The King Who Skipped The Battle To Take A Nap

If you have been following along the daily readings this week, then you know we have been in King David’s story.  And even though most of us are pretty familiar with the story, today’s Old Testament reading still stings each time I read it.

David, the giant-slayer . . . David, The man after God’s own heart . . . The one who refused to put his hand on God’s anointed even when his own life was at risk . . . David, the divinely appointed King.

David messes up, bad.

How bad?  Adultery and murder, bad.

David’s story is important.  As young people we hear a lot of rousing stories of how God can redeem even the most corrupt and crooked sinners among us.  The St. Augustines, who, one day finally repent of a life of sin and give their lives over to Jesus.  And, just like that (it is often assumed): Sainthood.  But the truth is that it’s usually not as clean-cut as that.

David’s story is closer to the reality, I think.  Sure, perhaps most of us will never have someone killed in attempt to cover up another one of our sins, but neither is it likely to be the case that once we fall in love with God our days of royally screwing up (no pun intended) are totally in the past.

David is the story of the good guy who, from the time he was a boy, sought to please God and, truly, had a heart for God.  It wasn’t all rules and motions for David. David knew God.  He loved God.

But even David managed to screw up.  And it is important for us to understand how and why that could happen, even for someone who loved God as much as David did.

How did David begin to fall into sin?  Because he chose to take a nap instead of go into battle.

At the turn of the year, when kings go out on campaign, David sent out Joab along with his officers and the army of Israel, and they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah.
David, however, remained in Jerusalem.

One evening David rose from his siesta
and strolled about on the roof of the palace.
From the roof he saw a woman bathing, who was very beautiful.

2 Samuel 11:1-2

Notice: At the time of the year when kings go out on campaign, David, who is a king himself, is home enjoying the comforts of his palace, taking leisurely afternoon naps while expecting other men to fight his battles.

Today, we have the advantage of knowing the ending to David’s story, and it is a happy one.  Still, we can learn a lesson from David.  Yes, the grace of God is available no matter how many times we fall, and no matter how far we fall.

But we also need to remember that the battle for our soul is waging every day.  Are we at home taking a nap?  Or are we out in the fight?

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Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

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Abortion Advocates: I Am Not Your Enemy

Tomorrow is the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States 43 years ago.  There are forecasts of a potential blizzard in Washington D.C., but the 2016 March For Life is still expected to go on as scheduled, as will the other walks and demonstrations planned throughout the country.

On the pro-abortion side of things, you might notice on social media today and tomorrow that women are being encouraged to share– proudly– their stories of abortion.  It is said to be an attempt to “lift the stigma” and “free” these women from the “shameful silence” they have been sentenced to because of people against abortion–people like me.

It might be an empowering narrative, the only problem is: It’s not true.

Please understand, I am not saying the stories are untrue, or that these women are in any way lying.  Nor am I denying the bravery it takes for any woman, regardless of her beliefs, to come forward and speak about something as personal and difficult as an abortion.  I am, however, calling out the “movement” for what it is: It is a lie.

Abortion advocates, I believe I can speak for virtually all of the pro-life movement in saying: 

I am not your enemy.

The one who has made you feel shamed into not being able to bring to the light what was probably the hardest decision of your life?  That was not me.

But I can relate.

See, I have made decisions in my life that have caused me to feel ashamed and cowered into silence.  I have done things I felt might be better hidden or kept in the darkness rather than discussed openly in the light.  In those times it has often seemed easier for me to blame others for my feelings of guilt and shame (“Society” has deemed this behavior “bad.”  It’s just my “Catholic guilt,” etc.)  than to acknowledge that these things were, in fact, mistakes that hurt me.

The truth is that the desire to hide in the darkness of shame comes not usually from other people, but from the real Enemy, the one who comes only to kill and destroy.  Satan wants nothing more than for us to feel ashamed, to hide, and to be kept in silence by those sorts feelings.

So abortion advocates: Do you want to talk about your abortion?  Please, let’s talk about it.  Let’s talk about it with honesty and compassion, without name-calling or condemnation.  

The truth is that this is what the pro-life movement has been after all along.  Bring it to the light.  Let’s be honest with women about what abortion actually looks like, about what the stages of development of life in the womb looks like.  Be honest that abortion stops a heart from beating, and terminates the development of a unique life never to be repeated again.  Perhaps most important of all, let’s be honest about the emotional pain an abortion so often brings with it.  Be honest that abortion so very often ends up hurting tremendously the very women it claims to help.

The truth is that calling something bad good will not make it so, no matter how much we try.  Uploading a video or tweeting 140 characters may bring with it a brief feeling of empowerment and pride, but if we are honest with ourselves, that gnawing emptiness will come again in the silence of the night and we will be faced with the grim reality of the lie we have been sold:

Bad is not good.  False is not true.  Darkness is not light.

The Enemy wants you to stay in the darkness that says that bad can be good; to stay in that darkness that says the antidote to shame is pride.  But the antidote to shame is humility and truth.  The antidote to shame is Jesus.  He is the only one who can truly free us from our shame and cleanse us of our guilt–not through vain tweets or social media campaigns, but through real healing that lasts.

All we have to do is take that grace-filled first step, out of darkness and into the light.

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Jesus, We Trust In You!

http://hopeafterabortion.com/

 

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God’s Law or My Conscience?

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Ever been told (as I was recently) that in the Church today, many Catholics are opting to follow their *conscience* rather than “the bishops” when it comes to certain moral teachings?

What do you make of that?

Well let’s take a look in the Catechism, because it may surprise you to learn that these people–though somewhat misguided–are not totally off base in crying “conscience.”

CCC 1790: A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself.

Did you know the Catechism teaches this?  Man is obliged to follow his conscience.  It makes good sense, really.  The Catholic Church, contrary to certain popular belief, does not intend for us to check our reason at the door.  How awful and illogical would it be to insist that God, the source of all reason, would require man to act contrary to the certain judgment of his conscience!

Unfortunately, it seems that many who invoke the Church’s teaching on conscience when it comes to the more difficult moral teachings stopped reading a little short.  In the very same line, the Catechism goes on to make clear:

CCC 1790 [continued]: …Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

Translated into even simpler terms, this basically says: Man is not perfect, and can sometimes make mistakes in his judgment (even the ones he is “certain” about).

Think about it.  Haven’t you ever been so sure of something, only to find out that you were, in fact, wrong?

If you answered “no,” you’re either lying, not human, or only a few hours old.  The fact is we all make mistakes sometimes.

So, am I saying that God’s law trumps conscience?

It is actually sort of a trick question.  You see, our conscience, properly understood, is nothing other than God’s law working in our hearts.

Citing guadium et spes, the Catechism characterizes conscience beautifully:

CCC 1776: “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”

This is important to grasp:  Too many people–both in and out of the Church–understand “The Church” as basically just some lifeless institution run by old men set on enforcing ancient rules and customs because some guy who lived 2,000 years ago supposedly wanted it that way.  And if we are all good little boys and girls who play by the rules, we won’t have to go to Hell when we die.  Keep the rules, and don’t ask questions.

You guys: This is not what Catholics believe the Church is!  Jesus established the Church so that we could come to know Him, personally, today.  As Catholics, we believe Jesus is alive, and works through His Church.  In the Biblical canon of Scripture (which the Church compiled), in the sacraments, and in the infallible dogmas and doctrines of the Church–we have the opportunity to learn about and to meet personally Jesus Himself.

So, to a Catholic, it is tremendously important to let the teachings of the Church inform and permeate our conscience when it comes to moral decisions.  I am bound to be wrong sometimes.  But as a Christian, I do not believe that God ever will be.  So when my heart tries to tell me something that runs contrary to the infallible teaching of Jesus as taught by His Holy Church, I can trust with confidence that my heart is the one that needs changing.

Isn’t this how we come to know the heart of Jesus?  We yield our hearts over to Him not simply because “The Church says so,” but because we trust that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  In our yielding and in our struggle to understand the “why” behind those teachings we might find hard, we come to know Jesus Himself.  And that is the whole point of being a Christian.

To me, the infallible authority of the Church on defined matters of faith and morals is incredibly freeing.  Still, I recognize that, to others, accepting the authority of the Church can be a great struggle, or even seem stifling to personal freedom.  If you fall into that second camp, then I would encourage you to take a closer look at what you immediately think of when you hear the words: “The Church.” Do our minds immediately go to that group of old men making up rules in the Vatican?  Or do we really understand “The Church” as Jesus Himself, calling us into deeper relationship with Him?

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An Invitation To Deeper Prayer

 

Tyler and I are re-reading Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days To Morning Glory in preparation to renew our Marian consecration on the Feast of Her Immaculate Conception (December 8th).

I wanted to share with you an excerpt from one of last week’s reflections, which comes from the writings of Blessed Mother Teresa.  It spoke to my heart, so maybe it will speak to yours as well:

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I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus – one to one – you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in chapel – but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus – not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace, He is longing to give it…

…Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person – not just the idea. How can we last even one day without hearing Jesus say, “I love you” – impossible. Our soul needs that as much as the body needs to breathe the air. If not, prayer is dead – meditation only thinking. Jesus wants you each to hear Him – speaking in the silence of your heart.

(Blessed Mother Teresa, 25 March 1993)

“Jesus wants you each to hear Him–speaking in the silence of your heart.”  Let’s draw near to God and ask Him to transform our prayer.

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The End Of The World

This coming Sunday is the Solemnity of Christ the King, and the final Sunday of the liturgical year before Advent begins on November 29th.

If you have been paying attention, you may have noticed the readings at mass on Sundays have taken a somewhat “ominous” turn.  We have started dealing with end-of-the-world themes and hearing preaching about Jesus’ coming judgement at the end of time.  All of this can be somewhat confusing: As the rest of the world begins its Christmas-time celebrations by singing cheery tunes and indulging in sweet desserts, those of us in the Church might be tempted to think of the readings on Sundays as being kind of a “downer” on the whole holiday spirit.

Just when we are ready to get excited for Christmas along with the rest of the world, the Church has us dwelling on the apocalypse—What gives?

Consider this your heads up.  When you hear in the coming weeks preaching of the Son of Man coming on the clouds, separating the wheat from the chaff, or the coming tribulation of the end-times, it’s not meant to put a collective “bah-humbug” on your holiday cheer.  Rather, it’s a reminder of why Jesus came into the world in the first place.  And as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the first time our Lord Jesus came into the world, it is only appropriate that we also look forward to, and prepare our hearts for, the day when He will return, as He promised.

Jesus Is Coming, And Has Already Come

So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

“Parousia” is a fancy word from ancient Greek that means, a “physical presence” or “arrival” of someone.  It is most often used to reference Jesus’ Second Coming.

When Jesus came into the world the first time, He was born in the bitter cold of night, into a poor family, and laid to sleep in the stable animals’ feeding trough.  It sure didn’t look like the King of the Universe had just entered the scene.  As we draw nearer to His Second Coming, or parousia, we are promised to be presented with various trials and tribulations.  In those times, we will likely ask ourselves, “Where is God?”

When we are faced with those trials, let’s remember that it’s not only true that Jesus came long ago in a stable in Bethlehem, and it’s not even just that He will come again.  Jesus has come, Jesus will come, and Jesus remains here with us, present in the Eucharist.

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“Every Eucharist is parousia, the Lord’s coming, and yet the Eucharist is even more truly the tensed yearning that He would reveal His hidden Glory.”

(Ratzinger, Eschatology)

We need not fear Jesus’ second coming at the end of time, and we don’t need to be anxious about the tribulations that He will lead us through as we prepare to meet Him.  With the eager anticipation of a child as Christmas draws near, we take this time to kneel before Christ present in the Eucharist, and even dare to ask that He might hasten His coming, when the glory and splendor of the King will finally be made manifest!
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