John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, he gave his only Son.
During my journey through Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) as I deepened my understanding and faith I slowly relinquished my skepticism and somewhat antagonistic questions. When I finally stopped trying to poke holes in the Catholic teachings I found that they resonated incredibly well with me. I started implementing all sorts of changes in my life, both big and small, in order to lead my best Catholic life. I was left with only a few major questions about the faith and these I approached with genuine curiosity and a strong desire to grow closer to God.
One of the main tenets of the church is that Christ died on the cross for our sins. In my Catholic infancy I struggled to wrap my head around this. Even after accepting that Christ was both human and divine as the son of God, how could someone who lived so long ago be able to absolve me of my sins today? How could He have known my mistakes before I’d ever made them?
I soon discovered that I already had part of the answer. It was the dual nature of Christ that enabled him to take on the sins of the world. He was fully human and fully divine, a true son of God and yet still subject to all the sufferings we experience here on Earth. There is a common misunderstanding among people today about the association between sin and humanity. Many people believe, as I did, that to be human is to sin. However, we are made in the image of God in both body and soul and true humanity is not sinful. God only creates good things and did not create us with original sin. This came later in the Garden of Eden with the fall of Adam and Eve. Our free will enables us to deliberately turn away from God but it is not our sin which makes us human. It is our suffering. Christ was fully human because he was without sin. He shared in all our earthly suffering but was always turning toward God.
In dying on the cross he took upon himself the condition of our sinfulness. It was God’s love for humanity which led Him to sacrifice His Son for the collective sin of the world as a parent sacrifices for a child. The Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are outside of time. This is where the divinity of Christ plays a part. As a member of the Holy Trinity, when Christ took the sins of the world upon himself, it was not the sins of the world in that instant but all sins throughout all of time.
Many months later, I’m still trying to find ways to reverence Christ for this ultimate sacrifice. It’s easy to write off every mistake as a learning experience and continue through life with the belief that we’re all generally good people. While this may still be true, upon honest reflection, I can pinpoint moments in my life when I wish I’d made different choices and I know exactly what He died for.
Everyone wants to know what you’re giving up for Lent but no one ever asks what you’re giving back for Lent. It’s not just a self-improvement kick to get a few of your preferred vices in check. What are you doing with all that extra time that you’re not wasting scrolling through social media? How are you leading your family to new healthy habits now that sweets are off the menu? Most importantly, how do your Lenten sacrifices give glory to God?
Lent is a penitential preparation for Easter and the resurrection of Christ. The forty days leading up to this christian holiday are intended to be a time of sacrifice in which we imitate the forty days of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness before he began his public ministry. As Catholics we do not fast when the bridegroom, Christ, is present in the church. This occurs in the holy Eucharist during Sunday mass and thus Sundays during Lent are a time of relaxed fasting although they should not be treated as cheat days or an excuse to over indulge. This would encourage us to look forward to Sunday for the wrong reasons. Fasting between meals can be suspended on these days but other Lent offerings should continue through the duration of the entire forty day season.
Here are a few tips for diving into your Lenten resolutions this year.
Be intentional – Don’t wait until the last minute to set your Lenten goals. It’s even harder to keep yourself honest when you decide on your Lenten sacrifices after the fact.
Replace old habits with new ones – Don’t be content to simply remove bad habits from your schedule. You still need to find something else to fill those holes in your life so find prayerful and charitable activities that you can do instead. Find ways to center this forty day fast around Christ.
Be specific – The wishy washy goals are always the hardest to achieve. Choose specific activities, foods or experiences that you will avoid this season and exchange them with equally specific habits that bring you closer to God.
Live Liturgically – In conjunction with other Lenten sacrifices we are called to abstain from meat on Fridays. This practice can also be continued beyond Lent as a weekly reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for us although it is no longer an official teaching of the Catholic Church.
Write it down – If there’s no record of it, who’s to say that was actually your Lenten sacrifice in the first place? This will help you stay true to yourself and to God.
Share the burden – Tell someone, a spouse, a parent, a friend, what your intentions are this Lent season and ask them to help you stick to those offerings. You don’t have to do it alone.
Don’t budge – It’s not supposed to be easy. Every time you have a craving for your favorite indulgences is a reminder to stop and think about why you’ve made this sacrifice in the first place. It’s an opportunity to reflect on God’s sacrifice for us. When this happens don’t be afraid to send up a quick Hail Mary or Our Father asking for intercessions to help you stay true to your Lenten fast this season.
“Sonny, true love is the greatest thing in the world, except for a nice MLT. Mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe. They’re so perky, I just love it.” – Miracle Max
While I share Miracle Max’s foodie tendencies I also agree with his original sentiment. True love is heaven on earth. I also came up with my own definition during my days of being courted by the hubby. True love is like a high school calculus test. It’s not enough to state the correct answer. You have to show your work. Actions speak louder than words and just as in The Princess Bride, it’s an adventure that’s definitely worth living for.
This is a PSA to all the gentlemen looking to surprise their wives and girlfriends this year. Tomorrow is the feast of Saint Valentine, the patron saint of love and happy marriages among many other things. Don’t forget to show your special someone how truly loved they are. Just a few short years ago I never would have guessed that I’d now be among the ranks of happily married women but by God’s grace, that is one of the greatest blessings I’ve ever been granted. During my days as a single lady I had my share of frustrating dead end first dates but I prayed that just one of them would sweep me off my feet. Nearly two years later I’m still marveling at God’s goodness in that answered prayer as I fall more in love with my husband every single day.
Although my mom has been known to gripe about the difficulties of Colorado growing seasons, the stalwart weeds ever seeking to overwhelm her backyard efforts, and the neighborhood deer that annually invade to lay waste to her tulips, I’ve received hours of pleasure capturing colorful blooms like these which she keeps in her garden, little bright reminders of God’s work.
I attended a theology uncorked event recently where the associate pastor gave a presentation on the Eucharist. His talk was full of calls to live our faith in small everyday ways and to embrace all doctrines of the Catholic church. This was truly more of a plea than a demand as he cited studies showing an overwhelming majority of Catholics do not believe in the real presence. How can this be?
Along my journey to faith terms like ‘benchwarmers’ and ‘piecemeal Catholics’ came up. There will always be those who struggle to practice what they preach or see fit to only follow certain teachings of the faith which they find most to their liking. But when did they become the rule instead of the exception?
How can we help them? As a member of several ministries within our parish and as a newly devout Catholic myself I’ve been asking this question a lot lately. Sometimes I still struggle to find the balance between being pious and preachy and being a loving disciple of Christ. Of course everyone must accept Christ’s teachings in their own time and of their own free will. We can’t force people to believe in the real presence at mass. But as Catholics we are called to love our neighbors which includes spreading God’s word and love and speaking up when we see our brothers and sisters going wrong in their faith.
Through transubstantiation, the consecrated host and wine at mass truly become the body and blood of Christ. As the associate pastor reminded us, we do not go to mass for the music or the aesthetic or even the homily. All of these things help us to worship and praise God but they are not the purpose of the Catholic mass. We attend church every Sunday to receive Christ through the Holy Eucharist. We become living hosts of God and subject to all the graces which come with that.
Mass is not simply an empty routine to fill an hour every Sunday. Mass is where we go to worship God. Whether we enjoy the homily or are pleased with the choir’s performance, we always receive Christ.