This is our friend, Jake, who is always "gelling."
My husband and I were bowling last weekend. He's pretty awesome. Me? I bowl a 66 if I'm lucky and crown myself Queen.
John, though - he's a great bowler. After a particularly awesome strike, he turned around and said, "Before the ball left my hand I knew that was gonna be a perfect strike."
I didn't even question him. Of course he knew. He felt himself line up perfectly with the pins. He felt himself align his body with the lane so as he drew his arm back, the weight of the bowling ball, itself, propelled him forward. He was in-tune with the motions of the game. He was "gelling." He was "in the zone."
I understand the feeling. Maybe not for bowling (okay, DEFINITELY not for bowling) but I've felt confident and sure in other areas of life: pouring just the right amount of pizzelle batter into my iron for the perfect cookies, timing my laundry cycles to coincide perfectly with cleaning the bathrooms and the roasting chicken in my oven, and snipping the perfect amount of wire so I don't waste any for a pair of earrings.
We've all had this feeling. We're so "in tune" with what we're doing that our actions are second nature. We know, before we complete a task, that everything is going to turn out pretty awesome.
This is how I usually feel regarding religion. I gel. I'm "in tune" with God. I have an easy, natural response to confusing or potentially bad situations. When folks ask me questions about Catholicism, I've got an answer. When I'm faced with a severe temptation, I'm pretty quick to call out to St. Michael. That's just what happens when you communicate regularly through prayer and reception of the Sacraments.
Unfortunately, however, I was NOT gelling so much last week at work. I'll be honest... I'd had a pretty terrible weekend. I slipped into mortal sin, decided not to go to Mass, and paid for it on Monday.
Now please don't think I'm using my blog as a confessional. I'll get to that. I think it is important, however, to note just how damaging missing Mass actually is. So many people (my past self included) think that missing Mass is "no big deal." How can missing Mass be a mortal sin? Well, I had learned that lesson the hard way a few years ago, but apparently my soul shamefully decided it needed a refresher.
I missed Mass and intended to seek out Confession and Communion the following weekend. I trusted God not to let me get hit by a bus in between Monday and Confession, but I was definitely looking forward to Confession rolling around.
Anyway, Monday morning comes and all is well with the world. I'm doing my job properly, I'm having laughs with my coworkers, and everything seems perfect. And it was perfect... until my last call on Monday.
It was from a gentlemen who had a lot (and I mean A LOT) of trouble with the Catholic Church as a whole. He called saying he wanted answers to questions, but he wasn't asking questions so much as rambling about the various misconceptions about Catholics that have been strewn across the media.
Typically I'm able to handle those situations with poise and charity. I can usually redirect misconceptions with a firm and gentle explanation of the Truth.
I failed miserably this go around. Absolutely FAILED. I wasn't gelling with God. I wasn't gelling with my faith. I wasn't in communion with the Church I sought to defend, so how in the world did I think I was going to avail myself of the graces I willingly cut myself off from?
Sure I said a prayer to the Holy Spirit, and I have no doubt His answering grace was the only thing that got me through that half-hour call. That being said, I knew by the end of it that I'd failed. This person, though no longer vehemently angry, was still left with a bad taste in his mouth regarding Catholicism.
Usually at the end of such calls I've got people at least agreeing that though they don't like Catholicism's stance on social issues, the Church isn't the evil enterprise they originally thought it was.
This guy, even though he wasn't angrily yelling anymore, probably still thinks that Catholicism is stupid and should be outlawed to protect those who couldn't see it for the shell game he thinks it is.
Since it was my last call of the day, I felt pretty miserable going home. My coworkers all said I did a great job on the call, but no. I could tell I'd messed up. I could feel it, just the same as I could feel when I'd succeeded with a caller. I knew the reason, too - I wasn't in communion.
It's like expecting a master chef to prepare a gourmet meal when he's only given the fry station at McDonald's. Sure he might be able to wrangle up SOMETHING, but it's not going to be as incredible as what he could do in his natural setting.
My natural setting is Communion with the Church. That is when I do my best work. That is when I feel as though I can help the most people in the best way. When I'm not in communion, I feel something missing. I honestly think God dropped that caller in my lap in order to remind me of that.
Of course He wasn't going to let me get smashed by a bus before getting my relationship with Him back on track. But He wasn't going to simply walk away and allow me to be without Him for a full week, either.
Nope. He loves me too much, and quite frankly, I love Him too much, too. I then looked up daily confession and found out we offer them at the Basilica right behind my office. I went during lunch the very next day and reconnected with Him. The rest of the week, though busy, I was back in tune with the world around me. I was gelling.
But God was good to grant me that one caller who would haunt me into never missing Mass again.
Missing Mass isn't just about breaking up my relationship with God. It's selfishly cutting myself off from the graces that could be used to help other people. And I think that is the lesson to be learned here (at least for me, anyway).
Vince's face says it all.
I'm going to try really hard to remain civil. I apologize in advance if If am less than perfect in my attempt.
Some of you may have been following the deplorable media frenzy over a certain Russian 'band' that decided to stage a blasphemous protest inside the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. For those of you that haven't, do yourselves a favor and simply skip this particular entry so you can remain blissfully unaware that such disregard for common decency exists in the world.
A couple months ago, members of this feminist group trespassed on sacred Cathedral grounds and brassly went up to the main sanctuary to the soleas (the platform in front of the gates that enclose the altar) and shrieked out an incredibly offensive string of lines aimed at denigrating Christians under the guise of opposing Putin.
Judging from the lyrics (and really... don't search them out unless you really want to upset yourself), they were mostly looking to humiliate Christians and drag our beliefs through the mud. To do this in front of the main altar where Christ is present... oh Heaven! Forgive us this travesty.
When these yahoos were finally brought before a judge, they were found guilty of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in prison.
Of course everyone and their brother cried foul over this. The media kicked into high gear blasting the government for stifling freedom of speech. Instead of being viewed as a hate crime aimed at humiliating Christians, folks painted the picture of innocent women who just wanted to speak out against the injustice of Russian big-wigs.
How anyone could possibly write this off as simply the government trying to stifle free speech is beyond me - especially given that these same women have landed themselves in prison before. The ONLY reason they've attracted so much attention this time around is because of where they staged their antics.
They chose the central Cathedral of Moscow because it'd garner the most publicity. And instead of just staging this in front of the cathedral (where I doubt I'd've had an issue with it), they chose to go INSIDE the church and dare to go up to the sanctuary.
I won't even go near the sanctuary, and I'm a practicing Catholic!
And yet everyone who I've spoke to about this defends these women because the media is portraying this as an issue of free speech. Instead, the media completely neglects the incredibly horrible injustice done to the Christians of that community. Because most folks don't care about the beliefs of these people, they don't CARE that this injustice has been done.
*Shakes head* That really worries me.
An incredible article that details just how distrurbing this is was written by Janice Shaw Crouse of The American Thinker.
In attempting to explain this to atheist / agnostic / disagreeing friends, I likened it to a stunt orchestrated by a Christian in the middle of a homosexual support group. Let's say Bob wants to protest President Obama because he believes President Obama is in bed with the homosexual lobby. Instead of protesting someplace normal and open to the public, he decides to break into a homosexual support group meeting (or support community home) and yell anti-homosexual things.
Should Bob be arrested? YES! For goodness sakes, he trespassed with the willful intent to denegrate homosexuals! He'd be immediately labeled a homophobe, would probably be arrested and charged with a hate crime, and face an extremely publicized trial that would laugh at his attempt to use "freedom of speech" as a defense for his actions.
This is because most folks are in agreement with the homosexual lobby. Most folks would rightly be offended that anyone would THINK to enter such a safe, sacred spot and begin bullying homosexuals in so offensive a manner - even under the guise of raging against the President.
Why, then, is this same outrage not shown to the Christians who are now left with months of restitution to serve in atonement for the treachery committed against their community by these women?
Ah yes - because it's perfectly acceptable to bully Christians. It's perfectly acceptable - respected, even - to humiliate and denigrate Christianity.
Again - this should be HIGHLY alarming to folks. It certainly is to me.
***WARNING: Some images will offend folks. I apologize in advance. Also, my views are STRICTLY my opinions and might not perfectly reflect those of Judaism / Catholicism - I'm still working on that. I admit that this particular topic is a little hazy for me, and I welcome anyone who wishes to comment or redirect my read on it. Just trying to get a conversation going - not supporting or condemning one way or the other. Thanks!!!***
So an interesting comment popped up on my Newsfeed this morning. A young woman expressed exasperation at a Jehovah's Witness who basically condemned her to hell for her tattoos.
I jumped the gun a bit (having been "condemned" myself, this morning - I was on an indignant roll) and responded that tattooing was, in fact, in the Bible, and tattooing happens to be part of MANY religious practices all over the world.
Just because Mr. Door-Preacher interprets the Bible as a condemnation of everyone's soul does not, in fact, mean that the rest of the world does. It also most certainly doesn't mean that God does.
Anywho, I figured this would be a good topic to bring up since so many people seem to be confused about the "sin-potential" of tattooing and what the Bible actually says about it. I am, a bit, too, so open dialogue is always a plus.
Disclaimer: I've always wanted a tattoo. I've never gotten one, but I've always been intrigued by some of the more beautiful body art I've seen. Some artwork truly is beautiful, and I admit wanting a piece of the action for myself.
That being said, I've always refrained because of the stigma attached to them. I never - EVER - wanted my kids to utilize my tattoos as a means for their own questionable activities. I also never wanted to give them reason to think poorly of me (as I'm sure I can handle that on my own without the aid of taboos).
Anyway, my desire for tattooing is what led me to research the Biblical history of tattoos. I figured if I ever did get one, I'd want to make sure it was permissible so I'd have evidence to back myself up when folks would inevitably start raining hellfire on me.
So if you're wondering why I'd ever know any of this, my own selfishness is why. Ha!
So - onwards with the discussion!
First things first. What does the Bible actually have to say about tattoos?
Leviticus 19:28: "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord."
This is typically the number one quote used by those who want to condemn tattooed folks to hell. However, this is like using a microscope to view a sunset.
When you only see a tiny part of the picture, you neglect to realize that there's a whole lot more to see. Until you remove the microscope and view the image in its fullness, you can't claim to pass judgement on the various colors, silhouettes, and cloud layers that work in tandem to create that sunset.
So, let's zoom out a bit and put some context to that particular quote.
Leviticus 19:26-31 deals with temple laws. You see, now that the Jews had to rely on Levitical priests to sacrifice and commune with God (instead of all the male heads of households before the Golden Calf incident), they were forced to create a gathering space in which these Levites could carry out the work of God. In developing their religious culture to match the punishment doled out by Divine Justice, a temple needed to be constructed which would serve as a central place for worship / sacrifice. This was the first time in Jewish history that they'd need a temple just like all the other pagan religions that were being practiced.
Because of this, God foresaw the very real possibility of the Israelites slipping back into their "Let's do what everyone else is doing!" habits. As such, He made provisions in the Law to ensure that His people would not be led astray by pagan customs.
The prohibitions in Lev 19: 26-31 ALL deal with prohibitions against pagan practices. God didn't want His people to slip into the idolatry of the surrounding nations because they were supposed to be set apart. Israel was MEANT to stand-out as different because their example of holiness (if practiced accordingly) would attract the pagan nations away from their sinfulness and towards God.
So, now that we know that, we need to figure out exactly what that aforementioned verse 28 really stated.
Leviticus 19:28: "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord."
Alrighty - so understanding that these are based on the pagan religious practices of their respective temples, God is specifically saying, "Don't make yourselves LOOK like pagans."
It was typical of pagans to mutilate themselves as part of the grieving process. Also, the tattoos of some pagan cultures wasn't the colorful ink we think of when we hear the word tattoo. That sort of tattoo was reserved for the wealthy because they could afford ink and such. Others, however, had their skin seared in a pattern that became raised as the skin healed into a scar. It would've looked something like this:
I tried to make this small so as not to gross anyone out. Sorry if that didn't work.
So that's where the prohibition against tattoos originally came from. HOWEVER, there's an interesting line in Ezekiel that clouds the issue a bit. Credit: Catholic Caveman
"And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof." (Ez. 9:4)
Hey now wait a minute! I thought God doesn't want us tattooing ourselves!
Well, before you bust out your needles, again, let's pull away from the microscope and view the panoramic shot in full.
God was commanding the prophet to go through the Holy Land and mark those who are innocent of sin against the Lord. Those without this special marking upon their forehead were punished by Divine Justice. Those marked with the sign of "taw" (a letter of the Hebrew alphabet meaning "truth") escaped the wrath of God.
***Interestingly, this letter is translated to "T" using our alphabet... a symbol of the Cross of Christ. Another interesting thing that makes me giddy is that the Arabic version of the Hebrew taw is what looks to be a smilie face. Ha ha!***
Anyway, God's not talking about marking folks with tattoos. He just wanted to make sure His harbinger of justice could easily discern who needed to be slain and who didn't. So it's not like this was a permanent mark. Not to make light of a truly horrible situation, but my guess is the man with the linen cloth had something akin to a Sharpie. The mark definitely stood out, but it could be scrubbed away after a period of time (that period lasting through the close of slaughter).
Whew! Now that we covered all of that, we can get into the nitty gritty.
Are tattoos allowed, or aren't they?
According to most Jewish scholars, the answer is "No." Thus, if the Jews held that tattoos are a no-no, Christians would hold the same principle to be true (expounded upon in many of the epistles with the theme of our bodies being Temples of the Spirit).
However, does that mean to get one would be a sure-ticket to hell?
No. To my knowledge there's only one sin that is a sure-ticket to hell, and that's the sin against the Holy Spirit (refusing to trust that His Mercy is greater than your guilt). Granted, I don't claim to know the Mind of the Lord, but there's a difference between getting a tattoo of Zeus on your arm in the hopes that it brings you power and getting a tattoo of a butterfly after surviving breast cancer, ya know?
Plus, with these particular "little laws" of Leviticus, they really do have a substantial amount of social influence. As such, we need to understand that times have changed and these principles (not dogmatic in nature) are free to be interpreted differently at different times (which is why Jewish women pierce their ears even though that's technically forbidden in the same verse that forbids tattooing).
So is tattooing going to send you straight to hell? No. Could it possibly open the door to idolatrous actions that have you sliding down the slippery slope? Definitely - but so could that bag of Funions I'm currently eying. If I pop that baby open, I'm likely to go all sorts of gluttonous.
We are tasked with moderation and keeping our consciences clear before the Lord. He gave us a body with which to love and praise Him with. If you'd like to show Him honor by keeping a tattoo of His Mother over your heart, I certainly won't be condemning you for it. If you wish to praise Him by tattooing His Word on your hand so you keep it ever in-mind, far be it from me to prepare a seat in hell for you.
However, I can't see myself getting one simply because I don't feel doing those things would be beneficial to my spiritual life. I also tend to play it safe when it comes to Scripture. Ha ha ha.
Moral of the story: You cannot condemn a person for getting a tattoo. Unless your name is Jesus Christ, Son of the Most High God, keep your mouth shut in judgement of another's soul. When in doubt, just offer a prayer to the Lord for their purity of heart.
So, anyone else have thoughts on this?
***Large uptick in visitors after dinner. Please let me know who is directing traffic my way. Thanks! Also, please keep the language clean and the discourse civil. I don't want to be deleting / editing commentary all night.***
Why do you know so much about the Jews? Did you convert from Judaism?
The answer to this is simple - yet extremely important.
I did not convert from Judaism. Rather, I was blessed to be born into the faith that FULFILLS Judaism.
You see, Judaism and Catholicism are two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one side without the other.
In the Old Testament, God unfolds His plans for humanity. We were created by Him to be part of His family. Much like parents long for children to love and be loved by, God desired a family to love and be loved by. Humanity was the crowning answer to His Love.
God =/= Zeus!!!
The Old Testament gives us our history - our FAMILY history. We come to understand God as Father through its books. Once we understand God as Father, we cannot help but understand the whole of humanity as our brothers and sisters.
Most people view the God of the Old Testament as an angry Zeus-like figure (hurling fireballs at cities or smiting folks for laughs). However, when you really sit down and read through the pages of the OT, you come to learn that far from being an irate and venomous bully, God is a loving, patient Father who repeatedly sets his wayward children back on the path towards their inheritance with Him in Heaven.
Israel, being His "firstborn" (in that the Jews are who He revealed Himself as Father to before any other nation), tended to get the brunt of the "tough love" in an effort to prepare them to act as "big brother" to the other nations who would come to know the Father through them.
However, no one was going to learn about God the Father if the Israelites weren't acting in accordance with God's Will. This is why God punished the Israelites each time they broke their end of the Covenant. God was trying to uphold them as the model of what humanity was supposed to be, but they kept rejecting His Way in lieu of the debauchery that served as the way for their brother nations.
Thus the need for God to constantly step in to remind them, "Hey, Israel... you're supposed to be My Firstborn - My High Priest. You're supposed to be leading people to me through your holy example, not hopping aboard the Sin-Train with them on the way to perdition!"
And if you note His method of punishment, each completely fits the crime. Nothing more, nothing less. Divine Justice is merciful like that. :)
So fast-forward through the centuries. God is always making promises to Israel, reminding them that they've been called to be the gate of graces for the whole of humanity. Through their nation, salvation would be granted to the world in the form of the Messiah. One day, a Christ would come who would fulfill ALL the promises God made to His people in the Old Testament.
The New Testament tells the story of the promised Messiah - a Man called Jesus.
The New Testament is not the foundation for Catholicism... it is the FLOWERING of Judasim (which, in fact, is the foundation of Catholicism).
Look upon the whole of our theology as a tree. The seed was planted by God, Himself, through His covenant with Adam. He nurtured this tree, allowing the roots to take shape through Abraham. The trunk of Israel grew strong, eventually supporting the flowering branches of Christianity. Catholicism, however, is the FRUIT of the tree.
Judaism is the heart of Christianity
We have been blessed to understand that Christ fulfilled the promises made in the Old Testament. We have been blessed to see that Christ has offered salvation through the new and everlasting Church He set upon the rock of St. Peter. And yes, this salvation (as promised) came through Israel. Jesus was a Jew, and the first Christians were Jews. The evangelists were Jewish. The crux of our heritage was found in Jerusalem (where Christ preached and eventually offered Himself as Sacrifice, obtaining our salvation).
So while I'm not exactly Jewish, I am a sister to the Jews. If not for their millenia of working the theological fields, if not for their many centuries of trying to follow the Will of God, I would not have my Catholicism. I am indebted to the firstborn of God!
Thus, upon my "coming back" to the faith, I made a real attempt to delve into Judaic theology. Only in understanding the Jewish religion can I ever hope to understand my own.
So I hope that answers the question. And as a personal note (because I know you're not Catholic, but some version of Protestant - my apologies for forgetting which), this is true of your faith as well. Christianity stems from Judaism. It's why all Christians keep the Old Testament as well as the New. So understanding Judaism would be beneficial to you just as much (if not more so!).
In light of the last "But What About," a friend asked:
Why DID God constantly demand animal sacrifices in the OT? He's always asking for burnt offerings around the clock. That never sat well with me. It doesn't make sense. I don't see God wanting me to go out back and kill a bunch of His creatures. Why did He demand it back then?
What a great question!!! It has a logical answer, as well, I promise.
For one, let me start by saying that God loves His Creation. He loves the creepy crawly spider, the gross and slimy eel, and yes, He even loves the sheep, goats and bulls that He demanded Israel hand over day after day, night after night.
Why, then, would He wish them to be slaughtered in such droves in a seemingly barbaric fashion? You don't thoughtlessly slaughter cute, cuddly creatures simply to make yummy-smelling smoke that somehow glorifies God, right?
Right. Sort of.
You see, God never demanded animal slaughter from the Israelites as a people until they got sucked into the social constructs of Egypt. While they were slaving away under Pharoah for 400 years, they picked up some nasty habits from their overlords - chief among them the worship of cattle as gods.
God, having made a covenant with the Israelites that He would be their God and they would be His people, didn't take too kindly to His family suddenly forgetting about Him in lieu of thoughtless beasts. Thus, in order to remind them that these animals were not, in fact, worthy of adoration, God demanded that the Jews prove their loyalty (not to Him, but to themselves) by burning the objects of their idolatry.
Did God WANT to hurt the cattle? Of course not. Did He want to see them slaughtered and burned? No. However, God understood that in order for His wayward family to make a clean break with the unholy practices of the Egyptians, they'd need to rebel against the ingrained customs that had caused them to turn from His Love.
Basically, God was asking a drug addict to flush his stash down the toilet to prove he was really through with meth.
And at first, the Israelites said, "Sure, God, we'll totally do this! No problem!"
They offered the requested sacrifices (which were, unsurprisingly, the same animals most revered by the Egyptians) amidst joy and celebration. Why? Because God had just rescued them from Pharoah. In their joy and feelings of euphoria, they probably thought they could do anything God requested of them at that point.
Unfortunately, their break from Egyptian tradition was short-lived.
While Moses was up on Mt. Sinai receiving the 10 Commandments from God, the restless Israelites decided they wanted to throw a party. With 400 years of Egyptian partying under their belts, they knew they couldn't have a proper party without erecting a ginormous golden statue of Apis (yes, that's an Egyptian god). So what did these Israelites do? They collected as much gold as they could and crafted it into a big old idol.
Apparently God's favorite meth-head was at it again.
And to make matters worse, the Israelites attempted to cover up their sin of idolatry by proclaiming that the Calf of Apis was really just a representation of the God of Israel. Any and all resemblance of this idol to the idol they just swore never to worship again was PURELY coincidental.
And just like you don't buy that, God didn't, either.
So in order to ensure they broke up with idolatry for good, He commanded them to burn (day AND night) the objects of their folly. This sacrifice was not to promote animal cruelty, but to remind the Israelites that animal worship was a rupture to their covenant with God.
And none of the animal was wasted through sacrifice. After the Levites offered the sacrifice in accordance with the Law (which is the slaughter of these animals in as painless a way as possible), the carcass was distributed back for the purpose of utilizing it practically (meat for food, hide for clothing / tents, etc).
So yes, animal sacrifice was demanded by God in the Old Testament. However, it wasn't demanded because God enjoys inflicting pain upon animals. It was demanded because God needed to correct the erroneous idolatry of His children.
The Original "Hulk"
So a friend of mine brought up a good question while we were discussing theology yesterday. Mind you, this friend is an atheist (I wonder, sometimes, if I have any other variety), so the typical atheist "But What Abouts" came up.
But What Abouts (BWA) is my shorthand for any of the typical "But what about God telling you it's OK to kill a slave" or "But what about God allowing for rape so long as you pay the virgin's father a few shekels" arguments that arise when folks try to change a faithful person's belief in the truth of the Bible.
Anyway, the BWA that came up yesterday revolved around good old Samson. Many non-Christians are familiar with his story because he's typically portrayed as a Conan-like warrior with long, flowing locks that magically give him power to topple entire buildings with the flex of his biceps. The implication was that Christians believe in magic hair.
Unfortunately, what's typically left out of these childhood stories of Samson is anything of substance.
Samson wasn't just some Hulk-figure who had "magic hair." He was one of the Judges of the Old Testament.
Judges were God's answer to the constant failings of the Israelites during their 40 year punishment outside of the Promised Land. In the 40 year time span between Israel coming upon the Promised Land and finally inhabiting it, the Israelites went through a well documented cycle of:
"Hey, everyone, let's sin - it's fun!"
"Uh oh - now that we've sinned, we're being punished with the effects of our sin!"
"Aw, man! God, we're really sorry for disobeying Your Law again, can you please help us out by sending someone who will lead us to justice?"
God sends someone termed a "judge" to restore balance to the Israelites.
Everyone says, "Yay, God! Thanks for being awesome and saving us! We'll abide by Your Convenant forever."
A few years pass and then sin starts looking super fun again.
Repeat. A lot.
Samson was one of these judges that God raised up from amongst the Israelites to restore balance and justice to His people.
Not many people realize this, but Samson had an annunciation similar to John the Baptist. An angel appeared to his parents, too, and affirmed that, though they were barren, they'd bear a son who would save Israel from the Philistines. As such, the angel instructed his parents to raise him as a nazirite.
Now, what the heck is a nazirite?
Well, since the tribes forked over their right to perform priestly duties at both the Golden Calf incident and then again at the 1st attempt to enter Canaan, the Levites became the new priests of Israel. However, there were some "layfolk" who were permitted to help with priestly duties if they took special vows that set them apart from the general population. These were the nazirites.
One of the vows a nazirite took was the refusal to cut one's hair. Sound familiar?
Samson never cut his hair because he made a special vow to the Lord never to do so. It was this unwavering faith in God that gave Samson his strength. His hair was simply the symbol of his personal covenant with God. Samson handed over his life in service of the Lord, and in return, the Lord protected him and granted him the grace to deliver justice to the Israelites.
So to answer my friend's question regarding the "magic" of Samson's hair, I responded that no, Samson's hair wasn't magic. It was the symbol of his adherence to God's Will. It was only after Samson turned away from God's Will that his hair ended up being cut (the symbolic severance of their covenant) .
You see, Samson went and married a Philistine - TWICE - after God had specifically told the Israelites not to intermarry with them. Samson, unfortunately, allowed his personal desires to trump his duty as servant of the Lord. So he took two Philistine wives (Delilah came after his first wife was killed by her Philistine kin). In both instances, he chose to trust his wife before trusting the Will of God. Because of this disordered hierarchy of trust, Samson lost his first wife. For failing to learn this lesson the first time, Samson lost his eyes as well as his life the second time.
Hippie Justice League!
So no - Samson's hair did not hold any magical powers. His hair was a sign, however, of his adherence to God's Will. As soon as he turned away from God's Will by placing his desires above God's, he suffered the consequences.
Having his hair shorn was simply the physical desecration of the spiritual desecration that had already taken place the moment Samson committed mortal sin.
Good thing, too. Can you imagine the Hulk-smashing that would've occurred in the 60's had magic hair been the source of Samson's strength?! Yipes!
In the end, as Samson spent many sleepless, pain-filled nights begging the forgiveness of God, he made reparation for his sins. Each day of reparation drew him closer to the eventual destruction of the temple that would garner justice for himself and Israel. He spent many, many nights in atonement for his sin, so when he was finally brought to the temple as "entertainment" for the Philistines, his hair had grown back in. Again, this isn't pointing to Samson having magic hair... it's highlighting that Samson had spent time reflecting on and atoning for his sins against God. God then gifted Mercy to Samson through blessing him with the strength to dole out justice to the Philistines.
His hair was simply a symbolic manifestation of the blessing God bestowed in return for Samson's faithful service.
Sacred Heart statue at my parish
Today is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Plenary indulgences for all! If public recitation is not an option for you, partial indulgences are at the ready.Please don't let this opportunity pass you by! Spread it to all your friends. We could use a little absolution of our temporal punishments.How merciful is Our Lord! How fathomless the depths of His infinite Love!Submerse yourself in His Sacred Heart. Find peace and rest within His Arms.For the requisite prayers, gain access here! Don't forget to share with friends and family!
This entire entry stems from a thread regarding the "creation of evil" and free will. I wanted to post it here as well because I think it's a great conversation!
God grants us Free Will
God is the Supreme Author of creation... all things visible and invisible. Our creed states as much. However, does this mean He created evil as well?
My answer is no. Evil is not a thing to be created. It is a choice. One cannot "create" love, one can only choose it, right?
The same holds true for evil. One cannot "create" evil. One can only choose it. God, being Supremely wise, holy and loving, has the capacity for evil.
However (and this is a big however), being that He is Supremely wise, holy and loving, He eternally CHOOSES goodness. He eternally chooses love. THIS is the gift of Free Will that He imparted to us. If God doesn't have the capacity for evil, then God is not all-powerful. God wouldn't 'need' free will because He'd be incapable of evil. However, God IS all-powerful. The difference between Him and the rest of us, however, is that He's always chosen goodness and love over evil and hatred. Thus, God must have free will if He was able to grant it to us as a gift.
So, keeping His Perfect Example of free will in mind, let's move on.
God created the angels before humanity. Angels are purely spiritual beings that were also granted the grace of free will. We are taught through tradition that one third of these angels utilized their free will in opposition to the Divine Will of God (His Divine Will being Supreme Goodness). As a result, these angels were cast away from His Divine Presence (since to be united to God is to be united with His Will - which is Love above all else).
God did not cast them aside in judgement. They chose to dislodge themselves from His Goodness through pride. As a result, God, in His Goodness, created a place for them separate from the other angels who chose Goodness. Basically, He put the "bad kids" in the corner so they didn't disrupt the rest of the class. Those who wanted to continue to grow in love and understanding of God could remain with Him in Heaven.
Then God deemed it time for the physical realm to spring forth. After setting things into motion, He chose to bestow upon humanity the same gift given to the angels - free will. However, humans are intrinsically different from angels. Angels are purely spiritual beings. Humans are the union of body and soul (which is why Catholics believe in the "resurrection of the dead"). As such, our free will is going to be utilized differently from that of the angels (though with the same premise... freely choosing good over evil).
Eden was a physical realm that was in perfect union with the Will of God - Adam and Eve included. Genesis states as much when it writes of Adam "walking blameless before God." Adam's will was united to that of God's Divine Will, and there was peace. Eve, too, lived in union with God's Will. Until, that is, she meets up with a pesky little snake.
As we all remember from our elementary days, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge were located in the center of Eden. The Tree of Knowledge, when we trace it back to it's Jewish roots, was known as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is an important distinction because Jewish tradition understands this Tree to be the mixture of good and evil. Until humanity (through Adam and Eve) ingested this fruit (thus introducing the conflict of evil), good was humanity's nature. Evil was something altogether separate that had no place in the nature of humanity. We simply understood and trusted that God knew best, and we willingly went along with the plans He set forth because we naturally understood Him to have our best interests at heart.
That changed due to the 1st sin (which was Pride, not disobedience). When the serpent suggested to Eve that she could gain the knowledge that God had and begin making her OWN plans that would be even better than those of God, she was feeling the temptation of pride. When she acted out in eating the fruit, it was not disobedience that goaded her... it was her own pride. Her mistaken belief that she could somehow gain wisdom above God's. That given the chance, her will could rival that of God's. Sound familiar? It was the very same sin that Lucifer introduced to the other angels. It was the very sin that caused their downfall as well.
This was the first time humanity said "No" to the Divine Will. The second time was when Adam came along and accepted Eve's sin into the family line. In allowing himself (as head of creation) to sully humanity by not only accepting this sin, but taking part in it, Adam solidified our downfall. Now that both of our parents (Adam and Eve) have sullied themselves with the stain of sin, all subsequent generations would feel the smudge on our natures. This is original sin. It's not an actual "sin" that newborns are held accountable for. It's the tendency towards sin that we have inherited from our ancestors. Much like the child of an alcoholic is more likely to become an alcoholic himself, the children of sinners are more likely to sin. We are children of Adam and Eve. The tendency has been passed from generation to generation, and with the exception of Our Lady, all of humanity has been marred by the stain of this original "No" to Divine Will... this original misuse of free will.
Out of love, God sentenced us to a physical death so that we might once more reunite ourselves to His Will. Since humanity had marred its nature through sin, God rightly passed judgement on us, deeming us unfit to reside in Eden as that was a place of peace and unity with God's Will. Humanity, having now turned from God's Will, would be forced to work their way back to their original Divine Inheritance. Free will, having been gifted at our time of creation, was not taken away. Instead, as punishment for misusing this gift to alter our purely good nature, we would need to learn to properly use this gift for love.
That is what our lives on Earth are all about. We are learning to love. We are learning to consistently choose good over evil. We are learning to trust the Will of God and allow ourselves to take part in His plans for Divine Providence. THAT is the meaning of our earthly lives.
Upon death, we are judged on how well we learned this lesson. Did we consistently strive to love others? Did we consistently choose good over evil? Did we trust in the Will of God to move our lives in the direction necessary to once more gain eternal happiness?
If the answer is a resounding "Yes," we gain entrance to Heaven. If the answer is "Eh, it was a hell of a struggle, and I've got a ways to go, but I at least learned that Your Will is right" we gain entrance to Purgatory with the promise of Heaven. Finally, if the answer is, "No, this is all bull, God, you're just a big bully" we cast ourselves into Hell.
And yes, I said we cast ourselves. Much as those original fallen angels had.
At judgement, we see our own lives in the Light of Divine Truth. We see our souls as God sees them, and in the face of this Truth, we cannot help but understand our successes and failings. We, ourselves, pass sentence before the Throne of God (before which no sin or dishonesty can stand). We accept whatever "reward" we are given because at that moment, we cannot help but understand God to be Supreme Justice. Thus, our soul either joyfully enters Heaven (where our free will exists, but has been perfected so that it is united always to the Will of God), willingly enters Purgatory (with the understanding that our free will can be cleansed through the fires of God's Love in order for us to prepare for Heaven), or willingly seeks Hell as the only respite from ourselves away from the burning Justice of God's Truth.
Christ as Judge
God is mercifully patient, this is true. However, He is Divine Justice as well, and this Justice is not simply meant to punish - it is meant to protect and nurture those who wish to remain true to His Divine Will.
In His Mercy, God grants us enough trials and experiences through our lives in order for us to properly learn Love. This was revealed by Saint Michael to someone whose name escapes me.
St. Michael the Archangel revealed that every person on earth is given exactly what he or she needs to learn how to live by God's Will. It is up to us to heed these lessons. They don't continue in Heaven because at that point, all free will ceases to formulate through one's own accord. It is either solidified with access to Heaven, becoming engulfed in the Divine Will, forged through Divine Love in the embers of Purgatory, or left to fester with no hope of respite in the bowels of Hell. Our actions on earth determine which area our free will goes for a make-over (if one is necessary) after earthly death.
Our 1st Amendment rights as US Citizens... for now.
I'm successfully irritated. My charity level is low to non-existent right now, so I apologize in advance.
There has been yet another striking blow to religious freedoms today... this time in Denmark. All over the world, governments are attempting to put religious freedom to death, and no one is any the wiser. Why? Because it's all being done under the guise of social justice.Danish parliament has just passed a law making it MANDATORY for all churches in Denmark to provide homosexual marriage ceremonies.Take a second and let that process (if you're not too busy hurling).A government is attempting to FORCE entire religious communities to utilize their sacred houses of worship for a ceremony that goes directly against their religious beliefs as a people.I'm beyond disgusted. Once again the issue of religious freedoms is ignored because folks are too busy crying foul over the issue of homosexuality.I don't care if two men want to get hitched through civil unions. Be my guest. I draw the line, however, when those two men attempt making a mockery of our Sacrament by committing such a sacrilege in front of the Blessed Sacrament in a Catholic Church. As I said on Facebook, welcome to the reason I refuse to vote in favor of anyone trying to push this through our court system. As I said in a previous entry, Australia is quickly following suit. The US won't be far behind. I'm all for homosexuals getting hitched in churches that condone it. I am NOT okay with a government stepping in to force ANYONE to accept a union that cannot be recognized by aforementioned religion. Catholic priests cannot "consecrate" a union that is considered abhorrent and inherently sinful. No matter how much a government wants to kick, scream and cry, a faithful Catholic priest cannot (and will not) call a blessing down upon that which is mortally sinful.Even if one tried to, do you think God would say, "Ya know what? Alright... since you asked so nicely, I'll be sure to go against that which I've stated - repeatedly - and reward you for your impressively arrogant disobedience."Again, Lord, mercy.
I found this through Spirit Daily this morning. It's taking all the charity I have within me not to start spewing horrible, nasty things about this pea-brain of an "artist."
He claims he made popsicles using the Blood of Christ after a priest "inadvertently" blessed it during a Mass.
For the record, a priest cannot "inadvertently" bless anything. He either does or he doesn't. The corporal isn't just there to act as a napkin to catch fallen particles. It's also a boundary for items that need to be included for consecration.
So in order for this fool to obtain the Precious Blood, he'd've had to do one of two things:
1) Sneak a cruet of wine onto the corporal (which is direct center of the altar) in the middle of Mass (since the priest opens and places it after the Liturgy of the Word), then somehow steal it away before Communion without ever being detected.
2) Steal the consecrated wine through taking a chalice that's being used during Communion (which would create some sort of commotion, I'd assume), or accepting the Precious Blood via Communion and instead of ingesting, commit an even greater sacrilege by spitting the now consecrated wine into a vial or some other container for later use.
It's not like he could hold his little bottle of wine under his pew during a Mass and have it consecrated (which is what he stupidly thinks he did). It's not like he could drive by a chapel and suddenly the wine in his cooler becomes Christ's Blood.
Seriously - how foolish does he expect people to be???
Apparently exactly as foolish as they are. This article ran on CNN and he's planning to sell them during NY's Design Week. Disgusting. May God have mercy on us. We have no idea how tragic we are unto ourselves.