Category Archives: Catholicism

Let’s Talk About Sex

"Lujuria / Lust: Pecado Original" by Gabriel S. Delgado C. is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

“Lujuria / Lust: Pecado Original” by Gabriel S. Delgado

There’s a lot of really great food in the world.

I love tasty food. I like to taste food. I regularly feel like I shouldn’t go quite as long between meals as I do, because I’m sure to miss out on something. My belt, however, is telling me that I haven’t been balancing my meals out with enough exercise lately. Apparently, I’m in the majority in the United States.

Sure, I snack, but it’s because I can’t concentrate well if I don’t. I drink a good amount of coffee, because it’s important to my productivity as well. I’m not addicted to these things, however, so they aren’t really necessary, I just like them. I indulge in an occasional alcoholic beverage, but I avoid milk like the plague. That stuff’s bad for my stomach, seriously. I’ve been a happier person since I stopped drinking it. Well, mostly stopped, I do like the taste of cereal every once in a while. I was told a while back that you could never put as much sugar on your corn flakes as they have in the sugary varieties, so I do that, rather than buy the really color rich kid cereals. I’m an adult, after all. Don’t get me started on office snacks, it’s not my fault we have those cheesballs in such large quantity in there… or that I don’t bring my own lunch very often.

Point is, I know what my mouth’s for. It’s for tasting stuff. Well, that and chewing on stuff, like my pens, and maybe my nail beds (nervous habits die hard.) Straws are a relentless target, for sure, and who can resist crunching ice every now and again time I get a fountain drink? These things are fine, surely they don’t do as much damage as my dentist tells me.
The most important reason to eat is for the taste.

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What are you Doing?

No, seriously, what are you doing right now?

What is the thing you have been ‘preparing for?’ Why aren’t you doing it? And if you feel like you are doing it, are you being effective?

Don’t expect someone else to do the thing for you, but get people involved. Go out and rile them up with your excitement. Go out and get things done. Don’t sit there waiting for your ‘chance.’ Make it happen.

Start now, start with the basics, start with the little stuff that sounds crazy. You know what you want the result to look like, begin with all the small steps that are going to get you there.

I write this post as much for myself as for you. We could all do with a little more being and a little less waiting.

What Next

One of the big questions we all have is, ‘What next?’ Many times it is simply at the conclusion of an event that we ask this, but sometimes we look at life as an event and ask this question. It is a good question, but it has two answers. My faith in the presence of a Heaven is one answer, but it isn’t even the end of the Christian life to simply make it to Heaven. The other answer is legacy.

Many times we forget that a legacy is built not by the great moments we have, but by the consistent effort we put in to building ourselves in readiness for them. I argue with the bard on this point,

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

in that all great men have achieved greatness by the work they put in to their lives every day. Those who are born great can easily be forgotten, or ruin a legacy they have inherited, without that daily rise to the challenge. The men who have greatness ‘thrust upon them’ are actually men who have prepared for that moment their whole lives, knowing it or not, for there are many who meet those moments and fail from a lack of character.

The funny thing about greatness is that it is a practice, not an event. Are you working on greatness?

Intention: Where Heart and Mind Meet

For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”

I don’t often open these reflections with a quote from scripture, but this one is important. For many humanists, the existence of God is questionable, and this statement is a negative reflection on Christians (and Jews because this is a Psalm quote) in the sense that these groups see themselves negatively only as their ‘sins’ pertain to God. Many secularist think this mentality justifies atrocities because “God’s law” is above “human decency.”

There are two particular problems with the humanist view of sin. 1) It assumes that the moral effort of religion is based solely on dictates which are often at odds with what they see to be worthy, and 2) It assumes that God exists (or doesn’t) in the same way that we exist.

The first problem is actually a result of the second, so I’m going to tackle that one and work backward. God does not exist. Yes, I’m still Catholic, Christian, and worship and honor God. He is not, however, a thing that we can point to and say, there he is. God does not exist, he is the basis of existence. This might seem like a fine point, but it is an important one. A line on a piece of paper exists in the plane of the paper, but the paper does not exist in the same way. You can erase the line, extend the line, make more lines, intersect the lines, etc. You can even draw beautiful art with a wonderful sense of depth to it. None of that fundamentally changes the paper. Take away the paper, however, and you are left with no line, nor even the possibility of there being a line.

This analogy is a simplification (as most are) and breaks down easily on scrutiny, but it is a good starting point. It takes God out of the box of being one of us, and shows that we are because he is. Our existence is an extension of his. It may not be a satisfactory answer for secularists, but it is the necessary thought upon which the statement from psalms is built. When we sin, we deny our nature in God. We defy the way we were created, and seek to be the basis of our own existence. Ultimately, our sin, even when it hurts others, is a denial of our very nature.

The one thing this statement does not mean, is that we are excused of any temporal consequences of our action, but rather, it is an acknowledgement of how to return to a right sense of who we are, and where we fit in the grander plan. This is all important, but what’s most important about the passages we read on Ash Wednesday is that they point to a truth. Our actions flow from our intentions, not the other way around. There are even times that we can do the right things for the wrong reasons (or the wrong things, for the right reasons.) Making sure that our actions and our intentions align, being certain that we have a right view of our place on the paper and where we are headed, is what religion is about.

Keep that in mind this Lent. Don’t fast, abstain, or offer personal penance that isn’t drawing you back in line with understanding God. Because the intention needs to match the action.

Friends Who Do Not Get Jokes

Have you ever had a friend who just didn’t get your sense of humor? Maybe one that knew you really well, but took everything you said way too seriously? There are a great many people who take themselves too seriously today, and as a result, have a problem understanding humor. I’ve even found myself falling into the trap of becoming ‘serious’ when around one of these people, unable to laugh off the small issues in favor of looking at the larger ones.

There is probably nowhere that this problem is more common than in religion. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be serious about religion, but that we need to be willing to take ourselves with a little less severity in order to understand what we are about.

Jesus had a moment (really, many, but there’s one highlighted in today’s readings) like this with the disciples, who, having forgotten to bring enough bread for themselves, were probably about to get in a fight over who got it. Realizing what was going on, Jesus said, “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees, and the leaven of Herod.” Take a moment to appreciate the humor there. They are about to bicker over bread, and Jesus says, look out, you’re about to become like the ‘haves’ or as contemporaries to us might say, the 1%ers. It’s a funny statement. They are about to compromise the unity of their group for a meal. Not even a meal, it’s a loaf of bread. Obviously, the disciples don’t get it, and then they fall into bickering, not-quietly-enough, over who should have brought the bread and how hungry they are, and Jesus has to remind them about at least two instances in which he took care of many more people with much less, and had plenty of food to spare. When we lose sight of what’s important, when we lose sight of our relationships with people, we lose the thread of joy.

Don’t take yourself, or Jesus, so seriously.

Indirect Glory

There’s a great moment in Moses’ story about God hiding him in a cleft in the rock and then letting him see the passing image of God because

“[Moses] cannot see [God’s] face, for no one may see [God’s] face and live.”

This is to say, no one can see the direct glory of God and live. Even the two great prophets, Issiah and Ezekiel have an indirect experience of the glory of God.

Ezekiel has this line in his vision of God:

Such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.

Seeing God directly isn’t helpful in causing or building our belief, but seeing him indirectly is. Many unbelievers will say, ‘if God would just show himself, how could we not believe?’ They don’t realize that that’s not really what is keeping them from believing, while the inability to acknowledge God from the wonders of the universe is.

Our big problem is that we are content worshiping the effects of God, rather than God himself. We are content accepting his miracles here and now, rather than coming to know him more deeply and forgo those comforts of temporal life. We want his glory to be defined in this space, where we can categorize, analyze, and criticize it, rather than accept that it is beyond us. We forget that the basis of this existence is in him, and that even the greatest wonders we experience now are but a pale reflection of his glory.

The Moment of Faith

Gospel reading: Matthew 14:22-36

When Peter walks on water, but that’s not the moment of faith.

This is a very well recounted story of faith. It’s probably one of the images of the apostles that is most well worn and remembered. It has everything, Peter doing something miraculous because of Jesus, then doubting and sinking in the process. As Christians, we can relate to this ‘but what if’ scenario that complicates this amazing story. We can also all wonder ‘what if he had made it to Jesus?’ The problem is, as is most often the case, that the miracle gets in the way of the lesson.

The disciples are afraid, being tossed about on the sea (they seem to have this happen to them often, even though they are fishermen, which is another tale of how doing the right thing will often cause you to encounter storms) and see a ghost on the waves. These don’t seem to be overly superstitious men, they are all practical professionals. Not skeptics, to be sure, but this isn’t the kind of thing they would have assumed lightly, and even less likely than before having joined Jesus’ ministry and having their eyes opened to the spiritual battle happening around them. But they have seen strange things, and they have started to learn that they are facing the full force of the spiritual battle invisible to most. Peter has enough faith to step out on the water and join Jesus, even if for a short moment. His faith causes a miracle, so you might be asking, ‘how does the miracle get in the way of the lesson.’

It’s how Peter responds to Jesus declaration of who he is that is the moment of faith. Peter calls out to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Notice here that Peter is praying for a call. How often do we pray like this? Do we ever? Do we ever see something that needs to be done, become inspired to do something about it, and then pray for that calling in our lives? Peter already knew he was going to get out of the boat and walk on water when he asked this. He also knew he needed Jesus to speak it.