Pascal, I’ll Wager You’re Right!

I know most people have given some thought to the afterlife, perhaps they have been influenced by popular media, movies, books, or relatives.  They may have been given imagery of clouds and angels floating in the atmosphere as young children, and they have never let go of this “angelic” image of a heavenly existence.  My wife, is often very intrigued about the stories of those who have claimed to visit the other side of existence, and with words unable to describe the beauty they saw, show us all by the abrupt change and acceptance of God in their lives.  Unfortunately for the western world and the predominance of Judeo/Christian beliefs, a swell of non-belief seems to have begun.  Largely the ranks of unbelief range with a spectrum of complete apathy and nonacceptance, to the disillusioned who have personal demons to wrangle with and assume the responsibility on their own (at least this is what they tell themselves).  However, the whole topic, as a perfunctory pursuit of faith has always grabbed my attention.  Those in life, who are so sure there is no existence past the one we know now, and are willing to bet the farm to prove it.  From talk-show hosts, to movie stars, to the guy in the office next to you, we see more and more people embracing nothing as faith and the degradation of morals in their wakes.  Relativism is on the rise, people can do what they please as long as it isn’t hurtful (in the legal sense) and at the same time, judgement is only reserved when we, as the all-knowing judges, permit a subjective reality to measure each situation hiding behind an austere façade of objectivity.  If I were a betting man, this would be the equivalent of walking up to a table of hardened poker players, betting the house, and expecting to win on the first bet.  Life just doesn’t happen like this.  Expectations of no work, no planning, and no struggle are what you expect to hear from youth with little to no experience in this world, and not from intelligent and compassionate individuals.  So, Blaise Pascal, in the early 17th century proposed the structure of what would be called “Pascal’s Wager”, representing two choices.  The first choice is to believe the existence of life ends when we die, no more, nothingness abounding.  The second, is a belief in God and eternal life based on our faith and struggles within the context of our faith.  The wager is presented as, even if you don’t believe, wouldn’t it be far better to try and believe on the off chance there really is a God, and this God has given you free will.  In other words, isn’t it better to hedge your bets on the belief of a God, rather than bet everything you have on nothing?

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This is truly a wager of biblical proportions, it carries with it the most venial of human thoughts when trying to figure out a problem, but is presented with a coldness only an atheist could embrace.  So, where do you go from here?  Can anyone be so sure there is nothing, to take the wager and bet on nothing?

Over the years, after many discussions with my wife, and her help to expose the holes in my general thought processes, and we’ve wondered what it actually takes to convince a person there is nothing, not to be confused with an agnostic but a true atheist?  This is to say, what happens in the intellectual growth of a person, personal events of their life, or the perceptions they form from all the above to lean on the side of the argument with the least amount of proof.  To be fair, there isn’t one conclusive argument from a modern standpoint which indicates the existence, and all I mean is, there wasn’t an event where the heavens opened up, God leaned down and uttered, “Well, now you know”.  However, this isn’t to say there isn’t any evidence whatsoever either.  So briefly, I wanted to take a look at those events which might push someone away from Christ’s light, and then what may be the most reflective sources to show us the true path of faith.

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To begin, people fall away from faith every day, for one reason or another, but what seems to be the most insipid reason tends to be a personal desire for self rather than other.  Perhaps the desire to do what we want to do, but then we become turned off because men or women who don’t know anything about our lives insist on telling us what to do.  This oligarchy of moralistic teaching teeters on the fact, we were not consulted before the decision was determined.  Which seems to lift up the selfish indignation we feel, and moral high-ground we assume to possess without ever realizing the moral struggle it takes to know the high-ground is nothing we want to be on.  Some people are just plain bored with what it takes to know God, the silence it requires of us, and in a culture so bent on the need for entertainment at every second, silence is the last distraction we want to deal with.  Then there is the problem with pain and suffering, the only seemingly good argument from the surface, an atheist has. However, placed into a proper context, becomes a straw man argument, based in a logical fallacy.  Whatever the reason someone fails to believe in the unending love of God, for them the reason is non-negotiable, and in order to thwart this self-determined knowledge, the wager presents a scenario where even the most hardened of critics would have a hard time disavowing.

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Unfortunately, people are disavowing God in greater numbers than we’ve ever seen.  These were some of the reasons which plagued my own journey of faith, these reasons presented a challenge which I wrote of as passe but in my own brand of apathy I embraced.  I never really gave much thought or time to the mediocrity I existed in, I only was just living and living for myself primarily.  When we see those around us embracing an existence without God, aren’t we willing to do just about anything in a hope they will see the joy we see?  This is how I feel a lot of the time, I want to present the truth as I know it, but I constantly run in to people who never see what I’m explaining the way I see it.  They are firmly rooted in non-belief, and like I pointed out before, many stick to the problem of pain and suffering.  So, let’s address this.  Why does pain exist?  In Aquinas, Summa Theologica, he presents the argument from the objection first; if something is infinitely good, then it cannot be bad, and since there is evil (bad) on Earth, then this is the proof God doesn’t exist.  On its surface, this seems like a well thought out theological point of view, but if we examine the result of this objection against a back drop of free will, we find it carries no merit whatsoever.  A benevolent God, who is love, meaning God can be nothing but love, creates in us the ability for love but at the same time knows there will be those who choose the opposite and in order to acquiesce on his gift of free will, he allows us to act accordingly.  God doesn’t just love me, or you, but God loves all, and in order to give the free will, he must allow the narrative to play out as it will.  This may seem unusually harsh, the knowledge God has the ability to stop pain, but doesn’t, creates a sense of resentment for many.  However, this plays to the knowledge, we neither know the narrative nor are we privy to the conclusion, but we must accept our role in the story and embrace the author who lovingly created us as a character in this life.  The ability to endure pain, creates in us the knowledge of God’s existence, as a matter of truth, God’s truth in our lives is presented in such a way, a greater good might come from the pain or suffering developed from the sin of another.

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Years ago, I attended a funeral for a young woman, who passed away from cancer.  The church was filled with relatives, schoolmates, community members, and clergy.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, this was a young woman who truly touched the lives of the people she was around, based on all the words spoken about her, she was the brightest reflection of light possible.  She loved God, and to us, it seemed as if God was taking her life away from her. For what reason?  Why did she have to go, and not some deranged killer terrorizing children?  The answer came in the words spoken by the priest as a reminder of who Christ was and who she was to him.  The priest, a very well-spoken man, who always seems to have the right words at the right time said, “Her journey in this life is over, she rejoices in the presence of God”.  These words struck me like a thunderbolt and mixed with the words of my wife, “each one of us has our own cross to bear”.  Take a minute and think about this.  For anyone who doesn’t believe in God, this might sound like the hopes of a deluded man, but for those with true faith, usually a not and a grunt of acceptance follows.  Like when talking to anyone with life experience to anyone with little or none, a truth is revealed and all we know to do is nod.  We accept it, we acknowledge its place in our existence, and by our nod and grunt, and we accept what we need to do in order to meet this head on.  Ok, so where does Pascal’s Wager come into play?  Right here, at this point this is where I would usually lose those sitting on the proverbial fence, their amusement in what I’m saying vanishing and their interest slowly going back to what they know (or rather don’t know) as a matter of course.  The wager is presented to bring them back and show them an inescapable truth, although be it, a truth with choice.

The choice is as stated before, you can believe in nothing and you might be right, but wouldn’t it be better to believe in something and be wrong, because what have you lost by belief.  An all or nothing scenario presented, and if we choose nothing, and there is something we lost it all.  However, if choose God, and it turned out there was nothing, we would never know.  I will admit, I don’t really like the coldness of this approach, even if it is true to one extent or another.  The fact of the matter is, God isn’t a bargaining chip, and a life lived without faith is a life which never experienced true joy.

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This is where we seem to be at in relation to where God expects us to be, which is to say, we are below the level of a simpleton to the knowledge of God, and our intellectual postulates of final determination are more musings and rudimentary modes of thought much like a dog trying to figure out how the food comes out of the hole in a dispenser.  This isn’t to say we are dogs, but from the relativistic point of view in thought, we are similar in distance from intellectual capabilities.  So, it seems due to this understanding, God expects this from us, and in doing so, all which is needed, is the spirit and willingness to look towards the light.  Pascal’s Wager seems to be an attempt to do just this.

As to the relevance of thought which doesn’t exclude the wager, but emboldens the existence for what the wager proffers, are those events (miraculous in nature making them supernatural events) presented to us as evidence of God’s love.  Instead of waiting for a voice to come from Heaven (which if we heard, we may dismiss as some new technology), we need to step back and deduce what it is we’re seeing.  Since we have the ability to intuit what we see on a regular basis, is it out of a realm of possibility to determine a supernatural existence when there is no plausible explanation of the event, and an event which is determinedly an exposition of God’s love.  Those with true faith know when they read or see something of an extraordinary nature exactly what it is, but those with little or no faith excuse away the events as explainable, even if they can’t explain it.  The wager is present to bridge the gap in their own minds as a means of transportation to one day get to believe the supernatural explanation of the event, even if they don’t know how it happened.  For instance, when many people saw Christ die on the cross, their hopes for a messiah (a chosen one) were dashed, because of their fervor and the fervor of the Pharisees searching for them, they chose to hide.  However, their faith was rewarded, by Jesus’s presence among them for the next forty days.  His presence, emboldened them to truly embrace their faith, and their actions in this life emboldens our own faith, two-thousand years later.  Those who read, but don’t believe attempt to come up with simple explanations to the existence of our very nature.  Seems a little lopsided to me, but at the same rate, they usually won’t be swayed, so presenting a truth to them in the very paradigm of their own existence as though it were a mirror allowing them to see a glimpse of what’s behind them, allows for an ignition of what may be the beginnings of a true faith.  God doesn’t need us to know immediately, God just needs our desire to know and He’ll do the rest.

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With all the events over time which have occurred, but with the amount of time between events, it’s easy to see sometimes how people can become so removed from God’s light.  However, much like Pascal’s Wager, we see those timeless examples of rational thought on what might be considered the irrational or at the very least super-rational as a means of grip rather than explanation.  It’s very easy for us to exclaim a person isn’t listening when they don’t believe what it is we have to say, or they don’t buy what we’re giving them as it relates to Christ’s Divinity.  This isn’t a bad thing necessarily, they were probably raised different, with a different upbringing, different influences, different politics, and because of their differences to your own, have a common ground is unlikely to happen.  However, if there is foothold for them to climb up the mountain of faith, then they have a real chance to begin their push towards God’s love, and this push is really all it ever takes, because faith isn’t always an accent up the vertical face of a mountain, sometimes it’s the landslide from the mountain which gains speed and momentum the further along it goes.

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Pascal’s Wager is a simple way to combat a paradigm of thought in faith.  Those who say, “I can never believe in something so ridiculous” are attempting to explain the unexplainable, but leaving the theory of choice at their feet will begin to chip away at their façade of arrogance, hopefully it will give them enough time to allow God’s joy to enter their hearts.  The world is of God, so too should the people.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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The Lord is My Shepherd; There is Nothing I Shall Want!

Over the years, I’ve been to several funerals, and one unmistakable characteristic of a funeral is the somber recitation of the 23rd Psalm.  Usually the rendition is spoken with a contextual fervor, where the person reading seems to visualize their loved one entering a valley of shadows and fear of death, but in some way surrounded by the protection of God.  I would imagine most the people listening also picture their own perceived journey and the courage needed to face death.  For me, I do picture a valley of sorts, in the dark of night, surrounded by evil or a perceptible shadow of evil on all sides.  The imaginings I have of this lonely and terrible place, are usually replaced of what I think God must be to me.  Of course, this is more of a haze than a clear representation of a person, it usually winds up being a focus of anything but a face.  However, as we walk the pathway, those things which were once dark, have become illuminated, and what I now see aren’t shadows, but beauty.  Those things which I once perceived as an awful exterior of pain and degradation have been shown to me their intrinsic wonder which all at once leads me to realize, I’m seeing things as God sees things.  The “Valley of the Shadow of Death” is a real place, believe it or not, which can be found on a road from Jerusalem to Jericho.  Once a place of peril, especially for shepherds in David’s time, danger lurked with the animals who preyed on other animals (e.g. lions, cheetahs, and bears), and outlaws posed a threat to those who would shepherd their flocks.  David wrote about this place, because of personal knowledge, and because of his relationship with God.

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Isn’t this what our lives are supposed to be about, the one true relationship with our creator?  In our culture today, we are bombarded with the popular notion of the antiquated ideas of religion mixed with the embrace of science for all important answers.  As Bishop Barron, once pointed out, science is something which should be embraced by all, but it doesn’t have the answer to everything, for instance science can’t explain why something is beautiful (To Light a Fire, Barron).  Science isn’t meant to help determine why we’re here, but instead, how we are here.  Science can’t determine purpose for life, it can’t decipher a meaning from this purpose, it won’t allow for supernatural determinants to be explored except through hypothetical determined to undermine faith, and above all we need philosophy mixed with science to truly come close to the love God wants for all of us.

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Why do we need science?  Well, I don’t know about everyone else, but with science we can see the depths with which, God has reached in creation of this universe.  There is an order, within the perceived chaos, and this order is the rule by which science or nature is governed.  Because of this order, theories can be postulated and expounded upon.  The theory of relativity by Einstein, although a proven theory, is just what it says, a theory.  The Big Bang Theory of the cosmos, discovered by a Catholic priest, Georges Lemaitre, is indicative of our capability in knowing what dependencies we relied upon for our existence.  We can calculate the measurable expansion of the universe because of what we know from theories like Lemaitre’s.  Of course, I’m not a cosmologist or physicist, but what I know about what we are capable of knowing is, God gave us intelligence, and he so ordered nature to allow us to see his creation and marvel at its simplicity and yet be perplexed at the complexity of what seems so simple.  This is God’s gift to each of us, to look up at a tree swaying by an invisible wind, and as we watch the leaves move back and forth, we can know within the tiniest of cells exists God’s very touch.  Within the movement of the wind or the puling of the tides, we can see God in everything down to the tiniest of details.  These details provide for us, a road map of what our expectations should be in the Living God, know-ability, an ability, if we’re willing to look hard enough and silence our hearts to know what God has done for each of us.

Today, people want the answers presented to them, and work, even decades of research and diligent efforts to find truth are usually too much for the average person to comprehend because of an unwillingness to work hard for answers relevant only to ourselves.  This isn’t to say people aren’t willing to work hard, but when there is no certainty of a completion for what we sought, we are inclined to hedge our bets and work on those things which will give us satisfaction through their answers, good or bad.  However, within the framework of science, if we take a step back, and we look through the lens of the tool, designed to give us the answers we seek, we find the face of God staring directly at us.  Let your deductive reasoning take over and realize the longer we take to see what we’re looking at, the longer we must go without true joy in our lives.  I would ask anyone, what scientific discovery wasn’t found by a belief in the Almighty God, and what was gained by turning away from an explanation which can neither be proved nor disproved.  Faith alone can possibly save us, but works without faith are as empty as the space a scientist looks into for their search of truth.

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Truth isn’t about the final answer, which will solve our most troubling questions, instead, truth is about the journey to love one must take and how their journey was used to express this love to others.  A truth in life is, life isn’t fair, life has a way of stepping on us, especially when we’re already down.  The truth, however, is much more beautiful; as we seek truth, we find people in their own struggles as well as our own, and when we can will their good above our own, we can find the truth in life very easily.  I would venture to say, most people don’t feel rotten when they help another person, and why is this?  For faith in God shows us, the reason we feel wonderful, while helping another, is because we allowed the truth of love to enter our lives, and there is no more powerful expression we can give.  The truth is, as we give love, we receive love, and as we put people before us, God acknowledges this by the imprint of his likeness in each and every one of our hearts.  The journey for truth, is the only requirement which will bring us the answers we need.  The prisoner who sits in a cell and relinquishes all control to God, and the time it takes to do this, has started a journey of truth, a journey of redemption through repentance of self.  The truth is, this prisoner will be redeemed, but not simply because they asked to be redeemed, but because they had to walk the path presented to them, the path lit by God alone, and a path which was tailor-made for the redemption of their souls.  In this path, in this valley of darkness, they have two choices, the first to embrace the truth of God and trust, or to choose themselves and attempt to thwart every evil which comes their way or accept the sin and embrace what is the antithesis of Christ’s light.

After we look through the microscope of science, we must be able to appeal to the part of ourselves which processes what we know with what we don’t know.  So, how do we process what we see and hear and learn, with what God intends for us?  Simple, the philosophical implications of life, are there to think out what we know, what we don’t know, and how these fit into our recognition of truth.  In other words, the truth is knowable, and what it requires of us is the desire to know God, to know this truth as He has lovingly laid before us.  I always tell my children, if it seems hard, then the truth is, it is the right path.   The acknowledgement of God, and the deduction of what we learn, leads to the interpretation of life as purposeful to the extent we are required for the overall narrative.  Since there is no way to know what God’s narrative is for each of us or as a whole, we must rely on what we learn about our surroundings to form a purpose for our lives, the incongruence of life without God becomes abundantly apparent.  Look at those who keep trying to live a life without God, what you recognize is an emptiness in action, perception, and goals.  The actions are self-motivating and self-adulating, perception of these actions amounts to the need to work harder or not care when goals become unattainable, and above all else, the emptiness of the void left when God is not exalted becomes painfully apparent.

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We can deduce, what it is we need in life, by looking around and reading our environment, but this can become a problem, when we fail to read the environment properly because we desire to affect our goals before anything else.  We walk the valley of darkness, and fail to recognize, that although we can fight off somethings ourselves, we don’t have the ability to fight off everything, but with the creator of all things, it becomes less a matter of fighting, and more a matter of understanding.  This is what my interpretation of the 23rd Psalm is trying to attain for us.  Which is to say, we all must walk our own valleys of darkness, and we all must overcome the fear of life as we walk these valleys.  It isn’t enough to be cautious or weary of danger, because even with our cognizance at its highest alert, we still won’t see everything, which is up to God to grant us the grace of vision, the vision of all which is unknowable, invisible, and incomprehensible.

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Do you walk a valley of the shadow of death?  Are you fearful of life and those who might cause it to be shortened by their actions?  Are there those points in time, where you fail to admit God’s presence in your life, and in doing so, you recognize the emptiness you feel?  This valley you walk, everyone walks it, everyone is fearful of what they don’t know.  When I reached a milestone birthday, and took stock of my life up and to that point, and I wasn’t too pleased.  I was acknowledging my relevant mortality, but also my fear of death.  My fear of the unknown, past this life, was paralyzing.  I began to ponder a life after this one, and whether or not it truly existed, and if it did, what must I do to be a part of this life.  The truth was, God wasn’t my focus, and until God became central to my life, until I acknowledged the divinity of Jesus himself, I could never truly feel balanced and full of joy.  This was what was missing, fear took over parts of my life, because I never put God first.  I was absent of joy, because I wanted fear to consume me, although I didn’t know this is what I was doing.  I thought my life was going good, and I was fine with how things were, but every now and again, I would feel a twinge of emptiness so consuming, it risked to upset everything I believed in my life to this point.  No matter what anyone says, no matter how much they try to believe what they say, their lives are empty without the love of God to fill the spaces and make whole what is broken.

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As you traverse the pitfalls of life, and as you get older, you will find less comfort in life choices which have no purpose, you will find less happiness in actions without a Godly purpose, and you will remain unhappy until joy enters your life.  Like a plant which needs the sunlight to thrive, if you place it into a dark room, it will continue to wilt and fade until it either dies or is brought back to the light.  We are all the plant in need of the light of Christ, we must have this light, and otherwise we make human attempts to find joy on in an ethereal fulfillment.  Our valley of darkness will eventually become out tomb, and this tomb carries with it and eternal consequence of a void without the love of God.  As we walk this earth, we don’t see God as a person who walks with us, but rather if we step back we are with God in everything we see and do.  We are surrounded by the works of God constantly, we are surrounded by the acts of God constantly, and our acknowledgement of these opens the door to joy.

So, when we walk a valley of darkness, what do we need?  In other words, when we traverse this life, what do we need to follow in order to find the path and protect us from those enemies, either seen or unseen?  We simply need the shepherd, who will find us, protect us, and lead us down the path to an assuredly eternal goal.  The goal of eternity is most rightly where we need, but more importantly where we want to be.  We must all remember, our lives are in the middle of the narrative, which God has written, and our patience is needed to fully understand what written.  As humans we seem to embrace arrogance, and shun wisdom as par for the course, without realizing the patience we find as a virtue isn’t just about dealing with those whom we are aggravated by, but more importantly our patience is a matter to view and watch God’s plan unfold in our own lives.

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If we can learn to take a step back, and watch as things unfold in our lives, we will find love in every step of the way, it is sometimes masked in anger, but nevertheless, love’s tool is understanding.  This understanding is compassion, and the ability to look through one’s eyes with a lens of compassion is scratching the surface of the essence of what it is God wishes, hopes, and desires for our lives.  When we love those people who surround us, good and bad, we begin to feel the depth of God’s love for us.  Although unable to fully know this love, until we are joined with God, we can create a semblance of movement in this direction.  When we do this, it is as if the shepherd is calling our names, and all we need to do is go to his voice, where we will find care and protection.

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I look back on my own troubled times and of my own selfish decisions, I reflect on those actions which hurt the people I loved the most, and always lower my head in how my arrogance almost ruined my family.  God’s love for me, was like the shepherd wandering the wilderness to find me specifically, God’s care for my soul and for the souls of my family became abundantly apparent.  God beckoned me to come back to him, and when I made this choice, I had to traverse the scorched land which I burned through my egotistical actions.  All the while, fixing what I broke, it was painful for me, but the pain is what I needed to heal.  I won’t say I’m perfect by any stretch of my imagination, I still have a lot of ground to cover before the day I can embrace Jesus.  However, what I will say is this, my life has become so much the richer for wanting God’s love in my life.  My joy abounds in everything I do, even when I choose to become upset, I can see my fault and although sometimes I don’t want to give up my anger, my love for the person and for God, almost wills that I let my anger go.  If you are at the point in your wilderness or you know someone who is, where the voice of God seems distant or non-existent, I challenge you to be silent, really listen to God’s voice.  Cardinal Sarah remarked, God’s voice is to be found in the silence of our hearts.  When we can be silent, even though we wander in the wilderness, God’s voice will come through softly at first, but then as a trumpet when we know what we are listening for.  I pray that God will bless you and your family, he will deliver you from the wilderness, or those whom you love from their self-imposed exile.  God’s blessings send us forth!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

Saints With a Past, Sinners With a Future

I am a lover of history, the events which shaped the world we live in today.  From this history, I’ve learned the world we live in is shaped by events which are ugly, constrained by perspective, self-serving, monumental, courageous, corrupt, ground-breaking, and beautiful.  Often times the perspective of the author writing the books is based in the times they lived.  For example, stories written hundreds or even a thousand years ago are less worried about exact times and dates, and the stories are more focused on point and context. Though in the last few hundred years, we see the context become more regimented and facts with time become more relevant.  Once constant we do see time and again, are those who the history is written about, those characters, sometimes larger than life, attempting and sometimes succeeding in achieving an immortality of a uniquely historical framework.  This is especially relevant for those people, who brought about change, either good or bad, and the world forever moved away from the paradigms of the past.  Undoubtedly, the most significant and influential person who ever lived, was the Divine Christ.  Some will argue the validity of his divinity, some will argue his purpose, others will argue his relevance, and perhaps the most baseless of all arguments is his existence.  For purposes of this, I’m really speaking to the veracity of historical figures and their place in our lives from an influential standpoint.  Where would we be without Jesus Christ, as a nation, as a society, as a people seeking common moral and objective paths for ourselves and the generations to come?  The truth is, history is littered with those who have a past, but history is also replete with the beauty of those who found faith and became the brightest reflections of God’s light possible.

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Every year on November 1st, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of All Saints, a holy day of obligation, and a celebration of those who once walked with us, and through God’s Graces, their acknowledgement of their past and sins, and their unwavering desire to love God, they became saints.  I always tell people if you have a doubt about those who became saints, read their biographies and I promise, even if you still don’t believe, you will be moved.  Isn’t this what God wants from each and every one of us, the ability to compassionately look into the life of another, and see the beauty they possess as a unique creation of God’s Love?  St. Augustine, wrote and Oscar Wilde made more widely known, “The only difference between a saint and a sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” A simple and unique perception of who we are as people and where we desire to be.  When Christ walked among us, he preached, performed miracles, exposed his divinity, and showed us hope.  This hope is fire which burns in all of us, for the promise of a better day, a sublime forgiveness for the mistakes we’ve made, and the redemption we all seek as imperfect human beings.

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I actually love this phrase because is sums up everything about us as humans, in such few words.  I’ve had conversations with people in the past about where they wanted to be when their earthly life was over, and most people give some sort of vague answer, as if little or no thought has ever been placed on a question like this at all.  In most cases, the conversation ended, and I was given the distinct impression of their unwillingness, at least for the time being, to put any more thought into such and cavernous question, to move forward with thoughts and actions on this topic.  Although, I wasn’t worried, I’ve always asked the question, why?  Why don’t people want to handle those hard questions first and settle the path for their lives?  Why don’t people want to really start living, and stop with all the material foolishness which seems to inundate our lives with a daily barrage of everything we don’t truly need?  The hardest lives to live are ones of holy contemplation, which is precisely why most people don’t do it, but if we look at the saints and the lives they led, this is exactly what they all did.  If we’re unwilling to commit to a life more focused on prayer, love, contemplation, and forgiveness, where do we realistically expect to be when we die?  Perhaps, this is why we fear the question, because when we acknowledge the paradigm, it becomes either do or do not with nothing in between.  Most people would prefer to live in the gray, unfortunately, the gray is filled with obfuscating world which embraces sin as a matter of course because a belief in self is more important than a faith in God.

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Bishop Robert Barron stated, “The only difference between us and saints are they acknowledge their sin”.  His statement is profound, because I think at points in time, we all recognize our sins.  However, the ability to do it every day, and the ability to acknowledge our shortcomings as something only to be overcome by the Grace of God, leads down a path to sainthood.  However, this path is one which from the vantage of the saint, is lonely at times and one which faces a temptation at every turn.  What is precious in the eyes of God, is most assuredly something Satan covets.  Though, for those of us looking up to see the path of the saint, we see remarkable circumstances mixed with extraordinary events.  St. Paul, lived a life where he asked three times of God, to remove the thorn of persecution, distress, and reproach.  It was these three attributes, among many more, which the Devil twisted into his side and made what seemed to everyone around him God’s blessings, but for him it was a future of toil and hardship.  Even as his future was a mountain of continual ascension and struggle for footholds, his past was something even worse.  His upbringing, was as a Pharisee, a group within the Jewish people who were influential in politics and the general ruling body for many Jews.  The Sanhedrin in Jerusalem was led by the Pharisee, Caiaphas, who was the High Priest for that year.  The group which made up the priests of the Pharisees was learned, well versed in the languages (i.e. Greek) and usually men of means comparatively to the average person of the day.  St. Paul, was raised in this life, he was incredible intelligent, and believe in God’s dominion over all of the Earth.  So, when a little know tekton from the hovel in Nazareth has died, and people everywhere seem to be abandoning Jewish teaching, like many, he rebels against this change.  He fervently seeks to destroy the Jesus uprising, and in doing so, he was either instrumental in the deaths of early Christians or at the very least was complicit.  His fervor to seek out and destroy the uprising was becoming his pathway to a life of ambition.  God did not see this for Saul who eventually became St. Paul.  Instead, a bright light knocked him from his horse, on his journey to Damascus to persecute more Christians, and a voice asked why Saul was persecuting him.  Saul, blinded by the light, exclaims he doesn’t know who he is speaking to, is answered with “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”.  From there, he went on to Damascus, still blind and in need of compassion from those around him.  He was sent to Ananias where he had hands laid upon him, and where scales fell from his eyes, allowing for him to regain his sight once more.

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In St. Paul’s story, we see a man, who lived a life he believed to be proper and in line with God’s will, but as his perspective changed, and as the truth was revealed to him, he quickly realized the error of his ways, and the need to embrace a future of God’s light.  His past was dreadful, and his future full of hope.  This becomes abundantly clear when he states what is now in 1 Cor 4:13

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“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.  For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.  So faith, hope, love remain, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”

Paul, continued with this fervent belief in love for the rest of his life, where eventually we was put to death.  What St. Paul’s story tells us is, his past, as awful and degrading as it was, wasn’t beyond God, in fact God’s will allowed Paul to seek redemption and thus find it among those people seeking God.  His future was uncertain, but it was his, and his choices and his free will to find God in all things.

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We are a lot like St. Paul, in the sense, we are all not immune to the mistakes of the weak.  Our nature is bound to become a sinner, and is relegated to a weaknesses which creates in us a void always in search of God.  What we believe, and what this culture wants us to believe is, if we gain more things and work harder, we’ll be rewarded with those gifts we desire.  This is untrue, and dangerous to the redemption of our souls.  If we are to find joy in this life, we must be willing to embrace the sin which has prevented us from the joy of God’s Love.  Sin is the stain which permeates our souls and keeps ups from attaining the light.  Think of it like being in a room with no doors and no windows, what seems hopeless, is only the devil’s game, it’s only the lie which keeps us from trying.  What we don’t realize is the darkness is behind us if only we would turn around, if only we would lift our heads, and if only we would wipe the blindness from our eyes.  This is what St. Paul did for Christ, he wiped away those scales from his eyes, and what was interminable blindness, causing him to stumble, fall, and question hope, suddenly became clear.  I can only imagine the elation he felt from once again being able to focus on what was in front of him.  Once his eyes were opened, he spent the next three years in Damascus, and began to grow this faith, which he believed he always had, but truthfully, a faith which was only half developed, a faith where he was embracing the past, so his future had no chance.  God made him this mustard seed, and he grew and grew, all the while knowing at some point, he would lay down his life to fully embrace Christ.

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Those of us, still looking at the past, still embracing our proverbial pain, are given a choice.  We can either recognize, everyone has a past, varying and distinct in their own ways, or we can condemn not only our past but the past of the others around us.  Which one do you think will truly carry the light of joy in your life?  We constantly see shows on television, where the hosts tear down people, all for the purposes of creating profit for the goal of entertainment, but all the while failing to recognize the destruction of another is most assuredly not a pathway to growth and love.  If you sit alone at night and feel a twinge of self-consciousness or embarrassment, then good, learn you aren’t perfect, and embrace your imperfections.  It’s the only way, as a sinner, you will ever be able to embrace the future.

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As we begin a journey into another Advent and Christmas season, take the time to realize, your imperfections are what make you who you are.  Acknowledging this and seeking redemption for this is what puts you on the pathway to a life of love in God.  Failing to recognize the hurt you cause, the detriment to others, or the arrogance to unchanging stubbornness, doesn’t just create in you a situation of constant turmoil, but for those you care most about, you are teaching them self-reliance more than a reliance on God.  As creatures of our God and King, we were never meant to be lowly guilt-ridden beings always hunkering down out of shame and fear of the unknown.  Instead, God wants us to be saints, God wants us to embrace a life of non-stop love.  Loving our families, our friends, and our enemies.  God’s desire is for us to reach a humility aimed at knowing what we’ve done, and correcting it because there are those people who are still in the clutches of their past, and the only thing which will bring light to their darkness is the reflection of light you will bring into their lives with your presence.  Remember, God loves you beyond all measure, and your free will is his gift to you.  Choose his path, choose his ways, and above all else, look to a future with God.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://wcucatholic.org/st-pauls-thorn-flesh/

Catholic Campus Ministry

God First, You Second, Me Last!

When I was a kid, I always wanted to be the first in line.  I always knew the first person, was usually the one who got the best gifts, food, treats, and praises.  Our society has taught us, to win is everything, and to lose implies a deficiency of effort or character or both.  We’ve learned this so well, we approach physical sports and games as though they are tests of will and something to be lifted above all.  We send children to coaches to enhance a talent, hopefully to be utilized on a global stage culminating in Olympic dreams.  There are those, who spend untold sums of money to find the best coaches, the best facilities, and the best opportunities for their children to train.  All of these efforts are utilized to hedge the uncertain paradigm of failure.  The benefits of such a long journey to victory, take their toll on familial and personal relationships at times, and when all is said and done, and the athlete competes, there is no guarantee of a win.  The hope determinate is if enough effort and energies are placed onto a single goal, then with enough practice a champion can be hewn from the rough exterior of desire.  The question is, desire for whom?  Desire for the ten year old, who can neither envision nor properly conceptualize the rigorous training nor the fandom which may come from victory.  Perhaps it’s the desire for the parent, who loves their child, to realize with effort and hard work a better life can be attained.  As a parent, I try to direct my children down a path, which will hopefully enable my children an easier life, but at the very least a life with more opportunities than I had for myself.  However, at what cost are we willing to be first, and at what point does our recognition of the line to be first materialize into something contrary to what we thought?

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In Matthew’s Gospel (20: 1-16), we see a parable told about workers in a vineyard, arguing about daily wages and work commensurate of those wages.  What we find is the designation of the landowner to pay people as he chooses.  On the surface, we might all agree, someone being paid the same for doing less is tantamount to prejudicial set of standards.  The actual truth is they are paid more for doing less, and yet we are still relegated to the work we do for the pay we agreed upon.  However, if we dig a little deeper, we see, the unfairness is melted away, when the landowner clearly describes a paradigm of choice.  Which is to say, the landowner, because of his expense and time, is benefitting from the work completed on his crops.  However, he limits his benefits by reducing his margin when he pays exorbitant wages for very little work.  One would say, he gets a bargain the earlier he can make his workers begin their day.  Many employers today are like this, requiring of workers to come in as soon as possible, and restricting movement which isn’t designated to the profitability of their business.  For many western cultures, there are now laws to prevent the abuse of employers to the employee, these laws help to restrict the number of hours in a day, where an employer can force an employee to work.  There are protections against harassment, prejudice based on race or sexual orientation, and compensation for people willing to work longer under hourly pay compensations.  To be clear, it is better to work a manual labor job today, than it was two thousand years ago, but the same ambitions once realized in antiquity still exist now, being first means a win, and being last means destruction.  So, what was Matthew trying to explain to us, about the fairness of choice?

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In Matthew’s parable, we see the landowner explain to the disgruntled workers about their agreement of acceptance of pay.  They agreed to a daily wage and the promise was delivered on upon their complete of the work.   The last workers, who were summoned late in the day, and subsequently only worked an hour, were paid first.  As the foreman went down the line paying the workers, the ones who worked the longest expected more based on the pay which was given to the first.  The disagreement materialized when they realized their pay would be the same as those who by their estimation barely worked.  Whereby the parable is summed up with the phrase, “The last will be first and the first will be last”.  What this phrase tells all of us, is although we rightly perceive our environment, when applying who we are to anyone else, we run the risk of improperly assessing everything.  This is to say, when we worry about everyone else, and we find diminishment in their stature we risk duplicity as a measurable standard.

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Much of our culture these days does exactly this, we look at others and we determine they are unworthy of our will, they somehow have not met the standards we set for ourselves and subsequently they are diminished in our eyes.  This takes shape in our work, church, family, societal interactions, and in our politics.  We are very judgmental, but at the same time we want to be first, and this need to be first, adds to our need for judgement.  We measure how far in front of another we are, so we can maintain an air of superiority.  Our arrogance begins to lead us in directions which seek to maintain a win and grasp at all those things of non-importance to our lives.

As the Olympic hopefuls and their families grasp at a future where winning becomes a goal tangible enough to taste, they begin to risk a future unrelenting in its avoidance of failure.  As a culture, we can see every aspect of our society is touched by a need to win, and failure results in mighty falls by those we once forced on to the pedestal of adulation.  The most prominent figure in sports history, who fell from grace was Lance Armstrong.  A competitor who won the Tour De France seven times and all the while was creating an advantage for himself, realizing if ever caught, it would throw everything he worked for away.  Instead, his arrogance allowed him to cheat, it allowed him to put himself before the purity of why the competition occurred and in doing so, forever stained the perception of what he worked so hard for.  His career nose-dived when he admitted his sins of cheating, and he was subsequently dropped from all endorsements and was asked to step down from his company as chairman.  “Oh how the might have fallen” (2 Sam 1:27), true words indicating we all face this fate if we fail to recognize what’s actually important.

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In my life personally, I’ve been put in my place, embarrassed rightly for my actions, and forced to the end of the proverbial line to find the truth I seek.  My journey to find this truth, in all honesty, has been painful for me.  I was forced to see life in a very different way, than what I had originally expected; my life was nothing I ever planned for it to be.  This is not without a silver lining though.  My life is far better than I could have ever expected it to be.  I’ve learned so much about who I am, through many of those painful experiences, I’ve humbled myself or been humbled by the atrocious actions I selfishly arbitrated on others, and through my pain I realized when it began to subside I was somehow better.  Like the process to enhance steel’s strength, heating it up to a red hotness, and then cooling it down immediately in water, then we heat it up one more time, but in this instance we allow it to cool slowly.  The longer it takes the stronger the steel.  What this told me, was I was right where I needed to be.  I needed to stop making the race about me, I needed to begin to put those things in life and those people in my life first if I ever wanted to make a change and move closer to the love of God.  To temper my life through the rough times, I would need to be made strong, and the only way to do this is to humbly accept the will of God.

I once had an opportunity to listen to a priest speak about a bumper sticker he once saw, “God first, you second, me last”.  Who would have ever thought so much wisdom could be found in six words?  Placing ourselves last helps to ensure we will the good of the other as a matter of priority in life, we no longer are worried about whether we’ll get the best award, best gift, or priority place in the areas we exist in.  Instead, we have the opportunity to realize where are place actually is in life.  We can see things for what they are, a sense of understanding will wipe over us, and we can appreciate without anger or malice those who are different and still beloved in the eyes of God.  Our compassion can now take over and we can choose and feel the effects of true love in our lives.  It isn’t to say we’ll always handle this properly, but what we are giving ourselves is the ability to strengthen our resolve to handle those desires for ambition, superiority, and want to replace with faith, hope and love.

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In the current state of affairs in our world, once we being to step back from all of the general confusion, we find examples of those who seek the prize, seek to be first at everything they do and although our compassion is exemplified by their presence, we are also reviled at the sin of desire in whatever form it chooses to take.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer exemplified the desire to remain last, when as a concentration camp prisoner, he chose to seek to be first in death so his fellow prisoner could embrace life.  His desire for the life of another, meant unselfishly, the assuredness of his death.  His fear though was infinitesimal to his ultimate goal, the love of Jesus.  As we all seek the Love of Christ, what we sometimes fail to realize is, we are all seeking the same thing, and in doing so, Christ wishes to love us in return.  Why is there a need to be first, he will love us no matter what, the unconditional love he gives to us is hoped by our willingness to love him in return.  We don’t find love when we worry about others getting what we don’t have.  We don’t find love in seeking fairness of outcome.  Love doesn’t exist in selfishly seeking an ends which isn’t created resplendent by the means.  We are welcomed by God, because of our love of all, our willing the good of the other.

If ever there were a time to place others first, it would be now.  We have growing populations of the poor in wretched conditions, we have growing populations of those no longer seeking a faith in God, and what seems to be the fastest growing of all is the indifference to life and humanity.  The landowner seeks to prove the worker’s position as a matter of choice.  The worker could choose to accept he was treated fairly, and in acceptance of his treatment, be happy for the great fortune of those who worked last.  However, the worker also has choice to see things as he did, a total unfairness to wages as he worked longer and harder, but was treated like those who barely worked at all.  If given the same opportunity, can we be happy for the good fortune of another, or are we so focused on what we don’t have, we’re willing to ruin the fortune of another because we didn’t get it?

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Today, I often hear grumblings about more taxes on the rich and more programs for the poor, but if we look at the parable, the landowner walks up to the men standing in the marketplace and asks “You too go into the vineyard and I will give you what is just”, indicating his will to make their lives better by an opportunity to work.  What we can all glean from this story is, they will never become rich, by standing in a marketplace and waiting for work, but what the landowner can do is provide something with what he has by his own will.  Forcing people to be last out of a sense of moral superiority will get nowhere, but subjecting ourselves to the humility of servitude will gain us the kingdom of heaven.  Even Jesus, rebuked for washing the feet of the disciples, maintained the need to serve them, he indicated he would lower himself by his own decision to show how much love was in his heart for them.  People who’ve been given graces in this life, and who’ve prospered by their hard work or the hard work of another, are bound to a responsibility because of their prosperity.  They are bound by the ability to show forth compassion and the means to do so by the gifts they’ve been given.  Though, just as God seeks our love in free will, so to, must this be given of their own free will.  Forcing those to meet our subjective standards of first and equal, creates inequity of life and choice.  A duplicity occurs when we force another to live by a standard, that if we were placed in the same position, we would neither accept nor understand.

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Those families, who create a better life for their children, by creating a willingness to work and recognize failure as a daily possibility, teach only one aspect of life, there must be w desire to seek God, for without God there is the bitter nothingness life has to offer.  Being first in anything, without the recognition of God in our lives, becomes an empty exercise of vain pursuits.  Placing love at the forefront of our actions, helps ensure we not only seek compassion, but we become a reflection of the very light we seek.  No matter your station in life, seek to put others first before yourself, give what talents you have to a choice of compassion.  Will the good of the other because they are other, and you are both fashioned by God with love.  We all have different paths to walk, but our willingness to stop on our path, and help another, means we both meet the expectations God seeks for us, and not the selfish wanderings of an arrogant fool.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

Where is Our Culture Headed?

For many of us, we grew up at a time, when being “middle-class” was a badge of honor represented by the clothes we wore and the inevitable understanding of a hand-me-down culture.  I personally received clothes, toys, and anything else possible of being used by many people over a period of time.  My family never re-gifted something considered a hand-me-down, but they did place an importance on the items given, and the consideration was the base for many discussions and lectures during my youth.  Over the years, due to my upbringing, I cherish an item given to me by another.  This carries with it a significance of sizeable proportions when I’m aware of the struggle or expense required to attain the item now being generously given away.  Furthermore, I’m not removed from the societal implications of this no longer being a mainstay of family direction, but instead realize the paradigm of a throw-away culture.  “Nothing is meant to last forever”, I will hear people flippantly remark, and as I would agree in large part with a material focus, it seems like our culture has embraced a “live like you’re dying” mentality and focused on the “me” and the “now” aspects of this perceived newest of paradigms.  Think back on those times when you were the youngest, and you were bound to obey the instructions of the adults closest to you.  Perhaps your parents, grandparents, teachers, or just the older adults in the neighborhood you grew up in, and in those adults, did they pass along a moral teaching or truth which you’ve held on to this very day?

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This is where we’re at, a point in time, where the masses are scurrying around searching for truth, and at the mere mention by anyone of the truth we desire, we come running, only to find disappointment.  Why do we find disappointment?  Simply because, anything which isn’t the real truth, cannot be, no matter how hard it tries, the fulfillment in our lives imprinted by the Spirit of God.  Of course, some will get close, but an aberration of a truth is still a subjective reminder of the existence without a morality focused on love of one another rather than love of self.  So, have the teachings from those adults stayed with you?  Have you found yourself, either plagued with this persistent teaching, or comforted by the reliance on something which no matter the situation bears a light to the situation no others can compare to?  Take for instance, when I was a child, I was exposed to hatred by the society I lived in, and upon asking my parents for some clarification, some semblance of truth as I navigated these foreign waters, I was exposed to a truth.  My father explained to me, the essence of love is a matter of allowing another person the right to make a decision or a choice.  God does this for each and every one of us, our free will is our choice to love God or to turn away.  My question to my father, was as a result of being pushed into a belief of something, which I neither agreed with, nor could I reconcile the harsh existence of something claiming to be so beautiful.  His words, over twenty years later, still ring in my mind as a truth.  He said, “son, to scare or force another into belief, will never work, people must be allowed to choose of their own free will”, and although he didn’t tell me this to get a quote out of what I might write one day, he told me this because this was the lessons he’d learned over a life mixed with turmoil and abandonment.  His hand-me-down philosophy was something of ground breaking at the time, but has become a principle, and fills me with a light of truth I hope to give anyone who reads my words.  His explanation of a truth he learned and handed down to me, has become my hand-me-down to you.

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In our culture, of course, everyone has a truth, and no one has a real voice.  We are small in comparison to this world and to its ideas, but the need to make a mark or being something more than we are derides the values of the past and risks to ruin the hand-me-downs of those who once put our benefit above all others.  Saint Teresa of Kolkata said once, “For love to be real, it must cost, it must hurt, it must empty us of self.”  Wise words from a Saint, but can we really say we’re willing to put ourselves out there so we risk hurt, pain, or loss?  As a father, I’m conflicted about giving a moral or teaching to my children without indicating the negative consequences (perceived as positives from those less experienced) from disobeying the morals or objective truths about what I’m passing down.  My son tests me from time-to-time, and for good measure, he is very bright and finding his path in life risks derailing him from what he wants rather than what he needs.  I fear I was worse when I was his age, this is my penance, by passing on what I learned, handing down my experiences and exposing him to the moral truths in life.

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As we speak, we can turn on any news agency and determine who is outraged by what and why and why they pontificate it to a largely anonymous audience.  We are tasked with weeding through those instances which are true outrage and the ones conjured up by a media seeking ratings over a moral existence.  We are bombarded by constant subjective changes in what we once saw as an immovable moral, to something we can take or leave based on our mood.  People who once stood up for an objective truth and moral life are being vilified as racists, bigots, or pariah to a society poised for greatness on the brink of moral destruction.  Those lessons once passed down by fathers, mothers, neighbors, teachers, police officers, fire fighters, and clergy are either being abandoned by the culture wholesale or are being put to question daily by sources seeking a stream of revenue more lucrative today than even yesterday.  Do you ever ask yourself, why have we gone down this path?  Why have we accepted the direction of those who so clearly have a motivation for us following?  Like many other people, I was looking for anything to help direct me and I was truly lost in the wilderness of life.  At my lowest point I was brought to love by those who were willing to risk my anger and ire to expose me to a truth so wonderful and painful the catharsis of my soul is still happening.  The growth from which has helped form my life into an unceasing need to express my regret and thanks for the moral teachings, I was given, and to attempt in whatever way possible to pass along what I’ve been blessed to see.

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Ok, so where do we go as a society, who throws away everything, and yet is still seeking what we’ve thrown away.  We are like a bunch of mental patients, off our medications, because we didn’t think they worked, but for anyone objectively watching, we clearly need our medications back.  The hand-me-downs of faith, culture, morality, justice, truth, and love are very much needed in their undiluted form.  This begins in the home, this begins with full families teaching those morals to the children they love so dearly.  Earlier, I mentioned my father, and his care and love for my moral learning, his soft-handed approach was there when discussion was needed to smooth out an idea, wrinkled in my mind over undisciplined thought and action.  My mother, helped with the harder topics, she was the discipline master.  She never feigned her responsibilities as a woman with a disciplined focus, sometimes as a child I thought she was angry and wrong.  As an adult, and as a father, I see she was spot on.  She was passing down a need to focus on discipline through action, and then take this very rudimentary method of living and apply it to every aspect of my life.  Her disciplined approach, and my father’s philosophical truths of morality and faith provided me with a foundation to set my life upon.  A foundation, through my own actions, where I strayed, but eventually came back to, a foundation which lights my soul and warms my heart at every thought.

Children need these hand-me-down truths, even if they don’t know why they need them, even if the parent isn’t completely sure why they teach them.  With anything, we do as a tradition, we should learn why we do what we do, but to deny the tradition, because we see no current use is to deny the truth of those who’ve come before us without tasking ourselves to explore the method behind the wisdom.  Our perspective isn’t the means of all explanation, our perspective isn’t the wise arbiter of all truth, so, why would we assume because we don’t see a purpose in teaching we can therefor discount this teaching as coming from a different time and place with no relevance to today?  I think this is where we find ourselves as a culture.  We question everything, and when we don’t get a satisfactory answer, and when we can’t see a purpose, we abandon anything which meets this criteria.  We see the abandonment of the traditional family, roles in marriage, faith, politics, society, and life.

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The traditional role of the family has always been one woman and one man bound by a covenant with God, in the expression of love, to grow a family in the teachings of Christ.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”(CCC 1601).  However, as a society we’ve abandoned this truth, and we’ve replaced it with a convenient substitution which states, as long as there is a loving parent, then the children will have a subsequent upbringing.  For anyone, who was brought up in a loving home, this doesn’t pass the smell test, it stinks to high heaven.  So, let me be clear, no, the natural set of circumstances is two parents (biologically) created a child or children, and it is the natural set of circumstances they will raise and teach these children.  Whenever we’re exposed to an abridged or unnatural version of this paradigm, we find circumstances of unfulfilled expectations.  Children who grow up in broken families as a result of divorce or any other circumstance as a prevention of the natural means of family creation, risk throwing away what the generations before us figured out, due to an embracing of hubris to an altered reality.

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Let me be clear, I’m not saying there aren’t good people in bad situations.  There are, and this speaks more to the testament of time than the person.  Time doing anything will result in consequences which take on different shapes and severity over which families and society are affected.  This isn’t to say, there bears with the consequences a blameless architect, but instead carries with it a clarity of focus to stop the machine of duplicity, degradation, immorality, and villainy.  If we see a problem, then we have a moral duty to stop this problem.  This begins with discourse and action, not a fear of risking the anger of those who, like many, would run from the truth when confronted with it.  This means, taking charge of our society means, keeping the family above all else.  I don’t mean for anyone to stay in a relationship, which harms their life or health in any way.  No, I mean to teach the younger generations to look for the right one, to find those qualities in another which will complement their own, and approach marriage in a realistic and permanent way.  Too often, young couples approach marriage with a throw-away quality.  They say to themselves, “I hope it works, but if it doesn’t then I hope I meet someone who loves me”.  The sentiment is relayed over and over, in one variation or another, from couple to couple in our society.  We’ve defeated ourselves before we’ve had a chance to race.  Any good coach will tell an athlete, they must visualize the win before they can realize it.  Although, marriage isn’t something to be won, we can recognize the wisdom from those words, we must be willing to walk through the fires in our marriage, if we hope to rest beside those cool waters on the other side.

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For those of us, who’ve either been divorced or live in a relationship not meeting the standards we hope to achieve, change begins with you.  It begins by your approach to the moral truths in your life and the embracing of those hand-me-down traditions, the previous generations figured out and gave to us.  As a father, I’m often times surprised by the shenanigans of my children, I’m even further surprised by the stories of older generations dealing with identical situations semantics aside.  A hand-me-down society is a society intent on learning from the past, learning from the mistakes of others and applying best practice to meet today’s challenges.  A moral society, is a society willing to meet those challenges, while standing on the side of right, and refusing the temptation of the wrong.  There are definite wrongs and rights of life, there are those who would dissuade to simply bring more to their way of thinking, regardless of the wrongness of their actions.  A sin is a sin, and sin isn’t pretty.  It is wrong, no matter how we try to dress it up, and as a matter of course, when people are doing anything wrong, they always attempt to bring others along with them.  “The road to hell, is wide, and paved with good intentions”, never were more were truer.  Being compassionate to the condition or plight of others, doesn’t preclude a need to do what is right.  An individual who marks time in their life with a pursuance of “their truth” and then finds negative consequences awaiting them, deserves compassion, but they also deserve an exposure to the hand-me-down truth of their decisions.  As men and women in this culture, if you’re not willing to stand up for what is right, who will.  Are you waiting for the next champion?  What if you’re the champion needed?

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Are hand-me-downs a bad thing?  The answer is, no!  We must get over our arrogance and stop assessing the past as what was wrong, and looking at now, as what is right.  If we continue this, the logical fallacy would be, even now is past, and is it wrong as well?  Our embrace of those truths passed to us, can only be considered when the person passing the morality was moral themselves.  As I’ve pointed out before, a person without faith cannot have a morality based in objective truths, their reality is purely subjective, and advice or hand-me-down truths will be full of holes because of the dilution needed to fit their truth in time.  No one wants a hand-me-down full of holes and stretched thin to fit what it was never meant to fit.  Place importance on your role to pass down those moral teachings to the younger generations, give them a strong principle to rest upon, and create in them the need to have a clean heart in order to push this culture in the right direction.  A journey up a mountain by one’s self is an arduous journey, fraught with peril and the risk of falling at any time.  A journey up a mountain with those who have already walked its paths becomes easier and makes the traverse bearable, even at the most fearful of points.  However, a walk up the mountain when God is involved, is as simple as believing, and the obstacle was as if it never existed.  God is where our joy in life must be found, God is where we must find our humility to accept the wisdom and traditions of the past, and God is where our faith must be to move those mountains which risk to prevent us from finding the summit and seeing the vastness of what we don’t truly know.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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Truth2Freedom's Blog

The mindset in postmodernism is that objective truth does not exist. But in post-truth, the person believes that objective truth exists, but they subordinate truth to their preferences, or their comfort. In other words, one doesn’t care that truth exists or what the truth is if it doesn’t line up with one’s preferences. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" - George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. Faith in Jesus Christ is our response to God's elective purpose in our life. These two truths--God's initiative and man's response--co-exist throughout the Bible. The gospel is "the message of truth" because truth is its predominant characteristic. Salvation was conceived by the God of truth (Ps. 31:5); purchased by the Son, who is the truth (John 14:6); and is applied by the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). To know it is to know the truth that sets men free (John 8:32). Believers are people of the truth (John 18:37), who worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), and who obey the Word of truth (John 17:17). People have rejected, neglected, redefined, and opposed God’s truth for centuries. Some cynically deny that truth even exists or that it can be known by men (John 18:38). Others foolishly think that denying truth will somehow make it go away. Truth determines the validity of one's belief. Believing a lie doesn't make it true. Conversely, failing to believe the truth doesn't make it a lie. The gospel is true because Jesus is true, not simply because Christians believe in Him. His resurrection proved the truth of His claims and constitutes the objective basis of our faith (Rom. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:3). Truth is our protection and strength (Eph. 6:14). Throughout history, people have tried everything imaginable to gain favor with God. Most turn to religion, but religion apart from Christ is merely a satanic counterfeit of the truth. At the heart of every false religion is the notion that man can come to God by any means he chooses--by meditating, doing good deeds, and so on. But Scripture says, "There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). That name is Jesus Christ, and we come to Him by confessing and repenting of our sin, trusting in His atoning death on the cross, and affirming His bodily resurrection from the grave (cf. Rom. 10:9-10). There is no other way to God. False religious leaders and teachers talk much about God’s love, but not His wrath and holiness; much about how deprived of good things people are, but not about their depravity; much about God’s universal fatherhood toward everyone, but not much about his unique fatherhood toward all who believe in His Son; much about what God wants to give to us, but nothing about the necessity of obedience to Him; much about health and happiness, but nothing about holiness and sacrifice. Their message is full of gaps, the greatest of which leaves out a biblical worldview of the saving gospel and replaces it with the worldview of postmodernism with its dominant ethical system of relativism. The Bible describes mankind in the end times: “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Spiritual answers cannot be deduced by human reason alone (1 Cor. 2:14). It’s not that spiritual truth is irrational or illogical, but that human wisdom is defective, because it’s tainted by man’s sinfulness, and unable to perceive the things of God. That is why the Bible is so important. It gives us the answers we can’t find on our own. It is God’s Word to mankind. Scripture is divinely revealed truth that fills the vacuum of spiritual ignorance in all of us. Post-truth is the word of the year for 2016 and also the philosophy of the day, According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. In a “post-truth” world, people make choices based on emotion and experience rather than objective fact. So in a post-truth world, truth is irrelevant. What exactly is a post-truth culture? It’s a culture where truth is no longer an objective reality. It has become subjective. It’s what’s true for me—my beliefs, my opinions, determine my truth. So in our post-truth culture, man determines truth. Man makes himself the ultimate authority. This starting point, which rejects God’s Word and the idea of moral absolutes, makes truth subjective. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Christianity is grounded in objective truth. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Objective truth exists because we have God’s Word. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Thy word is truth” (John 17:17), and Paul and James describe the Bible as “the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15; James 1:18). The Psalmist says, “The entirety of your word is truth” (Psalm 119:160). Jesus Himself said, “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). When Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6), He wasn’t expressing His personal belief or opinion. He was speaking the truth, a fundamental reality that doesn’t change from person to person. It doesn’t matter if our culture thinks all roads lead to God. The truth of the matter is “no one comes to the Father but by [Jesus].” This blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." - George Orwell

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