Clearing the Heart to See the Truth

The Touch of Grace

In my previous blog, I shared some concerns I have regarding Catholics who attend some non-Catholic bible studies. As I indicated, I often discover in their thinking assumptions that are un-biblical. I summarized these in a series of either/or assertions: either you go to Christ, or Mary and the saints; either you receive grace spiritually (not sensibly) or you don’t receive it at all; and grace is either a free gift, or you have to do something, which means that its not free. In this post, I wish to examine the second another either/or assumption that can be unknowingly be presupposed in the understanding of our relationship with Christ. I summarize it as follows: either grace is given spiritually, or it’s not given at all. If some Christian (here read Catholic) tells you that you must enact some ritual (i.e. the Mass, or some other Sacrament,) to receive grace instead of a pure profession in Christ, he is placing an obstacle between you and Christ. At first glance, this certainly seems correct. God is pure spirit. His life and power come from His own eternal reality as pure spirit. Grace, the gift of His life and power to human creatures, is therefore a spiritual reality, and benefits us in our spirit. Therefore, grace must be received spiritually, or it’s not received at all. If God had not become man in Christ, I would completely agree with this. However, the reality of the Incarnation reveals the mystery of God’s new relationship with creation: The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us! (Jn 1: 14.) This means that the pure, eternal Spirit–God– has now permanently and irrevocably wed Himself to His creation by taking it unto Himself as Jesus Christ, the God-man, and now acts through His material world. This...

Hidden Treasures, Blessed Adventures in Italy...

Pilgrimages reflect and remind the pilgrim of his sojourn on earth. They are not vacations, but, rather, journeys into God’s providence. It is a time of recognizing what is our true goal, union with God in heaven, versus what is merely the means to get there, our life on earth. We often get those two mixed up. I recently returned from leading a pilgrimage to Italy. I was reminded several times that I still lack patience and charity, and so my earthly pilgrimage still has a long way to go in achieving its end. Nevertheless, this pilgrimage was for me a truly blessed adventure. God never allows our own weaknesses and sins to completely deter Him from accomplishing what He wants to do in us. He only asks that we allow Him the opportunity. I experienced profound grace at every destination. It would take too long to recount the entire journey, but there were some hidden treasures that are worth sharing. Our pilgrimage started in Florence. Florence possesses some of the greatest art treasures on earth and is an art-lover’s paradise. One of the sites that really struck me was the convent of San Marco. This ancient monastery is less known compared to some of the other art museums in the city. 600 years ago, inside this old Dominican cloister, lived a friar and master-painter named Fr Angelico, Blessed Fra Angelico, as St. John Paull II beatified him in 1982. He was asked by his superior to paint frescos inside each monk’s cell. Those frescos are still there, and their splendor has not faded with the passing of the centuries. The holiness of Fra Angelico radiates through his work. Michelangelo said of him, “he must have seen heaven to...

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...

Same Sex Marraige and Love, Updated...

Many family members and friends have worked hard to help people like me understand what is at stake in the current debate regarding gay marriage. I have read and listened to many from both sides, and have been enlightened and I see now what changes I must undergo in order to embrace the world that is unfolding for me and my children. I understand the gay marriage position holds that sexual love is not connected with sexual complementarity. Neither is it intrinsically linked to procreation. Further, that marriage is not designed by God, nor is it a gift from him, for if it were, we would have no claims on it as a gift can only be received and appreciated as it is.  Rather, I have learned that society can change marriage at will. In reflecting on all of this, I thought I’d try updating Paul’s first letter and chapter (13) to the Corinthians, which is now obsolete. Perhaps this can be read in new churches for these new marriages, as we have changed the old concept of love for a more modern one, one that is more reflective of our enlightened mentality. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have tolerance, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the government so as to make all things equal and give over my body that I may boast but do not have instant gratification, I gain nothing. If I don’t feel good about myself, and, worse, you don’t feel good about me, I haven’t love. Love wants it now. Love seeks its own fulfillment. Love is...
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