Tag Archives: Catholic Christian

The Confused Champions of Love and Choice

Although it may involve all sorts of positive and negative feelings, love itself is not a feeling. Love is a choice; a decision. Love is an act of the will. However, we live in a world where people are guided primarily by impulse and feeling rather than by will and reason. Feelings tend to be rather fickle and impulses self-serving.

Our world (particularly since the so-called sexual revolution) has become saturated with the distorted thinking pattern sometimes referred to in psychological literature as “feelings are facts.” Consequently, the “facts of life” have become distorted along with the thinking processes. Therefore, it is prudent to maintain a healthy skepticism when words such as “love” or “choice” are used to champion any cause or movement having to do with the “facts of life,” as it were. The likelihood of distortion is quite high.

The Mail Carrier Shouldn’t Edit The Mail

There are certain disciplines, cultural practices and pastoral considerations of the Catholic Church that can and sometimes do change over time. The doctrines of the Church, however, cannot change. Truth does not become untruth.

The Apostles handed down (Tradition) that which was given to them by Christ. Some of it was written down, some of it was spoken and some of it was implicit (which is why an exhaustive list of the deposit of faith cannot be written down). The Holy Spirit guides the Church into all truth as promised by Christ. This means that the understanding of some doctrine develops over time.

The Church has the authority to be God’s “mail carrier.” In other words, the Church is tasked with the responsibility of delivering to the world God’s truth as given by Christ. The Church is not authorized to “edit God’s mail.” The Church cannot change the doctrine contained within the deposit of faith. Doctrines delivered to the world cannot be reversed or declared “no longer true.” In this respect, the Catholic Church claims less authority than Protestant churches.

Prior to 1930, all churches taught that artificial birth control is immoral. Today, the Catholic Church stands alone in teaching this truth. Even when many individual Catholics fail to obey the doctrine, the Church does not reverse the truth of the doctrine. That which is immoral does not become moral simply because society changes its views. Truth is not determined by vote.

Jesus Christ taught that divorce is wrong because it defies the bond that God designed between man and woman “from the beginning.” Unlike Protestant churches, the Catholic Church does not claim to have the authority to change this doctrine of Christ and allow divorce. Additionally, the Catholic Church cannot change the fact that God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman. Some Protestant churches claim the authority to alter God’s design for marriage. Nevertheless, authentic development of doctrine cannot declare a previously held truth “untrue.”

Jesus Christ ordained men to carry out certain priestly duties within the Church. The Catholic Church does not have the authority to ordain priestesses. This is not the patriarchal oppression of women or the “invention” of a New Testament priesthood under Constantine. It is part of the deposit of faith handed down by the Apostles.

The Catholic Church infallibly declared the canon of the Bible in the 300s. This reality stands to reason if one is to regard the Bible as infallible. As Dr. Peter Kreeft has said, “How can you squeeze infallible Bible ‘juice’ out of a fallible Catholic Church ‘orange’? The effect cannot be greater than its cause.” Protestantism removed some books from the canon of Scripture by its own authority in the 1500s. It declared “untrue” that which had already been declared true. If Martin Luther is a fallible man, how can anyone trust that his canon of Scripture is infallible? By reversing that which had already been declared true, Martin Luther, along with other reformers, claimed more infallible authority than even the Catholic Church.

Study, But Lean Not On Your Own Understanding

I found the article Why Catholicism Is Preferable to Protestantism to be quite thought provoking. It addressed a question that I personally had wrestled with for some time in my spiritual journey. The question is one of authority. Since I am the one that ultimately decides which church to align myself with, does that not make me the ultimate authority? Aren’t Catholics and Protestants both doing the “same thing” in that regard? How can either of us claim to have different, ultimate authorities (i.e. Church vs. Bible) if the final authority is ultimately the individual?

The answer lies within the following statement from the article:

“How is the Catholic’s judgment different from a Protestant’s, if at all? The difference lies in the conclusion, or finishing point, of the inquiry they make. Whereas the Protestant can ultimately submit only to his own judgment, which he knows to be fallible, the Catholic can confidently render total assent to the proclamations of the visible Church that Christ established and guides, submitting his judgments to its judgments as to Christ’s.”

Another way to approach the issue is to ask, “What is being let go of?” When we let go of something, we relinquish control over it. We relax our grip. We hand over control to someone or something other than self. We submit. There, then, is the essence of the “finishing point” mentioned in the article.

Both Protestant and Catholic must use reason to come to a final conclusion. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2Tim 2:15)  God expects us to use our brains. On the other hand, we can go too far with our use of reason and trust in it more than we trust in God. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Prov 3:5)

There comes a point where one must “let go of” one’s own understanding in order to trust and obey God. That is the finishing point for the Catholic. It is not the total absence of reason, but the reasonable response to trust in God. One cannot “trust” without “letting go.” Hence, the Catholic sees that the way to trust and obey Christ is to trust and obey the Church given by Christ. The Catholic ultimately “let’s go of” the trust in personal understanding where doctrine is concerned.

A perfect example can be found in John chapter 6. None of Jesus’ followers understood why they must eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ in order to have eternal life. However, some stayed with Jesus and others stopped following Him at that point. Those who stayed did so, not because they understood Jesus, but because they trusted Jesus. Peter said it best: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Peter did not scrutinize Christ’s words against scripture and render his own, personal conclusion. He submitted to Christ. Those that left remained constrained by their inability to make sense of Christ’s words. They tried to “figure it out” and, ultimately, clung to their personal authority.

The Protestant must continue to cling to personal understanding of Scripture in order to insure that the truth is being “rightly divided.” Personal interpretation of Scripture must rule the day in order to guard against heresies. If I, as a Protestant, disagree with the direction my church is headed, I can switch to a different denomination more closely aligned with my personal interpretation of Scripture. Even though I may “search the scriptures to see if these things are so,” I still make my decision based upon my personal interpretations of those scriptures. Ultimately, there is never a “letting go of” my own understanding where doctrine is concerned. Either the doctrine aligns with my personal interpretation, or, I find a new church.

The Catholic ultimately makes a decision to give up personal authority in favor of Christ’s authority. The Catholic submits to Christ by submitting to the teachings of Christ’s Church (even when those teachings are “hard sayings” not easily understood through diligent study). This is not blind faith void of reason. It is a reasonable trust in the authority of Jesus.

The Protestant must ultimately cling to personal, fallible authority in order to claim submission to the authority of the Bible (an authority the Bible does not claim for itself). Unlike the Catholic, there is not a “letting go of” personal authority for the Protestant. The personal authority must remain in order to empower any potential “protest.” This dynamic may serve democracy well, but the Church is not, and never has been, a democracy. For the Church, it results in continuous fragmentation as people do what is right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25).

We Walk By Faith, Not By Feelings

I saw a church sign that said, “God seem far away? Who moved?”

Implication: it’s your fault if God seems distant.

Nonsense. What about Job? What about the Psalmist? What about Jesus who said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” What about folks going through a very real depression or “dark night of the soul?” What about Saints such as Therese of Lisieux or Mother Theresa, etc. who felt a distance from God despite their holy lives?

Sometimes God seems far away and there’s not a darn thing you can do about it. There’s more to being Christian than sitting on a mountaintop and dancing for joy all the time. There are valleys, too, and sometimes they are excruciatingly deep and wide.

We walk by faith, not by feelings.

Why Mass Is Boring (Or Is It?)

When I was a boy, I would sometimes whine to my mother that I was bored. My kids do the same thing to me. I heard someone say once that “a bored person is a boring person.” So, I echo my mother’s advice and suggest to my kids in one way or another that they use their imagination.

We have become used to being spoon-fed and entertained. We are bombarded with all sorts of stimulus. We are media junkies. We have become so accustomed to musical and visual effects that our imaginations have atrophied. We can barely put down our phones to engage in conversation with the people next to us, much less God.

Disney World, for example, is lauded as a world of imagination. Actually, it’s a world of entertainment. We don’t need to use our own imaginations there. All of the imagining has been done for us. We pay to have it spoon-fed to us. It is the same with movies and television. Computer Graphic Imagery (CGI) rules the day. We sit and we watch. We are spectators addicted to entertainment. Little or no imagination on our part is required. Entertainment is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be a good, recreational thing. We just rely on it too much these days. It is killing us spiritually.

So, we find ourselves sitting in pews and wondering where all the action is. If the homily (sermon) doesn’t entertain us enough, we’re bored. If the music doesn’t move us enough, we’re bored. We become entertainment critics watching a lackluster “show” and our reviews are not good. We whine and cry that we’re bored and uninspired. Great preaching and inspiring music is nice to have, and God can certainly use those things to our edification. But the Mass is the same event even if it’s just a few people in a little room with no music and no great sermon.

The imagination we need to employ is not the kind that engages in fantasy. We’re not supposed to sit and daydream or “make stuff up.” Christianity is not about having an “imaginary friend” we call God (as many atheists claim). Rather, we are to use the part of our imagination that allows us to “see” with the eyes of faith that which is actually happening in the spiritual realm.

It’s somewhat like listening to a sporting event on the radio. The radio announcer calls the plays, but we must “see” the game in our minds’ eye. Watching the game on television or at the stadium requires less imagination. When listening to the game on the radio, we can still cheer along with the crowd because our imagination allows us to be “at the game.”

The Mass is not a “show” or a “game.” It is not a spectator event we are to sit and watch. We are not there to be entertained. The Mass is an event that we are to participate in. Active participation requires us to engage our God-given imagination.

Imagine being at The Last Supper. Through the miracle of the Eucharist we actually are at The Last Supper! The priest is “calling the plays” of what is actually taking place!” Our imagination is not supposed to help us “pretend” like we are there. It is supposed to help us “see” that we actually are there. In our minds’ eye we can see the saints and angels around us. We can see Christ telling us to “take and eat,” “take and drink.”

This is where the “radio announcer” analogy falls apart. We are not simply listening from a distance, wishing we were “at the game.” We are actually made present to what is happening!” We are not merely recalling past events. We are made present to the eternal sacrifice of Christ! We are not supposed to say, “Oh yeah, I remember hearing about The Last Supper, the crucifixion and the resurrection. I remember it. I’m going to make sure that I don’t forget that it happened.” No, we are supposed to see it happening in the present. God is eternal. No past. No future. When Moses asked what God’s name was, God told him, “I Am.” When we go to Mass, we are made present to the eternal sacrifice of Christ.

Was anyone yawning in the Upper Room when Jesus said “This is my body” and “This is my blood?” How many of Jesus’ followers were bored during the crucifixion or upon seeing Jesus resurrected?

Mass is boring? Really? Mass isn’t boring. We have become boring. C’mon! Let’s stop looking for entertainment. Let’s stop pining for “better preaching” or “better music.” Let’s use our imagination and actually participate in the eternal event!

The “Religion vs. Relationship” Fallacy

I’ve posted about this before, but, since it’s such a recurring theme on social media, I might as well revisit it. I’m not sure when it happened, but someone, somewhere, sometime got the idea that religion is “bad” and relationship is “good.” I don’t know who it was, but it certainly wasn’t Jesus. He never told anyone to abandon religion in order to have a good relationship with God.

Jesus did give the religious leaders of His day a hard time for being hypocrites. Jesus did not say that the religion they had been placed in charge of was bad. In fact, Jesus was a faithful Jew. He knew that God had established the Jewish religion through Abraham, Moses and the Prophets.  Jesus was not Jewish by accident. He was Jewish because Judaism was God’s established religion (His religion). Jesus actually told the people to obey the Pharisees. However, He also warned them not to be hypocrites like the Pharisees (Matt 23:1-3).

When Jesus established the New Covenant, He did not abolish religion. He fulfilled the Law and started the new religion that the old religion had foreshadowed. He founded His Church and chose leaders for it (you don’t need leaders if there is no religion to lead). Jesus gave these new religious leaders specific instructions on how to follow the new religion which we, of course, know as Christianity. Jesus did not do this so that we could “earn our way to Heaven.” He did it so that we would know HOW to be in the proper relationship with Him.

There is a false idea being preached that we must either choose “religion” OR “relationship.” This is not the only “either/or” fallacy floating around. Here are some others:

  • EITHER the Church’s authority is right OR the Bible’s authority is right.
  • EITHER you believe faith saves OR you believe works save.
  • EITHER you wrongly confess to a priest OR you confess to God.
  • EITHER you believe Jesus is the One Mediator OR you wrongly pray to Mary and the Saints.

To correct such fallacies, one only needs to understand what Jesus understands, namely, the great BOTH/AND:

  • Jesus gave His authority to His Church and from that Church sprang the canon of Scripture (i.e. The Bible). Authority belongs to BOTH the Church AND the Bible. They work together.
  • Faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Faith alone does not save you, nor will your works alone save you. What saves you is faith working in love. BOTH faith AND works together save.
  • Jesus breathed on them and said, “Who’s sins you forgive are forgiven, who’s sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:22-23) Such forgiveness is allowed only by the authority of Jesus. The sins are confessed to God and God forgives the sins through His official instrument the priest. BOTH the priest AND God are involved in the process, not either/or.
  • Jesus is “the One Mediator between God and Man.” (1Tim 2:5) He allows all members of His Body to participate in His mediation with Him. That’s why we can pray for each other (i.e. mediate or intercede for each other). The saints in Heaven are part of the Body of Christ. We can ask them to pray for us, too. Such mediation does not “replace” Jesus any more than you are “replacing” Jesus when you ask your pastor to pray for you. Again, it’s the great BOTH/AND.

Jesus does not want us to “give up religion” in order to “accept a relationship” with Him. Jesus wants us to accept BOTH Him AND His religion together. The either/or fallacy of religion vs. relationship causes a lot of harm because it keeps people away from the very thing Jesus created to keep us close to Him; His Church and the Sacraments! The either/or fallacies are often directed specifically at Catholic Christians. “You’re just following a religion! You need a relationship with Jesus!”

There are indeed many Catholics that need to discover an authentic relationship with Christ, but abandoning Christ’s established religion is not the remedy! The remedy is for these Catholics (and all Christians) to embrace the true meaning of Catholicism and understand the great BOTH/AND that Jesus intended!

There are also a great many Christians that feel they have a relationship with Christ, but they have abandoned, or perhaps never discovered, His true religion! In this case, relationship lacks the authentic religion established by Christ. They love Jesus, but they are unaware of just how close He desires to be to them through His Sacraments (particularly the Eucharist). Many of them believe that Church problems justify rejection of the Church, but that is not the response of Jesus. He never condemned Judaism because of the Pharisees. The Apostles never abandoned the Church because of Judas or even their own disputes. Whatever problems Catholics may have, The Catholic Church still remains Christ’s one, holy, apostolic Church.

Many people claim a relationship with Jesus but reject all notions of “organized religion.” Essentially, they create their own religions with their own rituals and observances. Somehow, they have determined that their own, “unorganized” religion is superior to the religion established by Jesus Himself. This is a symptom of the predominant relativism and self-centered thinking of our age. Doing “whatever feels best to you” doesn’t typically work in a marriage, a family, a job or any real friendship. Why do people believe it is the best way to have a relationship with God? The object of worship in such a “religion” is one’s personal feelings, not Jesus.

We don’t need to choose between “religion” and “relationship.” We need to choose THE religion that embodies the fullness of the relationship Jesus wants with us. Why would a husband get his wife a toaster for a gift when she desires flowers? Perhaps because he does not know her very well, or he simply does not care what she wants? Maybe the toaster was conveniently at hand or more to his liking. He may give her such misguided gifts “religiously,” but it is not the relationship his wife truly desires. What he needs to do to nurture the relationship is religiously bring her flowers.

We all have some “religion” we follow. What we must determine is, “What religion does Jesus desire us to have, and why did He make it so? For the faithful Catholic, religion is not the opposite of relationship; our religion is the embodiment of the relationship Christ desires to have with us. Religion/relationship; the great BOTH/AND.