About changing you.

About changing you.

About changing you.
— Read on waysofthemaster.life/2019/05/23/about-changing-you/

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2 Effective Weapons to Defeat the Sin of Pride

Thomas Merton Pride Humility QuoteAmerican author Thomas Merton wrote, “Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” As the root of all evil, pride has existed for all of human history. Adam and Eve had the perfect situation—created flawless without disease or material care. Their prideful attitude reduced them and the rest of humanity to less authentic versions of ourselves. Humanity was created to be in complete communion and love with God and others. The sinister nature of pride severs our connection with Love.

Pride—the great weapon of the Enemy

Pride

The Enemy’s primary weapon in the battle over our souls is pride—the ego, the self! Saint Anselm, bishop and Doctor of the Church, boldly proclaimed, “It is impossible to save one’s soul without devotion to Mary and without her protection.” No other human, save for Christ himself, shows more selflessness than the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because of her excellence in virtue, she stands as a primary adversary to the egotistical Enemy (cf. Genesis 3:15).

While I have written a lot on the subject of pride, the depths of evil this sin perpetuates is a good enough reason to continue to speak against the Enemy’s attack. There will never be enough content on how to disable, defeat, and annihilate pride on this side of eternity! This post will examine two primary spiritual weapons (a sword and a shield) to fight the deadly sin. We will also examine how we can properly maintain our weaponry against pride to ensure the best chance in the War on Sin.

Humility—a sword to slay pride

Humility beats pride

The 19th century art critic John Ruskin wrote, “I believe the first test of a truly great man is in his humility.” Along with being the first test, an initial step in any battle is preparing yourself—and your weapons. The virtue of humility, being the exact opposite of pride, is the best weapon to kill pride! Whenever a sword gets dull it needs sharpening. I have noticed the same is true for virtues. Whenever I get complacent in my spiritual life, the virtue of humility gets dull as well. Slowly the weeds of pride begin to grow back into my life. Focusing on gratitude, reading the Scriptures, and learning from the saints helps me re-sharpen my “sword of humility”.

Gratitude—a shield to guard against pride

Power of Gratitude

While not considered a weapon in the traditional sense, unless you are a fan of Captain America, shields still are considered a piece of armament in warfare. Humility chops away at the roots of pride. Gratitude acts as a deterrent, or shield, against the ego. I have discovered the days I am more thankful tend to be times where I am less effected by pride. The Enemy never takes a day off! Thankfulness definitely protects against the sin of pride. Acting as a coat of armor, gratitude keeps arrogance at bay. Thinking about the various blessings in my life keeps my mind focused on the good instead of greed—a gateway sin toward pride.

Catholic Church— the forge to strengthen these weapons

Possessing the weapons of humility and thanksgiving will go far in turning the tide in your battle against the Devil. However, the battle is persistent and as time goes on these weapons will be blunted. They will need to be strengthened and re-sharpened to ensure the final victory! The best place to refine your arms is the Catholic Church.

Officially the Catechism of the Catholic Church houses clear and objective content to equip yourself for the battle in sin.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount of doctrine in the catechism. Whenever this happens the other place I look to forge my weaponry is through the writings of the saints. Arguably no other saints describes daily living as plainly as St. Josemaria Esciva. According to the Spanish priest in The Forge, “Pride dulls the edge of charity. Ask Our Lord each day for the virtue of humility, for you and for everyone. Because as the years go by, pride increases if it is not corrected in time” (no. 596).  Josemaria advises later in The Forge, “Be convinced that if you do not learn to obey you will never be effective” (no. 626). Obedience to God and His Church helps us try strong against the Enemy.

Defense against spiritual attack

Because God created humanity to live in communion, the sin of pride isolates individuals from others. Relationships strain, fracture, and eventually die if pride is left unchecked. Humility and gratitude attack and defend effectively against this sinister sin. When your weapons need repairing seek out the help of the Catholic Church and implore the aid of the Holy Spirit.


 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”Philippians 4:13  

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Analysis of JPII’s The Splendor of Truth

Pope John Paul II

“Truth enlightens man’s intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord,” proclaimed the late Polish pope, John Paul II in his encyclical letter The Splendor of Truth. Promulgated over twenty years ago, this writing can still act as a guidepost for every Christian, both clergy and laity alike, for moral living. Now more than ever, modern man, in a world where moral relativism and ignorance of objective truths abound, needs the illuminating light of the Holy Spirit channeled through the Catholic Church. The Splendor of Truth delineates the Church’s rich moral teaching and sheds light on the underlying assumptions of those dissenting from the Magisterium’s authority.

I will examine three points− one from each chapter. The moral duty charged to all Christians will be looked at first, followed by a survey of the Church’s stance on conscience. And finally, the need for modern-day martyrs in the face of moral relativism will be addressed.

Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?

Rich Young Man Asks Jesus

The initial chapter of The Splendor of Truth centers on the content from the interaction of a rich young man and Jesus in Matthew 19. Here the young man begins his conversation with Jesus with a query: “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?”[1] At face value this question seemed sincere for it concerned one of the utmost important issues a person must contemplate. As the late pope tersely put it, “It is an essential and unavoidable question for the life of every man, for it is about the moral good which must be done, and about eternal life.[2] To ascertain the difference between good and evil people need to turn toward Christ who provides the answer. Too many times in the modern world humans seek answers to life’s hardest questions in fleeting, temporal sources such as political systems or New-Age philosophies rather than turning to God.

God is the Greatest Good

To truly live out the moral life, one must understand that an objective good does in fact exist− God. Responding to the young rich man, Jesus proclaims, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”[3] Since the ultimate good exists as God himself, it logically follows that only He can provide answers to the question about what is good in life. Not leaving man in the dark, God sheds light on moral matters by granting humans the ability to find out through reason alone the natural law. Article 12 of The Splendor of Truth mentions that God by creating man, ordered him to the good and have an innate desire for wisdom.

Due to original sin, God had to act in history to initiate his saving plan for humanity. Citing again from the encyclical, the Polish pope states, “The gift of the Decalogue was a promise and a sign of the New Covenant, in which the law would be written in a new and definitive way upon the human heart (cf Jer 31:31-34), replacing the law of sin which had disfigured that heart (cf Jer 17:1).”[4] In other words, a strong connection is made between morality and adherence to the commandments. However, the Church, and ultimately God, does not call for a sterile, drone-like obedience, but rather a total commitment to the law through faith in Christ.

Role of the Conscience

Conscience

Along with being aware of God as the supreme good and knowing that the Decalogue serves as the parameters for the moral life, a proper understanding of conscience and its connection to objective truths will enhance the Christian’s need to adhere to the Church Magisterium regarding faith and morals.

John Paul II begins his section on Conscience and Truth by saying, “The relationship between man’s freedom and God’s law is most deeply lived out in the ‘heart’ of the person, in his moral conscience.”[5] According to Church Tradition, conscience and natural law are not in tension with one another. Instead, conscience communicates moral responsibility in light of the natural law. Simply put, conscience aids man in following the natural law− for it is the “witness of God himself”.[6]

Necessity for Proper Formation of the Conscience

Nevertheless, conscience as a human function trying to pick up God’s voice and will is not exempt from error in judgment. The Second Vatican Council succinctly states, “not infrequently conscience can be mistaken as result of invincible [inculpable] ignorance.” In fact forming a proper conscience and developing virtuous habits takes time. This requires constant conversion. The pope declares that the Church and Her Magisterium greatly aid Christians in the formation of their conscience. Not an arbitrary authority, John Paul II speaks of the Church as “putting herself always and only at the service of conscience, helping it to avoid being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine proposed by human deceit.”[7]

If every Catholic-Christian took the pope’s message to heart on the Magisterium’s role pertaining to faith and morals laity confusion and dissent on hot-buttons issues like abortion and gay marriage, particularly during election years, would decline. Only through obedience to Christ’s authority in the Church via the conscience does man attain true freedom.

Call to Marytrdom

Deny Oneself

 

The best way to combat moral relativism pervading modern society today is not through polemical rhetoric or violence but for Christians to step up as martyrs for the truth. In the third chapter of The Splendor of Truth, the Roman Pontiff calls martyrdom, “the exaltation of the inviolable holiness of God’s law.”[8] He then maps out several examples of people in the Old and New Testament who testified to God’s power through their witness. John the Baptist and Stephen, the first Christian to die for his faith, both laid down their lives in testifying to the Messiah’s teaching. And they also suffered immensely unjust and painful deaths similar to Christ’s death on the Cross.

John Paul II finally points out that the first generation Church, which experienced intense persecutions from Roman emperors, also flourished in holiness due to the witness of saint-martyrs. This leads to his main point, that such witness is a remarkable sign of the holiness of the Church.[9]

The witness of martyrs provides a beacon of light to help illuminate others moral compasses especially in a world with a muddled-up perception of what is truly good and just. “This witness makes an extraordinarily valuable contribution to warding off, in civil society and within the ecclesial communities themselves, a headlong plunge into the most dangerous crisis which can afflict man: the confusion between good and evil,” declares John Paul II.[10] Oftentimes, people can be turned off by an exclusively scare-tactical, fire and brimstone approach to morality. Instilling fear and prodding them with a stick may work short-term, but many people tend to revert back to their old ways without sincere conversion. The witness of martyrs offers a better panacea for moral ambiguity.

An Ugly Term Today?

Modern man likes to shy away from the term “martyr” in part due to the moral duty and responsibility charged to those people who stand as a “sign of contradiction” to the 21st century way of life. The late pope clearly states that, “Although martyrdom represents the high point of the witness to moral truth, and one to which relatively few people are called, there is nonetheless a consistent witness which all Christians must daily be ready to make, even at the cost of suffering and grave sacrifice.”[11] Now in being a witness for the faith necessarily involves sacrifice on some level, albeit not always to the point of a physical and tortuous demise.

Nevertheless, daily sacrifice will lead to a kind of death− a death to sin. Summing up his section on the Christian’s response to morality, the Polish pope explicitly says, “The voice of conscience has always clearly recalled that there are truths and moral values for which one must be prepared to give up one’s life.”[12]

Role of the Church in the 21st Century

To conclude, written over twenty years ago, the encyclical The Splendor of Truth still sheds a ray of light on the moral life of the Church. This document provide an answer to the confusion of the modern world—the teaching of Jesus Christ, safeguarded by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church!

Jesus and Modern Society

Just like the rich young man in Matthew’s gospel who questioned Jesus about how he can attain salvation the human race, in a society pervaded by moral laxity and ambiguity,  must turn to God in order to ascertain what is truly morally good and just. The second point discussed from this moral treatise regarding conscience is important because a proper understanding of it will lead laity to a better appreciation of the Magisterium’s role in helping to form their conscience. John Paul II also mentioned that a properly formed Christian conscience will be able to determine how to act morally in line with natural law. And finally, the high point of the moral life consists of when a person is willing to die for the faith as a martyr. Restating the bishop of Rome, “Martyrdom is an outstanding sign of the holiness of the Church.”[13]

A careful and meditative reading of The Splendor of Truth will hopefully enhance a Christian’s love for the Church and a better following of Christ’s law.


Footnotes

[1] Matt 19:16.

[2] Splendor of Truth, 8.

[3] Matt 19:17.

[4] ST 12.

[5] ST 54.

[6] ST 58.

[7] ST 64.

[8] ST 90.

[9] Ibid., 92.

[10] Ibid., 115.

[11] ST 93.

[12] ST 94.

[13] St 93.

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Watch Your Words!

Watch your words

“Open up your hatch! I need to brush your teeth,” I told me wiggling three year old as the minutes before I had to drop him off to school. My oldest son asked, “Dad, what is a hatch?” I replied, “It is kind of like a door.” He then questioned why I referred to his brother’s mouth as a hatch. “The mouth is basically the doorway of the face, I needed Josiah to open his mouth (hatch) to clean his teeth properly,” I told my seven year old. Honestly, that word simply popped into my mind during that rush of pre-school routine. After I got the oldest three kids dropped off at school, the chaos quickly subsided. I was able to finally stop and reflect on possible writing topics for the day. 

Over the past week I have been in a creative slump. Largely, this is due to the insane work-life schedule I am trying to balance. It feels like I am juggling slippery eels, while attempting to cross a high wire—on one leg! Thursdays really are the only respite in my schedule as I don’t normally work until 12:30—today I worked a partial shift. This allowed me to also be home for the early afternoon as well. I took advantage of only having the baby by going on a 4 mile run with her in the jogging stroller. Exercise always helps jumpstart my thoughts, this jog was no different. 

A continual theme I pondered was the importance of avoiding complaining. Staying silent in angry and stressful situations shows strength not weakness. Since I returned back to work from paternity leave in late April, this has been my focus—avoid complaining at all costs! 

Words have Power

The power of words

The 20th century philosopher Manley Hall plainly wrote, Words are potent weapons for all causes, good or bad.That old saying you may have heard in elementary school, Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt meis so wrong! Words definitely have the ability to effect a person, positively or negativity. 

Earlier this week, I had a call from an arrogant and unappreciative customer. She got on my nerves, but I maintained a steady tone and refused to fight her incendiary language at me and my employer in kind. I simply listened to her concerns and offered the options available. Although that was a challenging call, I was grateful I was graced with the ability to refrain myself from saying something unprofessional or unkind.

Say Nothing is you have nothing nice to say

The legendary Greek writer Homer wrote, “Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid. I would add to this statement mean words are also best left without repeating! During my morning jog the image of Jesus calmly standing before Pilate’s judgment seat in the praetorium in John 19: 9. His stoic demeanor actually demonstrates strength! 

Dwight meme fight fire with fire

The world tells us that silence in the face of false accusation is a sign of weakness. It shows strength to stand up for yourself. Fighting fiery rhetoric with even more flaming words only creates more anger and ultimately leads to regret. Remaining silent, if you cannot say anything positive or at least neutral, in those highly stressful interactions guarantees you will not regret having said something you could not take back! 

Daily Challenge—Positive Thinking

My challenge to you this next week is simple—avoid complaining. Watching your words, especially the negative ones, will go a long way in infusing new life into your relationships. If you fail, don’t feel bad. I am the first to admit I strong mightily as a chronic complainer, but the GOOD NEWS is that I have improved—and so will you! 

 

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