Finding Freedom Through Unbound

I am weak! I need freedom from my weakness. This is how I used to think. Now I am attempting to embrace my weakness.

No, I am not throwing myself a pity party, nor am I being self-deprecating. Rather I am attempting to exercise my freedom. Confused? Let me explain.

Society states that what is important is success, wealth, and happiness. Al these things we should strive to grasps or possess. But what if you don’t have those things? Are you helpless? Are you unlovable or discontent?

These are the thoughts I wrestle with and it is easy for me to fall into despair. Yet the good news of Jesus Christ frees us from these thoughts and attitudes. It tells me that it is okay to be weak. The God, who loved me, created me with all my imperfections, doubts and fears. Freedom comes when we receive the good news.

How I viewed Freedom

Often it’s easy to view freedom as walking away from something rather than walking towards someone. I heard the following example:

Imagine you are a slave. You are being bided on when out of the corner of your eye you see a man. He pays the highest price for you. You cautiously go up to the man worried about your fate. Then you hear the words, “I freed you.” The man tells you to go live your life, but don’t fall into slavery.

I know that in my own life that is how I viewed God. To me, God is like the man, who paid the highest price. I thought I was right with God if I did not fall into sin. Yet my thought process is slowly changing.

“ Freedom is not just the absence of slavery to sin, but the presence of a love relationship with God”

My thought process began to change when reading the above quote. While I strive to not sin, to be in freedom requires more. It requires a relationship with God my father.

Freedom Through Unbound

I first read the quote in the workbook for the Unbound course; so what is Unbound?

Unbound is a book and class that offers Christians a practical guide to Deliverance. Now when my small group leader approached me about doing this course, I had no opinion. I didn’t really know about deliverance.

Honestly, If I had known I probably would have stayed away. I tend to be rational and logical. I am not the type of person to diagnose every problem as a spiritual disease.

But I knew nothing and therefore have sat through three lessons on deliverance. So what is deliverance?

Neal Lozano defines deliverance as, “ the breaking of power behind habitual patterns of thinking and acting that limit our freedom to accept God’s love and turn away from that which blocks His love.”1

Thus deliverance is much less about casting out evil spirits. Rather it is about renouncing the lies the spirits make us believe.

What I Want From Unbound

I am excited about the journey. God wants to deliver me from lies of my own making. I have come to realize that I lack trust in God’s promises. I want to be able to say with the Psalmist:

Even though I walk through the valley

of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff

they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (RSV second Catholic edition)

I want to know that God’s got me regardless of the circumstances. I think renouncing fear will help me trust God’s goodness. Renouncing perfectionism will help me rely on God and not myself.

I am weak, but my God is strong.

  1. Neal Lozano, Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverence(Chosen Books 2010), 67

Click here if you want to learn more about freedom.

picture of library with statue of stoic philosophers

Stoic Philosophy

Lessons It Can Teach Christianity

So it should be no secret by now that I love philosophy. Recently I started reading about philosophy more and more. I also recently started using Apple News app. Found an interesting article on Stoic philosophy.

It all started when I realized that I wasted so much time on mindless social media and Netflix.

So I took drastic measures. I deleted Twitter, Netflix, Youtube and Youtube TV off my phone. Now I had a problem. What could I do when I needed to actually waste time? Enter Apple News.

Apple News allowed me to educate myself during those rare moments of downtime. And wouldn’t you know it, they have a philosophy category.

One day while skimming through the category, a headline caught my eye. It read Is ancient philosophy the future? Intrigued, I decided to read.

Is Ancient Philosophy The Future?

Donald Robertson wrote a fascinating article about the rise of ancient philosophy among young people. He seeks to address the question, Why the rise in Stoicism in modern society? He ties the answer to the core principles of Stoicism.

The Core principals of Stoic Philosophy

To be a stoic, you must believe the following:

First, must adopt a rational framework when confronting today’s problems.

Second, you must differentiate between what you can control and what you can’t.

Third, you must recognize that the judgments you make about certain situations change your emotional state. For example, the judgment you make about rain effects your attitude about a rainy day. The rain itself as nothing to do with your emotional state.

Fourth, you must recognize that you live for a higher purpose.

Master, all four and you are on your way to becoming a Stoic.

While Donald Robertson article did not convince me to be a stoic philosopher, it did tell me a thing or two about evangelizing young people. So many core principles of Stoicism can be found in Christianity. Donald Robertson even draws a comparison between Stoicism and St Francis Serenity Prayer. So why is Stoicism growing and Christianity shrinking?

Five Things Stoic philosophy emphasizes better than Christianity.

1. Rationality

Let’s face it Christianity has a bad representation as anti-science. Even if most of the blame goes on protestant evangelicals and creationist, The Catholic Church suffers from this stereotype as well. Just the other day someone asked me if I believe in dinosaurs. Yet as controversial as the Big Bang is, very few people know that a Catholic priest, Georges Lemaître discovered it. Faith is rational, let’s embrace that.

2. Stoics Teach How to Live a Good Life

Sometimes Christians can get so weighed down by what not to do that we forget why we’re doing it in the first place. Jesus came to give life and give it abundantly. Christians are called to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, generosity, and self-control. Yet most of the time we walk around with a chip on our shoulder and a holier than thou attitude. Christianity is meant to give us a good life, not outwardly, but inwardly. We need to emphasize the goodness of Christianity more.

3. Stoics Have Deep and meaningful conversations

Don’t rock the boat. Sometimes we take Christian meekness to the extreme. We are afraid to be raw and vulnerable because we don’t want anyone to discover what a horrible sinner we are. Instead, we have surface level conversations. Likewise, we are so afraid of losing our faith that we don’t dare entertain opinions outside of our own. Yet deep conversations require a vulnerable confrontation with someone not like you.

4. Stoic Philosophy Offers Emotional Resilience

This is something Christianity should offer in abundance. Most of the modern churches fail to deliver. St Paul wrote,

for I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. Philippians 4:11a-14

St Paul knows the secret to being content is having confidence that comes from trusting in Jesus. Yet we never hear about this inner freedom thatGod promises. You hear about the next life and the freedom that awaits us. You hear that God wants to bless you now. If you’re not blessed you lack faith. This is not the Christianity St Paul describes.

5. Stoic Philosophy Performs Action

Unlike Christianity, stoicism emphasizes being a good person. There is no gospel to be proclaimed or preached. Rather, a person exemplifies Stoicism by transforming their character. Christian have made a blind confession of faith the only requirement for membership. Yet the Christian gospel demands transformation. Too many Christians pay lip service to Christ without radically changing their heart. The moral is that if you’re going to preach the gospel, your behavior better conform.

Conclusion

The world is hungry for guidance in these chaotic times. They long to know answers to questions such as why are we here and what is our purpose. Young people value deep radical friends, who know how to have intellectual conversations. If Christianity is going to evangelize it needs to be rational. It needs to offer a community that is not superficial, but intellectually rich, where people practice what they preach. Until then philosophy will remain an appealing alternative.

Read more about Philosophy here

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wear, clothes

What Not to Wear: Mass Edition

Growing up I loved the show What Not to Wear on TLC. I loved seeing people get an updated more modern and sophisticated look.

In my own life, I like to dress up. I am not a girly girl by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t go out of the house in sweat pants. I always dress up for Mass.

Although I must confess that I’ve worn jeans to mass before.

I didn’t think what I wore to Mass was such a contentious topic until I saw this tweet.

Dear Catholic men: Why are you wearing cargo shorts and flip-flops for Sunday Mass? You wouldn’t wear anything close to beachwear for a) a job interview, b) a wedding, or c) dinner with the Queen of England, and you know it.

Patrick Coffin’s point is that we should show respect because the king of the universe is present. Does God actually care what we wear? What does the Bible say about our clothing?

Old Testament Clothes

So the first mention of clothes occurs in Genesis chapter 3.

then the eyes of both were open and they knew they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. Genesis 3:7

So in the garden, they were naked.

This represents innocence.

Yet when sin entered they wanted to cover up. They felt shame and guilt. This translated into being embarrassed about our bodies.

Yet our bodies are not shameful. Your body was created by God. In fact, God gives us clothes.

and the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skin and clothed them. Genesis 3:21

God clothes Adam and Eve with garments of skin. The plants were not sufficient because their sin required a blood sacrifice. Thus, clothes function to hide our shame and guilt. God already knows what I have done. He knows our bodies. Thus clothes are for us. It is to protect us from being vulnerable.

So how does this affect the New Testament community?

The writings of St. Paul

After the gospels and book of Acts, there are the letters of St. Paul. Letters can be tricky. When I read the letter, I am reading the answer without knowing the context or question. Nevertheless, we know that the letter authors were writing to churches. They were correcting problems.

St. Paul had problems with the church of Corinth. Things were getting out of hand. Here’s what St Paul said about women’s attire in the church.

For if a woman does not have her head veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off. But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should wear a veil.

Don’t grab your hair veil just yet!

Paul is recognizing the fact that women are subordinate to men.

Now feminist, hear me out.

Paul absolutely believes that man and women are equal under God.

Yet he recognizes that women have a unique role and purpose. Our job is to be a helpmate to men. In Paul’s time, both men and women wore veils. Yet in the house of God, women should veil to show their unique relationship. Likewise in Paul’s time, having short hair associated you with a less honorable class of women such as prostitutes and lesbians.

Hence women should dress in accordance with their God-given role.

Paul elaborates on this in his letter to Timothy.

Similarly, too, women should adorn themselves with proper conduct, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hairstyles and gold ornaments, or pearls, or expensive clothes, but rather, as befits women who profess reverence for God, with good deeds. 1 Timothy 2:9

Paul does advise against braided hairstyles, gold ornaments, and expensive clothes. Yet his main goal is to emphasize modesty. Our reverence to God is shown not by being flashy, but by good works.

Take away

So the point is not so we can have an excuse to dress however we want. Our clothes do reflect our hearts. If we are respectful and reverent, we will put more effort into our appearance.

Yet this issue can’t fit in a 280 character tweet.

A person’s holiness is not measured by what they wear, but rather by what they do.

I think I’ll keep wearing my nice dark jeans and a nice modest top.

Adoration with monstrance

Adoration is my favorite devotion, why?

Imagine a date with Jesus.

You get dress up because you want to look nice for the king. You arrive early because you don’t want to keep the king waiting. Sitting across from Jesus, you wonder what to say to the creator of the universe. All of a sudden, he speaks. He asks you, how are you doing? At first, you try to give a generic answer, but Jesus is having none of it. He wants the truth.

Through Eucharistic adoration, I’ve been on that date.

What is Adoration?

I began adoration at the 24-hour chapel. Admittedly I was nervous. Despite being an introvert, staying one hour in silence did not sound appealing. Yet I had wanted to challenge myself. In Matthew Kelly’s book, Rediscovering Catholicism, he challenges the reader to devote one hour to adoration.

Thus, it began as a challenge

Radical Encounter

It turned into a radical encounter with the Lord

And he came to his disciples and found them sleeping and he said to Peter, “So could you not watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray so that you may not fall into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is indeed weak” Matthew 26:40-41

I have been tempted. I have heard the lies whispered in the shadows of the night.

Satan tells me that I am:

  • unworthy
  • unlovable
  • should be anxious about my future

Yet for the one hour in front of the blessed sacrament, I get to lay all of that down in front of the king of the universe. Jesus, who loves me, wants desperately to hear me and spend time with me. He tells me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

Jesus came so that you can have an abundant life. He doesn’t want you to fall into the lies of the evil one. I challenge you to spend one hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament weekly. Your life will be forever changed.

How to lead a small group

How to lead a small group

Introduction

Small groups are a relatively recent phenomenon in Catholic parishes. Yet in Protestant churches gathering in small groups are a normal occurrence. Parish renewal groups such as Rebuilt and Forming Intentional Disciplesemphasize small groups. They see small groups a way of establishing a community. I served on the board in charge of discussing small groups. This made me realize that Catholics don’t understand the point of small groups.

What are small groups

A small group consists of 6-10 people, who hold each other accountable. Here’s what a small group is not:

  • a bible study
  • a book club
  • a place to go deeper in theology

While I love all those activities, none of those actives by themselves make a small group. Rather, a small group shares life together. They usually began with a meal and prayer. After that, they have no real agenda. The group might do Lectio divina, or watch a video. You should get to the point where you do not need a program. A program should be a jumping off point for relational ministry. Getting through all the questions is not the goal of a small group.

I have been a small group leader for youth, young adults, and adults. I know a thing or two about leading small groups. Below are 5 tips for being a good small group leader.

Tips To Be A Small Group Leader

1. Same page

You want to make sure your leader and co-leader are on the same page. This means you need to talk about expectations. Questions that need to be discussed include:

  • will there be food and who’s bringing it
  • how often will we meet
  • what will we be discussing
  • will attendance be required

If the leaders are not on the same page, then the members will not know what to expect. Likewise, this makes members confused and less likely to come back.

2. Introduce People

Your job as facilitator is to help people enter into a relationship with each other. Thus, you need to facilitate interaction. The first couple of times you meet, you want to have a good ice breaker. Later on, you may want to collect birthdays and contact info. You can send encouragement and prayer to those you think might need it. You can encourage others to do the same.

3. Spiritual Introduction

We all come from different backgrounds, cultures, and ways of life. Some people in the group may have an active prayer life. Others still struggle with accepting Jesus as the son of God. St Paul talks about this in 1st Corinthians 3:1-3a

”But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh. 1st Corinthians 3:1-3a (RSV Second Catholic edition)

Until everyone agrees to be on the same page spiritually, the group dynamics will not work. Thus as a facilitator, you must make sure that everyone is ready to go deeper. It is better to start too basic and then get complex.

4. Delegate Responsibility

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is a failure to delegate responsibility. Yet the group will die if nobody takes responsibility and the leader ends up leaving. I had this happen to one of my young adult groups. I had given roles, which people had reluctantly taken, but I failed to invest in those roles. When I moved to Connecticut for three months, the group died. People contribute to groups that matter to them and when they feel the can contribute.

5 . Plan with other groups

One thing I miss about Protestant churches is how small groups became large. Currently, I am a leader of a young adult small group at a local parish. At the introductory meeting, the young adult leader shared his vision. He envisioned having multiple groups throughout Hampton Roads. This was last year. Our group still meets bi-monthly. Yet we have never interacted with another group. It makes us feel disconnected and unsupported. In my Protestant church, we would meet weekly in a small group. Yet once a month all the small groups would get together. We would grab wings or go bowling. It helped remind us that we were a part of a much larger community.

I would like to see the local parish eventually figure this whole small group thing out. The relationships I have formed in those small groups have been valuable to my spiritual formation.

Christian Films vs Bible: Which Tells a Better Story?

Red theater seats that you would find when watching Christian films

Last Saturday, I got together with my friends. We decided to play board games at a local coffee shop. I brought The Catholic Card Game. The creators took the mechanics of Apple to Apples or Cards against Humanity and made it Catholic. They made it Catholic by having all the cards have some Christian or Catholic theme to it. As a player, you can make some pretty fun inside jokes. One of my favorite cards played was, “in the name of Jesus, I command you to stop liking Christian films.”

I have been very critical of Christian films. My friend knew this and used it to score a point from me. The more I understand about film, art, and beauty, the more I’ve come to devaluing Christian films. I am discouraged by the current history of Christian films. The Bible offers the blueprint for telling a compelling story.

I first became aware of Christian film criticism through the Youtube channel: [Say Goodnight Kevin}(https://youtu.be/Bw3Ll_1l7Io). Kevin provides a critical analysis of Christian films. Most of what he says speaks to my heart. The God’s Not Dead review is no exception. Kevin states that the problem in the God’s not Dead review. The filmmakers are more interested in selling a message than telling a story. The characters become one-sided in order to serve the message.

The Bible shows us brokenness and weakness, morally gray people, God’s power, and trials.

1. Brokenness and weakness

In Christian films, the Christian character is usually not broken. Yet God uses broken people all the time. Let’s take Moses for example. Moses was chosen by God to lead the people out of Egypt into the promised land. Moses objected by saying that he had a stutter and could not speak. St Paul talks about a thorn in his side that would not go away. St Paul describes how God’s strength is made perfect in St. Paul’s weakness. Christian films would do well to show God using what society has deemed as weak or broken.

2. Morally gray people

Returning to Moses, he was also a morally gray individual. He murdered an Egyptian guard for attacking a Jewish slave. Likewise, David was a man after God’s own heart, but he committed adultery. Very rarely if ever do we see Christian films display nuance. They never have the Christian character perform a morally questionable action. They also fail to show growth over time.

3. Show trials after becoming a Christian

The book of Acts describes how the apostles were arrested, beaten, and kill for their faith. Yet many more became Christian partially due to their witness. It would be beneficial for Christian films to show 1. What caused people to convert, and 2. Them choosing to stay in the face of trials.

Shiro and LGBT in Children’s media

legs and feet on bed in front of TV which says Netflix

Introduction

Dear reader, I apologize for the late post, but I was gone all weekend. Also, this blog post contains spoilers for the Dragon Prince and Voltron. If you do not want them spoiled, please do not read.

Relational ministry is one of the key components of youth ministry. In relational ministry, one seeks to form a relationship with the youth. This relationship usually begins through discussion of tv shows, movies, or music. As someone, who aspires to work with youth, I find that it is important to know what they are watching. While working with the youth this year, they introduced me to The Dragon Prince and Voltron. Both shows have been heavily criticized for their handling of LGBT characters. In my own personal opinion, a diversity of people in any show, but especially a kids show, is welcomed. I am unique in that 1. I don’t expect media to have Christian values, and 2. I don’t get upset when a show incorporates new world views to consider. I do however get upset when the world views are not fully depicted or have no effect on the story. I realize that this topic can be divisive. When it comes to media representation I tend to take a midline stance on such issues. Yet I fear that carless representation will continue and ruin otherwise good stories. I will discuss the dragon prince characters, Annika and Neha, and Voltron’s character Shiro. Both are not a good depiction of LGBT characterization.

The Dragon Prince

The Dragon Prince is made by some of the same people who worked on Avatar the last Airbender. In a nutshell, The Dragon Prince is a fantasy show about 3 people. They discover a dragon prince egg and go on a quest to return it. Season 2 came out on February 15th. It was highly anticipated and received good reviews. It has been described as Game of Thrones for kids and teenagers. The comparison is not inaccurate. The show covers dragons, magic and political intrigue. Most of the characters are morally grey and have various motivations. It even quotes philosophical ideas such as The Veil of Ignorance. Thus I am sad that such a smartly written show must cater to LGBT diversity PR. The dragon prince avoids some of the mistakes of Voltron. I also have problems with the depiction of the LGBT as normal and without struggles.

Annika and Neha

According to the fandom Wiki, those are the names of the two queen mothers. They first appear in flashback during the episode Break The Seal. In this episode, Viren is trying to start a war but needs the permission of the surrounding land. In his meeting with the nearby kingdoms, the viewer meets Aanya. Viren tells her the story of her parent’s death in order to persuade her to aid in the war. In the flashback of the story, we see Aanya has two mothers. This is problematic.

Problems with representation

My problem is not that two lesbian queens exist. My problem is that they did not develop the concept far enough. As an adult viewer, I have a basic understanding of biology. I know that two mothers cannot give birth to a child with equal genetics. The child does have genetics from a male sperm donor. Perhaps Aanya is adopted rather than biologically related. If this is the case, then how can Aanya have a legitimate claim to the throne. The writers chose to make the queens have a lesbian relationship. By this choice, the show takes on more questions than it wishes to answer. Furthermore, the writers killed off the lesbian queens in a past battle. This makes the reputation feel forced. The writers need to provide answers. If not, they shouldn’t show a lesbian relationship with a child. Otherwise, it comes across as an attempt to convince kids that two women can have a kid normally. The reality is that it is not normal and always involves a third party.

Voltron

If guardians of the galaxy, transformers and power rangers had a baby you would have this show. It centers around 4 main characters. While studying at a military space academy, they discover the blue lion. It is one of the lions that form Voltron. Voltron is the protector of the universe. The 4 Characters are Lance, Pidge, Hunk, and Keith. All 4 people find the lions and throughout the series save cultures from the Galra, an evil alien race. The 4 teenagers end up being led by Shiro, who is a military space officer.

Shiro

The show depicts Shiro as a leader and space explorer, who is happiest while flying. He endures a lot of hardships including PTSD like symptoms. Despite this adversity, he becomes a hero. The only hint that Shiro is a gay character occurs in season 7 episode 1. The main story of this episode centers on Keith and Shiro’s relationship. Shiro is recruiting young teenagers to join the space academy. During recruitment, Shiro discovers Keith’s natural ability to fly. Shiro becomes a mentor and father-like figure to Keith. In this episode, the viewer also discovers that Shiro has the early onset of a muscular disorder. Thus he is being pressured to retire. About 17 minutes into the episode, the viewers get a one-minute interaction. with a fellow cadet Adam, who warns Shiro not to go on the mission. Adam asks, “how important am I to you?” Adam says, “if you go, don’t expect me to be back.” It could be taken as a concerned friend or a romantic partner.

Towards the end of the series, we see Shiro visibly upset over Adam’s death. In the final minute of the show, we see Shiro with another man. They are getting married. The show ends with them kissing.

Problems with representation

This depiction is problematic because of no development. This depiction implies that the only way for Shiro to be happy is to be openly gay and married. Yet Shiro’s priority was not marriage but flying. Shiro never struggled with his gayness and that is unrealistic. Some argue persuasively that it is Liberal PR move.

What I want going forward

I want a story first narrative. Writers should ask, “does making a person LGBT effect the story in a meaning full way?” I also want writers to not shy away from depicting openly gay characters because they do exist in life. Similarly, writers should not be afraid to depict same-sex attraction people, who choose to find their identity in other areas. Shiro could have been the latter. The media would rather try to win brownie points for being progressive.

Sabbath vs Lords day: What is the Big Deal?

Introduction

People always seem surprised when I tell them that I have seldom missed Mass. In fact, the only time I missed Mass in recent memory occurred during a snowstorm. Some people I have encountered view church as optional. They tend to believe that you can call upon the Lord anywhere. The New Testament has certain scriptures that seem to abolish the Sabbath requirement. Yet The Catholic Church makes observing The Lord’s Day a requirement. The Church makes it a mortal sin to miss church without a grave reason. Why does The Church care so much about our presence in a building? After all, Jesus spoke against the Sabbath in Luke 14:1-6. Like all biblical interpretations, context is important. The Catholic Church’s teachings reconcile the Old Testament scripture with the words in The New Testament.

Old Testament

Genesis 2:3

The first reference to a mandatory day of rest occurs in Genesis. Here, God is creating the universe. Then, we read Genesis 2:3

God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation. Genesis 2:3 (NABre).

We as the readers learn key things about the Sabbath. God made it a day of rest. We believe God is all powerful. He did not need the rest. Rather God is choosing to rest. This choice gives an example to humanity. God knows we need the rest. We learn that the 7th day is blessed. Thus when we set aside the 7th day, God blesses us. Last, this verse tells us that God made the 7th day holy. Thus, we should keep our mind on holy things. Thus The Church has decided to make the 7th day a time of corporate worship. When we get to the New Testament this will be further expanded upon. From Genesis, we learn that the Sabbath is a concept that directly comes from God and not man-made laws.

Exodus

The next mention of the Sabbath occurs in the book of Exodus. In this book, God rescues the Israelites from spiritual and physical slavery in Egypt. Once the Israelites reached Mount Sinai, God gives them a code of laws. God designed these laws to help set the Israelites apart from other pagan nations. When dictating these laws, God said,

Remember the sabbath day—keep it holy. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your work animal, or the resident alien within your gates. For in six days, the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day, he rested. Exodus 20:8-11(NABre).

So The Old Testament, The Book of Exodus marks the beginning of the Sabbath being encoded into the law. The Book of Leviticus, The Book of Numbers, and The Book of Deuteronomy all mention the Sabbath. In those books, the Sabbath is no longer a mere memorial for the creation of the world. Rather, The Sabbath commemorates God freeing the Israelites from Exodus. The Sabbath has become a form of corporate worship.

Call Upon the Lord

Yet some people point to verses like Psalm 145:18 as proof that one is not obligated to keep the Sabbath. Usually, people who make this argument focus on the first part of the verse, but ignore the second. Psalm 145: 18 says

the Lord is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth

The interpretation depends on how one defines calling upon the Lord in truth. In my Bible, there are two scriptures cited after this passage: Deu 4:4-10, and Isa 55:6. Deuteronomy says,

See, I am teaching you the statutes and ordinances as the Lord, my God, has commanded me, that you may observe them in the land you are entering to possess. Observe them carefully, for this is your wisdom and discernment in the sight of the peoples, who will hear of all these statutes and say, “This great nation is truly a wise and discerning people.” For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him?

Thus to have the privilege of calling upon the Lord, the Israelites must abide by the laws and statues. Calling upon the Lord is not merely making a request, it is submitting to the will of God. His will in the Old Covenant was to set aside a day to rest and honor Him.
So In the Old Testament, God instituted the Sabbath in order to provide us with a day of rest. He codified it as part of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:8-11. The Books of Deuteronomy, Numbers, and Leviticus provide information regarding the Sabbath practice. Obeying the Sabbath is necessary in order to call upon the Lord in truth.

New Testament

Yet we as Christians are not bound by only the Old Testament. We also follow the New Covenant established by Jesus Christ. A thorough examination of the scriptures shows that Christ honored the Sabbath. Yet he also challenged the authority at the time. He presented himself as a living sacrifice. He replaced the temple sacrificial system. Yet Jesus did not abolish the Old Testament law, but rather fulfilled it.

Jesus in the Gospel

We know that Jesus did not abolish the Old Testament law based on Matthew 19:16-17.

”If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”(NABre).

Jesus told the rich young man to keep the commandments. Hence, we as Christians are also obligated to keep the moral law. This moral law includes a prescription to keep the Sabbath holy and to rest. If that is the case, did Jesus do or say anything to undermine this commandment.

Luke 14:1-6

On a Sabbath he went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. In front of him, there was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking, “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not?” But they kept silent; so he took the man and, after he had healed him, dismissed him. Then he said to them, “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?” But they were unable to answer his question Luke 14:1-6 (NABre).

Here Jesus deliberately heals on the Sabbath. This at first glance seems to undermine the authority of the Sabbath. The reality is that Jesus is not saying to not rest or worship God. Rather, the Israelites needed to be reminded about mercy. The Pharisees had interpreted a law to allow the untying of bound animals on the Sabbath. Jesus is extending that compassion towards humans, who are bound by affliction.

Matthew 12

Jesus also spoke about the Sabbath in Matthew 12:5-8

Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent? I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath

In Matthew 12, the Pharisees rebuke the disciples for picking the heads of grain on the Sabbath. In verse 5, Jesus mentions that the requirements of the temple outweighs the requirements of the Sabbath. If that is the case then Jesus’ presence outweighs the Sabbath as well since he is the son of God.

Jesus establishes a new covenant during the Last Supper. He gives us his flesh to eat in the form of bread and wine. This meal takes the place of the Passover meal. The Sabbath celebrated by the Jews commemorates God rescuing them from Egypt. The early Christian Church established The Lord’s day to celebrate The New Covenant.

Writings of the Early Church

St. Paul writes about the Sabbath in Colossians 2:16-17.

Let no one, then, pass judgment on you in matters of food and drink or with regard to a festival or new moon or sabbath. These are shadows of things to come; the reality belongs to Christ.

Here St. Paul says that the Jewish traditions were shadows of things to come. In other words, the Jewish traditions point to Christ. Christians do not need to celebrate the Sabbath but celebrate Christ. Yet the Sabbath rest is still a moral requirement. In Hebrews 4, the Bible says, “Therefore, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God. And whoever enters into God’s rest, rests from his own works as God did from his. Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience.”

The example of disobedience refers to the Israelites. They were given the promise land as a share of God’s rest but failed to honor the Sabbath.

In Hebrews 10:19-26, the Bible describes how Christ has replaced the Jewish temple worship.

Therefore, brothers, since through the blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, and since we have “a great priest over the house of God,” let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy. We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-26

This passage opens by explaining that we can enter the Holy of Holies. Jesus Christ made a way through his flesh. The term flesh represents His sacrificial death on the cross and His flesh given to us in the Eucharist. The terms sprinkled clean and bodies wash with pure water refers to Baptism. Finally, the author of Hebrews states that we should not stay away from our assembly. The assembly refers to Christian house churches. These assemblies are described in the Book of Acts.

Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart Acts 2:46 (NABre)

Since there were not physical buildings yet, the early Church met in houses. The term break bread refers to the Eucharist. The Bible even tells us what day of the week these celebrations took place

On the first day of the week when we gathered to break bread, Paul spoke to them because he was going to leave on the next day, and he kept on speaking until midnight Acts 20:7 (NABre)

The early Christians broke bread on the first day of the week, which would be Sunday. Hence Sunday is now the new day of rest.

Conclusion

The Sabbath foreshadowed the celebration of The Last Supper. The former was a memorial to the Passover meal. It helped the Israelites remember how God rescued them from Egypt. Similarly, The Lord’s day memorializes Christ’s death on the cross. We break bread with one another as Christ commanded us to do. We are still bound by the moral command of the Old Covenant. This entails, “taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.” (CCC 2176). Therefore I ask you, what is more, important than honoring God through the breaking of the bread? If nothing is then why are you not observing the Lord’s day?

Three Ways to Restore Joy This Christmas

Introduction

I remember December as a kid. It felt like a time of peace, love, and joy. A time for watching holiday classics and eating cookies. The anticipation of gift giving filled me with joy. Now as an adult I know about all the work that made the magic happen. I know how hectic the holidays can be for people. I believe the west has lost sight of the true joy and wonder of the holidays. Let us restore joy by forgoing the commercialized Christmas.

3 ways to restore joy this Christmas

1. Embrace Advent

Advent is a time in which we prepare ourselves to remember the birth of Jesus Christ and in that remembering, we look forward to the second coming of Christ1. The proper attitude is anticipatory joy1. High liturgical churches emphasize advent. You don’t have to be a member to adopt this attitude. Traditionally a person will give up something. Instead, a person will do a spiritual reading and prayer. A lot of different Advent devotionals exist. I like and use Reedemed online.

Some people may object that waiting until December 25th takes away from the fun of the holiday. If we spend December fasting and doing good works while everyone else is partying then when we miss out. This leads me to my second point.

2. Embrace the 12 days of Christmas

We have all heard the silly song, The 12 Days of Christmas. What we think of as a silly song actually teaches truths about how we are to celebrate Christmas. Church tradition tells us that Christmas is not just one day, but a whole season. Over the years the numbering has gotten off, but the twelve days run from December 25th until January 6th. Some European children receive their gifts from the three wise men on Epiphany Sunday. Rather than enjoying all things Christmas for one day, you can enjoy it for twelve.

3. Nix Santa and embrace Saint Nick

I know this is controversial for some parents. They worry that their kid will be left out or spoil it for other kids. I grew up with Santa and don’t regret it. Santa is not bad. However, inventing a lie to capitalize on childlike wonder is not necessary when the original story is full of the miraculous. His first miracle was to heal a woman of a withered hand.

As Nicholas was growing up, he regularly went to study and learn with his teacher. One day as he was on his way he came upon a woman with a withered hand. Stopping, he approached her, laid his hand on her, prayed to God, and made the sign of the cross. The hand miraculously became whole. 2

St. Nicholas is known as the patron saint of children. He models the values of love and generosity. In some cultures, St. Nicholas brings candy and sweets on December 6th, his feast day 2. We can honor St. Nicholas by baking cookies and sweets on his feast day. We can also give to the poor.

Conclusion

The holidays don’t have to be hectic. We can have wonder, peace, and joy. However, we must be intentional in how we celebrate. We must set aside time to pray, and love others. The commercialized world will tell you that you most do and buy everything. However, the reality is that we are to love those closest to us. By loving others, we restore joy to the holiday season.


  1. Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Calendar 
  2. From St. Nicholas Center, where there is more information about the saint, customs from around the world, stories and activities for children, recipes, crafts, and much more to help families, churches and schools learn about and celebrate St. Nicholas. Used by permission. 

3 ways to hear the voice of Jesus

Introduction

Last Sunday marked an end to the liturgical year for the church. This year was filled with sex scandals, confusion, and ambiguity. Yet the Church reminds us that Jesus Christ is king. He is the one in charge; not the corrupt bishops or priests. In our democratic republic, we tend to believe that we are free from tyranny. After all, the American people spoke out against taxation without representation. Thus, Americans tend to value individualism. This attitude conflicts with Jesus’ call to surrender and follow him.

Gospel of John

I want to turn our attention to last Sunday’s gospel reading. The Gospel was:

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” John 18:33-37

Before Mass, I prayed over this gospel passage. “ Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” stuck out to me. I take this to mean that we cannot proclaim the truth of the kingdom until we’ve heard the voice of the King. So how do we hear Jesus’ voice? I suggest three ways.

  1. Pray in silence

Matthew Kelly calls silence God’s classroom. Only in silence can we prepare ourselves to hear the still small voice of God.

  1. Meditate on scripture

The Bible is considered to be the word of God. When we meditate and internalize it, we can then use passages to align our will with God’s will.

  1. Participate in the sacraments

Another way to hear Jesus’ voice is through the sacraments. Priests are in persona Christi or in the person of Christ. This means that when they are performing the sacraments they are representing Christ. Hence, an encounter in confession is not an encounter with the priest, but with Christ himself.

Conclusion

Jesus came to speak the truth in love. He calls us to do the same. Yet we cannot proclaim the truth until we hear the voice of Jesus. We cannot proclaim the truth unless we make Jesus king over everything. Americans may think that they escaped the tyranny of a constitutional monarchy. Yet we remain slaves to our individualistic pursuits of perfection. Only a divine king can help free us through mercy and love.