Category Archives: Theology

The Hidden Meaning of ‘Self-Gift’

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St. George self-gifting all up on the dragon.

In a recent homily, my priest said that the problem with marriages these days is the lack of self-gift. “Nobody knows how to say ‘No’ to self for the sake of the other,” he said. If only husbands and wives could live for one another, so many issues would be resolved.

The concept is familiar: If we want to make relationships work, we must deny our own needs and wants, and instead satisfy the needs and wants of the other. Love, it is said, is the gift of self, which means sacrifice, which these days means denying oneself for the good of others.

My priest gave the ultimate example: Christ died for the Church, and we are called to be Christ-like.

Although this is a familiar refrain, the thought struck me with remarkable force that day. Was my priest saying that we are to die for our spouses? Is that the only way we can be Christ-like in marriage? Granted, it would be quite romantic in a Romeo-and-Juliet kind of way, but it wouldn’t be very practical. If we all died for our spouses, there would be no spouses and therefore no Church to celebrate Christ’s salvation. Continue reading

The Efficacy of Prayer

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In a small town in the American Middlewest, a young boy is diagnosed with terminal cancer. His church community rallies together to pray for his healing. Three months later, doctors find no signs of cancer; he has been completely healed. The church community celebrates the apparent miracle—the power of prayer saved this little boy’s life!

In a similar situation, in another small town in the American Middlewest, another young boy is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Likewise, his church community rallies together to pray for his healing. Three months later, the little boy dies.

What is the difference between the two scenarios? In both cases, a child has a terminal disease and, in both cases, a large church community gathers to pray for the boy’s healing. Why is it that one boy lives and the other doesn’t? Did the second group not pray as hard? Did they pray incorrectly? In either case, did prayer work?

These are hypothetical scenarios, but the reader is sure to be familiar with these kinds of stories. A disaster happens, someone comes upon hard times, a friend comes down with a terrible disease. No matter what, we are encouraged to pray, the assumption being that the act of prayer will help to bring about a positive outcome in the situation.

When it ends the way that we want, we rejoice in the power of prayer. Of course, when it doesn’t end positively, or when something completely unexpected occurs, we say that it wasn’t God’s will and find some sort of meaning in what does happen.

While this is a comforting approach for some, it leaves many questions on the table. It can be misleading and, as a result, might end up hurting more than it comforts. A reassessment is called for.

Continue reading

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Virgin and Child

2016
Oil and Gold Leaf on Canvas
5″ x 8″
SOLD

How a ‘Personal Relationship with Jesus’ Steers Us Away from Jesus

I was recently at a talk on Catholic New Evangelization and the speaker began with a provocative question: What is our central goal and purpose as Catholics?

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A little personal relationship action in Ben-Hur.

After giving the audience a little time to consider, the speaker provided us with the answer: To have a personal relationship with Jesus. According to him, it was the only thing we need, and without it our spiritual lives could never be fulfilled.

Now, this hadn’t been the first time I had heard about the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus. It has always been popular with Protestants, and lately it has become a standard bearer for Catholics as well. But it struck me as odd that it should be considered to be the entire goal and purpose of our faith. Is that really what Christianity is all about? Isn’t a personal relationship a little lacking when considering the awe and glory of God? What does it mean to have a personal relationship with Jesus anyway? Continue reading