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“Why can’t we all just get along?” This is a common question. One might as well ask, “Why can’t we all just pick up musical instruments and play beautiful music together?” The answer to the later question is clear: “Because not all of us have been properly trained and practiced in the art of musical performance.” So it is with people’s ability to love.

In the story “The Music Man,” con man Harold Hill sells musical instruments to people with the promise of creating a wonderful band. He provides no musical instruction beyond telling people to “think Beethoven’s Minuet in G.” When pressured to actually direct the musical piece, what results from his “band” is a horrible sound with only the slightest resemblance to the Minuet in G.  There is certainly no display of excellence. Nor is there any ability to play other songs.

It is not enough to simply have a musical instrument and “think” about playing music. Musical excellence requires proper instruction and years of practice. Playing music with a group of musicians only works when everyone in the group understands the musical rules and has the proper musical skills. So it is with love in a marriage, a family, or an entire society.

Harold Hill’s “band” is similar to what results from telling people to “just love one another.” Saying “all you need is love” is like saying “all you need is a musical instrument and the passion to play it.” People need to be taught how to love. They need to learn and understand the “rules” of love and relationship. In other words, people need to learn and practice virtue.

Love is not a “feeling.” Love is an action. In order to perform an action with excellence, one requires skill and practice. Virtue is the skill of loving with excellence. Without virtue, all we have is feeling and emotion. One can “feel” very passionate about playing music. But, without the skill, one is not truly free to actually play the music. One can “feel” very passionate about love. But, without the skill to love (virtue), one is not actually free to love. In both cases, one becomes a slave to one’s passions. “Feelings” alone, as powerful as they may be, are not reliable guides to life and love.

An excellent musician is a “virtuoso.” The ability to love excellently is “virtue.”  Love is not “all we need.”  We must know how to love. Knowing how to love involves more than being led by emotions. Even the most passionate desire to love will lack excellence without virtue.

Learn more about the importance of virtue here and here.

Christians are supposed to, as much as possible, live peaceably with everyone (Rom 12:18). In that respect, we are to “coexist.” At the same time, Christians are to be “in” the world, but not “of” the world. Coexisting with the world is not the same thing as adopting the world’s philosophies and behaviors. We are called to be different than the world; peculiar even.

We are called to be a “city on a hill” and not “hide our light under a bushel.” We are here for the same reason as Jesus: to call sinners to repentance and to a relationship with God the Father. This will not happen without us swimming against the current.

It’s not possible to be a genuine Christian without rocking the boat. The Gospel is a radical, subversive, counter-cultural message. It is a message of love to be sure, but not the same kind of love that the world generally espouses. Just looking at a crucifix drives this point home.

Christianity is not simply one of many fingers pointing to the moon. It is not simply one path among many for seeking God. Christianity is about God seeking us. Jesus claimed to be God, and proved it. Other religious leaders may claim to direct us to God, but only Jesus claimed to BE God. He came to find us and set us free from sin. God is not distant. The world needs this message, like it or not.

So, while we are to coexist in one sense, Christians cannot genuinely follow the Gospel without making any waves. We can’t be content to quietly take our “place” as the “T” on the end of a “COEXIST” bumper sticker and leave it at that. Jesus didn’t command his followers to blend in. He didn’t call us to huddle in our church buildings and leave the world alone. He called us to stand out and be different. He called us to be holy. He called us to change the world (all that “salt of the earth” stuff). That’s going to run up against no small amount of resistance. People might talk. They might say we’re not coexisting and “fitting in” very well.

The Devil Uses Scripture

Recently, I read a couple of articles by pro-abortion advocates who were using some Scripture passages to allegedly “prove” that the Bible supports abortion. Immediately, I was reminded of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.

Satan quoted Scripture against Jesus to try and derail His mission. Jesus, being God and the Author of Scripture, shut the devil down. Christ, the biblical Author, decides the meaning behind what has been written. Proper interpretation and use of Scripture requires the right authority. Otherwise, Scripture can (and will be) used for all kinds of diabolical purposes.

It’s not uncommon for individuals to pick up a Bible, read it, and get it wrong. This is not always done with malicious intent, but with ignorance. However, when people use the Bible to directly attack the teachings of the Church to which Christ gave His own authority, there is more than ignorance at play. Outright spiritual warfare is underway. It’s demonic and diabolical. When the proper interpretive “key” is thrown away, Scripture is up for grabs. Anyone can make it “say” anything.

Satan still attacks the authority of Christ by attacking Christ’s authoritative Church. The Bible as we know it does not exist apart from the authority of the Catholic Church that compiled it, approved it, and rightly interprets it. The Church is not being “arrogant” in making the claim of authority. The Church is living out the responsibility given directly by Christ who also promised to protect and preserve the Church from error.

Whenever you see someone trying to discredit or undermine an official teaching of the Catholic Church (especially by using the Bible), just picture the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. A similar battle still wages.

During my spiritual journey I have learned that there are basically two ways of looking at John 6:63 where Jesus says, “The flesh profits nothing,” or “The flesh is of no avail.”

One way (A) is to say that Jesus is speaking metaphorically when he tells his disciples to eat his flesh. In other words, verse 63 means, “My flesh doesn’t actually profit anything. This is all symbolic.”

The other way to look at it (B) is to hear Jesus using “the flesh” to mean “human understanding apart from grace” as found elsewhere in scripture such as Romans 8. People are said to be “in the flesh” or “carnally minded.” Or, as Jesus said to his disciples, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” (Matt 26:41)

Let’s see how the two interpretations compare when they are placed within the context of what they supposedly clarify, namely, the words of Jesus that precede verse 63.

Verse 51:

  • “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world (but my flesh doesn’t actually profit anything).”
  • “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world (but you won’t understand this apart from grace while you are still in the flesh).”

Verse 53:

  • Then Jesus said unto them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you (but my flesh doesn’t actually profit anything).”
  • Then Jesus said unto them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you (but you won’t understand this apart from grace while you are still in the flesh).”

Verse 54:

  • “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day (but my flesh doesn’t actually profit anything).”
  • “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day (but you won’t understand this apart from grace while you are still in the flesh).”

Verse 55:

  • “For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed (but my flesh doesn’t actually profit anything).”
  • “For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed (but you won’t understand this apart from grace while you are still in the flesh).”

Verse 56:

  • “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him (but my flesh doesn’t actually profit anything).”
  • “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him (but you won’t understand this apart from grace while you are still in the flesh).”

Notice that Jesus never says, “My flesh profits nothing.” Jesus says, “the flesh.” This is an important distinction. If his flesh profited nothing, he would also need to say that his blood profited nothing in order to be consistently metaphorical. Yet, he insists that his disciples must ingest both his flesh and his blood.

The interpretation (A) that de-emphasizes Christ’s flesh over his spirit also threatens to undermine the doctrine of the hypostatic union by leaning towards Gnosticism. That is, spiritual things are considered “good,” but physical things are considered “bad.” Yet, the incarnation places the flesh and the divinity of Christ together as fully good. (More can be learned about the Gnostic threat here.)

Interpretation (B) explains how the Christian can receive Christ without compromising the hypostatic union rather than receive Christ merely in a “spiritual” capacity. The Christian can fully receive the entire glorified Christ (body, blood, soul and divinity). Christ’s flesh, blood, soul and divinity profit us eternal life which is everything! We become fully united to him. He dwells in us and we dwell in him (vs 56). It is the ultimate example of the expression “you are what you eat.” It is also the ultimate fulfillment of what was foreshadowed at Passover: then as now, believers are instructed to eat the Lamb that was slain. Additionally, we can take Jesus at his word when he says at the last supper, “This is my body” and “this is my blood.”

We do not receive Christ without faith. It is such faith that allows God’s grace to work in us to accept that which our carnally minded understanding fails to grasp. Without that grace, we are offended by the idea of ingesting his flesh and blood (Jn 6:61). Such grace comes from the Father (Jn 6:65), and through the Spirit we receive life (vs.63).

“There are some of you that believe not.” (vs. 64) In order to believe, we do not need to fully comprehend how God accomplishes the miracle of feeding us with his flesh and blood. Nor do we need to see the bread and wine change in appearance. “We walk by faith, not by sight.” We only need to accept it like Peter and ask, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (vs. 68)

There is no reason for Christ to have given his flesh for the life of the world if his flesh profits nothing. His words are “spirit and life.” If we want life, we must abandon our desire to remain in “the flesh” and humbly ask him for the spirit of grace to accept his flesh and blood as he presents it to us. He presents it to us like he did at the Last Supper: under the appearance of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist.

It’s about time we Catholics realize that going to church occasionally and sending our children to Catholic school simply won’t cut it. And it isn’t enough to be “nice people living a good life.” Parents are called to teach their children about the Faith.

Parents are the primary teachers of their children. Even an apathetic or absent parent is teaching “something.” For example, parents that only go to church occasionally (if ever) because they want their kids to attend Catholic schools are teaching their kids that education is important but the Catholic faith is not. The message is, “Get a good education, kids. Don’t care about your eternal destiny.”

Your children need to see you live your Faith, but they also need to hear you talking about your faith. They need to hear you explain why you are Catholic. They need to hear you constructively and compassionately stand up for your faith when others put it down, doubt it or attack it. They need to hear you describe what you believe and why you believe it. They need to hear you speaking to others with love, kindness and compassion. They need to hear that you have a personal relationship with Christ, and that you do so through Christ’s Church.

It’s not enough for clergy or teachers to say what your children need to hear. Your children need to hear you say why it’s important to go to church every Sunday and on Holy Days. They need to hear you explain that, “No, Catholics do not worship statues, Mary or the saints, and here’s why.” They need to hear you explain why you are going to confession and how it changes your heart and your life. They need to hear you say why you believe in the authority of the Bible and the Church (not Bible only). They need to hear you talk about the Holy Eucharist and why it’s life-giving (not just a “symbol”).

In short, what I’m saying is this: Catholic parents must become Catholic apologists! Not the sort of professional apologists that debate from behind podiums and write scholarly, theological books defending Catholicism. Catholic parents must be the kind of apologists that can have informed, loving conversations about Catholicism with family, friends, co-workers, etc. Unless you know something about your faith, you can’t have much dialogue about it with your children or anyone else.

Does it seem overwhelming to you? It doesn’t need to be. Look at it this way: when you fall in love with someone, you instinctively want to learn more about that person. To truly be Catholic is to love Jesus Christ. We grow to know Jesus better by learning about His Church (which includes the Bible). Start small. Take “baby steps.” Surf some reputable Catholic websites like Catholic Answers and read about a topic that interests you. Read the Catholic Catechism and find out what the Church really teaches. Have a few apologetic books like this or this in the house along with a good, Catholic study Bible.

One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it! By teaching your children about the Faith you will learn along with them. When they have a question, look it up! Find out the answer together. Stop worrying about how much you “don’t know” and start exploring Catholicism.

There are numerous forces in the world seeking to divert you and your children from the truth. Atheism, anti-Catholic Protestantism, Socialism, Secularism, etc. are just a few of the philosophies that would love to tell your children why Catholicism is wrong and false. As parents, you are the first line of defense. Do not rely solely on Catholic schools or the clergy to teach your children about the Catholic Faith. They can’t do it very well without you! And you can’t teach it to your children without living it yourself.

I’m not proposing that you sit your children down and lecture them in some kind of “home school catechesis class.” I’m saying that you need to notice the teachable moments and actually have something informative to say in those moments!”  The only way to do this is to know your faith or at least know how to get answers. Your children need to see that Catholicism is more than merely a cultural identity: it is the very means by which Christ gives eternal life!

Catholic parents, one of the most important aspects of your job is to help your children get to Heaven, not just to get through school. Learn the Faith so you can teach the Faith. Teach the Faith so you can learn the faith. Live the Faith and speak the Faith with your children. Let your actions match your words, and your words match your actions. Be genuinely Catholic! If you don’t take Catholicism seriously, why should your children? Why should anyone?

Sometimes I hear people complain that non-Catholic Christians are not allowed to take communion (the Eucharist) at Catholic Mass. After all, the word “catholic” means “universal,” and Catholicism considers all properly baptized people to be Christian. So, why exclude some Christians? Isn’t that kind of mean or uppity?

In Protestant circles, it is more common that Christians from other denominations are permitted to take communion “as long as they believe in Jesus.” So, what’s up with the Catholics? It doesn’t seem very welcoming, inclusive or universal.

The Church is indeed “universal.” The Church is for all peoples of all times in all places. However, “universal” does not apply to all principles and beliefs of all peoples. There are more things that unite Christians than divide us. Nevertheless, those things that divide us cannot be ignored. There is not perfect, universal unity in doctrine or practice. Jesus prayed that all of His followers would be one as He and the Father are one. The Church cannot accept every belief and doctrine in the name of inclusion. This is especially true where the Holy Eucharist is concerned.

With some exceptions, non-Catholic Christians generally believe that the communion service is a symbolic memorial intended to help us remember what Christ did for us. So, the bread and wine are about Christ. Catholics believe in transubstantiation. The bread and wine actually become Christ. The bread miraculously transforms into His literal flesh. The wine miraculously transforms into His literal blood (Jesus said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.” John Chapter six). The elements retain their outward appearance of bread and wine, but the substance has changed. This is an important distinction of beliefs that cannot be ignored. The Eucharist isn’t just about Christ, it is Christ. It’s not just a metaphor for Catholics.

“Communion” is an expression of unity among those who partake. Unless you believe that the bread and wine actually is Christ, it would be a false sign of unity for you to partake of the Eucharist. In other words, it would be a lie for both of us. One of us would be saying, “This is Jesus,” and the other would be saying, “This is not Jesus, it’s only about Jesus.” We would both be claiming a perfect unity that was not really genuine.

The other reason that non-Catholic Christians (or any non-Catholics) are typically not permitted to take communion is for your protection. In 1Corinthians chapter 11, The Apostle Paul warns against eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper without properly discerning it. Doing so can result in sickness, weakness or even damnation. Consequently, the Catholic Church doesn’t want you to take communion unless you properly understand and discern what you are doing. It’s for your own good for the Church to say, “Don’t take communion.”

It’s not about “exclusion” or “being mean” or “thinking we’re better Christians than you.” Anyone is welcome to come and participate in a Catholic Mass. Please, come join us. However, if you want to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, you must first enter into full unity with the Church. Otherwise, it becomes something less than an expression of genuine unity of faith (it’s not a real “communion”). It also places your soul in jeopardy. We don’t want that for you. We want only the best for you. We want you to have the fullness of the Universal Faith and the spiritual healing of the Eucharist, Jesus Himself.

“Don’t talk to me about abortion. You’re a man. You have no idea what it’s like to be pregnant. It’s my choice because it’s my body.”

It is true that, as a man, I have no idea what it’s like to be pregnant. Although, I do know that pregnancy is how all of us, male or female, came to be here. So, as a human being, I do have a vested interest in how pregnancy is perceived and how it is treated. I owe my life to pregnancy. (By the way, notice that I don’t need to use “religious arguments” in this response. That’s because my religion and reason are made for each other).

You say it is your body? Ok, let’s go with that. I agree with you. My body is as much my body as your body is your body. So, when did our bodies become “ours?” When, exactly, did you “take ownership” of your body? Asked another way, when did you become “you?”

Did you become “you” when you became conscious or self aware? Was it when you gained a voice? Well, when was that exactly? If that’s when you became “you” then it follows that you are no longer “you” when you are unconscious. If someone knocks you unconscious, are they then justified in doing as they please with your body since you lack consciousness? That seems silly, doesn’t it? Isn’t that what evil men do when they drug women and rape them? “She lacks consciousness. I can do as I please with her body.” Isn’t that what evil men do when they abuse young children? “She’ll never tell. She’s too young to remember and she can’t speak yet.” No. You are you even when you are unconscious or without a voice.

Your body has certain parts that are “yours.” They are “your” body parts even if you are not conscious. The use of possessive words must mean that you are “you.” After all, you would not claim ownership of a body part unless it is your body. When you were a fetus we could say that you had certain parts, just as now you have certain parts. Yet, how can you have anything unless you are you? So, you must have been “you” while inside your mother’s womb. Even then, it was your body, not someone else’s body. Those were “your” cells and body parts developing.

You must have become “you” the moment you came into existence. An egg and a sperm united and the “you” that was never there before was now there. Prior to that, there was no “you.” Only when you came into existence could you claim anything as “yours,” even the unique cells of your growing body. Since coming into existence, you have been “you” regardless of your location, your state of consciousness or your ability to speak. Whether you were inside or outside the womb, you have always been “you.” It has always been “your body.”

So, yes, it certainly is your body. It has been your body from the start. It has never been someone else’s body. You are here now because someone else recognized that you were “you” in the womb. They let you continue to be “you” and they let “your body” grow. It was your body then and it’s your body now. Everyone deserves the same chance. No other rights matter unless one is alive to exercise those rights. Whether one is male or female, the right to life is prerequisite to all other rights. You, first of all, have to be allowed to be “you.”

Essentially, your body and my body are here now because no one aborted us. We have that in common. The other thing we have in common is that, whatever choices we may face in life, who our parents would be was not one of them. None of us knew whether our fathers would be good citizens, criminals or even rapists. None of us knew whether our mothers would be presidents or prostitutes. But, now that we are here, we can make our own choices.

It doesn’t mean we must disregard the sacrifices and challenges of pregnancy or the crime of rape or the poverty of women or any other injustice. It means that, as much as possible, everyone has a right to see what they can do with their existence without bigger, stronger people taking that existence away from them. That, also, is an injustice. To heap injustice upon injustice does not create justice. (Or, as children are often taught, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”)

I want justice for women’s bodies (and men’s bodies) whether those bodies are inside or outside of the womb.

It’s her body AND it’s her body.

mom and daughter anti-abortion

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