Exactly! Some Thoughts on the Exclamation Point.

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Yes! Thanks!! Awesome! Happy Birthday!!! Hope you have a great weekend! As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” I would like to add to that quote—there is a time for moderate usage of explanation points too!!!

exclamation point

Dating back to my days in middle school when we had to diagram sentences I became fascinated by grammar and punctuation. In fact I became so enamored by the em-dash (—)  in 2014 that I considered it the year of punctuation for myself! This subject of punctuation seems sort of trivial especially in comparison to my more recent writing. While likely true, I still think it is an interesting topic and punctuation is a great conservation starter if you are a nerd like myself!

Personally, I think the exclamation point is an overused and tired punctuation mark. Excessive usage leads to a devaluation of its intent at accentuating a statement or fact. In rare cases exclamation marks may lead to relationship troubles! There is a Seinfeld episode where one of the lead characters, Elaine gets into an argument with her boyfriend over his failure to utilize an exclamation mark on a message about her friend having a baby!

grammar police

Obviously the above situation is an outlier, but I do think ripple effects occur due to a saturated use of the exclamation point!

  1. Urgency of a message is lost: In the Seinfeld example, Elaine’s boyfriend goes on to explain to her that he uses his exclamation points sparingly—unlike her! If every sentence concludes with an exclamation point, the excitement or urgency of a situation is lost. Similar to overprinting money causes loss of value in the dollar, an overuse of a particular punctuation mark causes it to lose its identity.

 

  1. Diversity is Good: Variety is throughout all of nature. Diversity exists in plants, animals, humans, and in non-living items. The same is true with punctuation! Punctuation mark monopoly leads to predictable and boring writing. Think about the next time you read an article or social media post where the writer only uses or overwhelmingly uses exclamation points. How do you react when reading such writing? I tend to get a little anxious at the surplus of exclamation points! There are intimidating!!!

Now you may be wondering how many exclamation points I have used in this post?! I have purposely tried to overuse this mark to try to make my point!  “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens (Ecclesiastes 3:1). That is definitely true for using exclamation points!!!! The answer the question about how many exclamation marks I used today it is—thirty-one [if you include the picture]!

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Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 7- Destructive Waters

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Approximately 70-75% of the earth’s surface is covered with water and water makes up about 70% of the human body. Water is arguably the most important natural resource in the entire world. All life depends on it. On the other hand, water may be a terrifying life changing force when it comes in the form of hurricanes, floods, or blizzards. Because of the universal nature of water, it is not surprising that H20 plays a central role in the Bible as well.

Today we are going to explore the watery events in the Old Testament that foreshadowed the New Testament sacrament of Baptism. Drawing from both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, I will focus on the two major aquatic events that prefigure baptism. Finally I will explain how the destructive powers of water superbly describe our faith life.

flood waters

  1. Great Flood of Genesis: Genesis 7 tells of a large flood that covers the earth after 40 days of continual rain. Whether or not a literal flood covered the entire earth or if it was a localized deluge does not matter. What is important is the symbolism used and the ways the Early Church Fathers interpreted this event as a prefiguration of the sacrament of Baptism. According to St. Justin Marytr in chapter 138 of his Dialogues with Trypho,

You know, then, sirs, that God has said in Isaiah to Jerusalem: ‘I saved you in the deluge of Noah.’ By this which God said was meant that the mystery of saved men appeared in the deluge. For righteous Noah, along with the other mortals at the deluge, i.e., with his own wife, his three sons and their wives, being eight in number, were a symbol of the eighth day, wherein Christ appeared when He rose from the dead, forever the first in power. For Christ, being the first-born of every creature, became again the chief of another race regenerated by Himself through water, and faith, and wood, containing the mystery of the cross; even as Noah was saved by wood when he rode over the waters with his household. Accordingly, when the prophet says, ‘I saved you in the times of Noah,’ as I have already remarked, he addresses the people who are equally faithful to God, and possess the same signs.

            It is interesting to point out that traditional Baptismal fonts were built in an octagonal structure to represent the eight souls saved in the Genesis Flood. The number eight in ancient times is a number associated with eternity. A second way the Genesis flood foreshadowed Baptism is the dove Noah sent out to test the subsiding of the waters in Genesis 8:10. Cardinal Jean Danielou states that this reference is a foreshadowing of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove in the Gospels. Lastly, the Church Father Tertullian viewed the saving wood of the ark as prefiguring the wood of the Cross by which Jesus dies for our salvation.

  1. Crossing of the Red Sea: Aside from the Genesis flood, the most common typological Old Testament event that foreshadows Baptism occurs in Exodus. Here the Crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites represents a freedom from slavery [they were under the rule of the Egyptians]. Using Moses as an instrument of His power, God parts the Red Sea and allows the Israelites to leave slavery while at the same time destroying the Egyptian army that tries to chase after them. The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1220 declares, “But above all, the crossing of the Red Sea, literally the liberation of Israel from the slavery of Egypt, announces the liberation wrought by Baptism: You freed the children of Abraham from the slavery of Pharaoh, bringing them dry-shod through the waters of the Red Sea, to be an image of the people set free in Baptism.”

 

Baptism Kills. Tying the previous two examples together, the common thread is that Baptism represents a type of death—this sacrament KILLS original sin and makes us ADOPTED sons and daughters of God! St. Paul states it best, “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our process in becoming a new creation starts with the sacrament of Baptism. What is more, the Greek word βαπτίζω [Baptism] translates to submersion under water. When I hear the verb submerge the image that is usually associated in my mind relates to drowning or death. In a real sense a spiritual death occurs—death to one’s sins, namely original sin. I do not think it was a coincidence either that the Gospel writers placed Jesus’ baptism at the beginning of his public ministry. The submersion of Jesus in the baptismal waters of the Jordan River prefigures his death on the Cross and the death to self we are all called to partake in!

plunge in water

Why the Strangest Breakfast of All-time Was Maybe the Greatest Ever

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bacon

Sizzling bacon. Fresh orange juice. Crisp toast covered in butter or jelly. Chocolate covered, glazed, or cake donuts. These are images that pop into my mind whenever the words “breakfast” and “Sunday mornings” are uttered in the same sentence. Besides the old adage that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, the reason I bring this topic up is because I was reading through John’s Gospel and I came across a peculiar event that I never truly paid attention to—Jesus grilling!

According to John 21:1-14, Jesus appeared to the apostles at the Sea of Tiberias and he is watching them fish. Whether the fourth gospel writer intended to or not I think it is interesting that the miracle of the great catch of fish mirrors a similar miraculous haul in Luke 5:1-11. The major difference in John’s version is that Peter and the other disciples do not initially recognize Jesus whereas in Luke’s account the apostles were already chosen by Jesus.

I believe Jesus’ post-Resurrection miracle in John is a perfected version of the Lucan fish phenomenon because according to Luke 5:6 the apostles nets started to tear in contrast to John 21:11 which states, “So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.”

Upon the apostles arrival at the shore, Jesus says, “Come, have breakfast (John 21:12). With these words the apostles recognized the identity of Jesus. Along with the fish, Jesus took the bread and gave it to them as well. Together with the Emmaus episode in Luke 24:13-35 the taking of bread is a sign of the celebration of the Eucharist!

jesus grilling

I re-read the previous verses about the number of fish being caught—153—and discovered according to the commentary that this number of 153 is likely meant to symbolize the apostles’ universal mission. The reason for this is because St. Jerome claimed that Greek zoologists catalogued 153 species of fish—John symbolizes fish for men! Another awesome realization is that we are called to bring lapsed Catholics and even non-Catholics to Christ. The apostles in their catch of 153 types of fish represent bringing all kinds of men to Jesus. It is not until we reconcile ourselves with the rest of humanity that we may partake of the Eucharistic food [just like how after the apostles symbolically achieved the haul of humanity were they invited to morning meal before Jesus].

God appears to us in peculiar ways so the next time I am eating breakfast on Sunday morning, maybe I will suggest grilled fish to my wife [we recently bought an outdoor grill]! Be always open to God’s plan no matter how fishy it sounds…or smells.

Reconciling Mary as Mediator with 1 Timothy 2:5

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This Saturday marks the 100th anniversary  of the Marian Apparitions at Fatima, Portugal . Along with this upcoming feast day, I am participating in a 33 day Marian consecration which culminates on the Feast of Fatima as well.  That being said, I think it is appropriate to dispel common misunderstandings non-Catholics may have about the Blessed Mother of Jesus.  According to 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself.” It seems clear-cut that any reaching out to Mary for help and mediation is to be frowned upon to prevent falling into heresy!

What I am going to outline today are a few explanations  from both Scripture and Tradition to describe the Catholic approach to Mary and how we are called to HONOR, but NOT WORSHIP Mary! First we will look at biblical evidence and then I will briefly go over the Second Vatican II document on the Church [Lumen Gentium] and analyze some thoughts about Mary from the St. Pope John Paul II.

  1. Biblical background on Mary’s Mediation: Before I mention the key passage about Mary’s intercessory action I want to highlight her vow of total obedience to God first. In Luke the angel greeted Mary with these words, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). The original Greek is Chaire, Kecharitomene which translated to “Hail, full of grace”. Catholics interprets the phrase full of grace to refer to Mary being conceived without sin. Having this preliminary understanding of Mary, let us look at a strong example regarding her mediation to help humankind. The wedding at Cana in the beginning of John’s gospel is Jesus’ first public miracle. Here Mary displays her role as a mediator and advocate when she urges Jesus to perform the miracle of changing the water into wine. According to the fourth gospel. “When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine” (John 2:3). Catholics honor towards Mary is not because she is a god but because of her close connection to God! John 2:5 is evidence that Mary’s end purpose is obedience and submission to God when she expresses to the wedding servers, “Do whatever he [Jesus] tells you.”

wine

  1. Testimony of Tradition: Along with the evidence from the New Testament, we will look briefly at what the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium and Pope John Paul II tells us about Mary as a mediator. According to Lumen Gentium 60,

There is but one Mediator as we know from the words of the apostle, “for there is one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all”.(298) The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power. For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.

            It is also appropriate to mention that it is not a coincidence that the content of the final chapter of this council document being relating to Mary. The last major section of the chapter mentions Mary as the sign of created hope and solace to the wandering people of God. Mary is not the end but she is a signpost for Christians to rely on throughout our pilgrim journey towards Heaven! (Lumen Gentium 68).

Finally, I want us to examine St. John Paul II’s Marian devotion. The polish pope focuses on the maternal mediation of Mary in his encyclical, Redemptoris Mater. To start off, John Paul II acknowledges the same point I made at the beginning of today’s post—that there is only one mediator Jesus. In union with Tradition the pope states, “The teaching of the Second Vatican Council presents the truth of Mary’s mediation as “a sharing in the one unique source that is the mediation of Christ himself (Redemptoris Mater 38). Mary is the first and greatest apostle of God and God entrusted Himself to her before anyone else (Redemptoris Mater 39).  John Paul II also says, “After her Son’s departure, her motherhood remains in the Church as maternal mediation: interceding for all her children, the Mother cooperates in the saving work of her Son, the Redeemer of the world (Redemptoris Mater 40). The key word in this quote is cooperates. Mary is not equal to God, but she does COOPERATE with God and in the mediation of Jesus Christ!

handshake

Finding the Creative Spirit of God in Play!

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playing

According to G.K. Chesterton, “It might reasonably be maintained that the true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground” (From the essay Oxford from Without). There is so much theology packed into this quote. What stands out most to me in Chesterton’s thought is the word true. I think that while earthly life consists of toil and repeated work, God planted the seeds for true life to flourish in our earthly lives and hopefully culminating in the heavenly playground if we achieve sainthood. Let me explain.

The opening chapter in Genesis charts out the creation of the world by God. Creation occurred in six days [periods of time] and God rested on the seventh day. Why does God need rest? Is he not outside of time and space—thus He would never tire? The real purpose of the institution of the Sabbath rest on Sunday is because God knows that humanity needs time for rest and recreation! True joy and creativity oftentimes comes from our resting and recreational activities. Last summer I read a biography about St. John Paul II and it talked at length about the saint’s love of skiing. This playful activity was a unique way for the late pope to encounter God and to be recharged to continue his papal duties.

jpii skiing

Going back to the notion of God’s creative genius instituting the holiness of resting on the Sabbath, the Catholic Mass is considered the perfection and fulfillment of the Jewish Sabbath. The retired pope Benedict XVI says it best in his book Spirit of the Liturgy, “It is a ‘playful thing’ in which those gathered for the liturgy can be said to be at play— homo ludens—in the presence of God; it is like children’s play—it is ‘not there to achieve an end’ but is an end in and of itself (p. 2). To expand on this point, whenever I play with my children or friends it is out of love! It ultimately does not matter which game we play—board game, lawn game, basketball, football, or soccer. Within the creative activity of play, a joy arises similar to the joy I experience during a Catholic liturgy where I receive the gift of the Eucharist every week.

While work and toil certainly has its place in our earthly lives—and even is a means to holiness—we should not forget the importance of play as a means to holiness as well. As a person who tends to be more on the serious side, Chesterton’s words are a shot of theological medicine that thaw my impatient heart. This week my challenge to myself is to look for God’s creative Holy Spirit in playing with my young children!

Why Catholic Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 6- Old Man vs. New Man

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I found the meanings of names fascinating. Discover the meaning of your, siblings, or children’s name(s) and it might generate nice table talk at your next family gathering or shed light on a particular personality trait. The same is true for names within the Bible. Each and every name in the Old and New Testament has a meaning whose knowledge of its enhances one’s ability to learn about the biblical story. For example, the name Jesus means “God saves”—this is key in understanding the purpose of the Gospels in telling us about God’s plan of salvation for mankind.  The name that I want to focus on today is Adam.

First mentioned in Genesis 2, Adam is created by God as the first human. Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word āḏām actually translated to “human or man”. This is an important point because as I will demonstrate today is that through a contextual reading of the Old and New Testaments God plan for all of humanity is salvation! There are three ways by which a contextual approach to Scriptures will show Adam as the Old Man and Jesus as the New Man.

new vs old

  1. Priest, Prophet, and King- Both Adam and Jesus exercise roles as priest, prophet, and king. I will briefly chart out evidence for all three of these roles and explain why Jesus is the perfect priest, prophet, and king. Regarding Adam, he is a priest because he is asked to tend the garden [which the Early Church Fathers commonly symbolically saw as a foreshadowing of the Temple]. Secondly, Adam had a prophetic role in being called to be a role model for his wife Eve. Thirdly, Adam exhibited kingly dominion over the garden [see Genesis 2:19-20]. In spite of these initial roles, the Old Man [Adam] is imperfect—he is expelled from the garden and blames his wife for eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.. On the other hand, Jesus is the perfection of the roles of priest, prophet , and king. Jesus offers the most perfect sacrifice—himself in the Eucharist offered to God the Father. Next Jesus’ message of God’s love shows him to be a prophet par excellence. Lastly, John 19 shows Jesus as a king and the last Sunday of the Liturgical Calendar celebrates the Kingship of Jesus as well!

 

  1. Disobedience vs. Obedience- Paul juxtaposes the disobedience of Adam versus the perfect obedience of Jesus in Romans 5:15-19,

 But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many. 16And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal. 17For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ. 18In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all.k 19For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.l

Through the eating of the fruit of a tree in an act of disobedience sin and death came into the world. Ironically, it is through eating of the fruit [Jesus’ body and blood in the sacrament of the Eucharist] of a tree [The wood of the Cross] that grants us salvation and the graces to overcome sin and death!

  1. Eve and Mary’s Role- Another parallel between Adam and Jesus is the comparison of the major women figures in their lives. Eve fell into sin through the temptation posed by the serpent whereas Mary in Luke 1:38 accepts God’s will in being the Mother of Jesus. Moreover, there is a promise in Genesis 3:15 where the offspring of the woman will be at odds with the serpents offspring. I wrote in 3 Reasons Why God May Not Be the Devil’s Greatest Enemy in relation to this topic. I suggest reading this post for more information.

In sum, the New Testament is all about God’s plan of salvation coming to fulfillment in Jesus Christ. He is the perfect man and ushers in a new humanity through the sacramental system whereby we may become ADOPTED children of God. Though we are born to original sin and are connected to Adam at birth, God’s mercy allows us to wash away that original sin through Baptism and increase our family bond with Him through the other sacraments!

3 Reasons Why St. Athanasius is My Favorite Saint!

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I am not sure if I should disclosure this embarrassing fact about my Catholic education but for the sake of today’s story I think it is necessary. I never even heard of St. Athanasius- my now favorite Catholic saint—during my formative years in Catholic education! I first learned of Athanasius when I was taking a Master’s course on the Trinity. With today being the feast day of St. Athanasius I want to share three key things about his life that make him my favorite saint of all-time!

boxing

  1. Fighter against Heresy: Born in 296 A.D, Athanasius grew up in arguably the most chaotic time for the Catholic Church. A sinister heresy known as Arianism infested the 4th century Church. This heresy asserted that Jesus was not the Son of God, but simply the highest creation created by God to carry out His works. Arianism rejected the dogma of the Incarnation. St. Athanasius championed truth with his role in the 1st Ecumenical Council at Nicea. Here the Nicene Creed was proclaimed the belief in the Trinity officially laid out in dogmatic decree. Without God working through the person of Athanasius, Christianity may have suffered greatly from Arianism. We proclaim with St. Athanasius,

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

  1. Grassroots Movement: Along with fighting Arianism doctrinally, Athanasius as bishop of Alexandria shepherded his diocese toward truth. He talked the talk and walked the walk. Often at odds with the secular leaders of his day, Athanasius was exiled five times by various emperors including Constantine’s son Emperor Constantius II. Athanasius even lived with monks during one of his banishments– for six years. The exile of Athanasius did not stop his supporters. Rather his graceful witness galvanized the faithful to push for his continual return despite his many exiles. I have great respect for anyone who witnesses to truth despite such threats.

 

  1. Promoter of Holiness: The last reason that St. Athanasius is my favorite saint is his promotion of sanctity. Besides championing orthodoxy at the Council of Nicea, Athanasius is maybe most well-known for his support of asceticism. Athanasius wrote Life of St. Antony—which become a best-seller in his time—and helped spread the acetic movement throughout the Church. I was drawn to the witness of St. Antony’s life of holiness when I read his biography by St. Athanasius and I am grateful for this gift!

athanasius

As long as I live I hope to make up for my early years without knowledge of St. Athanasius—nicknamed the “Pillar of Orthodoxy”—by spreading his story in as many ways possible. I will be sure to wrote more about him in the future. If you have time today please think about reading the divine office today for his feast day and thanking God for Athanasius’ gift of courage in standing up for truth and for having such a cool name to say as well. J May God continue to grant us courage in promoting the truth of the Gospel!