Category Archives: Trust

Fear

It is good when fear motivates us to jump away from a coiling snake or to wear our seat belts.  These are examples of God-given reflexes and reason.  It is not good when fear motivates us to sin.  Much sin is rooted in fear.  It stems from a lack of trust in God.  Our fears are exploited by the powers of darkness and used to tempt us away from love and toward sin.  I am reminded of the line from the classic movie Poltergeist, “It knows what scares you.”

Virtually any sin we can think of can be traced back to some fear.  Virtually any fear can result in some type of sin.

We Americans like to talk about rights and justice.  Seldom do we get to the heart of the matter.  When we violate God’s moral or natural laws we are usually motivated by fears which fuel our lack of trust in God.  We also like to use the word “love,” but we fail to understand the word.  We think love is simply another pleasant emotion instead of a courageous, selfless act of the will.

We are taught that courage is a virtue and that fear is a weakness.  So, instead of admitting that we have sinned because we are afraid, we mask our sins under the cover of “rights” and “justice.”  This makes us seem courageous, but often it is just like Adam and Eve hiding from God and wearing “fig leaves” to cover their shame.  So, the first step is to recognize sin for what it is and choose God’s love instead (even when it’s really, really hard).  Otherwise we remain stuck in the circular rationalization of our sins.

Next, we must ask ourselves what we are afraid of.  When we acknowledge our fears we are better able to see how they pave the way for sin.  Is our sin rooted in a fear of what we might miss out on (some pleasure, perhaps)?  Is it rooted in a fear of increased responsibility?  Is it a financial fear?  Is it a health related fear?  Whatever the fear, there is likely a lack of trust in God that accompanies it.  So, we choose our way instead of God’s way, and we sin.  We violate God’s moral or natural law.  We choose fear over love.

“God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2Tim 1:7)  “There is no fear in love; but perfect love castes out fear; because fear has torment.  He that fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1John 4:18)

What are your fears?  You may have to dig deep to find some of them.  Can you choose God’s ways in the face of them?  Will you let perfect love cast them out?  Or will you remain crouched behind your right to do things your way?

Does Love Exist? The Burden Of Proof.

When I say, “I love my family,” most people respond, “That’s wonderful!”  When I say, “There is a God,” many people demand, “Prove it scientifically!  You now bear the burden of proof!”  Yet, there is more empirical evidence to support the existence of God than my love of family.  Why such doubt and skepticism about God?

It is complained that “Religion has caused wars, deaths and oppression.”  Has not love triggered the jealousy of many a murderer?  Has not love broken the hearts of people and led to crimes of passion?  Was it not love for a beautiful woman that launched a thousand ships and led to the destruction of Troy?  Isn’t it love that people seek after, often to the point of despair and anguish?  Isn’t it really a longing to love and to be loved that imprisons and oppresses many a heart?  Why do we not hear anyone demanding that the existence of love be proved scientifically?  Why has the burden of scientific proof not been placed on those who love?

Can love ever be scientifically proven to exist?  Is it simply a chemical reaction or a firing of nerves?  Where does love come from?  What exactly is a “broken heart?”  How many people would be satisfied by a scientific explanation of why their lovers were unfaithful to them?  Is love simply an evolutionary adaptation for human mating?  Why am I able to love people that I cannot or will not mate with?  Why am I able to feel love, or affection or sentiment towards a childhood toy?  Why form attachments to inanimate objects or places?  When I say, “I love being here,” no one responds, “Prove it!”

A woman may want a man to prove his love for her.  He may try with all his might to no avail, or he might succeed.  The outcome depends on the woman and her level of trust.  Different people will draw different conclusions.  Does he love her or not?

It has been hypothesized that there is no such thing as pure altruism.  Every good deed has an ulterior motive no matter how generous or self sacrificing it may be.  A good deed is partly done to make the doer feel “good” in even the slightest way.  Hence, the act is not purely altruistic, since it contains the least bit of selfishness.  So, can love really exist at all?  Are we all just walking around foolishly believing in something that does not even exist?  “No,” says the lover.  “My love is real.”

The belief in love is not based on science but on faith.  We give and receive love in good faith, all the while risking the possibility of a broken heart.  Why is it so hard, then, to believe in God?  The poet who writes, “I’ll say goodbye to love” has done so from a broken heart.  Those who reject love have been hurt.  I think the same applies to God, for God is love.  God does not cease to exist, but, in our wounded state, we may reject his existence.  Science cannot resolve such a dilemma any more than it can conclusively determine if, or exactly how much, I love my family.

So, What’s Your Opinion?

Jesus called his Disciples to follow Him and they dropped everything and followed Him.  Then He spent three years teaching them.  I don’t recall Jesus ever asking His Disciples for their opinions.

I don’t see any indication that Jesus’ time with the Disciples was like many modern day Bible studies where people sit around sharing their own impressions of what this verse or that verse means to them.  I can’t imagine Jesus asking the Disciples for opinions on how to interpret Scripture.  If He did ask them, I certainly can’t imagine that Jesus would be satisfied with two or more opposing interpretations.  It is hard to imagine Jesus responding, “Well, that’s fine if you guys can’t agree on what it means, as long as it’s not essential to your salvation.”  It seems that Jesus taught them and they listened.  They may not have understood everything completely, but they had to accept what Jesus taught them.  Nothing was subject to personal opinion.  Even when Peter had the correct answer to a question (“You are the Christ”), Jesus didn’t say, “I like your opinion about me, Peter!”  Jesus didn’t give Peter any credit.  Jesus made it clear that God provided that correct answer, not Peter.

We need to have Jesus teach us while we listen.  That’s why Jesus gave us the Church.  He didn’t give us lots of different churches with opposing views and opinions.  Jesus gave us the Church with a successive hierarchy led by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus spent three years teaching His Disciples what He wanted them to know.  After Jesus ascended to Heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to make sure that they (the leaders of Church) would be able to “connect the dots” and continue the process of teaching until the end of the age.  To listen to the Church is to listen to Jesus.  God still provides the correct answers.

There is nothing in the Bible that says, “And Jesus told them to go and write a book to guide people’s opinions after the Apostles die off.”  The Bible itself does not claim to be our ultimate guide and authority.  Obviously, having access to the Bible has not resulted in Christian unity or concensus.  There are too many opposing opinions in play.  I can’t recall Jesus ever being interested in everyone having a right to their own opinions.  He seemed very interested in obedience, though.

There’s an old hymn I recall from my Protestant days.  “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey.”  The key is deciding who, and/or what, to obey.  There are so many opinions.  There are so many churches teaching so many different things about Jesus and Scripture.  Jesus knew this would happen.  It’s human nature to muddy the water.  That’s why Jesus gave us His Church with a Spirit-led, successive hierarchy.  To obey His Church is to obey Jesus.  If we wait until we understand every teaching clearly, we will never step forward in faith.  Like the Disciples, we must accept things we do not fully understand.

Sound scary?  I have yet to know of someone whose life or soul was brought to ruin by faithfully following what is taught in the Catholic Catechism.  Challenged, perhaps, but not ruined.  It’s all about Jesus, after all.  And that’s more than simply my opinion.

The Little Flower

I received the ten part documentary DVD set Catholicism for my birthday last week.  I had already seen some of the episodes on PBS and EWTN, and also in the men’s group at my parish.  It’s nice to have my own set, though.  I think Fr. Barron did an excellent job on the series.  I love how he traveled all over the world, even to my home town, to demonstrate the universality of the Church.  He also did a good job of going into some theological depth without completely losing the viewer.

Today I watched an episode that highlighted St. Therese of Lisieux, “The Little Flower.”  She has become an important influence in my spiritual journey.  It’s funny when I think back on my cradle Catholic days as a young man.  I used to ride my bicycle across town to visit a high school buddy of mine.  On the way I sometimes passed a Catholic Church called “Little Flower.”  I didn’t even know what that name meant.  I had no idea it was even named after a person.  I never visited that parish and I never learned about St. Therese and her nickname.  Now The Little Flower is a role model for me.  Just shows how clueless I was about my own faith back then.

In the episode, Father Barron talked about the “little way” of St. Therese and her view of holiness.  He related how St. Therese imagined that she could lift her arms up to God like a little child and He would, of course, reach down to lift her up.  In this way, she sensed that God could raise her up so very high because of her “littleness.”

While I was watching this episode, my toddler twins would periodically come into my room to see what I was doing and to say some childlike things to me.  My little daughter came in and, like she and her brother so often do, said with a smile, “You pick me up?”  I immediately saw in her the very essence of The Little Flower’s “little way.”  I reached down, picked her up, and to her delight and mine, lifted her high above my head.  Then I gave her a big hug and told her I loved her.

St. Therese, The Little Flower, pray for us!

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Are We Really Trusting Jesus?

Have you ever asked a friend to recommend a reliable contractor?  The recommendation will hold a lot of weight if you really trust your friend and have a good relationship.  Your decision to use that contractor rests on your trust in your friend, not in any advertising from the contractor.  The trust you place in the contractor is a function of your relationship with your friend.

What about trusting Jesus?  If he is a friend of yours, it would make sense to trust Him.  This is actually the best reason to be Catholic.  Why say that we trust Jesus if we do not trust the Church that Jesus established?  Jesus gave certain men authority to speak for Him (“He who hears you hears me.”)  Those men transferred their authority to their successors.  For 2000 years the succession has continued within the Catholic Church.  There are a lot of non-Catholic churches, but they were all established at other times by people other than Jesus.  If we intentionally choose one of those churches over the Catholic Church, can we really claim to be trusting Jesus?

Many Christians say they are trusting Jesus and His Word, that is, The Bible.  But, how can they trust that the books within the Bible (especially the New Testament) are the correct books, unless they trust that the men who assembled the Bible were guided by the Holy Spirit?  Those men were Catholic.  The Holy Spirit guided the Catholic Church in assembling The Bible.  If we say that the Catholic Church can no longer be trusted to proclaim truth, how can we know when it became untrustworthy?  How can we know that they got the New Testament right?  How can we trust The Bible if we do not trust the authority given to the Catholic Church?

In essence, what many Christians are unwittingly saying is, “Jesus, I believe You were wrong when You said that even the gates of Hell would not prevail against Your Church.  Something did prevail against it and it failed.  Jesus, Your Church fell into paganism and apostasy, and it lost the authority You gave to it.  Yet, I believe the Bible given to us by that failed Church must be trusted.  Therefore, using the Bible, we started lots of new, conflicting churches to replace Yours.”  Is this really placing our trust in Jesus?

Granted, there are many Christians that were raised in non-Catholic churches, and they simply do not know any better.  They know Jesus as best they can through Scripture and the traditions of their churches, even though they are deprived of many graces of the Church.  In fact, many non-Catholic Christians are living much holier lives than many Catholics.  Woe to these Catholics that disregard the gifts they are freely given.  My greater concern is for Catholics that take for granted Christ’s Church or leave it completely.  “To whom much is given much will be required.”

Catholics must trust the teachings of Catholicism because they must first of all trust Jesus.  We have not substituted a relationship with Jesus with religion.  The religion we practice is due to the trusting relationship we have with Jesus.  The Catholic Faith was given by Christ and handed down for 2000 years.  Catholics believe that Jesus is able to preserve not only the Scriptures, but also the integrity of Church teachings (despite sinful people within the Church).  After all, the Catholic Church taught us what books to include within the contents of the Bible, God’s Word.

Catholics that genuinely practice their faith do so because they trust Jesus and take him at his word.  That is what Catholicism is all about.  Every authentic Catholic teaching points to and flows from a relationship with Christ.

 

The Little Rear View Mirror

I heard an analogy today that left an impression on me.  It launched a train of thought with many tracks.  “Your car has a big windshield, but a small rear view mirror.  That’s because you’re supposed to spend most of your time looking forward, and just a little time looking back.”  Maybe I’ve heard that before, but this time it stuck.  There are lots of ways to apply that analogy, but I’ll just focus on a few that came to mind.

Some people have lives that are wrecked because they spend too much time living in the past.  Maybe they enjoyed their past so much that they feel cheated or apathetic about the present or the future.  Perhaps they were deeply hurt in the past and their inability to forgive prevents them from enjoying life now.  Then there are people who live in the past because it is their familiar comfort zone.  They are afraid to grow.  Looking out the windshield is too scary, too intimidating.

Some Christians read the Bible and study Church teachings without really allowing what has been revealed in the past to impact their present and their future in a meaningful way.  It’s a bit like devouring books on carpentry without ever intending to build anything.  They like the reading and the studying, but the real-life application escapes them.  They are looking in the rear view mirror at revelation and doctrine, but failing to see how it applies to the road they are on.  They know all about Jesus, but they are not following him.  They are not seeing life and people through the eyes of Christ.

Some people use the rear view mirror primarily as a vanity mirror.  They are more focused on self than on the road or others around them.  When they finally do look out the windshield, it is out of concern for their own safety rather than everyone’s safety.  They care more about self than others, even others in the car with them.

When the rear view mirror becomes larger than the windshield, watch out.  Certainly there are times to embrace the memories of the past and reminisce with joy and gratitude.  There are times to examine the past for the purpose of healing and growth.  There is nothing wrong with enjoying the past or learning from the past.  That’s why we write things down and take photos and videos.  In order to really live abundantly, however, we can’t live in the past.  Nor can we live in the future.  We must have our eyes forward and our hands on the wheels of our vehicles.  Christ is in the pace car.  Follow him.  Where he will lead you is better than anything you’ll see in your rear view mirror.

The Gospel: Simple, Easy Or Both?

Things that are simple are not always easy.  Eating your favorite ice cream is simple and easy.  Swallowing bitter medicine is simple but not easy.  It can be quite difficult to do some things that are not at all complicated.  In the Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade, there is a scene where Indian Jones has to step out onto a bridge that cannot be seen.  It is essentially a leap of faith.  It is an uncomplicated, simple act.  Just step off of the cliff.  But it is at the same time a very difficult act.  “Simple” does not automatically imply “easy.”

The Gospel is simple.  All one has to do is place faith in Christ.  Doing so has been called by some the simplest yet most difficult thing in the world.  The difficulty arises because in order to place trust in Christ we must let go of whatever else holds our trust (usually our own pride and personal opinions).  It’s really the letting go that causes the difficulty.  It’s like stepping off of the cliff when you can’t see the bridge.

The Bible tells us of the rich, young man that asked Jesus what he needed to do to be saved.  He had kept the law and told Jesus so.  “What else do I lack?” he asked.  “Sell everything you have, give it to the poor and come follow me,” Jesus told him.  The young man went away sad because he had many possessions.  Simple, but not easy.  There is always something to let go of.  That’s the hard part.

There are many folks that have left Catholicism in favor of a “simple Gospel.”  I used to be one of those folks.  It took me a while to realize that being Catholic isn’t complicated.  It’s really quite simple.  Just trust Jesus.  He said he would build his Church, so just trust him.  Follow his Church.  He put it there for a reason.  That doesn’t mean it will be “easy.”  There are some teachings of the Church that are not easy to submit to.  But that’s not a problem with the teaching, that’s a problem with me letting go of something (usually my own pride or control).

Lots of people leave Catholicism not because they have discovered a more “simple” Gospel, but because they want an easier Gospel that conforms to their own opinions and lifestyles.  Church teachings can be difficult to submit to.  The same can be said of Christ’s teachings.  Just ask the rich young man.  The problem was within him, not within Christ’s teaching.

Catholicism has 2000 years of depth and richness to explore.  In that sense it is complex and multifaceted.  But it is simultaneously simple.  St. Therese of Lesuix (The Little Flower) spoke of her “little way” of simple faith in Christ.  Yet, she was so deep and profound in her spirituality that she was declared one of only 30 “Doctors of the Church.”  That’s one thing I love about Catholicism.  It is so deep yet so simple.

Being non-Catholic was, in some ways, more complicated with all the differing doctrines and opinions on faith and morals.  It was like being set adrift with no one at the helm.  I found myself looking for a church that aligned with what I believed.  That made me the final authority, not Christ and his Church.  It can be easier to belong to a church that believes everything the way you do (or to belong to no church at all).  But that’s when you create God in your own image.  It’s easier to build a golden calf than to trust God and follow his lead.

The Gospel is very simple.  Just follow Christ and the Church he built for you.  Easy?  Not always.  Simple?  Yes.  Not complicated at all.  It’s a simple leap of faith.  When your feet hit the bridge, that’s when the “yoke is easy and the burden is light.”