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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Ghost’

St John Chrysostom (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

We cannot Serve God and Money

In today’s Gospel, our Lord tells us what we should understand as a self-evident truth: we cannot serve two masters. Specifically, He says we cannot love God while at the same time loving money. This is not to say that money or wealth is inherently evil, however when we worship it as a god, it always leads to our doom. As St. Paul warns us, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plague men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:9-10).

How often do we deny money is our god, yet our actions reveal otherwise? Whenever we desire the latest fashion, the latest electronic gadget, the newest car, the fanciest house, do we not through our very actions worship money as out god? When we seek fame and fortune for its own sake, we forsake our one and true Lord and Master.

To put it plainly: when we make money our lord and master, we are in mortal danger of banishment from the service of Christ. God is infinite and perfect love, yet true love is not easy and what we are called to return to God in love is not easy. St. John Chrysostom clearly tells us this when he writes, “I now say again to you, what I am always saying: that Christ urges His hearers to obedience to His words, both by means of what is profitable to them, and by what is painful; like a good physician, pointing out the disease that comes through neglect, and the good health that will come through obedience to His directions.”[1]

What does it profit us more as we are being eaten with the cancer of sin: to believe everything is fine and we should not trouble ourselves with it or to understand we are inflicted with a painful and deadly disease? Is it not better to know of the disease, no matter how painful, so that we might recognize it and fight it? Our Lord tells us the Truth: if we pretend there is no disease, we condemn ourselves to the fires of hell – for we must never forget that it is not God who sends us to hell, but we ourselves who do so through the actions and choices of our own free will. No, God does not send us to hell, but it is He alone who reaches out His hand in friendship and love to pull us up from the abyss of our own damnation. Without Him we have only death, but with Him we have only life.

Again, it is not wealth itself which is our enemy; it is our relationship to money which can make us master over it or slave to it. St. John Chrysostom recalls to mind here the example of Job:

Job was indeed rich. But he was no slave of mammon. He possessed riches and ruled them, as a master, not a slave. He held all he had as though he were the steward of another man’s riches. And not only did he not rob others of what belonged to them, he gave what was his to those in need…And so he did not grieve when he lost them. But the rich now are not like this, but rather in a state worse than any slave, and as though paying tribute to some tyrant. For the minds of such men become a sort of stronghold, held by money; and from there each day money sends out its commands, commands that are fulfilled by the violation of justice, and decency; and there is no one who does not obey.[2]

Our Lord implores us to take heart: “Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they?” Now, Jesus is not calling on us to be lazy and slothful, with a “the Lord will provide” attitude; instead He reminds us that God provides all that we are and all that we ever will be. We must trust in Him for our ultimate nourishment and our ultimate life comes from a life in, through, and with the Holy Trinity.

We are called to take heart and to not lose our faith amongst the anxieties of the world: “If then God takes such care of the creatures He has made for our sake, how much more will He not provide for our own needs? If He cares for the servants, how much more will He not care for the masters? … He did not say we are not to sow, but that we are not to be solicitous. Neither did He say we were not to work, but that we must never be fainthearted, now wear ourselves out with anxieties. He commanded us to eat; but not to be over-concerned about it.”[3]

Our Lord calls us, in love, to follow Him on the difficult path: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Lk. 9:23-25)

Yet, our Lord, in His infinite and perfect love, understands we cannot instantly become Christ-like. We approach Him as pilgrims on a journey, some faster and some slower than others, yet all on the same path. As we see this message in today’s Gospel, St. John Chrysostom writes of Christ’s lesson to us:

For you now however, it is enough to learn not to be grasping, that almsgiving is a beautiful thing, to know also that you must give to others a share of what is yours. If you do this well, Beloved, you will soon go on to higher things…Meanwhile therefore let us put away all excessive luxury, and be content with what is fitting and moderate; and let us learn to acquire by honest labour all we are to possess…

Therefore keeping before our mind those degrees of self discipline which have been set before us, let us strive to attain at least to those midway on the road, so that we may be delivered from the wrath to come and, drawing ever nearer, may come at last to the very crown of all blessings; and may it be given to each one of us to attain to this, by the grace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom be glory and honour for ever. Amen.[4]

+JMJ


[1] M. F. Toal (ed), The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Volume 4 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), 102.

[2] Ibid., 103.

[3] Ibid., 105.

[4] Ibid., 107.

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The Sacraments of Baptism, Holy Eucharist, and Penance are arguably the three most important Sacraments in the life of the Church.  Without these three Sacraments, according to Jesus, it’s impossible to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Baptism makes us adopted children of God and ushers us into His family.  The Sacrament of Penance removes the stain of sin, thereby allowing us to die in a state of grace worthy of a life in heaven. The Sacrament of Holy Eucharist gives us new life through the Body and Blood of Christ. Yet, we cannot approach the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist if we are in a state of sin; in sin we quite literally cut ourselves off from the Body of Christ. To find life in Christ, we simply must have ready access to the Sacrament of Penance.

Jesus is quite clear – if we die in a state of mortal sin, we’re out, all the way out.  Once we depart this life, there are no “second chances.”  There is no do-over.  We die and our soul receives final, eternal judgment.  To this, consider as well how easy it is for one to fall into mortal sin in today’s “anything goes” secular society which routinely promotes absolute perversion as “good.”  Perhaps more than any other time in history, temptation abounds.

While it’s not wise since it generally arises from being over-scrupulous, there is no theological barrier of which I’m aware that would prevent someone who doesn’t regularly partake in the Eucharist (but attends Mass) from gaining admission into Heaven (provided of course the person satisfies the Precepts of the Church which includes receiving the Eucharist at least once a year during Easter).  Yet, we very clearly risk non-admission into the Kingdom of Heaven by forgoing the Sacrament of Penance – not to mention the additional sinfulness of receiving the Eucharist while in a state of sin, especially mortal sin.

Give all this, why is Sacrament of Penance the least available and least promoted of the Sacraments?  If the parishioners are lucky, the average “Catholic” church today offers the Sacrament of Penance for perhaps thirty minutes in the middle of a Saturday afternoon.  Oh, sure, these churches often claim it’s available anytime – by advance appointment only, please.

Multiple “performances” of the liturgy are available all weekend with morning, matinee and evening shows all designed to work around your busy schedule – no advance reservation required, walk-ins welcome.  If you’re lucky, along with an ad-libbing MC (formerly known as a priest), in some cases, they might even throw in some clowns or “liturgical dances” for your “theological” entertainment.  But need someone to hear your confession?  Not likely.  Besides, once you do get in for your face-to-face wrap session (after all, Confessionals with partitions are so pre-Vatican II) with Father Friendly, he’ll probably tell you your sins aren’t really considered sins anymore, so don’t worry, be happy!

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

These churches often defend this lack of access to the Sacrament of Penance by claiming not many people show up on Saturday anyways, so it’d be a waste of time to offer it more often.  The majority of Catholics today suffer under pitiful “catechesis” inspired by the false “Spirit of Vatican II” – a “spirit” completely unsupported by the actual documents of Vatican II.  The average pew sitter is woefully misinformed about the Truths of the Faith.  Is it any wonder they’re not showing up at the confessional – especially when it’s in the middle of Saturday afternoon, which is the one day most families actually get some time in today’s hectic world to spend time together?  Frankly, I’m surprised anyone shows up at all.

However, I believe the movie line applies here, “Build it and they will come.”  Offer the Sacrament of Penance on a regular, accessible basis, teach the faithful about its importance and they will come, for if they truly desire salvation and unity with the Lord, they must come.

Every Mass offered by priests of SSPX and FSSP, to give but two examples, offer the Sacrament of Penance before the Mass – in addition to offering it at other times as well.  Quite a novel concept – the faithful show up at the church, participate in the Sacrament of Penance and then actively participate in the Mass with clean souls!  The Sacrament of Penance is offered on a regular, accessible basis and all the faithful participate.  Why is this process so difficult for regular “Catholic” parishes (or “communities” or “worship spaces” or whatever they’re calling themselves today) to implement? [Note: SSPX is mentioned here as an example to show that even a group with questionable standing in the Church at least understands the great importance of access to the Sacrament of Penance.]

Why, fathers and bishops, do so many of you insist on denying, or at least making very inconvenient, access to the Sacrament of Penance?  Sacred Scripture teaches that you are responsible for the souls of the faithful.  With responsibility comes accountability: You will be held to a higher standard than the un-ordained laity.  Stand up and follow many of your Holy Brethren by breathing new life into the Sacrament of Penance and leading the faithful into active participation in this live-saving and life-giving gift of God.

Ave Maria!

+JMJ

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The Temptation of Christ (Scheffer, 1854. Image: Wikipedia)

One of the fundamental causes of all our problems today, particularly in respect to dissent from the Magisterium of the Church, has to do with asking the wrong question.

When we encounter one of God’s teachings we don’t like or don’t understand, our secularized, self-centered society has taught us to ask:

“What’s wrong with the Church that they don’t get it?”

The “it” in this case being secular society’s philosophy of anything goes as long as it makes you feel good.

The question we should actually ask in these situations is:

“What’s wrong with me that I don’t get it?”

The “it” in this case being God’s plan for the eternal salvation of our souls.

True happiness and true freedom come only when we freely submit our will to the will of God.

“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matt 26:39)

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Monsignor Charles Pope posted an excellent piece on the Archdiocese of Washington blog entitled “The Politician and the ‘Private’ Sin: Christine O’Donnell Runs Afoul of the ‘New Morality.’”  Msgr. Pope uses the “controversy” generated by recent airing of old video showing O’Donnell denouncing masturbation as a springboard for a discussion of the Catholic view of sexuality and masturbation.  Please follow the link above and read his full article.  Msgr. Pope’s teaching is spot-on and delivered with excellent pastoral care and wisdom.

I’m firmly convinced one of the greatest causes for a negative reaction against the Catholic Church today and for producing dissent from Church teaching by many “Catholics” is the very “closeness” of the Church herself.  Because the Church is so “familiar,” many people believe they’re complete experts on what the Church teaches based on nothing more than their own opinions and hearsay, particularly “Catholics” who vaguely recall Sister So-and-so (often a feminist dissenter – such as in my “Catholic” grade school) saying something about something in grade school Catechism class during the 1970s or 1980s.  Yet, what they think the Church teaches has little to no connection to her actual teaching.  Sexuality is a prime example.

Most people, and far too many “Catholics,” believe the Church teaches that anything connected with the body or with sex is “evil” and “dirty” – and that we should feel “guilty” for having any sort of “sinful” thought or feeling about sex.  This is pure rubbish!  Nothing could be further from the truth regarding actual Church teaching on human sexuality and the human body.

The Church has consistently taught that because Jesus was fully divine and fully human (two natures in one person), the human body is not inherently “dirty” or “evil.”  Any teaching to the contrary is heresy – and in fact the Church has fought many heresies founded upon the notion of the human body as “dirty” or “evil” since the days the early Church.  God would not have become fully human if He viewed our bodies and our sexuality as “dirty” and “evil.”  Instead, He gave us our bodies and everything associated with them, including our sexuality, as a gift of His free will.  Therefore, the Church has always held the body, and sexuality by connection, are wonderfully beautiful gifts from God.

The Church teaches that, as a gift from God, we should treat our sexuality with the utmost reverence and respect as we’d treat any other great gift given us by someone who cares deeply about us (and no one cares more about us than God).  As part of caring for and treasuring this gift, we should keep it oriented towards its divine purpose – the physical union of man and woman in marriage to produce children.  We don’t like to hear it today, but orienting our sexuality towards any other purpose goes against its nature and against God’s intention.

Instead of treating our sexuality with such respect, many of us discard it to the dung heap.  In a perverse twist of reality, our secular society claims this dung heap is “good” while Church teaching (which is the message of God and not man) is “bad.”  Secular society completely objectifies sexuality.  We are consistently taught, particularly through pornography, to treat people as nothing more than sexual objects for our self-centered sexual pleasure – including even our own bodies.  We’re taught to not worry about the true purpose of sexuality (little lone its beauty) by using contraceptives, and if those don’t work, “eliminating” the “accidental” “product” of a sexual encounter “gone wrong.”  After all, as Barack Obama believes, we wouldn’t want to “punish” anyone with a baby for a “mistake.”

We’ve truly become blind people wondering around in the dark eating from the trash heap while believing it’s a gourmet meal.  God offers us true light, true vision and a Heavenly banquet, yet we refuse His offer, believing we know better than Him the purpose of our humanity and sexuality.  The Church offers a guiding hand to help lead us blind souls into the light, yet we slap it away.  Why have we allowed Satan and his demons to blind us so?

It’s not a new problem.  It’s actually a very old and very simple problem.  From the time of Adam and Eve, humans have acted like unruly children by “playing God” and thinking they know better what’s best for them than the Father.  The solution is likewise abundantly simple.  We must submit our wills to the will of God.  We must trust that the Father does know what’s best for us.  Only in this decision do we find true freedom and authentic expression of our humanity and sexuality.

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From the Roman Catholic Daily Missal, 1962:

The Liturgy reminds us today of the great commandment of charity towards God and our neighbor. ‘The precept is twofold,’ declares St. Augustine, ‘but charity is one.’ We love God above all and our neighbor for His sake.

Collect

As, quaesumus, Domine, populo tuo diabolica vitare contagia: et te solum Deum pura mente sectari.  Per Dominum nostrum.

Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thy people may shun all the wiles of the devil: and with pure mind follow Thee, the only God.  Through our Lord.

Epistle (Eph. 4:1-6)

The unity of our faith, like the unity of the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity, imposes on us the duty of being united in the bonds of charity.

Brethren: I, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called.  With all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity, careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling.  One Lord, one faith, one baptism.  One God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in us all; Who is blessed for ever and ever.  Amen.

Gospel (Mt. 22:34-46)

Precepts of charity towards God and towards our neighbor, given by our Lord Jesus Christ.

At that time, the Pharisees came to Jesus, and one of them, a doctor of the law, asked Him, tempting Him: Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?  Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the Prophets.  And the Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying: What think you of Christ?  Whose son is He?  They say to Him: David’s.  He saith to them: How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying: The Lord said to my Lord: Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool?  If David then call Him Lord, how is He his son?  And no man was able to answer Him a word; neither durst any man from that day forth ask Him any more questions.

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The Holy Trinity - Hendrik van Balen

God the Father, knowing Himself perfectly, eternally reproduces a perfect likeness of Himself by the intellectual generation of the Word, Who is the only-begotten Son of the Father.  As a result of their mutual contemplation, there is eternally exchanged between these two Persons a current of divine love, which is the Holy Spirit.  The knowledge and love that God has for Himself in the ineffable mystery of His infinite beauty constitute His intrinsic glory, to which nothing is lacking and to which nothing can be added.

– From Spiritual Theology by Fr. Jordan Aumann

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Photo: FreeFoto.com

In response to my re-posting of Archbishop Carlson’s article, “Before the Cross: Good Catholics cannot be Pro-Choice,” which, quite correctly, states that one cannot hold positions in opposition to fundamental Catholic teaching and still remain Catholic, I received the following comment from Dave, who seems to be exactly the type of  “Catholic” the Archbishop addressed:

“Most Catholics disagree with you on this. Just because the priests are with you doesn’t mean anything. Look who they are.”

While the comment is sadly uninformed and misguided, it unfortunately represents the view of many “Catholics” today who’ve been indoctrinated by a small, but vocal, group of dissenting theologians, Bishops and priests who worked (and unfortunately, a few still work) to undermine the true Church by claiming a false “Spirit of Vatican II” for the authority of their “teaching,” which wrongly claims Vatican II called for a complete break with established Tradition.  As a result, many “Catholics” today have been lead to the false belief that Catholicism is merely one religious sect among many, no better and no worse than any other, and that man determines the “doctrine of the day” by nothing more than a majority opinion poll on a certain topic at a certain time – further they believe that doctrine can (and must) change whenever the whims of man decide so.

Such false positions of relativism are very dangerous as they put one’s soul on the path to eternal damnation.  Consequently it becomes very important to counter these dissenting beliefs and, God willing, do something to help get these people back on the “small and narrow” path which leads to eternal salvation.  Instead of having my response buried in the comments, I decided to highlight this comment and my response in a post of its own.

It’s critically important for Catholics to understand Church authorities do not just “make up” doctrine as they go along.  Church doctrine, Church teachings and the authority of the Magisterium do not come from man.  Instead, Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the Catechism and centuries worth of ecumenical councils and papal encyclicals all very clearly state that what the Church teaches infallibly (which includes teachings on faith and morals) comes from the divine revelation of God, not from man, and is therefore Truth not subject to the changing whims of man.  Individuals might not like the Truth, yet it remains the Truth to which we are called and to which we are held accountable, whether we like it or not.  Therefore, when “Catholics” dissent from fundamental Church teaching, they no longer freely and obediently submit their will to the will of God – they are no longer in unity or communion with the Trinity through Jesus Christ and thereby no longer members of His Church, which means they are no longer Catholics no matter how loudly they might proclaim otherwise.  To claim you’re a member of a certain group and to then reject the fundamental teachings of that group is an absurdity.

May God have mercy on your soul for believing in and propagating such rubbish!  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  If you reject the Magisterium of the Church because you don’t like what the Catholic Church teaches and you find yourself incapable of surrendering your will to the will of God since you believe you know better what’s best for your soul than does God (which is what it means when you refuse to freely submit yourself to Church teaching), you are completely free to leave the Church and “worship” whatever you chose.  Donum Veritatis (On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian), issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on May 24, 1990, states the Church has always held “nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will.”  You do in fact, thanks to the infinite love of the Father, have the complete free will to absolutely reject His gift of salvation and instead chose the path of eternal damnation.

The Church has been quite clear from the time of Jesus to the present day that rejecting the defense of life is to choose death.  Just like the prodigal son, the Father gives you complete freedom to walk away from everything He lovingly offers you.  As Jesus tells us in His parable, the Father stands ready to joyfully welcome you back into the fold, but He will not go looking for you.  It’s up to you to return to Him of your own free will or to remain on the path of destruction.  “Catholics” who reject the Magisterium reject the Lord and thereby choose their own path and their own judgment.

Finally, your comment implies condemnation of the entire priesthood based on the heinous actions of a few (who, by the way, would not have been ordained to the priesthood had orthodox Catholic teaching been followed regarding the unsuitability of actively homosexual men to the priesthood – Ordination is a privilege, not a “right” – however that’s another blog post – funny how following the Magisterium can keep us on the right path and out of trouble).  While even one case of sexual abuse is unacceptable, in reality of the tens of thousands of active priests from the 1950s to today, only 1% have been accused of sexual abuse (in fact, children are one hundred times more likely to be abused at the hands of a public school employee than a Catholic priest).  In addition, in many cases, accusations are only coming out years after the accused died, which makes it rather difficult for the accused to present his side of the story.  Along with that, the vast majority of abuse cases in the United States are being filed by one attorney, who has a record of going on “fishing expeditions” in order to find “victims.”  While there are certainly legitimate cases which need to be severally dealt with (and the post-Vatican II Church is far from innocent in not taking the issue seriously – however, I suspect many complaining about Rome today would have accused it of acting “harshly” has it done what it should, when it had should), the fact remains that the vast majority of priests and Bishops stand accused of nothing and more importantly most of them are good, honorable and holy men.

Additionally, Ordination does not create saints.  It creates an instrument, the priest’s hands, through which God works by way of the Holy Spirit to being you the sanctifying grace of the Sacraments.  It’s our job to take care of our priests.  If you know a priest who needs help, it’s your job as a faithful Catholic to help that man.  You will be held accountable by God for doing nothing and will be judged even more harshly for loudly complaining and libeling the entire priesthood.  My friend, I must warn you, as a Christian concerned about the salvation of your soul, your comments give me great concern regarding the path you’re on.

Any Catholic who takes such issue with the entire priesthood needs to enter into serious prayerful reflection instead of condemning the entire priesthood in the “court of public opinion!”  Only God knows what’s in the hearts of these men and it’s up to Him to judge their souls.  St. Peter denied Jesus, his very savior, three times, yet Jesus forgave him – and not only forgave St. Peter, but built His entire Church upon the “rock” of St. Peter, telling us that even the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church.  Instead of looking for ways to dissent from the Truth, I suggest you instead prayerfully seek God’s grace to help you freely surrender your will to His will and seek to live a life of Christian perfection through Jesus Christ in unity with His Church.

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