24 March 2006

To Jesus Through Mary

I hardly ever read The Onion, but I felt like checking it out this morning (mostly just want to make sure I haven't become one of those easily offended Christian lame-o's) when I found this piece of filth!

Man Just Using Virgin Mary to Get To Jesus

Disgusting!* I'll never read The Onion again, and I encourage everybody who reads this blog to join my in an Onion boycott!** I'd rather chew into a whole onion and eat it than read this Internet scum!***

* Just kidding.
** Yes, all three of you.
*** Just kidding, again.

16 March 2006

"Preach the Gospel; if necessary, use words."

This is surely Francis' best-known quote... and I'm afraid it's almost always quoted out of context. Usually when I hear somebody quote these words, you would like Francis rarely preached with words, or that we regular laypeople should discourage preaching with words in favor of living Christian lives and letting people "figure out" we're Christians by our example. (yeah... right) On the Catholic Exchange podcast from January 16th I heard this guy named Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio and I believe this hits the nail on the head:

"If you weren't supposed to preach the Gospel except when necessary by words, he thought it was necessary a lot because he trained his guys to preach; and they preached on the street corner, they preached in churches. He was a deacon, so he preached in churches. The importance of that saying is it's not a cop-out from sharing the Gospel with words. It's don't share the Gospel with words without realizing that your actions can really contradict those words and undermine them."

I think the popular temptation these days is to downplay using words because we don't want to be "preachy," but I think we are trying too hard if that happens. Just offering to pray for someone when they're going through a rough time can speak volumes and doesn't require a knowledge of theology or a course on "six steps to effective evangelization." It helps to know that we're all on the same journey, whether you happen to be in church, unchurched, ex-church, overchurched, dechurched, churchaholic, tired, bored, excited, or curious.

One of the many ironies of Christianity is that we cannot become perfect in God's eyes without revealing all our imperfections to other people. Yes, every last imperfection, for whatever little thing we consciously hold back gives praise to Satan rather than Christ. A lot of Christians (myself included) continue putting up that old shell and never let anyone see who they really are. That's a dark, ugly place. We know that dark, ugly place exists inside every person. We know the world is groaning for salvation from that dark, ugly place. But we conceal it, so that the world looks at Christians and sees a bunch of hypocrites: they're sins are obvious, yet they claim to be perfect in Christ. What kind of salvation is that supposed to be?

So there are two options for the Christian: deceive ourselves by continuing to live inside our shell or become transparent and let Christ deal with our imperfections.

11 March 2006

Countdown to Easter Vigil... party time!

I found this thing called ClockLink.com where you can set up different kinds of clocks or countdown thingies for your blog or web site, so I threw this little countdown to Easter Vigil on here. At the time of this writing, in 34 days, 21 hours, 6 minutes, and 2 seconds I'll become a bone-a-fide Catlick... and not surprisingly, that means throwing a party and drinkin' some beer! Of course, this is my cousin's idea, and while I was a little uneasy about having all my Catholic relatives in town for this thing while my parents (who are Lutheran) are just like, "whatever," I've never been one to turn down a party.

And after Easter Vigil and the hangover passes (just kidding... I had enough hangovers back in my college days), I'll have to think of something else to count down to.

But there's no time to think about that right now... I just got a call from a good friend from high school and he happens to be in town tonight, so we're rollin' out to 4th Street Live. (like a good Catholic would!)

04 March 2006

Haunted by the Saints

The saints have really been challenging me lately. Reading about St. Francis has me thinking a lot about how much he and his brothers sacrificed to live the Gospel as best as they knew how. These guys embraced the poor. When St. Francis heard the Gospel reading at Mass, it was as though God were speaking personally to him. Christ says to each of us, Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. What if we took those words seriously? Do we really see Jesus in the "least of these" in our society? When we have a conversation with a homeless person, we're talking with Jesus; when we look them in the eye, we're looking Jesus in the eye. We talk about "experiencing God" through contemporary worship, and while that has it's place, it seems like for most Christians that's where the God experience ends. I feel haunted by the lives of people like St. Francis because I know more people are called to similar lives of sacrificial love for God and neighbor, but it's such a radical calling that they opt for a safer road.

I've also been learning about a different saint every day with the Saint of the Day e-mail. It's difficult for me to ignore the chasm between their lives -- the sacrifices they made out of their deep love for God and desire for others to follow Christ -- and my own life. Of course, I don't want to throw a little pity party for my sinful self. That would be worthless. But I can't ignore that God is starting to prepare me to abandon everything for Him in a similar manner. Some mornings I wake up and the first thought in my head is, "You don't seriously want to become a priest, much less a Franciscan. That's ridiculous."

Exactly... such a calling was too ridiculous even for St. Francis, but God is faithful every step of the way. "But God," by the way, happens to be one of my favorite two words in the Bible. This short phrase occurs 41 times (at least in the NASB translation)...

But God remembered Noah ... and the water subsided. (Genesis 8:1)

But God said to Abraham, "Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named. (Genesis 21:12)

But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol,For He will receive me. (Psalms 49:15)

My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalms 73:26)

Who can forgive sins, but God alone? (Mark 2:7 and Luke 5:21)

You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts... (Luke 16:15)

But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. (Acts 2:24)

But God raised Him from the dead... (Acts 13:30)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

You know how certain words from a sermon will stick in your head for months? I keep going back to something one of the priests at the Youth 2000 retreat said about our expectations in praying for miracles. "God isn't going to raise someone back from the dead," with which he followed after a short pause, "in all likelihood." Isn't is awesome that we believe in the one God who holds power over sin and death, that even the one miracle that most would consider impossible -- well, not necessarily. Throughout history, God has intervened in the bleakest of times and revealed His glory. We can go before our Lord in full confidence that no request is too great -- nor too petty -- no matter how weak our faith might feel, for nothing will be impossible with God.