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 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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IgnitumToday: Another Path to Holiness

English: Holy Family, Mary, Joseph, and child ...

Today, I direct you to one of my favorite blogs called Ignitum Today, where I was welcomed to submit a guest post.  Ignitum Today is a multi-blogger site that cover topics relevant to the younger generation of the Catholic Church.  The site features many talented writers, such as Brandon Vogt which is one of my favorite, published authors. 

With much excitement, I submitted a post on how the Holy Family can teach us to become holy ourselves.  You can find the article here

There are many different paths to holiness– a person does not have to be a nun or a priest to become a saint.  Do you have examples of ‘average’ people becoming a saint?  Any particular person, Catholic or non, alive or dead, who inspires you?  Share in the comments.

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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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The Meaning of Advent

Lëtzebuergesch: Adventskranz um drëtten Advent...

In the Catholic mass, Advent has been our focus ever since November 27th.  We have had bible readings and homilies, the churches are decked in with purple, and there’s a call to repentance and to “prepare a way for the Lord”.  But what does Advent really mean?

Here is a list outlining the different meanings of Advent.

  1. Dictionary.com defines advent as: “a coming into place, view, or being; arrival; the coming of Christ into the world; the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, observed in commemoration of the coming of Christ into the world; Second Coming”. [1]
  2. Most obviously it is the season of preparation for the anniversary of Christ’s birthday. We consider the annunciation by the angel Gabriel to Mary; Mary’s acceptance of the Lord’s will; the Holy Spirit preparing her womb to be immaculate to receive Christ; the birth of Jesus. [2]
  3. It is also the season of rigorous preparation for the Second Coming of Christ into the world. For this, we consider John the Baptist and his cry to make straight a path for the Lord; the Prophet Isaiah’s encouragement for all to be vigilant in prayer and to recognize the signs of the coming of Christ. [3] We should always be preparing for the Second Coming of Christ for we do not know the day or the hour of his coming; however, this is the season to renew the effort and refresh ourselves in the mysteries of our God.
  4. Lastly, it is the season of preparation for the “third” coming of Christ, namely the descent of the Holy Spirit and the dwelling of the Lord in our own flesh. [2]  Upon baptism (and confirmation for the Catholics), the Holy Spirit enters into us and lives with us.  Advent is the time of the year when we should slow down and consider our lives, how we have been living it with the Holy Spirit, and how we can do better.

When I read this list, my heart almost sunk to my stomach.  There is so much that we do during this season—Christmas shopping, parties, decorating, baking, big meals, and so forth—and yet according to the Church, this is a very important season of spiritual growth.  Advent is already half over.  If you are like me, the list above is daunting to add on top of everything else.

We must remember that we are still in the season, and there is still time to focus on what really matters.  Even if we just take a few minutes a day to read a little scripture, to say a quick prayer, or to listen to Advent music or lectures in the car.  It does not take much to re-focus our lives this season.  My next posts will cover the list above and easy ways to incorporate the meaning of Advent in our lives.

Remember:  Advent may be officially celebrated during these four weeks, but it really should be celebrated every day of our lives.  [3]

References

[1] Definition of Advent, Dictionary.com 
[2] See Advent’s Meaning Through Mary, Pope Benedict XVI, Catholic Culture 
[3] Our Whole Life Should Be An ‘Advent’, Pope John Paul II, Catholic Culture 

Additional Reading

Advent: The Divine Silence Broken by Bellaverita blog
Advent – Luke 1:47-55 Mary’s Magnificent Response by Praying the Lectionary blog
Devotions for Advent Week 3 Tuesday Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13 Matthew 11:1-6 by Broad Meadow blog
Considering Eternity by Mark Mathia blog

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