Clearing the Heart to See the Truth

Changing the World By Changing Yourself...

Carol staggered through the overcrowded streets in Pattaya, Thailand, deeply troubled by what she witnessed: bar after bar where women could be bought and sold as slaves for sexual desire. She witnessed black magic, drug use, intoxication—the smell of evil. She even witnessed a three year old offered for prostitution. This experience inspired her to begin a ministry aimed at rescuing young women from such a hopeless life of enslavement. Michael is a truck driver, and by his own admission, a recovering addict of many vices. When he gave his life over to Christ many years ago, he discovered the power of Jesus to heal and forgive, and decided to offer himself as an ambassador of hope for the addicted. Michael has been offering recovery counseling and encouragement for almost 20 years, now. Randy is a physician who grew weary of the antilife philosophies he encountered in a profession that is supposed to be aimed at helping sustain life and promoting health. He decided to do something about it. He now helps lead a physician’s guild for Catholic doctors who wish to practice according to the teachings of the Catholic Church. I have had the pleasure of getting to know all three of these individuals, as well as many, many others just like them, through a program called the Spiritual Mentorship Program in Kansas City, Kansas. I am an eye witness to the transforming power of grace and of the powerful creativity of God in the lives of His beloved. Working closely with my School of Faith team, as well as with the Apostles of the Interior Life, a religious community from Rome, Italy, I have been overwhelmed at the focused intensity of the Holy Spirit during our time...

Don’t Lust after the Church...

The Body-Person relationship is key for the Catholic understanding of the Church – St. Paul says the Church is Christ’s Body, and therefore to understand how Christ relates to His Church we just need to reflect on how we relate to our own bodies. For instance: 1. We express ourselves through our bodies. Therefore, Christ expresses Himself through the Church. 2. We identify ourselves with our bodies (e.g., “Why’d you throw that rock at me?”). Therefore, Christ identifies Himself with the Church (e.g., “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”). 3. Our bodies are how we interface with people. Therefore, the Church is how Christ interfaces with people. Okay, so far so good. But there’s another crucial fact about the Body-Person relationship that you don’t very often hear applied to the Church. That fact is the phenomenon of lust: sometimes we focus on the body to the exclusion of the person. In lust all we care about is the body, and instead of allowing the body to facilitate a relationship with the person, we reduce the person to the body. We ignore the personal, or at least make the personal secondary to the bodily. Not good. Now, let’s translate that into an ecclesiological principle: 4. It is possible to focus so much on the visible body that the potential for relationship with the person is diminished. Therefore, it is possible to focus so much on the visible Church that the potential for relationship with Christ is diminished. This is what I call ecclesiological lust, an excessive focus on the visible Church which is bad for our relationship with Christ. It’s maybe an esoteric disorder, but it’s one that I’m prone to and I think a lot of other Catholics...

Darkness His Only Friend...

(The following is an re-posting of an experience I had when visiting the Holy Land. For this Triduum, will you keep darkness from being Jesus’ only friend?) Some scholars call the Holy Land the ‘Fifth Gospel,’ because when visiting there you are walking into the bible itself. The only word that I use when I reminisce about my trip to the Holy Land last summer is ‘incredible.’ This is the most appropriate term to describe my experience. I spent much of the time unable to wrap my mind around what I was seeing. Touching the slab where our dear Lord’s body was laid in the tomb of the Holy Sepulcher—incredible! Sitting down on the green grass where Jesus multiplied the fish and the loaves—incredible! Receiving the Eucharist at the Church built on the ruins of St. Peter’s home in Capharnaum while looking out of the church’s window  to gaze at the very synagogue where Jesus first taught about eating his flesh and drinking his blood—incredible! Yet, of all of the incredible experiences that I had, the one that sticks out as most incredible is not even mentioned explicitly in the Gospels. Although it may not be explicit, it is nevertheless most probable. The night of His arrest, Jesus is taken to the palace of Caiaphas, the high priest. As high priest, Caiaphas would have been selected from Jewish ‘high society;’ from a notable family of the priestly cast. He thus enjoyed a lavish mansion as his domicile. Once brought to Caiaphas, Jesus was interrogated, beaten, accused, judged, and condemned by the laws of the leading Pharisees. This all happens in the dark of night so the charade of these Temple leaders would remain hidden, thus avoiding a riot with the people who hailed...

The Pope, the Eucharist, and Mary...

The Pope, the Eucharist, and Mary. These three words summarize the most vivid area of disagreement between Catholics and other Christians. Most converts will admit that confusion with one of these realities was the last obstacle they had to overcome before finally entering the Church. As to those who do not convert, Catholic teaching on these three areas appears extravagantly theoretical and foreign to the basic gospel message. After all, where is “transubstantiation” in Scripture? What about “infallibility” or “immaculately conceived”? The Catholic doctrines concerning Mary, the Eucharist, and the Pope seem to many to be utterly groundless innovations of a Roman theology that has become hopelessly speculative. After all, what’s the point? Why do we need Mary and the Pope and the Eucharist? Why become distracted with these fringe issues when all that matters is that the Christian grow in divine life? All we want, all we need, is a personal relationship with God. Fair enough. That is all we want, and that is all we need. But there are two things to keep in mind when we talk about a personal relationship with God. The first is that God isn’t a person, He’s Three Persons. The second thing to remember is that a personal relationship can only be cultivated if there’s a point of contact – it might be through words, or through physical connection or through some other kind of expression, but you can’t build a relationship in a vacuum. So the question becomes: what are those contact points where Christians can relate to God, where they can cultivate a loving connection between themselves and the Father, Son and Spirit? Well, the answer of the Scriptures and the Catholic Church of today is pretty clear; those...

DAMNATION AND DIVINE MERCY...

One of the constant challenges I get from my classes regarding the Church’s teaching on the existence of hell is that this doctrine is incompatible with their idea of a merciful God. “My God is a God of Mercy, Troy, and He wants all to be saved. That’s in the Bible!” Which is true, God does will all men to be saved, but under certain conditions. Ah, there’s the rub! Not abiding by these conditions may cause some souls, perhaps even many souls, to end up going to hell forever. This brings us back to the problem of Divine Mercy. Many Catholics believe that there is a contradiction between Divine Mercy and the existence of hell. When Luke recounts the episode in his Gospel where Jesus is approached by someone from the crowd who asks Him a direct question regarding the number of those saved, Jesus, in His typical mystifying fashion, responds by saying, “Strive to enter by the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” (Lk 13: 24 NAB. See also Mt 7:14.) I recognize the difficulty in Jesus’ response. If God wills that all men be saved (1 Tim 2:4,) then why would He make the door to salvation so difficult to open for so many? There could only be three possible answers: God makes it difficult despite willing all to be saved, Satan makes it difficult, or we make it difficult. Which answer is implied by Jesus? The first answer is simply implausible based on what we know about God. As stated earlier, God wishes all men to be saved. Further, He sent His only begotten Son to save us, not to condemn us, even though...

Is the Catholic Faith Too Hard To Live?...

“I’d go to Church more often, but I don’t need that Catholic guilt.” “I go to confession, but it doesn’t work for me. I only confess the same sins again and again anyway. What’s the point?” “Who can follow all of those rules, rules, RULES!”  “I’ve left that religion with all of those man-made rituals and regulations in order to have a personal relationship with Jesus.” I have formed adults in the Catholic faith for almost twenty years. During this time, I have heard so many reasons why lukewarm Catholics, fallen away Catholics, and Ex-Catholics are they way that they are. These folks are utterly convinced that the Catholic faith is too demanding and too arbitrary. Practicing the Catholic faith has become heavy-laden with too many rules to follow by popes who apparently had nothing better to do than to invent a myriad of ways to suffocate liberty and joy from the Gospel, or so they say. Of course, this implies that all of us dumb Catholics who actually try to follow this convoluted labyrinth of man-made hocus pocus are, well, dumb—and gullible; or worse, warped. I can appreciate these false understandings, as the Catholic faith demands much from us, and when we choose not to give it our very best, we can unwittingly leave a very insipid taste in those we encounter.  Thus, we help to create the indifferent or disillusioned. Yet, if it is correct that the Catholic faith is riddled with arbitrary laws that are not true or helpful, why hasn’t the Church fallen into complete corruption and disintegration, like the Roman Empire, the Soviet Union, the East India Trading Company, the Oakland Raiders… (o.k. I’m originally from Denver…)?? Why didn’t the Church collapse like Luther...
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