Prayer and Sacrifice

I have spent some time in my blogs talking about suffering and sacrifice. I’ve discussed how we all go through it, and that, by enduring the suffering with our eyes focused on the cross, we will be drawn closer to Christ. What I have not considered in my own life is all of the ways in which we are called to endure suffering and sacrifice. We endure financial suffering and sacrifice. We endure physical suffering and sacrifice. There are many other ways that suffering and sacrifice come into our lives.

What I have not considered, is that we also endure suffering and sacrifice in our prayer lives. I have always had the expectation that when I go into prayer that I will be spiritually nourished and refreshed. When that doesn’t happen in my prayer life, I have a tendency to just give up. I didn’t give up when I endured unemployment. I didn’t give up when I or my family members endured physical suffering. Yet, at the first signs of struggle with my prayer life, I throw in the towel.

Truth be told, there will be many times of spiritual dryness for all of us. Mother Theresa spoke about years of spiritual dryness in her own life, but she did not give up. She did not give up on her prayer life, nor did she give up on her vocation. We are called to be a prayerful people. We are called to enter into a relationship with our Lord. Do we give up on our spouses, families, and friends when those relationships become difficult? Of course not! We shouldn’t give up on our Lord when that relationship becomes difficult as well.

We need to allow–even force–ourselves to continue to pray through the dry periods. Just as we are drawn closer to Christ through enduring financial or physical suffering we will also be drawn closer to Christ through enduring spiritual suffering. Additionally, prayer needs to become the number one priority in all of our lives. We need to stop making excuses for ourselves when we neglect our prayer lives. We all have the time and ability to pray. We just need to do it.

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Published in: on May 24, 2009 at 1:34 pm  Comments (2)  

"What the Church Teaches About Sex"–A Book Review

I recently became a book reviewer for The Catholic Company. The first book I received as a part of the program was Robert L. Fastiggi’s book, “What the Church Teaches About Sex.” It is a very well written book that gives a lot of insight into the history of the Church’s teaching on sex. It also explains in easy to understand terms why the Church holds the stance that she does.

While overall it was a very good read, there is one chapter in particular that I want to focus on for this review: Chapter 4: Sexual Sin and God’s Mercy. Fastiggi explains that “sins engaged in freely and repetitively inevitably result in ‘perverse inclinations, which cloud conscience and corrupt the concrete judgment of good and evil'” (59). He goes on to point out that lust is a capital sin and that:

As a capital sin, it leads to other sins and a lessening of the love of God and neighbor. What other sins are engendered by lust? Frequently, it involves the exploitation of others for one’s own gratification, which is a grave offense against charity and justice. Patterns of manipulation likewise come into play, and lustful people often employ deception to seduce others. Lust can also lead to reckless behavior, infidelity, unwanted pregnancies, and abortions. (60)

There has been a progression of moral decline in sexuality over the past 50 years. It started with the wide acceptance of artificial contraception and then moved to the sexual revolution. It has led to an increase in the divorce rate and a proliferation of pornography and the murder of unborn babies. In his book, Fastiggi spends time talking about these different types of sexual sin: pornography, masturbation, homosexual acts, fornication, cohabitation, and contraception. He states that “these sins are so widespread in our present culture that many people find it difficult to understand how they are sinful at all” (62). We are sliding down the slope towards complete moral depravity. If the murder of babies is now accepted by much of our culture, I fear what comes next as we continue this slide. What could be worse?

There is, however, an answer to all of this. God’s mercy. Our God is a loving God. He sent His Son to die for us because of His love for us. Fastiggi notes that “Jesus came to call sinners, and the Catholic Church is well aware of the weaknesses of human nature. Those who ‘miss the mark’ in sexual matters must humbly and sincerely ask God for mercy, forgiveness, and the grace to resist temptations in the future” (63). We have, as Catholics, the wonderful Sacrament of Reconciliation. We need to make use of it. We also need to guard our minds and souls from the temptations and attacks to give into sexual sin. We need to seek out the strength of the Lord to help us.

Published in: on May 19, 2009 at 11:06 am  Comments (1)  

The Pursuit of Money

Money. We all need it. We’ve all got some. Some people have more than others. There are people in America that are super wealthy, and there are people in America that are living paycheck to paycheck. There are people living in mansions and there are people living on the streets. These are the two extremes of life in America. There seems to be a great inequity in America when it comes to money. I say “seems to be” because I don’t think there is as much inequity as we feel there is or as we are led to believe.

We live in the wealthiest nation in the world. Money is the primary focus of just about everything we experience in our daily lives. We see it on television. We see it in the government. Life in America is all about the pursuit of wealth. We look at those around us, our neighbors, our friends, and we wonder why we don’t have what they have. We see the wealth of others and we become envious of it. What we fail to see, however, is that money is a means to an end, not the end itself. What we don’t realize is that if we have money in the bank, a couple of bucks in our wallet, and spare change in a dish somewhere in our house that we are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. We have more money than 92% of the world! Think about it. And we complain that WE don’t have enough money?

Money is to be used as a tool to provide for our basic needs. If we have a roof over our head, food on the table, clean water, and clothing then our basic needs are taken care of. We should not worry about anything else. Everything else, from our computer to designer purses and shoes, is unnecessary.

One of my favorite scripture quotes is this one:

“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

We live in a society in which we are being hammered on all sides by consumerism. We are led to believe that if we don’t drive a Lexus or live in a big house or wear designer clothes that we are poor. We are led to believe that we are entitled to have everything we want. It’s a lie!! Don’t buy into it. Don’t conform to the ways of the world. Yes, we are entitled to our basic needs but most of us in America have those needs covered. Life is not about pursuing worldly goods. It is about serving the Lord. Life is about sacrificing what we WANT in order to help others have what they NEED.

Published in: on May 17, 2009 at 1:12 pm  Comments (2)  

God Really Likes Me

A friend recently said to my wife and I, “God must really like you guys because He gives you lots of opportunities to trust in Him.” Between 7 months of unemployment, potential medical issues with our unborn baby and other issues, financial and otherwise, these past few years certainly have tried our faith and trust in God. But I’ve never approached these opportunities like our friend stated it. As the old saying goes, “God won’t give you what you can’t handle.” God certainly has given us plenty of opportunities to trust in Him. I guess He does like us, or at least He thinks we can handle more than we think. Isn’t that true for everyone, though?

God will never give any of us more than we can handle. He really does like, and love, us–ALL of us. We all have trials in our lives. We are all faced with suffering and sacrifice. It is all just a part of life. When we have trouble trusting in Him, we feel that He is giving us more than we can handle. We are unwilling to accept what we have been given. We want life to be fun and easy. However, that is not the way of Christ. It is not the way of the Cross. We are all called to bear suffering and sacrifice, whether it be big or small. Suffering is a part of life. The question is: Are you willing to bear it with Christ? If we are able to do this, then we will be received into the fullness of His mercy, grace, and love.

Published in: on May 12, 2009 at 12:35 am  Comments (5)  

Christianity Is More Than Just a T-Shirt

Being a youth minister I have become a big fan of Walt Mueller and the CPYU. I have also spent a lot of time reading his blog. He is full of wisdom when it comes to the media and a Christian worldview. His most recent post, Integration, Same-Sex Marriage, and White Bikinis. . . . got me thinking a lot about what it means to be a true Christian. You should take a moment to read it yourself.

Many of us call ourselves Christians. We wear the t-shirts and crosses around our necks. When people ask us about our faith, we tell them we are Christian. However, many of us self-proclaimed Christians fail to actually live the life of a Christian to the fullest (myself included). Carrie Prejean is a perfect example of this. Don’t get me wrong, I salute her for what she said. It takes a lot of guts to stand up on a national stage and proclaim her beliefs, especially when she knows that the one asking the question won’t like her answer. She could have given the answer that Perez Hilton wanted to hear in an effort to win the title, but she didn’t. She stood her ground. However, as Walt points out, her prancing around stage in a little white bikini does not exemplify Christian behavior.

Being a true Christian means integrating the teachings of Christ into your WHOLE life, not just when it’s convenient for you. It is a lifestyle. You need to wear Christ in your heart, mind, soul, AND body. I admit, I’m a miserable failure at doing this. All of us are. It’s a part of our fallen nature. But we should all make an effort to integrate Christ into our whole being instead of just wearing the t-shirt.

Published in: on May 1, 2009 at 7:49 pm  Leave a Comment