Thursday, April 24, 2008

Responses to "Conversation with a Catholic"

I just wanted to take a few moments to respond to some of the comments that a few of you had left on my last post. First, let me begin with how happy I am that some of you are taking the time to comment on my blogs. This is my whole purpose, to let you all know some of the things that run through my head and how I try to find answers and discussing them with you all. Your comments help me to grow and learn and question, and these are all amazing things. Secondly, I am also so very grateful that even those who may have differing views, comment in a way that enables us to have open, peaceful discussion. God wants us to question, it is how we learn, and by respecting eachother's views enough to allow for this discussion to take place is only pleasing to him.

Now lets get to the good stuff, responses. First, to J.H. I am so happy that you got something so positive from my blog. Remember, that we all struggle day-to-day with questions of faith, am I doing the right thing, am I wrong because I don't practice this, that or the other. What is important to remember is that there is no wrong way to worship, praise or love God. In living a centered around Christ, our guidelines are simple, 1. Love one another, as He has loved us. 2. Remember that what we do unto the least of our brothers, we do unto Him. 3. Live a life centered on Faith, Hope and Love. After accepting Christ as our Savior, it truly is impossible for us to live any other existence. Just remember, all things for God, for his glory, live according to this and God will accept your praise, the details.

Finally, to C.L. Thank you so much for your comment. I love that you had the courage to write what you believe and feel, and as I said earlier, your comments force me to reflect and pray, which allows me to grow more in my faith and in my own personal relationship with God. However, with your indulgence I would like to respond to you with a bit more detail. Know that while I do not consider myself Catholic, I do still very much accept the Eucharist, or Communion as the true body and blood of Christ. However, to me this is not a means nor a necessity for salvation. It is rather an opportunity for us as Christians to share in the Lord's supper and remember His great sacrifice together, as a family. I believe that it fills us with the grace and peace of Christ, and as such should be received in a similar fashion. I believe that we as recipients should be at peace and with God's grace, we can do this by acknowledging our sins and confessing them to God, however, this does not need to occur with a priest. To base salvation on confession to a priest, this is where I have the main issue. If you as a human need to speak with a priest for guidance, or because you need human, external validation on your forgiveness, then do so, but remember that no one speaks for God, he has proven that he is fully capable of doing that on his own, and second that it is not necessary for salvation, you are already saved and forgiveness is already bought, Christ's words in the gospel of Matthew should be validation enough. I am a firm believer that Christ has already bought forgiveness and salvation for us and therefore, none should be denied the joy of taking the Eucharist or sharing in this act of communion with fellow believers.

This poses another issue. The act of denial. I truly believe that the Catholic church is not fulfilling God's will when it denies believers the right to take communion. And by that I mean non-Catholic Christians. In Matthew 26:26-28

" 26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is my body.' 27 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins..."

In this passage Christ tells us very clearly what to do and what we are doing. He tells us that we are to share in his body and blood. He does not say to do it if we are of a particular faith, or because we are sinless. He tells us that we are to do it to remember that we are forgiven, that the cup in which we share as a community of believers, has already bought our forgiveness, has paid the price for our salvation. The Catholic church is wrong to deny to any Christian, based solely on their practice of faith, what Christ himself commanded of us. They are keeping believers from following the will of Jesus, and that alone, in my eyes, is the worst possible offense.

As a final tidbit, for the first 1,000 years of the church after the resurrection of Christ, the church did not deny any the cup. In fact, when churches began to deny the cup to protestants, two consecutive Popes, Pope Leo being one, condemned the churches for doing so. It wasn't until later that it was decided to make it common practice to only allow practicing Catholics to partake in the gifts. This to me says that time has corrupted the true institution left on this earth by Christ, we must return to it, we must become one faith again, a faith of believers, a church of truly "catholic" Christians.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Conversation with a Catholic

First, allow me to send out a sincere apology to all my avid readers (Uncle Tone) who have been upset with me for not blogging. I do apologize, things lately have been insanely hectic. However, now that I have a bit of room to breathe, I'm back with much to say.

I think today I'll begin with the number one thing on my mind, a lovely conversation that I just had with my mother this past week. Lets begin with a little background information. For anyone who may not know, I am Puerto Rican, this essentially means that in order to be born into this mighty race it is pretty much mandatory that you be Roman Catholic. Therefore, I was in fact born and raised Catholic. The issue now lies in that I can no longer consider myself Catholic. The reasons why I will get into shortly, however this has been a source of great frustration, sadness and even anger for my mother, and as I found out, my immediate family as a whole.

Here is where I run into difficulty following the Catholic faith. #1, and this one's a biggie, the "sacrament" of confession. As I'm sure many of you know, the idea of confession in the Catholic faith states that in order for you as a sinner to be forgiven of your sins you must go to a priest for absolution. They will also tell you that if you do not go you are not forgiven and may not partake in communion and you are no longer Catholic. They will rob you of salvation, but whats funny is that they can't take what Christ has already bought. Their backup for this act is Jn 20:21-23 which states:

"21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

This does, I admit, make sense when read quickly. However, I found that in reading this passage in the full context Jesus' teachings, another meaning leaps out at me. When we think back to the acts of Christ and his message, it is hard to miss our one main calling aside from loving one another and that is discipleship. Christ calls us to become disciples of Him and of His word. He tells us that through acceptance of Him we gain life and that it is through Him and Him alone that we can go to the Father. What was His purpose on earth? I'll tell you that I am not a scholar or theologian, however I am a Christian and I did learn that Christ came to this earth to be crucified and die, and not for fun or because he had nothing better to do, but to free us from sin, to bear the weight of sin on his shoulders and shed his blood as the final sacrifice, the lamb, for us. I ask you, who are we to tell Him that that price was not enough? How can we as humans, creations of the Lord God enter into a confessional and confess nothing more than Christ's blood was not enough?

We are asked to do one thing, that is to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and once we have done this we have attained salvation and are called to live a Christian life. As a part of this life we are called to be disciples of Christ's word. Without this word there is no salvation because there is no acceptance of it. This shows the importance of the mission laid before all believers. The disciples were asked to do this, to bear this responsibility. In the passage above Christ says, "as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you". Christ is sending his followers out to preach His word and to bring others to salvation, salvation that has already been bought. He is not granting them the power of forgiveness. Christ is not dependent on the decisions of men. He is telling them that when the preach to tell believers that they are forgiven. It is not in their power to withhold forgiveness, but rather it is on their shoulders if they do not. If they fail to minister to the world, they have in turn held bound the sins of men, they have not brought the already paid for salvation to the world and have cost the untaught heaven. This is not a power, it is a responsibility, and it is one that all believers, priest or lay are entrusted with.

One final thought as this piece is bordering ridiculous in length. The first act that Christ performed after his death was the destruction of the temple. The biggest act in that moment was the tearing of the curtain that separated the Jews from the covenant, essentially the one thing that kept the people from God, and only the high priest could enter once a year to ask for atonement. With his sacrifice, Christ tore down this divide and gave access to God the Father to all believer, through his blood and his body. No longer can only one enter, and no longer can a curtain divide us. What is the priest in the confessional if not a curtain, a curtain that Christ has already torn down. I leave you with this final question again, who are we sinners to tell God that the blood of his only, innocent and begotten Son is not enough to pay for my sins?

We will save the other issues for another blog, lets take some time to pray and meditate on this question.

Looking forward to your responses,

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I thought I had, but I hadn't

So today was day one of LSS. LSS is a seminiar (Life in the Spirit Seminar) that I help lead, as a small group leader and speaker. This evenings talk was centered around struggles that we face with faith and how we grow into the person we are meant to become. While I did find so much of this evening's talk interesting and helpful one quote certainly stuck with me, "I thought I had, but I hadn't"

How often do we find that is the case? Either we believe or simply force ourselves to believe that we have truly done something and as it turns out, we have not. The first thing that comes to mind is forgiveness. How often have we allowed ourselves to believe that we have truly forgiven someone of an emotional or maybe even physical crime against us, when in reality we hold that anger and ill will towards that person within us? And perhaps even worse, how often have we said that we have forgiven ourselves when in truth, we still harbor feelings of shame and even self loathing? What an ill effect this idea can have on not only ourselves, but also on every relationship to which we belong and are a part of. Why is it that if God himself can forgive so easily, forgive us of so many horrendous atrocities, and we are made in his image and likeness, do we find it so hard to forgive.

I know for a fact that I myself am guilty of this. Perhaps not so much now as before, but still a struggler none the less. I feel as though before, I was always quick to forgive others, however not myself. I began to hate what I had become, however without even noticing it. I found it hard to forgive and love myself, and as a result I felt lost and unworthy, therefore it didn't matter what I did. So if I didn't love myself, who else was going to see in me someone worth loving. The funny thing is that now I'm faced with a new dilema, I finally have forgiven myself and seen my spiritual and emotional scars not as something that needs to be hidden, but rather as a blessed reminder of a place I never wish to revisit, a person I never want to be again but from whom I have gained so much growth. The new problem is that while I love myself and have truly found the path God has intended for me and have changed into the man that God created me to be and that I ran from for so long, every step thinking that I had taken a step forward, when in realilty I hadn't, it would seem that everyone else has been left with a lack of trust.

It seems that people who were hurt during my struggle want to see my change and say they do, however can not bring themselves to trust me, to forgive me, and most painfully to love me. They say that they do, but it doesn't feel like it. It would appear that they think they have forgiven me and are ready to love me, but in reality they haven't. This is a great fear of mine, a fear that is beginning to take its toll.

I will close this evening's entry by posing you with a challenge; think of someone you say you have forgiven and truly examine how you treat this person. Ask yourself if you truly feel that you have forgiven them or if you are just allowing yourself to believe it in the hopes that your false belief will ultimately force forgiveness into existence. Remember that God calls us to love those who least expect it, but even more those who (seemingly) least deserve it. It is we who need it most. Odds are the person who "wronged" you already has a reminder of who they never want to be again, and perhaps in their relationship with you they are searching for the knowledge that they are now worth loving and the solice in knowing that they are truly loved, unconditionally and without judgement or falsity. So ask yourself if you truly have forgiven and are ready to love, or if you just thought you had and remember that while your forgiveness and love may not mean much to the world, to one person it may mean the world.

First time blogger

So as the title would suggest, I am in fact a first time blogger. To tell the truth I really never even knew what it was until very recently. But what a great idea, a place where you can vent out thoughts, ideas and so on. I gave quite a bit of thought actually as to whether or not I was going to start one up and what sold me was the idea of a world wide platform, something that anyone can read from anywhere.

My little "profile" to the right shows that I am a Christian. Born and raised like many Catholics before me...just Christian. The steps leading to this change are something that I can definitely go into on a later blog, and perhaps something that I definitely will because as a Christian I am taught to reach out to people, to disciple to others, and what a better way.

Now before you freak out and stop reading, understand I don't mean that I will only be speaking and "preaching" about religion, some might be because inevitably as a Christian, Jesus is usually on my mind in some way and He always has a hand in what is going on with me and in my day-to-day life. However, I have had many experiences in the 24 years I've been on this earth and this could be my way to "minister" to others...minister to them on life in general. Perhaps things that I may go through, or have been through that I write about may help someone else who may be experiencing a similar joy, or hardship. In the end, isn't it all about helping eachother anyway? (and here comes my plug...) isn't that what we are all called to do?

So there it is, the first installation, a preview of what is to come. So here is to all the future ramblings to come on life, love, and yes even faith, from a young, Puerto Rican and Christian man.