The Test of Happiness is Gratitude!

thank you

This week I was researching for an article I am writing about G.K. Chesterton and I came across this gem of a quote from Chapter 4 of his work Orthodoxy. He states, “The test of happiness is gratitude.” There are few phrases that make me pause when I am reading and this was one of them. I have thought about this quote a lot today and figured it would be a good message to pass along.

Gratitude is defined as the quality of feeling or being thankful. Why a feeling may be arbitrary and susceptible to change “being” thankful has a more lasting feature to it. Because of this, I want to make this slight change to Chesterton’s quote– the test of happiness is [being] thankful!

According to a recent article I read online about the success of the restaurant chain Chik-fil-a, the power of saying “thank you” is quite tangible. The main thrust of the article states that Chik-fil-a’s leadership stresses the importance of manners and expressing gratitude towards customers in their employee training. As an occasional customer of Chik-fil-a, I can attest to the superb customer service and appreciation among workers when I visit their establishment.

On a more profound level, the Catholic Church has been proclaiming Chesterton’s message “The Test of Happiness is Gratitude” for over 2,000 years. In fact the most important thing Catholics participate in on a weekly or daily basis– the Mass– is centered on thanksgiving! The sacrament of the Eucharist, housed within the Mass, along with being the source and summit of the Catholic faith, actually is a transliteration of the Greek word eucharistia which means “thanksgiving”. I always come out of Mass being happier than when I came in. It is nice to have a reminder of thankfulness to re-orient myself if I stray away from this mindset during the week.

I do not believe it is a coincidence that the Catholic Mass and the success of Chik-fil-a are both connected to being thankful. God knows that mankind can only be truly happy when experiencing life as a gift. So to conclude, I want to thank all that have read my posts and for anyone who is reading my writing for the first time. I thank God for my faith, family, and friends. I hope you find at least three things to be thankful of today after reading this. Thank you again!

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Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. Part 5- War of the Serpent

scary snakes I have yet to meet a person who loves snakes. Possessing fangs, venom, and an ability to suffocate makes snakes simply sinister. Moreover, the lack of limbs to their deadly array of weapons further add to the peculiarity of snakes! Throughout history snakes appear in a majority of creation stories. The Bible is not exception.

A contextual reading of Genesis and Revelation opened my eyes to the genius of the Holy Spirit in ordering and confirming the canon of Scripture. Conflict with a serpent occurs at the beginning and end of the Bible!

First Serpent

mary battling the dragon

According to Genesis 3:14 God places the following curse on the serpent, “Because you have done this [led Eve into sin], cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.” Immediately following in verse 15 predicts Satan’s animus towards the Woman. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 410, “This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevangelium (‘first gospel’): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers. Fast forwarding to the end of the Bible a similar opposition occurs.

Last Serpent

Revelation 12 describes in vivid symbolic language a battle between a woman and a dragon. The writer of Revelation identifies the dragon as the Devil and Satan in verse 9. It is interesting to note that the bible is book-ended by this theme of the battle between a woman [Mary] and the dragon [Satan]. According to Alice Camille in her U.S. Catholic article In the Garden of Good and Evil,

In the Bible, snakes appear at the launch of creation and again just before the apocalypse. The first serpent is really a proto-snake: He only loses his legs after enticing the first couple to sin. The final serpent is a full-blown dragon, which in ancient mythology was just a snake with wings. These biblical book-end snakes are no accident. The story in Revelation of the woman snatched away from the dragon’s harm is a conscious reenactment of the creation story, with happier results the second time around (U.S. Catholic September 2014, page 45).

Without reading the Bible through an A.D.D. contextual lens, I would not notice the perfect book-ending of theme. There is a logical flow and order to the canon of Scripture and it is an amazing experience to discover. I hope that you found today’s topic to be interesting and I continue to challenge you to find connections between the Old and New Testaments!

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How Tolkien and a Board Game Brings Greater Insight to the Papacy

I am a huge fan of fantasy literature and among my favorite authors is J.R.R. Tolkien, better known as the creator of Middle Earth and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien, when asked about how he dreamed up the world of LOTR stated that it was not so much like creating, but rather discovering a world already in existence. This has always stuck in my mind as a profound idea.

It was not until I started creating my own board game [I hope to publish it for my son’s 10th birthday as a present!] that I realized the truth in Tolkien’s words. My journey in making my board game was more of a discovery of a game already existent—I just happened to be the one to uncover it.

one ring

There is a connection of Tolkien’s and my own personal experience to the truths of the Catholic Church. Truth is not something to be manufactured or fabricated. The objective truth of the Gospel—preached and housed in the Catholic Church— have always existed!

Jesus gave the honor and responsibility to his Apostles and Original members of the Catholic Church to safeguard, teach, and articulate the Truth for future generations until His Second Coming. Let us examine some examples as evidence for this claim.

Jesus Entrusted Peter with Authority

Listen to Jesus’ words to the soon-to-be first pope in Matthew 16:18-19, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

Knowing fully well that humanity thrives on clarity of thought and have stability in a leadership position, Jesus planted the seeds to the papal office here. In fact, the Greek name for Peter [πέτρος] is translated as “stone” or “rock”. God gifted Christianity [and the entire world] with the office of the papacy to be the authority in the matter of faith and morals. The Holy Spirit works in a special way through the pope to guide him whenever a moral truth comes into debate or question.

Evidence from the Didache

According to many scholars, this document was written around 65-110 A.D and is known as the teaching of the Twelve Apostles. When I read this document I was surprised to hear many Catholic truths proclaimed from such an early 1st century document. The Didache specifically mentioned the Eucharist in Chapter 9 and the sacrament of Holy Orders in Chapter 15. Mere decades after the Resurrection of Christ, the Catholic Church as we know it today was safeguarding the truths handed to it by Jesus.

 Pope Pius IX on Papal Infallibility

The solemn declaration of papal infallibility occurred on July 18th, 1870. Pope Pius IX’s statement on papal infallibility related only to matters of faith and morality and only in his office as pope could the leader of the Church speak with such authority. As I stated before, the seeds to this doctrine were planted back in Matthew 16:18-19 when Jesus gave authority to Peter through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 keys of peter

 While the doctrine of papal infallibility may be a hot-buttoned issue, especially among non-Catholics, it does not have to be. Seeing the role of the Catholic Church as the guardian and teacher of truth and not the creator of truth was a notion that transformed my approach to this subject.

Let us apply Tolkien’s discovery of Middle Earth, as a place already present, to Catholic Church teaching as a truth existent for eternity. Our role is to discover anew how the truth of the Gospel may shape our daily lives!

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Realizing the Resurrection: Proofs from Scriptures, Saints, and My Experience

resurrection

Today Christianity across the world celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is a celebration of a miraculous—and seemingly impossible—event. The feast of Jesus’ Resurrection holds a special place in my heart.  I wish to share the basic biblical proof of the Resurrection, examples from some saints, and my own personal experience.

Note: If you still have questions related to a more cerebral and logical argument for the Resurrection of Jesus I highly recommend Carl Olson’s: Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?

Gospel evidence

Since there a lot of evidence to refer to and I prefer to keep today’s post as concise as possible I will only focus on the two strongest pieces of evidence I found to be convincing for me in showing validity in Jesus’ Resurrection. First, the witness of the women being the initial people to notice the empty tomb is strong evidence. The reason for this is due to in 1st century Palestine life women did not enjoy the benefits of voting, membership in the workforce, or even respect to be witnesses in events like today.

Why would the Gospel writers uniformly state that the first witnesses to the empty tomb and to proclaim Jesus as risen were women unless it was true? It still does not make sense to me why the gospel writers would embarrass the apostles by placing women in a place of honor at being the first evangelizers of Jesus’ Resurrection unless that was the truth!

Secondly, the Gospel of Matthew already shows alternative explanations already surfacing to explain the disappearance of Jesus’ body when the tomb was opened. According to Matthew, the priests and elders charged the Roman soldiers to create a story to explain why the tomb was empty. They [priests and elders] state, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him while we were asleep’. If any word of this gets to the procurator, we will straighten it out with him and keep you out of trouble.” (Matthew 28:13-14).  This never made sense to me. If the apostles were fraudulent, why the Matthew plainly write about the theory of the stolen body of Jesus? Such a theory only makes sense as a lie developed by the priests and elders.

Saintly Sources

Because of the vast array of saints to attest to the truth of the Resurrection, I will only focus on two for conciseness’ sake—St. Peter and St. Paul. The thing that I really love about St. Peter is his fervor to follow the gospel after Jesus’ Resurrection. In addition to being the 1st pope of the Catholic Church, Peter testified to the truth of the Gospel as a martyr via crucifixion.

St. Paul represents arguably the greatest conversion in the history of Christianity. Paul went from being a murderer of Christians to the Church’s great evangelizer and writer of almost 2/3 of the New Testament. These two men show us that they encountered someone who transformed them. Peter and Paul’s conversions are an effect of the power of Jesus’ Resurrection!

peter and paul

My Testimony

While my own testimony does not hold the same weight at Scripture and Tradition, I still am convinced that certain things in my life transpired due to a power outside of my control and full understanding. During my darkest days a few years ago I learned of the power of God. He rose me up from the loss of a job and our miscarriages. God continues to demonstrate the glory of His Resurrected Son in seemingly ordinary things too. For example, I asked my cousin to pray for my wife for an important interview. My cousin told me, “Of course, and incidentally she [my wife] was the person my cousin and his fiancée scheduled to pray for, in a special way, anyways.” This is not the first time this seeming coincidence happened to my cousin.

Through Scripture, Tradition [the saints], and my personal experience with daily and extraordinary events I have come to more deeply realize the Resurrection of Jesus as an historical fact. I pray that you come to enjoy this truth in Scripture, Tradition, and your own life’s experiences!

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Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. Part 4- Jesus as the New Passover Lamb

jesus the passover lamb

A common title Christians give Jesus is the Lamb of God. Without a solid understanding of the scriptures one may not notice the significance of this title. My goal for today’s post is to briefly detail the connections between the Old Testament Passover and Jesus’ Passion and Death in the New Testament as the New Passover. I present you four specific ways Jesus is appropriately called the New Passover Lamb.

timing is everything

 

Timing is Everything

 

Traditionally Christians celebrate Good Friday and connect it to the Jewish Passover sacrifice. To give a quick overview of the importance of the Passover feast, in the Book of Exodus God saved the Israelite firstborns if they sacrificed their finest lamb [a firstborn sheep] and spread the blood on the wooden doorposts.

 

In the Gospel of John, the evangelist makes a point to mention the Passover sacrifice at least three times—which incidentally, confirms the three year timespan of Jesus’ public ministry. More to the point, in John 19:14 the gospel writer specific states the time of day Jesus’ execution occurred [He says, “It was the Preparation Day for Passover, and the hour was about noon”].

 

What I found out in reading the footnotes of this passage is that noon was the hours by which the priests began to slaughter the Passover Lambs in the temple. I do not believe this timing was a coincidence on John’s part.

 

Innocent Victim and Firstborn

 

Like the innocent lamb slain during Passover, Jesus was innocent of any crime and is the firstborn [and only] Son of God. Pilate repeatedly tries to give Jesus an escape from this sentence because in his heart the Roman governor did not view Jesus as guilty (see John 19:4; 19:12; 19:15).

jesus thirsts on the cross

 

Hyssop

 

Before I taught a lesson to my students on John’s Gospel, I always found John 19:28-29 perplexing: “Jesus, realizing that everything was now finished, said to fulfill the Scripture, ‘I am thirsty.’ There was a jar there, full of common wine. They stuck a sponge soaked in this wine on some hyssop and raised it to his lips.” Interestingly enough, Exodus 12:22 also refers to the usage of hyssop. Hyssop was the same plant used to spread the blood of the Passover Lamb on the wooden doorpost of the Israelite households.

 

John desires his readers to see Jesus as the New Passover Lamb—whose blood is smeared on the wood of the Cross. This time instead of saving only Israelite homes, Jesus’ sacrifice was for everyone.

 

What’s in a Number?

 

There are 206 bones in the human body. None of Jesus’ bones were broken. The evangelist states the reason for this as to fulfill the Scripture promise, “Break none of his bones” (John 19:31-36). Likewise, the Passover Lamb was slain in a similar manner. According to Exodus 12:46, “It [Passover Lamb] must be eaten in one and the same house; you may not take any of its flesh outside the house. You shall not break any of its bones.”

chris pratt mind blown gif

 

While there are many more connections between the Jewish Passover celebration and Jesus’ Passion and Death, I will leave you to ponder the points I made above. Read and reflect on Exodus 12 and John 19. The more I have flipped pages back and forth between the Old and New Testaments the greater appreciation I have for my Catholic faith.

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Cellars of My Soul

I mentioned this analogy a few weeks ago when referring to the spiritual life, but I like the tangibility of it so I will mention it again. St. Teresa of Avila likened the soul and its journey in the spiritual life to the navigation through a large a castle whereby our soul consists of several mansions. When I talked about this image with my parish’s discipleship group, I half-joked that I not only have mansions I need to order but also lots of “cellars of my soul” I need to examine and clean out.

On a serious note, I firmly believe there are many cellars within my soul I need to discover and maintain. A common definition of cellar means “of the lowest rank or grade”. Another usage of the word cellar is in relation to place where wine is stored. I have never actually lived in or owned a home with a cellar. However, I have tasted wine and I have experienced years where my favorite sports team resided in the cellar of the league standings.

Going back to the image of our Christian spiritual life as exploring the recesses of our interior castle, I have pondered how I might be able to reach the depths of my soul. I think one practical way for me to start this journey is to begin working with a spiritual director. According to St. John of the Cross, a director [spiritual] should be learned, prudent, and experienced.

Try as I might, I have yet to get past a certain threshold in my spiritual life. I am hoping that by adding a spiritual director and going on a silent retreat later this year that I will be graced with the help to access my spiritual wine cellar. Here I hope to share my spiritual gifts with others and give greater thanksgiving to God. But first, I need send that simple email. I will keep you updated on my journey through future posts. I humbly ask for your prayers as I begin this journey to explore the cellars of my soul.wine cellar

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3 Reasons Why my Secular Job Has Made Me a Better Catholic

I am a cradle Catholic. I was baptized at the age of 1 week. I went to a Catholic elementary school, middle school, high school, and college. I even attended a Catholic graduate school. Interestingly, it is at my secular work place that I have taken the virtues I acquired in Catholic schooling and deepened them. I give you three reasons why my secular job has made me a better Catholic.

  1. Different Perspective: The major difference between my Catholic cradle upbringing and my daily work today is summed up in a single word—perspective. I have learned to see relationships, problems, daily tasks, and even conversations from a different perspective. I used to view the world in a dichotomous manner. There is black or white. I still view the world largely in this manner, but I have learned that sometimes there is gray in the world. Sometimes both people may be right in workplace conflict. It just depends on my perspective. This ability that I am daily improving upon is not hampering my Catholic identity, rather enhancing it. By taking a different perspective on things, I acquired a tool to combat the sin of judgmental thinking.
  1. Changes through Change: Similar to viewing things from different perspectives, I have learned in my job that change is inevitable. I am becoming more and more patient in my secular work place. I firmly believe God has graced me with the opportunity of my job to help me develop and deepen the virtues of patience and understanding. I still have a long ways to go, but I can tell I have made great strides in my spiritual life through my learning to embrace change even though I may find it difficult sometimes.
  1. Seasoning Adds Flavor: Jesus urged his followers to be “the salt of the Earth” in his Sermon on the Mount Discourse (Matthew 5:13). The purpose of salt is two-fold: preserve and season food. I believe that I the reason that I thrive in a non-Christian environment is for those same reasons. God wants me to act as a preservative of Truth against this worldly culture which promotes the self. Secondly, God gave me the gift to evangelize in a special way to non-Catholics. I need to continue to pray for God to reveal his graces to me on how exactly He wants me to add “flavor” or joy to my workplace.

I will end with this question: How may you be the salt of the Earth? Everyone is valued and God has you placed in your current job for a reason. Ask Him for guidance in knowing your purpose.

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