Who is Jesus?  A Brief Look at the Incarnation

By: William Hemsworth

In sacred scripture, we read that man was created he had a perfect relationship with God.  Man is the pinnacle of creation. God gave man everything.

In return the Lord asked man not to each of one tree in the garden. Man did not listen, rebelled, and had to face the consequences of sin for the first time. 

The sin of our first parents also applies to us.  We all have sinned, and the penalty for that sin is death.  Saint Paul had the same opinion in Romans 6:23 which states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.  However, the second person of the blessed Trinity, Jesus himself became incarnate to atone and redeem us from our sin.

Incarnation—Bridge from us to God

The Incarnation was needed because we could not atone for our sin on our own.  Only someone who was perfect, and without sin could do that.  As I write this it is the final days of Advent.  

The time of preparation for the birth of Christ is soon coming to an end.  Soon we will be celebrating his glorious birth.  The second person of the Trinity loving us so much that He became man.  He lived as we did with hunger, fear, betrayal, and even death.  

Cross as the New Tree of Life

Hebrews 4:15 sums this idea up perfectly when the inspired author writes, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.”  

This far we have seen that Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses, but this doesn’t completely answer who he is.  Who He is the ultimate gift that we experience this time of year.  

Identity of Jesus

So who is Jesus?  This question goes back to some of the greatest controversies in the early church.  

There were some, such as the Arians, who tried to explain Jesus as being the first thing created.  The problem here is that Jesus, as the second person of the Blessed Trinity, has always existed.  There are many verses that show this and John 1:1 is one example.  That passage of scripture states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

He always was, yet he took the form of a man, and was born in the humblest of conditions.  In our society we have been conditioned to view the manger scene in a very sanitized way.  That manger that the divine Son of God was laid in after his birth was a food trough used for livestock!  

The creator of the universe became a man because he wants us to live.  His love for us is that immense.  In the letter to the Philippians St. Paul writes, “Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness and found human in appearance he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

Fully Man and Fully God

While on Earth he did not appear as a man, nor was He a spirit that possessed man until the point of the crucifixion as the Docetists and Gnostics would say.  From the time of His conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary he was both fully God and fully man.  This was stated by many church fathers, declared at the Council of Nicea, and at the Council of Chalcedon this became known as the Hypostatic Union.  Jesus was not either or, but He has BOTH a human nature AND a divine nature.  

That is why the Incarnation is so amazing, and to be perfectly honest this barely scratches the surface.  As you gather with your families over the next few weeks and exchange gifts and hugs may we remember the ultimate gift.  That ultimate gift is our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.  The second person of the Blessed Trinity, who became man, and experienced everything that we did but was without sin.  He died as the perfect offering for our sin because He loves us that much and he thinks that we are worth being with for eternity!


About our guest blogger:

William is a convert to the Catholic faith.  Before entering the church he was ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary.  William lives with his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults.  Check out his website/blog at williamhemsworth.com for more great and informative Catholic content!

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Sweat, Stress, and Shenanigans: Why Take Your Kids to Sunday Mass?

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Our car’s digital clock reads 9:27 A.M. I am thinking to myself, “Great, maybe we will be able to make it on time to Mass this week…finally!” [we only live 2 minutes away from our parish.]. After we pulling into a parking spot and turn off the ignition, my wife and I rush to get our three children into the church before the entrance hymn starts.

Thankfully, we made it in time. I thought myself, “Please let us be able to make it through at least the first part of the Mass without me having to take any one out!”

Let the Battle Begin

My prayer was almost answered. Two minutes into the first reading, my 18 month old son, started to lose focus and wanted to escape the premises. The granola bar and sippy cup of water were not enough to appease him long enough for me to finish the reading. I already had perspiration glinting on my temples and forehead from having to hold a squirming and twisting toddler.

I gave up the battle. I left my oldest son in the pew by himself for a couple minutes until my wife came back—she had to take our daughter out for a bathroom break five minutes into the liturgy!

“What is the point, I thought. Should I even continue trying to bring the kids along? Sometime people stare at us as if we have an extraterrestrial being dancing behind them in the pew? My kids are insane!” I lamented to myself. Mass ended fairly decent, considering the crazy start, but I felt inspired to write about my inner struggles about balancing family life with my Catholic obligation for Sunday worship. Here are three reasons why I cannot stop bringing my children to Mass despite the enormous “inconvenience” or “stress” it seems to bring.

truth is out there

Because I Experience Truth

Someone once asked my wife, “Why did you convert to Catholicism?” Her reply is probably the shortest apologetic statement in history, “Because it’s true!” The conviction and strength of faith of that level is something I have yet to achieve. I oftentimes feel myself providing caveats and further clarifications for why I am Catholic or why I continue to follow the faith.

At the end of the day, I continue to go to weekly Mass on Sundays because the Apostles—the first friends and followers of Christ—started that tradition 2,000 years ago. Jesus informed the Twelve to celebrate the “breaking of the bread” weekly.

I need to persist in taking my children to Mass because Jesus is “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” and we receive the gift of the Eucharist! Truth is not always easy, but without truth I am nothing. Humans long for truth and the truest explanation for the wonders and strangeness of reality I find in the Catholic Church.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 1324, “The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’136 “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it.” Because of the peak of the Catholic faith is found in the Mass, I am willing to deal with face the difficulties of bringing young children to church. The path toward Truth is not always easy to follow but it is always worth it in the end.

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Peace Be with You

A Catholic priest once described the liturgy as a theological GPS that orients us back to the correct path when we fall away. This image always stuck with me. I seem to wander from the path of holiness frequently. My patience wears thin, I struggle with charity of speech, and I act rashly at times. Frankly, I think weekly attendance of Mass is far, far too infrequent for me! If it were not for my familial obligations as a husband and father along with my work duties to my employer, I would go to weekday Mass as well.

Peace is the gift we receive at Mass from the Holy Spirit. The first words that Jesus said to his Apostles in the Upper Room relate to the gift of peace too. In John 20:19 and 21 Jesus says, “’Peace be with you.’… ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’” Utilizing my favorite reference book—my trusty Thesaurus—the two synonyms for the word peace that stand out most to me are restfulness and calmness.

From my previous posts, you will know that I am not necessarily a calm person. I struggle with anxiety and RESTLESSNESS. Growing up with ADHD and being a father to hyperactive children, I crave peace. I long for rest.

The Mass provides me that chance. Not every moment, because I do have to protect my somersaulting son from danger! Still, I found moments in the liturgy where I acquire genuine peace and calmness of heart. The best place on Earth where I have discovered true peace is within the sacrament of the Eucharist during Mass.

My Primary Role as Dad

My main role as a father is getting my children to Heaven. I am called to be a saint maker—growth in sanctity occurs in this life. According to the Catholic Church,

The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society (CCC 2207).

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How may I expect my children to love God if I did not establish a habit to visit the Divine Presence and rest in His grace? How do I lead my family on the path of true freedom if I do not experience freedom myself?

Lessons Learned

The answers are incredibly simple—visit God and visit frequently! My father was [and still is] an amazing example of holiness. He is patient, slow to anger, and consistent in his faith. Looking by at how he accomplished the tremendous feat of raising my siblings and I, I realized that the biggest constant is his life [besides my mom] was the Eucharist. God fed my own biological father through this sacrament.

The Holy Spirit increased my father’s inherent gift of patience to a profound and loving level—I need to follow that example.

My youngest child still has not called me “daddy” nor even uttered the word! Somedays I struggle to cope with this developmental delay. I noticed that my 18 month old will immediately fold his hands in prayer when I begin the Prayer Before Meals blessing. Seeing those little fingers crossed together humbled me. This small act has made me prouder than anything else.

Life is not about how smart, or beautiful, or successful you are. Life is about love and truth. The Holy Spirit sent me a reminder through the person of my toddler.

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Do not be overwhelmed when it comes to raising your children in the faith. Even if you are a single person without children and struggle with motivation to go to Sunday Mass, I encourage you to still go.

The joy and peace I experience at the end of the Eucharistic celebration is worth it. I wish that every Sunday Mass felt as good as the above picture looks—but that is not always the case in the reality of life.

I need to continue to trust that my apparent feelings of failure and seeming ineptitude of corralling my children at Mass are distinct from the truth we experience every Sunday—that Jesus graces us with the ability to partake of His body, blood, soul, and divinity! No amount of Sunday Sweat, Stress, and Shenanigans will change this truth!

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3 Ways Mary Undoes Knots of Desolation

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Does your life seem confusing? Are you currently in a situation where there is no apparent solution? Sir Isaac Newton once said, “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” If that is the case it seems that life is lacking truth lately. Confusion, frustration, anxiety, and anger engulfed me over the course of the past couple weeks.

Anyone who has experienced that over a period of time will start to feel like you may be trapped in an endless loop of the daily grind. The image that immediately comes to mind during confusing times is the lithograph print Relativity [see above] by Dutch artist M.C. Escher.

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When life starts to cycle into a twisted journey of never-ending [and never beginning] staircases, the seeds of desolation become sown. Every time doubt and despair grow in my heart I turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary for assistance.

According to the Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen Gentium 56 stated, “”The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience; what the virgin Eve bound through her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.”  While the devotion to Mary Undoer of Knots is founded in the ancient Church, I recently discovered this special appellation for Mary from Pope Francis.

I learned that the pope’s favorite devotion to Mary is to view her as our mother who unties the knots in our spiritual life. I came up with three reasons why I believe this to be true as well.

True model of obedience to God

As an adopted child of God I often struggle with being obedient to the will of my Heavenly Father. It is easy to embrace a “my way of the highway!” type of mentality. Due to original sin humanity suffers from a detachment from God. Mary is a bridge to Jesus—who is the ultimate bridge to God the Father!

The Blessed Virgin’s intrepid, but faithful statement of obedience in Luke 1:38, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” always give me pause. Her statement she compel you to stop and ponder as well. How often do you attempt to push for your will to be done? Do you notice subtle, or maybe overt, signs pointing to God’s will, yet still ignore them? What things could you do differently to unite your will to the Father’s will?

Mary, Mother of God is the true and perfect standard-bearer for what obedience to God’s will looks like.

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Silent suffering

As a parent, the worst possibly suffering I could ever imagine would involve something happening to my children that was outside of my control and ability to comfort/aid them. Venerable Fulton Sheen always talks of Mary with both charity and clarity. In Mary and the Sword he speaks of the importance for Mary’s suffering before Calvary,

“An unsuffering Madonna to the suffering Christ would be a loveless Madonna. Who is there who loves, who does not want to share the sorrows of the beloved? Since Christ loved mankind so much as to want to die to expiate their guilt, then He should also will that His Mother, who lived only to do His will, should also be wrapped in the swaddling bands of His griefs.”

Having experienced an unimaginable suffering of seeing her only son agonize on the Cross, Mary is the perfect mother for me to seek her aid as another son suffering from desolation and doubts at times.

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Mother to all God’s children

Jesus in John 19 entrusted Mary to be the spiritual mother for John — and not only for John but for all of God’s children. According to the Catechism paragraph 963,

Since the Virgin Mary’s role in the mystery of Christ and the Spirit has been treated, it is fitting now to consider her place in the mystery of the Church. “The Virgin Mary . . . is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer. . . . She is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ’ . . . since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head.”502 “Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church.”503

Oftentimes when I experienced confusion, sadness, anger, and doubt growing up [and even today] I usually reach out first to my mom in seeking consolation and clarity. The same is true for my spiritual mother—Mary. Her close unity with Jesus Christ combined with her full humanity allows her to be both a trusted and approachable figure to find refuge in.

Mary guides us to Her Son

St. Thomas Aquinas declared, “As mariners are guided into port by the shining of a star, so Christians are guided to heaven by Mary.” Catholics honor Mary because she points us to her Divine Son Jesus!

We relate directly to Mary due to her full humanity. During the stresses of life, reciting of a Hail Mary calms my angst and orients the storm in my soul toward God’s will. Let us close with the prayer to Mary Undoer of Knots in hopes that she guides us away from the knotty snares of the Devil.17

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Prayer to Mary Undoer of Knots

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life.
You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots.
Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of His children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life.
No one, not even the evil one himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone.
Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot…I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all, You are my hope.
O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution and with Christ the freedom from my chains.
Hear my plea.
Keep me, guide me, protect me, o safe refuge!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me

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A Letter of Support and Hopefulness to Pope Francis

Write a letter

Dear Pope Francis,

God bless you and your priesthood, dear Holy Father. For it is in this mysterious gift the papacy rests in your hands, stirs in your heart, and witnesses with your life.

Providence has brought you to us. I am always grateful for Providence. I am a spiritual daughter of St. Mother Theodore Guerin, the foundress of the Sisters of Providence in Terre Haute, Ind. In the 1980s, I was taught by her capable nuns whose one thread of thought was always to focus on God’s Providence.

God’s Plan Revealed Over Time

In God’s Providence, he put a man at the head of his Holy Catholic Church, starting with St. Peter who he asked three very poignant and straightforward questions. They are questions that each pope has answered through every century and ones you must ask yourself every day.

Christ asked Peter if he loved him three times (John 21:15-17) Answering ‘Yes’ each time, Jesus then commanded Peter to “Feed my Sheep,” instituting the role of the pope as the Good Shepherd. How vivid an image that does not change through the centuries of Christ’s Church but grows stronger.

How many times Our Lord spoke of the Good Shepherd protecting his flock, laying down His life for them, and keeping the wolves at bay. What a beautiful role you have been given by God himself.

A Rock to Hold on During the Storm

The times are weary and evil, like many other times the Church has weathered, and yet it finds you at the head of the church during an unprecedented time in history. We are a society entrenched in the greatest technology and the greatest sins that cry to heaven. Abortion rates skyrocket, infanticide in the womb, sodomy without shame, lack of shame in all areas of sexual life, and the pillaging of the poor despite these great technological advances infect our culture.

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There is no cure for cancer and many Christians live like unbelievers forgetting the great grace of the Eucharistic Lord.

The papacy gives hope to world. Other sounds reverberate around the world. Words of Our Holy Father that are questioned, scrutinized, taken out of context, and at times cause alarm. That is for you and your cardinals to decide how to clarify while upholding the dogma of the Catholic Church that has sustained us for more than 2,000 years.

Support Our Holy Father

My job as a faithful lay Catholic is to pray for unity and to meet this culture as the great St. John Paul II told us to back in 1978, “Be Not Afraid.” The pope has many titles but the most endearing is Servant of the Servants of God. The Pope washes our feet, uplifts our hearts, and can never cease to lead us to truth, beauty, and goodness (Philippians 4:8.)

Keep Calm and Love Pope Francis

All this noise and distraction about your papacy—you were elected on my birthday— is the noisy clang of the chain the devil is attached to. He  is straining hard to be unleashed.

Did not the reverent Cardinal Sarah say, “”The truth is that the church is represented on earth by the vicar of Christ, that is by the pope. And whoever is against the pope is, ipso facto, outside the church.” What a holy cardinal you have supporting you in God’s Providence!

In 1978, when St. John Paul II took office there wasn’t the Internet, cellphones, and social media. Communism was alive when John Paul II was elected. A brick wall in Germany reminded us of the stark reality. Pope John Paul II lived through Nazism and a communist rule so what better Lion of Judah to come out roaring on the balcony of St. Peter’s proclaiming “Be Not Afraid.”

That proclamation is relevant today for the papacy and for the people of the Catholic Church. Today, we face new fears, new evils, and new trials but we say “Be Not Afraid.”

Different, Yet the Same

Your entry onto the balcony of St. Peter’s was quite different for quite a different papacy formed in God’s Providence. You came out more as a startled dove, surprised at the support and deep love showered on you from the people below your papal balcony. That love of the people has sustained the papacy through generations.

Good Shepherd

Accept that love, dearest Holy Father, for we love you. The sheep of the Good Shepherd follow your voice.

We seek your answer just as Christ sought Peter’s answer. For we are do what Christ did.

We ask you: Do you love us, Holy Father? Do you want to feed us? The faithful will keep asking you this. They will ask every pope that comes after you these same questions posed first by Christ.

Christ’s Promise

You asked us to pray for you that first night and we should honor that request every day. The Gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church that Christ founded. Christ’s promises are true even among the greatest sins. If the world as we know it does change, then the prayer we pray at every Mass, “Thy Kingdom Come,” has been fulfilled in great joy and Providence.

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Hell has not triumphed in that instance and never will. Christ has triumphed. God’s laws are always fulfilled even when the mystery of it leaves us in awe.

Dear Holy Father, who follows a long line of popes both good and bad, I say to you as a faithful Catholic: “You are in my prayers” and “Be Not Afraid.” I say to my fellow Catholics hurt by the Church: “Be Not Afraid.” St. John Paul II set the example by teaching us to face the millennium we now live in with hope.

As St. Mother Theodore Guerin said to her nuns and her students that came after her down through the generations, “Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence. Trusting all your affairs to Him and putting them also under the protection of Mary and Joseph, you will see that all will be well

This is my prayer for you and the entire Church. Heaven’s best to you dear Holy Father.

In Providence,

Your humble daughter,

Jennifer


About the author

Jennifer Lindberg is a wife and mother to six children. She is an award-winning journalist with first-place awards from the Associated Press. Jennifer left secular journalism after seeing John Paul II in Split, Croatia. This prompted her to begin a career in the Catholic press and writing for non-profits. She writes at www.thinkingfromhope and has an Instagram account by the same name. Follow her there, as she talks about hope, Catholicism, lifestyle, and the beauty of faith.


Notes:

1.“Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence.” The quote comes from a letter written by Mother Theodore, dated March 27, 1854, to Cecile (Le Fer De La Motte) Choisnet, the younger sister of Sisters Mary Joseph and St. Francis Xavier. It is hoped that the encouragement Mother Theodore offers her “beloved Cecile” will provide inspiration for all who visit her shrine.

“You will not be offended, and you will allow me to say, and repeat, that you ought not to give way to uneasiness about the future. Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence. Trusting all your affairs to Him and putting them also under the protection of Mary and Joseph, you will see that all will be well.” Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

2. The official titles of the Pope are:

The official list of titles of the Pope, in the order in which they are given in the Annuario Pontificio, is: Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God.[1] https://religion.wikia.org/wiki/Pope/Titles

3. https://aleteia.org/2017/04/08/rare-footage-watch-pope-john-paul-iis-first-words-after-his-election/

4. Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, said the people who portray him as an opponent of Pope Francis are being used by the devil to help divide the church.

“The truth is that the church is represented on earth by the vicar of Christ, that is by the pope. And whoever is against the pope is, ipso facto, outside the church,” the cardinal said in an interview published Oct. 7 in Corriere della Sera, an Italian daily.

 

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3 Reasons Why Life is Confusing like a Maze

The great Chinese philosopher Confucius once said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” His words seemed geared especially for my ears. I tend to overthink and over analyze situations in my life.

As a result, instead of simply living I conflate daily stresses into something bigger than need be. I started doing puzzles to help me deal with my anxiety. I also rediscovered my childhood love of maze puzzles. That got me thinking life is sort of like a maze. The dictionary defines the word maze as “a network of paths and hedges designed as a puzzle through which one has to find a way out”.

A secondary definition for this word is when it is used as a verb: “to be dazed and confused”. I will incorporate both descriptions about mazes in my writing today. Here are three ways why my life lately is like a maze.

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Life is complex, yet beautifully simple

Life is a busy and complex event. As a parent of four children, life grows greater in complexity: school is starting up shortly, bedtime routines need to be followed strictly, kids get sick, and my job schedule is in transition. Life is complex. But does it have to be?

When I stop and reflect on my life all I truly need to do include: feeding my family and myself, providing a shelter, teaching my children, providing clothing, and helping my wife. Life is a paradox—it is both simple and complex.

Matthew 6:25-34 tells of the simplicity in life and Jesus urges his followers [and us] not to worry as we will be provided for because the birds of the air and other creatures are cared for as well.

Mazes are both simple and complex. All mazes have a beginning and end—simple. However, each maze is unique in its level of complexity due to the amount of dead-ends and size—complex.

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Know the beginning and the end

The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for:

The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator. (CCC 27).

Through faith and science I know that the origin of the universe began with a omnipotent force—known to Christians as God. Witnesses of the saints’ lives, the teachings of the Catholic Church, and my faith inform me that death is not the end. Rather it is a springboard to a possible eternity with God. Life is like a maze in that it is book-ended with a clear start and finish.

  • Why does the in between section [life] become complicated?
  • Why do I find myself laboring through a labyrinth?

The answer is simple! I forget the beginning and end goals of my puzzle that I call life.

Dot-to-dot living—perception or possibility?

Along with mazes, I enjoyed completing dot-to-dot puzzles in my elementary years. Having children in elementary school has reminded me of these fun and simple type of games. Unlike mazes, dot-to-dots are straightforward—you simply start with the lowest number [or letter] dot and connect it to the next digit until the puzzle is complete.

Oftentimes, I wish my life played out more like a dot-to-dot puzzles than a maze. I enjoy order and a linear pattern to living.

  • Why does God allow life to exist in dot-to-dot manner?
  • Why does He permit mazes caused by evil [personal and natural] to tangle up my life?
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I asked these questions during period of my deepest depression and intense suffering. Arriving on the other side of suffering, I came to realize both through experience and prayer that God allows mazes to develop in human life due to the gift of free will.

Freedom is both the greatest gift and great challenge we face on a daily basis. I am free to try impose my control over this life and fashion it into dot-to-dot living or I am free to embrace the a[maze]ness of this life and learn to rely on others and God for help and support when I inevitably face apparent dead-ends in my spiritual life.

Centering my life on a proper order of love—God, family, friend, fellow men—provides stability. Instead of laboring through life’s labyrinth, embracing my maze allows me to live to the fullest. Saint John tells us of God’s enduring nature in Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, then beginning and the end.” When I view life through this sense I am able to incorporate Confucius’ teaching in daily living.


“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

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What I am, My Church Will Be: An Examination of Conscience for the Laity

By Meg Naumovski

The Catholic Church Needs the Laity Now More than Ever

If you are a parent, teacher or have any authority over anyone in a job, then you may understand the cross you must carry at times when called set down the parameters for success. As we enter the following examination of conscience as members of the church in light of recent events in our Catholic church, let us consider the responsibilities of our leaders, and take on the mindset of child being guided by a loving (and human) parent, or a docile sheep following his trusted shepherd.

As with any confession, this is not the time to confess the sins of others in excuse for our own sins.  This is a time to take a serious and deep look into our hearts and where we have failed to abide and participate in the well-being of our beautiful Mother Church.

Have I been praying for our leaders? Especially, priests, bishops and cardinals?

“When people want to destroy religion they begin by attacking the priest; for when there is no priest, there is no sacrifice; and when there is no sacrifice, there is no religion.”

— St. John Vianney.

While many of us sit and read the newspaper and watch our screens in horror at the sins of some of church leaders, we must ask ourselves in earnest, how many times have I honestly prayed for them in the past year? Month? Week? Today?

We should be praying for our church leaders. Every. Single. Day. Not only that, we need to be offering sacrifices and fasting.

If the millions of Catholics all over the world prayed for our leaders’ protection, the Holy Spirit would have listened and prevented many of the Enemy’s attacks on the clergy.

Over the years, my faithful group of Sisters in Christ have done some of the following weekly ideas:

  • A Holy Hour of Reparation
  • A rosary for our church leaders
  • Fasting on Fridays, even just from lunch
  • Offering your Sunday mass intention for them
  • A hand-written note reminding him that you appreciate the fact that he gave up his life to serve God and all of us.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. The smallest prayer and sacrifice can make a difference when we remember what God can do with the little we offer Him.

Do I understand that God works His will through my obedience to His authority?

Our priests are not supposed to be entertainers. I have heard people complain about the way he talks, the way he sings or doesn’t; his homilies are too long, too short or too “preachy” (really?) Maybe we didn’t like what he said or the way he said it. Maybe he told us something that challenged us or took away our favorite “toy” (Harry Potter Books, Yoga, Ouija, etc.) because he proclaimed the dangers it posed to our souls, and like a rebellious son or daughter, we reacted with an offended attitude of pride, and a sharp word for him and his failures.

Did we consider he is responsible for our sanctification? Sins of omission are when we hold back from telling the truth because of our own fear of rejection. He is responsible for the entirety of his parish in this way.

If I say to the wicked, You shall surely die—and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade the wicked from their evil conduct in order to save their lives—then they shall die for their sin, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. 19 If, however, you warn the wicked and they still do not turn from their wickedness and evil conduct, they shall die for their sin, but you shall save your life. –Ezekiel 3:18-19

Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you. –Hebrews 13:17

Do I share in the priestly mission of the church by making my own holiness a priority?

What is the priestly mission of the church?

To understand the “priestly mission of the church”, we refer to CHRISTIFIDELES LAICI (POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION OF HIS HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II ON THE VOCATION AND THE MISSION OF THE LAY FAITHFUL IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD.)

The lay faithful are sharers in the priestly mission, for which Jesus offered himself on the cross and continues to be offered in the celebration of the Eucharist for the glory of God and the salvation of humanity. Incorporated in Jesus Christ, the baptized are united to him and to his sacrifice in the offering they make of themselves and their daily activities (cf. Rom 12:1, 2).

How can I help the priestly mission of the church?

By offering my prayer, work, struggles, suffering and joys each day.

Speaking of the lay faithful the Council says: “For their work, prayers and apostolic endeavours, their ordinary married and family life, their daily labour, their mental and physical relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life if patiently borne-all of these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Pt 2:5). During the celebration of the Eucharist these sacrifices are most lovingly offered to the Father along with the Lord’s body. Thus as worshipers whose every deed is holy, the lay faithful consecrate the world itself to God”[23].

I recently stumbled upon a post on social media by a priest who is the new pastor of my home parish from years ago. He had posted a prayer that I found remarkably inspiring and it is the attitude we should all assume since each and everyone of us IS THE CHURCH.  Pick up your yoke, give thanks to God and learn from this holy attitude that he has each mass pray together after communion each week:

Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you for our parish, St Mary’s Delaware. My parish is composed of people like me. I help make it what it is. It will be friendly, if I am. It will be holy, if I am holy. Its pews will be filled. if I help fill them. It will do great work, if I work. It will be prayerful, if I pray. It will make generous gifts to many causes, if I am a generous giver.

It will bring others to worship, if I invite and bring them in. It will be a place of loyalty and love, of fearlessness and faith, of compassion, charity and mercy, if I, who make it what it is, am filled with these same things. Therefore, with the help of God, I now dedicate myself to the task of being all the things that I want my parish to be. Amen. Sylvester Onyeachonam; pastor St Mary Church Delaware Ohio

 

Let us as laity follow the example of this loving shepherd and remember:

What I am, my church will be.


Megan Naumovski is a writer, teacher of the Catholic Faith, speaker and blogger at The Domestic Church of Bosco boscoworld.blog with a mission to form laity in the Church, support priests, and bridge Christian friendships beyond the borders of denominations. Formerly a youth minister, teacher of religious education and apostolate leader for youth, she now works in leadership with Catholic women and writes in her sleep because she can’t help it.

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3 Things I Learned about the Sacrament of Confession

According to the ancient Greek philosopher Democritus, “Raising children is an uncertain thing; success is reached only after a life of battle and worry.” Written over 2,000 years ago, that advice remains ever relevant and new. Parenting feels like a daily battle. Frustrations brew, chaos ensues, and bedtime routine feels like WWIII.

More often than not, my anger gets the best of me. Fatherhood takes a lot of work. Some days I make excuses to not put in the work. Failure and faux pas have became habit. I desire a reset. A new beginning. I want to do better. Become something better. Become someone better for me kids.

Thankfully, I don’t have to look [or travel] that far for the remedy.

The Sacrament of Confession provides Catholics an opportunity to be forgiven and restore one’s relationship with God and their neighbor. St. Isidore of Seville wrote, “Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin, all hope consists in confession; in confession there is a chance for mercy.”

This school year my oldest child receives his First Confession and Eucharist. Next week he will receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. My wife and I have been going through the religious education lessons to prepare him for an understanding and proper disposition to receive the sacrament of healing. In teaching him the basics about this sacrament, I too, actually learned something about Confession.

The Simpler Is Better

Albert Einstein famously quipped, “If you can’t explain it to a sixyearoldyou don’t understand it yourself.” It definitely takes a talent to be able to articulate the complexities of the Catholic faith to young minds. This is something I struggle with a bit, but I am getting better. I am used to writing about theology or discussing the faith with adults are the audience.

Simple is better

Less is more. I never actually understand that phrase until after going through these lessons with my son. Sometimes discussion about the sacraments can get bogged down with technical jargon or bias. Essentially the main questions kids and new converts to the faith wonder include:

  • What are sacraments?
  • Why are sacraments important?
  • How do I receive the sacraments

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1131, “The sacraments are efficacious [effective] signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.” To put it is more basic terms, a sacrament is a visible sign of God’s invisible grace. By receiving the sacraments we grow closer to God.

A Brief History of Sin and Salvation

Adam and Eve disobeyed God. This disobedience caused sin to enter into the world. Sin separates us from God. God sent His only Son Jesus to restore that relationship through his death on the Cross. Before Jesus’ Ascension he promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide the Apostles. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit met the Apostles and gave them the ability to preach the Gospel.

Sacrament of Confession

The Apostles, the first bishops, ordained their successors. This Apostolic succession continued throughout history. Jesus gave Peter and the rest of the Apostles the authority to forgive sins (see John 20:1-23) and consecrate the Eucharist. Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the successors of the Apostles (bishops) ordain men as priests. Jesus Christ works through those men in the Sacraments of Confession and Eucharist.

We explained to our son that Jesus is working through the priest.  When he will confess his sins to our priest it will actually be Jesus that he will be talking to and it will be Jesus who forgives sins. The priest is an instrument by which God works through.

Mercy

Another lesson I [re]learned in preparing my son for the Sacrament of Confession, is that everyone is in need of God’s mercy. “Even the pope goes to confession!” I told my eight-year-old. I went on to tell him about Saint Pope John XXII who received that sacrament daily.

Although the sacrament of Baptism cleanses us from original sin, humans still have the ability to freely choose to love or to not love God. Choosing to not love God or others results in sin or separation. As a father, I am definitely reminded of my need for forgiveness. Patience does not come naturally. It is a virtue tested daily, hourly, and sometimes every minute in the Chicoine household.

Being able to tell Jesus through the priest of my failures as a parent, husband, friend, worker, and neighbor is an incredible gift. Even more incredible is God’s mercy of absolving me from my past sins.

Reaping the Fruit of Our Sacramental Marriage

The third thing I learned about the Catholic faith while teaching my son about Confession is that the Holy Spirit delays certain gifts and gives them at key times in our life. My wife and I received the Sacrament of Matrimony in 2010. We took [and still take] our faith seriously. The primary purpose of marriage is to help the spouses grow in holiness.

Fruit

According  to the Catechism paragraph 1661,

The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1799).

In my post Toddlers: An Adorable Trace of the Trinity I wrote, “A fruit of the sacrament of marriage is children…I think of my children as the best gift that God has given me personally to grow in virtue daily.” Kids test your love. They give you opportunities to grow in understanding, patience, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, and gratitude to name just a few virtues. Educating our children about the faith provides my wife and I chances to rekindle our love for the Church and Christ.

before and after confession meme

If you are experiencing doubt, impatience, anger, resentment, worry, or other vices I strongly encourage you to examine your conscience and ask God for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession.  Build up the Body of Christ and seek God’s mercy!

 

 

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