Saturday, October 22, 2016

What Our Kids Need Out of Religion

Seeing Christ in Christians

I absolutely love talking with young people. I have stood on Mt. Rainier with people we have met on the trail overlooking breathtaking scenery and asked young strangers the hard questions such as, "What motivates you? Where are you in the spectrum of God and religion and why?" And I do actually ask these questions. And unlike many adults, who think I am being nosy, once these kids realize that I am not going to proselytize them, the vast majority are thrilled to answer the questions. Without an agenda, I simply listen. I truly want to know their hearts. 

One of the things I have discovered in these conversations is that young people are leaving the church in droves. Decent, honorable and intelligent youth are not accepting the faith of their fathers and mothers--not because they are being rebellious. Often these kids think very highly of their parents. Many are not angry or desiring to live a life of wickedness. It's not simply that hypocrisy has turned them off or that radical Christians are seen as judgmental and critical. It is more than that. When you dig into their hearts, you will find them often wishing they could have faith. Others sincerely believe they don't need it. 

At the core, these youth are saying the same thing: religion doesn't work. It doesn't seem to give meaning and purpose to the believer. 

Our youth do not see Christ in Christians. 

In today's culture, many Christian parents are relevant, fun and cool. They aren't judgmental nor too permissive. Christian parents may be active in their children's lives, supporting them in sports, playing video games, taking amazing vacations. But they see that same thing in many non-Christian families. So they realize that to be a happy family all that is needed is sufficient money and time for those family experiences. Therefore, why be a Christian?

What Separates Christians?

However, when the music stops, when the entertainment ceases and when problems do arise--health problems, money problems and/or moral temptations--what happens in Christian families? For Christian children often are raised in a morally weak environment where parents distract with comforts and entertainment rather than sacrifice to become wise and righteous leaders of their families.  

When the ship hits an iceberg and the party comes to a screeching halt, the passengers are not running to the entertainment director, they are running to the captain. And often in crisis Christian kids look to their parent's faith and it fails. Their faith made them the entertainment directors rather than being seen as the captain. So, the kids discover that there is nothing that separates Christians from the other families.

While there may be a little difference in the statistics for Christians when compared to the rest of society, it is about equal when we look at Americans who make money their god and savior, who look at and are even addicted to pornography. Christians fornicate, live together before marriage, take drugs, get abortions, get divorced, commit adultery and in most vices they are similar to their non-believing counterparts. To the youth of today, there is not enough of a difference between the believer than the unbeliever to make faith compelling.

If our young people cannot see the miracle of heaven in Christians, why would they believe in or seek an afterlife or have faith in a Christ who saved them to live in misery in this world? In a world that pushes the pragmatism of science and math.... religion does not add up. Faith seems illogical.

Living and Worshipping in Holiness

If we want our children in church, if we want our children to experience the love of Christ:

We don't need more cool, relevant pastors with tattoos and tongue rings who can reference current movies or cable programs.
We don't need worship services that look like rock concerts.
We do not need more entertainment or fun or cool, relevant church services. 
We don't need more entertainment or fun or cool, relevant families.
We don't need more money or pursuits of happiness in our families.
We don't need more freedom.

What we need is holiness.

For when reality hits us, we look for heroes. Our children want Christian heroes that can and do face down temptations and overcome them through Christ's grace. Christians heroes that will reach out and touch them with their wisdom, love and sacrifice. 

We, as Christian parents, need to live out our faith with such courage and sacrifice that it gives our young people hope that they can overcome sin. We need to prove that sin does not get the last word, that wickedness does not have to entrap us and enslave us. Our lives of self-giving and holiness brings the Cross to our children so they can understand the love of God. 

What is Holiness?

Holiness is not a feeling, it is His love and His grace working through us. And as we let go of sin that enslaves us, we are able not only to be a more effective conduit of His love, but we are able to absorb His love into ourselves changing our very nature into His likeness. 

And the more holy we become, we are able to humbly bring His love and healing to those in need. Our witness goes from being solo verbum or words alone--to growing into a life of powerful prayer that availeth much and actions that bring about change. Our witness of the gospel that began in our own broken spirit, arises with the strength of His grace and we begin the journey of sacrifice. That eventually matures into finding more and more joy and peace in sacrifice. 

St. Paul gives women a glimpse of this secret of a life of sacrificial joy when he says that women are saved (from sin) through motherhood. I Timothy 2: 15. 

So many women see this as a chauvinistic, works-oriented passage, but that understanding is far, far from the meaning of St. Paul. It is a wonderful promise. He is saying to women, that God has given them the simple and easiest way to understand pure joy in sacrifice--motherhood. Motherhood can make us holy through the daily tiny self-sacrifices. And that is precisely why Satan has tried to ruin motherhood and its glories by enticing women to compete with men's careers with its potential worldly glories as well as Satan giving us the current form of feminism that demeans motherhood.

It is a spiritual catastrophe that we live in a  culture where couples choose to reject raising children for monetary comforts and temporal gratification. For it is through having children we experience the very nature of God and His selfless and joyful love. 

While lifestyles that do not include children can learn joyful sacrifice, it takes much more disciplined determination and daily sacrifice found outside the home with people you may not particularly like. And often this is found only in a life vocation such as being a doctor or nurse, priest, monk or nun. In any situation, we are not called to a life of comfort and ease. And parenthood is the easiest way of living sanctification.

This necessary holiness goes beyond resisting temptation, avoiding the appearance of evil and living a moral life. Holiness is a daily journey of filling our cup with Christ's graces that we may go out and live Christ to others, giving them His love, His truths.

We become holy through worship and study, prayer and thanksgiving. Through the practice of charity we are given power and strength and wisdom to become like Him. And Christ told us that we are to be perfect, even as the Father in Heaven is perfect. We can do it and we do it through faith and love. 

In essence, Holiness is being Christ in the world. As He took up the Cross His Father gave Him and broke Himself as a holy sacrifice for others, we go and do that for others. 

When our children see in us heroic holiness, they will embrace our faith. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Gospel According to Capitalism

The United States was founded upon the capitalism economic system and it is the machine that runs our daily activities. Capitalism is imbedded into our perspectives when we decide where to live, when to have children, what we want to pursue as a career, down to where we decide to go for lunch. Everywhere we look, on the highways, on television, iPhones, computers, malls-- capitalism has refined its craft in getting us to want stuff, to reach into our pockets and buy happiness.  

Our worldview is formed within this system to the point that it has bled into our religious thought. 

God or Mammon

Many Christians, if we are honest, believe that money is our savior. Ask yourself how many times do you pray for God to send you money to solve a dilemma you or your family or friends are in? Rather than see God as
having a thousand ways to solve a problem that have nothing to do with money, our ability to find solutions defaults into the capitalist system of money. "If only I had the money for more vacations," "If only I had the money, I would be able to see my children more often," "If I had money, I would be able to give to charities."

How many of us look to riches, perhaps imagining winning the lottery and never again having to worry about money? Actually believing that would solve our problems and then--with a little more money--we could be happy? 

Then in essence, we have substituted faith in God with faith in money. God is the Almighty Banker who distributes money rather than graces. 

How often do we see the Heath and Wealth gospel or the Prosperity gospel proclaimed? Many Christians truly feel that when they are not gifted with money that God has abandoned us and those who have money are more blessed and might even be seen as having greater faith! 

And yet, this belief prevails among Christians, even fundamentalists, who believe the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God. And in that book Christ says that it is more difficult for a rich man to get into heaven than a camel to go through the eye of a needle. God would never act counter to his own gospel by then making money the savior. When Christ said, "Blessed are the poor" He wasn't speaking hyperbole. There is little in scripture that would indicate God blesses us primarily with money. And yet because of our capitalistic worldview, we are deeply convinced that money can save us from our earthly problems. 

In fact, many of us give money to charities and believe that we have done enough to sacrifice (if even that was much of a sacrifice). We think we have done our part if we throw money at a problem instead of expending our lives (our fortunes, yes) as well as our sacred honor. We again see money as the savior.

The Gospel Commodity

The capitalistic system is a system of inspirational sounds and compelling images attempting to get a reaction from the audience. This bleeds over into all Christianity, but especially some evangelical communities. 

Many Christians, immersed in this system, primarily see the gospel as saying the right, emotionally compelling and convincing words. Very often, evangelicals spread the gospel through a series of meetings or revivals and then move on to the next unsaved group. They believe if they can get you to say the right words in response, then you are saved and the gospel commission has been fulfilled. 

These emotional experiences where someone is "saved" can resemble capitalistic sales techniques. In effect the best pastors are those who can sell the gospel in their sermons. There is the pressure sale where the pastor says that the time is now to give your heart to the Lord, don't put it off! The sales event is today only--don't miss out! 

Differing evangelical communities compete for customers... I mean, believers who will join their church and support it financially. However, there is little in their actual theology that says they are responsible for the convert from then on. Make the sale and move on to the next customer.

Their gospel is a distant gospel. They are the sellers, the distributers of the Word, but they are not responsible for the warranty on the product. Go to the manufacturer (God) if the gospel you bought malfunctions or you don't understand the directions or it simply doesn't work. Buyer beware! For many evangelicals feel no responsibility to sacrifice their lives either up front at the giving of the gospel or on the other end after the convert has bought into it. 

This places a distance between the gospel and ourselves. Like a football game, we become Christian fans of God shouting enthusiastically as we watch from a comfortable distance, using words to inspire our team. But the capitalistic gospel usually is not about training, sacrificing and giving one's
life for the team like the players down on the field.

Sola Fide and Capitalism 

And this is due to the fact that our capitalistic system teaches us that words are enough and that we can be both a Christian and a good US citizen pursuing happiness first and somewhere after that we pursue Christ. In fact, it is more complex than even that, for we believe that Christ and mammon in the U.S. are the same. We pursue money and our own personal happiness believing that is what we are supposed to do as Christians. God wants us to pursue happiness through filling those store houses with stuff. We think we are being responsible stewards of God's money when we save large quantities of it for a luxurious retirement. 

I am not saying that is a sin, but Christ did say there is a great danger in our storing up more than we need daily, for it again, puts our faith in money and not in Him. It prevents us from that daily walk in utter faith. We are not to worry about the future He promises, for the day has enough problems in it. "Look at the flowers in the field, look at the birds"--they do not gather things into the barns, yet their Father in Heaven looks after them. He wants us to know intimately that we are far, far greater to Him than those things. Trust Him--not your 401(k), your IRA, nor Wall Street
investments, not your Social Security. Feel free to have them, but our trust should be in God and He can work things out beautifully without money. He doesn't need the capitalistic system.

The Gospel of the Early Church

The early church was not capitalistic. It viewed the gospel very differently than Americans today. 

To the early church, the gospel was about a Kingdom. If you read the New Testament, those who spread the gospel said "Repent for the Kingdom is at hand." This was not a gospel of words alone. In fact, the words were meant for a person to not just believe as in mentally assent to, like someone believing that Donald Trump is the best presidential candidate (or Hillary Clinton). 

The words of the gospel were to get us to realize that we needed to change our lives and follow Christ. They were not words to get us to become a fan of a different team, but to change the most basic properties of our outlook. In fact, a convert was assenting to be utterly and totally obedient to God. They were casting aside their lives and bending the knee to Christ giving Him their fidelity. The Roman converts felt keenly that now their loyalty to Rome must diminish as their loyalty to Christ took precedence. In fact, the early church would genuflect to the bishops in a show of their newfound obedience to Christ rathe than the Roman government who forced them to bow to the prefects, legates and centurions.

To the early church, when you took on the gospel commission you understood that those you invited into God's kingdom were to make Christ their Lord and Master and they were assenting to a live of sacrifice.

In fact, after a person became a Christian, they were taking the responsibility to be Christ to others. They were now His family and His representatives on earth. The word Christian itself tells us that we are "Little Christs." We are Him to the world.

The gospel commission was never about going to a place and throwing out information about God and then moving on to the next audience. The gospel was about inviting someone into the family of God--His Kingdom--the Church. Converts were entering the kingdom where Christians lived out the gospel daily and the new coverts became your neighbor (even if symbolically) and relatives (literally, through Christ). You were then responsible for them and were obligated to sacrifice for them and it was mutual. 

Christian missionaries through the centuries, began the gospel by sacrifice first. They would move into an area, set up an eternal presence of hospitals, orphanages, schools. They would meet the needs of a community first, showing their love--not in words--but in sacrifice. 

Christians would bring healing first. They would first give the people the gift of their self--their lives. Usually a mission trip wasn't for a few days, or weeks, or months. Usually it was a permanent move. When the community felt loved by Christians, only then would they be invited to church and told what Christ believed. 

Historically, there was a trust built in the community, with the understanding that even if the people rejected the gospel that the Christians were going to remain sacrificing for them, giving to them. They were not going away. They would be there for them, helping them no matter whether they accepted God or not. 

For centuries, this was the gospel and it was trusted, for it was not a gospel of words alone, but of actions.

Each believer knew that He was Christ to the world. That if a community needed help in the fields planting or reaping, the Christian would be there to help. If there was a sick person, the Christian would be there. The gospel was an exchange of person to person, heart to heart, hand to hand--not bank account to bank account. 

The early church would not recognize what many evangelicals believe to be the spreading of the good news of Christ. They would not see Christ in much of what is labeled Christian. Not because it is necessarily bad, but it is different. It has moved from a 100% commitment to an assumption based upon a belief--a commodity to be bought and sold. 

The gospel has evolved into convincing someone with sincere, emotional words. 

We need to return to the authentic gospel lived by the early Christians. The gospel that is actions of self-sacrificing love that pursues the good of the other rather than pursues one's own happiness. In fact, Christ tells us that His followers, rather than following money or pleasure will take up their cross and follow Him. And where was Christ going with His cross? 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Catholic Heaven

Allergy Heaven

Growing up I was very allergic to animals, many nights--many--I spent trying to figure out how to breathe. I remember my throat would get so raw from allergies that I would hang my head over the side of the bed to keep any drainage from going down it.  

My father was against all medication, telling his children to suffer through it, so I daren't not tell him. So I bore the suffering in silence because I was trying to impress him with how brave and tough I was. 

Some times my allergies would be so bad that I couldn't breathe out of my nose at all and at lunchtime in elementary school, I would go sit by myself because I had to keep my mouth open while I chewed and I thought that was rude and didn't want anyone to see me. When my friends, being nice and thinking I was feeling lonely would come sit near me, I would stop eating altogether.
And if I was starving, I would hold my hand over my face so that no one could see the inside of my mouth as I struggled to breathe and eat! That happened so often that it became a habit and even  into college, people would notice my hand going up to cover my mouth when I ate. 

All this as context for this paragraph....

So, as you can imagine, the stories of heaven full of lions sleeping next to lambs and riding giraffes
didn't have much of an appeal. I knew I wouldn't be allergic to them in heaven, but since I couldn't be around them now and develop a bond with animals, frankly a heaven full of animals was like a cartoon heaven I had no longing for.

And while gold streets and rainbows and living eternally playing a harp seemed nice, I just couldn't get excited about that either. Not that I 
didn't care about getting to heaven, I did very much. But for a very different reason. 

Heaven to Me
I had my own idea of heaven. 

When I was in elementary school and our Bible classes would discuss the excitement of the afterlife, I would try and come up with what I would want heaven to be like--something that excited me about eternity. 

I would lay in bed at night trying to figure out my perfect vision of heaven. Maybe I am not creative, but nothing did it for me until I imagined actually seeing Jesus--finally, finallyfinallyseeing Jesus. That I could vividly imagine: I would see Him
from a distance. There He would be, standing on a beautiful green field--all alone. No animals, no people, just Him. I had Him all to myself for a moment. I would run as fast as I could and then fall at His feet, sobbing and I would look into His eyes. And He would know and I would know He would know and in that very second everything would finally be alright. 

Heaven was about knowing that Jesus knew how much I wanted to please Him, how hard I tried even as a child to be one of the ones who didn't hurt Him. I had reasoned this way--if our sins put Him on the Cross and caused Him to suffer, that my being good would alleviate His pain.
(Probably not theologically accurate, but I was a kid!)

I wanted to be at the Cross comforting Him not adding to His pain, I remember being very envious of the women at the Cross, I saw myself there being martyred as I fought the Roman soldiers and I would try to get Him down and away from all these people trying to kill Him. (Remember--this is when I was a kid, so I figured I could slip through the crowd and somehow jump on the back of a soldier and punch his face!! haa haa!) 

Therefore, with this theology in mind, I tried so hard to be good as a child for that reason. I didn't want my bad choices to add to Christ's tears. And heaven, to me, was that moment I could see in His eyes that He knew me and knew my heart. 

That was the most important thing about eternity to me--that I got to see in Jesus' eyes that He knew, really knew how much I had tried with my whole soul, spirit, body, mind and energy to please Him. Once I got to see that in His eyes, nothing else mattered. 

It's a bit amusing now thinking back, that when I was in my elementary years, I saw myself dramatic falling at Jesus feet in exhaustion from trying to be good. But believe me, I did feel that way. I was an intense kid and it was hard to be good! I have no idea how many times I succeeded in this quest, all I can remember is how hard I tried.

That same idea of heaven--five minutes of eternity--was all I ever imagined. I didn't go past that point unless someone pressed me to think about what Heaven was like, but nothing I imagined was of interest to me, except that moment. In fact, I have prayed to Jesus numerous times through the years that if someone else were to enjoy heaven with the animals and gold streets, let them have my place because those five minutes with Jesus was all I needed. Just to fall at His feet and thank Him for everything was enough of heaven for me. 

And that is exactly how I felt until I became Catholic in 2008. 

Catholic Heaven
I will be frank, Catholicism has been a real stretch to understand its mysteries, its seeming contradictions, it "otherness." In some ways, it haunted me with a tinge of fright, because it is so big and wide and deep--like the ocean full of things I had never heard of and couldn't quite see. 

When I asked God in my prayers about the Catholic Church, I often felt like Job. God doesn't always explain Himself. He, rather, looks down upon us and asks us "Where were you when I laid the foundations of My Church? Tell me, since you are so well-informed! Who laid the cornerstones when all the stars of the morning were singing with joy?" "Brace yourself like a fighter, Now it is My turn to ask questions and yours to inform Me." 

There were things I really believed they were wrong about. I even would stomp my feet and have a real theological hissy-fit about some of the Catholic teachings. I would throw myself onto my knees and shake my fist and not want to humble myself and give up my wrong beliefs. God would respond: 

"Do you really want to reverse my judgement and put Me in the wrong to put yourself in the right? Has your arm the strength of God's? Can your voice thunder as loud?" (God's response to Job.)

When you are a Catholic who seeks to understand your faith, when you sit at the feet of Jesus (like Mary) and listen, you find there is so much more than the physical eyes can see.

So, eventually I gave up striving against what I didn't want to be true and became Catholic. Not because I understood everything, but because I know HE is way, He is the truth. He is the life. And like Ruth, "whoever thou goest, Jesus, I will go." And if Christ started a church, I am following Him.

And as I walk in faith, the more the Holy Spirit teaches and assists me in comprehending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the more joy I experience each time I enter a Catholic Church. Each time I walk down the aisle to receive the Eucharist, I feel like I am fulfilling my deepest longing. When I kneel to receive the Eucharist on my tongue, I am there... there in heaven kneeling at His feet able to thank Him. Not in my imagination, not symbolically--but really there, present with Christ in a way that transcends what I can see with my eyes. I am there spiritually and that is more real than anything material. For I am with Him supernaturally--which means above and more and better and beyond our reality. I have entered the world of the spirit where God lives.

My vision of heaven is fulfilled in the Sacrifice of the Mass, for I know at that moment that He is in me and I am in Him and He knows. He knows!! He knows how much I love Him and I can experience heaven right then. 

Do not misunderstand. I do not feel "that was a touch of heaven." I don't feel like I have a glimpse of heaven, I feel like I am there permanently. Heaven has become reality, even after I leave. 

The Catholic mass is not just a porthole into heaven, it is the place where I receive the manna that will sustain my life forever. While some have called the Eucharist, ambrosia, food of the gods, manna, I know that even these do not begin to explain the Eucharist. It is the fulfillment of the Tree of Life. It is the Manna foretold by Jesus that would come out of Heaven. For it is Him.

In the mass, we step into eternity.  We are at the beginning with Christ as He formed the foundations of the earth, we are there at the Cross loving Him, thanking Him, helping Him through the pain, we are there at the Second Coming. All history and all future meet at the mass. It is heaven, now. 

And at times when I am there, Christ gives me a deeper understanding of what I am doing and an inexplicable, eternal and exquisite joy floods me. I see into His eyes, for I have entered Heaven. 

Oh, that all, every knee could bow and experience this--the joy of kneeling at the feet of the Cross and every tongue confess, crying out to the depths and breath of their souls, "All glory and honor and blessings and thanksgiving be unto the Lord!" 

If the Catholic mass is all there is of heaven-- if there were no afterlife (of course I don't believe that, I am just saying that if there weren't) the Catholic mass is enough. I have had and continue to have the greatest blessing ever known to mankind, ever known to the cosmos itself--I have knelt at the feet of Jesus, I have been to the Cross and I have experienced God. And that moment to me is an eternity of heaven. 

Thank you, thank you God for Your gift of the mass.  

Monday, September 19, 2016

Cyborgs Are Bringing Immortality

Behold, Nietzsche's √úbermensch.

For millennia the great philosophers of mankind have been discussing the dualism of man—the clash between our body and our spirit,  between our material and non-material, the physical man and the spiritual/soul of man. Now, we are back to it—and it is becoming increasingly more vital to understand the unity of man. We are fully both our physical, material bodies and spirits/souls.  

Christian parents, you thought you needed to keep up with the times to prepare your kids to deal with homosexual marriage, right?

Nope, keep going...Our culture is way past that. I hear some ask,"Oh, you mean transgenderism, where gender is fluid and men can be women and visa versa?" 

No—continue. "Are you kidding me? Do you mean trans-speciesism, where humans are physically and genetically blending with animals?"

No—that's nothing—continue.

This next generation will not just be deciding what person or thing they shall be sexually attracted to, or the choice of which of the many and expanding number of genders are available (currently 58). The next generation will have the right to decide if they will become 

       A cyborg--short for cybernetic organism-- is a being with both organic and biomechatronic body parts. Coined in 1960, the word means humans with enhanced abilities due to the integration of some artificial component or technology.

The future is one where trans-humanism will be normalized. And the future is now. Already there is a movement to merge humans with robots. Some of those involved with trans-humanism are attempting to be able to download all human thoughts and experiences into a chip, that one day, man and robot can fully integrate.

No, really. Actually. It's happening. We are truly that far into it. Now, legally, cyborgs have rights. The Cyborg Foundation was created to defend the rights of cyborgs.

Think about the implications. If man and robot are united, this gives man immortality. Humans can live forever—they shall not surely die.

What is Man?

This brings us to the question, what is man? Are we nothing but a set of experiences, memories, thoughts that can be downloaded and processed as a computer? 

Who are you? What tells us who you are? What makes you, you? 

Some people self-identify in terms of our capitalistic culture--where they are in the capitalistic flow, which cog on the wheel--a banker, a teacher, salesman, etc. They may then self-identify based on their salary.

Some people self-identify with their gender, age, sexual-orientation, race, nationality. Others describe their looks. Others might claim their identities around the things they love and associate themselves with such as family, patriotism, religion, sports teams, universities, political organizations, cars, motorcycles, our garden clubs, technology, ancestry, or even their favorite entertainers. 

Most of those are externals—they can be duplicated in a robot to be either as authentic or seemingly as authentic. Moods, emotions can be mimicked.

What is unique about humanity that cannot be downloaded? If the scientists downloaded all the above things into a robot, would that be someone completely? If they downloaded all the above of how you described yourself would it be you? Or would something substantive be missing?

Now I have to ask: Have we become robots already? Has the Devil reduced us into living a life so superficial, so enslaved in the material, the physical, the empirical, based on our senses, that we truly could be fully downloaded into a machine, because we have gone no deeper?

The Devil and God are at odds with whom and what they want us to identify. Satan wishes us to be nothing but the sum of our parts. He wants us to be what we love, as long as what we love is material things that are outside of us. He wants us to bring worldly things into our souls and become so fully bond with them that it is impossible to extricate who we are from temporal and transient things. 

Christ wants more:

He tells us that He is the vine,"you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit." While every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. "If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned" and "apart from me you can do nothing." 

Christ wants us to self-identify as His and by the fruits He produces in us. Often, how we self-identify can constrict our ability to produce who we really are. We are so obsessed with the material, we do not develop the fruits of authentic personhood.

Maybe we should start self-identifying with the fruits we produce through His grace.

Galatians 5 records that these fruits are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

I Cor. 12 and 13 tells us that our identity is formed through the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are: wisdom, knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues and interpretation of tongues.  

In fact, in the new cyberworld, St. Paul's words sound prophetic, if we do not have love, we are, "only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." (Sounds like the emptiness of a trans-human soul.) In fact, if the cyborg has the ability to prophesy, has all knowledge and can move mountains, but has not love, it is nothing.   

Human love is patient, kind, not envious, nor boastful, nor proud. Fully humans do not dishonor others, nor are self-seeking, nor easily angered, they keep no record of wrongs. Humans with real love do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth. They protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

These things can never be downloaded. Can the Holy Spirit enter a cyborg? Some things are eternal: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

The devil wants us to be fully downloadable, with souls having loved and nurtured nothing more than superficialities, having so
completely petrified into the worldly that no amount of extrication is possible. The devil is tempting us to robotically fall asleep that it will be virtually nothing for us to be a cyborg.

For those who enter the presence of God, we will be both flesh and spirit, material and non-material. The temporal things that we were tempted to love and self-identify as will be stripped away: patriotism, religious identifications, political affiliation, socio-economic status. Only the things of God will remain, forever. 

We must learn to develop these gifts of the Holy Spirit, for they can never be duplicated in a cyborg.


Monday, September 5, 2016


For most Protestants, seeing the Catholic Church with understanding is hard. Catholics comprehend this. But if you could enter our world and see Catholicism through the eyes of someone deeply in love with her, perhaps, it would make some sense.

What is the Catholic Church?

The Catholic Church is immense. Think about an entity who has been around since the first century. Two millennia! That is 20 centuries, a hair under 2000 years. To compare, Lutherism is almost 500 years old. Just a babe in comparison. The Wesley Brothers started the Methodist church 300 years ago. The pentecostal movement and its churches are just over a hundred years old. The Catholic Church
 is ancient.

Let's look at the history of the Catholic Church as if each century stood for a year: 

The minute the church was born, so many centuries ago, the Serpent was poised to attack. Hardly had the swaddling clothes come off when the Father of Lies attempted to kill her off with persecution. 

Then with a sudden miracle, the persecution stopped just in time for the Body of Christ on earth to turn three years old. 

The Catholic Church spent its childhood watching the fall of the Roman Empire and fighting off the barbarian invasions. It put together the Bible. And spreading its wings-- traveling across the globe giving the gospel of Jesus Christ by starting hospitals, universities and orphanages.

Through the early teens, she struggled as all teenagers do with an identity crisis and a bit of wildness such as the inquisition and Crusades, but she was becoming a lovely young girl: learned, refined, under the gentle tutelage of her Mother and Father. 

As the Catholic Church entered young adulthood, she witnessed the birth of a bitter enemy, one who had been a part of her all those years: The Protestant Reformation.

She was there during the dark ages, the middle ages, the Renaissance, the  Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, scientific age, modernism, technological age, and now the post-modern era.  

The Catholic Church has spanned enough time to have done wonderful, miraculous things, as well as have great failures. You would expect this of one so ancient. 

The Catholic Church as well as having spanned 2000 years, it is has more than 1.2 billion members (including the Eastern Orthodox it brings it to over 1.5 billion.) spreading out among every single nation on earth, every culture, every tongue. 

Imagine attempting to set up a worldwide organization? How difficult would it be to coordinate anything that vast--with 1.2 billion volunteers! All speaking different languages and in vastly different cultures with differing governmental systems? All cemented together not with seduction of money, but with the loyalty of love for Christ. 

This massive universal kingdom has no standing army. It has a little armed guard for the Vatican of less than 200 soldiers.

It is an organized visible Church. It can't hide. It's popes are known. It's beliefs are out there. It's people and churches are in every city. 

All are welcome.

And WHO are the Catholics?

Every single person who has ever comes into the Catholic Church is a  soul wounded with sin. Hardly anyone walks upright into the kingdom, they usually fall at the doorsteps, hands outstretched for help. Each person is exhausted, broken and bleeding from the battles of life and seek the hope promised in Christ's kingdom. 

Many are great sinners, some are tiny babes,
but each one is baptized into the covenant family of Christ, because someone loved Jesus. No one comes into the Kingdom without the covering prayers of the saints. And though many come from a personal conviction, most are received because of the faith of their parents or spouses. Yet, all came into the door through faith in Jesus Christ, faith that works through love. 

Each life who has been drawn into the church is a terrible mess of sin. Some are mean, other prideful. The list of sins are great: adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals, murderers, thieves. Each soul is
 poor, wretched, many are depressed, scared and disillusioned. All broken, all are wounded by sin. And the Catholic Church understands this. She shows her mercy towards those who come into her kingdom shackled with sin, feeling hopeless. She also welcomes those who come running with joy. The Church is Christ's heart on earth and each sinner who enters her is given a heavenly reception of joy. 

But the Church is not a place of entertainment to wait out the Second Coming. It is not a social hall. In a sense, when you step into the Kingdom of God you set foot in upon a new battleground. But it is one of freedom. It is a battle of healing. Christ set up within His Kingdom, the Church, a way of healing all these wounded souls who come in seeking Him. God does not leave them nor abandon them to their sins, He has set up a hospital to rehabilitate them. 

The Miracle and Mystery of the Sacraments

Everyone who enters the kingdom is in need of help, even the deacons and priests, bishops and cardinals and popes. Christ while on earth never romanticized what the kingdom would look like. Read His Words in the Gospels about what the Kingdom of Heaven really is. And it is not pretty.

He warned us that there would be good and bad, the wheats and the tares. He told us that it wouldn't be easy to enter, especially if you are rich. But for each soul who finds the kingdom of God in this world that is controlled by the Father of Lies, it feels very much like they have found the pearl of great price. It was hidden in plain sight.

He has provided a way, a journey to help us heal from sin and become truly free. It is called the sacraments. With our short-sighted, blurry vision caused by sin, many who enter do not want to begin another journey. The sacraments seem like too much work. They want to remain shackled and entertained until Christ comes again. Yet, that is not how love works. The very nature of love is to take what is shackled and set them free. Teach hate to love. Teach self-centeredness to be self-giving. Our Creator knows it is not good for us to remain in the depths of hell--which is what sin does to us.

Many of these souls look at the sacraments and just give up. They will remain at the entryway of Catholicism, not going very far into the rehabilitation. And that's okay. Some are simply more weak than others. God never kicks anyone out unless they are an arch-heretic who is poisoning the well, the source of Christ's love. And those are very, very few people in the history of the Church. They are usually bishops. 

The Church is here to draw people into holiness. It is the source of hope. We chastise only that a person may turn and walk in God's ways. We want no one to be lost. 

Those who trust Christ enough to begin the journey into His presence and into holiness always walk in unity with others. Many people wish to be alone, so they don't have to deal with other people's weaknesses. They don't want to fight and get hurt by others on the journey. Yet that is not how Jesus set it up. We, in fact, cannot make the journey without others. The saint and sinners are all packed together on this journey of rehabilitation, so that when someone needs help, Christ expects us to pick them up. 

We Become HIS Body
This journey brings us into perfection. It is our sacred sanctification. And we do it together. When someone rejoices, we all rejoice and share in the joy. When someone sorrows, we all sorrow together. 

We are learning to meet each others' needs unselfishly, and that is an important part of the rehabilitation of sin. We must have each other around to comfort, to extort, to teach and to learn together. Like gemstones, we must pound each other in order to shine and bring out the brilliance of what God has placed into each of us. 

God is bringing us into holiness together. Some, it will be harder for, and their perseverance and victory will be the great reward of all of us. And those who much has been given, much will be expected. Each will share in the other's glory, as well as share in the other's pain. And this is how love grows.

But as we walk and pray and study together in the road of sacraments set up for us by Christ Himself, we always must start with the most important of all steps: going to mass together to worship Him and received the manna meant for the journey. There, His life is poured into us, so that each step is really not us but Him. Never can we say "we did it." For it will always be Christ's victory because He infused us with His life, His grace, His mercy, His love so that each step will be fruitful, even if we don't recognize how His life is changing us.

Then there is confession, the anointing of the sick, marriage, holy orders: each one of these is given to us that we as His Body have the strength to continue on together. 

And we tend to dislike the idea of confession and yet learning to admit our faults, confessing them and asking forgiveness is one of the most important steps in learning the humbleness of sanctification. We learn to walk and simply trust Jesus in the sacraments. We must have faith in them and they will be miraculous. For they ARE His graces poured out for us. 

And Jesus is preparing in this earthly kingdom, a people who are slowly, century by century, coming closer to the place where God will come again and place the New Jerusalem, the capital of this kingdom her physically among us. 

We who have learned to love each other on this journey will run perfected into that Temple because we are now healed. We have learned patience and obedience, we have learned kindness and long-suffering. All along the journey we have become more like Him.

That is what the kingdom of the Catholic Church is for. That is why Christ set up His kingdom. For those who never leave the foyer of this kingdom and go into the main sanctuary, Catholics who never make use of the sacraments while on earth in this life-- all they have done is postpone the journey. It will be made, just after they have died. The Catholic Church calls this same journey after death: Purgatory.

The arms of the Catholic Church are always open for those who wish to escape, Christ never forces anyone to stay. But just remember, God is the good shepherd and He will always come and seek out His lost sheep. He never gives up, not on even one soul. It takes a lifetime of rejecting love that brings one to hate Heaven enough to choose hell.

What about the sheep outside the sheepfold? What about those who never come into the Kingdom of God--the Catholic Church? Jesus tells us not to worry, that there are others, in other sheepfolds that He has plans for. Never despair. Just because you do not see your loved one in the group of the travelers you are with, doesn't mean they will not be there at the end, perhaps before or after you. 

And if you fear that one of your loved ones has or will chose hell, pray for them. Not all do make the journey, but do not despair. Pray with all heaven that the one you love will have his eyes opened and see the greatness of the kingdom. 
At the end, there is a great banquet awaiting us, the great consummation of the ages.  Where there will be no more tears. No more sorrow. Our garments will be perfect, and spotless because Christ purified them on the journey. And at the end, He will fully open our eyes to see how each of us became one with Him as His everlasting bride.

That is the Church. That is the Sacraments. They are our life, our privilege. Our journey with Him in love.