Monday, February 23, 2009

New View on the Mercy of God

I have to be careful sometimes; when I have an innocent idea in my head, I can sometimes express it in such a way that the innocence is lost. I tend to frame things in a way that may offend. This topic in particular runs that risk.

Last summer (2008) I was involved in a Summer Apologetics Series at my parish in Henderson, NV. I gave a few talks on various Catholic apologetics issues to the mixed group of attendees (some Catholic, some anti-Catholic). I remember vividly making the following statement during the first of my two talks: "It just isn't a fair fight anymore. All historical evidence, the Fathers of the Church and the continuity of the Roman Catholic Church make the search for the church founded by Jesus simple. Further, the defense of this ancient church is also simple given this overwhelming amount of evidence."

What I meant was that the evidence clearly points to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is the church founded by Jesus and the result of his promise to be with us always. There isn't any doubt in my mind. What I failed to realize at that moment is something I have been contemplating ever since that day (and likely before as well). If all the evidence is so crystal clear, why are there scholars and modern-day Davids (e.g., men after God's heart) outside the Catholic Church?

Having spent the majority of my life in the protestant church, I have known many people who are completely sold out and following Jesus to the best of their ability. They are, without a doubt, on their way to heaven without the fullness of truth found in the Catholic Church. As I contemplate their lives and consider their consciences are crystal clear, I am amazed that God can be so merciful - to them and to the others outside the Church.

I am amazed God has been so merciful to those who are outside the Church (through no fault of their own). He has ordained that many Godly people remain outside the Church to care for those who find themselves outside the Church. Otherwise, how can you explain people like Rick Warren, Billy Graham, Jim Elliot, C.S. Lewis, etc. These men of God are universally accepted and intelligent Christian leaders who have not recognized the fullness of truth found in the Church. Yet, they are undoubtedly on the road to heaven (some likely already there).

In a sense, this topic is also intertwined with our free will. If every quality non-Catholic Christian leader were to cross the Tiber and enter the Roman Catholic Church, their followers would have virtually no choice. Of course, I see this as a good thing, but I cannot begin to understand how valuable to God is our free will.

So, as my faith journey continues, I am keenly aware of God's mercy when it comes to non-Catholic churches. I have been routinely amazed at God's mercy toward me. Now I am amazed at the unexpected nature and breadth of His mercy. It is truly woven through all facets of life.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Fast Food and the Contraceptive Mentality

As a relatively new Catholic, I have to admit the teaching on contraception is one of the more enigmatic. However, I fully agree with the Church's teaching on contraception as summarized in Humanae Vitae, Evangelium Vitae and other documents. We are to avoid any form of artificial contraception because it is contrary to the dignity of the human person and the beauty of the conjugal union between husband and wife.

I frequently try to think of complex theological concepts in terms of everyday experiences so I can more fully embrace them and explain them to others. Today I was trying to envision something in our everyday life analagous to contraception in such a way it could be used to explain the teaching. This morning such an analogy popped into my head.

We live in a fast food world (at least in the US). At the root of this fast food mentality is an attitude that we can have whatever feels good when we want it with no consequences. We base our food choices on what happens in our mouth alone. There is almost no consideration to the long term effects of consuming large amounts of fast (or otherwise unhealthy) food. If our mouth likes it, there must not be a problem! We have effectively severed the union between good food and good health and made good health take a back seat. We ignore (to our demise) the natural, objective fact that food is directly related to health.

This is the same as contraception. We want sex without boundaries. Without regulation. Without consideration to anything other than how it feels to me. We choose to ignore the obvious, objective and complete reality of the conjugal union. This union is ordered toward procreation AND enjoyment. Separate procreation from enjoyment and you miss out on both. Sure, there is a carnal enjoyment while ignoring the procreative element of the conjugal union, but this is far from what God intended when he invented our sexuality.

Good food and good sex requires one to consider both the obvious temporal reality AND the deep reality of the union between the temporal and eternal. How we treat our bodies - whether with food or with sex - effects our soul. Ignoring this fact does not make it not true.

Interestingly enough, I heard other people discussing this same topic this morning on the way in to work. The subject articles are: Is Food the New Sex? and Sex - anything goes; food, not so.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Almost a Year After Our Conversion

We have been happily attending mass and receiving the Sacraments or almost a year now. We are truly home. There is no other place to be for those who want to sincerely seek the face of God.

We were attending mass at our local Parish (St Francis of Assisi) when I noticed a particularly significant characteristic of our position in the sanctuary. We came in late (as is frequent with our rather spirited family of 4) and had to sit in the side portion that looks at the altar from the side. As a consequence of our location, we were on the side of the crucifix. It brought to mind the story of St. Dismas.

He is the Saint who is said to have "stolen heaven." At his last hour, he looked upon the face of the crucified Jesus, defended him and repented. He made it into heaven by "the skin of his teeth" and by the grace of God alone.

As I contemplated the story of St. Dismas, I realized we are all like St. Dismas...or at least we should all hope to be like him. We commit sin. We are subject to the consequences of our sin. We are utterly dependent on the grace of God for entry into paradise. Our seat in Mass reminded me that we are all called to carry our cross and live as if we are being crucified. Given this fact, we should never have the comfort of standing in front of our crucified Lord as he suffers...we should be next to him carrying our cross. It is only in this position, in this posture that we can hope to share in Christ's suffering and somehow also "steal" heaven.