perhaps. However, I felt compelled to journal about my inner struggles as a Catholic man as a type of prayer to God Himself.

Let me back up and explain how I have grown to realize that feeling abandoned by God is not necessarily a bad thing. A few years ago, I was taking graduate theology courses and there was a particular class where I was required to read St. John of the Cross’s A Dark Night of the Soul– a spiritual grace that flowed from his period of spiritual loneliness. During this time of my life, I starting reading the Diary of St. Maria Faustina and she expressed similar sentiment. The Polish saint writes, “O Jesus, today my soul is as though darkened by suffering. Not a single ray of light” (Diary 195),  Her words express my exact thoughts today.

When I read Faustina’s words I felt provoked to learn more about the words of the dying Christ, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. It turns out that the Gospels writers were making an allusion to Psalm 22- a prayer the psalmist wrote as a lament to God. I believe that the Holy Spirit was teaching me by fusing my theological background of the Scriptures with my current life experience.

path to pray

Maybe God is allowing me to suffer loneliness because He knows that this will direct me on the path of prayer again. See I have not been the best Catholic. I have been impatient at work and home. I allow doubt to creep into my life. Perhaps this spiritual abandonment is the greatest gift God can grant to me now. Perhaps God is doing the same thing in your life now. Let’s embrace this loneliness together and continue to hope in God’s Providence. Amen.

 

 

2 Reasons Why Luke Has Best Start to Any New Testament Book

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st luke

Today’s post is a bold statement, especially if you compare Luke’s Gospel against the amazing theology from the poetic beginning of John’s Gospel. As a person who graduated with a history major for my undergraduate degree, St. Luke has always held a special place in my academic heart. I put forth two reasons why the start of Luke’s Gospel is the best way to begin any book.

  1. Know your Audience: Luke dedicates his gospel to a person named Theophilus. Scholars hold that this name may be referring to a singular person or a general audience. The reason for believing the latter possibility is because the Greek word Theophilus translates to “lover of God”. Regardless of Luke’s intention, I found it interesting and significant that he adds this dedication. Along with the dedication, Luke gives us the purpose of his writing his account. Here is the exact text of his dedication to Theophilus:

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received (Luke 1:1-4).

  1. Credibility: The second point I wish to make to show the genius of Luke’s gospel is that within the initial verses, the evangelist tells his readers the sources that he is using. Relying on eyewitness testimonies, Luke is likely a second-generation Christian who had some contact with the original Twelve Apostles. Additionally, Luke seems to take careful time to sift through these sources utilizing both his reason and gift of the Holy Spirit which inspired him. Luke says, “it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past (1:3 Revised Standard Edition). What this means is that Luke carefully examined his sources like any reasonable historian. Lastly, Luke tells Theophilus (us- as lovers of God) the purpose of his writing—“that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed” (1:4 Revised Standard Edition). Interestingly enough, the Greek word katécheó is translated to mean “informed” refers to teach and is the basis of the English word “catechize”. Catechesis was already happening  between Jesus’ Ascension and the time of Luke!

lightbulb

St. Luke is unique among the gospels in that his writing is the only one that specifically details his sources and authorial aim. I firmly believe that one of the reasons for the Lucan text to be included in the New Testament canon—through the guidance of the Holy Spirit—was to appeal to people who rely first and foremost on reason. People like myself crave a rationale basis for various ideas and I love St. Luke’s gospel which is faith-filled in content, the book begins with a brief appeal to the rationalist. I hope to discuss Luke second work, the Acts of the Apostles—especially in celebration of this Easter season!

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. Part 5- War of the Serpent

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I have yet to meet a person who loves snakes. Aside from the fangs, venom, and ability to suffocate, snakes are peculiar creatures because they are one of the few creatures in nature that lack limbs. I am not going to get into an evolutionary answer for why snakes slither on the ground. What I am going to do is examine the connection between the theme of snakes in the Bible and how a contextual reading of Genesis and Revelation opened my eyes to the genius of the Holy Spirit in ordering and confirming the biblical canon.

revelation battle

According to Genesis 3:14 God places the following curse on the serpent, “Because you have done this [led Eve into sin], cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.” The immediate next verse I mentioned last week shows a foreshadowing of Satan’s animus towards Mary. When we fast forward to the end of the Bible in the book of Revelation a similar opposition occurs.

Revelation 12 describes in vivid symbolic language a battle between a woman and a dragon. The writer of Revelation identifies the dragon as the Devil and Satan in verse 9. It is interesting to note that the bible is book-ended by this theme of the battle between a woman [Mary] and the dragon [Satan]. According to Alice Camille in her U.S. Catholic article In the Garden of Good and Evil, “In the Bible, snakes appear at the launch of creation and again just before the apocalypse. The first serpent is really a proto-snake: He only loses his legs after enticing the first couple to sin. The final serpent is a full-blown dragon, which in ancient mythology was just a snake with wings. These biblical book-end snakes are no accident. The story in Revelation of the woman snatched away from the dragon’s harm is a conscious reenactment of the creation story, with happier results the second time around” (U.S. Catholic September 2014, page 45).

Without reading the Bible through an A.D.D. contextual lens, I would not notice the perfect book-ending of theme. There is a logical flow and order to the canon of Scripture and it is an amazing experience to discover. I hope that you found today’s topic to be interesting and I continue to challenge you to find connections between the Old and New Testaments!

Discovering Truth: What Tolkien and a Board Game Taught Me about the Catholic Church

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I am a huge fan of fantasy literature and among my favorite authors is J.R.R. Tolkien, better known as the creator of Middle Earth and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien, when asked about how he dreamed up the world of LOTR stated that it was not so much like creating, but rather discovering a world already in existence. This has always stuck in my mind as a profound idea. It was not until I started creating my own board game [I hope to publish it for my son’s 7th birthday as a present!] that I realized the truth in Tolkien’s words. My journey in making my board game was more of a discovery of a game already existent—I just happened to be the one to uncover it.

one ring

There is a connection of Tolkien’s and my own personal experience to the truths of the Catholic Church. Truth is not something to be manufactured or fabricated. The objective truth of the Gospel–preached and housed in the Catholic Church– have always existed! Jesus gave the honor and responsibility to his Apostles and Original members of the Catholic Church to safeguard, teach, and articulate the Truth for future generations until His Second Coming. Let us examine some examples as evidence for this claim.

  1. Matthew 16:18-19: Listen to Jesus’ words to the soon-to-be first pope in Matthew 16:18-19, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Knowing fully well that humanity thrives on clarity of thought and have stability in a leadership position, Jesus planted the seeds to the papal office here. In fact, the Greek name for Peter [πέτρος] is translated as “stone” or “rock”. God gifted Christianity [and the entire world] with the office of the papacy to be the authority in the matter of faith and morals. The Holy Spirit works in a special way through the pope to guide him whenever a moral truth comes into debate or question.

 

  1. Didache: According to many scholars, this document was written around 65-110 A.D and is known as the teaching of the Twelve Apostles. When I read this document I was surprised to hear many Catholic truths proclaimed from such an early 1st century document. The Didache makes specific mention of the Eucharist in Chapter 9 and the sacrament of Holy Orders in Chapter 15. Mere decades after the Resurrection of Christ, the Catholic Church as we know it today was safeguarding the truths handed to it by Jesus.

 

  1. Pope Pius IX: The solemn declaration of papal infallibility occurred on July 18th, 1870. Pope Pius IX’s statement on papal infallibility related only to matters of faith and morality and only in his office as pope could the leader of the Church speak with such authority. As I stated before, the seeds to this doctrine were planted back in Matthew 16:18-19 when Jesus gave authority to Peter through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 keys of peter

 While the doctrine of papal infallibility may be a hot-buttoned issue, especially among non-Catholics, it does not have to be. Seeing the role of the Catholic Church as the guardian and teacher of truth and not the creator of truth was a notion that transformed my approach to this subject. Let us apply Tolkien’s discovery of Middle Earth as a place already present to Catholic Church teaching as a truth existent for eternity and our role is to discover anew how the truth of the Gospel may shape our daily lives!