For Your Own Good

“God is offended by us only when we act against our own good.” – St. Thomas Aquinas

 

“I was a master deceiver. I became very good at avoiding the truth. I didn’t necessarily lie, I just avoided conversations about the truth.”

I wrote the above statement in my journal less than two weeks ago while I was on a retreat for a Catholic Sexual Ethics course.  I have been reflecting on that quote lately and I see my entire young adult and early 30’s life summarized perfectly in those 3 sentences.

Avoiding the truth is extremely easy to do when you’ve been this way most of your life. Especially when the truth is unpleasant to admit to.

I can look at what I believed in as being my own personal religion.  I made up my own rules as I went along, thinking the rules of the church were archaic and silly and didn’t apply to me. So I avoided any discussion of those “rules” and pretended like I knew better. After all, who knows what’s best for me better than me?

But we all do this…don’t we? We avoid the truth. Deep down we KNOW we have to acknowledge the GOOD. Sometimes the GOOD can be skewed and twisted to suit our own desires. Sometimes we go along with what we THINK is GOOD and TRUE but it ends up being the complete opposite.

When that happens, that’s when we know we have been deceived.

One particular issue that I avoided conversations about for decades was abortion. I was heavily deceived on that issue. How? I always thought and assumed that it wasn’t a problem that affected me. And since, I was all about ME, I avoided any discussion or debate about anything that didn’t concern me.

I grew up Catholic but I went to a public university. There, the topic of abortion or religion or anything “controversial” wasn’t really discussed among my friends and I. I wasn’t a party girl but let’s just say I didn’t feel very passionate about any particular hot topic. I never joined any protests or marches, I never signed any petitions, I never got involved. Getting involved was something for “other people,” not me.

The ignorance and avoidance continued.

If abortion was being protested on campus, I avoided looking at the pictures of the aborted fetuses held up on signs from those who were protesting. I remember  literally shielding my eyes as I tried to walk as quickly as possible to the student hall for lunch. I should have looked. But I didn’t. I completely avoided the entire discussion around this topic saying, “This doesn’t concern me. This is not my problem. This is someone else’s problem.”

Ignorance. Avoidance. Silence.

Now, with the recent videos put out by the Center for Medical Progress on Planned Parenthood, the abortion debate and discussion cannot be avoided.

It’s easy to despair and blind ourselves to the truth. It’s easier to avoid the unpleasantness of dead fetuses and babies ripped apart and just think, “This is not my problem.” But in light of my recent discovery of TOB and having just taken a course on Catholic Sexual Ethics, I am feeling called to speak up about this hot topic. Whereas before I happily stayed in the shadows, I cannot do that anymore.

The Ethic of the Good

So how does good prevail over the evil in the case of abortion?

Besides prayer, I find it very helpful and encouraging to hear from those who have had a change of heart.

Former abortion workers and women who regret their abortions through campaigns like Silent No More and And Then There Were None. This is the spirit of God at work. I truly believe that.

We can’t ignore all these stories of regret. We need to learn from these women and men! They are here to teach us that what they did, although ruled LEGAL, was not MORAL. They were not desiring that which is good. They were not pursuing happiness, they admitted they were pursuing selfishness. And thank God they are speaking up now so we have a chance to make this wrong right.

Anyone can look at Roe vs Wade and think, “This is a legal activity, therefore I don’t have any right to challenge it or protest it. I must agree with it.”  Or “Even if I don’t think it’s right, I am just one person and I can’t change anyone’s minds.”  I would answer that with a hearty NO. The Supreme Court does not reign supreme in our hearts. In our hearts we know that this is not a good. This is not moral. Destroying a human life is immoral and more people who feel this way need to speak up about it. We can respectfully admit that the Supreme Court made the wrong decision. Even Jane Roe herself has had a change of heart.

Even if there is no sympathy in your heart for those who regret having abortions or working at a clinic, how can any human being see the number 55,000,000 lives lost and not think “There’s something wrong here.”

I, of all people, understand the hesitation to speak up about this.  As little as 5 years ago, if I would have gotten pregnant, I cannot honestly tell you that I would have kept it. I have been pro-choice most of my life and for what reasons I cannot even tell you. I must have thought, “My body, my choice,” made sense to me.

But now, I know that I don’t HAVE a body.

I AM a body.

And that means I don’t destroy who I am. I don’t mutilate who I am. I don’t kill who I am.

There’s my little pro-life argument in a few sentences. No mention of conception timing, no mention of rights or choices. No mention of God. Not even a mention of a heartbeat. No, my pro-life stance is quite simple. I AM a body.

I began this blog post with a quote from St. Thomas Aquinas that I heard on the course for the Catholic Sexual Ethics class last week. Here it is again:

“God is offended by us only when we act against our own good.”

Most people think God would be offended by us when we act against HIM. But no…St. Thomas tells us God is offended when we do something that contradicts the good. Our own good.

So I’m going to try to live my life by not offending God. And I try to help people understand that their actions and their decisions should always be geared toward that which is good.

If we all steer our hearts towards that which is good, how can that which is evil hold us back?

There is hope that good will overcome. But it starts with you.

Thanks for reading!

-michelle

 

Pursue Righteousness

1 Timothy 6:11

But you, Timothy, are a man of God, so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 

St. Paul has a final message to Timothy in his letter to him. But the letter is also addressed to all of us!

This is a prime example of picturing the author speaking directly to you when you read scripture. (Some translations say “But you, man of God,”)

The first thing I noticed is Paul’s language here. I love his use of the word “pursue.” And he uses the word “run” from evil. These action verbs definitely give us the impression that Paul was extremely passionate about how he viewed Christian life. There’s no sitting idly by and watching the world around us. Paul wants us to be active participants!

So how do we become active in our faith?

  • Speak up! Maybe you join a committee for the pro-life movement. Perhaps you start a group yourself dedicated to feeding the hungry or helping others less fortunate in your neighborhood. If there’s something you are passionate about like a social concern or health and safety of others, start your own group or committee dedicated to awareness.
  • Run! Training your body is just as important as training your mind. If you want to become active in your faith, you need to study up on it. Open your Bible, read the scriptures, go to mass, become involved in a bible study, write down and share your thoughts with others. Get them to “Train” with you!
  • Sacrifice for good! Giving up something doesn’t have to mean suffering for God. Think of sacrificing something like time. Volunteer your time to help someone else. Do you use social media as a break from reality? Give up the internet and use that time to do something nice for someone else like writing them a note, praying for them, or making them food.

Fit in Your Faith Today: There are plenty of ways to stop being idle and start to being active. Stand up for what you believe in. Stop making excuses for doing works that you know St. Paul would not consider “righteous” or “godly.” Get creative and think of your own way you can run from the evil and pursue righteousness that will contribute to your faith.

 

Who do you love?

1 John 4:7

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

From The New Life Study Bible:

Everyone believes that love is important, but love is usually thought of as a feeling. In reality, love is a choice and an action as 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 shows. God is the source of our love. He loved us enough to sacrifice his Son for us. Jesus is our example of what it means to love; everything he did in life and death was supremely loving. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to love; he lives in our heart and makes us more and more like Christ. God’s love always involves a choice and an action, and our love should be like his. How well do you display your love for God in the choices you make and the actions you take?

What stood out for me in this particular passage was just the overall theme of love of course. Especially with the latest news of terrorist attacks in Paris and the civil unrest that seems to be happening everywhere in the world and just overall bad and terrible news everywhere you turn. It can really make you ask the question: “Where is the love?”

The last line – Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. I automatically consider the opposite of love which is hate obviously. People are full of hate. Full of evil. These extremists or terrorists or whatever category you want to put them in – their heart isn’t full of love. At least, not the kind of love that God represents. I’m not sure what or who they love, but I imagine it’s not our God. I believe it’s their choice to choose hate instead of love, for reasons I don’t begin to understand.

But perhaps the focus should be on ourselves when we reflect on passages like this one. So what can I do or how do I relate to this passage personally? I find it comforting. I find it to be absolutely spot on. I used to think of love as just a feeling. But it’s a relationship. It’s an action. But is it an action that I display every day?

Fit In Your Faith Today: Take the question the Study Bible asks – How well do you display our love for God in the choices and actions you make each day? Are you displaying a loving side of yourself to others or an angry, or disappointed, or prideful side? How can you change these actions and choices to be loving instead?

 

Back on Track

1 John 1:1-4

Beloved:
What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon
and touched with our hands
concerns the Word of life —
for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was made visible to us—
what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us;
for our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.

According to Life Application Study Bible: First John was written by John, one of Jesus’ original 12 disciples. He had a special relationship with Jesus. The main problem confronting the church at the time this letter was written was declining commitment. Many believers were conforming to the world’s standards, failing to stand up for Christ and compromising their faith.  (Sound familiar to today?)

False teachers were everywhere and they were accelerating the church’s downward slide away from the Christian faith.  John wrote this letter to put believers back on track and to show the difference between light and darkness and to encourage the church to grow in genuine love for God and for one another. He also wrote to assure true believers that they possessed eternal life and to help them know that their faith was genuine – so they could enjoy all the benefits of being God’s children.

Can you relate to the motivation that John used to write this letter? He was trying to spread love, not hate. He tried to get people out of the darkness of evil by shedding light upon them. This entire introduction to First John can definitely be applied to our world today. How many times do you turn on the tv and see the “darkness?” It can be hard to avoid all the bad news and evil that seems to flood the news channels and newspaper headlines.

We can stay on track and remember that light will overshadow the dark. Truth will reign supreme over false testimony. Good will prevail over evil. How? By being a witness to the light that John writes about in this letter. Remember that Christians back then even had doubt. They were giving in to the false teachers and forgetting about their Father in heaven. Don’t let yourself fall away from Christ, even in the toughest of times. Even when it seems like everyone around you is stuck in a bad place. Come back to the light and to the fellowship with God.

Fit in Your Faith Today: Look for the light in the darkest of places today. It may be in your own heart or someone you love who is struggling with an addiction, or a destructive habit, or someone who has just fallen into the darkness. Help them (or yourself if it’s you!) to get back to where the light shines bright.