3 Reasons Why I Don’t Argue with Opponents of the Catholic Church

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This weekend I heard the following comment on the floor as I began work, “Catholics and I don’t get along much. I live to destroy Catholics.” While his statement may certainly be hyperbolic—that co-worker is definitely known for exaggerated and bombastic claims—there is truth to it. During my college years, his statement would have provoked righteous anger. Immediately, I would have engaged in debate on the level of St. Nicholas, the hectic-puncher, himself!St. Nick Heretic puncher

According to Venerable Fulton Sheen, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” Perception trumps reality more often than not. Refraining from leaping to judgement, unlike my co-worker, will allow me to demonstrate the love and truth of Catholicism. This article will look at three reasons why I no longer debate opponents of the Catholic Church.

Change the Heart, Not the Mind

Change Heart not Mind

Arguments only appeal to the rational side of a person and usually only leave the parties further entrenched in their respective beliefs. The 20th century American actor Will Rogers said, “People’s minds are changed through observation and not through argument.” You just have mention the words politics, religion, or Trump to prove his claim. Social media simply adds more fuel to debates.

Instead of seeking to be the winner of an argument, focus on changing the human heart. The Common Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas plainly wrote, “To convert somebody go and take them by the hand and guide them.” Entering into a relationship with those of different beliefs from will not able help you understand their point of view, but also open their heart to the beauty of Catholicism. I have many college friends I try to keep in contact who oppose the teachings of the Gospel. Whenever we hung out in the past, I never sought to impose my beliefs on them actively. I demonstrated charity and clearly articulated the reasons for my belief when they asked.

Preach Gospel—Use Words Only When Necessary

Preach the Gospel Use Words If Necessary

Another reason I no longer actively seek debates with opponents to Catholicism is because I have learned the value in actions speaking louder than words. I used to tout the importance of charity, yet I failed so display that same virtue in an argument, on social media or real life. Mark Twain purported, “Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” Despite the progress I have made over the years, I still fail at having my words match my deeds 100% of the time! If you too struggle with hollow words and insincere actions, hope is not lost—now is the best time to start over.

Strengthening the Will

Work and family life presents plenty of challenges, annoyances, and irritations. In other words, opportunities for holiness. My parish priest said in his homily for Pentecost, “We must ask the Holy Spirit to widen our narrow view.” We can only see our perspective.

Those bigoted words from my co-worker about the Catholic Church did not  spontaneously spew out. His experience with the Church or what he perceives the Church to be is jaded. I asked the Holy Spirit to provide me the strength to remain calm and silent.

St. Josemaria Escriva wrote, “Don’t say, ‘That person bothers me.’ Think: ‘That person sanctifies me’!” That is how I approached that man’s attitude—as an opportunity for me to exercise patience. Catholics must not fight fire with fire. We can only douse out the incendiary actions of our opponents with help of the Holy Spirit.

No Need to Defend Truth—Truth is Undefeated!

Truth

Our natural reaction when someone we love dearly is attacked is to rush to their defense. In my early twenties, I acted boldly, yet rashly, in defense of my faith. More times than not, I regretted my hotheadedness.  Experience and the Holy Spirit has taught me a different approach. As St. Augustine put it, “The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.”

It is not my job to save the Church. My primary role as husband, father, and a member of the laity is to teach the faith to my wife, children, and those I meet on a daily basis. Actions speak louder than words. I no longer debate non-Catholics or people vehemently attacking the Church.  I witness to the truth in my daily life. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  He already has won! We need only to obey and truth in His Providence.

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2 Reasons Why Jesus’ “Failed” Miracle is the Turning Point of Mark’s Gospel

healing of blind man

My favorite healing story in Mark’s Gospel is the curing of the blind man at Bethsaida. God confirmed this because the lone bookmark in my study bible remained on Mark 8:22-26. I placed that bookmark over 4 years ago!

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Like most of the healing stories in Mark, the curing of the blind man is short. Here is the text,

22When they arrived at Bethsaida, they brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on him and asked, “Do you see anything?”g 24Looking up he replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.” 25Then he laid hands on his eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly. 26Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.” (Mark 8:22-26 New American Bible)

I call this Jesus’ “apparent failed miracle” mostly because he has to cure the blind man in stages—the cure does not happen instantaneously.  The man’s statement, “I see people looking like trees and walking”,  is the oddest sentence  I ever read in the New Testament. It took me a long time to realize the purpose of this story. I give two reasons for why Mark 8:22-26 is the turning point in Jesus’ ministry.

patience

The healing happened in stages

This healing stands unique against Jesus’ other healings because Jesus does not heal the blind man right away. St. Jerome in Homily 79 viewed this passage allegorically to signify mankind’s gradual increase in wisdom. In other words, God’s revelation of truth throughout the Old Testament, New Testament, and current in the age of the Church is incremental.

Peter’s declaration happens immediately after this healing

I previously mentioned the significance of having a contextual reading of the Bible as a whole. Most people tend to see this as reading books in the context of other biblical books. Yet, in the case of Mark 8:22-26 a contextual reading to draw out this passage’s meaning can occur within the gospel itself. Peter declares Jesus to be the Christ in Mark 8:30. I do not think this was a coincidence on the part of the evangelist. I believe  Mark placed the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida before Peter’s revelation strategically. He wanted to show  how God’s truth is revealed gradually. From this point of the gospel until the end Jesus starts to ramp up his predictions of his Death and Resurrection. He reveals his identity more and more!

Living out the Gospel

I challenge you all to reflect upon this healing story and ask yourself these questions: At what stage am I at in my faith journey? Do I truly recognize Jesus to be the Christ as Peter proclaims, or am I still partially blind in my faith and seeing “theological trees”?

trees look like people

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Live and Let Go of Bitterness and Anger

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My parish priest declared in his Sunday homily, “Nothing has disturbed people more than unforgiveness.”  Harboring resentment against individuals who offended or betrayed you only hurts you in the long run. I struggled, and still struggle in some cases, with people who hurt me in seemingly unforgiveable ways.

Jesus urges us in Luke 6:27-38 to love and forgive not only our friends, but also our enemies. Throughout history Christianity has maintained in its official teaching the importance and reality that sins may be forgiven. According to the Catechism of the Church, God’s mercy is infinite, “There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive. “There is no one, however wicked and guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness, provided his repentance is honest.529 Christ who died for all men desires that in his Church the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin” (CCC 982).

If you find it difficult to forgive those that hurt you in the past, implore God for the graces to forgive and love as He loves. Simply petition God with the words, “Help me to forgive as I don’t know how to forgive. But I trust in your mercy and love.” The Gospel from this Sunday concludes with Jesus’ promise of graces to be poured out if you extend mercy and forgiveness to all. Only true peace and life within you will spring forth from the tentacles of unforgivness are cut down and out of your heart. Go to confession, attend Mass frequently, and ask God daily to bestow you the gift of a merciful heart.


“Give (forgive), and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.” —Luke 6:38

“During mental prayer, it is well, at times, to imagine that many insults and injuries are being heaped upon us, that misfortunes have befallen us, and then strive to train our heart to bear and forgive these things patiently, in imitation of our Saviour. This is the way to acquire a strong spirit.” — St. Philip Neri

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Siphoning Sanctity? Reconciling Mark 5:21-43’s Peculiar Passage with Reality

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Having taught high school Old and New Testament in the past and being a cradle Catholic, the newness of the Good News found in the Bible sometimes gets taken for granted. During the Liturgy of the Word for Sunday’s Mass, the Gospel reading actually penetrated my theological torpor and liturgical listlessness. Mark 5:21-43 details two healing stories in one gospel proclamation. The evangelist began with a synagogue official named Jarius pleading to Jesus to save his daughter near death. On the way toward Jarius’ residence, Mark inserts a seemingly tangential telling of the woman afflicted with a hemorrhage for a dozen years! Jesus heals this poor woman and the passage concludes with Jesus raising Jarius’ daughter from the dead.

Reflecting on this passage the following questions invaded my mind:

questions

1. Why does Mark insert a seemingly random story within a healing story? Could he not simply detail the healing of the hemorrhaging woman after completing the passage on the healing of Jarius’ daughter?

2. Does this Gospel reading contain the strangest sentence uttered by Jesus: Who has touched my clothes? Is he not omniscient and all-knowing as God?

3. Power flowing from Jesus…what a peculiar way to describe the healing incident?

These questions initially perplexed me, however, when I had time to think about the passage and re-read the evangelist’s words, and interpret in light of the teaching of the Catholic Church I learned of the deeper more spiritual meaning hidden within Mark 5:21-43 and how it relates to my life today.

Christ Willing to Save All—Social Status does not matter

Sandwiched between the beginning and the end of the healing of Jarius’ daughter, Mark inserted Jesus’ encountered a woman suffering from a blood disorder. After careful review, I noticed the juxtaposition between the two individuals. Below is a chart that showing the differences in how Jarius’ daughter and the unnamed woman came to learn about Jesus.

 

Jarius’ Daughter Woman Suffering Hemorrhage
Young Older
Prestigious Family Poor
Father’s Intercedes Actively Passive Request for Healing
Saw Jesus Heard Jesus

John Paul II declared, “[O]nly in Christ do we find real love, and the fullness of life. And so I invite you today to look to Christ.” Certainly, Mark 5 demonstrates people who recognize the importance and power of Jesus.

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According the evangelist, “And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, ‘Who touched my garments?’” Obsessed with superheroes, I recently received Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game from my wife for Father’s Day. Along with my passion for this geeky deck-building game, I have rented a slew of comic books from the library as well. While my fandom seems random to the discussion of Mark’s Gospel I need to provide a little backdrop to my thought process after hearing the priest read Mark 5:30, the first thought that popped into my head, “I did not know that Rogue made an appearance. Sapping or draining of power is the hallmark of that X-Men character. Marvelously [no pun intended], merely grazing the cloak of Jesus provided the woman healing that eluded doctors many years.

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Joking aside, the healing power of Jesus is quite amazing. Previous consultation with doctors failed to ease the woman’s suffering. The passage that may be interrupted as a “power loss” of Jesus is not meant to infringe on his divine nature. On the contrary, Mark, like the other Synoptic Gospels, never dispute the divinity of Christ, he was utilizing language that his audience would be able to understand.

Jesus—Hope in Face of Despair:

Along with Jesus’ desire to save all humanity, regardless of social standing, Mark 5:21-43 focuses on hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. After healing the woman with a hemorrhage, Jesus arrived too late—at least that was what the crowd thought! Urging Jarius to accept his daughter’s fate the onlookers declared, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” Men of little faith and tenacity would have resigned themselves to start the grieving process, yet Jesus urged the synagogue official to not be afraid.

According to Saint Pope John XXII, “Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” From the onset of this Gospel reading Jarius actively sought the aid of Jesus and pleaded for the return of his daughter to life when all looked hopeless as she appeared to linger in the shadow of death. Below is a link to a story about Jesus providing miraculous healing to another young daughter—prematurely born!

uniqueness

Uniqueness of the Individual:

A final thought that crossed my mind when reflecting on Mark 5:21-43 was that Jesus focuses on the present moment with grace, love, and resolve. Even on the way toward healing a prominent religious official’s child, Christ paused to listen to the needs of an ordinary, poor woman. Saint Mother Teresa said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” Do not worry about the past nor the future only concern about the need of God’s children in front of you.

This is exactly what Jesus did in Mark 5:25-34—noticing the presence of the sickly woman Christ stopped to show mercy the person in need at the present moment. As a father of three young children, my focus is frequently divided between juggling the various needs and adventures of my kids growing up. What I learned to devote my attention and time to the present moment and act with love instead of worrying about the various needs and whether it will be adequate or not. The genius of the Gospel message centers on the individual first. Siphoning sanctity cannot occur as love multiplies not divides when more and more individuals come into your life.

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