Tag Archives: Salvation

My Toddlers Remind Me…

If you are a parent, or have been around children, you have probably had the experience of stooping down to talk face-to-face with a little one.  The giant size of an adult can be intimidating to a child.  Even if not intimidated, the child’s neck might be less strained if the adult is at eye level.  When the adult stoops down, or lifts the child to eye level the message is, “I’m with you.  You have my attention.  I care.”  Consider how hard it is for small children to jump or climb to the adult’s eye level.

Have you ever gazed into the vastness of space on a clear, starlit night and wondered just how gigantic it is?  Personally, I feel very small when I do that.  It reminds me that I’ll never comprehend how big and powerful God is.  How could any of us ever jump that high or climb to the farthest reaches of a never-ending spaciousness?  The closest stars are beyond our reach.  We can’t reach an eternal God.  God knows this.  So, like a loving parent, God stoops down to us.

Children can’t understand everything an adult tells them.  Yet, even small children can sense when an adult stoops to their level.  We can’t intellectually understand everything Jesus taught us.  Much of it we have to take on faith, like children.  But, we can sense that Jesus is a loving God stooping to our level (i.e. becoming human) in order to meet us face-to-face.  He cared so much for us that he even endured the pain of our sins and transgressions and gave us a way out.  Jesus is more than a good teacher.  Jesus is God saying, “I’m with you.  You have my attention.  I care.”  Not only does God stoop down to us through Jesus, he ultimately lifts us up to himself.  We only need to let him have us, and not run away.

Next time you gaze at the vastness of the universe, the power of the oceans or any awe inspiring sight that makes God seem gigantic and unreachable, remember that Jesus is Immanuel (“God with us”).  Don’t let the unanswerable, intellectual questions about God deter you.  Become a child and realize that Jesus not only came to us 2000 years ago, he promised to remain with us until the end of time.  He is still here, reaching out to us through the Holy Spirit, the Eucharist and the Church.  He remains spiritually and physically present with us, and that is an encouraging thought.

“F” Words

There is no better way to learn something than to live it.  That’s what we call experience.  Vicarious learning is good, but can have certain limitations.  “I have experience” actually means, “I have had some troubles.”

For example, if I hire someone with experience, I hire a person that has personal exposure to failure.  That person has messed things up in the past and has learned not to repeat those mistakes.  Much of that person’s knowledge is probably learned vicariously (i.e. other people’s mistakes), but it is the personal failures that have provided the experiential learning.  This is why people like to see an airline pilot with “a little gray around the temples.”  It is assumed that such a pilot will have already used up any rookie mistakes and is experienced as possible.  It is also why veteran combat soldiers look upon new recruits with apprehension.  “Don’t do anything to get us killed.”

The first “F” word is failure.  Failure is how we learn.  None of us exit the womb, stand up, and begin walking.  We all have to learn to flail our limbs about, then roll over, then scoot, then crawl or roll around before we can even begin to stand.  Once we stand, we can then experience the falling down required for learning to walk.  And fall we do, time and time again.  It is very endearing to watch a child fall down over and over, because we instinctively know why they are doing it.  We smile and laugh at each failure and then celebrate the success of the first steps.

At some stage, we stop appreciating failure and behave as if it is something to be avoided at all cost.  Some folks develop an overarching fear of failure.  Fear is the second “F” word.  Certainly, as we get older and more responsible, some failures carry more weight.  Some failures do need to be avoided at all cost.  Airline pilots and soldiers know this.  Nevertheless, we cannot continue to learn and grow without failure.  Actually, it is failure that helps us realize our full potential.

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.  In our hearts and in our actions, we don’t keep the Ten Commandments very well.  We fail.  The law was given as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24).  Actually, we don’t break the law so much as it breaks us.  If we are honest, our lack of perfection compels us to seek out true perfection.  Enter Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.  “O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer” (The Felix Culpa).

So, let not your heart be troubled.  Fear not.  Your failures taught you how to walk and then to run.  Let them lead you to everlasting life and peace as well.  Let them heal your relationships.  Let them show you your full potential in Jesus Christ.  We are all called to be saints.  There are no saints in Heaven without a past.  There are no sinners on earth without a future.  The Church is a spiritual hospital for sinners.  That’s what God’s Word is for.  That’s what the Sacrament of Reconciliation is for.  That’s what the Bread of Life is for.  We all fail.  We all can be redeemed.

God’s Mud Room: Or, Why I Believed In Purgatory Even When I Didn’t Believe In Purgatory

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, if you’re a Christian, you probably believe that things will be much better in Heaven than they are in this life.  I, for one, certainly hope we’re not going to spend eternity with more of…this.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of love and joy to be found down here.  Even so, Heaven must have a lot more going for it.

I don’t expect to get to Heaven and find any arguments or disagreements.  I don’t expect anyone to take advantage of each other or mislead each other.  No more war.  No more tears.  No more pain or suffering of any kind.  No more looking across the pews in church and asking, “Lord, please help me tolerate that person.”  No more cursing or swearing.  I don’t expect that I, or anyone else, will want to sin or be inclined to sin or experience sin anymore.  I expect that we who are in Heaven will be very different from the people we are in this life.  We will be perfect people.  But we are Christians right now.  Why are things not perfect right now?

Things are not perfect right now because, even though we have been saved, we still have concupiscence, which is the tendency to sin.  If we are honest Christians, we all know that we still have some bugs in our software.  However, we also know that nothing unclean can enter Heaven (Rev 21:27).  So, now what?

Well, if we’re going to be different in Heaven than we are right now, “something” must happen to us between our death and our entrance into Heaven.  Scripture tells us that we shall be changed, for we shall see him as he is (1John 3:2).  It also tells us that our works will be tried by fire and all the weak stuff will be burned away, although we will still be saved (1Cor 3:12-15).  Sounds like a purging, doesn’t it?  Obviously, God has to do “something” or else we’re all going to be walking through the door of Heaven dragging our tendency to sin right along with us.  And surely God doesn’t want to give our resurrected, glorified bodies to our cantankerous, imperfectly-behaving souls, now, does he?

I don’t know how long it takes, what it feels like or exactly when it happens.  Some of this purging may even happen before we die as God works on our souls to perfect them for entrance into Heaven.  The point is, we are cleaned up, washed up, disinfected, purged of all the gunk, whatever you want to call it.  Otherwise, we’d be left standing at the door of Heaven with nowhere to go.  There we would stand, a bunch of saved Christians, with our tendencies toward sin hanging out of our pockets and sticking to our imperfect hair.  What a mess we would make of Heaven if we got in like that!

You might not call it Purgatory.  Maybe you never even thought about it before.  But if you believe you will likely be different in Heaven than you are on the day you die, then you believe in some kind of purging or “cleaning up” process.  Catholics simply decided to call it Purgatory.

In Martin Luther’s day, there were lots of people abusing the idea of Purgatory.  Consequently, some folks abandoned the idea completely.  As with other Catholic doctrines, they threw the baby out with the bath water.  However, the abuse of a doctrine does not make the doctrine untrue.  Truth is truth.  In the case of Purgatory, the truth simply went “underground” for many Christians, and they believe it without even realizing they believe it.  We can’t escape the truth.  If we’re going to get into Heaven, God’s not finished with us yet.  We ourselves shall be saved, “yet so as by fire.”  Some people might say, “God has a mud room, and Catholics call it Purgatory.”

Implicit Faith: Wow, I Never Knew I Was A Catholic!

One of the things I appreciate about Catholicism is that no one is without hope.  In my journey through non-Catholic Christianity, I encountered individuals and denominations that were very black-and-white in their ideas about salvation.  Either a person “confessed the Lord Jesus as personal Lord and Savior” or they were damned for eternity.  This damnation included people who had never even heard of Jesus.  The urgency of missionary work was fueled by the idea that millions of people were dying and going to Hell because they never heard about Christ.

Ironically, there are those who accuse the Catholic Church of having a similar black-and-white approach.  The Catholic Church has said that there is no salvation outside the Church.  On the surface, this does seem pretty cut and dry.  And there have been many misunderstandings and conflicts about that statement.  However, it does not mean that only people who call themselves Catholic are going to Heaven.  A better way of looking at it is to say that there are lots of people going to Heaven that never knew they were Catholic.  Even those same Christians that call Catholicism non-Christian are considered Christian by the Catholic Church.  They are “separated brethren.”  They are a part of the very Church they abhor.  More irony.

Everyone who is saved is saved by God’s grace through faith.  Catholicism teaches that there is such a thing as implicit faith.  God is love.  Even a person who has never heard of Jesus can respond to and follow ways of love.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except by me.”  What is truth?  Jesus is truth.  A person can respond to, seek out, and love truth without ever hearing the name, “Jesus.”  The more one knows and understands about Jesus, however, the more culpable they become when rejecting him and his message.

So, why even bother spreading the Gospel?  Just let everyone seek his or her own truth and all will be well, right?  Nope.  God loves us and has revealed himself to us in Jesus.  The best way to meet God and to know God is to meet Jesus and to know Jesus.  Jesus told us to spread the Gospel and to make disciples of all nations.  Although God will honor a sincere search for love and truth, what he really desires is an intimate relationship with us, not a meandering quest.  Missionary work is intended to be part of how God reaches out to the world.  Sure, God wants us to seek him.  Even more so, God seeks us.  He is not a distant, higher power.  God is an intimate lover.  That’s what the humanity of Jesus is all about.  That’s what the Church is all about.

Catholics are not “better” than anyone because of the Faith.  We have a greater responsibility than anyone to be true to the Gospel and to be an example for the world.  We need to be the most humble, loving people on the planet.  “To whom much is given, much will be required.”  Catholics need to heed the words spoken at the end of Mass, “Go in peace to love and serve the world.”  That’s when we take the life and love God gives us and distribute it like he does.  We are Christians.  We spread faith, hope and love.  The greatest of these is love.  God is love.