Tag Archives: jesus

Word.

Humanly speaking, the word, our human word, is almost a nothing in reality, a whiff of breath. No sooner said, it vanishes. It seems to be nothing. And yet the human word has an incredible power. They are words that make history, they give shape to our thoughts, thoughts which give rise to words. Words shape history and reality.

-Pope Benedict XVI

It’s a bit ironic for me to be writing about this, since I’m sure, as a blogger, I waste words all the time.  However, I wanted to write a post about words.  How we use our words, what our words mean, and how we can [hopefully] waste fewer words.

I have two main reasons for coming to this topic.  The first is profanity; the other is Facebook (and, oh my, when the two combine…).

To be honest, I’ve always found profanity unattractive and, quite frankly, pointless.  Usually the defense of people who use profanity is something along the lines of, “So what?  It’s just a word.  How can a word be ‘bad’?”

And that sort of gets at the heart of my pet peeve.  Words are supposed to have meaning. If they didn’t, well then I couldn’t be writing this post, no one would be able to talk to each other, and the world would pretty much stop functioning.  It is a very good thing that we assign meaning to words.

But probably even more upsetting than when we try to devalue words and their meaning, by using profanity, is when we do it without even realizing—to our most personal thoughts.  And thanks to the age of social media, we now do it all the time.  Whoever said the saddest words are those unspoken clearly lived in an age before the Internet.  As powerful as words have the potential to be, we actually devalue our deepest desires, thoughts, and feelings when we subject them to a Facebook status or tweet for 1,000+ other people to read, pass judgment on, or comment on.  The really tragic part is that we don’t fully realize what we are doing until it’s done.  Our tweet is another one in a million; and suddenly the worth of our thoughts are determined by the number of times they get retweeted.

It’s so important to be able to speak your mind.  But it’s just as important to guard your heart.  Words are often where the two meet.  So think before you speak (or tweet).  Your words are too precious to waste.

 

Not of This World?

There is a very popular bumper sticker that a lot of Christians in my hometown have on their cars.  It reads simply, “Not of this World.”  Maybe you’ve seen one or even have one.  It is a reference to John 18:36; and you probably know the story.  Jesus is before Pilate and Pilate is questioning Christ about why the people have brought Him to be crucified.

Pilate asks Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus says in reply, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants (would) be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”

I think the point of the bumper sticker is that, as Christians, we need not despair when things don’t go our way here on earth…in fact we probably should not even expect them to at all, since the kingdom we belong to is “not of this world”.

Alright, fair enough.  This is all certainly true.  And it’s also true that we need to always remember that we are just passing through here; that our ultimate goal is Heaven and that we should not get caught up in the material things of this world. …But am I the only one who finds it just a little depressing that this has become the battle cry of young Christians?  No one expect to be happy here on earth. Love your neighbor as yourself and all that; but we’re all really just waiting to die and go to Heaven.

…Really?  Because I thought we believed in a God who created the world and called it “good”.  I thought we believed in a God who created us and declared us “very good”.  So why all the doom and gloom, Christians?

It’s so important to remember that we are not created simply for this world.  It’s so important to make every decision with Heaven (and Hell) in mind.  But it’s just as important that we realize that this material world is not evil (even though, yes, it does have evil in it).

So feel free to rep the bumper sticker (to be honest, I own some NOTW clothing).  Just make sure you’ve got both sides of the story.  God put you on this earth for a reason 🙂

How to Avoid Talking About Jesus

“Preach the gospel at all times.  Use words when necessary”.

                   -Saint Francis of Assisi

Is it bad that I almost cringe when I hear this quote?  Ok, probably.  To be fair though, the very first time I ever heard it, I thought it was one of the coolest quotes ever.  And that initial reaction probably has something to do with its effect on me now…

You see, when you tell a shy person that words are unnecessary, we tend to run with it.  And run with it I did.  Hey, so long as I’m living my own life as an example to others, I never really have to put myself on the line, right?

Clearly this is not at all what Saint Francis meant.  He meant that we are to live for Christ in such a profound way that people cannot help but notice something different, and that is bound to lead to some words (and bound to make us shy people a little bit uncomfortable).  But we will always find a way out of actually proclaiming the Gospel if we are looking for one…

Another common go-to for those of us who are often hesitant to actually share our beliefs has to do with parables.  It’s the almighty one-liner that proudly asserts that Jesus himself often taught in parables rather than teaching a traveling Catechism class. Indeed, the power of a compelling story to convey a message is something valuable for anybody to understand, and can be effective for some aspects of evangelization.  However, it is very possible to overstate the power of story when it comes to evangelization.

It would be a mistake for any person, just beginning to discover the power of the parable, to reduce all of evangelization simply to storytelling. Because while it is true that Jesus often taught in parables, he did not teach exclusively in parables.  And it would be silly to argue that Jesus’ teaching was always more effective when he used stories, as the parables often left the disciples scratching their heads (and they at least actually had the opportunity to ask for clarification!).

It seems that Jesus often used stories not to clarify but, at least in a certain sense, to conceal a deeper meaning. In Matthew’s gospel, we see Jesus begin to speak in parables only after the Jewish leaders reject him—something important to take note of. The gospel is for everyone, though not everyone is for the gospel.

In his encyclical on evangelization in the modern world, Pope Paul VI tells us that “The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life.”

And specifically:

“There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed”

It’s not that we should all be yelling about Jesus from the street corners.  It’s just that we can’t fool ourselves into thinking we’re sharing Christ with others if we’re afraid to speak His name.

Heart Like Mine

“I heard Jesus He drank wine
And I bet we’d get along just fine
He could calm the storm and heal the blind
And I bet he’d understand a heart like mine”

When a popular song mentions the name of Jesus, my ears tend to perk up a little.  There are so many misconceptions about who Jesus is and what Jesus is about, that I always fear the worst.  And while I am by no means anywhere close to the final authority on all things Jesus and all things Christian, when I heard Miranda Lambert’s Heart Like Mine a few months back, I still listened carefully.

[If you’re not a fan of a ‘twangy country music voice, you may not like the song.  So you can find the lyrics here 🙂 ]

What I love about this song is that she points out something Christians and non-Christians do often overlook. Jesus is not just some figure in the paintings on our walls or in our Churches.  He was (and is) a real person—a real human being.  This means that He laughed.  It also means He felt pain.  And since He happens to also be God, the Creator of everything including us, He knows us better than we know ourselves.  So He knows our pain, our joys, and our sufferings—deeper than we do.

Jesus loves us with a perfect and lasting love.  As my theology professor puts it, Jesus loves us just the way we are…but He loves us too much to let us stay that way.  And I think that this is where Heart Like Mine perhaps falls just a bit short on proclaiming the name of Jesus.

We’re never supposed to justify our less-than-awesome behavior by simply saying, “Jesus loves me no matter what I do.”  Of course He does, which is why He feels pain when we do things that cause us, or those around us, pain (and that’s all sin is).  He loves us so much that His desire is for us to be happy—only He doesn’t just mean, “feel good in the moment” happy.  No, we’re worth more than that to Him.  He won’t be satisfied until we are living a life that leads us to real, authentic, and lasting happiness.  And He knows that we can’t do that without obeying the Commandments, and living our lives like He lived His.

When I listen to this song, I hear a woman who has felt pain in her life, and I love that because I, like anyone, can relate to it.  And instead of pretending like everything is fine and dandy, she points to the one person she knows can understand her heart better than anyone else.  Despite my little quibbles with this song, above all, Jesus is represented as someone of hope, friendship, and even joy.  So, I guess I’m pretty okay with the use of His name in this song.  🙂

Ask Mary: How does God Speak to Us?

Question:
I would love to know your opinion of whether or not you think if God works in signs. Many people constantly try to understand what God wants them to do with their lives and they search for answers in the “signs” that God gives them. For example, when something becomes greatly difficult and seemingly impossible, is this a “sign” to give up or not?  I have discussed this with many people, and I would like to know what you think. Thanks!

My Answer:

First of all, thanks for the question!  Throughout history, God has spoken to His creation through the events of their lives, and this is still true today.  From this perspective, I think that it is definitely fitting to say that God uses “signs” to reveal to us His plan for us.

However, because we are flawed and often let our pride get the better of us, I think we sometimes try to impose “signs” that aren’t really there in order to fit God’s will for our life into our own.  A lot of people, for example, will take their fuzzy feelings as a “sign” that a certain decision is the correct one.  “It just feels right,” they might say.  Or perhaps the sunlight hit the stained-glass window just at the right time while you were praying in the Church about whether or not you should go out with the quarterback.  Obviously that means God is saying you should, right?

Often times when we are nervous about the future or a decision we are making, we try to take the difficulty out by just looking for signs to make the decision for us.  Or worse, sometimes when we want to make a decision that we know deep down is not in line with God’s will for our lives, we then desperately seek after any sign that could possibly indicate otherwise.  I think we do this because we know that, if we would just think logically about the decision, the answer we would come to would probably not please us.  So we look for a sign to blame our seemingly senseless decision on Divine Intervention.

But there are also those times when we sincerely just do not know God’s will for our lives; and I think this may get more to the heart of your question: “If something becomes greatly difficult and seemingly impossible, is this a ‘sign’ to give up or not?” Difficulty is not necessarily a sign to give up.  Even things that are virtually impossible, if God wills them, they will meet their completion.  Sometimes God allows us to go through difficulty in order to increase our trust in Him.

No matter how you slice it though, you are going to come across times in your life when you are uncertain of how to proceed.  Step one is to pray.  Ask God to make His path known to you; and let Him fill you with His peace.  Trust that He knows better than you do, and all you have to do is follow.  Step two is to look for the “signs” around you.  And I don’t mean make a deal with God that if the light turns green in the next four seconds, you will go to College A, but if not, you will go to College B.  Use the reason God gave you.  Does this decision make sense despite the difficulties?  Is it prudent?  What do the people you look up to in life have to say about the matter?  Don’t let anyone make your decision for you, but do make use of the “signs” God has put in your life.

And as always, God will never, ever tell you to do anything contrary to His law or teachings, so if you think God gave you a “sign” that it is okay to go out when your parents said no, think again.  God is no hypocrite.

I hope this answer was helpful.  I really enjoyed answering it.  If anyone reading has a question you would like to see answered, feel free to use the form below:

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