The New Old Evangelization

(Originally written in 2011)

The Catholic faith is constantly under attack, not only by those directly opposed to the faith but by Christians as well. Our stance against abortion and contraception, sexual promiscuity of any form and also for tenants of the faith are examples of issue which seem to be stumbling blocks. But we Catholics understand the truths handed down to us from the apostles through the church and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We know these to be truth and with our eyes set on the things not seen we focus on the eternal. To gain the eternal, we must live a fruitful life through witness to the gospel in this world.

However we have a real problem here. The issue is that we have two types of horrible Catholics both in and out of the clergy. So many hypocrites exist but the biggest problem I fear are twofold, The disconnect that is often between the actions of our authorities within the church and what is preached and taught.

We often have Bishops and or priests that when the secular public makes a scene about the teachings of the faith they back track. In one instance in the Diocese of San Diego a Bishop twice back tracked when they denied a Christian funeral for two non-practicing catholic homosexual that owned gay bars. It has always been understood and is canon law that anyone who lived in obvious sin without any signs of repentance cannot receive a Christian funeral. But when they tried to enforce this rule public opinion and condemnation swayed the Catholic authority.

The attempt to prevent scandal in actuality created a double scandal. Not only did know they allow it, which then sent the message that it is ok to live in Sin. However then they also affirm that church teaching is essentially meaningless. If they are willing to back down to popularity, then they have lost all authority to teach. They have condemned themselves because these actions will certainly drive others to sin instead of show them the truths of the faith.

Had the Bishops stood up and in a loving manner explained the teachings of the faith and why the funerals would not be allowed it would have sent a signal that we stand for the truth. Now it appears to others that we stand for nothing that could not be changed with a popularity contest. I cringe when I see these types of reports; this is more hurtful to the conversion of souls than the actual sins perpetrated by others within our midst.

Another issue is those within our midst that do not live the Gospel but want to hit others over the head with our teachings.  What I mean is that we cannot change the hearts of others by attacking them with the truths or condemning their actions. So, often I see many people get into arguments instead of dialogue. To dialogue you need to have a loving respect for the other person. It is only through love that we will ever change the hearts of this society.

Recently, I have had a change of view about a serious issue. I may be wrong but the whole gay marriage issue I think is overblown. The civil form of marriage has little value in my eyes. I never thought highly about it when I got married, and I think less about it now. When we fight those trying to propagate this highly political issue we give these people a stage to call us all kinds of names like hate mongers and the like. Meanwhile the courts grant divorces at the drop of a hat. The fact that marriage is a business transaction in most cases should be made apparent. So, it is meaningless.

I believe we should drop this fight and instead focus on teaching within our own church the proper meaning and understanding of marriage.  But when we talk of marriage in the Catholic Church we speak about two people, a man and a woman, who join together in a complete natural union created by God that will bring the gift of life, which is children, if God wills it. Marriage is a gift of love which is a gift that comes from God. That way we understand and become open to life. At this time unfortunately most Catholics are not. It is that mentality that allows people to accept contraception and abortion since we think we are the arbiters of life and not God himself.

But the point I am trying to get at it is this. We need to focus on our own household. We have to build the proper supports and understanding that will lead to a life of living the gospel and the teachings of our faith in everything we do and say. That is how the church was born. That is how the church grew. It was by giving and loving and not by arguing with others. When others see the joy we have within our communities and in the way we live our lives and that we are faithful then they will join us. Then their hardened hearts will change. But when you look around at how poorly we are behaving it is no wonder that few truly believe that we have a real and vibrant faith.

We must turn our faith into one of love for our Church community but also for love of all outside our church as well. Even the sinners need our love. How will we save souls as God has asked us to do if we do not show them love? It will be by loving the world that we can affect the most change not by entering into political arguments or popularity contests. Hence it is the old way of evangelization that becomes new again.

As Saint Francis was quoted as saying, so we must live “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

On Doubt

Life is a difficult journey. Even more difficult than everyday life is the ability to maintain our faith. Over the years I have, lets’ say, been in and out of my faith. As a youngster, it was out of ignorance. As an adult, it was mostly due to complacency. Then as I grew older, it has been through temptation. It would be so easy to forget the faith and just roll along with what our society wants us to accept.

The times I have been tempted to forget our faith as if our Lord never existed are many. To turn my back on God is the biggest sin I can commit. Isn’t that what we do every time we fail to live the gospel? Every little sin is a step away from God.

By committing any sin knowing full well that it is against the wishes and demands of our faith, we are turning away from Jesus.  Jesus is still there for us, always waiting. All we need to do is ask forgiveness and turn back to him and the teachings of the church.

Wait, it isn’t that easy. Satan and his tempters are always close by to show you the easier, better path.  They are also there to point out to you how ridiculous and unbelievable our faith is. That the gospel we hear was contrived, and his followers were nothing more than propagandists.

The logical and austere mind easily succumbs to such diatribe. Even the most faithful are weakened at the knees by the argument. How can this be true? Is this all a farce to keep simple folk under control? It would make my life easier to cast it all off and do as I will.

These arguments are tempting and have some truth. But it is the truth turned inside out. Yes, life may appear to be easier if we cast it off, but it would be devoid of love and life. Yes, it is an unbelievable story, but it is true and holds the answers to our purpose and future. It is the Gospel that holds the key to the understanding of life here on earth and the one to come.

Even knowing and accepting this, I became like the wicked asking for a sign. But no sign shall be given. Why won’t any sign be given? Simply put, God does not serve us. He has given us his words and prophets that we may listen to them. Why should he give us more signs?

With that in mind, I began to ponder. Several times I was close to the precipice of despair. My soul felt thirsty and dry. I was drowning in the mire of confusion that the world offered. I finally focused on prayer and asked for the wisdom to see.

Then one day, as if an angel came to me and whispered in my ear, it came to me. It was with me all along. The Gospel stories and those of the apostles are so unbelievable! Their teachings, depth of meaning and love so intertwined that I cannot believe that any men even if they had a thousand years could have written this story.

The reason became suddenly obvious. The word, the teachings and the church are the sign we will be given. They are the contradiction against the society. It is obvious it was not built, written or designed by men. These things all point to the existence of God and the truth of His Son Jesus Christ and the mystery of the Holy Spirit.

Nothing Hollywood has or ever will come up with can rival the depth of the Gospel story. None is as incredible. But what convinced me was that it is certainly not the handiwork of mankind.

I do believe in one God, the Father Almighty, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Sure, it sounds crazy, but the simple fact that I know it makes me all the more certain.

Is Christmas Day Anticlimactic?

Is Christmas Day Anticlimactic?

Every year Christmas day will come. For many the preparations are many. Such as decorating their homes inside and out, buying gifts for loved ones, and planning the events that come along with the holiday. Christmas parties at friends’ homes, parties with our companies of employment and thanking people for their kindnesses during the year.

But where does this holiday really come from? Oh yes, I know people understand that it is about the birth of Jesus Christ in a manger with humble beginnings. It is the date the Church marks to celebrate his birthday and start the new church calendar year. It is only just that the beginning of the church calendar should start on the date of acknowledgment of the founder’s birthday. Then it begins.

But why do we give gifts? Some look to the Three Wise Men who brought the infant child who would be King; gold, frankincense and myrrh. They recognize who he is and what it meant to the people of the world. They knew that nothing would be the same after the infant child would grow old enough to make known his true purpose. Even they with their worldly knowledge did not discern the true purpose. They did not realize that the world would change.

The gift giving tradition which was accredited to have begun over 1500 years ago by a Christian Bishop by the name of Nicholas in what is now known as modern day Turkey. The birthday of Christ was set to be celebrated at the same time the pagans celebrated the winter solstice. This is of no consequence as ST. Nicholas did this out of his Christi love for the poor and needy. Still the real meanings lies deeper I believe.

The gift giving to each other is a symbol of the gift that God gave us on this earth. The god-man that came down to live with us to teach us the truth of what real love is. The truth of that love is a sacrifice and concern for our neighbors while always remembering our own lives are also a gift from God himself. Jesus Christ taught us that if we are to love we must learn to do it even unto death. He killed the selfishness that existed in the world at the time. He raised the Jewish tradition of love and concern for family to include all men of the world as they were born by God’s will. Jesus was a Jew who changed the world knowing from the moment he entered it he would have to give His life to do it. The true gift he gave us was He and the light which His light which we need every day to live in joy on this world and in exultation with God in the next.

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To answer my question; “is Christmas anticlimactic?” I pose to you that it cannot be. This is simply because it is only the beginning of our walk with Christ Jesus. We prepare for Christmas day by day sacrificing little bits and pieces of our lives for others, with prayer and good will. If we have done this when the day comes it is not anything like getting to the end of a show. Instead it is more like being at the gates to a beautiful paradise with hills and valleys that we know we will need to traverse over and over again until we achieve the true end of our work on earth. That is to create a peace and love on earth which knows no bounds.

Only one human being has been able to do this and it is His birth which we acknowledge during the twelve days of Christmas. But the gift we have given should not end on when Christmas ends but should continue for all 365 days of the year. However, there is no harm done in giving in a sign of the gift of love we all wish for and should try to grant everyone we meet.

 

Copyright 2015 Miguel Perez-Santalla