Hell demystified

Recently I have had the pleasure of talking to Jehovah Witnesses. I must have been feeling the Holy Spirit that day. When they knocked on my door, I decided to engage them rather than being dismissive. After all, they only want to talk about the bible right? Don’t worry I’m not naive enough to believe their pitch. They gave me a pamphlet about knowing the “truth.” Of course, it is based on their interpretation of the Bible. One sentence caught my eye, “at death humans cease to exist.” Paradoxically they seem to believe that only the righteous will be raised. From the same pamphlet, it says, “most who have died will be resurrected and will live on a paradise earth.” So for Jehovah Witness, there is no hell or heaven, but a kingdom for the righteous that will come when Jesus comes back.

Catholic Confusion

Unfortunately, It seems that Catholics are equally confused about hell. I almost didn’t become Catholic over a misunderstanding regarding hell. One Sunday in RCIA class, the topic of hell came up. This older woman stated that she did not believe in hell for God was love. Confusingly I asked well doesn’t hell exist? What does the church teach? The debate went back and forth. Opinions flew around the room, but nobody could tell me what the church taught. Finally, the older lady looked me in the eye and say, “why do you need to believe in hell?” With that, the class ended. Racing home I vowed to look up what the Catholic Church taught.

Peace washed over me. I smiled as I read the paragraph because It was exactly what I had thought the Church taught. Let me explain.

The Truth About Hell

First, the Jehovah Witnesses are not wrong. There will be a resurrection and final judgment and a new kingdom and new earth. The problem is they deny particular judgment. They also deny hell’s existence. This goes against Catholic teaching.

The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death, the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.”615 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

So sorry lady from RCIA. We must believe in Hell because the church tells us it exists. Of course, that reasoning isn’t going to work for my Jehovah witness friends. They need biblical proof.

When Jesus speaks of Hell, he uses the word Gehenna (the Greek word for hell). Here are just a few passages:

But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Mt 5:22,29

Another common image is a fiery furnace.

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Mt 13:42, 50

My point is that Jesus spoke of hell or Gehenna. To deny the existence of hell, you have to say Jesus was misquoted or Jesus is lying. Now you could argue that hell will exist when Jesus comes in power. Thus hell exists after the final judgment. Yet this does not line up with all passages in the Bible.

Biblical Proof of Particular Judgement

The most obvious passage begins on Luke 16:22, which describes the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus lived a life full of suffering and hardship. It describes how when Lazarus dies he is carried to Abraham’s bosom. The story goes on to say that the rich man also died. He was being tormented in the netherworld. While the rich man begs Abraham to relieve him, Abraham cannot because there is a gap between them.

If Jesus did not want us to believe in life immediately after death, why did he tell this parable? Clearly, Jesus was okay with immediate judgment after death.

Jesus also acknowledges life right after death when speaking with the thief. In Luke 23:43, Jesus tells the thief that today he will be with Jesus in paradise. Thus we do not have to wait for the kingdom of God to be fully here. Our place is decided by our actions in this life.

Thus we must say diligent and awake.

Catholic Church and Hell Now.

Having examined the Catechism and the scriptures, it has become clear that Hell exists. Likewise, we know that souls enter heaven and hell immediately. So the only loophole now is who is in hell. The Catholic Church has this to say regarding who is in hell.

God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”:619

The fact that no-one is predestined has led some Catholics to speculate that hell might be empty.

Bishop Barron has famously said that we may have a reasonable hope that hell will be empty. In other words, God wants to save everyone. If anyone is in hell they have chosen to be there, Bishop Barron optimistically believes that nobody chooses to go to hell.

Yet the Bible paints a different picture

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few

Few find the road that leads to life. Thus I believe hell to be full; although, I trust in the mercy of God

My Final Thoughts on Hell

Hell is not a pretty picture. Nobody wants to imagine anyone eternally suffering. Thus I used to have beliefs similar to Jehovah witnesses. I thought God destroyed the souls in hell. Maybe over a long period, but one day there would be no more evil souls. One day I was meditating on this idea when a voice spoke in my mind. It said, “I could never destroy a beautiful soul no matter how wicked.” If you are a mother, I think you understand. You could never destroy your child no matter how bad they are. Sure you may separate yourself from them, but you still love them. God is a good father and he acts the same way. He separates himself from us, which cause us enormous pain, but he wouldn’t dare destroy us.

To Learn more about Bishop Barron’s opinion watch this

Harry Potter ban

My introduction to the magical world of Harry Potter began in 3rd grade.

Every day Mr. Winberg would read us aloud from the book just before the school bell rang to let us out. He did it repeatedly until he was asked to stop by the administration. They were afraid that our impressionable minds couldn’t tell fact from fiction.

But I’m glad happened.

In a way, the incident spearheaded my own pathway into reading. I vowed that I would finish the story. Not knowing where the teacher had left off, I devoured the book cover to cover. Each year marked the tradition of getting the new Harry Potter book. It was definitely a part of my childhood.

Eventually, I would grow to appreciate other works. In Middle School, I became slightly obsessive over Lord of the Rings. I almost went to a convention! From Lord of the Rings, I would gravitate to the lessor known epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time. Somewhere in between, I would be fascinated with Arthurian legends.

Ultimately it all comes back to Harry Potter.

Magic

Magic vs Religion

All the epic fantasies that I grew up with have some sort of magical system. So what is magic?

Magic seeks to manipulate spiritual powers. It is a very technical enterprise. If I say the right words or combine the right ingredients, I will get my desired outcome.

Despite what my former pastor would say Catholic liturgy is not magic. The consecration of the Eucharist is not magic, but a prayer. It begins:

Be pleased, O God, we pray,

to bless, acknowledge,

and approve this offering in every respect;

make it spiritual and acceptable,

so that it may become for us

the Body and Blood of your most beloved Son,

our Lord Jesus Christ.

This marks the difference between magic and religion. The latter seeks to beg God or gods to help with their request. fn

The Historical Tension

The introduction of Christianity to ancient cultures brought with it a tension with the practice of magic. In one hand, the New Testament itself seems indifferent to magic. The Magi bring gifts to the baby Jesus. On the other hand, the dynamic between divine miracles and magical illusions can be seen in the story of Simon the Magician (Acts 8:9-25). In this story, Simon the Magician attempts to buy the power to perform miracles specifically the power to baptize people with the Holy Spirit. Needless to say, this did not go over well and Simon the Magician is asked to repent.

Catholic Teaching Today

“All forms of divination are to be rejected:  recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future.  Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers.  They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone” (CCC #2116).

So divination is wrong because it seeks to obtain knowledge from a source other than God. So one cannot practice magic and be Catholic.

The Controversy regarding Harry Potter

So why am I talking about magic? Well, there was a controversy involving a Catholic high school and Harry Potter.

You see, history repeats itself. Father Dan Reehill had the bright idea to remove the Harry Potter book series from St. Edward Catholic school.

His reasoning?

The books present magic as good and evil. It glorifies the act of divination, conjuring the dead, and casting spells, therefore, the readers can be persuaded that those acts are not sinful. He also alleges that the cures and spells were inspired by real cures.

He has a point, but then, I’m hoping he removed Lord of the Rings and Narnia too. If not, he just comes across as a hypocrite.

Magic in Lord of the Rings and Narnia

Does Lord of the Rings and Narnia fit Fr. Reehill’s description? Let’s look.

  1. Does the work present magic as good and evil?

Yes, Lord of the Rings and Narnia surely fit. Gandalf is one of the good guys, yet he is a wizard, who does spell casting. Gandalf can conjure fire and create light. Galadriel, who also does magic, is also depicted as good. So good that she withstands the temptation of the one Ring.

Narnia is in a similar way. Both Aslan and the White Witch have magic. Other beings both good and bad have magic.

Therefore, his first description fits both literary works

  1. Glorifies divination, conjuring the dead and casting spells**

Lord of the Rings showcases divination through Galadriel’s mirror, where she can see past, present, and future events. Gandalf does spell casting. The only thing left out is conjuring the dead. In my opinion, the fact that Lord of the Rings does not describe conjuring the dead does not shield it from the same criticism. Lord of the Ring glorifies divination and spell casting through its positive depiction of the characters, who do these things.

Narnia doesn’t fare much better. In those stories, the Centaurs are a noble breed of proud warriors, who seek wisdom from the stars. They are skilled in astronomy and divination. How is this any different than astrology? Does CS. Lewis get a pass because he wrote a Christian allegory?

  1. easily pursued others that the acts are fine

While Harry Potter was my gateway into the fantasy genre, Lord of the Rings captured my imagination. I wanted to be a magical Elf. I joined the fan club website. Bought Lembas (Elven bread) and went on adventures. Could I have then fallen prey to paganism and pop spirituality, yes. Yet that doesn’t mean the work isn’t worth reading.

My opinion about Harry Potter

There has been a rise in occultism and pseudo-paganism in recent years. While we can point fingers at the media (of which Harry Potter seems the least offensive, I’m looking at you Netflix Sabrina the Teenage Witch), the real culprit is ourselves. We have removed beauty, wonder, and reverence from our liturgy and wonder why people flock elsewhere. We deny the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit and act surprised when people search elsewhere for supernatural power. If there is a notable difference with Harry Potter, it would be that it places magic not in some faraway land, but in a modern setting. Yet if the church operated to her full potential, the idea of modern magic would not be so appealing.

  • For an opinion that is different than mine go here.

Left Behind: What do Catholics Believe?

Does anyone remember the Left Behind series?

Growing up, my mom was a fan. She let me ready the kid’s version of the book.

Those books scared me a lot.

I remember vividly the descriptions of people disappearing. One minute they were there and the next minute their clothes would be in a pile in front of you. I thought that would happen to me. Jesus would leave me all alone.

As someone with a disability, this is equally terrifying. I found myself wondering what would happen to me if Jesus took my parents or caregivers when I was on the toilet.

Thus I stopped thinking about the final judgment.

Theology behind Left Behind

“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while. . . . And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth.” Revelation 20:1-3, 7-8

Protestants, who believe in the events in the Left Behind series, take the above passage literally. They believe in a thousand-year reign of Christ called the Millennium. Christ will establish this reign when he comes again in glory just before he judges all souls at the last judgment.

What About the Rapture?

The rapture is the name for the event where people disappear. There is a debate in Protestant circles. Some people believe that God would not torture his people. Thus, He raptures them before the time of persecution (pre-tribulation). Others believe that the rapturing of the elect occurs after the time of persecution(post-tribulation). For those who believe in pre-tribulation, Jesus comes three times: He comes as an infant; He comes to rescue his elect; he comes to instill his reign and final judgment. Yet the three visitation view is not biblical.

Mathew 25:31-46

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Passage Explained

Jesus never describes more than one coming. In the above passage, he implies that the final judgment takes place immediately after his second coming. Thus Protestants, who believe in a millennium, fail to reconcile the words of Jesus in Matthew with Revelation.

Catholics don’t read Left behind series

I remember I was talking to a catholic once and somehow we got on the topic of end times. I think a new Left Behind movie was coming out. My questions about Rapture and end times confused him. As a Catholic myself, I now know that Catholics don’t say much about end times. Yet every Mass we recite “he (Jesus) will come again to judge the living and the dead.” So clearly we at least believe he is coming back.

Like Protestants, Catholics believe in a tribulation. This tribulation will shake the faith of the believers and they will worship the antiChrist, which is anything that causes humanity to worship itself. After this period of trial, Christ will come and judge everyone both living and dead. At this point, the dead will reunite with their bodies. Lastly, God will transform the material world. (See Catechism 675 -677)

But What About The Millennium?

For Catholics, the thousand-year period is presently here. Jesus reigns from his throne in heaven. The angel binds the devil so that he cannot hinder the preaching of the gospel. When the devil gets loose, that will start the tribulation. Catholics take seriously the command to stay awake and be vigilant for we do not know the hour that the Lord is coming.

End Times: What’s The Point

When properly understood, the end times offer immediate value to one’s spiritual life. For starters, it causes us to be alert and gives us a purpose. We can respect God and his sense of justice. Lastly, we can have hope of life after death. The latter of which can be comforting to those grieving the loss of a loved one. I know that I can have peace in the fact that God will take everyone at once. I hope in and rely on God’s mercy that I may be a sheep and enjoy even with Christ.

For more information, check out this post from Catholic Answers

Can NFP be used as Contraception?

” When all the smoke has cleared, contraception was invented because of our lack of self-control” Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners1

Long before I knew about Theology of the Body or Natural Family Planning (NFP), I was enrolled in my Christian ethics class tasked with writing a final paper. As a new Catholic, I wanted to challenge myself to defend the Church’s teachings on contraception. Admittedly, I had had a hard time accepting this teaching. For the paper, we had to use two different methods of arguing our point. I chose to argue the scripturally and philosophically contraception is morally wrong. For the philosophical piece, I chose to cite Thomas Aquinas’ defense of self-control as a virtue.

Fast forward, I’m reading Theology of the Body. I read the above quote from Christopher West. Laughing on the inside, I think to myself, I could have written that sentence.

Yet Catholics make everything so dang complicated. Note, I don’t mean the Church, I mean individual Catholics. Let me explain.

NFP Week

NFP week occurs on July 21-27 and boy, there was conflicting information. Twitter was an especially confusing place. People accusing others of having a “Contraceptive mentality” simply because they wanted to space out their children.

As someone, who wants only two biological children (I am open to adopting much more), the moral imperative to have as many kids as possible scares me.

Luckily the keyboard warriors of twitter don’t define Catholic theology.

What is NFP?

NFP or Natural Family Planning involves using a women’s natural cycle to determine if a woman is fertile? It can be used to avoid pregnancy or to have a baby. There are many different types of NFP.

Creighton model

This model requires a woman to measure her cervical mucus before and after she goes to the bathroom. Depending on the color and texture, a woman is either fertile or infertile. There are classes a woman can take to help her know what to look for when measuring mucus.

Sympto-Thermal model

In this model, a woman measures whether or not she has cervical mucus. She also measures her temperature every morning at the same time. Based on these measurements, she determines her pre-peak, peak, and post-peak. It used to be inconvenient to have to measure your temperature at the same time every day. Now though, there have been breakthroughs in wearable technology. A quick internet search showed me a band worn under the armpit and an in-ear thermometer.

Marquette Method

This method is the newish one on the scene. It involves testing women’s hormone levels using a fertility monitor. While this method is reliable and easy to understand, it is too expensive for most women. It requires a woman to purchase both a fertility monitor and strips. Yet it is the easiest method to follow if you have the excess money to spend.

Effectiveness

By now, dear readers, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “why to go through all that work if artificial birth control is 99% effective.” Well, the reason I chose to highlight the above NFP methods is that they are 98%-99% effective with perfect use. The keyword, of course, is the perfect use. So let’s talk imperfect use.

In imperfect use, artificial birth control pills are 92% effective. The Creighton model ranges from 95%-98% effective. The Marquette model ranges from 89%-86% effective. Lastly, Sympto-Thermal model is 98%-92% effective.2

I know that is a lot of numbers to throw at you. My point is that, except for the Marquette Model, all of them are on par with artificial birth control. The latter of which comes with negative side effects.

Okay so all things being equal, why is NFP morally better than artificial birth control?

Christians have a moral obligation to choose NFP.

Self Control

But the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

As Christians, one of the signs that we are one with God is our growth in the fruits of the spirit. Check out that last one, yep, it is self-control. We should always strive with God’s grace to grow in self-control. By denying sex for a little while 6-10 days a month, you are practicing self-control.

Why NFP is not Contraception

Sex that creates life necessitates that a woman and a man have vaginal intercourse. Thus, the church requires all sexually acts entail vaginal intercourse. When a couple has vaginal intercourse and the woman is naturally infertile, this does not render the sexual act objectively sterile. Contraception, on the other hand, renders the sexual act objectively sterile. Christopher West puts it this way,

Contraception is the choice of engaging in an act of intercourse but doing something to render it sterile. Couples who engage in NFP, when they have a just reason to avoid pregnancy never render their sexual actions sterile.3

Thus NFP can never be done with “contraceptive mentality.” Sex with NFP is always open to life.

  1. West, Christopher. Theology of Body For Beginners (Ascension Press 2009), pg 113.
  2. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2012/1115/p924.html#afp20121115p924-b23
  3. West, Christopher. Theology of Body For Beginners (Ascension Press 2009), pg 111.

Female Priest: What is the Big Deal?

Female Catholic Priest: They exist?

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Catholic female priest. I was attending an organ donation religious panel. To my dismay, traditional Catholicism failed to make an appearance. Rather the panel had Judaism, Islam, and Protestantism represented. As I sat with my co-workers, this lady wearing a Roman Collar comes up to our table and sits down. After an exchange of small talk, she declares that she is a Catholic priest.

At this moment, my eyes got wide. She passes her business card, which read, “member of the independent Catholic Church.”

Now I started laughing on the inside about the oxymoron that is independent Catholic. You cannot be independently universal. I sighed and put the incident behind me until this year.

Opening the Door to Women

I taught 7th-grade religious education. When we got to the chapter on Holy Orders, I thought it would be good to interview a priest.

So I asked the youth to come up with questions for the priest. Inevitably the question of why priest can’t be female came up.

The priest said, “well, Jesus selected all males to be his apostles”. So far the answer is correct, but then it took a turn for the worse. “Yet we know that women are equally a part of the body of Christ. We know that some of Jesus’ disciples were women. Thus maybe women will play a larger role in the future.”

Shocked, I push back a little. “Father, I thought priest was male due to being in persona Christi and the fact that the Eucharist is Jesus’ male body.”

He replied, “that is very interesting, I have never heard of that argument.”

It honestly makes me wonder what is taught in seminary.

Argument Against Female Priest

Apostles versus Disciples

All of Jesus’ followers were disciples. Some of his followers were apostles. So- what’s the difference? This is explained in the gospel of Mark

“He appointed twelve [whom he also named apostles] that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons: [he appointed the twelve:] Simon, whom he named Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

So apostles have authority from Christ and have permission to preach. This is all very good.

Yet some might say, Jesus was just conforming to societal expectations. Jesus chose males because in his time males had authority. We live in a different culture, thus we do not need to follow Jesus’ example.

This ignores how Jesus elevated women.

Jesus Restores Female Dignity

In the gospels, Jesus radically treated women. Women were not objects to Jesus. This can be seen in Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan women at the well. First a little context. Jesus enters the town of Samaria at noon. It’s hot at that time. Nobody in their right mind would go and fetch water at this time.

Yet Jesus sees a figure approach the well. It’s a woman. Instead of ignoring her as the culture would dictate, Jesus chooses to engage with her. He listened to her and respected her. The Samaritan woman became a witness for Christ. Speaking of witnesses, women were the first witness to the resurrection. Mary Magdalene was one of the first people to see the risen Christ. Back in Christ’s time, women were not legal witnesses. If Jesus cared about cultural expectations, his first appearances would have been to men.

Mary as New Eve

Everyone knows that Catholics honor Mary, Jesus’ mother. Most protestants argue that the legitimizing of the Catholic church led to political corruption. The practice of honoring Mary resulted from this corruption.

There’s just one problem; the dates don’t add up. Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity 300 AD. Honoring Mary occurred much earlier.

St. Irenaeus of Lyon (d.202) compared Mary to New Eve.

Just as Eve, wife of Adam, yet still a virgin, became by her disobedience the cause of death for herself and the whole human race, so Mary, too, espoused yet a Virgin, became by her obedience the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race… And so it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by Mary’s obedience. For what the virgin Eve bound fast by her refusal to believe, this the Virgin Mary unbound by her belief. (4)

This quote stresses Mary’s role as the cause of our salvation through her obedience.

Hence, Mary is honored as helping to bring about our salvation. Christ is the new Adam and Mary the new Eve.

What does this have to do with a female priest?

Well If the early Christians thought Mary should be respected, what better way to do that then make her an apostle. Yet that’s not what happened. Rather the eleven apostles drew lots and nominated St. Matthias. Thus even though Mary was the most likely choice for an apostle, they still went with a male follower.

By making Mary the new Eve, the Church demonstrates its respect for women. Yet, the early church including the eleven apostles maintained an all-male priesthood. To understand why we must understand the relationship between the Eucharist and the priesthood.

The Function of Priesthood

Old Testament

The Old Testament describes the story between God and his chosen people, the Israelites. The Old Testament describes the Israelites as a holy nation and a kingdom of priest. Yet God also set aside the tribe of Levi for liturgical worship. The Old Testament structure becomes fulfilled by Christ.

New Testament

By our baptism, we are made priest, prophets and kings. Yet just like in the Old Testament, there is a secondary priesthood. The Levi was responsible for procuring sacrifices for the Israelites. This function is fulfilled by Christ. Jesus Christ takes on death and defeats it. Because he is God, his saving act has infinite merit.

Yet the question remains, how are the effects of Christ’s saving act applied to us? Jesus’ sacrifice is applied to us throughout time through the institution of the Eucharist. The same body that was shed on the cross is made available to us through the transformation of bread and wine. Christ’s one sacrifice presents itself in the Eucharist. Similarly, Christ is the great high priest that works through the ministerial priesthood. (CCC 1544).

The priest, when performing his priestly duties, acts in the person of Christ. When a priest is acting in the person of Christ, the priest must symbolize what is happening. Thus, when the priest says the words, “this is my body,” the priest must have a body similar to Christ. In other words, the priest must have a male body.

Female Priest: Ultimately a Lie

All sacraments must symbolize what they represent. Water cleans objects. The sacrament of baptism cleanses us of sin. Thus, water is required to represent the cleansing nature of baptism.

In the sacrament of Holy orders, a person pledges to be Christ for the people. Christ was male. Thus, the person must also be male. Having an office exclusively for males may seem strange for today’s society. Yet acknowledging the biological differences between male and female should not diminish the dignity due to women. A woman cannot claim to share in Christ’s physical body for to do so would be a lie.

Christian Rock Music: a Defense

“Can’t you see you’re not making Christianity better, you’re just making rock n’ roll worse.” King of the Hill S08E02

My History With Rock Music

I have always liked rock music.

In elementary school, when my peers were listening to Spice Girls and Brittny Spears, I was listening to Barenaked Ladies and Lenny Kravitz.

I even sang Fly Away for elementary school talent show; hides face in embarrassment.

This love for rock music never left me even though the bands and style of music did change.

Christian Rock: How it Snuck Into My Playlist

In college, I stumbled on a band called The Letter Black. I am not sure why or how this indie Christian band was featured on a secular music review site.

Not knowing what I was getting my self into I took a listen. The song Best of Me took hold of my heart and would not let go. What stood out to me was the lyrics:

If I could find yesterday

I would take You back to where I’m coming from

Cause You can see the way

All these scars have kept me running

And chasing down the past

But I’m not done, I’m turning back

I swear, You’re the only reason I keep breathing

I swear, You keep on giving me the reason to keep believing

Finally I’m worth it, though I’m not perfect

It still feels right, and I keep on giving

Trying to make a difference, in my life

But I know another way to show

Everything I can be for You

You’re all that I’ll ever need

I’ll give you the Best of Me

If I could read tomorrow’s mind

I would know exactly where You’re taking me

If I’m going to slip away

Or if I stay and give You all my trust

You will keep me safe

I know You won’t let me fade

I swear,…

This blew my atheistic mind. Why?

Because I had never considered religion to bring out the best in people. Rather I always thought religion was a crutch for people to rest on.

Yet 1st John 4:19 says

19 We love because he first loved us. (RSV 2nd Catholic edition)

At the time I had a lot of scars (still do). I attempted to find my worth in being perfect. This song explicitly states that she is worth it despite her imperfections and scars.

This message brought healing to my soul.

Overcoming Trauma:

In 2011, I was diagnosed with a herniated disc.

The news devastated me.

I had to leave school and take a leave of absence and spend 3 long months in the hospital.

For the uninitiated, there isn’t much to do in hospitals.

Thus, I listened to Christian rock music.

I need hope that secular music just could not provide.

One time, in particular, stands out.

It was the middle of the night. The nurse comes in to make me go to the bathroom. I had yet to go all day. The circumstances made the hospital staff understandably worried. They catheterized me.

Fear swirled through my head.

“What if I’ve lost my ability to go to the bathroom on my own”, I thought.

With that thought, tears came. The nurse tried to comfort me to no avail.

As the nurse left the room, I decided to turn on music.

No sleeping now, I thought as I cried.

The following song came on the radio: On The Front Lines by Light Up the Darkness

Can You comfort me when I call / Is my voice bouncing off the wall

As the weeping prophet my tears still fall

Not unlike my words upon deaf ears

I’m standing on the front lines with Jesus on my right side

I’m not defeated / I will stand tall

And my armor is fitted / And I will not fear

You held my hand / You led me here

You can defeat the enemy

I hear his cunning whispering words / I despise the enemy’s call

He tries to slay me with his lies

and I cannot compromise on the Solid Rock I stand

I don’t think that song would have the same emotional impact outside of a rock song. If it was a pop song or traditional praise song, It may have very well come across as cheesy. Yet Christianity attracted me, not through everlasting joy, but by the battle motif. Jesus is king standing on the front lines with us. He is battling the principles of darkness.

Is Screaming a Form of Praise?

The Bible talks about shouting a lot. The most famous example is the battle of Jericho.

So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. Joshua 6:20-6:22 (RSV 2nd Catholic edition)

Now we can read this as a historical narrative. Yet I also believe in a personal interpretation.

I believe that the walls represent obstacles in our lives. Things that keep us from our divine given purpose. Thus, screaming and shouting is a permissible form of praise. Our screams anticipate God’s intervention. Thus we can enter into eternal city of the new Jerusalem. Something is freeing about shouting out for God and watching the walls fall in our lives.

Christian rock: a Gimmick?

So does Christian rock music make actual rock music worse?

My answer would be, “it depends.” Artistic intentions play a large role in the integrity of the music choices. If the intention is to make Jesus seem cool or edgy and contrary to what Jesus is really about, then yes it is not authentic. Firstly, be a musician. Secondly, write meaningful messages about faith that can only be conveyed by rock music. Thirdly, don’t do it to try to spread the gospel to the masses or tap into the Christian market. We, Christians, have Christian Contemporary and praise music for that purpose.

Title Recovering from perfectionism written above crucifix

Recovering From Perfectionism

I have a confession. I am recovering from perfectionism.

On the surface, perfectionism doesn’t seem like a bad thing. After all, what is wrong with wanting the best. According to Robert McGee in Search For Significance perfectionism can lead to compulsion or withdraw. Lately, I have seen this vicious cycle in my own life.

For those who don’t know, I have been looking for a job for the past couple of months. I tend to go after jobs with a lot of energy. Submitting resumes and writing cover letters with gusto, until I get rejected. Then I fall into despair, feeling angry, frustrated, and like a failure.

Rinse, recycle, repeat. If only there was some truth that could set me free from this vicious cycle.

To all the perfectionist out there, I bring you the good news.

Jesus bought you through his sacrifice on the cross.

The basic gospel message: Jesus paid the debt that we could not pay to free us from sin. So your performance doesn’t matter. Jesus has done it all. Just believe in Jesus and he will look on you as righteous.

It sounds good until you start asking questions.

Who did Jesus pay? If it’s God, well then God doesn’t sound very loving. What kind of loving father would condemn his only son to a painful death to satisfy some sick sense of justice? If it’s the devil then that’s even more problematic. Jesus aka God shouldn’t owe the devil anything. Maybe it is the debt of sin itself? Yet if that was the case, why not just cancel everyone’s sins? You don’t need the theatrics or the sacrifice.

Also, why would God be merely content to call us righteous rather than making us righteous? After all, didn’t what God spoke in creation come to pass? For example, didn’t God say let there be light and there was light? So when God calls me righteous, wouldn’t I become internally righteous?

We must have a proper understanding of justification and atonement, otherwise, we fall into either despair or perfectionism.

Justification: the Truth that Combats Perfectionism

Robert S. McGee states that to eradicate the fear of failure, we must accept that Christ died for our sins. We must accept that Christ takes our sins and covers us with His righteousness. Since Christ has done it all, there’s nothing I can do. It all just seems too easy. Thus, justification is the forgiveness of sins and the declaration of righteousness.

Is it just me or does it feel like something is missing? Under this framework, there is no room for becoming a new creation. Yet St. Paul clearly says,

17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 2 Corinthians 5:17

God does justify us as a free gift in response to faith. This justification accomplishes two things. First, it forgives our sins, and second, it makes us a new creation. God is not content to declare us righteous rather he wants to make us righteous.

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him, we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2

Since Paul says we can hope in sharing the glory of God, we know that we do not yet possess the glory of God. Likewise, we know that God prepares us to do good works (Ephesians 2:10) and we know that God will complete his work in us (Philippians 1:6).

Hence justification is not a one-time declaration, but rather it is a lifetime of growing in righteousness.

Atonement: An Act of Love

God is not angry at us. God did not punish his son, Jesus, to appease his wrath. Rather, Jesus came to restore our relationship with the father. Jesus took on flesh to elevate our own human nature. Jesus freely chooses to become satisfaction for our sin. Thus he lovingly frees us.

When I look at the crucifix, I do not feel shame nor condemnation. Rather I feel joy and overwhelmed by the father’s gift of love. His body is broken for us, not for us to remain sinners, but to become like God through self-giving and mercy.

I do not become like God through merely assenting to what Christ has done. Rather, I become like God by relying on God’s supernatural grace that God freely gives me through prayer, sacraments, and works of love.

Goodbye Perfectionism

When I first became Catholic, I was worried about scrupulosity. I worried that I would feel this pressure to do good works in order to earn my salvation. Yet a funny thing happened. I became less ridged. The church’s expectations are clear. if I follow them I will receive supernatural grace. I do not earn the grace due to my effort, but Christ promised to aid his bride, the church.

I ask the Christ will aid me knowing that the work he began in me at baptism, he will finish in me until I am the spotless bride of Christ.

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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The Indianapolis Archdiocese made the correct decision.

A Reflection On The Debate Regarding Gay Teacher

Headlines filled my twitter feed. Indianapolis archdiocese removes Catholic standing from Jesuit school over a dispute regarding the gay teacher.

Immediately, the usual suspects begin rushing to the school’s defense. They cite unjust discrimination. Catholic Church only cares about sexual sin. They target gay and lesbians to make themselves feel more righteous.

I have heard it all and I’m here to set the record straight. This is about authority. It has nothing to do with the teacher’s sexual orientation.

Let me explain.

Defending the Indianapolis Archdiocese

Public verse Private Sin

So the Archdiocese justifies the firing by saying,

All faculty are ministers and as such, they’re public and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic teachings.

But the liberal Catholics cry, why don’t you fire every Catholic, who uses contraceptives?

When I entered into the Twitter debate, my favorite example was why don’t they monitor food intake and fire people for gluttony and greed.

The problem with all of those examples is that they are all private sins. Gluttony requires a person to take pleasure in food.

Thomas Aquinas said it best, “too soon, too expensively, too much, too eagerly, too daintily.”

There’s a certain internal attitude one must have to be greedy or gluttonous.

Contraception is something a person does in the privacy of one’s own home.

Just like the government, the Catholic Church can’t invade the privacy of the marital chamber.

Marriage; however, is a public declaration. It is a signing of a piece of paper that becomes part of a public record.

The Catholic Church believes marriage is between a man and a woman.

By participating in a same-sex marriage, the teacher has publicly declared an opposing view on marriage that is contrary to church teaching.

Anytime anyone publicly declares anything contrary to church teaching, that person will be fired.

An analogous situation would be participation in a black mass or working for an abortion clinic.

I believe that if the man had not been married and just in a homosexual relationship, there would have been no justification to fire him. Thus it is not an attack on his orientation.

Rather it is a direct attack on the Archdiocese’s authority over marriage.

Speaking of authority….

Who’s the boss? Archdiocese or Brebeuf Jesuit preparatory high school

First, What does Catholic mean?

At its very basic Catholic means universal.

To be universal, the church must be united.

To achieve this unity, a Catholic organization must be united with Catholic authority.

The bishop is the supreme authority over Catholic organizations in a diocese.

The school wants to be independent. They say, “always maintained control of our school’s operations and governance, including our personnel decisions.”

Sorry, you can’t be independently universal. That makes no sense.

Final thoughts

Ultimately liberal Catholics will make this story about unjust discrimination.

Don’t be fooled, it is solely about authority.

Does the church have the authority to define marriage? Does the bishop have authority over Catholic organizations?

Any Catholic in good standing should answer yes to those questions.

Yet a Brebeuf Jesuit preparatory high school wants to answer no to those questions and cries when their hand gets slapped.

Catholic means having universal assent with church teaching. There’s no room for individual conscience.

Thus the Archdiocese is right.