Are You a Salt or Sugar of the World in 2019?

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According to Matthew 7:15, Jesus cautions us by saying, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.” Frankly, I did not realize that adage originated from the Gospels. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Thinking about this phrase I have come to realize that Jesus is speaking not only to humanity in general, but directly to me! I need to be consistent in my love toward God and my fellow man in order to avoid turning into that same false prophet I am called to be on the look-out for.

Jesus spoke with such clarity and used tangible examples. I am not going to “reinvent the wheel” regarding today’s topic. During his Sermon on the Mount discourse in Matthew 5, the Good Teacher charged his followers to be the salt of the earth. Above there are two pictures: one is salt the other is sugar. At face value both appear to be indistinguishable—similar to a wolf donning lamb’s fleece is camouflaged from its prey. Salt and sugar play a significant part in our life. Both add flavor to otherwise dull food. Excessive amounts of sodium and sugar lead to health problems. What I want to focus on is the dichotomous relationship between salt and sugar? Am I the salt or sugar of the Earth? Let’s see!

To preserve or not to preserve…that is the question

Aside from flavoring bland dishes or enhancing taste in already good meals, the main purpose of salt is to preserve food against deterioration. Salt draws out excess water from foods and dehydrates it. This process allows for increased storage times—especially in cases where food is in abundance and needs to be saved for later periods. Jesus used the example of salt because of its universal application and practical usage in daily living. He calls Christians to act as theological relish and preservative to society.

Sometimes a little salt goes a long way in improving the taste of food. We need not feel defeated if it feels like we are moving against a seeming endless tide of negativity from the world. Holiness is what all Christians are called to—look at the saints and the witness they provided a world in despair.

Deny Yourself and Follow Him

In high school, I took chemistry and became fascinated with the various atomic structures of elements, molecules, and compounds. I found a certain beauty in their ordering and design. Below are picture of the atomic structure of NaCL [sodium chloride- table salt] and C₆H₁₂O₆ [glucose- a common sugar].

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From a microscopic vantage point, a clear distinction may be made between these two common household items. Both are composed of entirely different elements [hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen in Glucose] and [sodium and chloride in salt]. Along with the having different building materials, sugar and salt are fashioned with different types of bonds—covalent and ionic respectively. Covalent bonds are stronger because the shared electron is what keeps the elements held together whereas in an ionic bond one element loses an electron to another causing one element to become positively charged and the other to become negatively charged such as in the case of NaCl or table salt.

In other words, the elements in table salt lose an electron to effect the ionic charge of the sodium or chloride molecule. Initially, losing may be viewing negativity [no pun intended!]. One may think that due to the stronger nature of the covalent bond in sugar that it should be preferred to salt. The New Testament does shed some light on the reality of loss and rejection. Luke 9:23-25 turns this notion on its head when Jesus says,

“Then he said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily* and follow me. 24For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?'”

Christ’s words elicit a sense of paradox, yet allure within my mind. Interesting, I gain life when I serving other’s needs above my selfish desires. In my weakness I am stronger! Through a theological ionic bond, Christians act as holy seasoning to embolden our world.

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Instant Gratification Leads to Decay

Dentists frighten me. Not in The Exorcist or The Shining sort of way. Still, I get apprehensive, anxious, and move toward hypochondriac-like behaviors when the subject of dentists come up. Perhaps, it stemmed from my penchant as a little kid for losing my teeth quickly and easily. Or maybe my periodontal panic happened due to my need for braces– not once, but twice in my elementary school years! Regardless of where this toothy torment began, I recognize that when I limit my sugar intake life is much easier during my semi-annual check-ups.

Thing in Excess Destroys

Excessive sugar proves damaging to both our physical and mental well-being. Unhealthy attraction to sugar is simply a euphemism for the sin of gluttony. Our society suffers from the belief that instant gratification is better than self-denial or self-control. I am as guilty of this vice as anyone. I have made it a point to limit my sugar consumption and practice fasting– to help me both spiritually and physically. Jesus choose not to use sugar as an example to relate to Christians because he understood the appeal and temptation this food item poses for humanity.

While sugar and salt look similar in outward appearance the two are vastly different. How do we distinguish between the two? First, we learn to trust the authority of the manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of these products. We trust that the packaging is correct. When a box at the grocery store says “SUGAR” it really is sugar and not salt. A second way to learn is more difficult– through the school of experience. Maybe sugar is housed in a clear container in your home. If you forgot to label it only tasting the substance will you determine if it truly is sugar and not salt.

How Will You Season the World?

The same may be said about temptations and goods sent our way. Oftentimes, Satan dresses up sin as “sugar” to enhance its allure. This makes is easier to fell prey to his trap. Our adversary disguised sin under the costume of a juicy fruit– see Genesis 3 for the story of the Fall. May we continue to rely on the tradition of the Catholic Church, Sacred Scriptures, and testament of the saints for guidance in our journey toward holiness. Let us be the salt of the Earth and preserve society! There is more to you than meets the eye.

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3 Reasons Catholics Should Have a Saint Statue at Home

Catholic saint statues

What is the deal with Catholics and their statues? Are they committing idol worship? Is this not against the 1st Commandment? These are common objections Protestants have against the owning of holy images. This article will be focused on showing three reasons why possessing sacred art and statues is something all Catholics should do and how they help build our faith.

Deepen Our Belief in the Incarnation

Having a statue of a saint in your home deepens your belief in God. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2141, “The veneration of sacred images is based on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. It is not contrary to the first commandment.” Often, we forget that Jesus is 100% human along with being 100% God. His miracle stories in the Gospels and Resurrection sometimes overshadow the fact that Jesus Christ lived a human life—he slept, ate, and experienced emotion.

Incarnation

Possessing saint statues anchors our faith in the Incarnation because God became fully human. A certain tangibility, rawness, and realness of humanity is provoked whenever I am in a Catholic Church with sacred art (icons and statues) of Jesus and the saints. If you’ve ever entered a church without such art you experience a dullness or staleness. Should not the same be true for your home? St. John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation Familaris Consortio, “the little domestic Church, like the greater Church, needs to be constantly and intensely evangelized: hence its duty regarding permanent education in the faith” Keeping saint statues around your home will help elicit questions from your children, or visitors, about important figures in Catholic Church history.

Guides to God

A second key reason to have a saint statue in your home is tied closely with the first—saints help point you to Christ. The Catechism speaks of saints in paragraph 957, “Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself.” Proper veneration of the saints leads us towards Christ, never away from Him. A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary located in your dining or living room and other saints around your home will only aid as a reminder—you are not alone in this journey toward Heaven.

Mary and Jesus

Growing up, our statue of Mary in our dining room helped to remind me that she is our Mother and helps us get to her Son—Jesus. This reminder helped keep my eyes on Christ, especially during my teen years!

Family, Friends, Fellowship

Along with deepening your faith in the Mystery of the Incarnation and pointing you towards Christ, keeping holy statues will help foster fellowship. Traditionally, Catholics name children after a saint. The reason for this is because we honor and look to these holy men and women for guidance. You may have been named for more than a couple saints (if you include first, middle, and confirmation name!).

Saint friendship

Among the highlights of marriage my wife and I anticipated, during our engagement was the naming of our children. All members of the family are called to holiness. We selected saint names whose lives exemplified heroic virtue and testimony of truth: Bernadette, Teresa of Avila, Matthew, Catherine of Siena, Maria Faustina, and Fabian just to name a few!

A simple way to grow in fellowship with your family’s patron saints is to celebrate their feast day. Owning a statue of a saint unique to your family will provide a more tangible connection to your holy friend. Gazing at the face of your patron saint, in the living room or bedroom, will help remind you daily of their holy life and strong love of God. I am comforted during a stressful day every time I see the image of Mary Queen of Peace in our living room.

Utilizing sacred images, especially saint statues, deepens your faith, guides you to Christ, and provides opportunities to develop unique family traditions of your own while fostering fellowship with God’s holy ones. Go get a saint statue today!

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Spiritual Surgeons— Alphonsus Liguori

In this fourth installment of the Spiritual Surgeons series, I will discuss the medicinal teachings of St. Alphonsus Liguori. The moral decay occurring with the fracturing of the family unit, vicious abortion bills signed into legislation, the promotion of euthanasia, and the devaluing of others different from ourselves makes the Italian saint as relevant as ever!

Doctors of the Church

I have been blessed with the opportunity to learn about his wondrous and healing works. In reading his works I have grown closer to God. We will be examining Alphosus’ Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ and Uniformity with God’s Will in this article. The patron saint of confessor possesses an unparalleled ability to synthesize the wisdom of the Doctors of the Church, strong adherence to the will of God, and devotion to Mary.

Following the Will of God

According to Alphonsus in Uniformity with God’s will, “The greatest glory we can give to God is to do his will in everything.” Uniting our will to the Divine Will not only shows great love to God, but only satisfied our internal unrest. We are to follow God’s will in everything—not only in the good times. The Italian saint reminds us that complaining is purposeless—save for increasing bitterness. Suffering, even if God did not actively will it, affords an opportunity for us to grow in union and closeness to Him.

God’s will

Following God’s will definitely is easier when we receive spiritual consolations. However, our character is tested during periods of spiritual desolation. Alphonsus spends his sixth chapter to reflection on spiritual desolation in Uniformity with God’s Will. “When a soul begins to cultivate the spiritual life, God usually showers his consolations upon her to wean her away from the world; but when he sees her making solid progress, he withdraws his hand to test her and to see if she will love and serve him without the reward of sensible consolations,” the Doctored saint tells us. He also makes sure to remind to not think that God has abandoned you in these situations. Alphonsus declares, “When God sends spiritual darkness and desolation, his true friends are known.” Saints endure these dark nights and in the end their faith is rewarded in Heaven.

Comprehensive Catholic

Along with Alphonsus’ strong commitment in following God’s will, his expertise in the faith is second to none. In The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, the moral Doctor demonstrates his theological acumen via his articulate exposition on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and vast references to other Doctors of the Church. No other spiritual work that I have read contains such a concentration of spiritual quotes as Alphonsus’ work.

Check out this powerhouse list of saintly references: St. Teresa of Avila (61 times); St. Francis de Sales (44 times), St. Thomas Aquinas (21 times); St. Bernard of Clairvoux (20 times); St. Augustine (20 times); St. John Chryostom (11 times); and St. John of the Cross (10 times)!

Learning about Love

Alphonsus outlines and expands on St. Paul’s theological definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Every chapter in The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ focuses on an aspect love. These include love being: patience, kindness, humility, slow to anger, and enduring. In his first chapter Love is Patient, the Italian saint writes, “nothing is more pleasing to God than to see a soul suffering with patience all the crosses sent her by him.” This statement definitely hits home for me.

What is Love

Those that have followed my story over the years know that my wife and I lost children due to miscarriage. This sunk us into despair. God removed his consolations. We patiently endured, not always without complaint, these crosses. Love is also kind. Alphonsus cites St. Vincent de Paul on this aspect, “Affability, love, and humility have a wonderful efficacy in winning the hearts of men, and in prevailing on them to undertake things most repugnant to nature” (The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, chapter 2).

Later in the book, Alphonsus spends a chapter to provide a detailed and clear guide to avoid tepidity in the faith. His basic blueprint includes these five steps—desire, resolution, mental prayer, communion, and prayer.

Marian Mentor

According to St. Louise de Montfort, “[Mary] is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus and will surrender themselves to her, body and soul, without reserve in order to belong entirely to Jesus.” This path towards holiness is definitely evident in the writings of St. Alphonsus Liguori. In The Glories of Mary, the Italian saint states, “A true servant of Mary cannot be lost.”

Mary

To conclude every chapter of The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ Alphonsus petitions the Blessed Virgin Mary for help. He uses the following Marian titles: Mother, dispenser of graces, refuge of sinners, Holy Virgin, my hope, Queen, advocate, and spouse of the Holy Spirit. This panoply of appellations demonstrates the saint’s comprehensive understanding of Mariology and his strong devotion to Mary. “As long as temptation lasts, let us never cease calling on Jesus and Mary,” he proclaims (The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, chapter 8).

Individualism dominates our world today. We are constantly being told that seek out your will—that will lead to happiness. Experience proves us otherwise. Selfishness works in the short-term. But it is fleeting. St. Alphonsus reminds of the remedy to these ailments—follow the will of God always! His comprehensive knowledge of the Catholic spirituality and strong devotion to Mary make the Doctor of the Church a great role model for all Christians today.

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How Exactly Jesus is the Answer to Every Problem

What is the meaning of life? How do we cure all these diseases? Is lasting peace possible?  Who am I supposed to marry?

42 the answer to everything

All these questions plus countless more  have lingered and ruminated in the human mind throughout the centuries. As a fan of science fiction and humor, I am reminded of the classic quip from Douglas Adam’s in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Asked about the meaning of life the answer was “”The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42.”  42?! Really? Yes, the ultimate answer is reduced to a number. Nothing else matters except for 42. Obviously, Adam’s meant that reply for comedic purposes. But what if there really was an answer that easy or apparent. An answer that would solve all the world’s issues.

it is so simple

Well, exactly there is an answer to everything. Jesus. Yes. I said it! Jesus is the answer to everything. Wait, wait, wait. You might be thinking “Jesus is important and can solve BIG important problems, but not everything.” Or you might be more cynical: “Jesus only belongs in the realm of religion. He has nothing to do with science, politics, or just the practical issues of daily living!” Still more you might outright deny the significance of Jesus at  all. “Jesus is not even a historical figure! He was a figure made up by the early Christians and now embellished like Santa Claus.”

Whether you have doubts, large or small, about this claim I simply ask you to listen to my rational. I promise you it makes sense and is quite intriguing. To avoid getting too technical and complex theologically, I am only going to focus on a few passages in the Bible to demonstrate my argument.  Here is my basic argument:

Jesus is God

God is Perfect Love


Therefore Jesus is Perfect Love

Jesus is God

The Bible contains many passages that prove the divinity of Jesus. For a more complete and thorough outline of Scriptural evidence pointing to Jesus as God please refer to the link in the Related Resources at the end of the article.

I will focus on John 1:1  and the  “I AM” sayings in this article. According to the fourth evangelist, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” A common title referred to Jesus as is the Word (or in Greek John used Logos). In my article https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/04/06/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-3-creation-week-in-genesis-and-john/, I detail out more precisely how the gospel writer starts his book with a reference to the creation of the universe in Genesis 1.

Jesus I am sayings

Along with the connection between Genesis 1 and Jesus as always pre-existent, John provides us with seven sayings of Jesus that hark back to the original name of God in the Old Testament–“I AM”.  In Exodus 3:13 Moses asked God his Name. The next phrase God replies, “I am who I am.* Then he added: This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” John desires his audience to make the connection between Jesus and this original name of God in the following passages: John 6:35; John 8:12; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 11:25-26; John 14:6; and John 15:5. When Jesus calls himself (I AM _____) it is clear that he is invoking that Jewish appellation for God.

God is Love

Love is Patient

The first letter of St. John provides the clear and simple formula for God is love. According to 1 John 4:8, “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” Great! This provides the definition of God as being Love. But isn’t love arbitrary? Do it not mean something different based on the individual preferences? Don’t various cultures define love differently? Well, that may be the case. But I am going to define love as referred to in the Bible.

The most complete and understandable definition of love comes from St. Paul. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 the Apostle of the Gentiles wrote, ”

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated,d5 it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,e6 it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.f 8* Love never fails.”

Bringing it All Together

So far we have shown some biblical evidence for the divinity of Jesus and defined the God is love. Now you might still be wondering: how does this show Jesus is the answer to everything? Let us do a bit of an exercise. I want you to think about the worst interaction you every had in a relationship (i.e. a argument with spouse, conflict at work, disciplining a child, etc). If that interactive ended poorly,  what caused it to end badly? One of the following vices probably prevented you and the other person from resolving the conflict:  impatience, anger, ego, greed, lust, envy, or simple laziness.

Now think about that situation again. Instead of those vices insert a virtue into that conflict (i.e. patience for impatience).  Love is not rude, it is not prideful, it is patience and kind. Tackling a problem with love will end the conflict. Guaranteed. Why don’t we follow this simple blueprint? It is because humanity suffers from sin. We are incomplete and only Perfect Love can fix us. Jesus is God. God is Perfect Love. Therefore, Jesus is Perfect Love.

Jesus is the answer

Practicing patience and understanding helps to resolve conflicts. Limiting our egos leads to more collaboration. Human collaboration breeds humanity innovation and sharing of information. Innovation and freely sharing of information can be used to tackle more serious problems plaguing humanity such as hunger, war, and diseases.

Call to Action

How exactly can I have Jesus help me in my problems? All we have to do is to sincerely ask for help. Ask God for help. Ask your fellow neighbor for help. Be humble. Be thankful. The Litany of Humility is a powerful prayer to help me reignite my faith. Start by praying once daily. Next bring this prayer to Church and pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus solves everything. It truly is that simple. The challenging part is beginning and continuing to rely on God for help!

Related Resources

https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/devotions/litany-of-humility-245

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p122a3p1.htm

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The Wondrous Eucharist—Guest Post

On June 23 we celebrated Corpus Christi Sunday, and what a great day it was.  Though we celebrate the liturgy of the Eucharist everyday at Mass, there is a tendency to get complacent.  This seems to be our human nature, because if we do something enough we tend to go through the motions.

Eucharist

On this day the church asks us to take a step back and take a moment to remember what an awesome gift the Eucharist is.  In honor of this, I also want to take a step back to look at what scripture and the early church tells us about the blessed sacrament.

Though some terms for the Eucharist developed over time, the belief of what the Eucharist is has been around since New Testament times.  Jesus gave a speech that we call the Bread of Life Discourse in which he says that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood that we have no life within us (John 6:53).  The synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke give us the words of institution that we hear so often (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, and Luke 22:7-39).

In Summary of these Jesus tells us to eat the bread and says “This is my body”.  Then he took the cup of wine and “This is the cup of my blood that was given for you”.  Notice how our Lord says “this is” and not that it is merely a symbolic action?

Catholic Eucharist meme

The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is one that held true in the doctrine of the early church.  The big heresy going around in the first couple centuries of the church was Gnosticism.  The Gnostics believes that all matter was evil, and as such Jesus himself didn’t actually die on the cross.  Since all matter was deemed evil by the Gnostics, the Eucharist was something that was unfathomable?  After all, if matter were evil, then there was no way that the bread and wine can transform into the body and blood of Christ.

Heresy gif

The early church fathers understood the gnostic line of thinking and used the Eucharist as a way to refute them.  In approximately 107 A.D. St. Ignatius of Antioch writes in his letter to the Smyrneans, “They [the Gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again”.

Justin Martyr, writing around 150 A.D., states that the bread and wine changes to the body and blood of Christ upon the prayer of the priest.  In his great work titled Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus writes “the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist.”

There are many other such quotes like this span for several centuries.  One such quote comes from St. John Chrystostom who died in 407 A.D.  Describing the Eucharist the great saint states, “How many of you say: I should like to see His face, His garments, His shoes. You do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him. He gives Himself to you, not only that you may see Him, but also to be your food and nourishment.”

Eucharist

These quotes go on and on, and through them we see that the teaching of the church from the beginning is that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ.  At this point you are probably wondering why I am quoting all these great saints.  Friends, my heart hurts.  For every one person that enters the Catholic church, there are six people who leave.  Why would they leave such a great gift such as the Eucharist?  When I ask those that leave, their answers range from the sexual abuse scandal to a disagreement with a priest.  However, a majority that I have spoken to leave because they do not believe what the church teaches about the Eucharist.  Some didn’t even know the church’s teaching.

Perhaps we have taken this great sacrament for granted and our actions no longer show the reverence it deserves.  Perhaps some have just been poorly catechized. Maybe it is both.  I urge you my friends to take a moment to reflect on the greatness that is the Eucharist.  The very gift of himself that our Lord gives us to nourish and strengthen us.  May we never take it for granted and show it the reverence it deserves.


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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