Thoughts on Artificial Intelligence/Machines/Technology 

Recently,  I was in the grocery store shopping and noticed a Time magazine on the rack. The title of it was Artificial Intelligence: The Futue of Humankind.

For quite some time now I’ve been storing up thoughts and mixed feelings about artificial intelligence. I’ve see tons of positives with how it can advance our society. Make no mistake about how it has made a huge impact on various parts of our lives. However,  when I see science acting in the place of God, I can’t help but notice some obvious flaws.

For example, science is often portrayed as the ultimate form of truth. Scientists have their own unique answer to the questions about our existence: Who we are, where we’re going, how did get here, whats our purpose.  Honestly, if you were to ask many people they’d want science as the ultimate standard for morality,  life, and just about everything. Science is often touted as perfect, therefore artificial intelligence fits well into the mix. 

Since we’re created with a deprivation of holiness due to original sin, artificial intelligence seeks to rebuild mankind in a new image. One that’s incorruptible, no ailments, perfect will to always choose right from wrong. Everything that we’ve contracted in ancestral sin, A.I. has removed. In fact, A. I. Is the true human.  You see this in a lot of movies with A.I. For example,  in Robocob is the true copies. The perfect solution to failed human law enforcement. If I’m not mistake, there’s a scene in the film when the cops are jealous or irritated by Robocob supplanting their skills. 

How short sighted are we to always underestimate the potential of our ingenuity. Think of the Atomic Bomb. Perhaps one of the greatest evils had the capability of wiping out thousands and still causing diseases to generations. Scientists in the Manhattan Project thought a good would result from this, indeed it did, the end of WW2. However,  the effects are innumerable!

I’ve often heard about the movement of Singularity, essentially the survival of the fittest with machines ultimately replacing humans, and I can’t help but notice the Darwinian evolution like stance it takes to believe in it. Evolution sees man as a continual upward path of evolving, artificial intelligence seems to be the pathway that leads to the super man. In true Darwinian fashion, the conflict perspective sees competing forces against each other. Rich vs. Poor, peasants vs. Noble class, capitalist vs socialist. Ultimately, the divide will be the role of humans vs Artificial intelligence 

Again, I know technology has tons of amazing benefits,  but where will we draw the line eventually? Perhaps in the future, the great questions that religion solves will be debated on their applicability to A.I:

Where do I come from?

Whats my purpose?

Do I have a soul?

An I made in the image of God?

Things like this, perhaps ethicists,  theologians,  and Philosophers will have to speculate about.

Funny thing is one  night my wife and I stopped at Wal-Mart and the clerk told the customers to go to a kiosk. Clearly, we all heard her, but we didn’t get out of line. She repeated it again, but this time a gentleman in front of me shouted out “I don’t wanna use a machine… I wanna talk to a person.” Initially,  I laughed at this, but his sentiment is very true. 

What makes us human is really unique.  Our ability to sympathize, rationalize and make moral choices are so profound. Machines,  no matter how well programmed, miss the mark on giving mercy and compassion. Does a machine love on its own choice or because a programmer has installed within codes and cues to act in certain functions.

At the heart of us being made in the image of God is love. Love always requires a choice. God didn’t make string robots that are 100% mannequin like but created us with the capacity to choose freely from good and evil. 

We dont need to be discared and supplanted,  but instead plugged into the Creator of our souls.
In closing, I’m reminded of the song lyrics from Queen in their 1984 song “Machines (Or Back To Humans). There lyrics definitely shed light on our potential fate.

When the machines take over

It ain’t no place for you and me”




“Living in a new world

Thinking in the past

Living in a new world

How you gonna last

Machine world…

It’s a Machine’s world…”
 

 

Advertisements

Thoughts on the Protestant Reformation 

Did you hear what happened Last week? 

Maybe you did, but if you didn’t let me refresh your memory. 

Last week marked the 500 anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, perhaps the biggest schism in Church history ever! Granted the Great Schism of 1054 was bad, but there have been plenty of attempts and dialogue between both the Pope and Patriarch or Holy Synod. However,  with the hundreds or maybe thousands of Protestant churches, just who exactly would the Pope speak with to unite back to Rome? It’s confusing. 

Since last week, I’ve seen a rush of pride from non-Catholics regarding how amazing the Reformation was. I even read many people on WordPress go as far as compliment Martin Luther and his  contemporaries for a powerful religious and political revolution. Indeed it was a revolution, an overthrow of the old system, to usher in a new radical system away from the authority of the Church. 

Post reformation, there were tons of conflicts on both sides and persecution by those high in authority. However great the negatives were, some good did come out of this period. Specifically the Council of Trent that offered a rebuttal of the teachings of the Reformers and the many many Post-Reformation Saints to come out of the Church.

With all the applaud about Martin Luther last week,  I honestly didn’t get the uproar in cheer. This is a sad event. More disunity and lack of reconciliation came about because of this. Jesus Christ said to the Father that he wanted his believers to be one just as God and Jesus share unity in the Godhead (John 17:21). Because authentic reform was supplanted with a revolution, this deep divide has existed for 500 years!

When I think of how the Reformation has impacted my life, I can go back to the church pew of the small “bible church” I used to be a member of. Going Sunday after Sunday and honestly thinking in the disoder of their worship service or the sloppy sermons on Protestant fundamentals “why am I still coming  here?” to the point of me withdrawing completely was horrible! I knew some kind of truth was out there, but it definitely wasn’t in a Baptist or even a non-denominational church for sure. 

The creed or covenant of the Church I attended was nothing more than life application tips. Other statements of faith that I saw at other churches were just poorly crafted ancient creeds mixed with the Westminster Confession.

Sitting in the church, knowing that the preacher was preaching stuff that I didn’t see as true in the bible really made me dislike Protestantism even more. Going to church was me going through the motions. I went  trying to feel closer to God and deepen my relationship, but ultimately growing further away. I couldn’t help but feel increasingly more unsatisfied. I was numb for a period. Maybe close to a year. Some weeks I would pray for energy to be enthused to be an active participant in the songs and sermons,  but it didn happen. I knew for sure I wasn’t becoming an atheist, but definitely knew the current church I was at wasn’t home.

I went through a period of Reformed Theology. I read some of the Westminster Confession and then I felt like I finally found what I was looking for. Something defined, outlined and spelled out.  That’s until I spoke to a non-Christian about Limited Atonement and it really made me realize the difficulty of such an unfair teaching. I concluded maybe Reformed Theology wasn’t best.

After I sat in the pew many Sundays and spent much time in deep personal contemplation, I came to the realization that maybe Protestantism wasn’t for me. I had given up on it completely. 

Protestantism made me feel overly secure in my relationship with Christ.  It promised a grand big greater than life Sovereign God (which God is totally sovereign and bigger than we can comprehend) that will save you if you’re a part of the elect. Somehow my cooperation would destroy God’s powerful perfect plan to save me. As if im discarded or have no say so or influence in my faith journey.  I found that troubling. 

At my former bible church, the simple easy “faith alone” Christianity always bothered me. To hear some Sundays eternal security “once saved always saved” was more of an emotional crutch than a theological truth. Sometimes It seemed as if the teaching was promoting the sin of presumption.  I took to heart the verse from Philippians 1:6 “he that began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” That was my medicine whenever I felt like I was losing moral ground. Another go to verse was 1 John 1:9 ” if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin.” Perhaps these 2 verses my faith hinged on. 

Some might read this and say “your church doesn’t matter…you only need a personal relationship with Jesus .” 

To that I say this:
The Church is a community. Community conveys a sense of “we” while the person relationship conveys a sense of  “I” at the exclusion of worship with others. 

Jesus didn’t die, bury, resurrect, and ascend to create an isolated lone ranger type Christian,  but he did create a Church ( Grk. Ekklesia , the “called out”, “the assembly. “)  that would be united together. We do have our own accountability with Jesus Christ,  but God has called us out from the corners of the world to be a part of the Body he founded and heads as his faithful assembled community. 

In addition, truth matters too. It’s not churches but a Church that matters. Although Christ is the invisible head of the Church, there needs to be a visible head also. Similarly, God is the head of all governments and rulers ( Proverbs 8:15-16) but that doesn’t mean having a prime minister erodes the authority of the invisible head of God. Likewise,  Christ established his Church and intended it to carry on when he died by a head. Therefore,  Peter (Rock) became the apostle in which the Church is founded on. 

Early church fathers show this. For example,  look at Cyprian of Carthage in about 250 A.D. makes the case for the chair of Peter that points toward his supremacy and the unity of the Church:

There is one God and one Christ,  and one Church, and one Chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord. It is not possible to set up another altar or for there to be another priesthood besides that one altar and that one priesthood.  Whoever has gathered elsewhere is scattering. “

St. Cyprian makes it clear that Peter definitely had supremacy by virtue of him having the “chair ” by the word of Jesus. Also, Christ made him the foundation the Church is built on. Interestingly,  I’ve never seen a Church claim to have the seat of Peter,  but only the Catholic Church. 

As I reflect back on the impact of the Reformation for my life, I’m reminded of the quote from St. Augustine:

There is nothing more serious than the sacrilege of schism because there is no just cause for severing the unity of the Church.”

More than ever, we should pray for the unity of all believers. 

Source:

Letter of Cyprian to All His People [43 (40), 5], in Jurgens, Faith of the Early Fathers,  1:229.

Thoughts on Biblical Literalism 

The one biblical pet peeve that I’ve always disliked is extreme biblical literalism. If we’re being honest with our examination of the topic of biblical literalism,  there has been some good and bad to come out of the movement in the last one hundred years or more. For instance the Moral majority of the 70s and 80s sought to regulate the era after the Sexual Revolution of the 60s by calling the nation to turn back to Judeo-Christian values. 

Perhaps the most important case In the last century was the Monkey Scopes Trial that involved a school teacher teaching Darwinian evolution against a state that strictly reinforced literal biblical creationism. The aftermath of this case created a paper cut of what would later turn into an amputation, a widening gulf between science and religion as which holds the ultimate supremacy of truth. 

Strangely,  this chasm between religion and science has grown further in recent decades. A few years back, there was the large scale debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis, which garnered millions of views and raised the topic of biblical literalism to an even higher scrutiny. Looking back on this debate, I think Ken Ham really missed a great opportunity to advocate the power of the Creator instead of presenting a literal young earth creationism which is sometimes based on faulty genealogies of the Bible.  I walked away from the debate really feeling ashamed for Ken Ham, not because he was a bad Christian,  but the fact that he wholeheartedly reopened the underpinnings of the Monkey Scopes case of creationism vs. Evolution. I’m my view he did more harm than good on the case of science and God. 

Every holiday or so, like today for instance,  many Christians will come out vehemently opposed to it. They’ll claim “God hates the devil” or “this holiday is the work of satan or paganism” but honestly what good does this do to engage others in a dialogue about what we believe vs what we’re opposed to. Instead, how about highlighting that Halloween,  aka All Hallows Eve, is the day before a major holy day in the Church. Why? Because on this day we honor and pay special recognition to the Saints that are in heaven. Moreover,  November 2nd is important because All Souls Day we gather to remember the departed souls who are being cleansed before entering into heaven. 

Halloween could just simply serve as a reminder of dead, not a polemical rant on how it’s not supported in the Bible. On the contrary,  even many non-Catholics would claim that offering prayers or honoring the Saints is “unbiblical.” As a result, the hinge of biblical literalism truly rests on the belief that the bible only is the source authority.  The problem with this view is that the Bible is a book that spans of 2000yrs by various authors, so there’s bound to be a lot of areas that over lap.  Plus, the Bible is hard to understand. To claim you can pick up the Bible and understand completely what it means is a hard saying. Even the Ethiopian eunuch recognized the difficulty of comprehending the Scriptures by need of divine interpretation by an approved interpreter (Acts 8:26-40).

As a teacher, we use the same unit text  every year. Our next unit is my favorite,  Greek Myths. I love Greek myths because they reinforce the importance of my affirmation of monotheism vs. That of polytheism and pantheism of the Greek gods that are blood thirsty,  vengeful,  and really petulant. Anyways,  my co-worker has expressed  their appreciation but also  dislike of Greek myths because “They go against her beliefs as a Christian.” 

Honestly,  I get what this person is saying. However,  even St. Paul found truth to be evident in other worldviews even though he didn’t adhere to them (Acts 17:28). From their statement, It seemed like this person took a strong hard lined “bible only” approach to understanding the world. As if outside knowledge were a threat to a Christian worldview. If this person didnt know, a lot of great works that are esteemed in western civilization came from a Greek society of people who probably worshipped the gods of Mt. Olympus.

Furthermore, if someone wants to pursue that kind of thinking to its fullest extent then there is a problem. Our whole world is drenched in Roman, Egyptian and Greek paganism and polytheism. Our months and days of the week are largely based on Roman gods. To revolt against Halloween and other “pagan” holidays logically follows a revolt against our daily lives.
Instead of actually understanding biblical hermeneutics and the different genres in the Bible,  biblical literalist have hijacked the Word of God and turned it into a text book. A mere go-to-guide for all things life. Doing this,  runs the risk of neglecting the importance and beauty of reason to understand the natural world. Instead, when the Bible says “It is he who sits above the circle of the earth (Is 40:22)” the literalist inclination is to assume the earth is circular.

Or when the the bible gives a genealogy, the proper understanding is to recognize that Jewish culture strived its best to trace their lineage to Abraham, but the literalist inclination would be to calculate the years of each generation to determine the age of the earth. 

Biblical literalism is wholly anti-intellectual. It posses a great threat against the Tradition and teaching authority of the Church  and the gift reason. What’s worse is those that spread  literalist views embrace lone ranger style Christianity where it’s just “me and my Bible” by elevating personal opinion vs. With what’s actually intended by the inspired author. 

Thoughts on ‘Saw’ films

Some people would be surprised to know that my favorite film genre is horror. I truly am a sucker for classic horror films over the last 40+ years such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, or even Nightmare of Elm Street.  

One of my favorite contemporary horror films is Saw. Saw is very twisted! From the torture devices to the wickedness of the Jigsaw killer,  John Krammer, the original film of the film franchise is so memorable on many fronts. Particularly,  its themes of morality and justice, no matter how twisted John Krammer’s means to carry them out, are highly interesing. 

I recently watched the latest installment in the Saw franchise , Jigsaw, this past weekend and I have to say that I was really intrigued by the film. Where every film went down hill between Saw 2 and Saw 3D (seventh film), Jigsaw seemed to recapture the essence of the Jigsaw killer as being the omnipotent corrector of wrongs. Too much bad story line and cop drama made a number of the film’s really under perform, but this latest film had some very high moments. I walked away from the film saying “the original Saw story line has been redeemed by this film.”
 
Despite all of this, as with the first film, I had a number of thoughts. 

Thus Saith Lord”



Numerous times in the Old Testament when a prophet was speaking on behalf of God, they would utter the introductory phrase “Thus says the Lord.” They did this to ensure to their audience that the words revealed to them weren’t of theirs, but gifts from the Holy Spirit who is the source of prophecy. These words conveyed authoritative power to turn away from their sins and embrace the love of their covenantal God. God is , in an anthropomorphic way, pleading to his nation to chose life over death during their exile.

In a similar way, whenever John Krammer speaks to his captives through recording, he always puts forward the option of life or death. In his own unique twisted idea of choosing life, he wants his subjects to turn away from their sins and embrace the blessing of life they have. In fact, his captives are captured on the basis of horrible wrongs they’ve committed against others or against themselves. People that are captured have ranged from drug addicts, criminals to unfaithful spouses. All he desires from them is to see their faults and to change their life. For instance, In Saw 2, a girl beat the fatal game, but was later re-captured on the basis of her not truly being contrite of her abuse against herself. 

I see John Krammer , aka Jigsaw killer, as the god of the world. He has his own standard of righteousness and ways to punish those that are unrepentant of their lifestyle choices. God never forces anyone to eternal separation; John Krammer too sees himself in this way. He claims he isn’t directly responsible for the fate of his captives despite placing them in horrifying situations and contraptions. In the latest film, all he wants is the subjects to confess their wrongs and their torture ends. 

God wants us to take responsibility for our sin. Adam failed to take responsibility by shifting the blame to Eve. In Jigsaw,  the subjects failed to take responsibility of their own sins by shifting blame on other’s faults.

Therefore, just as God sets before us the path of life and death, John Krammer in his time limits and riddles offers life and death toward those he has captured. 


Justice at its Core


At the heart of John Krammer is his desire for justice. Jim being the comeback killer even after his death,  can’t seem to let wrongs go on too long without being punished.   He may have a good intention (correcting immoral behavior so people can realize the sacredness of their life and greatness of their blessings) but his means and circumstances totally distort the intention of his act. 

No matter the amount of culpability or the act committed,  the sins of the captives must have some kind punishment. The “games” the Jigsaw killer plays are  consequences that are carried out to convince  the person about the grave nature of their crimes and lack of responsibility.  I would assume that the Jigsaw killer only wants people to not take life for granted. If people simply lived righteously and did good, someone like John Krammer wouldn’t exist. But John sees all. I often wonder how he sees each and every person’s wrongs. Things that seem done in the dark are always illuminated in the light. 

Heard that before?

God would be unjust to let the wrong doer get off Scott free with all their sin. As a result,  our actions/deeds have a moral significance. God doesn’t simply make us artificially righteous,  but instead we have to strive toward that perfection he demands through the aid of grace. What we think is done in the privacy of our lives, cant escape the omnipotent eye of God. God wants us too to be sober minded and alert. Not going through the motions, but living a life of obedience in love. 


The Saw film franchise reiterates the need to allow faith working though love to triumph over evil. Again and again, the importance of choosing to do good over evil reinforces the idea of judgement, no sin unpunished. Unlike John Krammer,  God is abounding in mercy and we can express contrition for our sin. 

Unlike Jigsaw, God’s justice isn’t rooted in arbitrary grounds. God, being the source of all truth, establishes the basis for us to abide by.

Who’s in Your Circle? 

When I was in the 10th grade, I had a physical education teacher that often told me “birds of a feather flock together.” Back then, id laugh it off because I knew the person I eventually wanted to be and the non-conformist crowd of high school I associated with wasn’t that pathway.

In my post college years , everyone is all business minded. My co-workers over the past 4.5 years have said things like “I want to surround myself with other likeminded people.” To them, and rightfully so, the art of association is very important. It’s often said “it’s not what you know but who you know” that’s key. Clearly,  “who you know” can have tons benefits.

For some months now, I’ve been on and off reading about the lives of the saints. This week, I began reading about Martin De Porres. A mulatto (Spanish/ African mix) that was a lay brother of the Dominican Order in Lima, Peru. Interestingly,  God gave St. Martin many gifts such levitation and communication with animals. Because of Martin’s personality and his diligence as a porter/custodian, many priests and religious came to seek his assistance and guidance. 

Something interesting is that in the city of Lima, Peru , there were many saints in his area. St. Martin frequently conversed with St. Rose of Lima, patron of South America. In addition,  it is reported that Archbishop Turibius Mongrovejo gave instruction to both of the saints while he served in Lima.  There are a few more saints that were contemporaries in Peru at the time that eventually became saints.

When we look at the life of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez , who was also a porter, he had a very close relationship with St. Peter Claver. In fact, St. Alphonsus gave St. Peter the guidance to go to South America for his mission to the slaves. 

St. Peter Claver is often labeled the “saint of the West Indies ” but his counterpart St. Francis Xavier was dubbed the “saint of the East Indies.” Before he was a great missionary, St. Francis was a student in Paris along with another popular future saint,  Ignatius of Loyola. They were lodging buddies. There’s really no other great way to become acquainted than that! Eventually these two along with 5 others would take vows of poverty and chasity and establish a new order approved by the Pope called the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).

SS. Basil the great and Gregory Nazianzen were very close friends. These two saints are very important figures of Eastern Church and to those in Eastern Orthodoxy. Both come from a line of saintly family members. Both were bishops. Both studied together. Both strong theologians in times of difficulty during the heresies of the early Church. 

The point I’m making is that these saints all “flocked together ” and eventually became saints. This shows that in fact those we hang around are important and can have an eternal impact on us. Perhaps if St. Peter never received the revelation from St.Alphonsus then the missions of Cartegna,  Columbia wouldn’t have been so successful. Or if St. Francis Xavier and St. Ignatius never lodged and mutually befriended each other then perhaps Society of Jesus wouldn’t have started. 

Therefore,  those who we keep around us should impact our lives positively. So often I hear “the goal of marriage is to get your spouse into heaven ” but what about your close friend? In our age of fast paced “I want it now ” world, are we attentive to our friend’s needs? Simple as giving advice and guidance , as I’ve discussed,  can influence someone’s life for the better. 

There are many great examples in the history of the Church of saints hailing from the same city or knowing each other. I guess they prove the saying “birds of a feather flock together ” as true since they share the same beliefs, same eternal destination, same Lord, and they’re all found closely associated together. 

I am empowered by this. I want to surround myself with “feathers” that look to the cloud of witnesses before us as guides into eternal happiness with God. 

Thoughts on “Gone Girl”

I’m often amazed by the films that come out that are inspired by books. As I’m trying to create my own children’s book,  I’m really fascinated by the depth and detail of a novel. Granted, a film leaves out tons of things from the book, but still contemporary masterpieces such as Lord of the Rings are really something else.

Not too long ago, Melissa and I went to view film that’s based on a book. The film is called Gone Girl. Over 2 hours long, it’s definitely worth the suspense, mystery,  and drama. I saw the film for a cheap price yesterday and couldn’t resist buying it.

The film is about a married couple, Amy and Nick Dunne, 5th anniversary that becomes a nightmare for Nick. On the day of asking his wife for a divorce, his wife decides to brilliantly fake her death in order to get Nick to appreciate their struggling marriage and gain deeper appreciation for her. In the process of faking her death , Nick slowly becomes the suspect in a police investigation and national media scrutiny about the disappearance of his wife. 

Interestingly enough, toward the middle to end of the film the wife is shown living a new life as a southern accent dawning traveler. She is following the news closely and paying attention to Nick’ s pleas to his wife to come home. Eventually after more plotting and manipulation and murder, she comes home to her husband. The investigation is dropped and the media is totally warmed by the reunion of the two. They do tons of media appearances  to showcase their happiness,  but inside the walls of their home it’s truly rough. Nick has a hard time adjusting to his wife’s horrific manipulation; while she wants him to fight for her. Nick is obviously very much uncomfortable living with her. 
The film at times is literally a page from the Nancy Grace show and how the prosecuting commentator rips a part the suspectful husband as the key witness of a crime.

Initially when we saw it, I though it was a fine film. After watching it again, it is very much a great film in my eyes. 
I imagine,  this film will do for marriage what Fatal Attraction did for infidelity. 

As I watched it again for the 2nd time, some things really stood out.

For instance, using others or manipulation is often depicted in the film by Amy and Nick. 

 Amy is a glamorous and affluent woman who’s childhood made her family rich by their children’s book series. Many times in the film, you notice Amy hint at how Nick  totally uses. She has many things to substantiate this: she cleared her trust fund out to by him a bar, he spends lavishly during the recession of 09, and literally everything is in her name. In addition,  Nick withdrew from the marriage and it was obvious. Amy notes that Nick only uses her for sex. Nick also had a year and a half affair with someone younger than him too. 

The dignity and worth of his wife was slowly being eradicated by his negligence and manipulation. It all culminated into a fake murder scene to gain his attention. Unfortunately,  this is a scene in many marriages. When both husband and wife go to real extremes to hurt and destroy each other. This isn’t a marriage, certainly not a Christian one. 

The Sacrament of Matrimony is given to us by God so that couples can experience God’s grace and love that is made available to the them. Aside from the couple being open to life and sharing fidelity and unititive love,  a marriage is built on the couple manifesting God’s love toward each other. Therefore no room for manipulation,  control , and infidelity can exist. These things can truly damage love in the bond and are threats to marriage! 
How often does the accuser and maker of confusion creep into both natural and sacramental marriages to stir things up? I would say he never ceases. He literally prowls the world for the “ruin of souls” trying to rob the good from naturally good ordered things.

Which leads to another point about being built on a sure foundation. There is an old hymn called How Firm a Foundation. A line from it says:

Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed, for I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.


What a beautiful reminder about God.
In the film, the couple had a clear rocky foundation. When the recession came, financial tensions became high between the two. When Nick had to move to Missouri to care for his dying mom, his wife just felt like she was dragged along with little consideration. Also, Amy figured having a baby would save their failing marriage. Again, all of these things leading up to a big cry out for help from his wife.
Jesus expressed the necessity of being  built on a foundation of his word vs a corruptible foundation of the material of this word (Mat 7:24-27).

In the sacrament of marriage, God’s graces become available for couples in situations like Nick and Amy. The virtue of fortitude helps couples press on despite challenges.  The virtue of hope helps a couple continue to keep the end focus of Jesus Christ at the forefront of their lives. As I’ve often heard, It’s about “whose you are” and the virtue of hope helps remind us of that in times of trial.

In all, the film touches on very important topics related to marriage. Often times Hollywood portrays marriage as a burdensome thing, but when marriage is truly lived out in communion with its Creator couples can ultimately reach new heights of understanding “whose they are.” 

 

A Gift? More Like an Invitation 

When I first began teaching right out of college in 2013, I worked a low-paying teaching job with two classes , morning and evening. Thankfully,  it was all for public service. 

While at this organization,  I had a coworker who occasionally gave me rides to our weekly Friday meeting at home office.  On our commute,  we would chat about many things such as politics, our passionate social causes , and Christianity. At the time, I was a very strong Protestant, so in our conversations I managed to sneak in small bits about my beliefs. 

Apparently,  she must’ve been a Catholic because one day she said “I have a book I want to give you” and I gladly accepted her gift. To my surprise,  it was a book called Answering A Fundamentalist. Essentially, it’s a introductory book on answering objections from Protestants.   Initially,  I didn’t pay attention to it. I read the table of contents, and figured she was trying to persuade me away from my beliefs, but I accepted her gift because she was a very kind hearted person. I Wasn’t offended at all.

Anyways, I glanced over the book many times and didn’t pay attention to the proofs. I didn’t receive an “aha” lightbulb moment for many years after I received the book. Occasionally in my spiritual studying,  I’d read the book and glance through chapters that had similarities to beliefs I was familiar with in my faith tradition. At times, I’d read the other chapters about , let’s say, the Magisterium and wouldn’t be convinced. Similarly,  I did this with the catechism I purchased in the fall of 2014 too. Picked the portions I knew were essential to the faith, and ignored or attempted to read the ones that were foreign to me.

Fast forward to now

When I look back at the title of the book, I kind of giggle a bit. Considering what I know how a fundamentalist is portrayed by a few Catholics,  I ask myself “was I really like that to her?” It’s funny to reflect and poke fun at yourself from time to time.

When I reflect back on the last 4.5 years I can definitely see this book was the first encounter with Catholicism I had. I appreciate it’s simplicity and concise answers with not a lot of technical advanced scholarship. The average chapter is 9-10 (some shorter) pages unlike many books I own that are 20-30 pages that deal with Catholic apologetics. This book managed to capture all their heavy  information while using economy of language (term we use in teaching that means use fewer words to get across clarity in your message). Accessible for beginners, but not rudimentary for those that are well learned or advanced in the faith.

This book is very sentimental to me. It was a gift,  but most importantly an invitation to experience God in the one, holy, catholic,  and apostolic Church. No greater love than that which seeks the best for another. Now,  I read it from time to time and always find something more interesting than the last time. 

What a great earthly gift, with an eternal reward, and divine invitation to fellowship. 

Why Our Past Matters to God

As Christians, we sometimes are forgetful of God’s involvement in our past.  We can become so fixated with our present condition and are obsessed with our future that we don’t stop to realize God’s provisions of our yesterday. 

Throughout the Old Testament, it is replete with references with God constantly reminding Israel about their redemption out of bondage from Egypt to have them as His chosen nation (Deu 29:2, Josh 2:10, 1 Kings 8:9, Jer 2:6, Hos 12:13, Amos 2:10, Mic 6:4). 

A reason why God emphasized the significance of Israel’s past was to stress how important their redmeption was correlated with the covenant of Israel’s patriarchs (Ex 3:15-17) and later with the Mosiac covenant (Ex 19:3-6).  He wanted them to never forget how powerful he was for them in the past and how he would be faithful to Israel in the future (Deu 1:30). 

When we stop to consider the many signs done to Pharaoh and the division of the sea, these miracles attested to God’s work in deliverance for those whom God sees as his possession (Ps 91:14-15). Centuries had gone by since Israel left Egypt, but God reminded them constantly about His covenant relationship by their redemption.
 Those days have long passed, yet the application remains the same. The Soverign Eternal God who has caused us to be born again to a living hope (1 Pet 1:3) desires us to remember his past miracles in our lives so that we may serve and worship him better daily. 
It’s those moments when our crosses are too heavy that we shouldn’t retreat from God, but instead draw closer to him and remember all that he has done.

When we stop to think about all the miracles in the past, all the underserved blessings, his fine care for our lives, it is evident that God truly will help us throughout any struggle. In moments of despair we tend to throw our hands up in defeated groans. Then, we embrace a teeter-totter embrace of God’s love and faithfulness. However, In these moments, remember that the same God who fought for us in the past and ransomed us from our futile ways will strengthen us in the present to ultimately give us victory in the future which is the salvation of our souls

Thoughts on the Moral Life 

In the mid to late 00s, I remember glancing  through my favorite monthly subscription  magazine and noticing an album titled The Devil and God are Raging Inside of Me. I thought the title was very peculiar.  I wasn’t much religious at all , but the blending of a religious title in a rock magazine caught my eye.

Since then, I understand further and more deeper a practical understanding of this title. When referring to Christian moral life,  the title seems to convey the ultimate struggle Christians face, the balance between moral freedom and responsibility. 

The moral life is such a deep thought provoking topic! Considering that there are many philosophies on morality, free will, and human nature and all of these popular thoughts collide with each other. But what does the Church authoritatively teach on such matters for us to know for our lives as Christians?

A key point about the moral life is that since the Creator himself is the highest good, we are created with a desire for goodness by bearing his image. This means we have rational and logic to discern truth.  Internally,  we have conscience that is demanding we follow the objective law of God. Externally,  the Commandments,  Scripture,  and Tradition all our there to form our conscience in unity with God’s grace.

As the psalmist said “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart (37.4). Interestingly, goodness equates to following and obeying God which ultimately leads to happiness. For example,  Adam and Eve were made to experience blissful beatitude in the garden with God by simply following his commands. Before the fall, man enjoyed a wonderful intimacy of happiness with God. What a marvelous event!

On the flip side, God created man with free will to choose good and avoid evil. He didn’t create robots or string puppets , but instead agents with choice. Adam and Eve both had free will, a choice to obey or disobey God. Unfortunately,  they chose their freedom to choose evil which is how original sin came to be. By their choice of choosing evil, they forfeited the pleasure of being spiritually alive. Therefore since we all share in the unity of the human race from Adam, him being the original ancestor therefore we all share in his sin as descendants. 

Although original sin hasn’t wholly tainted our will, it does incline our will to be under influence to choose sin over goodness and experience suffering. This internal struggle over choosing good and evil is the one we all face.  If they were tempted in the garden, we can only imagine what really lurks in our society with literally thousands of mediums and devices demanding hearts.

Which brings us to a very important key point on freedom and responsibility. It’s our duty as moral creatures to use our freedom as a means of restoring the goodness we’re striving to attain on our quest to be perfect. By choosing to do good, we are slaves to goodness rather than sin thereby weakening the influence of sin in our life.  

Seeking to do good, implies the acts we perform are important, therefore our acts need to be good. Our object  (what we do), intentions (how we do it) and circumstances all have to align to ensure we’re engaged in good moral acts.

If I choose to volunteer at a local men’s shelter (good object), but am only doing it because I can get notoriety from a local news showcase  (bad intention) my act is flawed. My intention weakens the goodness of the act. Often times we hear horrible ends (abortion or theft) with a good intention (not cause a woman poverty or helping alleviate poverty), but even that’s flawed because it’s violates the commandments of respecting our neighbors goods and murdering life. Some acts are intrinsically evil, aside from any influence and inherently naturally bad. We should avoid those!

Moreover, when we discuss sin, venial and mortal, we begin to assume more responsibility for our actions. We can choose to destroy charity and severe our ties with God through knowingly and deliberately choosing sin (mortal) or storing up smaller offenses (venial) that eventually turn into large scale offenses.

 The goal of the moral life as a Christian boils down to virtues or vices.

Do you want to be a saint? Practice good habits. Want to lose God’s love? Continue to choose those habits that are destructive or weaken God’s power.

In all, the moral life is something we all have to learn and grow at; as a result,  patience with the Holy Spirit is essential. No over night changed life results. This is something I need to take heed for my own struggles at times that I feel won’t go away and creep in. Im respond like “(sigh)….not you go again” 
The more you from your conscience,  the better equipped you are to grow in virtues.

Reflections on Martha (Luke 10:38-42)

Remember that scene in Scripture when Jesus visits Martha and Mary. One decides to sit at the foot of Jesus, while the other is attending to hospitality probably cooking and cooking.

After so much time of tending to her own duties, she finally turns and directs Jesus to push Mary to help her. Jesus warmly tells her that Mary decided to do what’s  right,  that is seek intimacy with Jesus rather than being anxious about things around her. Even though I’m sure Martha loved Jesus,  she chose to do something minor than behold the Son of God in a close manner.

 Interestingly,  Jesus often communicated that his call demands obedience on the spot. When he called Matthew,  he left his post. When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, they left their job as a fisherman to follow him. In a recent daily reading,  Jesus response to kid who needed to bury his dead relative was essentially the same message; my authority and obedience transcends your earthly priorities.  

Far too often,  we allow our earthly priorities to override seeking closeness of God. We (even myself at times) will say ” I’ll get to it later” then later gets pushed back to an hour then all you want is one more our of free time then next thing you know you forgot to pray, attend mass,  read the scriptures, read the catechism  or whatever your devotion is.

I challenge you (and myself) to abandon our inclination to subvert our intimacy with God. Find a balance between intimacy and your freedom in Christ. Practicing temperance helps us moderate our desire for pleasure but helps us maintain a healthy balance as we use our Christian freedom. The person who practices this understands why too much pleasure is disastrous and why self-mastery is needed. It’s not that God wants us to live boring lives, but God wants us to experience the joy he offers when we foster intimacy with him. Just like many who think the commandments are boring list of do’ s and dont’ s from a cosmic killjoy; on the contrary,  loving God and neighbor brings us true happiness!

Though you may not be in an Abbot or can dedicate hours to prayer and reading such as those that are in religious life,  we all can consider small practical things in our lives to help us learn and communicate with God. St. Peter Claver stayed up in the morning hours to pray while the world was asleep. Maybe you can’t fulfil his shoes (because those are exactly his shoes God created for him and not you), but at least you can offer morning prayers to God. Maybe set an alarm through your day to keep the habit of praying daily. Consider,  reading at night whether the bible or catechism or even the works from the Saints.

Regardless of what we do, make sure the end is always fellowship with God.