Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Is Smoking Marijuana a Victim-less Crime?

Some say that smoking pot or doing other drugs is a victim-less crime. Yet, there are millions of direct and indirect victims of the drug-trade. Issues include addiction, broken families, billions spent every year, slavery, abuse, sex-trade, human trafficking, environmental damage, kidnappings, thefts, etc.
  • In the Korean War the US deaths were 36,516
  • In the Vietnam War the US deaths were 58,206
  • In Iraq + Afghanistan the US deaths are 8,200+
  • Estimated deaths in Cartel violence in Mexico the last ten years = 120,000 killed by 2013, not including 27,000 missing.
To top it all off, intentionally getting high is gravely immoral, for the same reasons getting drunk is.

Mexico = 6 hours from College Station. The next time you think about lighting up a joint, think of who you are supporting when you do so.

WARNING: The video below is blunt in the data provided about violence and how the cartels work.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Fr. Barron on Intentional Discipleship

I got to spend several days with Sherry Weddell, author of Forming Intentional Disciples, this past week, at the St. John Bosco Conference. Her book has really been stoking a conversation throughout the Church in the USA, about how The Catholic Church operates. It was a great week of being able to teach some others about evangelization, discipleship, and catechetics, but even more so, I get to learn from others, including Sherry.

Only disciples make disciples and to be a disciple, one has to choose to follow Jesus intentionally. Grace isn't magic and can't save us without our saying "yes" to it.

Fr. Barron talks about Sherry's book in the video below. He gives us the bad & good news about the state of the Catholic Church and Intentional Discipleship.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

15 Phrases and Sayings NOT In The Bible

These quotes are either frequently misquoted from the Bible or not there at all. I also have some things that are frequently thought to be in the Bible, but are not. I have tried to provide a origin of each, if I could find one. I have avoided doctrinal items (both valid and invalid ones) not found in the Bible, because that list would be never-ending.

15 Phrases & Sayings Not Found in the Bible

15 - The Three Wisemen
They Bible calls them "Magi", not "Wisemen", though the two are synonymous in common parlance. The Magi are found only in Matthew 2 and no number is given to them (three comes from the number of gifts given).

14 - "Moderation in all things"
This idea behind this phrase originates from Aristotle's ethics and the direct quote comes from Rome, several hundred years before Christ. Two different Romans are generally given credit - one named Terence and the other Petronius.

13 - "The Lord (or God) works in mysterious ways"
Comes from a Hymn ("God Moves in a Mysterious Way") by William Cowper, who lived in the 18th century.

12 - "The eye is a window to the soul"
Matthew 6:22 says "The lamp of the body is the eye", but there is no reference saying it is a window to the soul. There is no consensus as to the origin of this phrase. Some attribute it to a proverb of varying origin and others to several writers including Shakespeare and Milton.

11 - The Apple in the Garden of Eden.
There was fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2, 3), but we do not know what kind of fruit is was. The apple grew out of Christian tradition and may have been a result of artists trying to depict The Fall. It might also have come from the Latin word for evil ("malum" = evil / "malus" = apple). Some say it was likely a pomegranate. But, we do not know.

10 - "The lion will lay down with the lamb"
A very common misquote of Scripture. Isaiah 11:6 reads "Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them."

9 - "A fool and his money are soon parted"
Not even close to a Biblical reference - this comes from Thomas Tusser who wrote it in 1573 in in Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie.

8 - "This too shall pass"
The origin of this phrase isn't even Christian. It comes from a Persian Sufi (Muslim) poets some time in the middle ages.

7 - The Seven Deadly Sins
The list of the 7 deadly sins = wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. The first evidence of the list is from a monk in the 4th century. The list was then altered slightly by Pope Gregory I in 590. It was then popularized by Dante in his Divine Comedy.

6 - "Money is the root of all evil"
1 Timothy 6:10 says "For the love of money is the root of all evils". It is the love of money that causes the problem, not the money itself. Money doesn't have a moral value all to itself, it is what we do with it that makes the action good, neutral, or evil.

5 - "Pride comes before the fall"
Proverbs 16:18 says "Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
The origin of the misquote is unknown, but The Beatles' song "I'm a Loser" has the line in it.

4 - "Charity begins at home"
Generally credited to Terence, the Roman comic writer. It is sometimes also attributed to Sir Thomas Browne who wrote the phrase in 1642.

3 - "To thine ownself be true"
Comes from Hamlet by Shakespeare. In a bit of context the quote reads, ”This above all: to thine ownself be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” Not bad advice, but not from the Bible.

2 - "Cleanliness is next to godliness"
While there are many references in the Mosaic law to cleanliness (esp. in Leviticus), there is none that we can ascribe to this quote. Some say it comes from a 2nd century Rabbi. We know the first English version comes from Francis Bacon. He wrote the following in Advancement of Learning, "Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God." John Wesley then changed it to the phrase we use today.

1 - "God helps those who help themselves"
This very common phrase comes from Algernon Sydney, who wrote it in an article titled Discourses Concerning Government. It was then popularized by Ben Franklin in 1757 in Poor Richard's Almanac. In many ways this phrase is wrong, because God helps (saves) those who can NOT help themselves (sinners). Though we must agree to allow Him to help us. An earlier form of the phrase may have come from "God loves to help him who strives to help himself" by Aeschylus (6th C BC).

Do you have any others?

Monday, July 14, 2014

9 Biblical Ways to Overcome Temptation

We can overcome temptation by learning what Scripture tells us about it and following the advice laid out for us.

9 Ways to Overcome Temptation:

1. Avoid and/or flee from it. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.
“She caught him by his cloak and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.” -Gen 39:12
2. Submit your thoughts to God. He knows better than we do what is good.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” -Phil 4:8
3. Overcome your selfishness. True Love doesn’t know selfishness. Because, if you love Jesus you don’t belong to yourself
“and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.” -1 Cor 3:23
4. Expect and be ready for temptation. We need to be prepared for Spiritual battle.
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” -Eph 6:13
5. Remind yourself of the consequences of sin.
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” -Gal5:19-21

6. Memorize God’s Word. Filling our minds with the thoughts of God and having them readily available to us is very wise.
“He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” -Luke 11:28
7. Cultivate a sense of God’s presence But don’t just listen – obey.
“Go near and listen to all that the LORD our God says. Then tell us whatever the LORD our God tells you. We will listen and obey.” -Deut 5:27
8. Frequent confession heals us and we start over spiritually healthy.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” -James 5:16
9. Accountability helps us avoid sin. When we are accountable to both man and God it helps us overcome temptation.
"Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" "I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?" The LORD said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground.” -Genesis 4:9

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Myth That Women Are To Blame For a Man's Lust

A while back, another blog posted a metaphor for how men struggle with lust - due to women who dress immodestly. I think there is some merit to it. I am paraphrasing, but the metaphor goes something like this...
Women who are concerned with good health and exercise have to really struggle not to eat the chocolate (or other tempting food they like) which is sitting out on the counter. It takes all the will power a woman has to say no, stick to healthy habits, and put the chocolate aside. Now, imagine if someone followed you around every day, with chocolate, and offered it to you. Over time, your will power might break down, unless you were constantly vigilant. This is what it is like for a man struggling with lust due to women who dress immodestly.
While there is some merit to the analogy, I want to point out that if someone is following you around and tempting you there is always the St. Paul option (see Acts 16:18).

Second, it is always a choice to say "yes" to the chocolate and allow the temptation to fester. The desire, itself, for chocolate is not the problem. It is what you choose to do with that desire that is the problem.

Finally, women aren't generally following men around and tempting them. Rather, the man's eyes are wandering and the man needs to have more custody of them.

I have heard many excuses for the men who can't control their lust:
  • "If she didn't dress that way, then she wouldn't be seen as an object."
  • "Men can't control themselves when women dress so provocatively" 
  • "Just boys being boys"
  • Etc
This mentality is a lie. It is an easy way out which we men sometimes wish we had so we didn't have to control ourselves. Yet, the fact is - LUST IS A CHOICE!

In order to be clear, let us define lust. Some think it is any sexual thought about someone else. It is not. Rather, lust is the entertainment of sexual desires for a selfish satisfaction.  Here is how JPII put it:
"Reducing the riches of the perennial call to communion of persons...to mere satisfaction of the sexual 'need' of the body."
In other words, lust is using another person sexually (whether they know it or not).
The Catechism says:
"2351 Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes."
So, lust isn't just a thought that pops into your brain without you choosing it. Rather, you take that thought, entertain it, and use it as your own. This makes the thought an act of your will - you choose it. If you don't take ownership of it, then you can't be forgiven nor can you start to work on real chastity.

So, regardless of a woman's ignorance, imprudence, lack of modesty, and bad choices - it is NEVER A WOMAN'S FAULT YOU CHOSE TO LUST AFTER HER!

Let me say it again - despite a woman's reckless behavior, lack of concern for your chastity, failure to show charity to her brother - the man who lusts is the one who is to blame for the lust.

This is not to say that women should wear immodest clothes (see this post for the argument against immodesty). In fact, immodesty can be sinful, just as lust is.

Rather, it is an argument that shifting the blame of a man's lust to women who dress in a certain manner is a lie. The truth is if we love our sisters, we men will step up and take responsibility for our choices and our need to work on self-control.

**Internet + Bathing Suits = Bad Idea
**Top 10 Reasons Men Should Practice Custody of the Eyes
**Top 10 Reasons Women Should Dress Modestly
**The Impact of Porn Through Stats
**Reflections on the Question of Modesty

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Jesus Uses Sarcasm? Yes He Does.

It might come as a surprise that Jesus was very sarcastic, but he was. First, let us look at what sarcasm is:
1. harsh or bitter derision or irony.
2. a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark
The origin of the word gives us a better understanding - it comes from the Greek "sarkasmos" and that comes from another word which means "to tear flesh, bite the lip in rage".

Sometimes sarcasm can be used to make a joke (but be careful of your audience). Sometimes it can be used to make a strong and biting point. This is how Jesus uses it more often than not.

So, was Jesus harsh, bitter, sharp, sneering, cutting, and ironic? Yes.

But, first I will give you my favorite Old Testament usage of sarcasm (there are a lot) - it comes out of 1 Kings 18. Here the prophet Elijah puts the priests of Baal that they should accept a challenge from him to see which God is best - Baal or Yahweh. So, they have a challenge to see which God would show up to burn up the sacrifice made by Elijah vs the priests of Baal.
Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.
What you don't see in the majority of most English translations is how much Elijah was really taunting them. Here is a better translation:
"About noontime, Elijah began mocking them. ‘You’ll have to shout louder than that,’ he scoffed, ‘to catch the attention of your god! Perhaps he is talking to someone, or is out sitting on the toilet, or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened.’"
Baal might be asleep? Might be on the toilet? HA HA! I love it!!!

5 Times Jesus is Sarcastic

So what about Jesus?
  • Matthew 15:21-28 - Calls the Canaanite woman a "dog", which was a terribly insulting and would prick the Canaanite woman directly - she was not a Jew, the first group Jesus is sent to.
  • Matthew 23 (the entire chapter) - first he says the Jewish leaders are hypocrites and the Jesus should do what they say, but not what they do. Then Jesus gives the 7 woes (full of sarcasm), then he calls the leaders "snakes, you brood of vipers"
  • Mark 12:24 - Jesus asks the Sadducees "are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures of the power of God?" These were leaders who prided themselves on knowing Scriptures, so this was a terribly sarcastic and insulting statement.
  • John 9 - the story of the blind man is FULL of sarcasm, but most from the blind man (and his family). Jesus last statement to the Pharisees is very sarcastic too - calling them blind.
  • Luke 13:31 - Jesus calls Herod a fox, but he uses the feminine of the Greek word, which means he is calling him a vixen. Now that is an insult!
Now, with that all being said, we are not Jesus! We have to be VERY careful with sarcasm. As anyone who knows me knows - I can be way too harsh with my sarcasm. Jesus was the only one who could always use sarcasm without sinning.

You and I are not Jesus. So, if you use sarcasm, be careful. Of course, this is coming from a sarcastic hypocrite...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Underage Drinking

Q - What does the church say about underage drinking--not necessarily in regards to drunkenness?

A - Thanks for the question.  I would like to point other readers to my answer to a previous question on whether getting drunk is a mortal sin.  While you ask a question that takes that out of the picture, it is all too common a question and very relevant to most college students.

Now, as to your specific question.  It depends (don't you love that answer).

Alcohol is not, in and of itself, an evil thing.  So, having a beer is not, by itself, wrong.  That being said, there are other circumstances that can make a neutral thing (alcohol) be used for an immoral purpose.

It is not a sin, if you are not breaking the law and drink moderately.  Now, the Texas state law allows a minor to under the supervision of their parents or guardian.  So, this would not be a sin, if you drink a beer or a glass of wine with your parents.

But, I am guessing you mean drinking as a minor without your parents or guardian around.  If this is the case, then you are breaking the law. While some believe drinking-age laws are arbitrary, we must still follow them, because they are not unjust laws. Breaking the law is a sin, if it is a just law, therefore underage drinking without your parents around is a sin.  What level of sin (mortal or venial) depends on other circumstances.  Here are some examples.

Example #1 - Your know that your parents do not approve of underage drinking, but you drink anyway.  Therefore you are also breaking commandment #4 - to honor your father and mother.  By the way, even if your parents encouraged you to drink before you turn 21, you are still bound to follow the law.

Example #2 - Others you are drinking with are drinking too much or participate in unhealthy or immoral behaviors because of drinking.  This is scandalous, because you are giving tacit approval to their actions (even if you don't approve or or participate in their actions) by your presence.

Example #3 - You have a history of not being able to control yourself around alcohol and thus you are putting yourself in a near occasion of sin.

Example #4 - You drink and drive.  Not only is this very stupid / sinful, but it is also breaking another TX law, because a minor cannot drive with ANY trace of alcohol in their system.

There are other examples, but this will do for our purposes here.  Is underage drinking a sin?  The simple answer is yes, it is (most likely) a venial sin when you break the law but do not drink to excess.  But, other issues can increase the gravity of the sin to make it a mortal one.

But, we shouldn't always see such situations from the negative side. There is a positive side as well. Every time you choose to follow the law you say yes to justice and the wise course of action. When you choose to drink legally and responsibly, you choose sobriety, temperance, prudence, and wisdom as well. The right choice is the one you will never regret, the one that follows your conscience, and the one that is in accord with God's will. Choose that and you won't miss out on anything anyway.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) & The Better Option

The Millenial generation is REALLY good at keeping their options open and waiting for the better option, but it is spilling into other generations as well, and I don't think it is good for any of us.

Think about theses scenes you see frequently (maybe do yourself):
  1. A young couple on a date at a restaurant, who don't engage each other much in conversation, who rarely make eye contact, and stare at their phones for most of the dinner.
  2. You ask someone if they want to watch a movie or go play pool on Friday night and they get wishy-washy about giving you an answer. They might say something akin to, "text me before you go and I will see if I can go later."
  3. A relative who has been dating their significant other for 10 years and has no plans to get married, because they want to "keep their options open."
All of these situations, and many more like them, repeat themselves daily in our culture. Some believe it is the FOMO mentality - the "Fear Of Missing Out". In other words, there might be a better option out there, so I shouldn't commit myself to anything right away. 

Those that are culture-watchers know this is happening and they play on our vulnerability. Examples:
  • 168,894 different drink combos at Sonic
  • Dating sites that offer hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of different "options" to date others.
  • How many different options are there on a phone now? Not to mention the kinds of phones one might choose.
  • etc.
We have even brought this attitude into faith issues - church shopping, being spiritual but not religious, and wanting to choose our own way over God's way (the universal FOMO).

The problems that come from this attitude are legion and I believe the Devil is highly entertained by this culture of the better option. If we don't commit to something and stick to it, we don't commit to anything. If we don't commit to anything, we live our lives without meaning.

Too often today, we stand paralyzed in making a choice, because there are too many options. We leave our options open, waiting for the better one, but we end up not committing to anything and then the moment passes us by and we seem unsatisfied - afraid we "missed out" on something better. Sometimes it is a consequence of being afraid to make the wrong choice, in the face of so many options being presented. So, the only decision made is to not make a decision, and therefore not have to live with the consequences of missing out or making the wrong choice.

This is not a good way to live a good life!

Life is meant for us to make a choice, stick with it, and the result is living a better life because of it.

The vows of matrimony include choosing one spouse and only one spouse, until death do us part:
I, ____, take you, ____, to be my (husband/wife). I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.
Notice there is no backdoor to find a better option down the line. Whatever may happen, this is the choice I make and I stick to it. If we don't, we are treating others as an thing which we can use as we wish to make us happy = utilitarianism. This mentality is dangerous and unchristian!

Utilitarianism is the philosophy that the best way to live my life is to maximize my happiness and minimize my suffering and this is primarily done by using other people and things to attain my happiness. In other words, it makes people into objects. By constantly keeping your options open with others, by waiting for a better option, by having the fear of missing out - we treat others as objects, not people!

Think about how God chooses to love us. He chooses you and sticks to His choice! It is how He wants us to live our lives too! Make a choice for God and stick to it!

There are a multitude of gods out there we can worship - money, sex, power, fame, etc. One that too many are worshiping today is the god of better options. It promises you won't miss out. But, it lies.

Choose God. Choose others. Stick to your choice. This is the way of the one true God who chooses you. Faithfulness is never without sacrifice, but it does not leave us unsatisfied.

Even psychology backs this up - Psychologist Barry Schwartz teaches this (WARNING - there are some parts of this video that are somewhat crass, but are used to make a good point):

"Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."-Joshua 24:15

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Jim Gaffigan lets us know about Kale.
Have fun and happy 4th of July (don't forget to pray for our country).

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Polygamy: Why Not?

Q - I am studying polygamy in one of my classes, and I have surprisingly learned that those marriages are highly successful with high reports of happiness. So it got me to wondering, why is it considered to be wrong by the church? God is in love with everyone at once, and in heaven we will all be unified to each other equally; so why would God create humans to be monogamous?

A - Thanks for the question. In our modern culture, marriage is constantly being  redefined. Not long ago, marriage between one man and one woman (until death do they part) was the cultural norm. Now, marriage is defined by whatever makes someone happy or whomever someone is attracted to. This is how we get the high acceptance of same-sex marriage, not to mention growing acceptance of polyamory, polygamy, etc.

So, before we dive into a direct answer, we must first understand what the Church teaches about marriage itself.

Marriage is the basic cultural building block of society. One man, one woman, and their children unite as a family - every bit of evidence shows that families thrive in monogamous and stable homes with two biological parents of opposite sexes who remain married.

This means that there is less poverty, crime, strife, etc. in homes where marriages do well. This is because the mother and father of children cannot be replaced. Two fathers or two mothers (or any other combination of differing numbers) cannot provide what one mother and one father can. The role of the father can't be replaced by a woman and the role of the mother can't be replaced by a man. Neither can multiple mothers or fathers help a confused child understand stability and love in a family.

What we can know for sure is when families suffer the rest of our culture suffers.

True love is to choose what is best for the other regardless of the cost to myself. This means polygamous relationships can never have loving sexual relationships. This is because the true act of sex is about giving yourself away completely, but if a man has multiple wives (or a woman has multiple husbands) he or she can't do this fully, because the body isn't made to be given to multiple partners and it certainly doesn't proclaim faithfulness to one other person.

A married couple can say, with their bodies, I want to create life and bond with you only - until one of us dies. I want to be one with you. This is impossible with polygamous "marriages", because while the body might still be saying this, the act itself is ordered toward selfish pleasure. True unity can never be created when we give ourselves to multiple partners.

Throughout history, pro-marriage laws are by definition discriminatory. They discriminate FOR traditional families (not against others) in order to build up what is good for society. Where do children thrive? In the traditional family. If we tear the family down, society suffers. One of the purposes of the government is to help support this building up of what is good for society. Therefore, marriage is about more than people who have good feelings for one another. It is about the common good of society - which is why the government got involved in it in the first place.

Just because people can live together, have sex together, and have strong emotions (and possibly a strong bond of intimacy and friendship) does not mean they need to have that relationship endorsed by our government by granting them a marriage license and the rights of married couples. Similar situations does not equate to equal situations, when the good of children and society comes into play.

I am not a woman. Because I can't bear a child in a womb, am I being discriminated against when a woman gets pregnant and is granted maternity leave I can never take advantage of? No. Equality isn't sameness.

Another thought brought to the absurd logical end. I love my sister. Should I be able to marry her? Who are you to say I can't marry someone I love?

The point being - not all relationships are the same and shouldn't be treated as such.

In the times of the Old Testament, the people were being led by God toward the truth, but He didn't give them the fullness of the truth, because they were not ready for it. If the Father had sent the Son during the times of Noah, the people would not have been prepared to accept Him. Therefore, we ought to view the Old Testament as a school for humanity. It is training and education in the basics so that we would be ready to accept the advance education and training of Christ. When Jesus came, He revealed the fullness of the law of God. So, the moral law - the 10 commandments - was never taken away. Rather, our understanding of it was deepened (see Matthew 5-7).

What was changed were those things that were not part of the moral law. For instance - Christ says this about divorce and why God allowed it in the Old Covenants:
"Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?" He said in reply, "Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate." They said to him, "Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss (her)?" He said to them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery." [His] disciples said to him, "If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." He answered, "Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it." - Matt 19:4-12 
His answer to the question of why divorce is allowed gives us insight into the training that God was giving His people. But, God wants more of us. He wants us to live life out fully and with all truth, therefore He gave us the grace to be able to do so through Christ - both in His teachings and in each of our souls. The same kind of situation happened when the law allowed for multiple wives.

The Bible doesn't answer the question of polygamy directly, but we can infer much from this situation. This was because the tribes and kingdoms which surrounded Israel allowed for the same, and the Israelites were not ready to accept the fullness of the law. Therefore men were allowed, for a time, to have multiple wives. Why?

Well, maybe because there are more women than men (due to war, lifestyles, etc. of ancient times). Also, an ancient near middle-eastern woman would not be able to provide for herself and would need the support of a relative or husband. In the new covenant of love that Christ reveals to us, we see that marriage is to be between only one man and one woman - who are equal in dignity, because this relationship mirrors the relationship between Jesus and the Church (Ephesians 5) and that the two become one. The new law is one of love and faith, not just rules.
"I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." -John 13:34-35 
Finally, the Catechism says the following:
2387 The predicament of a man who, desiring to convert to the Gospel, is obliged to repudiate one or more wives with whom he has shared years of conjugal life, is understandable. However polygamy is not in accord with the moral law." [Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive." The Christian who has previously lived in polygamy has a grave duty in justice to honor the obligations contracted in regard to his former wives and his children.
Ultimately, the answer lies in this fact - we were made for one other person. That relationship will ultimately be with God in heaven, but in this present life, we are made to be a sign (Sacrament) of that relationship with God in our marriages between one man and one woman, until death.

But, putting faith aside for a moment, the state has a legitimate role in giving incentives to marriage between one man and one woman - it is good for all of us.

Finally - there are other studies that show polygamy is bad for many.  Studies have shown that it discriminates against woman, by some being treated as less equal to men, and it discriminates against poor men who cannot afford multiple wives.

Polygamy is the next frontier in the battle for marriage, so get ready, you will be given much evidence it is a good thing. This is why polygamy studies showing everyone is hunky-dory is merely an effort to normalize such relationships.

I hope this helps.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fr. Barron on Bill Maher & Biblical Interpretation

Is religion anti-intellectual? Does The Bible present us with a God who is mean, superstitious, or without logic?

No. But, Bill Maher really isn't interested in learning about Christian faith. Rather, he just wants to make Christians look like fools. Fr. Barron examines this kind of thinking.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Catholic Tribalism and Civil War

When I was a child I had some neighbors who fought constantly. The mom, dad, and even the kid would get into fights and then become unreasonable, yell, stomp out, and close themselves off from each other. After a while, I started avoiding their house, knowing that I wouldn't enjoy being in the middle of another argument.

The Catholic Church is like that family sometimes. We talk about being children of God, His sons and daughters, but we act in a completely dysfunctional way. It starts with the labels we give ourselves or others as being one kind of Catholic or another. These modern labels include:
  • liberal Catholic
  • conservative Catholic
  • moderate Catholic
  • progressive Catholic
  • neo-conservative Catholic
  • modernist Catholic
  • traditional Catholic
The first problem with every one of these labels is The Church is not a political entity and to use such politically-loaded phrases such as "conservative" or "liberal" is the wrong way in which to describe any person's relationship to the Catholic Church. Every one of these labels come from the political spectrum and have a lot of baggage associated with them, not to mention that the terms are quite nebulous and their meanings have changed radically through the years. Still, none of these labels encompasses what it means to be Catholic.

The Church is too big to be caught up into such tribalism. We lose the mystery and make it a purely human enterprise. It also makes it easy to disregard others and keep them at arms' length, never truly trying to understand their perspective or loving them as brothers and sisters.

Now, that being said, I am not advocating for the doctrinal teachings of the Church to be up for grabs. If I do that, I make myself into a kind of uber-pope who gets to be the final say on doctrine. On the other hand - I also can't judge others when they struggle with a Church teaching, because I then make myself into another kind of uber-pope who gets to determine who is a "good" Catholic and who isn't.

We are free to disagree with another Catholic on how to fix immigration, how to best fight poverty, etc. But, we can't deny the right of every human being to live, the teaching that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, marriage can only be between one woman and one man, the preferential option for the poor, etc.

Yet, if someone else is struggling with one of these teachings of the Church, we also can't judge the state of their souls or their relationship with the Church.

Another caveat - that isn't to say we should be silent about what the doctrines of the Church are and are not. Choosing to love another person does not mean we necessarily accept what they believe. Still, in our disagreement we need to love others in order to bring them into a closer relationship with Jesus. Rarely is someone in an argument or fight willing to accept they are wrong. Love is the key.

If someone asks me if I am conservative or liberal (or any other label you want to use), I answer, "I am Catholic."

Furthermore, the problem with bickering and arguing among Catholics is the kind of witness it gives to those on the fringes of The Church or outside The Church. It speaks loudly to the rest of the world and it says - we are in a civil war! I stopped going to my friends' house because his family argued all the time. Why would someone want to go to a church where everyone was at each others' throats constantly?

Jesus wanted us to be one. He prayed for Unity in the Church. One in faith, hope, worship, love, Sacraments, service, etc. While we can't ever bring about unity by our own power or will, we can start where we have control, over our own thoughts and actions. We need to start truly loving others, not for the opinions they hold (right or wrong) or the affinity we have toward a group they identify with, but rather because we must do so if we are to truly be followers of Jesus.

How exactly are we to bring Good News to the world if we can't get away from a civil war?

Pray for unity. Start loving others. No matter what.
Time to start practicing what I preach...

Of course, Jesus says it even better:
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." -John 17:20-23

Monday, June 16, 2014

Get More Out Of Going To Mass

Many people go to Mass with the expectation that they are supposed to "get" a lot out of it. But, what you get out of Mass is dependent on what kind of changes you are willing to make in your efforts before, during and after Mass, because what you put into Mass determines what you get out of it.

Let me give you eight pointers that have helped me in the past:

1 - Properly prepare for Mass.
  • Read and study the readings before you go to Mass, and then listen to them intently while The Word is proclaimed. You can find the Sunday readings here.
  • Study the Church's teachings. The more you know about Christ and His Church, the more there is to love. - You can't love what you don't know.
  • Go to Confession regularly. This will help prepare you spiritually.
  • Pray daily. Without prayer you have no spiritual power!
  • Dress appropriately. You are going to meet the King of Kings. Don't dress the same as you would for a lunch date, a party, or class. Make it special.
  • Get there early and sit up front. Less distractions and more time for prayer before Mass.
  • Once inside, don't talk or people-watch...pray.
2 - Make sure your attitude is adjusted properly
  • Don't expect to be entertained. It isn't as much about what God is doing for you, but what you are doing to worship God.
  • Look for God in every part of the Mass.
  • Don't let outside distractions disturb your internal peace.
  • Find one nugget in the preaching to take home with you.
3 - Participate
  • Sing, even if your voice is bad.
  • Respond and pray with gusto. Give it all to God and don't worry about others.
  • Remember that during Mass isn't socializing time.
  • Offer your pain, sufferings, joys and prayers to God.
4 -Listen to the Word and be open to it changing you
  • Are you open to letting God change you? If not, then you won’t be changed.
  • Listen to the Word proclaimed and let it challenge you.
  • Find something in the Homily and apply it for the week.
5 - Know, understand, and proclaim your Faith
  • Don’t just recite the Creed - proclaim it like you mean it and understand what you are proclaiming.
6 - Tithe
  • If every Catholic tithed...think what we could accomplish in spreading the Gospel.
  • Yes, it is our duty to support the Church. But, it does more for our own faith than it does for the Church.
  • Most people "tip" not "tithe" - so be a tither, not a tipper.
7 - When you receive Jesus in the Eucharist - understand what it is you are doing
  • You are taking the Body, blood, soul, and divinity of GOD into you
  • You are joining in heaven on earth
  • You are becoming one with The Body of Christ
  • Be reverent
  • Realize that He is in everyone else that received Him as well.
8 - Tell other people about Him
  • You are now empowered to evangelize (share the Good News of Christ) - which is what the Church exists for.
"If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy." - Saint Jean Vianney

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

10 Tips For Evangelizing Online

Q - As Aggie Catholics who are very present on social media sites such as Facebook, we often run into our brothers and sisters who may not have the same viewpoints as we do, or choose to publicly voice their dissent of the Church and her teachings. How as Catholics can we stand up for the Church while also respectfully educating those who post about misconceptions or issues they have on Facebook?

A - Thanks for the question. I don't think there is a perfect way to approach this subject, and I must admit that over the last 15 years I have made every mistake possible in evangelization online. That being said, there are some good principles I can offer.

10 Tips For Online Evangelists

1 - Be encouraging. We have to remember that most people in our culture are not active Christians who know and follow Christ. This means we have a lot of work to do. Encouraging someone to explore the faith, seek the truth, pray, etc are great ways to introduce them to Christ and His Church.

2 - Dialogue. Don't Argue. Fulton Sheen had the motto - "Win an argument. Lose a soul." I agree. If someone loses, they won't listen to what you said. Try presenting the truth, not beating someone up with it. Our job isn't to convince, it is to be faithful in announcing what it true in an attractive way.

3 - Re-read before posting it. Try to see if what you are writing could be taken the wrong way, sound defensive, be argumentative, etc. No need to be immediate in responding if it means you could hurt someone. You will drive someone off more quickly than bring them to Christ with one comment.

4 - Step away if things get too heated. Don't feel like you can't take a break or end a conversation if things aren't headed in a positive direction. If you can come back at a later time, then do so.

5 - Don't write anything you wouldn't say to someone face-to-face. People love to re-invent themselves on the internet. No need to be the internet tough-guy and beat someone up virtually. No good will come of it.

6 - Ask good questions. A great way to understand where someone is coming from and how you might help them is to ask questions. Furthermore, your partner in the discussion will have to think about what they believe and why if you ask good questions. Getting them to reflect is a great goal any way.

7 - Know who you are talking to. If you don't know your audience, then you don't know how to properly respond to them. Rarely should you quote the Bible to an atheist. Nor should you quote Vatican II to a Muslim. A rational non-faith-based argument works for most though - unless someone has asked a "where is it in the Bible" kind of answer.

8 - Be prepared to hear some far-out ideas and strange philosophies. Don't dismiss someone just because they don't think like you do. Every belief under the sun gets equal time on the internet. Be prepared for the absurd and irrational ones.

9 - Know that sarcasm, humor, irony, satire, etc may be misinterpreted online. I do this too often still. Nobody can see your facial expressions or know the real intent behind your posts. If it could be misinterpreted, then re-write it or don't post it.

10 - Don't be afraid to speak the truth, but do so with the right intentions. In all things charity. Remember what your goal is - to help others come closer to Christ, His Church, and the truth. So, offer up what is true, but do so convincingly, lovingly, and humbly.

I hope these help.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Why Can't Non-Catholics Receive Communion?

Q - Why can't non-Catholics receive Holy Communion? What if they say that they believe that it is the Body and Blood of Jesus like we do? What should we say to them?

- Thanks for the question.  There are several reasons that non-Catholics cannot receive Communion in the Catholic Church.  But, first we must deal with some myths about this topic.  It isn't a judgment about anyone's salvation nor is it about how sincere someone may believe in Christ.

Here is what the Catholic Church teaches about The Eucharist and why it is so important. From John 6:53-56.
"So Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him."
This is the first teaching of Christ on the Eucharist. He clearly states (again and again in John 6) that the Eucharist is not just a symbol of his Body and Blood, but truly becomes his body and blood. Otherwise it would make no sense for his followers to understand him literally (John 6:41 & 6:52) and then walk away from him (John 6:66) without Jesus clearly explaining that he was speaking figuratively.

Then we have the last supper accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Here Christ clearly teaches that the bread and wine are transformed into his body and blood ("this IS my body" & "this IS my blood"). Taken along with Paul's admonition in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30:
"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill and some have died."
It all adds up.  The Catholic Church has consistently taught, through 2,000 years, that Christ is truly present - body, blood, soul, and divinity - in the Eucharist.  For more on the Church's teaching on the Eucharist, read a previous post here.

Therefore, to receive him in Communion is an outward statement of our unity of faith.  It says, in the action of the congregation, that we are united (communing together) to one another in believing in all the Catholic church believes, teaches, and confesses.  Those who are not Catholic cannot make such a statement, because they are not fully in communion with us.  So, for a non-Catholic to receive Communion is a counter-sign to the truth.  It says outwardly "we are one", when we are not.  It would be a lie, spoken through actions.

To receive the Eucharist does not only mean we believe in it, but in all that the Catholic Church holds to be true.  It says with the body "I am Catholic and hold all that the Church teaches to be true as truth and I therefore unite myself to Jesus and all his Catholic Church, through the bonds made in the Eucharist."

A non-Catholic should be told exactly what we believe.  Most do not share our belief in the Eucharist.  If they don't, then they probably won't want to receive if explained as I did above.  But, what if a non-Catholic says they share a belief in the Eucharist?  I suggest you invite them to join us at Communion - but only after they enter the Church through Confirmation (and baptism if necessary).  If one truly believes in the Eucharist, then the only place to receive it is in the Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Churches.  Why wouldn't you join if you truly believe we have the Eucharist?

Furthermore, the Church limits communion to Catholics out of concern for their spiritual well-being.  Paul tells us why in the 1 Cor. verse quoted above.  To receive without discerning the body and blood, is to receive condemnation. This would put someone in spiritual danger and we do not want that for another!

The ancient Christians held to the same belief we do now. Here are a few examples:
"Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God....They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes" - Ignatius of Antioch, circa 110 AD.

"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" Justin Martyr, circa 151 AD
Lastly, the Church has no right to change the clear teaching of Christ.  We must always be faithful to his teaching, even when others are offended (even when we are not trying to offend, sometimes it happens).  We are not trying to be exclusive, but honest and faithful to Christ.

Remember this, not all Catholics can receive Communion, but only those in full communion with the Church and those in the state of grace (no un-confessed mortal sins).

Here is the US Bishops statement on the issue that you can find on the back of most missalettes.
For Catholics
As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.

For our fellow Christians
We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ's prayer for us "that they may all be one" (Jn 17:21).

Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 § 4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 § 3).

For those not receiving Holy Communion
All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.

For non-Christians
We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.
I hope this helps.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Jesus - Your Personal Life Coach

There are many modern people who use a life coach to help them achieve certain goals. I believe Jesus can help us set some good goals as well. Sometimes He will challenge us with a statement and other times He asks us questions that may push us. Either way, we should listen to what He has to say.

Here is a sample of some of the things Jesus has to say to us today:

  • "Come, follow me" -Mk 1:17
  • "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me." -Jn 14:1
  • "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." -Mt 5:42
  • "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." -Mt 5:44-45
  • "Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." -Lk 12:33-34
  • "Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people." -Lk 5:10
  • "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet." -Jn 13:14
  • "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you." -Lk 6 37-38
  • "You cannot serve both God and money" -Mt 6:24
  • "Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life." -Jn 5:24
  • "Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." -Mk 5:19
  • "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." -Lk 7:50
  • "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?" -Mt 6:25
  • "In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." -Mt 7;12
  • "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" Mt 7:15-16
  • "Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand." -Mt 7:26
  • "Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" -Mt 10:16
  • "If any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them." -Mk 6:11
  • "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." -Mt 10:28
  • "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." -Mt 11:29
  • "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?" -Mt 16:24-26
  • "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s" -Mt 22:21
  • "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." -Mt 22:37-39
  • "Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come" -Mt24:42
  • "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day." -Jn 6:54
  • "If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them." -Lk 17:3-4
  • "But what about you? Who do you say I am?" -Mk8:29
  • "What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person." -Mk 7:20-23
  • "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." -Mt 25:40
  • "Take and eat; this is my body." -Mt 26:26
  • "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." -Mt 28:19-20
  • "Don’t be afraid; just believe." -Mk 5:36
  • "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." -Lk 11:9-10
  • "No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again" -Jn 3:3
  • "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" -Jn 11:25-26

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Catholics + Bible + Personal Interpretation

Q - What if an individual interprets something from the Bible, but the Church says it is something else? does that make you wrong or what kind of room is their for personal interpretation?

A - Thanks for the question. The issues you address center on how we define freedom in personal interpretation and authority of interpretation. I would like to commend you first of all. Apparently you are reading your Bible and thinking deeply about it. This is a good thing. The Bible is the written revelation of God to humanity. We are able to know about God, about ourselves, our destiny, our salvation, and how to live because of it.

I believe every word written in Scripture is true, but this does not give us the authority to interpret the Bible however we like. We must have an infallible guide (who is led by the Holy Spirit), otherwise we cannot be certain that we have the truth.

The Bible itself says that interpretation is not to come from within alone:
Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God. -2 Peter 1:20-21
It also says we need an authority to help us interpret the Bible correctly:
Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" He replied, "How can I, unless someone instructs me?" So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him. - Acts 8:30-31
The Bible also says that some parts are hard to understand, as Peter says when writing about Paul's epistles:
And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, as our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, also wrote to you, speaking of these things as he does in all his letters. In them there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures. - 2 Peter 3:15-16
The Bible is a collection of ancient texts with different audiences, authors, messages, literary styles, objectives, and styles. Led by the Holy Spirit, we have to study it intently and have a proper hermeneutic, that is, a proper way of interpreting the Bible. If we don't have this, then we can easily find ourselves committing interpretive errors and believing our own opinion in place of the truth of Scripture. While the Bible might be inerrant, we are not. If we were all inerrant in our individual interpretation of the Bible, then we wouldn't have any differences in doctrine within Christianity. As it is, God set up way to give His Church a guide (the Holy Spirit) so we can reliably interpret Scripture.

Therefore, while individuals can be in error - we can also be assured of being able to find the truth, where the Church teaches authoritatively on a particular Scripture passage. The authority of the Church is not over Scripture, but rather is the protector of it. It protects us from error and gives us the assurance of knowing the truth. Without this protection, the Church would be in doctrinal chaos.

Now, we all have freedom in applying the text to our own lives, within certain limits. If we are in direct opposition with the Church in interpretation of a text from Scripture, then we have to humbly ask who has the authority to correctly interpret the Bible? But, the Catholic Church doesn't have an official interpretation of every Biblical passage. That is because Biblical studies is a field that continues to develop and Scripture can have many layers of meaning (personal, communal, spiritual, literal, etc). Also, there is a freedom to interpret much of the Bible for ourselves, when not in opposition to doctrine.

So, the Church puts up minimal guidelines, as a path for us during our time in the Bible, and as long as we don't get outside of those we are okay.

Here is a Vatican document on interpretation of the bible. It says:
The Spirit is, assuredly, also given to so that their hearts can "burn within them" (Lk. 24:32) as they pray and prayerfully study the Scripture within the context of their own personal lives. This is why the Second Vatican Council insisted that access to Scripture be facilitated in every possible way ( 22; 25). This kind of reading, it should be noted, is never completely private, for the believer always reads and interprets Scripture within the faith of the church and then brings back to the community the fruit of that reading for the enrichment of the common faith.
In other words, we cannot read the Bible as if it is just "our own". It does not belong to us, but God. Therefore, we must be obedient to the way God intends us to read it. It continues:
If, as noted above, the Scriptures belong to the entire church and are part of "the heritage of the faith," which all, pastors and faithful, "preserve, profess and put into practice in a communal effort," it nevertheless remains true that "responsibility for authentically interpreting the word of God, as transmitted by Scripture and tradition, has been entrusted solely to the living magisterium of the church, which exercises its authority in the name of Jesus Christ" ("Dei Verbum," 10).
I think we ought to see the Church as a guide to interpreting Scripture, not a hindrance. If you look at Acts 15-16 you will see Paul and Barnabas going to the Church to solve a difference over interpretation and this is the way it should be. Not in conflict, but in humble dialogue with the Church.

For more on this, I recommend this article by Jimmy Akin. A sample:
The liberty of the Scripture interpreter remains extensive. Taking due consideration of the factors that influence proper exegesis, the Catholic Bible interpreter has the liberty to adopt any interpretation of a passage that is not excluded with certainty by other passages of Scripture, by the judgment of the magisterium, by the Church Fathers, or by the analogy of faith. That is a great deal of liberty, as only a few interpretations will be excluded with certainty by any of the four factors circumscribing the interpreter’s liberty.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

100 Simple Ways To Improve Your Life

Don't wait to change.
Don't wait to say I will do it tomorrow.
All we have is today to choose what we will do, what our character reflects, and how we will live our lives.

Change isn't easy, but it is certainly worth it. There have been several times I have done a personal inventory of my life and found I had some gaping holes that need to be filled. When I give advice to others about change in their lives, I usually tell them to start small so they won't fail in their resolutions, but I usually don't follow the same advice myself. The reason I don't is because I have found in my own life I need a big challenge in order to really change. When I gained a bunch of weight in my early-twenties I decided to get healthy. A few years later I was 60 pounds lighter and running marathons and triathlons. When I found I wasn't praying enough, I took up a daily rosary and reading of Scripture. I have kept that habit for almost 14 years and pray at least an hour a day now. So, what is next? Well, that is for me to discern...
But, I want to give suggestions for you as well.

100 Simple Ways To Improve Your Life:
  1. Pray more (or start praying if you aren't already)
  2. Say "I love you" to those you love
  3. We have too much stuff - go through your stuff and give some of it away. 
  4. Visit your relatives
  5. Tip bigger
  6. Volunteer at a nursing home / soup kitchen / homeless shelter / animal shelter / Habitat for Humanity
  7. Smile more
  8. Say "hi" (or if in Texas "howdy") to strangers
  9. Be thankful for what you have, not envious of what you don't have
  10. Write someone a hand-written letter
  11. Volunteer for a task at work that nobody else wants
  12. Tithe 10%
  13. Forgive someone you hold a grudge against
  14. Do something on your "bucket list"
  15. Learn a new skill
  16. Say something encouraging to a loved-one that you should have said long ago
  17. Drive with kindness
  18. Volunteer with a youth group
  19. Save your money for something important and distant
  20. If you need help - get help
  21. Take a class in something you want to learn about
  22. Read the Bible every day
  23. Pray for your enemies
  24. Do the little things that matter
  25. Conquer a fear
  26. Exercise more
  27. Don't compromise your beliefs
  28. Communicate better - more in-person / telephone conversations with less texting / email
  29. Keep criticism to yourself
  30. Turn off your cell phone when you spend time with others
  31. Donate blood
  32. Offer to watch someone's children so they can go on dates
  33. Be eager to do something someone else wants to do, even if you don't
  34. Go on picnics
  35. Schedule quiet time
  36. Pay for the person behind you at a drive-through
  37. Buy extra items at the store and donate them
  38. Be patient with people who annoy you
  39. Dream big dreams
  40. Finish a project you started and put aside
  41. Work on what you are passionate about
  42. Be more hopeful and positive
  43. Stop making excuses
  44. Lose weight
  45. Send someone flowers
  46. Make a family member breakfast-in-bed
  47. Less TV/Facebook/Electronic stuff and more time on relationships
  48. Do something spontaneous every week
  49. Talk to your neighbors
  50. Share your talents / Teach someone something you are good at
  51. Be a better listener and talk less
  52. Say "I am sorry", "thank you", and "please" more
  53. Break a bad habit or addiction
  54. Donate books to the library
  55. Don't waste time with bad entertainment
  56. Mentor a troubled youth
  57. Host a block party
  58. Ask more open-ended questions of others
  59. Stop gossiping
  60. Go on a spiritual retreat
  61. Become an organ donor
  62. Don't argue electronically. If it is serious enough, then talk in-person
  63. Start a new hobby
  64. Play board games
  65. Get involved in a new organization at church
  66. Go for more walks with others
  67. Be persistent in doing the right thing
  68. Be yourself
  69. Do chores for an elderly person
  70. Go on a mission trip / service trip
  71. Eat healthier
  72. Keep a holy hour in Adoration
  73. Vote
  74. Give sincere compliments
  75. Brag less
  76. Recycle more
  77. Start a garden
  78. Write your political representatives
  79. Teach a child to read / ride a bike / swim
  80. Don't one-up others in conversations
  81. Invite others for a big feast
  82. Plant a tree
  83. Have a garage sale and donate the proceeds
  84. Carpool
  85. Hold doors open for others
  86. Pick up random litter
  87. Learn CPR
  88. Eat family meals more
  89. Forgive a debt that someone owes to you
  90. Introduce yourself to those you sit near in church
  91. Give big hugs
  92. Call just to say "hi"
  93. Bake cookies and give them away to others
  94. Make care packages for the military
  95. Buy fair-trade items when possible
  96. Read good books
  97. When you are wrong - take the blame
  98. Go to Confession monthly
  99. Look for Christ in others
  100. Love God with all you are
If you decide to pick some of these and want to let others know about them, leave a comment below.