Monday, June 29, 2009

Catholic Catechism: Reflecting on the Trinity and Idolizing Michael Jackson

Has the world gone mad? All this hoopla over Michael Jackson’s death, the guy was not a god! He was a singer and dancer, and he had a whole lot of problems, okay! Was he good at his craft? Yes, without a doubt. So why didn’t he respond to the call of sanctity? He had the power to bring people together and change the world. Yet he chose to use that power destructively, and ended up becoming idolized in the process.

“The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men “and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin.” (CCC part one, paragraph 2, pg. 70) Michael Jackson was irresponsible with his gifts and talents, bestowed on him from God. He had the means to help untold numbers of people give glory to God, and instead he lived as though glory was his due, not God’s.

The fact that we can even equate some of Michael Jackson’s idiosyncrasies with true greatness is bothersome. He boasted of his sinfulness, broadcasting his many indulgences, taking advantage of those willing to help him, subjecting his kids to an unprecedented living style, brandishing his fame to cast out the children's mothers. This was no god, folks. Nor was he a role model for those who love the one true God. He was a mixed up human being, who needs our prayers even in death.

Michael could sing and dance. Another person is the ultimate gardener. Still another has won the Nobel Peace Prize. Military men defend the oppressed, and preserve freedom throughout the world. Nurses offer compassion to those who suffer. Children sing to make their mother well on “America’s Got Talent.” Yes, there are all sorts of people who deserve recognition for their talents. But God alone is Great, united as one in the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

Catholic Catechism: Thoughts on Mercy and Judgment

Upon responding to the supremacy of God, Catholics recognize the need for repentance and the judgment of God when we declare, “From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.” We accept the gift of free will that allows us the choice to turn away from God’s grace, and doom our souls to hell if we so choose to ignore His Mercy. For it is only through God’s Mercy that we are to be saved.

We know Jesus will return in the fullness of His Glory, and all people will be held accountable for their actions. The Catholic Catechism affirms God’s Revelation in this. We also know that when this happens, the Kingdom of God will continue for the rest of time.

There is a definitive dignity men have by being made in the Image of Christ. We are not mere creatures. We are fellow human beings, and heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. This requires unquestionable trust in God’s goodness, expressed with faith in the Trinity. We turn away from ourselves, changing our priorities, and recognizing Christ as our ultimate goal.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thoughts on Catholic Catechism: Belief in the One True God

Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth? Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His Only Son Our Lord, and that He was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary, according to God’s plan? Do you believe Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried, and that He descended into hell to pay for all sins, only to resurrect on the third day, and go up to meet His Father in heaven? Hey, you’re halfway there. If you answered yes to these questions, then you recognize the supremacy of God, and you give credence to belief in Him alone.

Catholics answer yes to these questions frequently. They are an integral part of our baptismal promises. Through these declarations, Catholics affirm the oneness, truth, and love of God, regardless of the many ways He reveals Himself to us. Yes, God goes by many names. He is called YHWH, I am, and Father. He is called Teacher, Messiah, and Savior. Yet He remains only One in all of His greatness and majesty! This is who we profess to believe in, the One True God, and there is no other!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Reflecting on Catholic Catechism: God’s Personal Invitation to You

God loves you enough to let you drive yourself crazy, and the relationship you accept from Him will be challenging, as it pushes you to be better and stronger with each passing day. You are never alone in this life, because He is always near. No rules or formulas will ever adequately express what Catholicism is all about, because no one can predict what will happen to the heart that is pierced by God.

As I sit here day after day, reflecting on the Catholic Catechism, going through it page by page, I feel a sense of peace. Each day, I am exposed to a little bit more of the faith I have come to know and love. The actual book of the catechism is written more like a textbook than a journal. It is a manual on what Catholicism is all about. The creeds too are bullet points on what Catholics believe. That’s why I must share this journey with you.

You see, Catholicism isn’t a lesson on how or why to believe in God. It is an invitation from God to His creation, to have a relationship with Him. Throughout all of time, man has been responsible for interpreting God’s message, and making it accessible to others. In the process, people have organized many ways proven viable to receive and accept God’s message.

However, as any true friend will tell you, strong relationships soon get past the awkward stage of following the rules of etiquette. It doesn’t take long to relax and be yourself with people you know you can trust. Relationships don’t fit into boxes, especially not the one you accept from God. Your life will be turned upside down, spun around, and even extremely frustrating at times, just like it is with all those people you love enough to let drive you crazy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Catholic Catechism Part 1, Section 2: Why Creeds Are Never Outdated

Did you notice that the creeds were divided into 3 separate parts? They speak of creation and God’s divinity in the first part. They claim our belief in salvation and redemption from sin in the second part. Finally, they reveal the process of sanctification in the conclusion and third part. All of these coincide with the faith we profess at our baptism.

Even though many creeds have been written throughout history, all Catholic creeds contain these 3 parts, or articles. They were written at different times, and reflect each period accordingly. However, because they are true to the Revelation of Christ, they remain true to the current faith as well, since the Church Jesus instituted was founded on everlasting truth, and can never be outdated.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Catholic Catechism Part 1, Section 2: Catholic Creeds Affirm God’s Revelation

God revealed Himself in Jesus. That didn't take away man's ability to sin. Man's corruption can't take away from God's revelation. It can be a temptation not to recognize God's Revelation, but it can't negate what God revealed through Jesus Christ. It is a fact that all people, even authority figures in the Catholic Church, sin. To use sin, as an excuse to deny God's revelation through Jesus, only compounds the sin by creating more sin. It does not institute a religion based on the true Revelation of Christ.

Therefore, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church Part 1, Section 2, “Whoever says “I believe” says “I pledge myself to what we believe. Communion in faith needs a common language of faith, normative for all and uniting all in the same confession of faith.”

Creeds came about through God’s revelation, not man’s opinions, and they clearly state the belief system chosen by those who accept them. Just as immigrants to America become citizens and live by the Pledge of Allegiance, Catholics adhere to the teachings of the Church stated in our creeds.

Catholics have 4 creeds that express our beliefs and profess our faith. The Apostle’s Creed is probably considered the most common, along with the Nicene Creed. However the Athanasian and Trentine also profess our beliefs.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Creed of Catholic Christians

Creeds profess what we believe. They are our oaths that state clearly who we are and what we are all about. We’ve been studying rather intensely, so I’d like to lighten things up by sharing this beautiful version of the Apostle’s Creed with you. Tomorrow we will begin exploring Catholic Catechism part 1, Section 2: The Profession of the Christian Faith, the Creeds.

Friday, June 19, 2009

What Do Catholics Believe? An Explanation of the Apostles Creed

Catholics are known for their strange beliefs. Many people think that they pray to saints and worship Mary. Misconceptions about what Catholics believe are wide and diverse. A simple explanation is often dismissed in heated discussions. Yet, there is a very honest declaration of what Catholics believe, and it is renewed every time Catholics pray the Apostles Creed.

The Creed opens with a clear statement. “We believe in God, the Father Almighty”. Catholics worship God. They do not claim another as their head, only God, the Father Almighty. They acknowledge God as creator in the next line of the Creed as they pray, “Creator of Heaven and Earth”. Catholics openly admit that God alone created our world.

The next part of the Creed expresses belief in Jesus, recognizing Him as the Son of God, and acknowledging how He came into the world, “and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.” Catholics admit that Jesus is the Son of God. They claim him as the savior of the world.
As the Apostle’s Creed continues, it expresses how Jesus became man. The following line, “who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,” expresses how Catholics recognize that Jesus was not only divine, but human.

Everyone knows that Jesus was crucified. The Apostle’s Creed states that Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.” Catholics not only acknowledge what took place, but they openly admit who sentenced Jesus to death.

Catholics claim that “He descended into Hell, on the third day He rose again from the dead.” Jesus went to Hell to subdue the demons. He went to break the chains of sin on the world. His death conquered sin, so by this act, people were freed from the bondage of evil. His rising from the dead offers hope to all of us who fall into sin.

Jesus death was not an ending, but a beginning. Catholics proclaim that Jesus goes before them. “He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” This affirmation of Jesus, Son of God, who died for the salvation of all states that Catholics not only understand who Jesus is, but believe that He is one with God, the Father Almighty. The Creed goes even further as it states, “From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.” Catholics submit to the authority of Jesus who is God.

“We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church,” shows that Catholics believe in the Trinity, as well as the teachings of the Catholic Church. They accept the teachings of their church, and adhere to the demands of faith. The Creed continues expressing beliefs of Catholics, “the Communion of Saints.” Catholics have hope, not only in the resurrection of Jesus, but in eternal life for all people. They believe that those who have died continue to live in community with each other. Their purpose is the same as when they were alive on earth, to love and serve God.

Saints are sinners who choose to follow Christ. They abandon their sinful ways to lead holy lives that will promote the love of God. Everyone can be a saint, if true conversion takes place. The Creed recognizes “the forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and life everlasting,” in its conclusion.

The Apostle’s Creed is the foundation of belief for Catholics. It is from these core beliefs that they developed a moral standard. By acknowledging belief in Jesus birth of a virgin, they recognize the uniqueness of the individual chosen. Someone very special had to be visited by the Holy Spirit in order to conceive the Son of God. Not just anyone could be the Mother of God.

It is therefore easy to recognize the supremacy of Mary, when one contemplates the gifts she received in being chosen to fulfill her destiny. Mary is special, not only by nature, but by design. God the Father Almighty claimed and prepared her for her destiny, not only as His daughter, but also as the Spirit’s spouse and Son’s mother. Catholics understand that Mary is special, but they do not worship her. Worship is for God alone, as they proclaim so clearly in their creed.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Deeply Moved by Faith

This is the Year for Priests. Let us all appreciate and be thankful for their service in our lives and throughout the world!

Faith and Community

We are not alone. We were born in community, not just with our parents and siblings, but also in union with creation. The idea of faith is to believe in someone or something other than ourselves. This makes perfect sense when you think about it. We can never be fully isolated, no matter how much we might like to try.

Go ahead. Challenge me on this. If you do, consider your thoughts and where they come from. Can you honestly take full credit for those inspirations that play out, sometimes in conflicting ways, helping you form an opinion about right and wrong?

The Catholic Catechism professes what Catholics believe. Part One, article 2 clearly states, “Faith is a personal act—the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Persevering in Faith

It is clear. We are free to believe in God. Sadly, some people choose not to, claiming freedom from all that might actually free them. This probably sounds like a harsh statement, however freedom is not a license to sin. True freedom is the act to persevere out of a need for the incomprehensible truths found only through belief in Jesus. Nothing has been hidden or made difficult. All has been revealed through the revelation of Christ, and it is up to us to live up to our calling as sons and daughters of God.

Sure, there will be trials, and our character will be tested. We have been warned that many will hate us because we are not truly of the world. Our very presence challenges those who don't believe, and we don't even have to open our mouths to do it. Faith is a choice, and
many witnesses to faith have paid the highest price for their beliefs. Shouldn't we at least live up to ours?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Understanding Catholic Faith

Have you ever tried to learn something new, only to become frustrated because it seemed so difficult to understand? The "I can't" chorus becomes vocal not because we feel incompetent, but rather because we make things too hard on ourselves, or don't want to do what it takes to integrate them into our lives. We have built-in head trash that allows us to avoid certain tasks. We limit our ability to become better by choice, not by reason. Faith is not difficult to understand; it is challenging to follow. As Christians, our role model is Jesus Christ, Himself, not the average person walking down the street. In fact, the level of our belief correlates directly to how much faith we can hope to obtain.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Characteristics of Faith: Freedom to Believe

Do you believe your Mom or Dad when they tell you something? What about your best friend? Can you trust them to keep their word and do what they say? Is it because they love you, and you know they’d never do anything to hurt you?

Of course you do because you have faith in them, right? You’re smart enough to know that what they say is true, even if they don’t offer physical proof to back it up. All you have to do is look at who these people are in your life, to know that they have your best interest at heart.

That doesn’t mean they will always agree with you. Sometimes it means they will tell you you’re wrong. And when they disagree with you, it’s not to be mean. Maybe they have more knowledge, and don’t want you to get hurt. Because you have faith in them, you have reason to believe what they tell you, even if you can’t readily verify it.

So it is with God. Through the gift of grace, He gives you the gift of faith to be open to His inspirations shared by the Holy Spirit. It is as reasonable and freeing to believe what God reveals to you as it is to believe what your parents and friends tell you, more so in fact, because all people have flaws, and God doesn’t.

Just as your heart flutters at great things, and is overcome with love, so your mind should respond logically to the gifts your heart receives. It is natural for your mind and heart to work together in an effort to benefit your character and soul. In fact, it is your freedom and choice to respond to the gift of faith logically and reasonably, knowing that the Spirit is willing within you.

Everyday miracles happen when we exercise the gift of faith. A. D. Bell recalls how God came to the rescue one day when she didn’t expect it.

Some people know how to say it in verse, and Jishi Santos sure has expressed our sentiments well today!

Freedom is often taken for granted. We have the right to believe because it makes sense. Robin-Christopher Stone addresses the concept of freedom, and reiterates that we are all one people.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Characteristics of Faith: Understanding Grace

You can’t buy it. You can’t earn it. You can refuse it, but to what purpose? I mean who in their right mind would refuse to be loved? It’s what we all seek in this world, and hope for in the next. Sure, it can get confusing from time to time, especially when we second guess motives and rely on our own defenses. That doesn’t make it any less real or significant.

Grace is a supernatural gift from God. It is the ability to be open to the inspirations of God’s Spirit, while closing off the temptations of ours. Since God is love, temptations opposed to love misdirect our attitudes, making us susceptible to challenges that affect our willingness to accept the gift of grace.

Troy Jones shares wonderful sentiments about grace in his article. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Faith in the Trinity: Catechism Part I, Chapter 3

How many basic parts are there to an egg? If you list them, do you count the shell, the white, and the yolk? That’s 3 separate parts, right? Is the shell any less a part of the egg than the white or the yolk? Don’t you still call it an “egg” shell? And when you need to add “egg” whites to your cake batter, you still consider them eggs, even though you are only using part of them, right?

Think about your computer now. Is the monitor any less a part of it than the keyboard? Can it function properly without the hard drive? Even with all of the input from outside sources, it is still a computer, and cannot be separated into individual parts alone to be useful or complete.

So it is with God. He is one with Jesus Christ, and they are both one with the Holy Spirit. As Catholic Christians, we are called to believe in the Father, who sent the Son, through the power of the Holy Spirit. These 3 people are one, and as such work together for the common good. Faith requires that we believe and accept the doctrine of the Holy Trinity because it is reasonable, and makes perfect sense.

Just as your mind, body, and spirit are one, though acting in different capacities, so is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit one, in accordance with God’s creation and plan of salvation. When you take care of your body, you are helping your mind and spirit too. When God sent His Son, He sent the Father and Spirit with Jesus.

Wow! That was a heavy discussion today. How about some lighter Catholic reading? Ask Sister Mary Martha is a fun blog that shares all kinds of information. You can even ask her questions. Happy Catholic is very inspirational too. But hey, don’t take my word for it. Click on the link, and see for yourself.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Abraham’s Faith in God

Faith is a gift. Abraham received this gift in all of its fullness. He recognized his creator, and decidedly chose to follow God, even in the most obscure circumstances. Faith cannot be taken lightly, and it does not change on a whim, or when things are confusing and difficult. True faith allows you to trust the one you believe in, no matter what might happen.

Abraham was a true believer in God as he built the altar of sacrifice for his son, Isaac. He never doubted God’s word that he would become the “father of all who believe”, even though his wife Sarah did not readily conceive his children. It seems the only thing Abraham knew for certain is that God spoke to him, and he was to be faithful to the message he heard.

When I think about the story of Abraham, it makes me smile. There is a great reassurance that no matter how bad things might get, God will deliver me from my troubles. I understand that even though I can’t see the future, I have reason to hope. Sure, at first it seems almost cruel to put Abraham through such a trial, but on second glance, it shows that no matter what, there is reason to hope, believe, and trust in God. He will not abandon us, even if we abandon ourselves.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Faithfully Mary, Mother of God

When we think about responding to God’s call, it is right to look toward Mary. Here was this young teenage girl, preparing for adulthood, facing the challenges of her time. She didn’t ask to be anyone special, nor did she think she was important. Mary was a simple girl, not overly ambitious, and extremely modest.

Her faith was in accordance with her knowledge of God, holy and fearful, never rebellious. She learned to trust God through His revelations from the prophets and in Scripture, namely the Old Testament. Mary had a relationship with God, and when His angel appeared to her, she believed. Her response was humble and pure, accepting her role in the plan of salvation. Mary agreed to be a servant for the greater glory of God.

We too must learn to serve for noble and right purposes. Service is God’s gift to us, as presented through His faithful followers like Mary, whom He chose to be His own Mother, and Jesus—our God who denied His own deity in humble service for the remission of our sins. Service for the greater glory of God therefore is not a choice, but a response of faith, in answer to God’s call in our lives.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Faithfully Responding to God’s Call

We are embarking on a new discussion as we begin to study Part I, chapter 3 of the Catholic Catechism. It is time to look inward and determine how we respond to God’s call in our lives. Up to this point, we have seen how God revealed the truth to us, through His Son, Jesus Christ. We learned how God meets us through creation, revelation, Tradition, and Sacred Scripture.

The question now becomes, how are we responding to God’s invitation to get to know Him and His way? Are we willing to obey the messages we hear from God, and act accordingly? Or are we timid and fearful, dreading the accusations of people? Do we respond in faith to the truth as we have learned it, or do we challenge that truth, in an effort to make our own lives easier?

Faith by definition is difficult. We are required to believe in things that we can’t see and science can’t explain. Is that a good enough reason to avoid it, and if it is, what are the consequences for doing so?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Thoughts on Catholic Catechism Chapter 2: Scripturally Sound

Can you imagine life without your past? While there are probably some memories that bother you, all of your memories have contributed to who you are today. So it is with the Bible. The Old and New Testaments go hand in hand, revealing the truths for salvation.

We can no more negate the history of creation and lessons of the prophets, than you can erase your birth and childhood. The Canon of Scripture decidedly includes and attests to the validity of all of the books in the Bible. Carried on through the apostolic Tradition, Church Canon affirms the unity of the Old Testament with the New Testament, placing special emphasis on the lessons in the Gospels.

The Gospels are important because they reveal the life, ministry and teachings of Christ when He walked among us. They refer to the oral tradition of faith, passed on verbally throughout the ages, and support the written tradition of faith, emphasizing the Revelation of the Word.

All of the faithful are highly encouraged to read and study Sacred Scripture, and are informed of its lessons in every Mass offered for the sake of salvation. The Catholic Church has always recognized the importance of the Bible, as proven by the detailed emphasis in its Catechism, throughout chapter two.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thoughts on Catholic Catechism Chapter 2: Senses of Scripture

Scripture is alive, my friends! It is dynamic and full of life, activity, and power. When you read a letter from a loved one, you feel the energy expressed. You understand the literal events taking place, but you also feel the spirit of the person who wrote the letter. You take into consideration the undertones, abstract meanings, and symbolism learned through your relationship.

Because of this, you participate in a journey with your pen pal. You readily receive the message, instruction and morality expressed throughout the correspondence. This is why exegetes in the Catholic Church study and share their knowledge and judgments about Scripture with us. It is through their interpretation that we are truly moved to understand the hidden meanings therein.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Thoughts on Catholic Catechism Chapter 2: Interpreting Scripture

Can you imagine the prophets and apostles writing Scripture in a culture that boasted of fast and prepackaged food, air travel, weapons of mass destruction, and internet communication? Of course not! That was a strange question! Everyone knows Scripture was composed in the olden days, before all of our modern technologies were available.

That’s why it is so important to read the Word of God in its proper context, taking into account that the entire Bible is the one true Word of God, and must be studied undivided. The Bible consists of several books, and they cannot be separated from the Spirit that inspired them as one complete book.

There are 3 things to consider when you read Scripture: content and unity, Church Tradition, and faith analogy. Each book of the Bible is part of the whole book, and should be read as such. The heart of the Church is alive and well through the Holy Spirit which inspired Scripture. Therefore, Church Tradition and Sacred Scripture are unified when they interpret the Living Word of Christ, and evangelize His teachings throughout the world. Finally, it is important to appreciate the consistency of truths within Church Tradition and Sacred Scripture combined, cohesively communicating the Revelation of Christ.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thoughts on Catholic Catechism Chapter 2: The Author of Scripture

There’s only one author for Sacred Scripture, God Himself. While individual books are attributed to several different people, the Catholic Church recognizes that all of Scripture has been inspired by the Spirit of the Living Word. The Holy Spirit affirmed the writings of men especially chosen by God to reveal His truth, necessary for our salvation.

“Still, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book.” Christianity is the religion of the “Word” of God, “not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living.” If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, “open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures.” CCC

Again we are directed to Christ as our leader. It is only through God’s Son that we will receive mercy and forgiveness for our sins. This is a free gift, one that we could never earn or purchase. When we read the dynamic passages in the Bible, we are taught lessons that will guide us truthfully in our lives. It is up to us to respond to the inspirations of the Spirit in faith, and when we do, we will stand firm in the path that leads to God.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Thoughts on Catholic Catechism Chapter 2: God’s Word

You gotta love Scripture! Every time you read or hear it, there’s something new to touch your heart. Why? The words haven’t changed. These same words have been around for centuries, and yet they continue to hold new meaning at different times in our lives. We are familiar with the stories, and even proud to exclaim our memorized verses, so how does Sacred Scripture continue to impress us, conquering the depths of our hearts when we least expect it?

God in His mercy only speaks one word. You see, He is timeless, and what He says, once and for all, is the truth. “For this reason, the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body.” CCC

Catholic Mass celebrates the Liturgy of the Word in conjunction with Liturgy of the Eucharist. For any Mass to be complete, both components must be incorporated. To be clear, each liturgy can be separate, but not as a Mass in all of its fullness.

The study of Sacred Scripture is encouraged in the Catholic Church. Because God is all good, He speaks to us in our own language, using terms we can understand. It is up to us to let God be made manifest in the Word He reveals within our hearts, and through our understanding of it, give due glory back to God.

Nicholas Myers has written a wonderful article about the elements needed in any good religion. He explains things like faith, holiness, belief, and rituals. He even discusses hierarchy and community with honest insight.

Donna Frasier refers to the Bible and Catholic Catechism when she speaks fondly of Mary, Mother of Jesus. We are directed to several resources which reveal why we should look to Mary as a role model, and strive to learn from her virtues.

Scripture Catholic is a website devoted to helping people understand the meaning of God’s Word, and how it accurately reflects Catholic teachings.