God and Backseat Drivers


Psychologists tell us that backseat drivers, folks who find it necessary to give unnecessary, unwanted advice in the car and elsewhere, are really just expressing their own insecurities, lack of faith in others,  or reaction to feeling powerless.  Many of us have been the victims of such people, both in the car and in life, and it is no understatement to say that such people can be irritating, annoying, and even dangerous.

The expression “backseat driver” of course, has expanded beyond the automobile to include people who obsessively mistrust, find it necessary to control or judge, or think that they have all the right answers.  Consequently, such people tend to feel that the one in perceived control of the situation, be it a driver, manager, or other, does not always know what he or she is doing.

The question is, are we God’s backseat drivers?   Do we poke our nose in God’s Will, questioning where He is taking us and why?

A Little Faith Goes a Long Way

We can talk a good talk about trusting God with our affairs, problems, and concerns, but the proof is in the pudding, not the meddling.  First, we need to humbly and sincerely ask God to help us.  Second, we need to follow that request for help with true trust that God knows what He is doing in our lives. Lastly, we need to respectfully and obediently step out of the way and let Him do the driving.

Too many times, we pray asking for our way at our time, and write off the prayer as unanswered if we do not get our way.  Absurd as it seems, how many times do we micromanage the Manager of the Universe?  It is a contradiction to pray the Our Father asking God to follow our instructions, guidelines, and preferences to the tee.

Locus of Control

Locus of control is a psychological concept referring to where people feel that the control in their lives is found.   This society promotes an internal locus of control, wherein folks feel empowered to guide their lives, as the sign of a healthy, responsible, and ultimately successful person.  Conversely, this society paints having an external locus of control as being a weak, irresponsible, rationalizing loser who plays the role of victim all the time. Where society has this locus of control thing wrong is in how locus is used.

While it is true that using an external locus of control to play the victim, avoid responsibility, and blame everybody else for one’s issues is wrong and destructive, it is also true that using an internal locus of control to bully, manipulate, intimidate, judge, and project our insecurities on others can be just as harmful.  Thus, how one uses an internal or external locus of control is more important than merely having one or the other. Using either one for selfish reasons is wrong, and using either one to bring glory to and obey God as well as love others is right.

Proactive vs. Reactive

Proactive people make things happen, and reactive people wait for things to happen to them.  Needless to say, proactive types are normally associated with an internal locus of control and, conversely, reactive types are commonly viewed as tending to have an external locus of control.

Most of the time, being proactive is better than being reactive. However, there are times when we should step back, process what is happening, and then react to that, as opposed to just blindly jumping into every situation  swinging like some crazed, self-perceived super hero.

Once again, society oversimplifies the relationship between locus of control and being proactive or reactive.   It assumes that having an internal locus of control is akin to being proactive and, conversely, that having an external locus of control parallels with being reactive. While this may often be true, it is not always so and, beyond that, the good and bad of all of this is not so clear cut either.

Our Way and Sin

If you think about it, sin is really selfishly doing things our way regardless of what we should know that God wants.  Claiming that we think God wants this or that, based purely on our own subjective, biased agenda, is playing make-believe morality.  Likewise, pretending that we do not know what God wants, without making a concerted, sincere, and legitimate effort to discern that Will, is purposeful moral fraud.

The Key and Bridge

The key to all of this is to be purposeful in seeking and trying to actualize God’s Will as found in Scripture, Christ’s example and teachings,  and our own constantly developing conscience.  Once we are trying to function within that Divine Will, we must remain purposeful in carrying it through while becoming reactive in allowing God to speak to and through us.

God does not want us to be babbling moral idiots, spewing excuses or fawning mindless, oblivious adorations we do not feel. Neither does He want us to be insolent backseat drivers, bullying and questioning everything that happens in our lives like irritated accountants counting pegs or measuring perceived wins and losses on some ledger. Sincere prayer,  honest reflection, and purposeful meditation and study often help us to balance the purpose, reaction, and locus of control in our lives.

Conclusion

Each of us is riding a life taxi to our ultimate destination.  We can either ask God to achieve His Will through our proactive efforts and reactive trust, or we can rant and rave about where our taxi should be going and why. Ultimately, we must each ask ourselves how much we trust the Divine Driver of our life taxi and how sincerely we accept and want Him to take us home…His way.

 

 

 

2016  Gabriel Garnica

Divine Mercy: The Ultimate Mulligan


I do not play golf, but an old friend of mine does and, one time, when I asked him what his score was, he asked me, “Which one, the real one or the one with mulligans?”  Confused, I asked him what a mulligan was, and he told me that, in informal golf among buddies, opponents sometimes allow an unfortunate golfer who has just made a poor shot an extra stroke, not counting that poor shot in the scorecard.  Obviously, such an action would be grounds for disqualification in a real golf tournament, and would never be allowed in an “official” round of golf.

Imagine a baseball player being allowed an extra strike, a basketball player given an extra foul shot, or a football kicker being given an extra chance to hit a winning field goal.  None of these things would ever be allowed in the world of sports, because they would be called cheating and unfair.  However, Heaven does not play by our rules, and Jesus loves us so much that His rules often make no sense at all to anyone who believes in “playing by the rules.”

The Story: Words and Image

Many years ago, in the early 20th century in Poland, Jesus appeared to a humble, un-educated  nun named Sister Faustina, who is now a saint. He asked her to write down everything He said, and to have an image of how He appeared to her created for all to venerate and appeal to.  She wrote His words in notebooks, which were converted into her diary, which is now sold all over the world in many languages.  The image she had created is now venerated across the globe by millions of Catholics.  I have personally attended a gathering of over 20,000 people at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts on Divine Mercy Sunday, which has been designated as the Sunday after Easter Sunday. The beautiful image is of Christ with His left hand over His heart, from which  red and white rays emanate. The red ray symbolizes His precious blood that saves us, and the white ray symbolizes the waters of Baptism. Devotion to Divine Mercy includes the recitation of a Chaplet, usually said at 3pm, the hour of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, which is designated as the hour of Divine Mercy.  John Paul II was the strongest promoter and supporter of this lovely devotion, and it is no coincidence that Sister Faustina was canonized on his watch.

The Message:  Contrition, Trust, Faith, and Love

Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos once said that “No one was ever lost because his sin was too great, but because his trust was too small.”  The Message of Divine Mercy is simply that  Jesus loves us infinitely more than we can possibly hurt Him. Because of this infinite love, Our Lord will always give mulligans to those who come to Him in sincere contrition and sorrow for their sins, and with a true intention to change their ways, as well as forgive others. We may not understand such an endless willingness to forgive, but that is only because we have never truly experienced such an endless desire to love.  In short, God’s love and mercy does not play by our rules, because the only rules that count are those created and applied by God.

Gabriel Garnica, 2016

Christian Feet


We are aware that the Last Supper is a transcendental event in the history of our Church, marking the Institution of the Holy Mass and the establishment of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  While all four Gospels describe parts of the Last Supper, only the Gospel of John ( 13:2-7) describes the Washing of the Feet, whereby the Priesthood was established with the Disciples becoming the first priests in following Christ’s powerful example of humble, loving service.  Focusing on this beautiful part of the Last Supper, we may use the phrase Love Christ Always as a way to remember three points made here.

Language

There are over 50 phrases in the English language which involve the feet or legs, expressing positive, negative, or neutral concepts that may serve as reminders regarding what being a true Christian is all about.

We call ourselves Christians, but do we drag our feet to help others, sidestep standing up for our Faith instead of stepping forward, or walk on eggs because we are more concerned with offending others than with offending God?  Do we often put our foot in our mouth by speaking for ourselves and not God?  Do we dip our toes in our faith instead of jumping in with both feet?  Do we keep others on their toes by challenging them to be closer to Christ?  Do we shoot ourselves in the foot by not practicing what we preach, or do we always try to put our best foot forward, standing firmly on what we believe and being willing to walk the walk instead of just talk the talk?

Cleansing

We are all aware of the ancient practice of foot washing, a custom made necessary by the fact that people wore sandals or were even barefoot resulting in very dirty feet.  It was customary for the lowest servant of the host’s household to wash the feet of visitors.  This punctuated Christ’s powerful example of humble service and disarmed any argument that we need not humble ourselves to reach out to others following Christ’s model.

While some scholars believe that the washing of the feet came after the meal itself, most scholars agree that it occurred either before or during the event, but most certainly before the actual breaking of the bread and blessing of the bread and wine.  Is this cleansing before partaking of Christ’s Body and Blood not parallel to confession before Communion?

If we think about it, the washing of the feet required obvious humility by the one washing, but also required some humility on the part of the one being washed, since it was an admission that the feet were, indeed, in need of washing.  Does not confession require humility on the one being cleansed of sin, since it demands an admission of sinfulness?  Just as Christ washed the soles of the feet at the Last Supper, so too He washes the souls in defeat at confession!

Action

The final point to be made here is by no means the least important.  In fact, some may argue that it is the real point of this entire discussion. A popular interpretation of John 17:14-19 where Our Lord says that His followers are “not of the world” is that Christians should be in the world but not part of it.  Many have wrongly seen this as suggesting that Christians seeking salvation have no choice but to tolerate the unpleasant moral dirt of this world but should try to isolate themselves from it so as to not be tainted by this world’s pathetic moral state.

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. We only need to see the example of Christ, who was born in dirt and died in dirt, whose entire life was a series of humiliations, and who spent His entire ministry reaching out to the most wretched segments of society in love.  Would we have asked Mother Teresa to stay away from the terrible poverty, squalor, and odor that she embraced on a daily basis in loving service?  So, we see, that the true Christian will surely get his or her feet very dirty, both in personal sin and in the grime of this world.  True Christians, being human, will sin and need confession to cleanse their souls. They will also serve the most unpleasant and need cleansing of this good dirt only found in following Christ’s example.

As the Parable of the Talents vividly reminds us, the only way that we will give God a return on His investment in us is by going out and making a difference in a very dirty world, and certainly not by hiding in a church or under a bed lest we become tainted by the moral squalor around us.

Conclusion

As we consider The Last Supper, let us remember the Washing of the Feet, whereby Christ reminds us that we can only return home to Heaven by being willing to walk outside of our comfort zone and take Christ to others in a very morally dirty world.  Being a true Christian is not only about playing one in Church, where we recite liturgical scripts and prayers only to go home and keep our feet as clean as possible.  Ultimately, as saints like St. Paul and Mother Teresa so vividly demonstrated, being a true follower of Christ is about walking the walk to the very foot of the Cross. As St.Therese, The Little Flower, taught us, we must bear the scars of fighting for our Faith when we present ourselves before God, and that includes very, very dirty feet spent serving others in love.

Gabriel Garnica, 2016

 

 

Backbiting: The Silent Assassin of Souls


WordpressBackbiting

Of all the sins that we all fall into from time to time, certainly backbiting, the ultimate sin of the tongue, may be the most insidious.  Backbiting is simply speaking about others behind their backs.  The implication, of course, is that we are not speaking about that person’s wonderful traits or actions but, more than likely, their perceived faults.

Slander is most often used to describe lies spoken about others which hurt their reputation or good name. It is clear that spreading lies about others is a serious sin, and most people would admit to that.  However, backbiting does not care whether what is said is false or true.  The mere act of spreading anything even remotely negative about another behind their back is wrong because such an act harms three souls and the environment in which such a sin is committed.  First, backbiting harms the reputation of the one spoken about, and does so without giving that victim any recourse or means of responding to the claim. Some will claim that where the so-called victim has committed an evil or wrong act, there is no reputation or good name to care about.  However, that is not our decision to make. Like so many sins, we get into spiritual and, by extension, eternal, trouble any time we start making ourselves judge and jury of what is or is not proper and moral.  When we hear of something negative about a person, we should simply pray for them and stop the spread of the rumors right there. Let us not throw gasoline on a raging fire and claim that the fire was already set before we added our contribution!

Secondly, backbiting harms the souls of any who hear our words because it exposes them to not only the harmful information but, just as importantly, it infects their ears and minds with negativity about that person through our gleeful efforts.  Those who hear us are thus tempted to continue the process and, through human nature and weakness plus the implication of our actions, the listeners are encouraged to spread the harmful news as well.

Third, backbiting harms the environment in which it is spread because it creates the impression that people can be torn apart by words behind their backs, and that there are those in the situation that have the right to point fingers at others which, by implication, implies that those pointing fingers are not guilty themselves of some or most of what they are accusing others of doing.  We should create and enforce a zero tolerance for backbiting in our lives, and in that way we will be spreading God’s love and charity instead of the devil’s hate and evil.

Finally, of  course, backbiting endangers the soul and salvation of the one backbiting.  It would truly be a tragedy is we did our best to be clear of all sins commonly discussed, yet fall because we fail to discuss and avoid backbiting.  Many saints have stated that we will be ordered to make restitution for the harm our tongues has created, be it on this earth or after our death, in one way or another.  It seems to me that we should start by avoiding and then make sure we do our best to dismantle the backbiting we have turned into a past time.

2016  Gabriel Garnica

 

 

 

 

Journey of a Soul, Chapter 1, Section 3


We read of how ancient civilizations would worship many gods, and we call this worship pantheism.  We approach these people with a curious sarcasm.  On one hand, we marvel at how they seemed to worship so many things yet, on the other hand, we smirk at precisely that seeming desire to deify everything.  How foolish and exaggerated they may seem to us!  After all, if you make a god out of everything, do you not end up with no god at all?  We feel the frustration one feels when asking a friend to choose a favorite Broadway show, only to receive the answer of ten favorite shows.  Cannot this person rank, choose, or at least prioritize anything? It almost seems like a cop out, an excuse for not choosing at all, yet having the luxury of pretending to choose at all.

However, I suggest that we have never left the quaint halls of pantheism, that we are no better, and probably at lot worse, than those ancients who made cows, birds, the wind, the sea, and who knows what else into gods.  So-called modern faith is suffering from a relentless slide into the slippery slope which employs a sinister ignorance in the service of a deeper evil.  It begins by cleverly shifting from a loving God to a merciful God to a compassionate God to a non-judgmental God and, finally, to a happy God no matter what we do.

In fact, in a devilishly fiendish ploy, this modern moral cancer manages to worship such a compassionate and merciful God, to the increasingly subtle exclusion of a tough love God, that we are eventually left with nothing but a God who accepts everything, no matter what, in an unconditional embrace.  I suggest that this form of rationalization, of respecting so much that all respect is lost, is a pantheism worse than that practiced by the ancients.

In order to embrace and respect everything, you have to indirectly and subtly view everything as worthy of embracing and respecting to its full.  The notion of absolute truths and clear standards and measures of behavior contradicts this relentless drive to avoid judgment, to respect and thus embrace increasingly wide swaths of conduct.  In short, when we dilute God in a sea of smiles and winks, and in a pool of subjective notions of what is right, do we not worship all of the divergent paths and principles equally with God, for how else could we rationally justify giving equal weight to all of these different approaches and codes of conduct?

I propose then, that we have not outgrown the pantheism practiced by the ancients. Rather, we have merely morphed it into an infinitely more subtle, subjective, selfish, arrogant, presumptuous, insolent, self-absorbed, and rationalized version of that very same pantheism.  While the ancient pantheism we mock worships something beyond oneself, we worship self.   While that practice at least bowed to a higher power beyond self, we firmly grasp all power in ourselves.   While the ancients at least respected the idea that a higher power could determine and guide them, our higher power is ourselves and we determine that we need no guidance beyond our own vision and insight.

Our present pantheism is the worship of everything we wish, believe, and plan, to the point of total exclusion of Almighty involvement.  Nothing is wrong as long as we have a good reason for doing it and, since we make the reasons, our reasons are always good.  At the end of the day, and our lives, however, the tragic part is that, in our drive to guide our own destiny through our own means, we may ultimately doom ourselves to an eternal visit, warts and all,  with the very self that we worship.

2016  Gabriel Garnica

 

Journey of a Soul, Chapter 1, Section 2


Sin is self-hate, precisely because it is the conscious or unconscious rejection of God’s love.  We inherently know that God is perfection and love, and that everything that comes from God is therefore all perfect and good.  If something or someone we perceive as coming from God is seemingly imperfect or not good, it is only because we are wrong in thinking that said thing or person comes from God or, on the contrary, because that person or thing does come from God and we are just not seeing that person or thing as we should.

Many people seek the win lotteries, and ask God for the right numbers to win that money. However, we also know that many lottery winners end up doomed because of their win, and often come to regret winning.  Still others suffer harm as a result of winning, or perhaps doom themselves in falling to the temptations which only their prior lack of funds previously prevented.  Thus, what we perceive as a good, winning, may actually be the worst thing that could happen to us and so, what we perceive as a good from God becomes a bad which will not come from God.

Suppose someone comes into our life to stop us from an addiction. While we may see that person as meddling in our affairs and annoying, that person may actually come from God to help us. Therefore, we can conclude that, while God is all love and all good, our relative perception and appreciation of that fact can often be far from accurate.

Since God is all love and all good, then it stands to reason that He is all mercy as well, for His unconditional and perfectly just love would lead to a mercy beyond our own human capacity to understand or appreciate.  In fact, it is a fairly certain fact that we would be far less merciful with ourselves and others than God is with us, not to mention far less patient.

The devil, who is the embodiment of rejection of God’s love, no longer wanted to serve but to be served, and came to see himself as deserving to be more than God.   When one rejects God and looks to become one’s own god, one inherently rejects God’s perfect love in favor of one’s twisted self-love.  What is ironic, however, is that self-love without God is actually self-hate because any love without God cannot be love at all but, rather, its opposite, which is hate.

The devil is master of lies, and the last thing he wants is for us to embrace our inherent goodness and sacred mission to be saints in service of God.  He wants us to see such a mission as misguided, foolish, impossible, delusional, and even counterproductive. The devil wants us to see ourselves as unfit for God’s team and, therefore, more fit for the devil’s team.  That second team, however, like all of the devil’s lies, is based more on  hate than love.  The devil wants us to sabotage our inherent goodness through sin in much the same way as a student encouraged by parents to study more to raise a B to a seemingly impossible A might fail exams to excuse himself as incapable of that A with all of its apparent expectations and burdens.

God’s Divine Mercy tells us that we should love and trust God so much that we will gladly dare to seek God, to rediscover God, despite the fact that we do not deserve God through our imperfection and sin.  In the end, serving God is more about allowing Him to use us as very imperfect tools of love instead of obsessing one whether we deserve to be His tools in the first place. The less we love ourselves, the less we will hate ourselves, and the more we will be able and free to love and serve God and others.

Copyright, Gabriel Garnica 2016

Journey of a Soul, Chapter 1 Section 1


We are all as travelers on a long journey, seeking to return home, to the very core of our nature. However, we are hampered in this regard by three obstacles.  First, our very own preoccupation with ourselves for, try as we may, and pretend as we wish, we cannot shake the eternal truth that we are consistent in mainly one wrong, which is an over-emphasis and preoccupation with ourselves.  At some level we know that humility is proximity to Christ and, perhaps, we even acknowledge that Christ and His Heavenly Mother are perfect models of that very same humility.  If the Son of God and the Mother of God can be models of humility, then how is it that we, infinitely less deserving and quite defective on many levels, can ever dare to be any less? No, rather than embracing humility, we instead choose to embrace everything and anything which shines the best light on ourselves, and which clothes us in praise and recognition.  The fact remains, however, that we cannot embrace the cross as a follower  of Christ if we are too busy embracing our own photos and trophies are representations our own daily brand of self-worship.

The second obstacle in our journey toward Heaven is closely related to the first.  Namely, that we tend to view the Will of God through our own self-obsession.  If something enhances our self-perception, we tend to judge that thing well and even seek to do that thing ourselves.  Similarly, we evaluate any action, thought, or endeavor as to how well that action or activity tends to enhance our self-generated, earthly-garnished, perception of ourselves.  Our definition of an answered prayer is a prayer which results in precisely what we wish fairly precisely as we wish it.  It never occurs to us that our prayers may be answered when we fail to receive what we are praying for.

The third obstacle in our journey is our obsession with public opinion.   Herein we spend much of our time and money worrying about what others may think or will think of what we do.  Assuming that what is good is what most people favor is typical public opinion belief.  The sooner we realize the folly of this obsession with the view of others, the better  off we will be.  The saints and other spiritual models were never preoccupied with what others believed or opined about them but, rather, only what and how God sees them.

As we begin this journey together, let us resolve to detach ourselves from the opinions or favoritism of this world, and only seek what has value in Heaven.

Copyright, Gabriel Garnica  2015.