Sacred Thinking Blog

Thoughts from a Catholic Catechist by Mike Denz

Sacred Thinking

Michael Denz - Director of Adult Catechesis

The Secret of Authority

May 12th, 2022

Authority has become a dirty word. Anyone with authority is either lording it over the weak and innocent or answering for its neglectful misuse. In America we question authority. We usually don’t like authority, and often dislike those who have it over us.

The problem is… we don’t understand what authority is.

where does authority come from?

All authority comes from God. 

Why? Because anyone who has legitimate authority is allowed to have it by God’s permissive will and in the end, any human being who legitimately has authority over another human being has to answer to God for how they used it. No one would have any legitimate authority unless God allowed it.

Authority comes from the Latin auctoritas, or auctor, which means “originator”. It is also where we get the word “author”. And the first “originator”, the “author” of all that is good, is the also the originator and author of authority.

Jesus acknowledged Pilate’s authority, but only because God had given it to him:

He entered the praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above.”

John 19:9-11

Jesus acknowledged that His own authority also came from God the Father:

“For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak.

John 12:49

OK, so authority comes from God… but what is the secret to exercising authority?

it's all about love!

The secret to authority is love.

When God gives authority, He commands it be used with love. To be properly used, authority MUST be used with love. To understand this better, we need to see how love flips the popular idea of authority on it’s head.

God gives authority as a means to serve others, not as a means to be served. In order to serve authority must be used in conjunction with love. If not, it’s tyranny.

Father’s have authority to take care of their children. A police officer has authority to protect the innocent. A governor has authority to execute the laws of the state to safeguard the welfare of the citizens. These are all forms of service.

Let’s say a police officer tells people to stand back from a dangerous situation in a public street. He has authority to do this not because he’s better or smarter or earned some right to be bossy at the police academy. He has authority to serve those people by keeping them out of harms way.

Even though Jesus acknowledged His authority came from His Father, the authority was also His authority, as He is God the Son, equal to the Father. The crowds were amazed because Jesus taught like one who HAD authority.

“And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.”

Matthew 7:28-29

Other rabbis would quote another great rabbi, like the one who taught them, but Jesus would say, “Truly, I say to you…” taking all the authority upon Himself. 

As well, Jesus demonstrated His authority by deeds:

And they were all amazed and said to one another, ‘What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.‘”

Luke 4:36

Now, Jesus did everything with love, including using His authority. One individual, a centurion, had been watching Jesus. As a soldier, he understood authority and recognized that Jesus had great authority, and also great love.

“As he entered Caperna-um, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.”

Matthew 8:5-13

Interesting that Jesus acknowledged this man for his great faith after he demonstrated his understanding for Jesus’ authority. And this man was blessed with his words being repeated everyday at Mass: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Jesus gave His authority to the 12 Apostles, the first pope and bishops of the Church:

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Matthew 10:1-4

Jesus concluded His lesson of authority and love at the Last Supper, when He washed the Apostles feet:

"When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."

John 13:13-15

Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He gave His Apostles His authority once again and instructed them to teach, with His Authority, and baptize, indeed to dispense all the sacraments, until the end of time:

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.‘”

Matthew 28:18-20

When the Church teaches, she does so with the authority of God. When the Church baptizes, confirms, forgives sins, exorcises demons and gives us the Eucharist, she does so with the Authority of God… and with love.

Dear Godchild

March 30th, 2022

As your Godfather, I’d like to tell you some things about God and the Catholic Church that I wish someone had taught me when I was your age (or younger). Some of this you may know, some you may not. I thought I’d save the time it’d take to interview you and just tell you all of it.

I’m going to present you with cut and dry, tell it like it is, straight forward facts.

#1: God exists

First, God exists. No one can prove otherwise and the universe could not exist without a God to design and create it. We live in a fine-tuned universe, otherwise known as the Anthropic Principle. This principle, which is conventional wisdom in physics, refers to how our universe operates according to a set of specific numeric values and how our existence in this universe depends on these values being precisely what they are. For example, in order for life to exist, the energy density of empty space must be perfectly accurate to a number with over 100 decimal places. Precise measurements like this point to a grand designer of the universe. Because of this, statisticians have stated that it is statistically impossible for the universe to have randomly come into being. It is more likely for you to randomly cut five hundred trillion pieces of wood and have them perfectly fit together to build a huge mansion than for the universe to have randomly come into being without God. The chances are better for me to buy one lottery ticket in all 50 states and win them all. Someone designed and created the universe. This Someone is God.

#2: JEsus is god

Second, Jesus Christ is God. We know He existed, historical records all agree on this. We know He is reported to have taught about God, to have worked miracles, been crucified and on the third day rise from the dead. The Bible is an undisputed historical record of all this. We also know the He Himself claimed to BE GOD. We also know that hundreds of people who claim to have seen Him after He rose from the dead allowed themselves to be killed rather than deny Jesus. This includes 10 of the apostles, who knew for sure if Jesus really rose or if it was a lie. Over the next 250 years the life expectancy of a Christian was quite low (if one became a Christian you were likely to end up nailed to a cross, in a lion’s mouth or without one’s head)… Despite all this – people kept joining up. It got to the point where the largest empire of the era, Rome, declared Christianity as the official religion of the empire 350 years after it had crucified it’s Founder, Jesus Christ. It went from one Jewish carpenter/preacher with 12 lower middle class friends/followers to the most dominant religion in the world. How is this possible?… unless…

Jesus had to be God. Too many people who saw Him work miracles and who heard Him speak would have been alive to dispute the claims of the apostles if they were not true. And why would so many go to their deaths for something they knew was a lie? And how, with no electronic means and against the power of Rome, did Christianity become so wide spread so fast? Nothing like this has ever happened before or sense in the history of the world. The power of God is the only explanation.

#3: jesus created the catholic church

Third, Jesus created the Catholic Church. This is the one and sole reason for being Catholic. If this is not the reason that you’re Catholic, then you need to think about why you would want to be in any religion at all. Maybe you’re Catholic because the teaching is good, or because your family is Catholic, or because the pope is cool… but none of these reasons - or any other reason - not one - is as important as this one fact: God created the Catholic Church. What else do you need? Who’s religion would you rather be in? I’ll be in God’s clubhouse if you need me, thank you very much.

How do we know that Jesus created the Catholic Church? History. As recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 16) Jesus gave St. Peter the Keys to Heaven. Jesus said the He was going to build a Church and use Peter as its foundation and that whatever Peter decided would be held up in Heaven. Later in chapter 18, and other parts of the four Gospels, Jesus Gave the 12 apostles the authority to pass on not only the teachings He gave them, but also teachings that the Holy Spirit would reveal to them after Jesus ascended into Heaven. This authority to teach the truth about faith and morals, because it comes from God, is infallible. It has been passed on to all the popes and bishops up to this day. This is why we know the pope is right whenever he officially teaches on faith or morals. The best place to find a compilation of Church teaching is the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Jesus also created the Church to pass on the saving grace, or sanctifying grace, He earned for us on the cross. The Church does this through the seven sacraments. Deacons, priests and bishops have the authority to dispense God’s saving grace in the sacraments, so we can be transformed and made holy from the inside out. If we respond to this grace with love for God and others, according to the teaching of the Church, then we are in effect choosing to enter Heaven when we die.

#4: it's all about jesus

Forth and lastly, our Catholic Faith is all about one thing, a relationship with Jesus. Everything else, Mass, morals, sacraments, prayer, the Bible… everything – is there to point to or help – this relationship. If you don’t have a real relationship with Jesus, if you don’t strive to know and love Him, then everything else is in vain.  

How do I have a relationship with Jesus, you ask? I’m glad you did. Here are the top ten ways to have a good relationship with Jesus (in no particular order):

  1. Set aside 15 minutes to pray, every day; no matter what.
  2. Make learning and following what Jesus teaches through His Church your top priority in life.
  3. Go to Mass each Sunday and holy day of obligation and learn what is going on during Mass and what you are really supposed to be doing there (besides standing, kneeling and sitting).
  4. Go to confession once a month.
  5. Get the Catechism of the Catholic Church and read about one page every weekend.
  6. Read one chapter of a gospel each week until you’ve read all four gospels. Then start all over again.
  7. Sign up for an hour of Eucharistic Adoration each week, or at least go once a month.
  8. Find a young adult Catholic group in your area and join it.
  9. When you find yourself thinking about what you want and what you need, think instead about what your family and friends want and need – then act on it.
  10. Remember that God loves you more that you can fathom, that God is interested in every facet of your life, and that no matter what happens God is there with you and will always forgive you.

Let me know if you have any questions.

God Bless,

Uncle Mike

What is Truth?

February 28th, 2022

Today people seem to have lost an understanding of objective truth.

The powers of the world around us are subtlety, and sometimes not so subtlety, nudging and pushing people to believe that everything is subjective – that there is no objective truth, or that we can make or define our own truth...that what is true depends on an individual’s thoughts and feelings on the subject.

Basic philosophy and common sense tell us this wrong, and it is important that we understand why.

Objective truth and subjective truth

In examining truth we have:

  1. A subject – the person observing the truth.
  2. An object – the thing being observed.

Subjective truth refers to truth that comes from the subject – the person observing. Objective truth refers to the truth coming from the object – the thing being observed.

Let’s use an example to demonstrate. Ryan has an apple. From Ryan’s point of view, which is subjective truth, apples are delicious. Ryan also likes the way this apple looks, because it is red, and he likes the color red. These two truths, that Ryan likes the taste and appearance of the apple are subjective truths, because they come from Ryan, the subject. When Trisha takes a look at the apple, she is reminded that she does not like the taste of apples. As well, she prefers the color green, and does not find the appearance of red things pleasing to her. All of these truths are correct, even though they are different, contradictory even, because they come from two different subjects, not from the object itself.

Next Ryan sees that besides being red, the apple is missing its stem. These two truths, that the apple is red and is missing it’s stem, come from the object, the apple, so they are objective truths. No matter how many people look at the apple, it will always be red and always be missing it’s stem. Trisha can observe that she does not like the red color of the apple, but she cannot deny that it IS RED. This truth comes from the apple – the object. The subject, the person looking at the apple, cannot change that.

let my people go

Now, lets look at another object – a moral object - the Ten Commandments. Let’s say that when Ryan looks at the Ten Commandments and he does not like them. He does not like being told what to do. This is a subjective truth. How Ryan feels about the Ten Commandments comes from Ryan. However, when Ryan observes the Ten Commandments, when he studies them, he sees that they come from God.  

Not only that, but they actually ARE GOD, because the 10 Commandments are Divine Revelation – God revealed, which means the attributes of God are where the 10 Commandments come from.

Let me demonstrate this further by asking you a question:

“Does God will something because it is good, or is something good because God wills it?

What answer did you come up with? Most people go with the second option, that “something is good because God wills it?” But that is not correct. God did not arbitrarily pick and choose some things to be good by willing them and some things to be evil by not willing them. 

The correct answer is that “God wills something because it is good.” The trick here is the word good. We immediately think that some list of “good things” cannot exist outside of God, forcing God to will them. But that’s just it – the “good things” are NOT outside of God.

Jesus said in Mark 10:18 “No one is good but God alone.” The “good” in our questions above IS GOD. God is not just a “good God”, He is Goodness itself. All that is good comes from the very attributes of God. So, when God wills the good, He wills himself.

God is Truth. God is Love. God is Life.

The Ten Commandments command us to Love, to respect life and to be truthful. The truth of the Ten Commandments do not depend on how Ryan feels about them, but on the Ten Commandments themselves. And the Ten Commandments not only come from God – they are God. All of divine revelation, moral truths and other truths of our Faith, are truths about God. Once again, that is what divine revelation means – God revealed.

So when you or someone else says that they don’t think or feel that a moral teaching of God is true for them, remember this – what someone thinks or feels about the teachings of God does not affect the objective truth of these teachings. For they have as their object God Himself.

The Difficulty of Sharing the Faith

February 10th, 2022

One of the difficulties we have as Catholics is trying to explain our Faith to those outside the Catholic Church.

Why does the Church teach what it does about things like artificial birth control, same sex attraction or Communion to those who are not Catholic. We get uncomfortable trying to explain these kind of things to our non-Catholic friends.

We are made to feel judgmental, old fashioned or just plain stupid.

Why is this?

we don't know

Well, one reason is we don’t always know why the Church teaches what it does. We simply know that the Church teaches “such and such”. But when challenged as to why the Church teaches something, we are left shrugging our shoulders.

Another reason, closely connected to the reason above, is that we forget that the teachings of the Church are not some arbitrary rules that were voted on by a group of theologians, or decided upon by some pope 1000 years ago. The teachings of the Church on truths and morals are from God – they reveal God.

We believe that God exists as three persons in one God, the Blessed Trinity. We believe that the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, became a human being. We believe that the Son of God, Jesus, died in reparation for our sins so we could be forgiven and be in Heaven with God. We believe that Jesus taught us about God and God’s plan for mankind. We believe that Jesus created the Church, His Kingdom, to preserve and pass on the truths He taught and dispense the graces He earned on the Cross through the Sacraments.

We proclaim belief in all this every weekend when we recite the Creed. But when it comes time to live the Creed… to stand up for that belief… we often fall short.

But if we hold firm to the beliefs above, and learn to explain to others what we believe, we can often help people understand the Catholic Faith. I spend a lot of time teaching and writing about how to do this. However, this blog post is not about how to explain the Catholic Faith. What I would like to do he help you understand why, sometimes, no matter how we explain things, some people don’t seem to hear us.

we don't understand

Jesus is recorded explaining this in different passages of the Gospels.

Here in Matthew, Jesus is asked why He has started teaching in parables:

“Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it”. (Matthew 13:10-17)

Jesus explained to His disciples that some people are not able to understand the truth because their will is not God’s will. They have chosen sinful lives over God’s commandments. This leads to a darkness that can not be overcome unless they repent and turn away from their sin. They need to respond to God’s call in their hearts, and God will change their hearts. This is a work of the Holy Spirit. Just hearing the teachings of God will fall on deaf ears unless they allow God to change their hearts.

Jesus knew who was ready to turn away from sin and who came to see Him just to be entertained by a miracle, or fed because they heard about the multiplication of the fishes and loaves. So, Jesus would tell parables. He knew those who were ready would understand it, maybe not fully, but at least enough to draw them closer to God and the truth.

Read the following passage from St. John’s Gospel:

"So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me; if any man’s will is to do his will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority."

(John 7:16-17)

Jesus is saying that if your will is to do the will of God, you will recognize the truth and recognize Him. Now read from just a few verses later. See how some of the people believe in Jesus and some do not, even though they are all witnessing the same thing.

Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This is really the prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the scripture said that the Christ is descended from David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. The officers then went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this man!”

(John 7:37-46)

In another passage, this time from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus teaches directly against trying to teach deep truths to unbelievers:

“Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.

(Matthew 7:6)

Jesus was explaining that if you take the holy treasures of the Faith, the truths we hold dear, and tell someone who is far from God, then they will degrade what you have said and attack you for saying it. We know this all too well when we try to explain the truths of abortion or same sex attraction to someone who has no interest in following Jesus.

it's all about relationship

What this really comes down to is a relationship with Jesus. If you love Him you will want to do His will and you will grow to accept and understand His teachings.

So, what do we do?

Again, listen to Jesus. The first thing He said as he began His public ministry is, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Translation: “The time is now! God has awesome plans for us. He not only wants to fill our lives with His love right now, but also invites us to live forever with Him in the next life, in eternal joy! What do we need to do? Repent and believe that Jesus Christ has saved us!” In other words, we need to introduce Jesus to them. Share Jesus and His Gospel (Good News) with them. This is evangelization. This is how it must begin. It may take a day or several years, but it is where it begins for everyone.

So, in review:

  1. We need to know the basics of our Faith and why we believe that the Church teaches the truth.
  2. We need to know how to explain some of the common questions people have about the Faith, in particular the moral questions that our society has so much trouble with.
  3. We need to understand that often people will not listen or understand. There is nothing we can do about that. It does not mean they are lost for good, but we need to be more patient with some people. God is patient with us and them, and we need to be also.
  4. We need to recognise that a relationship with Jesus begins with an introduction – evangelization. Not everyone we encounter knows Jesus. We may have to provide the introductions.

P.S. – I’d advise reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Theology for Beginners by Frank Sheed to anyone who wants to learn the teachings of the Catholic Church better.

Fear Not

JANUARY 27TH, 2022

“While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. When they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, he saw a tumult, and people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a tumult and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi”; which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and walked (she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.” (Mark 5:35-43)

Jesus tells us not to fear, but to believe. In the midst of the worst of suffering, the loss of a child, Jesus tells us not to fear. Jesus is trusted by the father of the little girl, even when others laughed at Him.

Death and taxes

Now I know what some of you are thinking, “Jesus raised his daughter, but he did not raise my daughter, son, mother, father, friend.”

Yes, that is true, but don’t get blinded by that. The father believed in Jesus before his daughter was raised, not after. We know how the story ends, but the little girl’s father did not know. Everyone was telling him she was dead. Everyone was making fun of Jesus and the man’s faith in Jesus, but he still believed.

However, the truth embedded in this miracle of Jesus runs deeper. It involves a truth we don’t like thinking about: death.

Our lives here on earth are temporary. Everyone dies. And everyone goes on to live forever… somewhere. Often our problem is that we make choices which don’t take this fact into account.

The world we live in doesn’t look at life through the lens of this truth. We tend to limit our thinking to just our life on earth. The world views death as an ultimate end. This life is seen as a time we need to make the most of… in terms of money and pleasure. We have sayings like, “You only live once”.

We fear the unknown, and in this case, we fear the thing not yet experienced. We have never been to Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. God has told us about them, but we doubt God, and we get influenced by the way the world thinks, though not intentionally, and maybe even unconsciously. Then we fail to carry our belief in God’s promises into our day to day lives. This comes to light most of all when we have to face death.

For example, let’s say a person loses their spouse. This is indeed a most difficult thing to deal with. The sadness of missing ones spouse is very difficult to go through. However, what if the surviving spouse despairs because of all the things their spouse never got to do? What if they lament that they will never see their spouse again? Is this not a kind of denial of the reality of Heaven? I’m not trying to be insensitive. I say this with compassion and love.

i know the plans i have for you

You see, everyone dies. We may be ninety seconds old or ninety years old, but we all will die. Those we leave behind will be sad, but they will all die too. I know this all sounds quite morbid, but here is my point. We are all striving for Heaven, so we can be happy with God and our loved ones forever. And while our physical life on earth is sacred and should be protected, we need to act more like Catholic Christians who understand that – ultimately – we are all trying to get to Heaven.

“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also.” (John 12:25-26)

Like all things, prayer will help us be better at this. We can pray to God and ask him to open our eyes to spiritual realities and help us to be mindful of them and allow them to guide our thoughts and actions. Pray for the grace to remember that this life is not the end, but only a drop in the ocean of God’s love for us.

Remember, the little girl in St. Mark’s Gospel died, but Jesus had other plans for her… and He has great plans for us as well.

Love is...

January 20th, 2022

Love is an often misunderstood word. We use it to mean so many different things. I love pizza. I love my wife. The word “love” is used in the two previous sentences in two very different ways. When I do things for my wife in hopes that she has what is good, it means I put her needs over mine so she may have what is good. When I do things for pizza in hopes that pizza has what is good, it just means I put lots of cheese and pepperoni on the pizza. The love we give another human person (not pizza) is what the meaning of life is all about.

Love is to will what is best for the other. What is best for the other is God. So, we want what God wants for the other. For me this sometimes means taking the trash out for my wife. What does taking the trash out have to do with God? It is an act of service to my wife, an act that says, “I will do this unpleasant thing so you don’t have to do it.” This is what Jesus commanded us to do when He washed His disciples feet. When I perform acts of service for my wife, just as God does for us, I treat her like God would treat her. I bring the love of God, through me, to her, because it is God who commanded me to love. But I must choose it myself, I could not truly love do it without God’s help. Love is impossible for us without God’s grace.  

While God can give anyone the grace to love at any time, it is in His wonderful plan of salvation God empowers us to love. It is through the power of the sacraments that we are transformed into the image of Jesus when we love.  

The sacraments graft us into the Body of Christ – His Church. After we receive a sacrament we must then make use of it. We have not made use of a sacrament until we take the divine love grafted into us by the Holy Spirit… and give it away – to both God and each other.

God is love

"He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him." (1 John 4:8-9)

St. John tells us that “God is love.” This is because the Holy Spirit is the perfect love between the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is God, so God is Love. God is three divine persons in one divine nature – and God’s nature is to love.

Two important things to remember…

  1. Sometimes love is not welcomed like we wish. Loving my daughter may mean me telling her to take out the trash. I am responsible for teaching my daughter how to love like God loves. By doing this I am loving her and helping her be closer to God. Love wants what is good for the other, but the good may not be what the other wants or realizes is good.
  2. Love is an action. It is an act of the will. We have to choose to love. I am not talking about the emotion of love. The emotion of love is an attraction to someone. Over time the emotion can develop into strong feelings we hold dear, but we cannot depend on them. While they can help us to love, we also must love when there is no emotion. Or even more difficult, when the emotion is negative.

A little more on that second one. Jesus taught:

"You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’   But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" (Matthew 5:43-47)

Jesus was not telling us to have warm and fuzzy feelings about our enemies. Indeed He understands that we don’t. Rather, Jesus is telling us that loving those we have good feelings for is not as great as loving those we have no feelings for or negative feelings for. He wants us to pray for them and do what is best for them as far as possible. When Jesus commanded love, He was commanding us to make a choice – to put the other first so they may have what is good.

more than a feeling

The mistake of believing that love is primarily a feeling has been disastrous for many relationships, particularly marriages. So many couples get divorced because they, “fell out of love.” I challenge you to find a couple married for more than 5 years who have felt “in love” the entire time. Marriage is not something we are compelled to do because our emotions are in charge, and neither is divorce. Marriage is a choice to commit yourself to love someone, to “promise to be faithful to you, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love you and to honor you all the days of my life.” You’re not promising warm feelings all the time, and you should not expect them. Yes, sometimes separating from your spouse is the only thing you can do, because of very difficult situations, but not because your feelings have changed. And like the teaching Jesus gives above about loving our enemies, when we love without the help of positive emotions, it is a greater kind of love.

So, love is a choice we make. Regardless of how we feel, we should love. And when we love, we are patient and kind; not jealous or boastful; not arrogant or rude. When we love we do not insist on our own way; and are not irritable or resentful. When we love we do not rejoice at wrong, but rejoice in the right. When we love, we bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things. (Adapted from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.  This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:9-12)

How Christmas Brought Peace

December 29th, 2021


This is a popular word people associate with Jesus – often at this holy time of Christmas. St. Luke tells of the angels visit to the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth.

After the angel announces the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, a multitude of angles appear and sing:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” -Luke 2:14

“Peace among men with whom he is pleased’? What does that mean exactly?

the prince of peace

This particular verse is from a translation of the Bible called the “Revised Standard Version”. It is a Catholic translation and is considered by many to be the most accurate English translation we have.

Let’s look at some other Catholic Bible translations of this verse:

  • “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” is from the New American Bible.
  • “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.” is from the Douay-Rheims Bible.

There is a theme here. Peace is dependent on something else. It is for men with whom God is pleased, on whom God’s favor rests… people the Douay-Rheims Bible calls “men of good will”. 

“Men of good will” means that your will is good, or in other words, your will is to do God’s will. This is the most descriptive and helpful of the translations above, because it doesn’t just tell us that peace comes to those who have God’s favor or to those God is pleased with. “Men of good will” tells us what we need to do to have peace:

We need to follow God’s will.

This is why the “Gloria” at Mass was changed a few years ago, from “Glory to God in the highest. And peace to His people on earth” to “Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace to men of good will.”

By the way, many of us are very used to another translation of this verse that is, well… not quite accurate… and may be another reason for people’s confusion about “peace” and “men of good will”. In the Peanut’s Christmas Special, which has aired annually for over 50 years, Linus quotes Luke’s Gospel using this translation, which is the King James Version of the Bible. It’s the Protestant translation used by most non-Catholic Christians. It reads, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Anyway, back to the Catholic verse. What is peace then? Surely, it doesn’t mean that war never comes to those who do God’s will. It doesn’t mean you will not have enemies or have people who don’t like you. Jesus Himself had enemies and still does today.

It may help to look at what Jesus said about the peace He brings… after all, He is the “Prince of Peace”

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. -Matthew 10:32-39

Well… that doesn’t sound very peaceful, does it? The peace we so often think about is not what Jesus is bringing. He makes it very plain. Following Him will cause division in our lives, right up to losing our lives if need be, because many people will not agree with our choice to follow Jesus, and those people will often be in our own household.

OK, so Jesus does not bring the kind of peace where everyone gets along with everyone else. So what kind of peace does He bring?

“If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” -John 14:23-27

Jesus gives the kind of peace that comes with knowing you love Him, because you do His will… you keep His word… and the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) come and make Their home with you. So that no matter how much craziness is going on around you, you have God with you, so your heart is not troubled and is not afraid…

You are at peace with God

All baptized Christians who struggle to do God’s will have this peace… to a point, but there is so much more! Truly living in God’s peace takes time. Sin, anxiety and fear get in the way. To have this kind of peace more fully we need to pray every day. We need to frequent Mass, adoration of the Eucharist and confession. We need to do God’s will more faithfully… every day.

An excellent book on peace was written by a French priest and spiritual master named Father Jacques Philippe. It is titled, “Searching for and Maintaining Peace”. You can purchase it online by clicking HERE. I highly recommend this book, as well as the many other excellent books written by Father Philippe.

So, Christmas brought us Jesus and Jesus showed us the path to true peace.

Merry Christmas!

Authority, Power and Holiness

December 8th, 2021

These three attributes all come from God, but not in the same way.

Those in authority, with the power to do great things, often have it thrust upon them, like a mother or father. As well, a man or woman, when elected to a high office, go from having no authority or power to all at once having a lot.

Authority and power are good, and should be used to love and serve others, but we know that is all too often not the case. Unfortunately, people often think they deserve the authority and power God has allowed them to have, and don’t look at it as a gift and responsibility.

Then there is holiness.

This can come with earthly authority and power, but its real authority and power is far greater, much different and often unnoticed by the world.

What child is this?

When we read the Christmas story in the Gospel of St. Luke, there is an interesting list of people:

"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be

enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from

Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called

Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with

Mary, his betrothed, who was with child."

Luke 2:1-5

We are told of the following people in order:

  • Caesar Augustus – ruler of the entire Roman Empire. Thought of as a god by Romans.
  • Quirinius – Governor under Caesar with authority over the region of Israel.
  • Joseph – head of his family with authority over Mary and her Child.
  • Mary – Wife of Joseph and mother of her unborn Child.
  • The Child – an unborn baby under the authority and protection of Mary and Joseph. He is completely dependent on them.

This is Christ the King

This is how the world sees these people at the time Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem with their unborn Child.

However, that is not what God sees. In God’s eyes, the entire list is reversed:

  • The Child – The Son of God – the Second Person of the Holy Trinity – all powerful, eternal and creator of all things. He has complete authority and power over all.
  • Mary – The Mother of God – immaculate – full of grace – She is holier than any other created person and the most powerful saint in heaven.
  • Joseph – The Foster Father of the Son of God – righteous and good, Joseph is second only to Mary in holiness.
  • Quirinius – just a man.
  • Caesar Augustus – just a man, not a god.

Let loving hearts enthrone Him

Now, the authority given to Caesar Augustus and Quirinius is real.

God allowed them to have authority over the Holy Family.

But the true authority, the real power and the holiness we all seek – came from the Child – and those close to Him received His grace.