Growing Apologist

Becoming a Defender of Truth

The Gospel Challenge

Did you know that there are approximately 35 pages in the Book of Mathew, 22 pages in the Book of Mark, 37 pages in the Book of John and 28 pages in the Book of Luke [1]?  All in all, approximately 122 pages which is less than the size of paperback novels these days.  I don’t know about you, but it takes me about half a day to sit down and read the average paperback novel, and I do this once or twice a month. 

St. Jerome, who lived from 331 to 420 [2], is commonly quoted as saying “To be ignorant of the Scriptures is to be ignorant of Christ! [3]”  Read the rest of this entry »

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Learn All About Prayer From Jesus

Now that we have covered the high level of what prayer is, who can pray, and why, when and where we should pray, one major question remains. How do we pray? It seems like such a simple thing—just talk to God—and yet I feel no shame in asking this question as it is the very question that the disciples of Jesus asked of him.

From Microsoft OfficeIn the book of Mathew, when the disciples ask of Jesus how to pray, Jesus gives them the prayer of Our Father. The disciples were faithful Jews. They were taught at a young age how to pray, with formal and memorized prayers, in synagogues and the temple, and by the priests. Yet something they saw in the way Jesus prayed prompted them to ask him to teach them. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Underestimated Holy Spirit

I don’t know about you, but I know something about me… I underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. My first step towards Christianity as a Protestant was my belief in Jesus. I was still not quite right with God, but I was headed in the right direction. At that time, I believed that God was a very unkind God (the Old Testament was my proof—He wasn’t very nice to his chosen people. I know now that they had it coming to them as they just refused to listen) and the Holy Spirit was just this odd, third entity that I recognized as important, but less important than both God and Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is not at all less important in the Trinity, nor should he be any less respected. I could be totally off base here, but I think that as Protestants and Catholics (perhaps the majority of Christian believers), we put more emphasis on Jesus and on God and tend to remember the Holy Spirit as an afterthought. However, we must remember that the Holy Spirit does not come third to the Father and the Son, but is the third person of God. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Five W’s of Prayer: Part 2

Praying Angel

This is a continuation of the series of posts on prayer, in particular The Five W’s of Prayer: Part 1.  See also the introductory post, In His Holy Name.

“Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer in the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God.” (Catholic Catechism 2725)

Previously, I asserted that prayer should be easy and natural, but thanks to Adam and Eve, it isn’t. In our sinfulness—our shame and guilt—prayer has become a difficult thing to do. Yet it, is a necessary and a good wholesome response to God’s love and a reflection of our own love for God and his commandments. We can read the bible, study his word and tradition, go to church, and perform acts of charity and mercy, but if we do not pray, there is no point to it. There is no relationship with God without prayer. The Catholic Church (and other sects of Christianity of course) knows this and knows that the tempter knows this. That is what makes prayer a ‘determined response on our part’ and ‘a battle’—for if we can be stopped from praying, nothing we can do will bring us to God or impart God’s grace in our lives and our hearts.

Before we can take up the shield and sword of God, let us take a moment to learn more about prayer, in particular the When and Where. The other three W’s (What, Who and Why) were covered in the first post here.

When Should We Pray?

“With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.” (Eph 6:18)

God gives us the aid of the Holy Spirit

Saint Paul directed us to pray without ceasing. By praying without ceasing, we welcome God to walk with us in our lives and establish our foundation in God. Prayer becomes a constant conversation with God. This is an easy thing to say, but perhaps a difficult thing to put into practice. There are many objections to prayer—no time, too many distractions, it is dry and boring, not being heard to name a few. I would be the first to admit the constant, ceaseless prayer is difficult at best, maybe even impossible. I would also propose that it is also very simple, all we have to do is ask for God’s help to make prayer a continuous practice, and in that way a prayer will make constant prayer possible through the Holy Spirit.

Some people pray only when the road becomes difficult, others pray only when the road becomes easy. As the Catholic Catechism beautifully states it, “We pray as we live, because we live as we pray it.” So the answer to when should we pray is clear; with the aid of the Holy Spirit, always, constantly, and without ceasing.

Where Should Prayer Happen?

“According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain.” (CC 2562)

The Immaculate Heart of Jesus

Just as our works are in vain without prayer, our prayer itself is in vain if it is just lip service. The bible speaks of this often, “The Lord said: Since this people draws near with words only and honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me, and their reverence for me has become routine observance of the precepts of men, therefore I will again deal with this people.” (Is 29: 13-14) While the Catechism asserts that the church is the proper and favorable place of prayer, as well as a sacred place in the home, monasteries, and shrines, the true place that prayer should happen is in our hearts. (CC 2691) As we see from Isaiah, it does not matter where our physical body is, if our spiritual body is far from God.

Let’s pray that God imparts the Holy Spirit upon us so that we can continuously pray with our hearts close to God!

References and Additional Reading

Catholic Catechism, available online

The Holy Bible, available online

Rahilly, Alfred. “Reason.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 1 Feb. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12673b.htm>.

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The Question of Free Will

Without free will, we would be like animals

I wonder why we were given free will. Intellectually, I understand—God gave us free will because he made us in his image. He made us to be rational, thinking human beings with the ability to make choices. If he had not given us free will, then we would not have been any different than an ape, a parrot or any other animal. We were purposefully given cognitive abilities, a soul, a beautiful home, and a question—will we choose to love God or not?

On some level or another, this makes sense to me intellectually. Until I look at my life, all of my mistakes and goof ups, the broken relationships, my love ones and their regrets, this sad, sad world, it is then that I no longer understand. Free will gives us the ability to choose, and sometimes we choose wrong, sometimes we choose right, sometimes we can’t tell if it’s wrong or right until many years later. And sometimes I wish that we didn’t have to choose at all because sometimes it isn’t as clear as black and white.

Free will seems to be the crux of humanity. Somehow it makes us beautiful and at the same time makes us the most dangerous being on earth. For with free will, we are given the ability to love one another at any time and the ability to take that love away at the drop of a pin. We are given the ability to make a mess of our lives and to hurt those closest to us.

What would have the Garden of Eden looked like?

It’s a pessimistic thought, really. Perhaps not totally Christ-like. And yet it is the truth. I wonder what it was like for Adam and Eve. They were not placed into a broken world, but into a beautiful world with beautiful relationships. They were naked in mind, body and spirit. Their lack of clothes not only showed the perfect union between Adam and Eve but also between them and God. What would it have been like to be totally naked before our spouse and our God—I’m not taking about physical nakedness but where we drop all of our guards, walls and masks to be in perfect union with one another and with God?

Unfortunately, free will ended that. Adam and Eve were graced before the fall with gifts of perfect unity, but when they listened to the serpent, that unity was broken. And unfortunately, it was broken for all. As a result, we have this sad world with dissent placed between husbands and wives, children and parents, best friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

It isn’t all pessimistic however. We were given a way out, one that God devised before Adam and Eve were removed from the garden. A woman and a man showed us that we can live in this broken world with free will and be in harmony with God and with one another. Where Eve used her free will to listen to the serpent, Mary used her free will to have faith in God. Where Adam chose not to stand up for God’s commandment, Jesus laid down his life. Both were given the same weaknesses as we have and both were able to use their lives for the good of all.

Jesus chose to sacrifice himself for us

Jesus and Mary set an example for us. It is like they are saying; look, free will isn’t just for us to destroy one another, but for us to use it for good. Despite my past, despite all that is broken due to poor choices, I find hope in this. I find optimism among the pessimism. After all, one cannot know white without knowing black, love without knowing hate, right without knowing wrong. One cannot know what it is like to be whole without knowing what it is like to be broken. And we would not know these things without free will. It is through Jesus and Mary, ultimately through God, that we are given hope.

I may not always understand or even like free will. Without it maybe we wouldn’t be such a sad world. But without it, we would not have known Jesus and Mary. Without it, we wouldn’t have the ability to know God. In this light, I suppose that I can accept free will—maybe only with a prayer that God grants us the wisdom to use it correctly.

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Busy? 9 Ideas on Celebrating Advent

Advent

This is my favorite time of the year. I love all of the decorations, the music, the parties and the preparation. While it is my favorite, many times I find myself dreading it. There is just so much that gets done in such a short time, and it leaves little room for other things. Unfortunately, often times those said other things happen to be Advent celebrations. I know that this is the time to be slowing down and renewing myself in the joys of Christ. Yet instead of doing that, I cram as many Christmas parties, dinners, shopping, and baking in the four weeks leading up to Christmas that any mention of making time for reflecting on Jesus makes me want to scream.

In an effort to save the ears of those around me (and around you for that matter), I have put together this list of nine simple ways to fit Christ into that busy Advent schedule.

Arrive Ten Minutes Earlier to Church

Just ten minutes earlier, that’s all it takes. Arrive to church a little early and spend a little time on your knees. Or if it takes an act in congress to get the family out the door on time much less early, stay ten minutes later to tell Jesus happy birthday.

Incorporate Inspiring Bible Verses in the Outgoing Christmas Cards

The Christmas cards need to be written anyways, why not add a bible verse to it? This will not only give you a little time to ponder the great miracles of God, but will help the person receiving the card to consider Jesus as well.

Send an Extra Christmas Card to Encourage a Missionary

And while you are writing those Christmas cards to all your love ones, drop in one more to thank a missionary for their work for God. It takes a special kind of person to spread the works of God in a foreign land, and as the body of Christ it is good for us to encourage one another to continue in the footsteps of Jesus.

Have Dinner by Candle Light

Jesus is the light of the world. Simply turn off the dining room lights and eat by candle light in commemoration of Jesus. The change in the atmosphere will naturally draw your mind and heart to Jesus.

Spend Three Minutes a Day to Read Scripture from here

I don’t know about you, but I check my email three million times a day. Take a moment before you close the web browser to read a little scripture organized to inspire you this Advent. Click here for the site.

Take the Scenic Route drive to Admire Christmas Lights

Use the drive home to slow yourself down for a little bit by taking a short detour through a neighborhood to admire the beauty in Christmas lights. Let it remind you of the beauty that God created.

Say a Prayer for Every Gift Wrapped

It doesn’t have to be a rosary or a very long complicated prayer. A quick, ‘Lord be with this person this Advent’ and ‘Thank you for your Love Jesus’ should be sufficient to pull your heart to the Father.

Decide to Let Go of One Event

This is the hardest thing to do, especially if you are a Type A personality like me, but the reality is maybe you and I just need to say no to one Christmas party, dinner, or shopping spree and stay home to give God a little more time.

Give God a Gift

I don’t mean a physical gift, but a gift of the spirit such as something that you have been struggling with. An example could be praying for someone you don’t like, forgiving a person for upsetting you, or not getting angry for that person cutting into the checkout line in front of you.

Conclusion

Advent should not be a burden, but a great joy—a season to examine our lives and to prepare for the coming of Christ. However, too often we lose the focus of Advent and get caught up in all of the social and commercial trappings of Christmas. At this point, Advent seems to take the back burner instead of being foremost in our hearts. With these nine simple ways, we can turn that around just by adjusting our inner focus and mindset.

How have you been incorporating Advent into your life this season? Do you have any additional ideas to add to this list? Help spread the joy of the season and comment below.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas postcard date unknown, circa 1900.

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Love Came Down

A reflection on love and relationships in light of Jesus

Holding Hands shadow on sand

If there is anything that I’m learning that is a matter of importance, it is that love is rough. It is one of the hardest things that a person can do, especially all giving love. I do not have any kids of my own. I am not married. But I have this man, whom I adore, and as I wait for him to present me with a ring, I realize that there will be never anything harder to do than always fully giving myself over to the love that is between us.

I struggle everyday to set aside my more difficult traits for him. I know that I could go to a jewelry store and find the perfect ring. I could get what I desire most, propose to him, and take care of it so that it would never plague me again. But I realize that this is not the love that we are supposed to have for each other. I am not even sure that it could be called love. It would be me pushing events in the manner and timing of my choosing merely because I couldn’t suffer waiting any longer. It would be taking the easy way out.

The love that we feel, between the BF and I, between the parent and the child, more importantly between husband and wife, it is a very minor reflection of God’s love and endurance for us. I have a hard time setting aside my controlling behaviors for the man I know very dearly, the man who I profess my love for. And yet Love came down from heaven with an even greater purpose—a purpose to redeem all of mankind—to suffer incredible pain that would have killed any other person time and again before they even reached the cross.

Jesus didn’t just love us. He was human, and yet he was able to set aside his humanity in order to do the Lord’s bidding. Jesus suffered greatly for us. He knew what was coming and he still did not run, push it aside, or take the easy way out, because he is love. Loving people and being in relationships is not easy at all, but we have an amazing intercessor that is willing to help us understand just what love endure. Who better to show us how to set aside our wants, desires and emotions for the well being of our love ones?

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