Category Archives: Evangelization

“The Praying Type” isn’t a thing.

“I’m headed out to take a big test.  If you’re the praying type…”

“If you’re the praying type, I could really use some prayers for this job interview…”

“Feeling anxious/stressed out lately.  If you’re the praying type…”

Maybe this is overly nit-picky of me, but this phrase, “If you’re the praying type,” bugs me.

In fairness, I think we say it without even thinking about it. It’s just the go-to polite way to ask others to pray for you, without feeling needy or demanding. Plus, it acknowledges that not everyone prays and, for some reason, we seem to think that those who don’t pray need us to say that we’re not asking them to.

But, if you think about it, it’s sort of a dumb thing to say.

First of all, it doesn’t even really make sense. Personally, when I hear “the praying type,” I picture someone with a Bible kneeling in a church. But of course, there isn’t just one “type” of person who prays. Lots of different types of people pray. Regular church-goers, habitual sinners, people who haven’t darkened the door of a church in years. There isn’t a specific mold you have to fit in order to address your prayers to God. This phrase makes it sound like there is, and that’s just annoying.

More importantly, though, if you identify as the praying “type,” you should probably believe that everyone–even those who don’t actually pray–are in fact “the praying type,” too.

Do you have hopes, dreams, longings, fears, and just general thoughts that you often feel the need to express to another person?

Then, my friend, you are the praying type.

Prayer is a conversation.  A conversation in which we share our hearts with God in the belief that doing so might bring about a change within us or a specific situation. Those of us who believe in prayer believe in a God who listens to us and wants to answer us when we cry out to Him. This is a God who wants to take an active part in our lives. Either this God is real or He is not. His willingness to listen to us or to answer our prayers does not depend on whether we have prayed every day, or never prayed; and it certainly does not depend on what “type” of person we are.

Now I’m not saying we should demand or ask that non-believers address prayers to a God they don’t believe in on our behalf.  I just hate that our most commonly used invitation to prayer is so lame and wimpy sounding. Why would we ever limit the invitation to pray to specific “type” of person?

We wouldn’t add this sort of caveat to any other request grounded in reality.  At dinner time, we would never say something like, “I’m hungry.  If you’re the type who believes humans need to eat, you’re welcome to join me for dinner.”  That would be silly. The fact is that hunger is a real human experience and dinner is a real solution to it!  Those who wanted to eat dinner with us would join, and I have a hard time believing that those who did not want to join us–for whatever reason– would be offended by the invitation.

So too with prayer.  We have problems, and, as believers, we believe our Creator can help us with those problems.

Why not invite everyone to dinner?

Just something to think about. I mean, if you’re the thinking type 🙂

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In the Name of Jesus

 

Whenever evil is committed in the name of some religion, we’re told to conclude that all religions are essentially the same. Religion serves only to divide us and to spread messages of fear and hatred.

But the Gospel is GOOD news. It is life-giving. We see this in today’s first reading:

“Leaders of the people and elders:
If we are being examined today
about a good deed done to a cripple,
namely, by what means he was saved,
then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed. He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.

There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

 

Jesus was murdered. He was killed in the name of pride masquerading as religious piety. The religious leaders were afraid to arrest Him in broad daylight because they were afraid they’d have an angry mob on their hands, so they did it under the cover of night. They were threatened by Jesus’ following, so they sought to stamp out this “Jesus thing” by killing Jesus and thereby silencing His followers once and for all. They put guards at the tomb because they were afraid His followers would try to pull one over on them.

But Jesus rose anyway.

He came back to life–can you imagine the civil war that could have sprung from this event? 

Yet the Apostles do not retaliate evil for evil. The Gospel is not spread through fear and intimidation. Jesus’ followers do not go around killing in His name.

They go about healing in the name of Jesus. They go about preaching a Gospel of LIFE.

And this wasn’t just some clever “PR-strategy,” by the way. The apostles weren’t going around preaching a gospel of “can’t we all just get along?” They were healing and preaching eternal life in the name of Jesus Christ. And for that last bit, they were threatened, tortured, and killed.

It’s a pretty hard sell actually, “Join our religion! Heal the blind! Make the lame walk! –And be killed for it!”

Yet they went about healing and spreading life anyway, because that is who our God is. That is who Jesus is. The apostles were compelled to tell the world that the God who created us calls us to newness of life.

It is Jesus who heals. It is Jesus who gives life.

There is no salvation through anyone else–that is not a threat, it is simply the truth. And it is GOOD NEWS!

 

 

A Reader Asks: Sharing Newfound Faith With Friends

I’ve grown up in a Catholic faith, mass every Sunday and since
kindergarten, have been attending a Catholic school. For all of my
life, Catholicism can be found all around, whether at school or at
home, but for the longest time, I haven’t fully welcomed it in my
heart. It is currently my eighth grade year, and with a new religion
teacher, we are learning a new curriculum, Theology of the Body. I’ve
fell in deep interest with the topic and for the first time, I’ve felt
connected with my religion in all aspects of my life. Since learning
the curriculum I have truly grown closer to God. This new leaf has
lasted for close to a year now, it’s been just me and God.
 Today, as I grow in my faith and as I thrive for purity, I am dying
to share my somewhat newfound perspective with close friends. After
all, my friends are influential on me and I’d love for them to
understand where I’m at with my faith. Turns out, expressing those
feelings of religion to my friends is harder than I thought. Even
though they have gone to or do currently attend the same Catholic
school as I do, when I communicate my new perspective, it feels as if
I’m speaking a different language. I want to be able to express my
religion with my friends without feeling hurt about their passive
aggressive opinions. When I talk to them it sometimes feels as if I’m
apologizing for my beliefs, knowing that my opinion is contradicting
or annoying them. How do I maintain healthy relationships with my
friends if at times they draw me towards sin? How do I express how
I’ve “opened my eyes” to my religion as not just a phase, but
something that I want to make a part of my lifestyle and hopefully the
lifestyle of others?

Thank you for any advice you can offer!

 

Isn’t the Theology of the Body amazing? Praise God for this new leaf in your journey of faith!!

Reading your email, two Scripture verses came to mind that I’d like to share with you. The first is from the prophecy of Simeon regarding Jesus. Do you remember the story? You’ll find it in Luke, chapter 2. Jesus’ parents bring him to the temple shortly after his birth. There is a man there named Simeon, who the Bible tells us was righteous and devout, and that “the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Simeon was told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. And here come Mary and Joseph with their child, Jesus, and Simeon knows–through revelation of the Holy Spirit–that this is the Messiah he has been waiting for. He takes Jesus in his arms and says:

Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.

Cool! But why am I telling you this? Because of what he says next, to Mary:

and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Reading your words about how you feel like your opinion is “annoying or contradicting” to your friends  I immediately thought of Simeon.

You see, Jesus was a sign of contradiction. As His followers, we are also going to be little “signs of contradiction.” In Acts 28 we actually find this same phrase used to describe the early Christians:

…with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against. (Acts 28:22)

(contra-against, dicere– to speak; i.e. “contradicted”)

In fact, St. John Paul II (who wrote the Theology of the Body!) actually wrote a book entitled, Sign of Contradiction, in which he argued that being a sign of contradiction is “a distinctive definition of Christ and His Church.”

All this to say- from a Christian perspective, feeling like “a sign of contradiction” means you are actually doing something right! So be encouraged!

The other Scripture that came to mind was actually recently read at Sunday mass:

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna, And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

I thought of this as I read that your friendships sometimes draw you towards sin. Now, people are not lifeless members to be chopped off and cast aside. Your friends are fellow daughters and sons of God who are created in His Image, and you are called to love them as Jesus does–regardless of their beliefs or behavior. However, it sounds like there might be elements of your relationship with them that need to be “plucked out,” so to speak. Gossip…Impure or scandalous talk/ behavior… I don’t know. Whatever it is, things that lead us to sin are not conducive to real friendship anyway, so for the good of the relationship, these things need to be “chopped off.”

My advice: Continue to be that “sign of contradiction” among those you meet, while making an effort to “pluck out” those elements of your friendship which pull all of you away from God. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one big conversation, but if something in your religion class spoke to your heart, share with your friends why you liked it and what it meant to you! If they laugh at you for it (because laughing at religion class was perhaps a fun pastime of your relationship), politely but firmly let them know that it hurts your feelings and that you’re starting to take this stuff more seriously. If the conversation turns to gossip, gently change the subject to something positive. You’re changing the rules of your friendship a little bit, so don’t be surprised when they’re, well, surprised. But don’t be wishy-washy, either.

This is exactly how evangelization happens. This is what the apostles did in the early Church. It’s what everyone who met Jesus and came to believe in Him did. They met a man who changed their lives, and He impacted them so much that they wanted to introduce Him to everyone they met–person to person, most often in casual conversations just like you have with your friends.

It is of course possible that these friends will not accept your newfound faith in Jesus, and that’s unfortunate. Sometimes when this happens, people may feel that you’re judging them because of your faith. Most often this is because they are doing things that they know in their heart are not what Jesus wants for them, and so since you’re now a follower of Jesus, they assume you will judge them as they fear Jesus has. This is all the more reason to really be Christ to these people. Be uncompromising when it comes to standing against sin, but unwavering in your love. If they draw back for a time, it’s ok. Don’t reject your friends for Jesus’ sake (He doesn’t need or want you to), but do take consolation in the fact that Jesus Himself was rejected for ours.

I hope this has helped in some small way. I will certainly be praying for you.

Jesus is so happy you have come to know Him! Cling to Him, and trust Him to guide your path and lead you to be the person He is calling you to be. And be that person! As St. Catherine of Sienna said, “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire!”

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Sin Always Hurts

 

sin always hurts

Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

“Well, I believe that ____ is a sin because I am a Christian, but I just don’t feel I have a right to force my beliefs on others…  

…I mean, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone…

It sounds straightforward enough, right?  And in our culture, one of the the worst things you can be accused of doing is “forcing” your beliefs on someone.  Unfortunately, the underlying premise of this sort of statement is that sin doesn’t always hurt.

But that’s simply not true.

Sin always hurts.  Sin hurts God, first and foremost.  But sin also hurts us, because we are created to live in communion with God, and sin damages our ability to come into relationship with our Creator.  Choosing to sin stems from passions that are out of order which, when not corrected, lead us to choose things that might seem appealing, but in reality are not good for us.

This is true of all sin and for all people–whether they are Christians or not.  Lying is bad for the believer and the unbeliever alike.  Unchastity hurts both the Christian and the agnostic.  Sin is not good for us, no matter who we are.

But wait, there’s more!  Sin doesn’t just hurt God and the one sinning, sin hurts everyonebecause no one sins in a vacuum.  Our choices always have an effect on those around us, for better or for worse.  Lying is an affront to the dignity of whomever you’re lying to, because you’re effectively saying they aren’t worthy of the truth.

Even the sins we call “private,” these still affect our neighbors, because we carry the effects of our sins around with us, to everyone we meet.  When I habitually choose to do things that are damaging to my soul, it absolutely affects me as a person, and so it absolutely affects my ability to engage in the kinds of healthy and constructive relationships that I am supposed to have with other people.  When this happens on a large enough scale, everybody loses, because it facilitates a culture in which virtually no one is capable of true, virtuous friendship.  So sin—even so-called “private sin”— creates a culture of selfishness.  Sound familiar?

But here’s the real crux for those of us who say we are Christians.  If we can pretend that it is possible to commit sin “without hurting anyone,” what we’re really saying is that Jesus or no Jesus–it doesn’t really make a difference.  We’re effectively saying that sin is just some arbitrary, made-up construct, and our Savior has nothing real to offer the world.

Is that what we believe?  Because it is certainly not what Christianity teaches.

If Jesus is real, then sin always hurts.  And if Jesus is real, then sin is what He says it is.  Meaning: We don’t get to decide that just because something Jesus calls sin doesn’t look like it is hurting our neighbors, that it is somehow not a sin in that case.  Even when we are not fully culpable for our sinful actions–due to poor formation or whatever–those sins can still cause damage in our lives.

That’s the truth of the matter.  If we say we are Christians, then we cannot ever hold that sin is harmless. Because Jesus isn’t a liar.

So what does this mean for our day-to-day lives?  I think it means that we start, if we haven’t already, to pray that the Holy Spirit would “inspire us with the horror of sin.”  Because I think that if we are striving to live our lives according to the Spirit of God, we would be horrified by sin–all sin.  And if we’re not horrified by sin, then it means something is off in how we relate to God and to our neighbor, and needs to be made right.

So let’s ask that Jesus would “break our hearts for what breaks His.”  Let’s ask that He show us how we are to really love Him and how we are to really love our neighbor.  Not by pretending that sin is harmless, but by giving us the conviction that our Savior who died for our sin invites us—all of us— to freedom from sin.

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8 Of My Favorite Tweets From Pope Francis

Don’t you just love it when you turn on the news and see the Pope?

Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped)

In honor of his visit to the US this week, I thought I’d round up some of my favorite Pope Francis tweets.

On the importance of reading Scripture:

 

On the dignity and vocation of the family:

 

Because this is easy to forget when you’re bogged down in your sin:

 

Papa is always challenging me to get a little more uncomfortable:

Again, a needed reminder:

Preach:

 

On making sense out of suffering:

Christ is counting on YOU:

  pope usa  

Pray for Pope Francis!

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