The Truth Does Not Change

I wish I knew where this reflection on this Sunday’s gospel came from in order to give credit to whomever wrote it. I’m going to assume, since I found it in my church’s bulletin, that it came from the USCCB. I felt compelled to share it, particularly because of this line: “Our world is growing more and more hostile to the message of the Gospel.” 

Was it always this hostile or is it just me? Maybe it’s an age thing. Maybe I’m feeling the hostility because I’m interacting with more people? No idea. Perhaps the world was always this angry but because we are all communicating and sharing more than ever, it’s just becoming more and more apparent that the hostility was always there – we just didn’t see it.

For reference, the reading is Luke 4:21-30

“When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.” Why were these folks furious? Because they didn’t like what Jesus told them. They took offense at his teaching that “no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” Jesus was implying that his fellow Nazarenes in the synagogue were blind to who he really was. And this made them mad. They didn’t like being told that they were wrong. But Jesus told them anyway. He knew that these people needed to hear the truth, even if it mean that he would be unpopular. In fact, he spoke the truth even at risk of his own life. “They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.”

It can be tempting to confuse Jesus’ kindness and goodness with passivity, mistakenly imagining him as a person who would never ruffle any feathers because he was so concerned about being “nice.” This one-sided image of Jesus can lead us to excuse our own passivity about the falsehood and evil that surrounds us.

We can justify our silence or inaction by convincing ourselves that we shouldn’t upset anyone. But the fact is that Jesus upset people on a regular basis. That wasn’t his goal, of course, but he was willing to deal with resistance for the sake of truth and justice. And we should be willing to do the same.

Our world is growing more and more hostile to the message of the Gospel. When we simply live our faith authentically, it makes some people angry. But we should not recoil from this reality. Jesus’ witness made people furious too. But when they got mad, he didn’t cave in.

Whether people like it or not, the truth does not change.

Help Me To See

I’m not blind, but I’ve experienced “sight” twice in my life that I feel compelled to share.

The first was when I was taken to the doctor for an eye exam in the 4th grade. I had no idea I couldn’t see the chalkboard; it was my teacher who told my Mom that I was squinting to see it. When it was clear that I could barely read the eye chart at the doctor’s office, we went to get a pair of glasses.

I’ll never forget sitting in the chair at the optometrist. Before he came in, I looked into the holes of the giant machine that he would use to ask #1 or #2, #1,  or #2. (Anyone who’s been to the eye doctor knows all too well this process, it’s kind of comical).

Anyways, I took a peek and I remember telling my mom, “Wow!!! There’s a dog on that wall over there!”  I think she said something like, “Yes, that’s a picture of a dog, what’s the big deal?”  And I replied something like, “But…but…it’s DIFFERENT when I look through this thing. It’s like it’s magic! I can see the dog! I can see him!”

Having never had a need for glasses, she couldn’t understand what I was trying to say. I was trying to tell her that I could see every DETAIL of this dog. I will NEVER forget that dog. The picture is ingrained in my memory forever and the first image I saw clearly.  I recall thinking this machine that I was looking through must have been magic. I honestly didn’t understand the concept of SEEING CLEARLY.

After the appointment we went to LensCrafters to get my glasses. I remember picking out pink frames, thinking they were the “cutest” looking glasses, although I was dreading wearing them. Glasses, at age 9, were not “cool.”

“Do you see what I see?”

I will never forget walking out of LensCrafters to the car. I recall it was fall and the leaves were starting to change color.

Imagine seeing leaves for the first time. I know it’s hard to picture seeing something that you see every day but just imagine never having seen the leaves on a tree.

I could SEE! I could see every single leaf on the trees that we were walking past! And the concrete – I could see that too!

I was literally looking down at my feet walking on the sidewalk and noting to my mother, “I can see!! I can see the sidewalk!! I can see the leaves!!! Do you see them? Do you see that?”

I wish I could remember her reaction. I wish I could ask her if she remembers that day that I got my sight.

But most of all, I WISH I could have every person I know experience this newfound sight. It’s like being born again. It’s like realizing you are alive when this whole time before, you had been dead.

I recently came across a video from a popular speaker named Nicky Gumbel, and he discusses how he got glasses as an adult and HIS reaction is very similar to mine.  (Fast forward to 12:30 to SEE what I mean.)

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

I mentioned I gained sight twice in my life. The most recent time I found sight had nothing to do with a new pair of glasses. It has everything to do with looking at life through a different lens, a different perspective.

This “secondary” sight occurred when I read Theology of the Body for Beginners just 8 months ago. I knew something was happening to me as I read this book and took notes on it, which I have NEVER done while reading any book as an adult. I felt compelled to reflect on these words this man Christopher West, was writing. It was another experience of saying to myself, and sometimes to others, “Wow, NOW, I can see! I see things the way they REALLY are! THIS, this is what is truth!”

It was a few months later in June that “the scales fell off my eyes.” I had heard this expression before but never truly understood it until it actually happened to me. This experience took place during a week-long course through Theology of the Body Institute.. I recall telling myself and others, “I cannot un-see what I just saw. I can’t un-hear what I just heard. I will never be the same person I once was. I can see again!”

Where I once thought I saw love, I see lust.

Where I once saw truth, I now see the lies.

Where I once saw friendship, I now see possession.

Where I once saw harmless entertainment, I now see abuse.

Where I once saw freedom, I now see impurity.

But don’t get depressed and discouraged! There’s Good News to share:

Where I once saw rules, I now see freedom.

Where I once saw archaic teaching, I now see beautiful meaning.

Where I once saw restriction, I see chastity.

Where I once saw punishment, I now see blessings.

Where I saw an aged, celibate, old-fashioned man in Rome, I now see a Saint that I want to embrace in heaven and thank him for helping me to see.

Thank you God for my sight. I never want to be blind again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Body Tells a Story

A wise person once said:

You Don’t Have a Body. You Are a Body.

If I AM a body and it is not something I have, then why or how could I possibly consider changing it?

I think too often we focus on the negatives of our bodies. “We hate our own bodiliness,” was also a statement I’ve been hearing these past few months.

I can’t help but agree.  I talk to people on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to what to do with “this body.”

Either:

We hate our body and we do everything possible to hide it, to lie about it, to use it, and abuse it in an effort to make it appear acceptable, perhaps even attractive according to outside influences or societal standards. This becomes an obsession to the point that we become envious of anyone who has the body that we desire so much. This also could lead to despair as we try over and over to attain this “perfect body” with little to show for it. We don’t value our bodies at all and think ourselves unworthy.

Or:

We love our body so much that we become vain to the point of over exposure. We boast and brag and show off and become completely obsessed with maintaining this “perfect” physique. A narcissistic attitude takes over. We believe our body is something to be worshiped by those who hate their own bodies. We don’t understand how some people just don’t “get with it” and aren’t in love with fitness and health like we are.

But perhaps the overwhelming majority are those in the middle:

These folks have a love/hate relationship with their body. They struggle just like everyone else with maintaining their weight but they don’t obsess over it. They “watch” their diet but they don’t write down what they eat and they most certainly don’t count calories. They like what they see in the mirror but they don’t love it. There’s always room for improvement but they probably only get to the gym once or twice a month.

 

If there’s one thing all of these people have in common, it’s that they see their bodies as Objects. Things. Possessions.

But what if you looked at your body as a way to tell a story. How?

Simple: How you live your life through your body tells your story.

You can either tell a good, honest story, or a story of lies and deception.

Some examples:

I’m a smoker and I go to my doctor for a checkup. The doctor tells me that I’m showing all the signs of lung cancer and that I had better cut back or quit on the smoking if I want to live longer. Meanwhile, let’s pretend this is the 50’s and he lights up a cigarette after telling me this. That would be lying with his body.

Or:

I go to a used car salesmen to try and find a good deal. He sells me this great looking car, I take it for a test drive, the price is right and I drive off the lot but not before he shakes my hand and tells me I made a great decision. Meanwhile, he goes back to his desk and laughs to himself because he knows he just sold me a lemon. By shaking my hand and sincerely telling me I made a great purchase, he lied with is body, as well as his words.

Or:

In the gym, let’s say I take some video demonstrating an exercise or I take a few pictures to put up on my website. When someone asks me how I manage to be so strong or in such great shape, I tell them “Hard work!” but in the meantime, I’m taking some performance enhancing drugs or steroids. I would be lying with my body.

So how do we use our body to tell the truth?

I think the most obvious example, for me personally, is posting my progress pictures. (I know I’m in need of posting updated ones). But you’ll always notice I never even add so much as a filter to the pictures. I let it all hang out, I don’t do any re-touching. I merely admit that I get a spray tan to cover up some minor “flaws” that I’m honest about.

Other ways we tell lies and how to tell the truth:

You see someone at the gym using a piece of equipment completely incorrectly to the point that they are probably going to injure themselves or someone else. Lying with our bodies would be to say nothing and walk away knowing full well we know how to help them. (I am guilty of this).  Telling the truth would obviously going over and explaining what to do to that person so they won’t hurt themselves again.

(I avoid confrontation because I’m intimidated by people sometimes. If I took my own advice, I would see that I don’t need to be afraid to let someone know they are using their bodies to HARM or cause an injury.)

Or:

We see some good looking person at the gym and we want to show off a little bit. So we grab a set of heavier dumbbells (Men do this ALL the time, I am convinced) and lift just a little heavier than we normally do. We know we cannot and shouldn’t be lifting this heavy but we really want to catch someone’s attention. That’s lying with your body. Even if you manage to get a few reps out, you’re deceiving others by making it appear that you are stronger than you are.  Don’t be a hero Johnny. Stick to your usual weights.

With diet and food this is much easier to slip up and lie. How?

Let’s say you’re on a diet. Let’s say you actually signed up for sessions with a personal trainer. And let’s say you know that since your trainer/friends can’t see you every minute of the day, you take it upon yourself to sneak a few “cheats” in here and there. After all, no one will know! But you made a commitment to be true to yourself. To be true to your body and try to stick to this diet or this workout plan. And you know full well that “cheating,” even once in a while, is going to make your trainer look bad, it’s going to make you feel worse and it’s and not going to help your health. This is one of the more common “lies” we tell with our bodies. When asked, “Did you indulge this weekend at all?” and we answer, “Of course not! I was “good!” we lie right to our own faces/trainer/people who care about us and want us to succeed.  When it comes time to step on the scale, you can’t act surprised when it’s not where it should be.

 

Start to think of your body as more than just this “thing” you have to deal with and work at and drag around. It’s who you are.

You are telling a story every minute of the day with your body.

What kind of story are you telling and what would you want people to remember about it?

 

 

And the Spirit is Truth

1 John 5:1-6

Beloved:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God,
and everyone who loves the Father
loves also the one begotten by him.
In this way we know that we love the children of God
when we love God and obey his commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome,
for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and blood.
The Spirit is the one that testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.

I had the privilege of reading this passage from the first letter of Saint John yesterday at Divine Mercy Sunday mass. It stuck with me most of the day as I thought about these beautiful words. Each line is so important and so inspiring. You can reflect easily on just one sentence to take with you throughout your day.

One line in particular is interesting to me because I heard it spoken by Catholic Speaker Patty Schneier in her talk, “Prove it, God!…He did!” 

She laments over the line “And his commandments are not burdensome…” In fact, she did think that some of his commandments were burdensome and thus, struggled to find herself thinking otherwise. But after a few weeks of prayerful reflection every morning and encountering the book “Good News about Sex and Marriage” by Christopher West, she concluded that his commandments are not burdensome. (She was speaking specifically about the sin of contraception). She was just looking at them through a stubborn lens. After reading more about the Catholic Church and the Catechesis, she discovered a whole other world and changed her mind completely about particular commandments that she had found once to be “old fashioned” and “silly.” So when I read that line I pictured and heard Patty’s voice coming through and I was so glad she had changed her mind about this.

But the conclusion is also very poignant. “The Spirit is truth.”

Yes, the Spirit is the one that testifies, that speaks the truth. Jesus Christ is this truth. I think it’s easy to forget this in our secular life. We go searching for the truth when it’s been right in front of us all along. We might be stubborn, we might feel set in our ways, we might not want to know the truth. But there it is:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6

Fit in Your Faith Today: What “truth” are you struggling to believe? What commandments do you find burdensome? How can you look at the commandments or seek the truth through a different “lens?”

Fix Your Thoughts on What is True

Philippians 4:8

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

What we put into our mind determines what comes out in our words and actions. Paul tells us to program our mind with thoughts that are true, honorable, pure, lovely, right and admirable.

Do you have problems with focusing your mind on honorable and true things? Examine what you are putting into your mind through television, social media, books, music, movies, magazines, conversations, etc. What kind of information is being communicated to you?

Is this information harmful to you? Is it negative? Ask yourself if it’s even true? Is it even worthy of your time to think and daydream such things? Replace this input with better thoughts. Godly thoughts. Positive thoughts. Above all, read God’s Word and pray. Ask God to help you focus your mind on what is good and praiseworthy.

This won’t happen overnight. This takes a long time to get this thought process down. But with prayer and practice, it can happen.

Fit In Your Faith Today: What harmful thoughts have entered your mind? Do you start your day with these thoughts? Get started on the right foot and read God’s words instead of words of the secular world. Read and think thoughts that are helpful, not harmful.

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.