Jesus and the Sacraments are More than a Flu Shot!

It is tragic to me as a Catholic priest that many parents bring their children to baptism but nothing else and think all the while that they have done all that they should. Almost as though Baptism was no more than a flu shot: Take it and forget it.

But let me ask you, is it enough to give birth to a child and think your work is over?  Hah!…It has just begun!  We cannot simply bring children to birth, we have to feed, cloth, teach and care for them for years. It is the same with baptism, we cannot simply think that bringing  them to new life in baptism is all that is required. These children need to be taught about God and prayer, nourished on the Eucharist, bathed in confession, strengthened in confirmation, fed every Sunday at God’s altar, brought to maturity in Christ. Real faith is  not about a half-hour ritual many years ago. It begins there but it does not end there. The work for a Catholic parent has just begun. It is a work that is costly and cannot simply be reduced to a half-hour baptismal ceremony.

And if you’re a baptized Catholic don’t tell me that just getting baptized is all it took. If you get born and never eat your life is doomed. If you get born and never grow, learn to walk and talk, never reach maturity, something is terribly wrong.  Likewise, if you get baptized and never grow, never feed on the Eucharist, never learn of Jesus Christ and begin to speak of him, something is seriously wrong. You can’t reduce your faith to a simple half-hour ceremony, as though it were simply a flu shot. Real faith costs something, it demands change and effort from us. We have to die, so that Christ can live in us. This is costly.

Many of the Protestants have a strange and quite unbiblical notion called “Once saved, always saved.” That is, once you get saved, you can never lose that salvation no matter what. Well, I don’t have time to tell you all the biblical texts that such a notion violates but really, tell me if that makes any sense at all. We all know that we can make commitments and sadly walk away from them. But here too, on display is the nation that faith costs nothing more than walking up in a service and saying the “sinners prayer” or some little ritual. No indeed, faith is more costly than that, we are called to give our life to Jesus.

We do not get our faith “on sale.” The kind of work Jesus has to do in our life is not inexpensive or minor. It cost Jesus his life, and, I’ve got news for you, it will cost you your life too. It’s not some simple ritual, not like a simple flu shot. The Catholic Theology of baptism is that we die with Christ and rise with him to new life. Did you hear that? We die. Truth be told, we all have a lot of things to die to: sin, ego, possessions, popularity, greed, resentments, hatred, sensuality and on and on. Give your heart to Jesus but realize, it’s not just some sort of inexpensive, harmless ritual. To embrace our baptism is to die to this world and all its pomp and glory, to die to our ego and all its exaggerated needs.

Watch this video, it isn’t long. The speaker is a Southern Baptist, Paul Washer. He is rebuking his fellow Baptists some of whom think God’s grace is cheap and can be reduced to a simple altar call or to a “Once saved always saved” notion. But we Catholics do it to. Some of us think all we need are a few rituals and an occasional prayer. But the sacraments are more than this, they are not mere rituals, they are meant to be transformative realities. Sacraments cost Jesus everything, and, if you are serious about them, they will cost you too, and effect a radical transformation that isn’t always easy and costs us something. Faith and the sacraments  are more than a flu shot.

Why Are You So Afraid?

In today’s Gospel there are 13 men in a boat: Jesus with his apostles. When the storm sets in, 12 are in a panic, but one is so calm that he sleeps peacefully in the back of the boat. Who is right here? Jesus is, of course. Storms come and go, but God is working his purposes out. Nothing is out of control. Even in the sad a tragic moments of our life God can and does bring forth good. He can make a way a way out of no way and write straight with crooked lines. All things work together for good to those who love and trust God and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) For every door God closes he opens another.

After calming the storm Jesus asks a question that you and I must answer: “Why are you so terrified? Do you still lack faith?” You and I have to answer this question. Clearly our fear is rooted in our lack of trust, but why is it that we fail to trust? As I look back and even the most difficult moments of life I can see that God was up to something good, something better. Yet still fear and panic are only one setback away.

Consider Jesus sleeping through a storm, consider 12 other men in a panic. Who is right and who sees more truly the reality of that moment, the 1 or the 12? Why are you terrified?  What if the storm is supposed to be there. What if it’s actually doing something good? Why are you so terrified? Be still! ….and there was a great calm.

Einstein on the Problem of Evil

I first saw this video at Patrick Madrid‘s Website. Many have struggled with the problem of evil. Now evil is often thought of as an existing reality when in fact is is really a privation, that is, a lack of something that should be there. To sin is to lack justice, to lack truth, to lack love, mercy etc. God did not create evil, evil is a lack of something God intends.

You’ll need to watch this video closely. It is in German with subtitles but it is well worth the work. It depicts how the youthful Einstein once debated a professor on the problem of evil.

Mary Did You Know?

I have often wondered what it must have been like for the Blessed Mother and also for St. Joseph. They were told remarkable things about their Son Jesus. They were told he would save his people from their sins, that he was destined for the rise and downfall of many, that his name would be great and that he was the Son of God. But for all this, they were given very little detail as to how all this would unfold. Perhaps from time to time they wondered, “Did I really hear all that from the angel?….How will all this come to pass?” In the end Joseph and Mary had to walk by faith, not knowing all the details but just trusting that God had it all worked out.

And isn’t it the same for us? I don’t know exactly what the future hold but I do know Him who holds the future. And I trust him. Isn’t that enough? It has to be because God isn’t going to show me the road map. He is just going to say, I am the Way, follow me. Don’t worry where we are going, just follow me.

Here is a video that meditates on Mary’s walk of faith: Mary Did you know?

40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 24 – Martyrs have died to give you the faith.

Reason# 24 – Martyrs have died to give us the faith.  Every Sunday at Mass we recite the Creed: I Believe in one God, the Father Almighty….  I often think of the blood of Martyrs as I pray the Creed. They died for the faith that I can so easily take for granted. Others, though not suffering death lost property and jobs, or were imprisoned and disowned. For many of us in modern day America the idea of suffering death or extreme punishment for the faith seems remote. At worse,  we are verbally scorned for our faith or laughed at; maybe a raised eyebrow or a smirk. We may suffer more in days ahead but for now, we have it easy compared to others. And consider this too, martyrdom is not something from the remote past. Many suffer intensely and are killed for the faith in many parts of the world even today. See how precious the faith was and is to them! They willingly suffered for it.

 So here is an important reason to come home. The faith that we celebrate each Sunday is so precious that multitudes of martyrs down through the ages were willing to suffer extreme punishment, torture and death for it. Rolling out of bed on Sunday mornings may seem an inconvenience, living the faith may have its demands, but these things do not compare to what Jesus and the martyrs experienced to hand on the faith to us. When I roll out of bed early on Sunday morning to unlock the Church I may grumble at having to end my sleep. But others suffered far worse for me so that I could celebrate Mass and know that Jesus is Lord. When someone told them to be silent and not speak of Jesus they spoke anyway and suffered on account of it. My faith has come at great price and I think of that each Sunday, especially as I so easily say the Creed, a creed written in the Blood of Jesus and the Martyrs of every age. Come home to the faith of Jesus and the Martyrs.

Be careful of the following video. It is graphic in its depictions of the suffering of the early Christians in the Colosseum. But if you are able to look upon it, it is a powerful and moving depiction of the horrors they faced as they were thrown to the lions while hard hearted on-lookers were “entertained” by their sufferings.  If this video is too much perhaps the second video will be more palatable.