Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Problem with Our View of Hell

This is an argument used by many non Christians. It is also a very good one. However it is only good because so often our view of Hell is rather flawed. We see Hell as a place of punishment. “If you don’t follow the commandments you’ll go to Hell,” many will say. But let us take a closer look at this and realize why this argument is flawed, yet stops many in their tracks because they themselves have a flawed view of Hell.

People do go to Hell because of their sins. However, there is more to the subject than it seems. God gives us free will. He allows us to love Him if we want or not love Him if we want. He also allows us to choose how we want to spend eternity. We can either spend it with Him or separated from Him. There is no middle ground. When we are in full communion with God we are in Heaven. When we are separated from God we are in Hell. Hell does not necessarily consist of actual fire (we don’t know what it is like) and the actual suffering that comes from Hell is in the fact that we know that forever we are separated from God.

God has given us the choice to be with Him in Heaven for all eternity. All that we must do is show Him that we love Him and therefore our fellow man. We do this by following the commandments that God has given to us. It doesn’t matter if we say that we want to be with God, unless we show with our actions that we want to be with Him.

If someone said that he only ate scrambled eggs, but then ate over easy eggs all the time, you would know that he doesn’t really eat only scrambled eggs. He would have shown by his actions that he was not sincere in what he had said.

So in reality the argument that “if God is loving why does he send people to Hell?” is a useless argument. It has no weight because in reality it is our own choice to go to Hell. We have chosen that we do not wish to be with God. We have told him by our actions that we do not wish to be in full communion with him. God is loving. He will not force himself on anyone who does not want him. So just as he does not force us to worship him (which he could do if he wanted) he will not force us into communion with him. He will always allow us to make choices with our free will, and will not deny us our choice.

The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments are a set of rules that often lead people to believe the church is restrictive. However if looked at closely, one realizes that the commandments are all based on love. It is love to not kill your fellow man, to honor your parents, to not steal, to not lie, etc. Therefore the commandments guide us towards loving God and man. In fact the only reason we have the Ten Commandments is because we do not all love perfectly. If we loved perfectly we would follow these laws, whether they existed or not. But since we do not love perfectly they are here to help us and give us guidelines on how to love both God and our fellow man. Love is the most freeing thing that we can do. It is so because that is what we were made for. We were made to love and it is our purpose. We fulfill this purpose and are freed when we love others. So people say that the laws of the church are restrictive, when they are actually freeing. They guide us towards love since we cannot perfectly love others ourselves. They are there to help us along the way and to remind us what real love is.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Living Radically

We Catholics adore the radical. We thrive on extreme examples of faith; on stories of saints who were crucified, roasted alive, caught deadly diseases in the line of priestly duty; on tales of saints who floated and bi-located, had mystical visions, foretold the future, and ordered around kings and Popes. This should not be cause for astonishment. When you love someone, you want to serve them radically. When you love something, you want to throw yourself heart and soul into it until there is either nothing left to throw, or nothing left to throw at. And I would certainly hope that we Catholics love Christ and our Faith!

Yet, even as we are attracted to this radical love of God, we are often frightened by it. Is it surprising that, in the face of the holiness and extraordinariness of Padre Pio, my mother declared that he made her feel scared, because she could never be that holy? Is it any wonder that a forum friend of mine did not wish to read about Mother Teresa, because then she might feel obliged to make such a great sacrifice…and she did not think she could handle that? Sometimes, we stand in awe and admiration of the Radical Love and lives of the saints. At other times, we run away; not unlike Jonah. Often, it moves us to despair that we will ever be “so holy,” and we feel this way whether we gave up at the mere thought of being radical, or put forth a good effort and still failed to begin a Mother Teresa-like movement.

If you guessed that this is not a good thing, congratulations. You have a brain. While it is only fitting to admire complete, total, radical self-gift, we must not fall into a very common mistake.

We must not confuse radical with big, or vice versa.

We all too often do this, and in the face of obvious radicalness, we come to see small, everyday acts as lesser. Would Saint Gianna Molla mean as much to us if she had not died (despite the fact that her choice for Life was technically completely unrelated to her cause of death, anyway)? Probably not. Her death adds drama her story, the apparent radicalness we Catholics like. A surgery—no matter how risky—is not quite as interesting as dying. Thus we hear more about her death than we do about her life (which, in my opinion, was rather more a testament to her faith and charity). We look at Mother Teresa, all the people she touched and the movement she began, and Saint Therese of the Little Flower seems to pale in comparison.

I think that we need to remind ourselves that it is not the drama which made the saints great. It was their love shown in the little things. Even Mother Teresa’s life was not big. We see her actions as one unified whole, something big and grand. Yet this is not so. We only see it this way because we are on the outside looking in. To Mother Teresa, every poor person, every hug, every look, every word was individual. It was a small everyday thing. Small things just piled up to a point where they looked like something big. Her life was one, long, Little Way. She is no different from Saint Therese. She realized what we so often forget:

There are no great things. There are simply bunches of small things. There are only repetitive, every day, ordinary things done with repetitive, every day, extraordinary love.

I think we should remember this next time the fire we have to go out and “convert all the peoples” dies down and we find that we have seemingly done nothing big. I think we should remember this when we cower before the greatness of Padre Pio and despair that we will ever be that holy. I know I need to remember:

When we make all the little things radical, only then can we really live our faith radically. Only by bringing the little, everyday things in our lives to God can we bring our entire lives to Him.

Radical is Small.

Missionaries of Charity

The Missionaries of Charity
What does the name even mean? A missionary is someone who brings God to those who do not have him. Long ago missionaries came to evangelize those living in both North and South America. They risked their lives (and very often lost them) to bring God to those people. Charity is also called love. So the missionaries of charity are, by their name, people who bring God to others through love. Mother Teresa once said that all are called to be missionaries of charity, and I am inclined to agree.
All people have a vocation. We are all here for a purpose which God has given to us. When we find it we must give everything we are to fulfill this vocation. This complete gift of self is love, and therefore a vocation is in and of itself love. Because of this we all have the base vocation to love. If we work at it and become a loving person, we will desire to spread this love of God to others. We will not be able to keep it to ourselves and therefore we must spread love of God to every person we can. So by finding our vocation and becoming a loving person, we will become a “missionary of charity” by necessity. No matter our vocation, whether it be priesthood, religious life, married life, or single life, we are all called to be missionaries of Charity, to bring God into the world through His love. We are called to be, “missionaries of charity.”

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Quotes for Reflection on Saturday #4

“Come on Mr. Frodo. I can’t carry it for you. But I can carry you!”
Here, near the end of their journey, Frodo collapses. He has used all his strength to go this far and he can’t go on anymore. The weight of the ring has brought him down and he is too weak to continue. On his own that is. But with courage and determination Sam takes Frodo upon his back and brings him to Mount Doom.

There is a very important lesson to be learned from this event. It shows us that as human beings we are not perfect. We can not resist temptations and the trials of our timely existence without help. We need to stick together as a community. We need to have friends we can rely on, who we can talk to about anything. These friends need to be people who will hold us accountable to the wrong we do, but who will do so with love. We can not make it through this life on our own. We have to let people hold and comfort us, and the most important way we can do that is to just let God hold us by coming to Him in prayer.
This quote from Lord of the Rings reminded me of another story that my mother has hanging on the wall. It goes like this.

“One night I had a dream...

I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord, and Across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before us, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life, There was only one set of footprints.

I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life This really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it. "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, You would walk with me all the way; But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, There is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why in times when I needed you the most, you should leave me.

The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child. I love you, and I would never, never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.”
Even in our darkest times, when we think that the Lord has abandoned us, that He has left us to wallow in sorrow. We must remember that He is there with us all the way, and he is going to carry us through this storm. All we must do is persevere. He LOVES US! And love does not abandon people. Do not worry friends, the hardships will pass.

John 16:33

“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Quotes for Reflection on Saturday, #3

(Yes, I am well aware that it is Tuesday. Never you mind. -Tally)
We think this verse is self-explanatory and needs no reflection; allow us merely to say that in the uncertainty that comes with discerning one's vocation--amidst the worry about the future--it speaks powerfully about trust. It is a much-needed reminder that as long as we do our best to trust in God with the innocent trust of children, He will never let us go astray, but will always bring us closer to Himself.