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Posts Tagged ‘Choices’

St. Francis of Assisi

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2014/09/26 at 12:00 AM

This coming week on October 4th, Holy Mother Church will celebrate the feast day of one of her greatest and most beloved sons: St. Francis of Assisi.

Born in 1181 to a wealthy cloth merchant, St. Francis lived a rather high-spirited life as a young man, but he soon became enamored with serving the poor…so much so that he desired to live a life of poverty himself.

The saint’s decision to live among and serve the poor provoked his father to rage, who threatened him and even beat him.

Eventually, Francis publicly renounced his father’s patrimony before the bishop, and in an act of extreme humility he gave back to his father even the clothes he was wearing, stripping himself naked in the church.

By this act of stripping himself of clothing, St. Francis not only gave up his inheritance, but he symbolically stripped himself of all worldly attachments and proved himself a worthy spouse of “Lady Poverty”, the mistress he sought so earnestly.

Clothed for the rest of his life only in the rough habit that became the trademark of the religious order he founded, St. Francis grew steadily in Christian perfection, and is said to be the saint most like Christ.

Although not a priest, but simply a deacon, St. Francis was known for his preaching, even traveling to Egypt to preach to the sultan there. But all the same, it is St. Francis who is believed to have said: “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”

The point of the quote is that anyone who seeks to promote the Good News of the Gospel must not only speak of it, but must also embody the Gospel by the way he lives his life.

In other words, if we wish to proclaim the Gospel effectively and with integrity, we must live according to its precepts!

In our first reading from the Book of Numbers, we hear the story of our Lord bestowing upon 70 chosen men the same spirit that was on Moses so that they might prophesy.

However, two of them, Eldad and Medad, weren’t gathered with the others when the spirit came upon them, but nonetheless the spirit came upon them where they were so that they, too, prophesied.

Joshua, the young aid of Moses, objects to their prophesying away from the others and wants Moses to stop them. But Moses responds wisely: “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow His spirit on them all!”

While not all Christians are called to preach publicly, it is our baptismal call as Christ’s followers to be prophets in our world today, speaking our Lord’s truth and doing our best to live it as well so that others might come to know our Lord.

This is the beauty of St. Francis and all the saints: they were prophets by the way they lived their lives, and we should be too! Simply by living a life of Christian virtue, especially by exercising the virtue of charity, souls are drawn to Christ and saved!

Sadly, people who live their faith openly are becoming more and more of a novelty in our society today. But the upside to this situation is that the overall loss of Christian values in our society makes our prophetic witness stand out all the more.

Although our country may be filled with churches, we can see from the assaults on religious freedom being waged by the Obama Administration and by the ever- increasing legalization and expansion of immoral acts such as abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex unions that the U.S. is no longer a Christian nation.

Even many of our brothers and sisters in the various Protestant denominations are embracing and promoting these moral evils as not only acceptable but even “good” under the misguided notion that “tolerance” and “inclusivity” are forms of charity.

Taking a rather elitist approach to Sacred Scripture and disregarding the clear denunciations of these sins by the various writers of Scripture as being unenlightened or unsophisticated, they bend and change the meaning of God’s Holy Word to agree with their social views.

This is not only academically disingenuous and morally dishonest, but it’s dangerous to one’s salvation. For we can never embrace sin as a good and hope to go to Heaven.

Christian charity requires that we be welcoming to sinners. We are called to be radically charitable to everyone, no matter what their backgrounds are or what sins they’ve committed.

Jesus Himself provides a model for us in the way he dealt with the woman caught in adultery. He did not condemn her, but rather He said: “Go and sin no more” (cf. John 8:11).

So while Christian charity calls us to welcome the sinner, true Christian charity does not tolerate sin. To the contrary, true Christian charity recognizes sinful behavior for what it is and lovingly seeks to correct it. That’s the whole point of our Gospel today.

Our blessed Lord tells us today in the Gospel that we must make a choice in our lives: either we are for Him or we are against Him. There is no middle ground between our Lord and the devil. So we must do all we can to rid ourselves of sin so that we can belong fully to God.
Because our Lord wants to show how serious this matter is, He makes some rather drastic suggestions with regard to ridding oneself of sin: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. . . If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. . . If you eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.”

Of course our Lord is speaking figuratively here. He doesn’t really expect us to maim ourselves. His point is that we should do everything in our power to avoid anything that leads us into sin.

Please understand, brothers and sisters, that when it comes to sin, the stakes are high. So many people today live their lives, sinning with reckless abandon, with very little reflection on the consequences of their sins.

And yet there are always consequences to our sins, whether we recognize them or not. Sin not only offends God, but it alienates us from God and makes it harder for us to love and live a holy life. But we must also recognize that our sins affect other people too.

As Christians we are one body in Christ, a fact that we celebrate and that is most perfectly realized when we receive Holy Communion. In Holy Communion we are joined not only with Jesus, but also with one another as well in a mystical union of love!

This is why only practicing Catholics in a state of grace and in good standing with the
Church are permitted to receive Holy Communion. Our sins separate us from God and one another, and the Church’s laws regarding Holy Communion illustrate this for us.

But not only does sin separate us from God and others, it also makes us less capable of helping others find their way to Jesus and His saving mercy. Sin robs us of the joy and the love necessary to win others over to Christ and His Church.

My brothers and sisters, do you wish to lead others to Christ so that they might be saved? Do you wish to be saved yourself? Then ask yourself: what is it that keeps me from being fully united with our Lord? What are my sins? And then cut off all that is sinful within yourself.

While we may never be completely free from every sin, if we are truly sorry for our sins, our Lord’s mercy and forgiveness will relieve us of our sins and heal our defects so that we may be not only His faithful followers, but His effective prophets as well!
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
30 September 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
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Essential Truths

In 07 Observations on 2014/02/21 at 12:00 AM

Detailed notes taken by Aida Tamayo on Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism Series

EXISTENCE OF GOD
St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas present a strong case for the existence of God, using math, reason, and logic. Aquinas developed 5 arguments.  Contingency.  Things come into being and they pass out of being.  They don’t carry within themselves the reason for their own existence; there is an extrinsic cause that brought them into being- a cause outside of them…  A flower opens up and withers, a dog is born and dies, a cloud develops and passes away, even the planets are contingent and will end one day.  We haven’t explained the existence of any of it.  We must come finally to some reality which does exist through itself, to some necessary being whose very nature it is to BE.  This is GOD.  Keep this in mind and remember the answer Moses got when he asked God its name: I am who AM. Not a being among many, but the one whose very nature it is to BE.  The theological language is meant to change us spiritually in relation to God.  God is the one I can never control.  Through a sheer act of generous non-violent love, He creates all from nothing.  Personally, I don’t question God’s existence, just His Will when it comes to me.  Working in Faith Formation, with a temperament for reflection, and with Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament next door, I have the opportunity to experience God daily, and I need no other proof of God’s existence.  I see Him acting everywhere and to me His existence is palpable.

MYSTERY OF GOD – HE WHO IS
This is a reality – Psalm 139 tells us that we cannot grasp God in his transcendence, and we cannot hide from him either.  Adam and Eve learned this hard lesson having tried to do both. We just need to Love Him.  Augustine said:  If you think you understand God, then it is not God.  St. Augustine also knew that our souls are searching for eternal satisfaction and it is not to be found in any terrestrial thing.  Jesus also revealed to us the Trinity: The lover, the beloved, and shared love (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

THE QUESTION OF EVIL
If God is benevolent why does he permits evil?  I used to ask myself that same questions until one day I gazed upon the body of Christ on the cross above the tabernacle.  I got it, this is the greatest evil ever committed in the history of humanity:  The killing of Goodness Himself by His own creation, in the most horrible way possible.  We are not talking about sinful men killing sinful men.  We are talking about sinful men killing the One who sustains them, the One in front of whom they should have been prostrated in adoration.  Even after Jesus in His humanity asked the Father to take this cup from him, He still surrendered to the Will of the Father and so this most hideous evil occurred.  Why did God the Father willed that the Son submit to evil? There are a few lessons here.  I finally realized…this has to do with free will, choices, and consequences and God’s perfect balance of justice and mercy… and yes, our place in the order of Creation.

LESSON FROM THE CRUCIFIXION OF THE SON
1. Good over Evil – God allows an evil to occur to bring about a greater good.  (For example, Christ’s death and resurrection).  On the cross the darkness of the human condition met the fullness of divine love and found itself transfigured into light making even death itself a place of hope.  Good and evil meet. Justice and mercy flow. His justice flows from His holiness, His mercy flows from His love. Thus the Suffering Servant.

2. The Suffering Servant – Jesus suffered for our inequities (justice) so that turning to Him we can find mercy.

3. Underserved Suffering – What about evil that befalls us causing underserved suffering like it did Jesus?  Let’s take Job from Old Testament, a righteous and faithful servant who saw everything taken from him.  When Job challenged God on this question, God took Job on a tour of the cosmos, showing Job all the patterns of His designs and how the event of Job’s life is but a dot in the great canvas of God’s Creation.  God looking from eternity has a perfect view of all events and he is always bringing goodness out into existence. Job saw his suffering was not wasted and at the end greater goodness came about in his life.  We lack holiness to offer sufferings directly to the Father for reparation but can join our suffering (deserved or underserved) to Jesus’ suffering to help others.  When we look at our lives, we must include eternity in our range for this to make sense.

FREEWILL, CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES –

The Church teaches that when God created humanity He gave it a touch of divinity by creating a soul in his image with faculties to reason (intellect), to choose (will), and capacity to remember (memory).  Unlike God the Son who was begotten not created of the same nature as the Father, we are just a creation with limitations and lacking the attributes of the creator.  Our perfection and goodness is tied to our union with God by freely choosing love and fidelity to Him. The moment we take our eyes off God and contemplated ourselves as God’s equal we opened the door for evil.  God cannot commit evil because his essence is love and goodness.  He is the source of Goodness.  If we separate from the source, then our goodness fades away.  What remains is evil.  Evil does not have an origin as does goodness, it is the lack of goodness.

We are made in God’s Image, but we are NOT His equal.  Every time we make a choice there a consequence that will bring us closer to God or set us apart from Him.  Evil in the world is the result of choices humans have made throughout humanity’s existence that negates the goodness of God, because the choice goes against one of God’s laws, whether it is physical, moral, or natural laws.  God is always acting to bring goodness out of evil but if He gave us the freedom to choose, He will respect our choices, thus the suffering.  If more people were making good choices we would see goodness overtaking evil.

Laymen: “Resolve” to Discern God’s Will for You by Fr. McCloskey

In 04 Fr. John McCloskey on 2012/06/15 at 9:11 AM

In one of the scriptural passages most often quoted by Blessed Pope John Paul II during the course of his historic pontificate, a “rich young man” asks the Lord what I consider to be the only question really worth asking once one reaches the age of reason and understands the reality of death: “What must I do to gain eternal life?” As we know, the Lord gives two related answers. One is “to keep the commandments.” After the youth asserts that he has done so since he was a child, the Lord challenges him with a more demanding answer: “Sell what you have, give to the poor, and come, follow me.”

These answers were, without question, the will of God for that young man. After all, God himself was speaking to him. As we remember, he “went away sad for he had great possessions.” We will never know, short of heaven, what great plans the Lord might have had for him if he had said yes. Maybe he would have replaced St. Peter as the Prince of the Apostles. After all, he seemed to have a lot more going for him than the often-simple fisherman, so full of obvious defects alongside his virtues. But the rich young man did not say yes. He was free but clearly attached to the things of this world, and he lacked the generosity needed to follow the Lamb wherever He goes.

A simpler answer to the rich young man’s question would be: “Do the will of God, whatever it is, no matter the cost.” I have written this article to help you discover the will of God for you and then follow it with God’s grace. Ultimately, nothing else—nothing less—will make you relatively happy in this life and eternally and ecstatically joyful in the next.

I should point out at the beginning that there are some general ways for learning the will of God for us that apply to everybody. On the other hand, God also has a specific plan for each one of us, and that may require a little bit or a lot more time to discern. Read the rest of this entry »

Ability to Choose by Fr. Reid

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2012/05/18 at 11:11 AM

• Of all of the characteristics that set man apart from the rest of the natural world, our ability to choose is the most fundamental.

• In His great love and solicitude, the Creator has endowed man with the capacity and the freedom to make decisions for himself. So unlike the animals, we are not bound to act according to instincts. We are not bound to act even according to our emotions.

• Rather, we can exercise our intellects to assess any given situation and then decide upon our course of action.

• Our Lord gave us this capacity and freedom not simply because He loves us. Ultimately, our Lord gave us this capacity and freedom so that we could choose to love Him in return, for love is always a choice – not simply an emotion.

• As we learned last Sunday, our love for God is best shown through obedience to Him and His most adorable will. God gave us the capacity and freedom to choose so that we would choose to obey His will in every situation, and thereby show our love for Him.

• For every act of obedience to God and His divine will is in essence an act of love. And not only do we show our love for God by our obedience to Him, but we are ennobled and made holier by choosing God’s will over our own.

• Throughout the course of a normal day, each of us is confronted with hundreds of decisions we must make, many of which are decisions of little consequence, such as what shoes we will wear.

• Other decisions, such as what we eat or how we carry out our work, may affect our health, livelihood, and well being, and therefore are decisions that we weigh with more gravitas.

• But even more important than these decisions affecting our health and livelihood are the moral choices that we must make,  specially when we are confronted with the temptation to sin. This, of course, is the theme of our readings today.

• The good news is that if we do choose to sin, we know that our Lord will show us His mercy and forgive us if we are truly sorry for the sin. Our Lord will even forgive the gravest and most serious of sins if we are truly sorry for them.

• But even though God will always forgive the contrite sinner, there is always a price to pay for our sins, for every sin we commit – no matter how big or small we may think it is –damages us and those around us.

• The Catechism teaches that: “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity” (CCC #1849).

• “Sin is an offense against God…. Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become ‘like gods,’ knowing and determining good and evil” (CCC #1850).

• “Sin is thus ‘love of oneself even to contempt of God.’ In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation” (CCC #1850).

• The Catechism goes on to teach us that: “Sin creates a proclivity to sin; it engenders vice by repetition of the same acts. This results in perverse inclinations, which cloud conscience and corrupt the concrete judgment of good and evil” (CCC #1865).

• So by using our capacity and freedom to choose in a sinful manner, we undermine our capacity and freedom to choose in the future.

• Any sin that is committed repeatedly distorts our judgment so that good and evil are not as readily apparent. We see this most starkly in people whose consciences are sufficiently deadened to enable them to regularly commit the gravest of sins, such as abortionists or prostitutes or hardened criminals.

• But we also see this phenomenon in the not-so-hardened sinner who has learned to justify his or  her sinful behavior, such as a student who regularly cheats on tests, or a couple who contracepts, or a teenager who routinely lies in order to avoid punishment.

• Furthermore, any sin that is committed repeatedly enslaves us, robbing us of the freedom to say no to it. Anyone who suffers from an addiction is living proof of this truth. Simply put, the more we commit a sin, the more likely we will commit it again.

• But while sin tends to reproduce itself and reinforce itself, it cannot destroy man’s moral sense at its root (cf. CCC #1865). On some level, man always retains some capacity – as mitigated and corrupted as it might be – to choose.

• Thus, my brothers and sisters, it is of utmost importance that we make a fundamental choice to obey God in order to protect ourselves from the consequences of sin.

• Our readings today set up a dichotomy between the first Adam, who by his sinful life unleashed a spiritual death upon all of his progeny, and the new Adam: Jesus Christ, who by His death made life possible once again for all who choose to follow Him.

• We see in the stories from our first reading and Gospel how each of these Adams confronted temptation. The first Adam, in a fit of pride, was seduced by the evil one, while Christ humbly countered temptation with the spiritual tools of prayer and fasting.

• Holy Mother Church gives us these readings today on this 1st Sunday of Lent as a means of strengthening us and preparing us for our Lenten journey, through which we hope to imitate Christ through the spiritual practices of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving.

• She gives us these readings at the beginning of this holy season of self-renewal as an encouragement for us to choose to be like Jesus Christ, the new Adam, rather than the first Adam who fell from grace.

• This fundamental choice of the spiritual life is one that we must make every day, for every day we are confronted with temptation. Temptation to sin is and always will be a constant in our lives. It’s never going to go away.

• So we must learn how to exercise our free will to say no always to temptation so that we might avoid the devastation and horror of sin.

• To help us in this battle, we have the spiritual tools of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving, which unite us more firmly to God, strengthen our wills, and increase our charity.

• These spiritual tools help us make reparation for our sins, and they help to undo the damage caused by our sins. As such, the practices of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving are absolutely indispensable for any of us who have repeatedly fallen into grave sin.

• And so, my brothers and sisters, as we begin our way through the desert of Lent, let us be firm in our commitment to increased prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. But even more importantly, let us be firm in choosing to serve God, and God alone.

• May our Lord, in His mercy, strengthen us all against every temptation this Lenten season.

Copyright 2011 by Reverend Timothy S. Reid

Reverend Reid is pastor of St. Ann’s Catholic  Church in Charlotte, NC

A Helluva Place

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2012/05/10 at 11:15 AM

When a society or an individual rejects God, as does ours, at least in practice, the ability to think logically and rationally about the really important questions of human life (namely Where did I come from?, Why am I here?, Where am I going?, How do I get there?) is notably diminished.  These questions are either ignored or answered erroneously. (Remember, an idea or fact is not true because YOU think it is, or even sincerely believe it is; it is  true only if the idea or fact conforms to reality.)

God is the source and standard of Truth , and we must measure what we consider to be true against the divine standard of Truth.  If we are not in conformity with it, it is we who are in error, not God.

If this erroneous thinking is not corrected, or if divine Truth is rejected or ignored, the new standard of truth becomes one based on the faulty thinking of the  movers and shakers of the society and divine Truth is lost which, of course, does not affect God at all, but leaves those who subscribe to  errors as victims of their own choices.  At the same time, divine Truth  (found in Sacred Scripture and the Tradition of the early Church) still has an impact due to the Natural Moral Law imprinted on the human soul.  Some of these doctrines (truths) being ignored or rejected are not to the liking of those whose “truth” is dictated by the culture.  One of these is the doctrine of Hell.  Scripture says it is real, painful, frustrating, and has no means of escape or release … ever.

Since many people do not want to deal with the doctrine of Hell, they either simply deny that it exists (without any convincing arguments) or they amend the doctrine to claim God is “so good” that He could never make hell eternal … even though He said it was eternal. Everyone, they say, gets out sometime and goes to Heaven (the false doctrine of universal salvation).  Consoling, but false!

Because God is truth and cannot deceive (if He could, He would not be God because He would have this deficiency and would not be perfect, as God must be) we know that Hell does exist whether anyone believes it or not.  It is an objective fact based on Scripture. “ I don’t believe in Scripture, so there.”  So what!  It’s still true!

What is this place called Hell?  What is it like?

We really don’t know precisely.  No one has ever returned to tell us about it.  Perhaps the reason is that such a report might frighten us into morality, and that would lead to questions about a person’s sincerity and true motivation.

Hell is described by Christ as a place of never-ending torment and punishment for those whose life has been marked by rejection of God, at least in practice and who die in a state of unrepented serious sin.  “Come on!  I don’t believe that.”  So what!  It’s still true!

According to Scripture, Hell has an element of serious pain by fire, a fire that burns but does not consume because those in Hell are immortal.  They cannot die again, so the fire rages non-stop, without any end in sight.

Those condemned to Hell feel also an acute sense of loss, concerning their forfeited salvation which can never be rectified.  They realize (probably at the point after death) that they made a colossal mistake by their own free will by refusing to follow God’s plan for their lives.  They will spend all eternity regretting their own stupidity and realizing that what they gained in life by rejecting God was not worth it compared to the consequences of their actions.  They realize that to avoid Hell would have been easy … obey God rather than the warped culture and its false prophets.  All the material things they thought were so important and necessary in life such a power, popularity, sex, drugs, etc., are long gone, and they know they had been a fools who are forever reminded of their bad judgments and choices throughout life.

Hell is the consequence of a choice.  Every human is given the ability to chose God or Satan, just as the fallen angels were.  God has never condemned anyone to Hell; He merely ratified our choice.  Even the false idols we were so fond of in life did not cause us to sin; it was our choice to follow the wrong road.  I suspect that when those in Hell review their lives, they will have to admit that they are there because, in effect, they preferred to be there by  their bad choices and poor judgments.

Hell is real, and many people in our irreligious culture are heading there because of their own adoration of the culture.  “I believe God is just too good to have created such a place.”  Really?  Dream on!   The fact that someone does not believe in Hell means nothing.  (If I don’t accept a truth, that’s too bad for me, not the the truth.)

Hell is not a predestination for anyone; it can be avoided.  How?  By rejecting what the moral law rejects, by  developing a true relationship with God instead of with the transient lures of a corrupt society, by obedience to the divine Will.  We were designed to have a relationship with God; it is a part of our human nature set by the Creator.  The habitual sinner violates his own nature which is God-oriented.  Follow the truth of God, because after we die, there is no chance for repentance.  Let’s not be one of those who the second after death looks around and says: “Well, I’ll be damned.”

“God who created you without you, will not save you without you”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2012/03/21 at 9:11 AM
 I am copying this example of cowardice from a letter so that you will not imitate it: “I am certainly very grateful to you for keeping me in mind, because I need many prayers. But I would also be grateful if, when you ask Our Lord to make me an apostle, you would not insist on asking him to make me surrender my freedom.” (Furrow, 11)

I readily understand those words of St Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, which ring out like a wonderful hymn to freedom, ‘God who created you without you, will not save you without you’ [1]. Every single one of us, you and I as well, always has the possibility, the unfortunate possibility of rising up against God, of rejecting him (perhaps by our behaviour) or of crying out, ‘we do not want this man to rule over us’[2]…

Ask yourself now (I too am examining my conscience) whether you are holding firmly and unshakably to your choice of Life? When you hear the most lovable voice of God urging you on to holiness, do you freely answer ‘Yes’? Let us turn our gaze once more to Jesus, as he speaks to the people in the towns and countryside of Palestine. He doesn’t want to force himself upon us. ‘If you have a mind to be perfect…’ [3], he says to the rich young man. The young man refused to take the hint, and the Gospel goes on to say: abiit tristis [4], he went away forlorn. That is why I have sometimes called him the ‘sad lad’. He lost his happiness because he refused to hand over his freedom to God. (Friends of God, 23-34)

[1] St Augustine, Sermo 169, 13 (PL 38,923)
[2] Luke 19:14
[3] Matt 19:21
[4] Matt 19:22