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!

Realizing the Resurrection: Proofs from Scriptures, Saints, and My Experience

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resurrection

Today Christianity across the world celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I am going to share a few reasons why I believe in this miraculous—and seemingly impossible—event. I also want to explain why Easter holds a special place in my heart. While I could spend pages upon pages of charting theological arguments for the verification of the Resurrection I choose not to. The reason is that there are several books that perform this purpose and I only wish to share the basic biblical proof of the Resurrection, examples from some saints, and my own personal experience. Note: If you still have questions related to a more cerebral and logical argument for the Resurrection of Jesus I strongly recommend this book: Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead? By Carl E Olson.

  1. Gospel evidence: Since there a lot of evidence to refer to and I prefer to keep today’s post as concise as possible I will only focus on the two strongest pieces of evidence I found to be convincing for me in showing validity in Jesus’ Resurrection. First, the witness of the women being the initial people to notice the empty tomb is strong evidence. The reason for this is due to in 1st century Palestine life women did not enjoy the benefits of voting, membership in the workforce, or even respect to be witnesses in events like today. Why would the Gospel writers uniformly state that the first witnesses to the empty tomb and to proclaim Jesus as risen were women unless it was true? It still does not make sense to me why the gospel writers would embarrass the apostles by placing women in a place of honor at being the first evangelizers of Jesus’ Resurrection unless that was the truth! Secondly, the Gospel of Matthew already shows alternative explanations already surfacing to explain the disappearance of Jesus’ body when the tomb was opened. According to Matthew, the priests and elders charged the Roman soldiers to create a story to explain why the tomb was empty. They [priests and elders] state, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him while we were asleep’. If any word of this gets to the procurator, we will straighten it out with him and keep you out of trouble.” (Matthew 28:13-14).  It never made sense to me if the apostles were fraudulent that the gospel writer would talk about the theory of the stolen body of Jesus unless this was an actually lie developed by the priests and elders.

2. Saintly Sources: Because of the vast array of saints to attest to the truth of the Resurrection, I will only focus on two for conciseness’ sake—St. Peter and St. Paul. The thing that I really love about St. Peter is his fervor to follow the gospel after Jesus’ Resurrection. In addition to being the 1st pope of the Catholic Church, Peter was one of the first martyrs. He chose to be tortured and crucified instead of renouncing his faith in Jesus. Secondly, St. Paul represents arguably the greatest conversion in the history of Christianity. Paul went from being a murderer of Christians to the Church’s great evangelizer and writer of almost 2/3 of the New Testament. These two men show us that they encountered someone who transformed them. Peter and Paul’s conversions are an effect of the power of Jesus’ Resurrection!

peter and paul

3. My Testimony: While my own testimony does not hold the same weight at Scripture and Tradition, I still am convinced that certain things in my life transpired due to a power outside of my control and full understanding. During my darkest days a few years ago I learned of the power of God. He rose me up from the loss of a job and our miscarriages. God continues to demonstrate the glory of His Resurrected Son in seemingly ordinary things too. For example, I asked my cousin to pray for my wife for an important interview. My cousin told me, “Of course, and incidentally she [my wife] was the person my cousin and his fiancée scheduled to pray for, in a special way, anyways.” This is not the first time this seeming coincidence happened to my cousin.

Through Scripture, Tradition [the saints], and my personal experience with daily and extraordinary events I have come to more deeply realize the Resurrection of Jesus as an historical fact. I pray that you come to enjoy this truth in Scripture, Tradition, and your own life’s experiences!

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. Part 4- Jesus as the New Passover Lamb

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passover lamb

A common title Christians give Jesus is the Lamb of God. Without a solid understanding of the scriptures one may not notice the significance of this title. My goal for today’s post is to briefly detail the connections between the Old Testament Passover and Jesus’ Passion and Death in the New Testament as the New Passover. I present you four specific ways Jesus is appropriately called the New Passover Lamb.

  1. Timing is Everything: Traditionally Christians celebrate Good Friday to be linked with the Passover sacrifice of Judaism. To give a quick overview of the importance of the Passover feast, in the Book of Exodus God saved the Israelite firstborns if they sacrificed their finest lamb [a firstborn sheep] and spread the blood on the wooden doorposts. In the Gospel of John, the evangelist makes a point to mention the Passover sacrifice at least three times—which incidentally, confirms the three year timespan of Jesus’ public ministry. More to the point, in John 19:14 the gospel writer specific states the time of day Jesus’ execution occurred [He says, “It was the Preparation Day for Passover, and the hour was about noon”]. What I found out in reading the footnotes of this passage is that noon was the hours by which the priests began to slaughter the Passover Lambs in the temple. I do not believe this timing was a coincidence on John’s part.
  1. Innocent Victim and Firstborn: Similar to the innocent lamb slain during Passover, Jesus was innocent of any crime and is the firstborn [and only] Son of God. Pilate repeatedly tries to give Jesus an escape from this sentence because in his heart the Roman governor did not view Jesus as guilty (see John 19:4; 19:12; 19:15).
  1. Hyssop: Before I taught a lesson to my students on John’s Gospel I always found John 19:28-29: “Jesus, realizing that everything was now finished, said to fulfill the Scripture, ‘I am thirsty.’ There was a jar there, full of common wine. They stuck a sponge soaked in this wine on some hyssop and raised it to his lips.” Interestingly enough, the Old Testament place where the word hyssop is also mentioned is in Exodus 12:22. Hyssop was the same plant used to spread the blood of the Passover Lamb on the wooden doorpost of the Israelite households. John wants his readers to see Jesus as the New Passover Lamb—whose blood is smeared on the wood of the Cross. This time instead of saving only Israelite homes, Jesus’ sacrifice was for everyone.
  1. 206: There are 206 bones in the human body. None of Jesus’ bones were broken. The evangelist states the reason for this as to fulfill the Scripture promise, “Break none of his bones” (John 19:31-36). Likewise, the Passover Lamb was slain in a similar manner. According to Exodus 12:46, “It [Passover Lamb] must be eaten in one and the same house; you may not take any of its flesh outside the house. You shall not break any of its bones.”

While there are many more connections between the Jewish Passover celebration and Jesus’ Passion and Death, I will leave you to ponder the points I made above. Read and reflect on Exodus 12 and John 19. The more I have flipped pages back and forth between the Old and New Testaments the greater appreciation I have for my Catholic faith.

3 Reasons Why God May Not be the Devil’s Greatest Enemy

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mary and satan

According to St. Louis de Montfort, “[Mary] is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus and will surrender themselves to her, body and soul, without reserve in order to belong entirely to Jesus (True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary ). Even though I am a life-long Catholic this quote caught me off guard. It seemed too intrepid and I thought it was statements like this that bred the Catholic caricature in the mind of Protestants.

I have since been graced with the understanding that the above quote by the French saint is true and a vital truth in our Catholic faith. Earlier this week I start a Marian consecration with my parish disciple group [communal level] and with my wife [private level]. This will culminate on the centennial anniversary of Mary’s Apparition at Fatima.

Like with most of my daily blog topics, my original topic I wanted did not match what I actually wrote. Today is no different. To be honest, I had an urging of the Holy Spirit to write about Mary during my drive back to work during the noon hour. Let me explain why I believe Mary is the prime foe to Satan. I will incorporate Scripture, writing from St. Louis de Montfort, and my own personal experience as evidence to back this claim.

  1. Enmity Predicted in Genesis 3:15: Listen to the words of the inspired writer in Genesis, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head,while you strike at their heel.” The word enmity actually means malice, hostility, or antagonism. No simple division occurred between the woman [Mary] and the serpent [Satan]. There is an antagonistic battle between the two. Interestingly enough, this theme is found in the other bookend of the Bible in the Book of Revelation. [Note: I will explore this connection between the Old and New Testament later this week]
  1. Opposites Do Not Attract: Unlike the adage, “opposites attract” or the truth revealed when playing with magnets, in the case of Mary versus Satan—OPPOSITES DO NOT ATTRACT! St. Louis de Montfort sums it ups both concisely and beautifully, “What Lucifer lost by pride Mary won by humility” (True Devotion 53). Mary’s powerful intercessory power comes from her intimate union with God through her silent prayer and pondering heart. The devil as his weapon of choice is noise and chaos. He wants to increase the “decibels” so our spiritual life never takes root in the silent pondering before God.
  1. Bullies Are Scared of Their Victim’s Mothers: A friend of mine told our discipleship group earlier this week, “Satan will hate you for starting this Marian consecration”. I curiosity asked, “How so?” He went on to tell about his temptations and struggles when he began a similar journey a few years ago. His foreshadowing came true today. My family’s morning started off hectic and the stress only increased and even doubled down as the day went on. But viewing Mary as the greatest enemy of Satan makes perfect sense of today’s turmoil. Bullies like Satan tend to get really self-defensive when their victims’ mother intervenes. If anyone bullied my son, I would warn the bully ahead of time to be more afraid of my wife than me. In a similar way, the silent salvo our Salve Regina unleashes on the Devil may intensify during the ensuing days of my Marian consecration.

Before I conclude I do want to provide a qualifying statement to any non-Catholic reader. I do not intend to place Mary at the equal level of God. She is not God. However, Catholics honor Mary as the most perfect creation of God. We also honor her as the Mother of God. I will leave you with words of wisdom from St. Louis, “The Son of God became man for our salvation but only in Mary and through Mary” (True Devotion 16). Let us thank God for allowing Mary to be a doorway upon which we may experience God’s graces.

doorway to God