Satan, the enemy of God, and your enemy desires for you to act in a certain way. He wants you to remain silent, to be filled with fear and to curse those who would do you harm. By doing this, you make his job that much easier. Instead why not follow God’s plan by bringing the truth to light, asking for His guidance and blessing those whom you encounter. Your choice…
Reveal, don’t conceal
Whoever hides his crimes will not be guided. But whoever will have confessed and abandoned them shall overtake mercy.
For there is nothing secret, which will not be made clear, nor is there anything hidden, which will not be known and be brought into plain sight.
Concealment is not of God. Satan knows Scripture well and knows it is the truth that will set you free. He also knows that your pride can be used as leverage against you. As long as actual sin remains concealed, you offer Satan an access point. Go to confession; give it over to God and Satan is powerless. More powerful than an exorcism is the Sacrament of Penance. An exorcism frees the body from the grip of the evil one; a sacramental confession frees the soul.
Do not let pride, shame or guilt prevent you from being cleansed under a shower of God’s infinite mercy. Do not let Satan’s whispers of your unworthiness prevent you from appealing to the infinite merits of Jesus Christ’s salvific act on the cross. He shed His blood so that you might be saved, knowing of your unworthiness. If your sin didn’t prevent God from extending the invitation, it should never prevent you from accepting it.
Note well what the first condition the evil one makes with a soul he desires to seduce is for it to keep silence.
Saint Francis de Sales
When the enemy of human nature brings his wiles and persuasions to the just soul, he wants and desires that they be received and kept in secret; but when one reveals them to his good Confessor it is very grievous to him, because he gathers, from his manifest deceits being discovered, that he will not be able to succeed with his wickedness begun.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Do not fight against a temptation by yourself, but disclose it to the confessor at once, and then the temptation will lose all its force.
Our Lord to Saint Faustina Kowalska
Petition, don’t panic
Be anxious about nothing, but in all things, with prayer and supplication, with acts of thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God. And so shall the peace of God, which exceeds all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Seek, ask, knock and be at peace. Your Father in Heaven knows your every need. Be not afraid to ask Him, He will provide. All that occurs is either part of God’s perfect will or of His permissive will. Like the perfect Father that He is, He will provide for you in accordance with your needs to the degree that you allow Him to do so. Petition Him often, yielding to His will in the process. Plead your case before the Lord, then rest in His peace. His delays and His denials are an expression of His mercy and love.
Panic points to a lack of faith, a lack of trust, a lack of surrender to God. Panic is an expression of self-will. Panic produces opportunities for Satan to lace your mind with murmurs of “I told you so,” “He doesn’t care about you,” or “You’re not worthy of Him.” He’ll do anything he can to disturb your peace, to get you to give up on God. Recall Paul’s words, have no anxiety, pray, petition, give thanks and be at peace.
Whence all the disturbance of mind, if not from following one’s own desires?
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Fear is the first temptation which the enemy presents to those who have resolved to serve God.
Saint Francis de Sales
The struggle with the enemy must not frighten you. The more God becomes intimate with your soul, the more the adversary fights in an interior manner. Have courage, therefore.
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina
Bless, don’t curse
But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.
And finally, may you all be of one mind: compassionate, loving brotherhood, merciful, meek, humble, not repaying evil with evil, nor slander with slander, but, to the contrary, repaying with blessings. For to this you have been called, so that you may possess the inheritance of a blessing.
1 Peter 3:9
Bless those who are persecuting you: bless, and do not curse.
A curse is Satan’s version of a blessing. Satan would have you seek payback instead of prayer, revenge instead of reconciliation. By cursing your enemy you only serve to spread the disease of self that infected Satan and all the fallen angels. Your negative feelings toward someone can serve to keep that person (and yourself) bound. By blessing instead of cursing you confound your enemies, loose their binds and may even convert them. Regardless, you are called to respond at a higher level.
You have been given the grace necessary to bless those who curse you and to praise God in all things. If every time Satan attacked you, you took the time to praise God, It would not be long before Satan stopped attacking you. Bless those who curse you. Don’t let their stinging barbs turns into festering wounds. Ward off their attacks with charity and humility. See and respond to the Jesus in them. Perhaps nobody else ever has. You might be the one person God can count on to reach out to this soul. Serve God with a zealous love and your reward will be eternal.
There is no other subject on which the average mind is so much confused as the subject of tolerance and intolerance. Tolerance applies only to persons, never to principles. Intolerance applies only to principles, never to persons.
Venerable Fulton Sheen
Our culture promotes tolerance seemingly above all else. We are told we must be more “inclusive,” to have an open mind and make certain no one feels “marginalized” lest we commit the ultimate sin of intolerance! The end result of this culture’s misunderstanding of tolerance is that we must separate love and truth, as if one could stand without the other. True charity is tolerant of truth alone; never error. Correction of error, not tolerance of it, is a duty imposed by true charity.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy, instruct the ignorant, admonish the sinner, to counsel the doubtful do not exist in a world of tolerance because to acknowledge the reality of sin or ignorance or doubt implies that truth exists, that there is a right and a wrong. This world would rather have us offend the Creator than offend a creature. Yet, in not “offending” a creature (with truth and in love) we do them harm as Saint Basil reminds us:
“Reprimand and rebuke should be accepted as healing remedies for vice and as conducive to good health. From this it is clear that those who pretend to be tolerant because they wish to flatter-----those who thus fail to correct sinners-----actually cause them to suffer supreme loss and plot the destruction of that life which is their true life.”
We are seeing this debate of truth versus tolerance play out in our courts, our schools, our churches, our families. Same-sex “marriages”, abortion “rights”, health care mandates, etc. Promoters of tolerance promise a utopian, all-inclusive society. But as Christians we are called to more than just an all-inclusive co-existence. We are called to love. And love cannot tolerate a lie. It can tolerate a liar, but not a lie. (If you have one of those “Coexist” bumper stickers on your car, rip it off!)
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross tells us, “Do not accept anything as love which lack truth. Do not accept anything as truth which lacks love. One without the other is a destructive lie”
Make no mistake the tolerance the culture is thrusting on us is destructive and it is a lie. This false tolerance leads to subjective truth and a relativistic culture that ignores truth. This is relativism, which contends that nothing can be in error because nothing is true. And there is where we are headed, to some degree where we already are. What is the end game for those who promote tolerance above all else? It is the destruction of religion. From Alice von Hildebrand, “Under the banner of tolerance, intolerance will achieve a diabolical victory, if no one religion is allowed to claim that it possesses the fullness of revealed truth. Once the notion of truth is eliminated, religion loses its legitimate meaning.”
Read carefully, if you will, the following quote from Venerable Fulton Sheen and then say a prayer for our country and its leaders – that we might all be more intolerant.
America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance—it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded. . . . Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience toward evil, a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. Tolerance applies only to persons, never to truth. Tolerance applies to the erring, intolerance to the error. . . . Architects are as intolerant about sand as foundations for skyscrapers as doctors are intolerant about germs in the laboratory. Tolerance does not apply to truth or principles. About these things we must be intolerant, and for this kind of intolerance, so much needed to rouse us from sentimental gush, I make a plea. Intolerance of this kind is the foundation of all stability.
Taken from his 1931 essay “A Plea for Intolerance”
The CCC refers to the Catholic Church as "the universal sacrament of salvation" (CCC 774–776), and states: "The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men" (CCC 780).
But what does this mean? Many people misunderstand the nature of this teaching. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus means: "outside the church there is no salvation". But what does this mean?
Certain people claim that unless one is a full-fledged, baptized member of the Catholic Church, one will be damned. Others claim that it makes no difference what church one belongs to.
The truth is right in the center. Not the mushy middle of indifference, but right smack in the center of truth and love.
From Lumen Gentium "Outside the Church there is no salvation" - How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body.
So does that mean I could nominally be Catholic, but not live the faith and still be okay?
Again from Lumen Gentium: “He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a "bodily" manner and not "in his heart."”
Saint Augustine says it this way: How many sheep there are without, how many wolves within!
So does that mean that family, friends (or for that matter 5 billion people on the planet) are condemned?
Lumen Gentium: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience — those too may achieve eternal salvation"
How could a merciful God condemn those who are truly ignorant? He can’t and thus we have what has come to be known as baptism of desire.
So does that mean that children, family friends who have left the church are okay or are they condemned?
Lumen Gentium: They could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it.
While we leave the final judging to God, those who reject Him and remain unrepentant are subject to eternal punishment. So often, those who leave don’t know who and what they are leaving.
The best thing we can do for them, and for ourselves is to pray and live the Gospel. We need to be willing to be missionaries and martyrs for both truth and love and let the love of Christ urges us on. (2 Corinthians 5:14)
The dismissal at Mass says it all. Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord or Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life. Do that with zeal for souls and we will see our family, friends and even strangers flocking to the Church instead of away from it. Catholics living the Gospel is all it takes to make our religion matter!
Did you ever wonder why Jesus had to die in order for us to be reconciled to God? The feast of Corpus Christi is a great time to ponder that question. Here is one way to look at it.
Finite man sinned against an infinite God. Finite man could not restore right relationship with an infinite God by his own doing. Simply put, no amount of finite could ever add up to infinite.
The Old Testament sacrifices, while efficacious to a degree, fell short in its ability to restore right relationship with God. The OT sacrifices were offered by a finite priest, with a finite victim resulting in a finite sacrifice. What was needed for finite man to restore right relationship with an infinite God, was an infinite priest, who could offer an infinite victim resulting in an infinite sacrifice.
But how is that possible. How could a finite man be an infinite priest and where would finite man find an infinite victim to offer as an infinite sacrifice?
And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Suddenly, with the incarnation we have an infinite man who would, in time, become an infinite priest, an infinite victim and an infinite sacrifice, but who was also a “finite” man. Fully human and fully divine, Jesus Christ, and only Jesus Christ, was able to restore right relationship with God. Fully human, He was (is) one of us. Fully divine, He was (is) one with God. He is an infinite priest, who is eternally offering up Himself as an infinite victim, in an infinite sacrifice all the while being fully human.
That is why each Mass is not a symbolic representation or a memorial meal, but is actually that same “once for all” sacrifice that took place 2000 years ago on Calvary. That infinite moment that took place in the eternal now is made present again in the time bound now at each and every celebration of the Eucharist.
Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, is present to us Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity and each and every Mass. For that we should be eternally grateful.
How often have you heard this from your children or grandchildren? Or worse, how often have you uttered it yourself, either audibly or inaudibly? And how much more frequently these words are uttered today, in our supposedly more modern, advanced world filled with gadgets and gizmos. We have more stuff, less time and greater bouts of boredom. We have millions of bits of stimuli bombarding us daily, yet we are too often overcome, or give in to, boredom. We have God’s natural beauty surrounding us, His love residing within us at every moment, yet we yawn.
Boredom is unnatural; it is disordered. Whether it falls under the heading of apathy, sloth, indifference, idleness, dreariness or lethargy, the end result is a dulling of the senses and a loss of interest in the seeking of truth. This dulling of the senses often leads to sin by way of boredom. It is like a drug; it sets an ever increasing stimulus threshold in order to be satiated. It requires more and greater stimuli to zap us out of our self induced comas. Left unguarded, it eats away at our prayer life, and zaps us of source of strength.
Boredom, an act of the will, comes from the inside. It is caused by a lack of action on the inside, not the outside. Yet we seek solutions for boredom on the outside. This is insane! We try to fix the inside by looking for solutions on the outside. The problem is within. We look to the world for a finite fix instead of looking to God for an infinite solution. In doing so, we move further away from God and deeper into Satan’s web of lies. Saint John Vianney reminds us of the solution to our every boredom. He tells us that, “Everyone is ready to run after the latest novelty. But as for Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, He is deserted and forsaken.”
The maxim, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” is true because when we are idle the will is not directed or focused. If we don’t direct our will, someone else will do it for us. As boredom is not a natural state, our body seeks to rid itself of it, almost at any cost. Through the abuse of drugs, alcohol, sex, sports, shopping, work, etc., endless amounts of time and money are spent trying to fill the God-shaped hole inside of us with anything and everything but God. Stop seeking temporal solutions to an eternal equation. Do not let boredom be a contributor toward evil; let it be a catalyst toward good. Allow the restlessness you feel to motivate you toward seeking God’s will.
If we would only take the time to be with Jesus, through prayer, adoration, sacraments, we could not possibly be bored. As Saint Augustine tells us, “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Be not bored, rest in Him.
“If only” is one of Satan’s favorite mines that he lays. If he can get you to trigger a couple of his "If only" mines, pretty soon the terrain of your mind is severely damaged. If only I were rich, if only I were pretty, if only I were thin, if only I were tall, if only I were…
From there, it moves onto others. If only my husband was, if only my wife was, if only my parents were, if only my kids were, if only my friends were, if only, if only, if only. Ultimately, it leads to if only God was….
If only is a subtle, but unmistakable first step away from God. Satan, with a little help from us, now has us questioning God. We go from doubt to discouragement to despair in no time at all. And it all started with a simple phrase, if only.
With these two little words, Satan sows negative seeds which can blossom into flowers of destruction. What started out perhaps as a moment of self reflection or maybe a simple daydream has turned into a nightmare.
So, the next time you are feeling sorry for yourself, rather than head down the path of "if only," and "what might be," why not move closer to "what is" and "what will be" praising God and claiming your birthright, as Child of God! Rather than desiring what is not present, why not be present to your truest and most complete desire, God.
As Child of God, there is no need for “If only,” there is only love. If we begin to desire only what the Father desires, we will soon be in perfect union with Him. Let Saint Peter of Castroverde’s prayer be your own, “Lord, may I think what you want me to think. May I desire what you want me to desire.”
He has Risen! He has risen, indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia.
We have talked about the simple truth that God is love. This blog post presents a corollary truth, that is, what God permits He can redeem. In the words of Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, “Souls that really love God know that everything that happens in this world is either ordered or permitted by God.”
Nothing happens to us that is outside of God’s will. While certainly things do occur outside of God’s perfect will, nothing could occur outside of God’s permissive will. (If something could occur that was outside of God’s will, than He wouldn’t be God.) And whatever He permits can be redeemed.
Because of the true nature of love, God never forces us to love Him. In order to be able to freely give our love to God, we must have the ability to withhold from God this love. This is called free will. In the exercise of free will, we can choose to not love God. In short, we are free to sin. Our sins a are permitted by God, but certainly they are not willed by God. God never positively wills sin, but He does permit it, and can even redeem it for His glory and for the salvation of souls.
The greatest example of this is the crucifixion of Jesus. It was, at once, the worst thing that ever happened and the best thing that ever happened. In the Easter Proclamation, we hear, “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” What He permitted (Adam’s sin), He redeemed (via the New Adam, Jesus.) Without Jesus’ death and resurrection humanity’s relationship with God would have remained fractured and the gates of Heaven would have remained closed.
God, who is love, loves us where we are at, in the midst of whatever we may be doing. In loving us, truly loving us, He offers us the opportunity to have even our sins repurposed. God used Satan’s plan to destroy humanity to instead save humanity. Saint John Chrysostom reminds us that the “devil, in spite of himself, becomes, as it were, an instrument and coefficient of holiness.” Likewise, in our lives, God can redeem our sins and suffering, our trials and temptations. He can write straight with our crooked lines. Our moments of weakness, of anger, of fear, of pride, of envy, of hatred, etc. can be redeemed if we give them over to God.
Find yourself yelling at the kids or angry at your spouse? Know that this can be redeemed. Find yourself gossiping about a friend or lying to yourself? Know that this can be redeemed. Find yourself slacking in prayer or struggling with an addiction? Know that this can be redeemed. Find yourself sick or suffering? Know that this can be redeemed. Find yourself doubting God? Know that this can be redeemed. God can use the worst to bring about the best. He can use ugliness to bring about beauty. He can use death to bring about new life.
So as we celebrate Easter season and look forward to Pentecost, we can place our hope in a God who loves us and desires us to be saved. His mercy endures forever.
A few years ago I attended a wedding of a dear friend. During the General Intercessions, the lector misspoke and included the newly married couple in the list of those who had recently died and for whom we were to intercede.
Though unintentional, it did bring a simple truth to light; that amidst the flowers, caterers, DJs, bridesmaids, wedding planners, etc. there is an often a misunderstood reality to marriage. It is as much about death as it is life. In fact, if marriage isn’t first about death, then it likely won’t have a long lasting life. Allow me to explain.
Using ratios to help understand what makes a marriage work, I will often ask an audience what is the right ratio for a successful marriage. What are the numbers between a husband and wife that will afford them the best opportunity for a long, loving, healthy marriage? Most people answer with 50:50. Most people would be wrong.
To enter a marriage with a 50:50 mentality is to enter into it with a limit as to how much you will give and an expectation of how much you need to receive in order to be happy. Give too much and you will be cranky. Receive too little in return and you’ll be upset with your spouse. You’re happiness becomes a matter of percentage points. (Under the 50:50 model, do the dishes for the 51st time when your spouse has only done it 48 times and you’re ticked.)
The next answer people usually give is 100:100. While half of the equation is right (you giving 100%) the other half is wrong. Again, you have set an expectation on the other person. If (and, really, when) they fall short of that 100% threshold, you’re not happy.
The correct answer is 100:0. You give 100% of the effort, 100% of the time and expect nothing in return. (Hopefully you marry someone who believes the same; otherwise it could be a tough road ahead.)
If you are thinking that is nuts, it’s not; it is simply love. Pope John Paul II tells us that “the truth of love is made known through the truth of suffering.” Scripture tells us that, “No greater loves is there than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” Mother Teresa remind us that, “I have found the perfect paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
Think of your own life, perhaps when your child was born. The ratio there was 100:0 and it was done with joy and love. You did 100% of the work and expected nothing in return. In Catholic theology you died to self. That’s what marriage is. In order for the two to become one, each of the two must die.
To the degree that you and your spouse each die to self, your marriage will be filled with life and love. And if your spouse isn’t willing and it hurts, then follow Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s advice and keep loving. No time is better than now for you to do your 100%.
Fair is a word of our times. “It’s not fair” is a phrase that this culture embraces as if it is the highest good or a right. Yet fair rarely includes God’s perspective of the moment. If fair were the highest value, the greatest good, Jesus would never have died for our sins. Fair is not love, for sometimes love is unfair. Do you want your spouse to treat you fairly or to love you?
Fair is, in many ways, lukewarm. Fair will never die for another, will never extend itself for another, will never challenge another to greater heights. Fair is a judgment you make that is predicated upon your chosen perspective. Fair denies, or, at the very least, ignores, God’s perspective. Fair is in many ways opposed to faith.
It’s not fair is the wound that was exposed and exploited in the Garden of Eden. Satan’s promptings were given a place to resonate in the hearts of Adam and Eve when they doubted God’s providence and said to themselves. “Well, that doesn't seem fair.”
Fair is fear of God’s will. “It’s not fair” is the battle cry of those who are not willing to acknowledge with their whole heart, mind, body and soul that God is God and He is their God. Ultimately, your response to life falls into one of two categories, Job’s wife or Job’s. The choice is “curse God and die” or “The Lord give and the Lord take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
“It’s not fair” means your heart is not ready. It is time for it to be ready. Prepare your heart by trusting in God grace and mercy. His will, though perhaps not earthly fair, is heavenly perfect.
But Who Are You?
Satan loves to try and tell you who you are. He is after all the “accuser.” He spent the past few decades convincing many to place their trust and identity in the false gods of money, sex and power. He is now reveling in his successes and relishing the depression, despair and even deaths that have occurred because so many don’t know their real identity.
In Acts of the Apostles the story is recounted of the traveling Jewish exorcists who invoked the name of Jesus to try and cast out evil spirits. One of these evil spirits responded to them by saying, “Jesus I recognize, Paul I know, but who are you?” Luke records that the exorcists, who did not have a relationship with Jesus, fled the encounter naked and wounded.
If an evil spirit were to ask you, “But who are you?” what answer would you give? To the degree that your answer is earthbound you are in trouble. If your answer is related to your job, your social status, your wealth or your self-esteem, then your identity is predicated upon that which can be easily taken away. This creates an ongoing need to continually renew and restore the false foundation. It also creates dependence and an attachment to them, in effect allowing these false identities to become your master.
Now more than ever you need to know who you are. The times are changing. Uncertainty about the present and fear about the future is all too real. Be not afraid. Remind yourself in whose image and likeness you are made.
So, who are you?
The only sure and certain foundation you possess, and the only real answer to the question is, “I am a child of God.” Any other identity you embrace will be gone in the blink of an eye. Any other identity you embrace makes Satan’s job easier. As a child of God, seek your identity in the God who created you. Rest in the arms of your “abba,” your daddy. Remember Paul’s words to the Romans, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”” (Romans 8:14-15)
Don’t let the question of the evil spirit catch you off guard. Don’t allow the circumstances of our current times dictate your identity. Don’t allow your fear grip you to be bonded to this world, for if your identity is as a child of God, what is there to fear?