JUST DO IT!

Just Do It

Just about everyone has heard of the Nike slogan “Just Do It.”  Although the origins of this slogan aren’t the best, advertising professionals selected it as one of the top two taglines of the 20th century.   Created in 1988, this slogan became successful because it was determined to be both “universal and intensely personal.”  Some professionals in the industry labeled the corresponding advertising campaign as “tough” and “take no prisoners” that was meant to target every American regardless of age and gender and status. Throughout the campaign, Nike famously hired well-known athletes to show that their brand was good enough for professionals.  In the end, Nike succeeded because their customers associated their purchases with the prospect of achieving greatness (just like their sports heroes).

As many of you know, today is the feast day of our Blessed Lord’s Baptism in the Jordan.  As I was sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament this afternoon, Nike’s silly slogan just wouldn’t leave my mind.  But I kept wondering why it kept popping up.  I figured I would pray the Luminous Mysteries today since the first mystery is the Lord’s Baptism and then my mind would refocus on Jesus…but it didn’t.  Once I started praying, the connection between His baptism and Nike’s slogan “Just Do It” hit me.

I know, as you are reading this, the connection probably seems pretty murky at best.  What would you say if I told you that this slogan not only relates to our Blessed Lord’s Baptism but also ties in very, very closely to the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary?  Let me explain.

As we read and heard Matthew’s account[1] of Jesus’ Baptism in mass today, we heard the very first words spoken by our Blessed Lord when He was starting his ministry.  He is addressing John the Baptist when John questions whether Jesus should be baptized.  And what are these words?  Well, depending on the translation, they are “Allow It;” “Give In;” or “Let It Be So.”  In other words, “Just Do It!”  Ring a bell??

In this context, Jesus was instructing John to do something that John didn’t necessarily want to do.  But what was Jesus really saying?  Jesus was telling John (in a nice way) do it My way not yours…even if you don’t understand why.  If I could only do the same…

What else was Jesus telling John?  We know that John didn’t want to baptize Jesus because he felt unworthy. Where else do we hear something similar? During Mass, we hear “Behold the Lamb of God!”[2]  Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world!  Who said that??  Oh yeah, it was John the Baptist. And what do we say in response?  We mimic John the Baptist and the Roman Centurion at the same time and say “Lord I am not worthy….”[3] Then, what do we do?  We allow it, give in, let it be so, and “Just Do It.” We receive communion, say yes to Jesus, and invite Him into our bodies and souls.

So you may be thinking…well that was a cute analogy that I could tie a popular message into the Gospel reading of the day.  But wait, the similarities between “Just Do It” and Jesus’ message don’t end there.  This theme carries on throughout the Luminous Mysteries, of which the Lord’s Baptism is the first.  After we hear “Just Do It” in the first Luminous Mystery, we wonder, could it appear over and over in the second, third, fourth and fifth?  Yes it does…loud and clear.  Booming in fact.

In the second Luminous Mystery, The Wedding Feast at Cana[4], what do we hear?  We hear Mary, the Mother of our Lord, say some pretty powerful words to the servants that have run out of wine.  What does she say?  She says “Do What He Tells You.”  Hmm…sounds a lot like “Just Do It” to me.  In fact, it is exactly the same.  Our mother is telling us precisely…Just Do It.  Do it His way, not yours.  Just do what He tells you to do and everything will work out just fine.

Ok, Ok…this must be just a coincidence that this idea/slogan keeps popping up. No, no…it keeps going.

In the Third Luminous Mystery, The Proclamation of the Kingdom[5], Jesus is heard directly commanding the people: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Moreover, throughout the Gospels we hear similar commands. In Mark 2: 10-11, Jesus commands the paralytic to get up and walk.[6]  In Luke 7: 50, Jesus commands the woman to Go in Peace.[7]  In John 20: 19-22, Jesus commands the apostles to receive the Holy Spirit and sends them out with the command to spread the Gospel.[8]  In each of these cases, what is that familiar phrase we keep hearing over and over again? Do it my way and you will find eternal life.  Do it my way and your sins will be forgiven.  Do it my way and you will be saved.  Just Do It!!

In the Fourth Luminous Mystery, the Transfiguration[9], the booming voice from Heaven is heard.  Can you just imagine it?  A deep rumbling voice that rumbles like thunder.  “This is my chosen Son”…..wait for it….wait for it…”LISTEN TO HIM!”  Just Do It Already!!   Is any more explanation needed???

As we come to the Fifth Luminous Mystery, The Institution of the Eucharist[10], you know what you are going to hear.  “Take and Eat!  This is my body! This is my Blood! Drink from it all of you!  Do this in memory of me![11]”  Yep, still the same message.  Just Do It!!  Do it my way and you will have eternal life.[12]

I know what you are thinking.  We are now at the end of the similarities.  It’s time to conclude.  Well….not exactly…there is one more concept that we need to consider.

As I mentioned above, why did Nike’s slogan “Just Do It” hit home?  Why was it successful?  There are a few reasons.  (1) The slogan was deemed to be “universal and intensely personal.”  (2) The ad campaign was described as “tough” and “take no prisoners” and was meant to target every American regardless of age, gender, etc.  (3) Nike’s customers associated their purchases with the prospect of achieving greatness because they saw their sports heroes using the brand.  Do I really need to explain the connection?  Well, I will and I will keep it short, I promise.

(1) – If Nike’s slogan is universal and intensely personal, how much more are the directions from Jesus, Mary, and God the Father?  When they tell you to “Just Do It!” what could be more personal than that?  Our Father, Mother, Brother, King, Lord, Judge, and Friend are all telling us the exact same thing.  Just Do It!   Who else is closer to our hearts than they are?  If you aren’t going to listen to them, who ARE you going to listen to??

(2) – If Nike’s ad campaign was tough and take no prisoners, and targeted each and every person, how much more hard hitting is Jesus’ message?  It doesn’t get any harder than being arrested, stripped, beaten, kicked, spit on, punched, crowned, pushed down, whipped, dragged, punctured, pierced, hung, and suffocated on a tree in the searing heat…when wholly and entirely innocent.  I’m sorry, whose message is tough and take no prisoners again??  Whose message touches the hearts of all people?

(3) – If Nike’s slogan inspired people to believe in the message because their heroes believed and performed, then just how much more of an example do we need?  Never mind that the Savior himself says JUST DO IT…Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul…the list goes on…all say the exact same thing.  In fact, EACH AND EVERY saint, blessed, venerable, angel, and soul in Heaven says the same thing.  JUST DO IT!  How many more heroes do we need?  To put it in sports terms, can you imagine if each and every hall of fame athlete from every single sport all said that one particular piece of equipment was the entire reason for their success???  What would we do?  We would go out and Just Do It!  Well, guess what…each and every angel and soul in Heaven is saying just that.  So when are we going to wake up and take it seriously.  When are we going to Just Do It??

So in the end, why was Nike successful?  They succeeded because their customers associated their purchases with the prospect of achieving the same greatness as their sports heroes.  What is more important than achieving the greatness of Heaven?!?  What more do we need to associate His way with Heaven?  What more do we need to show that His way is the best way?  What more do we need to see that our heroes in the faith achieved Heaven precisely because they did it His way?  When it comes right down to it…What exactly more do we need to realize that if we don’t “Just Do It” His way, we won’t achieve that greatness?!?

As we look back on the recurring theme, what do we really see?  We see Jesus, Mary, and God the Father all saying the same thing.  Just Do It!  Do what Jesus tells you.  Do it His way not your way.  We see all of our heroes in the faith saying the same thing.  Just Do It.  We see a universal and intensely personal message.  We see a hard hitting and take no prisoners mentality.  We see the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  So ask yourself, when are you going to Just Do It already?

I leave you with the following list of questions to ponder and with the following prayer:  Jesus, please help us to realize that Your way is the best way.  Help us to Just Do It Your way in our souls, families, jobs, and communities.  Help us to be meek and humble of heart and to realize that Your way is easy and your burden light.  Help us to find You, know You, and love You…and JUST DO IT ALREADY!   All through the intercession of your Mother…

Questions to Ponder:

When are you going to Just Do It when you don’t feel like saying the Rosary?

When are you going to Just Do It when you don’t feel like going to morning mass?

When are you going to Just Do It when you don’t feel like forgiving?

When are you going to Just Do It when you don’t feel like going to confession?

When are you going to Just Do It when you don’t feel like fasting?

When are you going to Just Do It when you don’t feel like praying?

When are you going to Just Do It when you don’t feel like letting go and letting God?

When are you going to Just Do It when you don’t feel like trusting in him?

When are you going to Just Do It when you don’t feel like tithing?

When are you going to Just Do It when you don’t feel like evangelizing?

When are you going to Just Do It when you don’t feel like offering it up?

A Hooker and a Cross – Part I

A farmer and a teacher, a hooker and a preacher, ridin’ on a midnight bus bound for Mexico. One was headed for vacation, one for higher education, and two of them were searchin’ for lost souls.

That driver never ever saw the stop sign…and eighteen wheelers can’t stop on a dime…

That farmer left a harvest, a home and eighty acres, the faith and love for growin’ things in his young son’s heart. That teacher left her wisdom in the minds of lots of children – Did her best to give ’em all a better start. And that preacher whispered “Can’t you see the Promised Land?…as he laid his blood-stained bible in that hooker’s hand…

That’s the story that our preacher told last Sunday. As he held that blood-stained bible up, for all of us to see. He said: “Bless the farmer, and the teacher…and the preacher who gave this Bible to my mamma…Who read it to me!”

There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway.  Why there’s not four of them, Heaven only knows. I guess it’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you. It’s what you leave behind you when you go.

——-

I’m not sure how many of you are Randy Travis fans, but those are the lyrics to a song “Three Wooden Crosses” [1] that he made fairly popular a few years ago.

There are many things that we can glean from thinking about a scenario such as this.  But I want to focus on two questions that are very simple, yet never seemingly understood…at least by many (young) people.

The first question is – (1) Where was God when this happened? This question is subtly different from the second question which is – (2) Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?  Although these are age old questions, it never hurts to review the answers.  The answers aren’t nearly as difficult as people make them out to be.  However, they are admittedly not as clear cut as many would like.  In this article, we will address the first question.  In the next article (i.e., Part II of the story), we will address the second question.

At the onset, the most important concept to understand is that God knows everything that will ever happen and has either willed it (good) or has allowed it to happen (evil). Period.  This seems fairly straightforward.  In fact, many of you are probably saying “DUH!” of course that’s true…everyone knows that!  I would disagree.  I don’t think its obvious and certainly not all that many people truly understand this concept.  Let me explain.

He Is:

First, we must remember that God IS.  He has no past, present, or future. He is eternal and is existence itself.  He is pure act and pure potential at the same time.  In fact, He isn’t even a “He.”  He Is existence.

Remember when Moses spoke to God, He said that His name is “I AM.”  He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  He is the same now as he was in the beginning and is the same as he will be in the end.  But wait…if He IS…then how can there be a beginning and an end??  Well, it comes as no surprise that these concepts of time are themselves limiting.  God stands outside of time and thereby is not constrained by time.  Therefore, the ideas of “beginning” and “end” have no meaning in themselves. Although God is the alpha and the omega…the beginning and the end…these concepts are human concepts and are merely attempts by our human minds to better understand God.   Rule number 1 – We can’t understand the eternity of God.  We simply must remember that He IS.

Rule number 2 is to remember that God does not actively “will” evil.  That is impossible.  The “Is” that is God is pure goodness.  Pure goodness cannot produce evil.  In fact, evil doesn’t exist in and of itself…it is the absence of good.  Accordingly, how could pure goodness produce something that is the absence of itself…ugh…it can make your head hurt and that is a concept for a whole different discussion.  So just remember, God does not “will” evil – He allows choices to be made that are not pure goodness.

Movie Reels:

Moving on – since He Is, the (human) concept of time unfolds in front of Him.  We can imagine a movie on a reel being rolled out in front of us on a long table.  If we imagine ourselves as God, and the movie as the story of creation, we can walk up and down the table looking at any frame that we choose.  We can look at the beginning of the reel on the far left and see Adam and Eve.  We can look at the far right end of the reel and see the end of “time” as humans know it…culminating in the end of the world, the resurrection of the body, etc.  In fact, we could look at any individual frame and see exactly what is happening at any point in time.  But unlike God, we would simply be outsiders looking in and observing what is happening on the movie reel.  But you get the general idea.[2]

To go a little further with this concept, we should also appreciate that God doesn’t even have to look at the movie reel to know what is happening!  Even that is a human concept.  He only needs to look at Himself.

Remember, God is not some mythical sky figure that has a big checklist with the Ten Commandments written down in columns.  He doesn’t walk the sky putting a check next to each commandment that we break.  Our own consciences keep track of that.  He simply Is…and for that reason, knows all, in one instant, that will happen or that will not happen.  He needs only to look at himself to know all.

Is God In the Movie?

So if we would just be outsiders looking in and observing what is happening on the movie reel, then what would God be doing?  Would He be in the movie?  The short answer is Yes!  The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us!  God injected, and continues to inject, Himself into the movie reel to save us!  So the short answer to the age old question is yes – God was there when the 18-wheeler hit the bus.  He was fully aware and was watching (if we want to use human terms).  Said differently, He was and is acting in the moving.

However, participation in the movie does not at all mean that God causes any one particular thing to happen any more than a certain actor in a movie causes something to happen. This is the key concept of Part I of this article.  Foreknowing is not Forecausing(That actually should be the title but I wanted to go for something a little more catchy!)

Foreknowing is not Forecausing

Ok, so what does this phrase really mean?  It means that just because Gods knows that something is going to happen does not mean that He causes (or actively wills) it to happen.

For example, if I am looking out my window and I see two cars speeding at each other, I may know that they are going to collide, but it does not mean that I caused the accident.  Ehh.. most people don’t seem to understand this concept.

Similarly, if I fast forward a movie and know the end, does that mean that I caused the ending to happen???  Of course not.

I guess this concept is harder to grasp and accept when you are talking about the creator of the universe and infinite power.  Most people seem to be unable to grasp the concept that if God sees a bad thing coming on the movie reel, why would He just sit back and let it happen?  That question is precisely the question of why does God let bad things happen to good people…but that is the subject of Part II.

Back to the Bus…

So back to the people on the bus…and the question at hand…where was God on impact???  (Some other people extend this concept to “Where was God during the hurricane, the holocaust, etc.  The answer is the same…it may just be harder to accept)

Well, we know that God knew that the eighteen wheeler was going to hit the bus.  He looked ahead on the movie reel and saw that it would happen.  That’s easy.

We know that God knew that three people were going to die while the hooker was going to live, the bus driver was going to live, and the driver of the eighteen wheeler was going to live.  That was also on the movie reel.  Again, an easy answer.

We also know that just because He knew what would happen does not mean that He caused it to happen.  Point in fact, the eighteen-wheeler driver and the bus driver caused the crash.  Again, relatively easy.

Moreover, we also know that God could have injected Himself into that precise moment of the movie at any point if He wanted, i.e., if He willed it.  So where was He???

Well, we know that God was there.  He was there.  Plain and simple.  He is omnipresent.  Again, easy answer.

At this point you may be saying – Don’t play word games with me…if He was there, then why didn’t he save those people???  Again, that is a question for Part II.

The question of Part I was – where was God on impact?  I just answered it.  He was there.  He knew the crash would happen, knew the movie, and was there. He didn’t cause the crash but was there.  End of story.

But since that’s probably not a satisfying answer, I will leave you with this…who is to say that He didn’t actively save the lives of the people that lived??  Maybe He did act.  That we will never know.  As the song says…”Heaven only knows…”

Till next time…

God Bless,

M


[2] Here is another idea to ponder.  What is the “stuff” to left of the left end of the reel on the table and to the right of the right end of the reel on the table?  Well, I guess that stuff is outside of time…but concepts of time and space are best left to a science explanation.

Does Jesus Need a Snickers???

We have all seen the commercials wherein a crabby person isn’t quite acting like himself and then they eat a Snickers and everything returns to normal[1].  The tag line is “You’re not you when you are hungry.”  In one commercial, the guy turns into a cranky old man.[2] In another commercial, two people turned into Joe Pesci and Don Rickles[3]. I think they are both pretty funny and again, oddly enough, have a place in teaching us a little bit more about the Faith.

In the Gospel on Sunday August 18th (Luke 12:49-53)[4] it seemed liked Jesus needed a Snickers bar, didn’t it? In some ways, it seemed like Jesus was fairly grumpy.  He didn’t quite seem like Himself.  Maybe He was hungry.  Was He just having a bad day or was there something more to it?

In this particular Gospel, Jesus was not speaking as we typically imagine…there was no holding hands, forgiving sinners, or curing the blind or lame.  No, this Gospel quotes Jesus saying that He came to set fire to the Earth and to cause divisions within families.  Jesus said that He wanted to light it up!  Some people may imagine this Jesus as the one that cleared the crooks from the Temple as opposed to the Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount.  But to think that Jesus was just having a bad day and needed a Snickers would be missing the point.  Jesus was not having a bad day and He (probably or hopefully) wasn’t hungry.  If anything, he was the one providing us the food!  He was simply preaching the Truth…preaching Himself.  And it is that Truth that will set the world ablaze both now and in eternity.

So lets start with some history.  We know that the Jews thought that there would be peace when the Messiah came (see, e.g. Psalms 72).  In the Old Testament, Isaiah said that the Messiah would be a Prince of Peace and that he would bring peace.[5]  Even Ezekiel talks about a new covenant of peace[6].  Throughout the Gospels, we hear Jesus preaching peace and love.  How many times did he say “Peace be with you”??  Of course, this can lead us to imagine that truth and love are all ice cream and rainbows.  So what’s going on with this Gospel passage???  What happened to all of the talk of peace replaced by the talk of fire and division?  Sounds more like Hell than Heaven?!?

Well, lets be as simple as possible.  His message today is an invitation to salvation but it also includes exactly what it sounds like…a little bit of Heaven and of Hell.  If we think in terms of Heaven, we see that His message is an invitation to embrace Him as the Messiah and to embrace the Truth.  If we think of it in terms of Hell, we see that His message is also a warning that division will come and that we better be on the right side.  AHH!  I know that you aren’t seeing that last part about Hell in this passage.  Well let me help a little bit.  Let’s look back in Chapter 12 and ahead in Chapter 13 of Luke for some more insight.

Throughout the 12th chapter of Luke and actually into Chapter 13, Jesus is talking to large crowds (it would be good to read up until at least Chapter 13 verse 9!).  He is telling them that they need to turn away from false teachers, turn away from fear, and turn towards God because time is short.  He is telling them to not be afraid of men but to fear God who has the power over their souls.  In fact, from this point forward in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ tone becomes more serious and ominous. He begins to warn the people of what will happen if they do not repent. [7] Who among us would want to be cut down like a tree that doesn’t bear fruit?!?! If we look at the Gospel message through this lens, it is not nearly as surprising that Jesus is speaking seriously and right to the heart of the matter.

So back to the whole idea of division…just how would He bring division? He would bring division through a single event, His death on the cross, that would separate the people into two categories – believers and non-believers – those who repent and accept Him as the Messiah and those who do not.  This separation would take place both in time and eternity.  It would take place on Earth and in Heaven.  It took place then, is taking place now, and will continue to take place in the future…for all of eternity actually. This division is not one of peace but of tribulation.  So let’s look at these concepts a little bit more.

If we look at this division through the lens of “time,” we know that those who believed in Him would go out, spread the Good News, and would face persecution, division within their families, and maybe even death.  In modern times, the same is true.  For many of us, the division could happen with family and friends.  In fact, I would argue that the division must occur in our lives.  Living for Jesus means dividing ourselves away from the culture of death, away from worldly possessions and, if necessary, away from the people that would lead us astray.

If we look at this division through the lens of “eternity,” we know that those who believe in Him, who repent and change their lives, will eventually enter into paradise.  Those who didn’t or don’t…well…we know what happens to them…and that’s where the concept of fire comes into play.  Not to be dramatic…but its true!

Speaking of fire, Jesus said that he wants to set the world on fire.  This isn’t simply the fire of judgment or hell that we just mentioned.  It is also a fire of purification.  As we know, fire can consume and destroy everything that can be burned, e.g. wood, paper, and the like.  But for things that cannot be burned, e.g. metal, fire can purify.  The same is true with Jesus and the Gospel. The Good News of the Gospel consumes and destroys the things of this Earth that are temporary but purifies the soul that is eternal.  Similarly, in the end, the things of this World (and the prince of this world) will forever be destroyed in fire.  However, for those who are on the right side of the dividing line, they will be purified and made perfect as their Heavenly Father is perfect.

After talking about setting the world on fire, Jesus then goes on and wishes that this fire were already kindled.  But just what would kindle such a fire?  The answer seems fairly straightforward and Jesus even alludes to it in His very next statement.  It is His passion, death, and resurrection that would enkindle the fire.  He is literally the kindling that is set ablaze by the wrath of the Father.  His person is consumed by punishment of God when He takes all of our sins upon Himself and offers Himself in our place.  That is why He says that He wishes the fire was already started. He wishes that it was already over and done with.

But since the fire was not yet kindled, Jesus then explains how it will happen.  To explain this concept, he uses a word that was understandable at the time….baptism. But this is no ordinary baptism of being dunked in the hot tub…err…”baptismal font”…in the back of the church.  Nope.  Jesus is talking about His baptism into suffering and death that will enkindle the fire. Why else would be talk about anguish and suffering until it is over?  It’s probably awkward to jump into the “font” at the back of the church…but it wouldn’t be agonizing!

Ok, so back to the text.  The word Baptism has its roots in Greek that refers to immersion in something.  In the Sacraments, Baptism refers to immersion in water.  But Jesus is using the word baptism to refer to immersion in suffering, death, and punishment…for our sins!  He even refers to this baptism in the Gospel of Mark where he asks the Sons of Zebedee whether they can be baptized in the same way that He is going to be baptized.

So going back to the question of division…when was that going to happen again?  It happened after His baptism into suffering, His death on the cross, and His resurrection.  Quite simply, these events caused the world to be divided at the time and continue to cause the world to be divided today. A person is either faithful or unfaithful, a believer or non-believer.  If we really want to speak in plain English then we can say that….In the end…forever…a person will be in Heaven or Hell….period.  There is no other way.  That is what the Gospel, the Resurrection, and the fire do.  They will either consume the non-believer in the fire of destruction and judgment or will purify the believer in the fire of purification and prepare that soul for eternal paradise.

So when we think back on this Gospel, let’s not think of Jesus as having a bad day and needing a Snickers. It’s not Jesus that needed the Snickers…it’s us.  He wasn’t the hungry and grumpy one.  We are!  He is the one trying to save us.  He just happened to use some more serious words and concepts this time around.  He was just being a little more blunt this time.  Remember, love and truth is not all ice cream and rainbows…or should I say Snickers and rainbows.  Maybe the creators of Snickers got their slogan right…we are not ourselves when we are hungry…lets just make sure that we are hungering for the right things!

God Bless!
M


[1] Thanks to Fr. Tim Birney for this idea and to Jon McArthur for help in explaining these verses

[5] Isaiah 9:6; 55; 66.

[6] Ezekiel 34; Ezekiel 37: 24-28

[7] Luke 12: 56, “You hypocrites. You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky. Why do you not analyze this present time?”

Luke 12:58, “..your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison.”

Luke 12:59, “I tell you, you shall not get out of there until you’ve paid the very last cent,”

Luke 13:3, “Unless you repent, you will all perish.”

Luke 13:9, If you don’t bear fruit, you’re going to be cut down.

Luke 13:24 “Strive to enter by the narrow door for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” There will not always be an opportunity.

Luke 13:28, “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.”

No Soup For You!!!

Many of you are probably familiar with one of the most famous Seinfeld episodes of all time.  The actual title of the episode is “Soup Nazi” and, for those of you who don’t know, Jerry, George and Elaine go out to a new soup stand Kramer has been raving about.[1]  Its owner is referred to as the “Soup Nazi,” due to his harsh temperament and insistence on a very strict manner of behavior while ordering.  As the episode progresses, the owner explains to Kramer that he demands perfection of himself, his soup, and his customers. When the customers screw up their order, even a little bit, they get kicked out of line.  When that happens, the owner yells, “No soup for you!” In some cases, the owner even bans them from coming back for a year!

 So how does any of this relate to a teaching of the Church?  Well, when I was watching this episode recently, it struck me that these same concepts can be related to the concepts of Purgatory and Heaven.  Yep, I’m serious.  But don’t worry, this post is really short and to the point!

Ok, so just to be clear…yes, Catholics must believe in Purgatory because it is a defined doctrine of the faith.  But what is Purgatory?  Well, in 1 Peter 3:19 (as explained in the last post about Limbo), the author describes that, after His death on the cross (but before His resurrection), Jesus went to preach to the spirits “in prison.”  Clearly, that does not refer to the souls in Hell because nothing can be done to help them.  Similarly, that passage can’t describe the souls in Heaven because Heaven was not opened until after the Resurrection.  Therefore, it can be assumed that Jesus went to visit the souls in Purgatory (or perhaps one of the versions of limbo, depending on how you want to describe it.)  Similarly, in 2 Maccabees 12:46, the author states that it is holy and wholesome to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins.  Again, this thought clearly does not apply to the souls in Heaven or Hell.  All that said, Purgatory is taught to be a place wherein souls are purified before continuing their journey to Heaven.  Yes, all souls in Purgatory eventually reach Heaven.  The souls in Purgatory are from those people who died in a state of grace but who had even one venial sin on their soul and/or had to suffer the temporal punishment due to previous sin even if they died without sin.

But ok, getting back to the Soup Nazi…how in the world does that relate to Heaven and Purgatory??  Hah, hold on for this analogy!  In some ways, I think that we can relate Heaven to the soup line…both require perfection! Except, for those in the soup line, there is no Purgatory…its all or nothing! In the soup line, if the customers screw up at all, i.e., if they are not 100% perfect, they get kicked out of line and get no soup. They can even get banned.  If we screw up at all in our life, even the smallest venial sin, we are, by definition, unfit for the perfection of Heaven.  In that situation (without Purgatory) we could also expect to be kicked out of the line for Heaven and told “No Heaven For You!”  We wouldn’t even be lucky enough to be banned for a short period of time.  Nope…in that case, we would go straight down!

In some ways, God is like the soup maker…he demands perfection from all of us (Matthew 5:48).  However, unlike the customers in the soup line, God gives us one last chance to get our soup in Heaven.  He doesn’t condemn us for making small mistakes.  So thank God for Purgatory, because without Purgatory, not too many souls would be making it through the Pearly Gates!

God Bless,

M

Jack Be Limbo, Jack Be Quick…

So I just can’t help thinking about the topic of limbo without humming that catchy tune…and now it is stuck in my head…so here is a link.[1]  May it haunt you the way it haunts me!  In fact, I think it should be required listening in the background when reading this post!  hahaha

But on a more serious note, if we are going to talk about Jack and the state of his immortal soul, we first have to figure out when Jack lived and (generally) how old he was.  Wait…huh?  You thought limbo was just for unbaptized babies didn’t you!  Well, the answer is both yes and no.

First of all, there is no “official” church teaching about limbo.  The concept has arisen and has been passed down based on theological speculation.  For that reason, you can choose to believe in limbo or choose to believe[2] that limbo does not exist, well at least the limbo relating to infants.[3]

Back to the idea at hand, the concept of limbo swirls around the question of what happens to people that die in original sin but, apart from that, die without any personal sin.  The people that die in this condition are typically categorized into two groups: (1) the fathers of the faith that died before Jesus made redemption possible and (2) unbaptized babies.

The limbo of the fathers (also called Limbus Patrum) is a name coined by medieval theologians when speaking about a certain outer portion of hell.  Typically, those theologians agreed that the limbo of the fathers was a temporary place that allowed the souls present therein to be in a generally happy condition, but not in the eternal bliss of Heaven.  The limbo of the fathers is also thought to be replaced by a condition of final and permanent bliss after a Messianic Kingdom is established.[4]

In the New Testament, the limbo of the fathers is described  in many different ways.  For example, it is described as a banquet[5], a marriage feast[6], the bosom of Abraham[7], paradise[8], the lowers parts of the earth[9], and even as prison[10]. In addition, this idea was taught by Clement of Alexandria.[11]

So if Jack died a long time ago…and did so without any serious sin…then maybe he is still in Abraham’s stomach…or bosom…or whatever that word means…or maybe he is sitting at a table at an eternal wedding feast.  Oh goodness…if that’s true, I hope that silly limbo song is not playing over, and over, and over….Maybe prison would be better than that!  Maybe not.*

Ok, so back to Jack…what if Jack was a baby?  The limbo of infants (i.e., unbaptized babies) is also called Limbus Infantium.  This concept is, in essence, a hypothesis about what happens to unbaptized babies who do not have any personal sin but who were not yet freed from original sin. There is no definite statement about this type of limbo made in the New Testament.  However, if we look to John 3:5, we see that Jesus says we must be born again of water and the Holy Spirit.  In addition, in Romans 5:12, St. Paul teaches that men are born into the world in a state of sin (and thus would then need baptism and rebirth).  Similarly, Scripture and Tradition teach that the methods of rebirth and regeneration are not available after death such that those people who are not reborn are forever excluded from the beatific vision.[12]

In olden times, the Council of Florence stated that baptism was necessary even for children[13], which basically affirmed the previous teachings of the Council of Carthage that took place in the year 417.  In addition, the Council of Florence stated that those people who die in the state of original sin go to hell.

However, over time, Catholic opinion has clearly developed that unbaptized children are not sent to a place of suffering.[14]  To that end, some theologians hypothesize that the limbo of infants is a place of maximum natural happiness.  Other theologians hypothesize that this limbo is a place of least possible punishment.

In fact, in 1980, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that we must entrust unbaptized babies to the mercy of God.[15]  Then, in 1992, the Catechism affirmed that while the Church does not know of any means other than Baptism to assure salvation, God is not bound by the sacraments.[16]  Even more recently, in a document entitled “The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized” the International Theological Commission opines that Heaven may be possible for unbaptized babies.[17]

So all that said, maybe it doesn’t really matter how old Jack is/was or when he lived.  We can be fairly certain (if we want to believe) that Jack is experiencing eternal happiness.

So the next time you see a limbo stick or hear that….song….maybe you will think of Jack and wonder just where he went…


[2] Mind you, this is not the same as the doctrinal teaching of Purgatory.  Yes, as Catholics, we must believe that Purgatory exists.

[3] Limbo of the fathers is explicitly mentioned in Scripture  and, for that reasons, Catholics must at least believe in this type of limbo

[5] Matthew 8:11

[6] Matthew 25:10

[7] Luke 16:22

[8] Luke 23:43

[9] Ephesians 4:9

[10] 1 Pt 3: 18-20

[11] Stromata, book VI, chapter VI

[16] CCC 1257

[17] http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=7529&CFID=989855&CFTOKEN=78518706

* If you want a truly obscure reference, maybe Jack is sitting at the Salt and Pepper Diner and instead of Tom Jones, its Limbo all the time! But ear-plug some of the language…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rqQujx9vk0

Does It Really All Depend On Who You Ask?

This week’s entry is from the very smart and talented Ms. Giroux…enjoy…

———-

Truth is real and accessible to anyone who cares enough to look for it.  However, sometimes the truth, even though accessible, can be hard to comprehend.  Nevertheless, we are all called to spread the truth and to let the world know that the truth is not just a something but a somebody.

In today’s world of misleading headlines and social media, where anybody can proclaim their perception of truth, whatever is most captivating and presented with the most style is often considered the “truth.”  Regardless of the credibility of the message, the most convincing speaker always seems to win.  But before you bite my head off for sounding like a relativist, I am not saying that the truth changes.  What people perceive to be the truth can change, from person to person.  To clarify, we are not talking about whether Taco Bell is the best fast food chain. I don’t think there is any objective and unchanging truth in the answer to that question.  No, instead, in this post, we are talking about the Truth himself…the truth of the Gospel.  There is no “maybe” or “depends on who you ask” element to this Truth.  This Truth is eternal, unchanging, and solid rock upon which we are all called to base our lives.  However, how that Truth is expressed does really depend on who you ask…and thats not necessarily a bad thing!

First lets start with the question of why do you have faith (i.e., why do you believe in the Truth)? Different people say different things.  Some people say “God is the only logical explanation to life.” Other people say “I feel the presence of God in my life.” Still others say “The intimate relationship I have with Jesus is more real than any human interaction.”  Even others say “If there is no God, how can science explain this, that, or the next thing?”

What is clear is that there are many different reasons for each of us to have our faith.  In the same way, the Truth can be expressed in many different ways to many different people without watering it down or changing it.  Ultimately, all Christians understand God to be the way, the truth, and the light, because that is what He said.  But why are there so many different reasons for faith, if all faith is the same way, truth, and light?  If He is the way, the truth, and the light then why are there people who don’t believe?

God knows each of us, individually.  He knows how to communicate His truth to every man, woman and child.  He knows what we need and what we are capable of understanding.  He knows everything about us.  If God didn’t know us, He could not have revealed Himself to us in the different ways that He has throughout history.

Maybe think of it this way…when you want to invite a multitude of people to an event, is there a universal form of communication that works for everyone? Nope.  Some people use Facebook, Twitter, email, texting, and some people don’t have any of those so you can only mail them a letter or go visit.  Regardless of how we communicate, we all want that personal invitation.  God knows that if he emails someone like my mom or sends a text to someone like my dad, they will not receive the invitation.  He communicates with each of us in the best way for us…because he knows us better than we know ourselves.  In the same way, we are called to spread the Truth to the world in the best way that we know how…and that way may change from person to person or group to group.

There are many different ways in which God expresses His love for us.  To name just a few, we think of creation, scripture, Tradition (oral and written), consolation, desolation, other people, the Cross of Christ, life circumstances, etc…  The list goes on.  God knows you.  He knows how to get the message to you. Faith stories all have similarities but there are no two alike.  This is one of the many ways that show how intimate our relationship is with our Creator.  God uses different instruments or forms of communication to show His love, grace, and existence to different people.  As followers of Christ, we play a vital role in this line of communication between God and man.

We are those instruments.  The mission of the Church is to spread the good news and to share the Gospel.  It is our duty to share what we have been blessed with, the truth.  When you think about a musical instrument, different people play different instruments and reach different audiences.  God has blessed each of us with a distinct set of gifts, but as a Church we have the ability to reach the entire world.

You may be familiar with the phrase, “You will be the only Bible some people ever read.”  This concept can be quite frightening when we look back each day and think that the people we interacted with may have only had one opportunity to meet Christ and it was through us.  Is that a little too much pressure?  Maybe.  But why should we have to make the effort when nobody wants to have anything to do with God?  They have just as easy access as we do to the Gospel.  Why is it up to us?

We are Catholic and have the fullness of the truth which makes it is easy for us to keep it to ourselves.  The world not wanting anything to do with Christianity makes it even easier to keep it to ourselves.  Why should we come out of our comfort zones when nobody really cares?  Jesus said so, that’s why! (Check out the Bible if you don’t believe me.)  Some people will not accept the Gospel; this is where trust becomes essential.  When you are trying to introduce someone to a friend, Jesus Christ, you cannot force them to like Him or accept Him. That is between them and God.  It is our duty to bring the love of God to our neighbor.  The only thing we are required to do is to love.  We love them by sharing the Gospel with them.  But we should try and share the Truth with them in the way that they can best understand it.  It will do no good to try to explain the Truth to someone in a foreign language or using foreign concepts.

To share a message, you need to know the message and your audience.  To share the Gospel with the world, we need to know the Gospel and the world.  Without knowing either, evangelization is not possible.  Nobody is going to listen to a complete stranger.

God reveals Himself to us individually. We have been blessed with the grace to recognize the truth.  Thanks be to God, the truth has set us free and we are free to love.  As inconvenient and challenging it can be, it is our duty to love our neighbor.  Loving our neighbor consists in revealing to them their dignity, self-worth, and purpose in life – happiness.  However, we are called to this in a way that they can best understand.

In the end, it is our duty to spread the Gospel of truth and the Gospel of Love.  But let’s not be afraid to express it in different ways to different people.  The Truth is unchanging, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be re-packaged, re-explained, and brought to life using different means and different techniques than we’ve ever done before.  As long as the core message is dead centered on Jesus, I hope that it does actually all depend on who you ask…at least in terms of the delivery, the style, the language, the enthusiasm, and the emphasis…because if that is true, then it means that we are all engaged in preaching the Truth in our own way.  What a great problem to have!

What’s Love Got To Do With It?!?

Oh Man…who knew that Anna Mae Bullock was 73 this year!  She sure was a looker back in the day.  Seemed like everyone….Wait…Wait…Wait…What do you mean you have no idea who Ms. Bullock is??? “It’s Physical…Only logical[1]”…flipping her hair…that ring a bell? Ehhh…never mind its not important anyway.

The important thing that we are looking at this week is what love is…at least, in its highest and most perfected level…or as some would say…“True Love.”  But heads up!  This post isn’t politically correct or soft.  This post doesn’t pull any punches.  In fact, this post was basically written on the fly as I was debating two atheists on a local blog about DOMA, gay marriage, and the inherent lack of true love exhibited therein.  That said, read on at your own risk! 😉

Ok, so back to the issue at hand…Some, like Ms. Bullock, would sing – “The touch of a hand makes her pulse react – That it’s only a thrill of boy meeting girl…That you must try to ignore that it means more than that.”  Boy is she wrong…it’s a cheap way to define love.  But hey, it seems to work in today’s culture.  How sad.  How cheap.  Like trading diamonds for dung.

St. Thomas Aquinas defined love as the willing of the good of another[2] and wanting the absolute best for the other person.  As a matter of fact, it’s even more than that. Love is no less than acting to make “the best” real for the beloved.  We all know that the best for the other person is Heaven itself…nothing less. If love is “only physical,” then it can’t possibly be wanting the best for the other person. Can It?

Well, lets get one thing out of way straight up.  Love, in its highest and most perfected sense, is not an emotion or feeling or something that “happens” to us. Love is not limited to, or for that matter, limited by, sexual attraction or romantic feelings.  However, those things can be part of love.  They just cannot be true love itself.  If “love” is limited to just sex or just attraction then its not love at all.

Love, in its highest sense, is a choice, an act of the will – something we do.  When Jesus was hanging on the cross, I think it’s a pretty safe assumption to say that he wasn’t thrilled to be up there and wasn’t exactly “happy,” at least in the modern understanding of the word. Nevertheless, he made the conscious choice to want the best for all of us…Heaven…no matter how it made him feel as a man…no matter how much it physically or emotionally hurt. That is true love!

Some people mock this definition of love and say that it is too simple, rudimentary, or even juvenile.  I argue that this definition of love is absolutely rudimentary, absolutely simple, and absolutely juvenile – all in the best way. Love is pure simplicity Himself. It is pure act, pure potency, and eternal.  Love is also purely juvenile because it gives without asking in return and isn’t deterred by “adult” emotions of jealousy, irritation, anger, or anything else.  Love just is. This crazy culture, with all of its “intellectuals,” wants to muck up the definition of love and add all sorts of other words or concepts so that they can manipulate the definition in whatever way suits their situation. Not good.

The current culture hammers us with the idea that sex equals love, and love equals happiness, so therefore sex must equal happiness.  If we apply St. Thomas’ definition, then I think it becomes clear that wanting the best for the other is not sex, is not a pleasurable feeling in the glands, its not an orgasm into the orifice of choice, and is not eros. The best is much greater and higher than any physical act could ever be.  The best is fulfillment at the deepest of levels leading the other person to no less than Christ himself.

Unfortunately, some relationships in this culture are capped at the physical level. At their most intimate, some end with the sexual act.  Sometimes this type of relationship is evidenced as a same sex relationship.  Other times, this type of relationship exists when heterosexual contraception is used.  In still other situations, the relationship is limited at the physical level when a husband or a wife is seen solely as a provider, or as a caretaker, or as any “thing.”

None of these types of relationships evidence true love…not even close.  These types of relationships turn a human being into a human “doing.” They change a person into an “it.” They disregard our natural design and reduce us to an object…of pleasure, of work, or of anything. Such a transformation can never be the best for the other. It replaces purpose with feeling. It replaces purpose with act. The person becomes the thing that brings pleasure, or money, or fun, and therefore becomes replaceable. And just to be clear, this unfortunate conversion can happen in any type of relationship.

All authentic love results in incarnation of some type. Relative to sexual intimacy, the best and authentic love is the biological reception of man by woman and woman by man. It is the absolute giving of all that you have, by each party, and the absolute reception of that gift by the other, within the sacrament of marriage.  It is entry into the very creative power of God himself, which is infinitely greater than the act itself.

For many couples, this love results in a physical incarnation of children.  Hah…that’s easy.

But what about infertile couples? For these couples, their love is open to life but that life may never come in the form of a child.  However, these couples can still exhibit the true and highest form of love based on the marital act of full donation and acceptance…even if new life is absolutely impossible. The idea here is that that the sexual union is total, complete (as much as possible), and biologically based. This love is true and authentic because it is of the type that can result in new life.

Relative specifically to the idea of “incarnation”, the true donative love of infertile people is incarnated as a total giving of oneself to the spouse and still acting in a way that represents what is the best for them. In essence, the husband and the wife are incarnating a new life in themselves of total service and giving to the other. There is no substitution here. There is no transforming of the person into an “it” or an object here.  The person’s procreative potential (although maybe never fully realized) is still never cut off or purposely frustrated.

But moving even further, what about an otherwise “loving” couple that uses contraception?  Well, at its basic level, using contraception also converts the spouse from a person to an “it.” If I treat my wife as merely an object that gives me pleasure, by my artificially blocking my donation to her or her to me, then I fall into the same trap described below relative to homosexual relations. That is not true love.

If I cannot share myself…all of myself…with my spouse, and be received by my spouse 100%, then the unitive concept of love and marriage is broken. There is not full donation and there is not full acceptance. At the very deepest level, by doing this, I am saying to my spouse that you can have all of me…except…

This type of “rejection”, from the person that I am closest to and in most union with in the entire world, is not healthy. It is saying that I want 99% of you but don’t you dare give me that last 1%. Such actions do not evidence true love. They may be “close” but they aren’t genuine and authentic. Just like above, they are cheap counterfeits.

(Congrats to all of you for still reading at this point and for not giving up on this post because it is a bit in-your-face and a bit direct! Although I would like to say that I apologize for offending anyone, I cannot apologize for describing the Truth.  And so, for that reason, I go on…)

Ok, so now some of you are probably also asking, how can a person living a celibate life “love” in such as a way as to result in an incarnation? For those living the vocation of celibacy, their love, i.e., their best, is the service of others to their absolute maximum, leading the others to Christ. Their love is the total giving of self to the service of this world for the absolute best of other people, putting themselves second or even third.  This love results in an incarnation that is not physical but that is spiritual.

Still others may also be wondering whether the aforementioned definition of love means that people with same sex attraction can never “love.” Again, lets be clear – every single human being, no matter their sex, gender, identity, attraction, etc., is capable of, and is required to exhibit, the highest form of love.  That is precisely how we get to Heaven.  Loving God first and loving our neighbor as ourself..or, said differently, loving our neighbor into Heaven, is what we MUST do. As a child of God, each of us is capable of this love.  In fact, with sanctifying grace, each of us is capable of loving as Jesus loved – yes even to hang on a cross.

Make no mistake, love is a choice. If Male 1 and Male 2 “love” each other, then they must want the best for each other (i.e., Heaven), as outlined above. And, yes, this love involves tough choices of living chastely and for the other.  No one ever said that love was easy.  If we paid more attention to the cross, the complaint of “love is hard” wouldn’t even cross our minds!

If these men live as brothers, then absolutely they can exhibit the highest form of love, regardless of their attraction or their inclination. No doubt about it. However, once they choose to have sex together, they have not chosen love. They have chosen eros. They have replaced the dignity of the other (and of self) with a counterfeit. They have replaced the person with an action.  They have capped their relationship at the sexual level which, again, is no where near the depth of true love.

If I love another person, I want the absolute best for them. I want them to reach their best and ultimate fulfillment. I want them to be deeply happy and joyful to their core.  True and perfected love does not, and cannot, affirm self-destructive practices or the limitation of the other person by a destructive and malicious culture. True love does not support the lies of this culture, the do whatever-you-want abuse of freedom, or the changing of human being into objects of lust and pleasure.  True love does not grasp at second-rate substitutes for happiness and fulfillment.  True love does not grab onto the garbage that this culture slings at us and uses to try to convince us that we are happy when we are sexual.

If we truly love, we want the source of happiness itself…which is true, unending, sacrificial love, that leads to the incarnation of life. We want the power itself, not some crappy counterfeit. Taking a person and making them an “it” or an object – for whatever reason (not just with sex) – is never OK, is never respectful, is never an acknowledgement of the other person’s dignity, and is never…ever…true, highest, and perfected love.  Anything less than true sacrificial love of the other is flat out highway robbery of the dignity of the human person and deceit of the worst kind.  Let’s not go there…not now…not ever…not even with a gun to our heads.  Love is a somebody…so lets start acting like it!

Ohhhhhh…and I almost forgot about Ms. Bullock and her crappy definition of love and sex.  Well, maybe she never knew what love really was.  Maybe she never witnessed the real deal. Maybe no one ever worked to make the best real for her.  Hah…Ike may never have.  But Tina Turner should have known better.  Tina Turner, with all of her pop cultural influence, should have explained it better.  Tina Turner should have been a better example for the youth.  So let’s pray for all of the new Ms. Bullocks/Tina Turners that are just coming up, that they provide a better example of love, a better example of wanting the best for the other, and a better example of leading others to true happiness and true love Himself.

God Bless


[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1766; See also St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II,26 4, corp. art.