Sunday, December 20, 2009

God Exists for Purpose

I heard an interesting argument about the existence of God on Catholic Radio the other day. (Catholic Answers Live--the same people who do; really great site) They were talking about faith and reason and how they work together--one cannot exist without the other.

An atheist called in and said he was trying to understand their point about faith being necessary to understand science. He thought they were trying to say that science could not explain everything and faith was necessary to sort of fill in the gaps. On the contrary, the radio guest responded, faith does not serve to simply "fill in the gaps", it is necessary to answer the question "Why?" In other words, it gives a purpose for why things are the way they are, why we are different from animals, why life must continue on, etc. Without faith, science is merely a collection of facts that mean nothing.

The caller responded by saying that he didn't necessarily believe that there had to be a great Purpose for everything. We just are. He said that humans are really just animals with bigger brains, and they don't necessarily need religion. He himself was a perfectly moral, kind human being without being religious at all. We are kind and loving towards one another because we care about the continuation of our species. We don't want to harm those of our kind. Religion itself is a concoction of our more developed brains that merely gives us a set of rules to help us to be greater than the other animals. To sum it up: the reason we are capable of morality, loving and caring for one another, is because we understand that it makes us more powerful than the animals and therefore better able to keep our species thriving.

It was the response of the host of Catholic Answers Live that struck me. He said, "Sir, let me ask you this. Why is the survival of our species important?"

Ah, now that is the question. Why is it important that our existence, as a human race, continue? If we so dare believe that there is no God, and therefore, this life is all we have, then why wouldn't we believe that all that matters is my own individual life and having the most pleasures possible? After all, life is short--shouldn't I make the best of it? Why would it matter what I pass on to those who would come after me? Besides, there is so much suffering and sadness in this world, why would I want others to experience it? So what if the human race became extinct? Life has no purpose anyway, so why wish anyone else the chance to live? They would never know the difference.

I'm sure no one actually feels that way. No one in their right mind thinks that selfishly. We all want to pass on a beautiful world and happy life to our children. But why? It's because we know, deep down, no matter if we believe in God yet or not, that there is a purpose to this life. It is always better to have lived then to not live at all. Even through all the suffering and pain, we live for the relationships and company of one another, the joy of being together, of being loved. Why do we feel that way? Because we are created in the image and likeness of God. We care about the continuation of our race because we believe in the value and beauty of each human life, and we couldn't stand to see that end. We love each other because we know we are incredibly valuable. We are valuable because we are created by someone who loves us more than we could ever love ourselves. Science doesn't understand love. But God does.

Even the animals have a purpose. They are created. They carry on their existence because God has breathed life in them for us. For us. (Gen 2:18-19) Though they do not know their purpose, they have a beautiful place in creation. They too, are valuable.

Without faith, without God, we have no value because we have no purpose. Money is valuable because of its purpose as currency. Heirlooms are valuable because they have meaning. Gold is valuable because it is beautiful and pure. We are beautiful because we are created in the image of our Creator, who is God.

So any time someone tries to tell you there is no God and science has all the answers, ask him or her if science can tell you why we should continue to live. If there is no God, then what are we living for?

I live for Love. God is Love.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Immaculate Conception

Okay, so I know I said I would write about this subject last Thursday, but time got away from me and I got really busy, so I apologize. Well, I guess I’ll dive right in.

There are a lot of people who probably don’t really know what the Immaculate Conception is all about. Many of them think it is about Jesus’ conception and not Mary’s. Perhaps that is because the Gospel reading on this feast day tells the story of the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her and she will become pregnant with the Son of God. Or perhaps it is because many of us don’t like to talk about the fact that Mary was without sin. She was, by the power of God, saved from sin at her conception. But we don’t want to talk about that with out Protestant brothers and sisters—they disagree with us. That’s understandable. Or is it?

Well, I say we take a look at the first reading.

One might wonder why we have the first reading from Genesis, chapter 3, on this feast day. It’s the one where God confronts Adam about eating fruit from the forbidden tree. Adam explains that Eve gave it to him and Eve, in turn, says the serpent tricked her. God, angry with the serpent, declares, “Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals… I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” (Gen 3:14,15)

So what does this have to do with Mary?

Well, I think there is a hidden message here. First let’s ask some questions. Who is “the woman” in verse 15? Who is the offspring? First off, what does enmity mean? says enmity is “a feeling or condition of hostility; hatred; ill will; animosity; antagonism.” So if there is enmity between two persons, it would be safe to say that they are enemies. The serpent we know is the devil, and therefore the enemy of the serpent and his offspring is Christ. So the offspring of the woman is Jesus Christ. If Jesus is her offspring, then the woman must, of course, be Mary. Okay, so we get that.

So if “the woman” is Mary, and there is enmity between the serpent (the devil) and Mary, then they are divided, enemies of one another. Mary’s offspring is Jesus Christ, so what is the offspring of the devil? Sin and death. All sin comes from the devil, the serpent, the tempter. (Sin is not from God.) Since Mary is “the woman” there is enmity between her and the devil. She is separate from the devil; she is not of the offspring of the devil, therefore she is not of sin. The devil is the father of all sin and death and she is the Mother of our Redemption—Jesus Christ. She cannot logically be of the offspring of the devil and yet still be the mother of that which fights the offspring of the devil. So she must have no sin (since all sin comes from the devil).

Another way to look at it is this: we are sinners because we are born with Original Sin which gives us a fondness for sin. Or fallen nature causes us to want to sin because it gives us immediate pleasure. We have a tendency to sin. If we grow closer to God then we learn to dislike sin, even to hate it. We get rid of our fondness for sin. In Genesis, God said that there would be enmity, or utter hatred, between the devil and “the woman”—Mary. This hatred of Mary toward the devil and sin demonstrates her complete lack of a fondness for sin. There is enmity between her and sin. She has no desire to sin. Absolutely no desire to sin = no Original Sin.

I’m not saying that Mary has any power of her own. God chose her for a special purpose and therefore saved her “ahead of the game”. It is only through the virtue and merits of Jesus Christ that Mary was conceived immaculately. But all the same, she was conceived without sin. She wasn’t the first woman God created without sin—weren’t we just talking about Eve?

One last thing. Some might argue that saying that Mary had no sin removes her free will. This is most certainly not true. Eve was created without sin and yet she allowed herself to give in to temptation from the serpent. I’m sure Mary was tempted many times in her life, but she remained full of grace and followed God’s will wholeheartedly. She was not without suffering either. She watched them crucify her only Son whom she loved more dearly than we ever could, and her Immaculate Heart was pierced a thousand times. Thank God we have such a strong woman to be our Mother.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Novel Introduction

Today is the feast of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Beautiful feast day. I just got out of Mass about an hour ago. I have a lot to say about it, but it is late and I am tired and I am afraid I will ramble on making little sense, so I think I will save that for tomorrow.

Instead, I am going to give you an excerpt from the novel I am currently writing. I haven't thought of a name for it yet, but it is a fantasy novel with Christian influences. It is about a fallen world in which three women hold the powers of the body, soul, and mind of all creation. In the world's brokenness, the women are cast to all the ends of the earth and their powers are forgotten, until one evil one sees their vulnerability and tries to capture the women to channel their powers and become an all-destructive god. A man named Marion sees the danger and makes it his personal duty to save the world.

So, here is a blurb from the first draft:

The arrow split the air in two, ripping it apart like a blade cutting paper, separating the winds like Moses parting the sea. It scattered the atoms, soaring through the gases dead on its path—a zip line whipping through the sky. Leaves shivered with its passing, branches waggled as it missed them by millimeters. Dead on it soared, never slowing, never wavering, until finally its journey halted as its tip eased itself into flesh—just behind the shoulder of a buck. Fellow arrows followed, and together their slender straight bodies and fine pointed tips took the massive buck to the ground.

Marion grinned at his marksmanship. His hunt had not failed after all. He would be eating richly tonight. He stood from his crouched position on the ground and started forward, brushing the branches aside as he headed toward the fallen buck. It had been a long time since he had tasted venison. The past week had left him with little more than a couple of rabbits, a bird, and some wild fruit. He needed to head back to his path by the river. That was where the larger animals would roam. But he hated the river. It was too fertile, too full of life. There he crossed the paths of too many other humans. Marion preferred to be alone. He hated the questioning looks of those who found his long, dark, tangled hair unappealing, or his wild fur attire that covered little more than necessary disturbing. His angular jaw was too hairy, his brown eyes too dark, his broad chest too tan. Worse, his social skills were far beneath the rest of those in the nearby town. But that was how he chose to live his life. This life of wandering the wilderness was the life for him. The deep woods was his home—the tree tops his ceiling, the trunks his walls, the ground his bed. And tonight, here, at home, he would feast.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Restless Heart

Life is hard. Joyful, but hard. Even some of the things you enjoy the most, like holidays, can often be difficult. Traditions are broken, people change, expectations are left unmet. Everyone grows up, including all your siblings, and the magical holidays of your childhood are suddenly only a memory.

Why does it have to be like that? Why do we get frustrated and hurt and saddened when things don't go exactly the way we had planned? Someone in the family decides they want to spend more time with another cousin instead of you. A married sister intends to go with her husband's family rather than your own. Your husband has a tiff with his father. Your own mother forgets to call.

We're not perfect. We're human. We're fallen. Often we look to our family as the greatest source of happiness in our lives, the people who are supposed to make us feel good about ourselves, the people who love us the most. We have expectations of them. They're family, we say, of course they will do all they can to love us and take care of us.

But they are not God. God alone can fill the void in our hearts. God alone is what we were created for. Family certainly brings us closer to God, but it is not the end all. God is our Father; God is our Family. We were created to live in Him. He alone will never disappoint. As Saint Augustine would say, "You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts is restless until it rests in you."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The King

I'm sorry it has been so long since I last posted. The truth is, we have not had internet for the past ten days. We live outside the city so we can't get cable out here, and my husband is a bit of a gamer and can't use satellite internet to run his games properly, so we decided to use the Verizon wireless internet service. It works pretty well but, unfortunately, it has a strong limit on how much bandwidth we are allowed to use. The prices for going over are very steep. Somehow we managed to nearly meet our limit with ten days left in the billing month. I tried to write a bit and post it during lunch at work, but posting at my work is fire-walled. I can read posts, but can't create or edit them.

So, here I am twelve days later, finally posting.

Today is the feast of Christ the King. It's really a beautiful feast. Every reading at Mass today declared the glory of Christ and proclaimed him our great and powerful leader--the King of all kings. I was captured by our first reading from the Book of Daniel that described the Son of Man coming on a cloud to the Ancient One where he was blessed and given power, authority, and rule over all. Isn't that a beautiful picture: Christ being taken before God His Father and crowned in His glory? It is an image that has stuck with me. It reminds me of popular movies and stories of medieval kings. In most of them you have a young man who may or may not be a nobleman, but he fights for his people and defeats the evil ruler or oppressive tyrant to save lives. He risks his live to save the lives of those who rely on him to protect them. Then, after proving himself a true hero and leader, he kneels before the bishop and is crowned king. (In modern stories we have a similar archetype; for example: The Matrix--the One, Neo, follows this pattern. Wasn't Christ called the One in the reading from David? How much older is the Bible than the story of the Matrix? Hmmm... I wonder how many story-telling archetypes we find in the Bible? The greatest story ever told... and it's all true...)

This is Christ who stands before our Father and is granted the kingdom. He is the great hero, the powerful leader, who fights the Evil One and grants us our freedom. The feeling of joy and pride we have for our handsome movie heroes (whether is be Arthur, Aragon, Peter, or the like) is nothing compared to the passion and love we should feel for Christ as our King. The great kings of long told legends are mere shadows of our Christ. If we can fall in love with them, how much more should we fall in love with Christ the King.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You can't see me

You can't see me
You can't hear me
But you can feel me.

And I can feel, like you.
I am a part of you
an individual.

You don't know me,
not yet,
But you will
That is,
If I survive.

I've never done anything wrong
I've never tried to harm you
I just am.
You participated in my coming to be.

There are bits of you in me
I will have your hair, your eyes, your smile.
It's all recorded in my little body.
I am a lot like you
A piece of you was used to create me.

But I am small
I am vulnerable
I need you.

You were small once,
You understand.

But now you are grown,
Maybe one day I will be loved
Or do you love me now?

Someone does.
Someone created me.
I am no accident.
I am valuable.

Please don't forget about me.
Even if you try
You won't forget.
I am a part of you
an individual.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Learning from Protestants

So, I feel like I was a little harsh on our Protestant brothers and sisters last time, so I decided to take a moment to share a few things I think we Catholics could certainly learn from them:

1. It's not about following rules.

Sometimes I think that Catholics tend to go through the motions.
We think that if we just follow a set of rules and obligations then we will be okay. Often we get lost in a pattern of going to church and saying the prayers and tend to forget why we are really there. We are there to give glory to God and fall more in love with Christ. I’m not saying that the rules and obligations are bad—they are necessary to give us guidance and stability in our rather messy lives. Many graces come from going to church every Sunday even if we do it only out of obligation. Even our repetitious and pre-determined prayers can give us comfort in times when we don’t know what to say. But we can achieve a much greater relationship with God if we search for the truth behind the repetitious prayers we recite and the obligations we follow. There is so much we can learn about God and His love for us just by learning about the Mass, but often we are too bored in Mass to even pay attention. Let’s learn a little something from our Protestant friends who proclaim a relationship with God that allows them to want to go to church and listen to His Word.

2. The Bible is worth the read

It’s cliché, I know, but I know you’ve heard the joke at Catholic conferences:
“If you forgot your Bible, just look over the shoulder of your Protestant friend next to you…” We Catholics don’t read our Bibles nearly enough. We take it for granted that it will be read to us on Sundays, or we think that it’s only for those priests, much holier than us, to read. It’s only the most beautiful love story ever written. If we would just take a minute to sit down with the Great Book or maybe attend a Bible study, then our faith could grow so much. Maybe we could take the readings every day and meditate on them, or read what a theologian has to say about them. We can even take a minute to memorize a few verses that might help us when discussing theology with our fellow Protestants. (I suggest 150 Bible Verses Every Catholic Should Know, Patrick Madrid) Protestants are like walking Bibles themselves, so why should we stand there dumbfounded? After all, it was members of our Church who wrote the New Testament (along with the Holy Spirit of course). So if we follow the Catholic Church today, why not read what they wrote nearly 2,000 years ago? There might be something of value in there.

3. It’s not that scary to share your faith

Why is it that many Catholics don’t like to talk about being Catholic? It’s as if they think it’s some sad condition they have that no one else wants to hear about. Surely not. We should be joyful about our faith. It’s the most important thing we’ve got. Without God we are nothing, so why wouldn’t we want to share our joy in Him with everyone we know? It is so easy for many Protestants to praise God in the presence of anyone and talk about Christ as if they just spoke to him that morning (which they probably did…). Faith is normal to them—a part of everyday life. That how it should be for all of us. We should be unafraid to talk about what the priest said last Sunday, or what the Catholic Bishops say about health care, or just about God our Creator. If we really care about our neighbor, then we should care about their faith as well. Let’s not be selfish—share the faith.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Communion for All? Who wants it?

I heard one of the best arguments against open communion the other day. I was listening to Catholic Answers Live on the radio (great show by the way--comes on from 5-7 pm central time on EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network), and this person called in wondering why the Church did not allow open communion with other Christians. His point (which was a very good one) was that the Church was always saying how it desired there to be one church and all Christians to be united, yet it was very exclusive in the distribution of communion. Only practicing Catholics are allowed to take the Eucharist.

Well, there are the standard reasons we say in response to this question: you should not receive the true Body and Blood of Christ unless you truly believe and understand (to human capacity) the mystery that it is the Real Presence of Christ Himself, otherwise you eat and drink unworthily and are guilty of Christs body and blood (which Paul warns against in 1 Corinthians 11:27); and when we go to Communion we are proclaiming that we are in union with the Catholic Church and believe what it teaches, so, for a Protestant to receive would be a lie. So the apologist gave the caller these standard responses and the caller's rebuttal (also a good one) was that it seems we are actually working against striving for this union of the church because we are not allowing others to partake in our Eucharist--we are pointing them out as divided against us.

So, the great response that this apologist (and I regret not remembering his name) gave was simple. He said that we would LOVE to have everyone come to our communion, but that does not mean we should pretend there is a union there that doesn't exist. In other words, we should not assume that these people are in communion with us just so they won't feel left out. There is a separation that needs healing, and we can't act like it isn't there, otherwise it would never heal. That would be like trying to cure cancer by pretending you don't have it. It doesn't work that way. If we allowed everyone to receive communion in our church we would be saying that it is okay that they don't believe what the Catholic Church teaches and the divide would continue. The reality is it's not okay that many do not believe in the Catholic Church. It is absolutely not okay.

I'm not saying that Protestants are all bad or that they don't have the truth--after all, they are Christian--but they are missing some important parts of the whole Truth that can only be found in the Catholic Church. I believe in the Catholic Church because I believe its the whole TRUTH. If I didn't believe that, then why would I even be Catholic at all? I would have no true faith because it would be okay to believe whatever was convenient. There are over 33,000 Protestant denominations (World Christian Encyclopedia, 2nd edition, David Barrett, 2001), each believing something different, and many of them think that doesn't matter as long as you're Christian. What kind of faith is that? If you believe one set of doctrines and someone else believes another and you're fine with that, then how can you say that you believe in the Truth? That's relativism.

The fact that the Catholic Church says it's NOT OKAY that we are divided and makes a point that you must be united with the Catholic Church in order to receive the Eucharist (the greatest Sacrament), says a lot about the faith of the people. We believe that we are the Church that Christ instituted and He never ever intended it to be divided (John 17:20-23). We want to heal the divide; open communion would only make it worse by saying it's okay to believe what you want. Instead, we must evangelize to our Protestant brethren and draw people into the faith. The Eucharist is for everyone, but you must have true faith in it. We would LOVE to have EVERYONE participate in our communion, but that doesn't mean we are going to compromise. Communion is for All, but if you truly want it, you must come to believe in the Truth, passed on to us by the Church established by Jesus Christ--the Catholic Church.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Jesus, I want to see, too!

Today’s Gospel reading at Mass hit me rather hard. It made me think about my own spiritual blindness and reluctance to call out to Christ. It was Mark 10: 46-52—the healing of a blind Bartimaeus. This blind man struck me as a powerful figure who had extreme faith in Christ though he had been through such great suffering in his life. He was both blind and a beggar who lived on the street. Yet, he had the courage to cry out to Jesus. How many of us, when we are hit with hardship after hardship after hardship tend to turn from Christ and become angry with Him instead of turning to Him and asking Him to heal us? Why do we do this?

Well, I think the Gospel may have some insight (as usual).
In verses 47 and 48: “On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he [Bartimaeus] began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.’ And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.” The beggar sat by the roadside, completely humiliated, crying out to Jesus for healing, and the people tried to silence him. They were embarrassed of him; they didn’t think that Jesus would care about him; they were annoyed and worried that the beggar would bother Jesus. They saw him as a lowly, pitiful man who could do nothing for himself. I think a lot of us feel embarrassed to rely on the Lord. We don’t want to think of ourselves as beggars who need Christ’s healing power and grace. We want to be able to say that we did it on our own. We don’t want people to make fun of us, to think low of us, to have pity on us, or to see us as useless and unable to take care of ourselves. We certainly don’t want to be seen as a poor blind beggar.

But that’s not all.
Another clue to our reluctance to turn to Christ lies in what the beggar did after he was healed. It’s kind of hidden at the end of the reading, almost like an afterthought. But I think it’s pretty important. Verse 52: “Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.” Followed him on the way, eh? So the blind man was healed and he immediately followed Christ. Is that what we are willing to do? Are we willing to follow Christ in order to enjoy happiness in our lives? Or would we rather do things our own way, even if it means endless suffering?

I got to thinking about this blind man.
He could have chosen to sit there quietly, letting Jesus pass on by, and keep to his life of blindness—but at least he wouldn’t have to follow Christ. He could have stuck to the life he already knew, doing his own thing and taking care of himself the way that he knew how. But he would have been blind.

Aren’t there many of us who make that choice—who choose to let Christ pass by without calling out to Him?
We would rather carry on with the life that we know, handling it all on our own, content with our blindness, because it would be too hard to follow Christ and His will for us. We think we are strong enough; we don’t need anyone else and certainly not Christ as our leader. We would rather stick with our own will, our own plans, though they continue to fail and make us miserable, because we are afraid of what God might ask us to do if we trust Him. Our way is more predictable and therefore more comfortable.

I’m sure it was hard for that blind man to make the choice to cry out and follow Christ.
He faced those men who looked down upon him, saw him as needy and useless, and rebuked him, yet he called out persistently in the face of humiliation. And look what it got him: healing. (Who should be rebuked now, eh?) Then, he immediately got up to follow Christ. Think about what the Apostles did when they left everything—their homes, their families, their way of life—to follow Him; it was no easy task. But then, you might think, “The man was blind and a beggar; of course he would rather follow Christ who gave him his sight than to remain there on the street!” Well, that’s exactly my point. Christ is always the better Way.

There are many of us who have harder lives than others, and in some ways I consider that a blessing; it forces us to need Christ, to cry out to Him.
Many people who have an easy wonderful life never see the need for God in their lives, and they don’t even realize how empty their lives are. Rich people who have no worries about putting food on the table or paying for health care fill up their lives with stuff and yet are left feeling so unfulfilled. Those who are used to having things handed to them on silver platters never feel the value of hard work, and are left wanting something more. They are the truly blind ones. So, rejoice in your suffering, and know that God is calling you to greater things. You don’t have to do it on your own. In fact, you’re a stronger person if you don’t do it on your own. Cry out to Christ. Beg for Him, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thoughts on Evil

Disclaimer: This post is not necessarily based on Catholic teaching, but merely on my own thoughts.

Someone once told me that our perceptions of good and evil are all wrong. He said that God would never punish us or send us to Hell because He loves us. Therefore, no one was in Hell--there was not really such a thing as "evil". This person had recently read a book called "Conversations With God" by Neale Donald Walsch that inspired these thoughts in his head.

I decided to give that book a try. I didn't read very much of it; I found it quite dense, slightly irritating, and altogether wrong in its theology. Perhaps I should have read more of it if only to dispute it. Part of what I read spoke of this concept that everything exists in opposites: good and evil, light and dark, life and death, etc., and the only way to experience good is to experience being without good. The idea is that you cannot know good until you experience it; you cannot fully experience it until you experience being without it--hence, evil (which is merely a name we gave this absense of good). Therefore, whenever we experience bad events in our lives, it is so that we can know what good is. Walsch took it a step further saying that we are free beings that are godlike in the sense that we choose what it is we want to experience; we make things happen, though we may not know it, and therefore, we are subconsciously choosing these bad things in order to experience good. If only we understood more about ourselves and our beings, then our world would be a much better place. God, in his goodness, gives us the greatest freedom to experience all that we want and therefore would never punish us for it. I'm sure there was much more to it than that, and I may not be getting it exactly the way the author put it, but that's is how I understood it (on its most basic level).

Well it got me thinking a bit about good and evil, Heaven at Hell, and what all that really means. The thoughts swirled in my head for a little while as I tried to sort them out, but eventually I let the storm subside and I forgot about it.

Then, probably six months later (now), I started reading "The Shack" by William Paul Young. I am about halfway through, and I have to say that it is... okay. The theology appears pretty sound though shaky at points, and much of it seems slightly irreverent. But for the most part it has a decent storyline and good thoughts that can get through to a lot of people, I imagine. As I was reading today, there was a discussion about good and evil, and my inner questions arose once again. To some degree "The Shack" presents some of the same thoughts as Neale Donald Walsch. God, in the book, says, "...evil is a word we use to describe the absense of good, just as we use the word darkness to describe the absense of light or death to describe the absence of life. Both evil and darkness can be understood only in relation to light and good; they do not have any actual existence." Hmm, interesting, much like Walsch... God (in the story) continues, "I am light and I am good... Light and Good actually exist." So there's a thought. God is good and the absense of God is evil.

So where am I going with this? Well, the question posed to me earlier was on the reality of Hell and whether or not God would send us to Hell. The answer is no, of course He wouldn't, but we can choose to go to Hell by choosing to be without God. We can choose evil by choosing to not live in God. All that is good comes from God, and God is only good, so nothing that is evil can be from Him. Therefore, those who go to Hell do not go there because of God, but because they have chosen not to be with God. If God did not allow us to make the choice to be without Him, there would be no free will. In fact, if God did not allow us to make the choice to be without Him, we would not have fully and freely experienced living in God's Love, because we would not have chosen it. It would have been forced upon us. (Have you ever had an admirer you didn't really like? Someone that bugged you all the time and followed you around--he/she forced his/her love upon you unwanted? Not so wonderful, right?) God never stops loving us whether we choose to live in Him or not, but he does not force us to accept His Love.

I will go on to say that this thought does carry on the idea of the dichotomy of good vs. evil, and that is why there must be a Hell. Hell is the place where one is furthest away from God who is all good, while Heaven is where one is closest to God. If one can be closest to God and feel His Almighty presence, then surely one is able to be furthest from God and feel the absense of His presence. If one can stand in the Light of God in Heaven, then one can be in utter darkness, totally apart from that light. If one can feel God's incredible, all encompassing Love, then one can certainly feel the absense of it. In fact, for there to be a Heaven, there must be a Hell, otherwise Heaven could not be so great without something to compare it to. (We would be left knowing no different, wondering "Could it be worse?" or "Could it be better?".)

I have heard it said that the pains of Hell are not inflicted on a person out of hate, but they are the result of God's love still being poured out on that person even while he is apart from Him; that person is so utterly despairing simply from the awareness that he is apart from the one who loves him, the one his body and soul were meant to be with. That Great Love of God being poured out on him burns him as much as it would have overjoyed him if he had chosen to live in God's love rather than eternally be apart from it. The pain of Hell is as great as the joy of Heaven. We were made to be with God, and choosing to be without him is our destruction.

It remains to be said that there is such a thing as evil, and there is such a thing as the Devil, the Great Deceiver, who wants us to be without God. He is the first who chose to be apart from God, since he desired to be as Great and powerful as God, and he is so far removed from God, he is Evil itself. Do not be fooled by this propaganda that evil does not exist; it may be the absense of good, but it is real. (Cold may be the absense of heat, but it is just as real to me--and so miserable!) The Devil is not as powerful as God, nor as great, and the battle has already been won, so please make sure you are on the winning side. It's only the Devil deceiving us when we start to believe that evil is not real--he's just trying to get us to fall in his trap.

So, Light and Darkness, Good and Evil, Life and Death--each must exist in order for there to be the other. And, honestly, the Light of God, the Goodness of God, Life in God are all worth all darkness, evil, and even death, because the reality of it is, without them, there is no God.

This whole discussion has spawned some new questions I'd like to think about and answer on later posts:
If Hell is so bad why doesn't God just make us all go to Heaven?
Why did God allow us to eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Catholic and Lovin' It

I've started a number of blogs, and I think this one may end up being my favorite. I'll tell you why:

I'm Catholic. I've been Catholic all my life--cradle Catholic as they say--and I recently have begun to understand exactly what it means to be Catholic.

For starters, I belong to a Church that has been around, unchanging in its doctrines, for around 2,000 years. The founder of my Church is Jesus Christ, Himself, Son of God and Lord of all. My Church never ceases to amaze me in its expression of the Faith: the profound truths in its doctrines, the indisputable reason in its teachings, the incredible depth of its theology, and the Spirit that moves, alive, within it. I have studied the faith for a few years now and have yet to find a question that I could not answer within it. There may be mysteries left not fully understood, but there is always a reasonable and faith-filled answer. And nothing, no one, has ever been able to deter me from my belief that the Catholic Church holds the full Truth as revealed by God.

Now those are some pretty big, bold statements to make. I should clarify--I in no way know everything about the Catholic Faith. In fact, what I do know is minute, miniscule, compared to what the great Doctor's of the Church know, or even those men and women apologists and theologians who study the faith today: people like Tim Staples, Scott Hahn, Jimmy Aiken, Patrick Madrid, Karl Keating, Fr. Vincent Serpa, etc. But I do know that I can always find the answer, and searching for it is part of the fun. I can't wait to look into some of my favorite aspects of the Catholic Church--the Sacraments (especially the Eucharist), the Trinity, Mary, patron Saints, Angels, and much more. That's what this blog is all about.

I forgot to mention that this is also about creativity. I love creative writing, and I'd like to share a little bit of that, too. Some of it may be profoundly Catholic or Christian, while much of it is just plain from the heart. It's likely not very good, but it's all I've got, so I guess it will have to do. Anyway, all I can do is write--that's what blogs are for.