Showing posts with label grace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grace. Show all posts

Monday, August 29, 2022

It’s Iimi! Breakthrough!

It can be hard to be patient when you can’t identify any forward momentum in what you try to do. Often our human efforts seem to come to nothing. But God has a plan too, and you never know when He plans a… Breakthrough!

































Post-Comic notes: And so it begins for Kismetta, not ends. She has many more steps to take. But she’s taken an important first step towards Christ.


As a side note, in showing the reactions of the Muslims Kismetta  knew, it had to be the Assistant Imam who opposed Najiyah’s plans, to avoid turning him into a cardboard villain. The Assistant Imam would not want to live under ISIS or the Taliban. The Muslims in this comic are not extremists. But, like all other people, they can make errors of judgment. 


For those who may be mildly shocked by the Assistant Imam returning Najiyah’s feelings despite their age difference, or those who assume that the stories of Muhammad’s wife Aisha, means all Muslim men are pedophiles, I found it interesting that, while California allows underage marriage with parental consent, it’s forbidden in Jordan (where the Assistant Imam comes from) and Qatar (where Najiyah comes from). Exceptions can be granted if the courts find the underage partner to be mature enough to understand the responsibility of marriage. 


But the point is, the Assistant Imam wants to wait until Najiyah becomes an adult so she doesn’t rush into a situation she might later regret.


His position on polygyny reflects the research I’ve found online. The most common view I’ve seen from Muslims online is, “Can men do this? Yes.  Should they do this? We don’t recommend it.”.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Yes, Jesus Does Love Us All...But Do We Love Him Enough to Respond?

Repent

This morning, I came across an interesting article that was shared on Facebook by Vatican Radio. It talked about mercy and repentance in regards to divorced and remarried Catholics. True to Facebook, a number of responses began taking up the same old refrain—that by withholding Communion from the divorced and remarried, the Church was refusing to show mercy to the repentant. As one Facebook poster put it, "If God forgives...why can't we human being forgive our fellow men who have repented their sins?” Such a response is common nowadays. Unfortunately, when our attitude is that of regretting that a conflict exists between us and the Church teaching without the corresponding attitude of wanting to make things right, it shows that we do not understand what we are even saying when we say “why can’t the Church forgive?"
 
It is important to ask, What does repentance really require? If we have a wrong idea on what it means then we will have a wrong response on what we must do. Of course it doesn’t help that the English language has taken a rich word in penance and reduced in such a way as to give someone the impression of something out of Monty Python...
 
 
Repent essentially comes from the Latin paenitentia, which has a meaning of “regret (for act); change of mind/attitude; repentance/contrition.” It’s literally the same meaning as the Greek metanoia. When the New Testament uses the word “repent” in our English translations, it is using different verb tenses of Metanoia. Since metanoia = paenitentia, a proper understanding of repenting for our sins means to regret what we have done, changing our attitude over what we have done, and showing that we are sorry for what we have done.
 
The Catholic concept of the Act of Contrition expresses the attitude to be present in repentance:
 
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. 
I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.
In His name, my God, have mercy.
 
Amen.
So, when we do wrong, we have to ask ourselves—do we really want to put that sin behind us and are we willing to change our lives in a way that seeks to avoid that sin in the future to the best of our ability, trusting in God’s grace to help? Or do we have no intention of turning away from our wrongdoing and expect God and/or the Church to change their rules so we don’t have to change?
 
In other words, Jesus died on the Cross for us so we could be saved. It is indeed an action which shows that God loved us far more than we deserve and far more than we could ever hope to repay. But the fact that His action is one we cannot repay does not mean that the act is a “Get out of Hell Free” card where we do not need to respond to it. Ultimately it is a question of love. Jesus loves us…but do we love Him enough to be bothered to respond?
 
That’s the question. Many of us just want “cheap grace,” where we want salvation, but get angry if we point out that we are called to respond to it. That’s not love. That’s a sense of entitlement. Our Lord spoke of His kingdom as so valuable, that we ought to be willing to sell all we own (i.e. give up everything) to gain it:
 

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,* which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. 46 When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. (Matthew 13:44-46)

So, why do we treat it like we’ll take it as a freebie, but won’t sell anything of what we have to gain it? What does that tell us about how much God really means to us?
 
We should think about that every time we think that a teaching should be changed to suit us, or think that God doesn’t really care about something He took the time to forbid. If we love Him, then let us show it in our actions. Because we need to remember that Jesus told us:
 

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,* but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.* Depart from me, you evildoers.’ 

 

24 *“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. 26 And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” (Matthew 7:21-27)

Let us keep these things in mind when we are tempted to treat God’s love lightly.
 

 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pride: The Danger of Judging of Popes

There is a troubling group of Catholics out there who, while a minority, are quite vocal out there. They are the Catholics who believe that Pope Francis is making a definite break in Catholic teaching, teaching error and needing to be resisted. If they were only a fringe group, we could just dismiss them with a shrug and a shake of the head. But it isn’t merely the lunatic fringe. It is people who equate the Pope with a political view that they don’t like, and don’t think the Church should be teaching on those subjects and that the Pope should focus on subjects they agree with.

The irony of it all is the fact that prior to the pontificate of Pope Francis, there were other Catholics who rejected the teachings of his predecessors, equating them with a political view they disliked and thought that the Church would be better off teaching on subjects they agreed with. Basically, the two groups are guilty of the same behavior but with a different bias. What’s most tragic about this is the fact that both groups seem to condemn the other for doing this, but both are blind to the fact that they are guilty of the very same thing: Having a selective view that is twisted to match political views that justifies themselves and vilifies the others at the expense of obedience to Church teaching.

What’s overlooked is that the predecessors of Pope Francis said pretty much the same thing on issues of social justice that he did, and that Pope Francis has said the same thing as his predecessors on the moral teachings of the Church. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II were not “right wingers” and Pope Francis is not “Left Wing."

So a large part of the judging of popes seems to be ignorance of or ignoring what the Popes have actually taught in favor of a caricature. The problem is, we can’t accurately assess something without knowledge of the facts—facts which the media stories do not supply. Now it may be forgivable for people ignorant of the Catholic faith to not realize that there is more to the story than the media reports. But we Catholics do not have that excuse. If we have faith in God to protect His Church from error when it comes to matters of salvation, there can neither be a case of the Church was right before but wrong now, nor a case of the Church was wrong before but right now. The Holy Spirit didn’t take a nap during Vatican II or the election of Pope Francis. Nor did the Holy Spirit take a nap until Vatican II. There is a continuity in the teaching. It’s just that the ways of expressing the teaching can be done in different ways by different Popes in different ages.

The point is, as the Church faces new circumstances, new attacks, new understandings, teaching develops—but never contradicts former teaching. We’ll never go from saying divorce and remarriage is wrong to saying it is OK. But over time, we have had to answer questions from different sources, and perhaps face situations that the Church in earlier times did not have to address (for example, the widespread rejection of the belief that a valid marriage is permanent that exists today). Pope Francis has to address the problem of a society that has no idea what marriage is really for. When people no longer understand what is the sin, the older methods of explaining the moral truths may be inadequate.

Ultimately, this judging of Popes is based on the idea that the Church should be what the individual wants it to be. When the individual puts himself or herself in opposition to the Church teaching, or when the Church teaches on something the would-be judge thinks is similar to a political view he or she dislikes, the objection is that “God doesn’t care about that,” or that “the Church should be focussing on serious issues.” That’s pride—the belief that *I* can’t be a sinner. If the Church says I am sinning or that  my political views are against what following Christ requires, then the Church must be in error.

Mind you, when it comes to being faithful to Church teaching, there are different ways to do it, and two faithful Catholics can have two different views on what the best way to carry it out. So, it’s not being faithless if one would prefer a different approach (in keeping with the teachings, mind you) on doing these things, so long as we recognize exactly who has the authority to decide on what the Church will officially do—whether that concerns the way to carry out a doctrine or what the discipline of the Church is going to be. If one refuses to accept the Church teaching, that makes them disobedient.

For example, take the disputes that have happened concerning the Mass as it exists today (the Ordinary Form), vs. the Mass in the form of the 1962 Missal (the Extraordinary Form). The preference for the Extraordinary Form is not sinful in itself. Some people prefer the Extraordinary Form. I prefer the Ordinary Form. One preference is not right while the other wrong. But it is the Pope who decides what is best for the Church, and if he decides on something that is different than we prefer, he has the authority from Christ to make that decision. Blessed Paul VI and St. John Paul II were not wrong in mandating the ordinary form. Nor was Pope emeritus Benedict XVI correcting error by expanding permission for the use of the extraordinary form. Those who defied Blessed Paul VI and St. John Paul II during their pontificates did wrong, and that fact was not changed by the decision of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. It merely meant that those who began to use the extraordinary form of the Mass according to the motu proprio, after permission was given, were not sinning in doing so. Yet a good deal of ink and bandwidth has been expended seeking to portray Blessed Paul VI and St. John Paul II as teaching error.

That’s what this judging of Popes does. It is an arrogant decision that the individual has the charism of infallibility while the Pope does not. If the Pope teaches differently than I would prefer, it means the Pope is in error. Such a view refuses to accept the possibility of being deceived by the devil through pride. And if we refuse to accept the possibility that we can be wrong, it blocks us from accepting Our Lord’s grace and salvation.

These aren’t minor matters. Those who presume to judge the teachings of the Pope are possibly (I will not judge their culpability) putting their souls in danger. So, when we encounter such people on the internet or in person, at least say a prayer for them that they might come to trust that God is watching over the Church.

Monday, November 10, 2014

God Protects His Church In Communion With the Pope...Even Pope Francis

Introduction

The case of the media getting the news wrong about the workings of the Church is nothing unusual. When you assign reporters to the religion beat who know nothing about  the topic, the results are going to be bad (I’ve seen them cite the Landover Baptist Church before, not realizing it is a parody). So, of course when the secular media covers the Church, you’re going to see reporting that is very badly informed.

On the other hand, it is curious to see how self-professed faithful Catholics who claim to be well informed about the faith can make the same mistakes about the news of the Church. If one understands what the Church is, and what she teaches, it becomes clear that the Church is not going to be changing her teaching under Pope Francis. Even if he wanted to (and he doesn’t), God would protect him from teaching error in matters pertaining to salvation. The issue of saying that one may receive the Eucharist when it would be sacrilegious to do so is something that falls under the category of matters pertaining to salvation.

Ultimately, these Catholics have forgotten that the Church is protected by Jesus Christ, and He sustains her in different ways.

The Ground Floor Failsafe: Jesus Christ Protects His Church Always

So, trust in Jesus Christ to protect the Church from teaching error in matters pertaining to salvation means we don’t fear that Pope Francis will change the Church teaching in such a way that puts peoples souls in jeopardy.

But some people who profess to be faithful and informed Catholics do not know this. They believe the Pope can err, and need to be disobeyed—and they believe this is happening at this time under Pope Francis.

The Vatican I document Pastor Aeternus describes it as such:

For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter, that by His revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might inviolably keep and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith delivered through the Apostles. And indeed all the venerable Fathers have embraced and the holy orthodox Doctors have venerated and followed their apostolic doctrine; knowing most fully that this See of Saint Peter remains ever free from all blemish of error, according to the divine promise of the Lord our Saviour made to the Prince of His disciples: “I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, confirm thy brethren.”

This belief is sound. If Jesus Christ promised St. Peter that what was bound on Earth would be bound in Heaven (Matthew 16: 18-19), there are two choices:

  1. God will accept the binding of error and loosing of truth.
  2. God will protect the Church, under St. Peter, from binding error and loosing truth.

Remember, Jesus Christ willed that there be a Church, under the headship of Peter, that carried out His mission, and He gave it His authority (Matt 28:18-20 and John 20:21-23). If this Church, under the headship of Peter and his successors, can teach error, she cannot fulfill Our Lord’s mission. If we trust Our Lord, we trust His Church. Even when a Judas may appear, that does not destroy the whole Church. St. Peter is the cornerstone because God has decreed it and we can have faith in the Church because we have faith in Him.

The Second Level: Grace and People of Good Will

That first level means even if we should get a rotten person in there as a Pope, he would be unable to teach error as if it were truth when teaching as Pope. But that is not the only level of protection. God also sends us people of good will, filled with grace to us. People who seek to do God’s will in the role they are in. God has blessed us in recent history in sending us a string of Popes recognized for their wise shepherding and love of Christ.

Being human, they can sin, but loving God and aided by His grace, these people seek to do His will in spite of their sins, repenting when they do sin. They won’t choose to live in a way which contradicts their love of God, even if they choose a means which is different than how you or I would prefer to do it.

Remember, even when God says “You shall do this,” there can be different methods of carrying it out faithfully. If method A or B both carry out God’s command, it is unjust to say a person does wrong if he chooses to do method B.

That’s ultimately what we have today. The Pope is saying, “Let’s try B,” and people used to A are upset.

Basically, the reaction today is this: There are some Catholics, claiming to be good Catholics who deny that the Pope is a person of good will and operating under the Grace of God because He uses a different approach in being obedient to God.

Conclusion

The thing to remember in all the hype, whether secular media or Catholic media, is that God protects His Church and looks after the Pope . . . even Pope Francis. The Holy Spirit did not take a coffee break in 2013. Sure, he can make administrative errors. Sure he can sin personally. But God protects him through both the charism of the office of the papacy and the personal grace He bestows on Pope Francis.

I have faith in the Church, because I have faith in God.