Category Archives: Christian Living

Just One Of The Guys

Recently, my wife and I were invited to an information meeting for those who may have a calling to be permanent deacons.  People at church have been suggesting to me for some time that I may have this calling.  This is something that will require a good bit of discernment over time.  I don’t know if I have the call to be a deacon or not.  What I do know for sure is that I am called to be a follower of Jesus, no matter what.

I had a good conversation with a deacon who shared some of his thoughts about his vocation.  It struck me when he said, “Since being ordained, I’m no longer one of the guys.”  People treat him differently now.  For example, men who ordinarily might share an off color joke or make some unseemly remark speak more cautiously around him.  I suppose this is a good thing insofar as it shows some reverence for his ordained status and his representation of Christ and the Church.  It may also reveal their guilty consciences and highlight their need to conform their minds to Christ.  Or, maybe they are simply being “courteous” by trying not to offend the deacon as a person.

In any case, it occurred to me that we are all called to serve Christ.  We are all told to be living sacrifices and to let our minds be conformed to Christ.  Ordination may set certain men apart for specific purposes in the Church, but it does not make them “more called” to serve Christ than the layman.  Therefore, it seems to me that a deacon should always be “one of the guys” because “the guys” need to be striving for holiness as much as any deacon, priest, bishop or pope.  There is nothing that says a Christian man is exempt from living a holy life unless he gets ordained.

There is also a perception that, if a man has a keen interest in “spiritual matters,” or he possesses certain gifts, he must be called to some ordained status.  Maybe, maybe not.  All men and women are called to have a keen interest in following Jesus Christ.  Devoting one’s entire life to Christ is not reserved for priests, deacons and nuns.  It is for all of us.

Adding to a perceived “spiritual gap” between clergy and laity is the notion that canonized saints are something other than ordinary human beings.  We see their pictures and hear their stories and we believe they are not us.  The irony is that the very reason we are supposed to be mindful of the saints and in touch with the saints is that we are supposed to emulate the saints.  They are not there to show us a lofty ideal we can never reach.  They are there to show us and to tell us, “If we can do it, you can do it!”  The saints are not “the exception” they are “the goal.”  They show us what we as Christians are expected to be.  That is why there are so many saints from all walks of life.  They are us!  They are cheering us on!

It seems to me that if a deacon is living a holy life, and is surrounded by men who are striving for the goal of sainthood, he will feel like he is “one of the guys.”  Maybe God is calling me to be a deacon.  I don’t know yet.  He has already called me to be a Christian man, a husband and a father.  He has called me to follow him, no matter what.  I want to be “one of the guys” for Jesus, ordained or not.

Being Jesus At Home

Sometimes the hardest people to forgive are the ones closest to us.  They are the ones who are supposed to be there for us.  They are supposed to support us, understand us and embrace us.  They are supposed to love us unconditionally.  When loved ones let us down, either on purpose or unintentionally, it hurts the most.  Those wounds cut the deepest.

Some families can really test one’s Christian faith.   They can sometimes be the hardest place for the Christian to “walk the talk.”  “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespassed against us.” (Matt 6:12)  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)  “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” (Eph 4:32)

We all have wounds.  Sometimes, when we are hurt by others, it is because they are struggling with their own wounds.  We are all imperfect.  We all need healing and forgiveness.  Even when he was on the cross, Jesus offered kindness, tenderheartedness, healing and forgiveness.  He calls us to do the same, especially at home.  And when we have hurt another, we must apologize and make amends (Matt 5:23-24).

Stones In Our Hands And Logs In Our Eyes

Luke 6:37 tells us not to judge.  But, we can’t stop there, because Matt 7:1-5 spells things out in more detail.  The message is that we are not to be judgmental hypocrites.  There’s no point trying to remove a speck from someone’s eye if you have a huge log in your own eye.  First, take care of your own sins.  Then, you have the proper perspective to help someone else grow spiritually.

When you make judgments about certain behaviors or attitudes, remember that you will be held to the same standard you are using.  For example, there’s no point in judging someone’s lies if you yourself make a habit of lying.  There’s no point in judging someone for watching or making pornographic videos if you yourself entertain pornographic thoughts and images in your own mind.  Don’t look with disdain upon someone who gossips if you gossip, too.  Clean up your own act before trying to help another clean up theirs.

Jesus took this to an even higher level in John 8 when he told an accusing crowd, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”  After those who wanted to condemn her had all left, Jesus said to the woman who had sinned, “I’m not going to condemn you, either.  Go, and sin no more.”

The crowd knew that the woman had sinned.  Jesus also knew she had sinned.  Jesus did not admonish the crowd for recognizing and hating sin.  We are supposed to recognize and hate sin (otherwise we can’t get the logs out of our own eyes).  Jesus admonished the crowd for not recognizing and hating their own sins and for wanting to condemn the woman for hers.  So, Jesus showed us the better way.  Recognize and hate sin, but treat sinners with love and mercy rather than condemnation.  We’re all sinners.  We all want love and mercy when we sin.  We should apply the “Golden Rule.”  Any condemnation is God’s decision, not ours.

“Go, and sin no more.”  Victory over sin is the ultimate goal of God’s love and mercy.  Notice, Jesus did not say, “I don’t condemn you, either, and I never will, so go ahead and keep sinning.”  If we continue to prefer sin over God’s love and mercy, condemnation may very well be the result.  Jesus left the woman with her free will and the choice to either obey him or ignore him.

In summary:  Hate the sin but love the sinner.  We are all sinners and need empathy for each other.  Make sure you hate and address your own sins, first (regular confession and genuine repentance).  Leave condemnation up to God (if you throw a stone it may bounce back and hit you).  Don’t condone sin in yourself or in others (judge behaviors, not souls).  The ultimate goal for all of us is to “go and sin no more.”

A Cat In A Dog Show

I’m beginning to think that someone will eventually file and win an anti-discrimination lawsuit that allows a cat to be entered in a dog show since the cat is, “after all, an animal with rights and it behaves so much like a dog.  The cat should be given the chance to prove itself and the owner should be permitted the unalienable right to pursue happiness by entering it in the show.”  Not all discrimination is bad or unjust, but I think we’re being conditioned to believe that it is.

Looking Up, Not Down

The moment I place myself “up here” and someone else “down here,” lower than me, I have denied my faith.  When I look upon any other human being with contempt, I have denied my faith.  Regardless of what another’s sins may be, I have my own to repent of.

I must look up to everyone from a lower position, because I must see Christ in them.  If I look down on them, I look down on Christ.  Pride destroys the soul.

I must judge behaviors, for I must know right from wrong in order to strive for holiness.  But I cannot judge souls.  Only God knows the hearts of people.  Only God judges the soul.

God does not raise us up by looking down on us.  He raises us by lowering himself and looking up at us with love.  This is what the Christian is called to do, because we are called to follow Christ.

Faith does not last.  In Heaven we won’t need faith, for we will see everything.  Hope does not last.  In Heaven we won’t need hope, for we will have arrived.  Only charitable love lasts forever, for God is love.  Faith, hope and love; the greatest of these is love.

I cannot look down on others from a genuine vantage point of faith and hope.  I can only look up to them in love.  Otherwise, my faith and my hope are phony imitations.

Going Directly To God

Catholic prayers, liturgies and Sacraments begin and end with the sign of the cross and the words, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen (so be it).”  We do not simply tack these words on for dramatic effect.  They indicate that we live and move and have our being in the Holy Trinity.

The claim that Catholic Christians somehow circumvent Jesus or do not go “directly to God” is a myth spread by ignorance of Catholicism and sometimes overt, anti-Catholic sentiments.  Even when we ask Mary and the saints for intersession, we are only able to do so through the one mediator, Jesus Christ.  We (including the saints in Heaven) boldly approach the throne of the Almighty Father through the mediation of the Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Facebook And The Refrigerator

Yesterday I was on a men’s retreat at my parish.  During lunch break one of the guys was looking at his phone and scrolling away.  I asked him if he was looking at Facebook.  “Yeah,” he said, “just killing some time.”  I nodded my head.  Then he said, “Facebook is kind of like standing in front of the refrigerator.  You open it up and scan through it to see if anything looks good.”  I laughed in agreement.

His comment reminded me of a talk I once heard from a priest who was teaching a class on Catholicism.  The priest was introducing the idea that all of us have a built in longing for God, but we seek things other than God to appease that longing.  He quoted St. Augustine as saying that “our hearts are restless, oh God, until they rest in you.”  Then, he shared his own experience of something that is familiar to most of us.  It is the tendency to open the refrigerator door and stand there looking for something, even when we’re not really hungry.

I think it was G.K. Chesterton who said, “Every man who ever knocked on the door of a brothel was looking for God, but he just didn’t realize it.”  Whether it is the brothel door, the refrigerator door, the pantry door, the log in page of Facebook or any number of endeavors, we all look for something besides God to appease our longing for God.  Actually, it’s not something but someone we are seeking.  It is a longing that can only be satisfied by a relationship with God, for only God can provide the pure, unconditional love that we crave.  If we seek that relationship in anything or anyone other than God, we will eventually find ourselves unfulfilled, frustrated or disappointed.  We may even find ourselves addicted, constantly returning to that which can never fully satisfy, and that which ultimately leaves us empty and restless.

Close the refrigerator door.  You’re letting all the cold air out.