You Will Be Perfect

So, today’s readings are all about loving your enemy and praying for those who persecute you.  I would you encourage you to visit the post I wrote about loving your enemy before moving on to this if you haven’t read it already.  Since I don’t need to repeat what I’ve already written, I’ll be moving on to the equally important ending of today’s Gospel: Christ’s call for perfection.

“Humanum errare est”.  To err is human.  We all know this.  Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve and the birth of sin, we as a human race are very not perfect.  We’re even bad, extremely bad at times.  We can be, and often are, monsters.

Take a good look at yourself.  Not just your body, your whole being.  You’re weak.  You’re corrupt.  You can’t even keep yourself from eating that extra cookie when you’re trying to lose weight!  What on God’s green earth could you possibly hope to ever accomplish?  Eternal life?  What a joke.  How could you hope to follow Christ when you can barely follow traffic laws?  Why, asking you to be perfect is like asking a caterpillar to fly.  No, its like asking a caterpillar to fly a thousand miles, no THREE thousand miles.  All while going 30 miles an hour.  And look beautiful and dazzling the entire way.  That’s insane.  Only a madman would expect that out of a dang caterpillar.  But yet Jesus tells us to be perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

Even the giants of the Old Testament fail God and His people.  Moses doubted God and struck the stone twice instead of once as he was commanded.  David committed adultery and murdered his friend. Jonah ran away. Whatshisface the son of Israel lied cheated his brother Esau out of his blessing, and Abraham did something wrong that is currently escaping my mind.  Even St. Joseph sinned once (I think he got super angry once or something like that).  Before his conversion, St Augustine was what you would call a teenage delinquent and a hedonistic party animal before he converted and became one of the greatest philosophers and theologians of all time.  St Thomas Becket was super wealthy and a scrooge who never gave to the poor before he became the Archbishop of Canterbury and a martyr.  Before her conversion, St Olga obliterated an entire tribe and sold the few survivors into slavery.  Her grandson, St Vladimir, gained power by killing his brother, had far too many wives, and sacrificed people at a pagan temple before being forever changed by the grace of baptism.  St Phillip Howard had been a playboy and a gambler before being inspired by watching the heroic St Edmund Campion defend his faith in the Tower of London before Anglican ministers armed with books and assistants.  St Phillip Howard reconciled himself with his wife, who converted with him.  While trying to escape to the continent where they could practice Catholicism, they were captured.  After 10 years of imprisonment, he died in the same tower Edmund Campion, his gateway to Christ, was imprisoned and interrogated before his martyrdom.  But the point is, none of us are perfect (with the given exceptions of Jesus Christ and Mary).  Yet here we have stories of how people, some like us, some far worse, followed the call of Christ, and became saints and heroes.  A saint is the person who, through whatever struggle on Earth, at least achieved perfection with God in heaven.  A saint is, by definition, perfect.  We have concrete examples of how humans somehow became perfect, just as our Heavenly Father is perfect.  It is achievable, even while it remains impossible, though not by ourselves.  That is the power of God, to turn animals into Sons and Daughters of God.  To make evil into good, to make sinners into saints, to make the impossible possible.

One week ago, a friar told me that if you look at the original text of this reading in whatever language it was, it doesn’t say “be perfect”.  It says “you WILL be perfect”.  God is promising you perfection.  He is calling you to achieve with Him what you could never hope to do on your own.  He is calling the caterpillar to fly.  He is making a promise, one which He intends to keep, even if He has to die for you.  And He did.  That is the wondrous beauty of it.  God became one of us. He reached down into a dark hole full of dirty water and snakes, and pulled out a turtle, that had fallen upside down, and could never get back up again without help*.

Do you know what’s interesting about caterpillars?  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  They just crawl around and eat stuff (much like me).  I guess some are kinda cute, but most are bland or just plain ugly.  There’s this one caterpillar whose camouflage is bird poop (the one in the picture at the top).  Yeah, really.  That guy must have some serious trouble hanging out at parties (I’m sure St Augustine could give him a few tips).  But you know something about caterpillars?  They don’t stay that way forever.  If they keep following the code of caterpillar law, and behave the way they’re supposed to (eat this, don’t eat that), they become something else entirely.  And you know what?  They FLY.  Not only that, but thousands of miles, some known to go as fast as 30 miles an hour.  And they are regarded as one of God’s most beautiful creations.

So, God today is promising you that you will be perfect, if only you follow his commands.  God will transform you into something so wonderful, you could never hope to imagine it.  Many of you are doubting me right now (heck, so am I).  But everyone knows what’s going to happen to the caterpillar except who?  The caterpillar.  Just trust in God, and one day, one day you will be perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect.  God Bless.

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In Christ, Catholic2theMax

PS, I borrowed the caterpillar analogy from a friar who gave a talk at a youth event last Saturday.  Count on friars to be super cool.

* This actually happened to a friar.  Before he became a religious, he was waling around in the woods (super outdoorsy guy), and he saw a hole.  He couldn’t see what was in it, but typical dude (we’re not the brightest of the bunch sometimes), he decided to reach down into it and see what he found.  What did he find?  A turtle, laying on its shell, unable to get up.  It would have died there, as it was incapable of doing anything by itself at that state.  This inspired the man to become more religous, and eventually enter the Fransiscan order.    And no, he does not still have the turtle.

The Good, the Bad, and the Annoying

Earlier today, I went to Mass with my Mom like we usually do on weekdays.  But since my dad was home today, we got to leave all the little kids home and have a nice quiet time. It was awesome as planned, and we went and got some food afterwards.  Things were looking good.  But then disaster struck when we got home.  The kids were screaming and pouting, so we went to our town’s Fourth of July Celebration.  They had some of the best funnel cake I have ever had, not to mention the live music and other attractions.  When we got home, once again, everything fell apart.  Then, my dad came to the rescue with a movie he rented from RedBox, and now everything is quiet while my little sisters watch The Lemurs of Madagascar.

As you can tell, my day has been full of different emotions.  Today I’ve been happy, annoyed, angry, and the wonderful feeling only a good funnel cake can bestow.  But no matter how ‘m feeling, I’m obligated (privileged) to care for my younger siblings.  I’m also supposed to be Christ to others, no matter how I feel about it.

As a Catholic, I promise you there will be times when you’re loving life.  You just feel God’s presence all around you.  Your plans seem to fit right up with God’s, all the kids seem to behave at Mass, and you couldn’t want anything else (except maybe some pizza.  That would be a nice touch).  And there will be times when you feel empty.  You’ll look around and say to God, “What the heck Man!?”.  Sometimes people will hate you for what you believe and persecute you for your faith.  Unashamed Catholic had a great post about constant conversion to a more Christ-like you, and he got comments about how horrible Mary is, and how the Catholic Church is the infamous “Whore of Babylon” spoken of in Revelation.  You have to be Christ-like whatever happens.

My friends know that I’m not to good at doing that when I’m angry.  I can get really bad sometimes when people do stuff like I just mentioned.  But to be perfectly honest, I probably do that a lot as well.  I don’t say it, but sometimes I’ll make fun of what someone believes (even though the stupidity is so thick you couldn’t cut it with a just knife.  You’d need like a lightsaber-chainsaw to just make a dent in it).  The point is, be Christ to others, regardless of who it may be.

There are a lot of people who expect to get something out of Christianity in a worldly sense.  People want to get a good feeling out of going to church or being nice to people.  I’m telling you right now, it probably won’t happen the way you want it to.  C.S. Lewis once said that “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

To people who are expecting comfort out Catholicism, the problem is that you are looking for the world in the Heavens.  Your expecting worldly pleasure out of God.  But, like JPII famously said,

“The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort.  You were made for Greatness”

However, you will get something from living a holy life.  They’re called the fruits of the Holy Spirit (charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity).  While some of them may sound a lot like earthly feelings, they’re not.  They are something far more awesome.  They are fruits because they show when the Holy Spirit lives in you.  It’s basically the Holy Spirit showing through you.

Because we are so addicted to our feelings, we expect what we feel to be right to be the truth.  We might really want something to happen, whether it’s for a job interview to go well, or for your sports team to win, or something even more important to happen, but it might not be in God’s plan.  Have you ever really really wanted something, and told God that His will be done, not yours?  I have.  I did not enjoy it at all.  But, as C.S. Lewis said again,

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

With the way things are going today in America, it would probably be the aforementioned time when you say to God, “What the Heck, Man!”  But it is also the time when you suck it up and keep fighting the good fight, regardless about how you feel.  If you’re happy, spread it to other people, take advantage of those times.  If someone is feeling depressed about what has happened, or if they are being bullied for their faith, stand up for them.

A lot of people are all for that relationship not religion stuff.  They are looking for a perfect relationship, but there is a problem.  I hate to break it to them, but they’re not perfect!  Sometimes you are going to feel down in the dumps, I personally guarantee it.  But, if you follow Jesus through good times and bad, you’ll get to taste what Final Victory is like.  You’ll get to see God and think, “Man, that was worth it”.

In Christ, Catholic2theMax

Elusive Peace

I apologize for not having written in a while.  I’ve just been so busy, and as the title implies, have had only fleeting experiences of peace.  My little brother was born on the 2nd, the 8th child in my family.  As you can imagine, trying to maintain a calm household with my parents gone can be a very challenging task.  Anyway, since peace is extremely valuable and precious, I believe it would be good to learn more about it.

The Catholic Bible Dictionary defines peace as ” The harmony between persons and especially between God and man.”  Not to be confused with concordance (agreement).  Two evil men can be in agreement about the murder plot, but it is anything but peaceful.  As already stated, peace is especially harmony with God and man.  This generally means that your will lines up with that of God’s will.  So, unity brings about peace, which makes a lot of sense.  As Ol’ Abe said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”.  It seems that it can’t be very peaceful in its not-standingness either.  It seems to me that concordance is not peace, but the beginning of peace.  Since peace is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit, it can only really be achieved as an effect of the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life.  That’s most likely why retreats are so peaceful, they’re quiet and you’re surrounded by the Holy Spirit.

So, we have begun to establish the meaning of peace.  Now, how to come about it.  After all, “elusive peace” is extremely sought after in society, and rightly so.  In modern times, all of us are constantly busy.  We have to get here by x time, and then from there have to meet up with so and so and this place.  Even when we have time to ourselves it seems that something has to be going on.  So, if you’re going to build something, you have to lay down the foundation first.  In life, your foundation is much like trust.  It keeps you rooted in reality.  Imagine a life where you couldn’t trust anything, not even this blog.  You would always be afraid of everything, and would never let yourself be around others.  The exact opposite of peace.  Since the majority of us don’t live like that, we all trust something.  If you’re around someone you don’t trust, you at least trust the probability of that person not killing you.   If you’re smart, you’ll place your trust somewhere that you can rely on, no matter what, like a family member or a close friend.  If you’re even smarter, you’ll put your trust in God.

I heard a really good story when I was on an Opus Dei retreat.  There was a passenger plane that was going through a storm.  At one point they hit extremely rough turbulence.  Every passenger on the plane was petrified.  They were silent and barely dared to breathe.  Well, almost everyone.  There was a little boy, around 6-ish years old, who continued playing with his action figures.  Still making those cute little noises of battle while his two toys fought each other.  A woman sitting across from him was astonished, not to mentioned annoyed.  She said to him, “Kid, why are you still playing?  Don’t you know the plane could go down?  Aren’t you scared?”.  The boy continued playing and replied, “Nope”.  The woman was even more annoyed and asked him why.  The boy replied, “The pilot is my dad.”

I think we could all use some of that boy’s trust.  Remember how Jesus said that we must become like little children?  I would be willing to bet that includes child-like trust.  If my dad told my 3-year-old brother that we were having pizza for dinner, it would never cross his little toddler mind that my dad was lying.  I’m not saying you need to be naïve, but have a rational trust in a reliable source.  The most reliable of which is of course God.  Did you notice how scared and agitated the people on the plane were compared to the serenity of the boy?  They didn’t trust the plane or the pilot, but guess who did?  That’s right, the little kid.  “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

We can’t put some of our trust in God, and some of it in the world, because you won’t end up with God, but the world.  Remember when Abraham was told to leave his homeland and go somewhere else, leaving everything behind?  But Abe didn’t fully trust God yet, so he brought some insurance, his nephew Lot.  Eventually Lot ended up in a very bad place, and so did Abraham.  It doesn’t make sense.  Here you have a all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good God, Lord and Creator of the Universe, and He wants to protect and guide you, and you only give him  part of your trust.  You definitely should still trust people, but rely solely upon the Lord.  As humans, we will always get messed up, especially when it comes to trust.  But try to do your best, and God will reward you for it.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

We have covered peace with God (which will usually get you that good feeling of peacefulness), but peace with man (along the lines of world peace) is a little different.  It still begins with putting your trust in God, but it requires a little more to achieve, since one party isn’t God.  I think the easiest way to explain it is Pope Paul IV’s famous dictum, “If you want peace, work for justice”.

Now, with both kinds of peace, you have enemies that try to stop the process.  Peace with God will be opposed by the devil, who wants you as far away from God as possible.  Don’t be afraid, God only allows temptations into your life that you can overcome.  If you trust God, this shouldn’t be a problem.  Now, peace with man will also be opposed by the devil, but it is more common for your enemy to be other men.  You can’t necessarily make the sign of the cross  with holy water to make them go away usually unlike the devil, but they can be beaten.  First Step, defend the weak and innocent.  To defeat something, you first must protect what they try to destroy.  In The Dark Knight, Batman didn’t relentlessly go after the Joker, his first priority was the safety of the Joker’s hostages and targets.  And eventually, in doing so, he captured the Joker.  He did kind of change his tactics in the next movie, but that doesn’t matter.

The military can have a great impact on peace, for good or bad.  In the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, it says this:

The requirements of legitimate defense justify the existence in States of armed forces, the activity of which should be at the service of peace. Those who defend the security and freedom of a country, in such a spirit, make an authentic contribution to peace . . . The right to use force for purposes of legitimate defense is associated with the duty to protect and help innocent victims who are not able to defend themselves from acts of aggression. (502ff.)

One of the things I love about Captain America is his shield.  For starters, it’s indestructible and is red, white, and blue.  But my favorite is the fact that it is a shield.  A shield is used in defense, which is what the military should be used for.

So, “elusive peace” isn’t so untouchable as we think it is.  It’s hard yes, but with God, all things are possible.  Stay peaceful my friends, just like this chicken:

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The Way

One of the most commonly used analogies for life is a journey.  It makes a lot of sense, really.  We’re traveling from this life to the next, with a bunch of pit stops and flat tires along the way.  Anyone who takes road trips at all knows that there are a few extremely important things you need to bring for the long ride ahead.  Among these items are food, caffeine, entertainment for young passengers, and most importantly, a map.  Without food everyone is going to starve sooner or later.  caffeine will keep you awake, entertainment will keep the kids from screaming, and a map will keep you on the right path.  On the spiritual journey, I like to think of food as prayer.  Without prayer, sooner or later you’re gonna drift away into lukewarmness or even disbelief.  Caffeine is like the Holy Eucharist.  It charges you up for those long days when you feel like you got run over by a truck.

I know personally, books are among my favorite types of entertainment.  I think on the spiritual road trip, it’s the same thing.  Books about spirituality or apologetics will teach you not how to be entertained, but how to be engaged with the faith.  And lastly, a map.  Don’t you hate it when you tell Siri you want to go somewhere, and by the time she says “you have arrived”, you’re like ten miles away from the place you wanted to be?  It’s because she didn’t know the way to get there and acted like she did.  I know I do that a lot.  During my Freshman year I was in Marching Band.  I barely knew how to play my instrument, so sometimes I would move my hands randomly to make it look like I was actually playing the music.  Since no one knew I had a problem, no one helped me fix it, so I needed up as an alternate pushing stuff around instead of actually marching with my saxophone.  The same thing can happen in any other circumstance.  Anyway, you have to know the way to get where you’re going if you ever want to get there.  And if you ever want to get there, you’re gonna have to leave where you’re at.

So, we need to find a way to get there, but here’s the catch.  Our goal is to get to Heaven, right?  To be with God in eternal joy.  Here’s what Jesus said about that.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

It seems pretty clear to me that all the other roads that have the green signs saying “Heaven, 10 miles” are fake.  So, we know what to bring, we know where we’re going, and we know the way to get there, what else?  Getting on the way and saying on it. If Heaven is a castle, Jesus is the drawbridge, and we need to figure out how to get to Him.  Remember what I said earlier about a map?  I never really explained what that was, did I?  Well, the map is the Church.  Not the Siri map that always messes up, or a conventional map.  It’s like Google Maps, (For me at least) it’s always spot on.  It tells me where the way is and how to get there, and where all the Sonic Drive-Ins are along the way.  It also tells you what exit to take, when not to take one.  You also need to make sure you have the right “Maps” app.  The world will try to give you false maps and fake paths, like Siri.  You need to find the real one.  How do you do that?  Well, in the description of the real map, it has four marks, kind of like a tag on WordPress.  The marks on the actual map are One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.  Sound familiar?

Does anyone own an absolutely perfect car?  Does it have the top speed of a Bugatti, the efficiency of a Mazda and the looks of a Lamborghini?  No?  Okay, so none of our cars are perfect.  Eventually they’re going to run out of gas or get a flat tire.  That’s when we make a pit stop at the gas station.  Same thing with us humans.  Since we’re not perfect, eventually we’re going to sin and we need to go to Confession to fix ourselves up.  God doesn’t care about how many times you run out of gas or even get in a wreck.  He cares about how many times you go to fix it and keep on driving,  Since none of us are perfect, Confession is a must on the road trip to Heaven.

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There is one last thing I haven’t told you yet about they way.  The more people you caravan with along the way, the harder it is to get lost.  Of course they can’t be drunks or kids without a license, they have to want to get to your destination.  If you caravan with someone else who doesn’t want to get to Heaven, it’s going to be much harder for you to arrive at the correct destination.  But, like I already said, the more people you caravan with that have the same goal, the likes are the trip will be much easier.

Now that you know the way, it’s time to get going.  Like J.R.R. Tolkien once said,

“It’s the job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.”

And here is one last bit of advice:

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That’s it for today.  God Bless!

Apostolate of Friendship

Neighbors

Today was one of those days.  It started out okay, but it didn’t last.  There are always those people who don’t like you and actively try to make your day worse.  Sometimes I don’t realize that I act like them at times.  I may do the same to them or even something worse.  I can deal with those kinds of people like I have always.  The real killer is my friends who disagree with me on tough moral issues.  Some of them are even Catholic, almost all are Christian.  It’s the way they talk about religion though that really annoys me.  They pull up an issue and say something wrong, and don’t want me to say anything.  It’s like a drive-by shooting.  I have discovered in my short years of life that my personality has three main aspects:  Catholic, brother, and jokester.  When I am in Catholic mode, I relentlessly defend the faith and try my best to be kind.  Brother mode is like protection mode.  Being the oldest brother of a family of 8 kids, I know how to defend others.  Jokester mode speaks for itself.  When I am talking to these kinds of people, most often I find myself in brother mode.  Their my friends, and I know they are holding on to beliefs that are contrary to the truth, and often teach others the same.  I lose some of the qualities the Catholic mode has, like compassion.  The most important thing is to save their soul, not to win the argument.  It’s really hard for me to do this, especially when I am concerned about what they will spread to others.

This all ties into the theme of this post: The Apostolate of Friendship.  St. Josemaria Escriva has an entire chapter dedicated to this in one of his three books.  The apostolate of friendship is basically winning should to Christ by just being a good friend.  This doesn’t mean being quiet when a touchy issue comes up.  Defend the faith with kindness, like a shepherd would compassionately lift his sheep up before it falls.  Most importantly, just be a good friend.  If you are a general, and want another country to help you in a battle, it is much easier to be allied with that country than to force it do help.  No one is gonna listen to you unless they think there is a good reason to do so.  I struggle with this tremendously.  They see me as “the Catholic” that wants to force his religion on others, all because I was more focused on winning the argument than winning a soul.  Be Christ to others, so that through you, they may come to know the truth.  After all, we all need someone to lean on.

God Bless!

On Confession

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One of my non-Catholic friends asked me earlier today, “Hey, why do you like going to confession so much?  Whats so great about that you go to it every week?”.  I told him after some thought, “Actually, I hate going to Confession”.

My friend was surprised and asked why I go at all if I don’t like it.  I told him that it’s not going to confession that I love, its receiving absolution and getting out of confession that I like.  No kid likes taking a bath, they just like getting done with it and being clean.  It’s the same thing.  I mean, if anybody actually enjoys sharing their faults with another person by itself, I would be surprised.  We humans don’t like others to know about our defects, and we certainly don’t want to tell them.  I explained this to my friend, along with a short summary of why the priesthood has the power to forgive sins.  If you want more on that subject, comment about it and I’ll expand on that subject further in a later blog.

I especially don’t like it when I know the priest well.  I always think he’ll judge me right as I get in the line.  I started to realize that it might not be a coincidence, me getting that feeling right before I go to Confession.  If you were the devil, when would you attack humans the hardest?  Right before they are about to deal a large blow to you and your work, right?  That’s what he’s trying to do.  Same thing with prayer.  Ever wonder why it’s so hard  to concentrate when you’re praying the Rosary?  When you notice yourself feeling scared or nervous before Confession, just push through it and know that it isn’t a priest behind the screen, its Our Lord speaking.

If you have never seen the movie or read the book, Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I highly encourage you to watch it.  For those of you who have, you’ll get this analogy.  Eustace has been transformed into a dragon by trying to take Dragon gold.  Later on, still a dragon, the ship arrives to the island of evil, which they must defeat.  Eustace spots a sea serpent, and flees his companions.  He flies until he falls onto another island.  Aslan the lion approaches him, and scrapes the sand.  Eustace can feel the dragon scales going away, but it came with horrible searing pain.  Aslan then roars, and Eustace has been transformed back into a boy again, and transported back to an island where he can help defeat the evil.  This is almost a perfect analogy.  He sinned when he took the gold, which transformed him.  When we sin, it changes our souls.  When he fled, it took him off the battleground.  Aslan forgave him, and gave his body back to him.  When we go to confession, it transforms us back to who we really are, sons and daughters of the living God in Jesus Christ.

You see, confession isn’t fun, but it is one of the most powerful spiritual tools you have access to.

“The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.”

           – Saint Augustine