Sunday, May 10, 2015

Christianity Is Not About Being Right: It Is About Dying


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I use to be a political junkie. I listened constantly to talk radio and watched political talk shows every night. The aim of all this political talk was and still is to show how right one side is and how wrong and even evil the other side is. No one is looking for enlightenment or understanding. Both sides are convinced of their own rightness and nothing can make them budge from their positions. I finally came to see that arguing and demonizing those with whom you disagree never brings people together but serves only to foster hatred and division between people.



I have come to the same conclusion about the vast majority of the Catholic blogosphere. One would hope that the purpose of Catholic blogging is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to bring people to the Catholic Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, to gain eternal salvation. Instead, most people use their blogs to "expose sin and corruption" in the Church and the world. Most Catholic blogs are nothing more than a mixture of yellow journalism and biased editorials. People write their blogs with the sure conviction that they have the answers to all of the problems of the Church and the world. Anyone who doesn't agree with them is a sinner headed to hell. Like talk radio, they demonize anyone - be it laity, priest, bishop or even the Pope - who does not agree with them. They look at a world living in opposition to Christianity and instead of reaching out with compassion and mercy as Our Lord showed us, they criticize and condemn.

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A sad illustration of the divisive nature of the Catholic blogosphere is my recent interaction with Father John Zuhlsdorf, one of the heroes of the Catholic blogosphere, which I wrote about HERE. I had commented on his blog that a statement he made was in direct conflict with the teaching of the Church. I did not give my opinion, but quoted from Pope Benedict XVI. His response was to ban me so that not only can I not comment anymore, but I can't even view his blog on my IP address. Is this how an ordained priest spreads the saving message of the Gospel?



Is this what Christianity is all about?  Is it "I'm right, you're wrong, end of discussion"?  Did Jesus Christ come to earth as a man and literally pour out His Life on the Cross so that His followers can show others how right they are and how wrong and evil the rest of the world is, including and often most especially, how wrong and evil other Christians are who don't agree with them?


The gospels contain many lessons that Jesus Christ gave to His followers about what it means to truly follow Him.  The beatitudes, found in Matthew 5:3-10, are a core lesson in Christianity.  Our Lord gave us these essential characteristics of His Followers:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Notice that there is nothing here that says "Blessed are those who are right" or "Blessed are those who can win arguments." Christianity is first and foremost about who we are, not what we know or our ability to win a debate. Our goal as Christians is not to be the smartest guy on the block, but to give our lives in service to God and mankind.

Christianity is, very simply, about love. I John 4:8 tells us, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

There is certainly nothing wrong with becoming a great scholar or intellectual.  We should constantly be learning and growing in the knowledge of our faith. But as St. Paul warned us in I Corinthians 13, unless our motivation is to grow in love, we are nothing more than a clanging cymbal.  The Pharisees in Jesus time were great scholars and intellectuals, and yet they - not prostitutes, adulterers, thieves, murderers - were the only ones ever condemned by Jesus Christ. Why?  Because they did not love.  

Our Lord told us that we achieve greatness - which is defined by the beatitudes listed above - only when we become very small, just as taught by one of the great doctors of the church, St. Therese of Lisieux:

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Our Lord told us, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 18:3). Little children never presume to have all the answers. They tend to drive adults crazy because they are always asking questions, always seeking to learn.  Little children don't have the time or inclination to judge others.

A large part of becoming trusting and childlike is self denial. One of the most amazing statements made by Christ is found in Luke 17:33: "Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it." Christianity is about laying down our lives in love. All of the beatitudes listed above contain self denial as the core ingredient.

St. Paul the Apostle taught over and over that to be a Christian is to die daily. That certainly does not mean ending our physical life. As St. Paul told us in Romans 12:1, we are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God.  And what is a "living sacrifice"?  According to Psalm 51:19, "My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn." That is the sacrifice God is looking for. Isaiah 66:2 tells us: "These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word."

St. Paul wrote throughout his letters in the Bible about the importance of dying to ourselves and to worldly desires.  Here are just a few examples:
  • Col. 3.:1-4 - Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
  • Romans 6:4 - We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
  • Gal 6:14 - May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world
  • Romans 6:8-10 - Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
  • Gal 2:19-20 - For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
  • Galatians 5:24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires
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All of us started our Christian life with the sacrament of baptism. This is as true for Protestant Christians as it is for Catholics. Baptism is the symbol of dying to ourselves and rising with Christ. It is a very real sacrament, and we do receive the Holy Spirit and become children of God when we are baptized. But we are a long, long, long way from dying to ourselves. We actually spend the rest of our lives learning how to submit to Jesus Christ and giving our lives to Him. It is only when we have finally accomplished this, when we have died to ourselves, that we can then be raised with Christ. Some achieve this spiritual death while still on earth. Most of us will need the final purification of Purgatory.

A big part of dying to ourselves is accepting the authority of Christ in our lives, and that means accepting the authority of those men He has ordained.  To rebel against the Church is to rebel against Christ. Venerable Fulton Sheen wrote:
What does obedience do for us? Obedience gives us faith. How does the scientist learn the laws of nature? Does he command nature, or does the scientist sit passively and read the book of nature? Are we reacting against Christ and his Church, or are we accepting its authority? Faith comes from that kind of submission. Remember that when our Blessed Lord was born, Herod consulted the scribes, the theologians. He said to the scribes, "Where is Christ to be born?" The theologians knew their scripture. They said, "He is to be born in Bethlehem." Did they go? There was not a single scribe at the crib -- not one. But they knew. 
Our faith today can be a kind of credal assent, instead of a living act of the will, conscious of the fact that we are submitting to Christ, as Christ submitted to the heavenly Father. Scripture tells us how closely faith is related to obedience. Notice, too, that at the crib, only two classes of people found their way to Christ when he came to this earth: the simple and the very learned -- the shepherds who knew that they knew nothing, and the wise men who knew that they did not know everything; never the man who thought that he knew.
("Through The Year With Bishop Sheen", Ignatius Press, Page 233).


We need to always remember that whenever we think we have all the answers, we have lost our way. Boasting that we have all the answers means we are not submitting to Jesus Christ and accepting His answers.  The first one to fall into this trap was Lucifer, and he has successfully used this trap on countless millions throughout the ages.

As I have stated elsewhere, Protestant Christians are at a big disadvantage here because they cannot trust the leaders in their churches.  They do not have the promise of the infallible leadership of the Holy Spirit.  They do not have the promise from Jesus Christ that the gates of hell will not prevail against their churches.  They do not have direct spiritual descendants of the apostles in leadership positions.  As a result, they must always rely on their own reasoning and spiritual insight, which is just as fallible as those of the leaders in their churches.  They are like victims on life rafts trying to navigate the stormy ocean instead of being inside the shelter of a lighthouse planted firmly on a foundation of Rock, unmovable and unshakable, which is the Catholic Church founded by Jesus Christ.

However, many Catholics - both "liberal" and "conservative" - do not seem to trust the foundation of the Rock any more than Protestants do. These Catholics seem to prefer trusting in themselves. They don't realize it, but by doing so they have put themselves in the flimsy rafts with the Protestants. Far too many Catholics seem to feel the need to constantly question and even reject the apostolic leadership put in place by the Holy Spirit. Many Catholics feel they have everything figured out, and if those in leadership positions don't see things their way, then those bishops, priests and even the Pope are just plain wrong and need to be rejected. The consensus of these Catholics seems to be that the human leaders of the Catholic Church are on the same level as politicians, who need to be voted out when they don't "tow the line."

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I have personally been denounced by many traditionalists as an "ultramontanist" because I support Pope Francis and the rest of the Magesterium. "Ultramontanist" is a fancy word for one who basically worships the pope as if he was an infallible god. Yet, if you dare to question one of the heroes of these traditionalists, such as Michael Voris or Father John Zuhlsdorf, they will attack you and accuse you of heresy. These Catholics refuse to accept that it isn't the flesh and blood men of the Catholic Church that we trust but the offices that they occupy. The men in these offices may be very holy men or they may be great sinners. Even if they are great sinners, we as laity cannot make the decision that they have to be booted out of office like an unpopular politician. We can disagree with statements or actions, but we are not at liberty to reject their authority, because to reject them is to reject the true authority of the Church, which is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

I believe that if more Catholics accepted the fact that their job is NOT to save the Church or the world but rather to submit their will to Jesus Christ, many of the problems in the Church would be resolved. But, you say, didn't Christ tell us to preach the gospel to every creature and baptize all people? Absolutely. But we need to remember that is not the same as "saving" the world. We need to ask ourselves, is it tools that build a house or the carpenter who uses them? As St. Paul said in I Corinthians 3:6 - "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow."

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A Christian - a true follower of Jesus - is not one who can answer every question and solve every problem. A Christian is not one who stands in judgment of his fellow man. A Christian is one who submits his will to Jesus Christ, allowing Christ to live in him. A Christian is one who loves and who lays down his life for God and man, just as Jesus Christ did. A Christian is one who, like our Blessed Mother, always points the way to Christ, never to himself or to how learned and wise he is. 

Why was Satan unable to touch the Blessed Mother in any way? Because she lived her life in total submission to God. Mary had died to self from the moment of her conception. Our Blessed Mother was the personification of humility, which is the spiritual nuclear weapon that will annihilate Satan. Knowledge will not destroy the devil. Even good works of and by themselves will not destroy Satan. Only humility - which is complete denial of self and submission to the Will of God - will defeat Satan.

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Bishop Sheen told us that Christ came to earth to die.  If we are His followers, we also must make dying to ourselves our mission.  Some are called to give their physical lives for Christ.  We are all called to die spiritually.  Our Blessed Mother died spiritually with her Son when He physically gave His Life on the cross.
When we die to something, something comes alive within us. If we die to self, charity comes alive; if we die to pride, service comes alive; if we die to lust, reverence for personality comes alive; if we die to anger, love comes alive. Archbishop Fulton Sheen
As Christians, we must remember that our job is not to judge and condemn, but to love.  In order to love as Christ loved, that means dying to ourselves and allowing Him to live in us.

Being "right" will not make you a Christian. We must die spiritually just as Christ died physically. As Bishop Sheen said, Christ came to this earth to die. It was only by dying that He could bring resurrection and life to a dead world. It is only by dying that we will have true life.
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7 comments:

  1. Fantastic post! I agree that the "voice" of Catholics in the blogosphere is often abysmal because people are trying to change the Church to match their ideal church which only becomes a tower of Babel that eventually comes crashing down. Dying to Christ and doing everything solely for the Glory of God and in love for neighbor - that's Christianity.

    Fariba

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    1. Exactly. The reasons for our actions are much more important than the actions themselves.

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  2. I think you have been duped and brainwashed by the church of nice.....And I think you need to listen to Michael Voris with an open mind and heart... P.s. I'm a convert to the Catholic Church....

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    1. Jason, it would be much more helpful if you would give actual arguments to what I have written rather than general condemnaion. I listened to Michael Voris for many years, and at one time I completely supported him. I now realize that his constant bashing of Church authority is diivisive and completely against the work of the Holly Spirt

      I hope and pray that you will also come to this realization as well.

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  3. Two of the picture links are not functioning properly.

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  4. Good reminder. I love the quote boxes from SS. Bernadette and Vincent.

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