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

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Christ is The Best Math Teacher Ever…..Seriously.


Many folks look at math as an old enemy, still licking the wounds of distant brushes with word problems and equations that were never fully understood, much less solved. For others, math is a comfortable pair of slippers that bring warm and fuzzy memories of solving problems other students could never even figure out how to start tackling. I probably belonged, and still live, in a third, middle group, where math is a challenge sometimes but a defeated challenge in the end. Actually, I now like algebra much more than I did way back in high school. Perhaps I have finally found the handle of about as much math as I will ever be able to handle, or need, and that is OK by me.

I love putting together things that seemingly have nothing to do with each other, and figuring out ways that, in fact, they do have something to say to each other. Such is the case with math and faith for, at first glance, the only connection between a plus sign and a cross is that they look alike and many people tend to pray right before taking math tests.  Accepting the premise that math can be a motivator for prayer, I think that there is a lot more here than meets the eye, or the soul.

For starters, math is about adding and subtracting, and so is Christ’s message to us.  If we add graces and good works to our ledger while subtracting our sinfulness and destructive attitudes, we will be making a very positive investment in our spiritual future.  If, on the other hand, we add sinful behaviors and thoughts and subtract our love and concern for others in the process, we will be on our way toward a result far worse than the most difficult calculus exam ever was.

Christ tells us to subtract what takes us away from God, and add what brings us closer to God, and that is about as simple an equation as any salvation seeker can find. We are taught that, if approached properly, confession subtracts, not only our sins but, as Vinny Flynn tells us in his 7 Secrets of Confession, the root reasons for our sin, which is far more important.  Ultimately, our time, effort, priorities, mind, soul, and life itself are all fixed containers with only so much space. It is up to each of us to choose how we will allocate that space, either by adding or subtracting good works and intentions and, just as importantly, destructive works and intentions.

Christ also teaches us to share our blessings, time, and love with others which, by definition, requires us to divide our emotional, personal, financial, and temporal resources among those we wish to share with.  He promises, and demonstrates, that those who divide what they have out of love will watch Our Lord multiply their efforts many times over.  Is this not what He accomplished with the multiplication of the loaves and fish as well as at The Last Supper. In both cases, Our Lord divided in order to multiply.

I would like to close this mathematical foray into Our Lord’s example with three points. First, speaking of the multiplication of the loaves and fish, we are told that Christ asked His followers to search among the people for what food could be obtained. We are also told that thousands of people were present. It is not irrational or unrealistic to assume that, among all of those thousands, at least 10% brought some food of their own, which would mean that around 500, if not more, people had some kind of food available yet, from those hundreds, only one young boy  offered what little he had. Despite the utter selfishness of the situation where many refuse to share and only one does, Our Lord overcame that selfishness of the crowd, and used the boy’s generosity, to fashion a multiplication of blessings for all.

The second closing point to consider goes back to our comparison between a plus sign and the cross which, for all intents and purposes, are roughly the same geometric figure. While most would certainly consider a cross a  most negative shape given the kind of terrible deaths inflicted on them, Our Lord converts what is generally regarded as a negative image or shape into a most  positive shape and image of His ultimate, loving sacrifice for our redemption.This should remind us that it is in precisely the most negative moments that we can find God at our side helping us, should we trust and love Him enough. Lastly, as the above title notes, Christ is truly a great math teacher, able to convert the esoteric and perhaps confusing concepts of math into real life applications of love and God’s power. However, as perfect a math teacher as Our Lord is, there is one place where He is much better at subtracting than adding, and that is in the confessional, where He  waits to subtract our sins and, out of Divine Mercy and love, to stop adding them up.

2015  Gabriel Garnica

When It Comes To Their Faith, Many Catholics Stick Their Foot in It


A foot doctor once told me that, when it comes to taking care of their health, most people largely neglect their feet. “People’s concerns and care, it seems, begin with their head or brain, then their hearts and lungs, then their lower internal organs, followed by their legs and, lastly, their feet, which they neglect until things have really gotten very bad”  he complained. While I realize that some of this may just be a frustrated doctor upset that people give as much care for their feet as they should, I have to generally agree with him.  I, for one, have tended to worry about seemingly everything else regarding my health than my feet, usually putting off anything of concern until after the other “priorities” have been dealt with.

What does any of this this have to do with our spiritual health?  Well, for one thing, we treat our Catholic faith exactly as we do our feet.  It seems that most of us have a ranked priority list of concerns and “to-dos” and our faith is somewhere down near the basement of that list.

How much are we preoccupied with what others think of us, and what we have to remember?  These concerns of the head or mind seem to be near the top for most people. Taking the liberty of poetic license, how much time do we spend worrying about what we need to get “ahead” and rise to the “head” of the pack?  Don’t we spend tons of time wanting to become the head person in some group or organization, to be considered the “brains” of the operation?

Likewise, how obsessed are we with how people perceive us, with our appearance, with “looking” the parts we play?  How often do we judge by appearances, and look at people and situations with this society’s twisted, biased and secular eyes?  Continuing, how careful are we to only say what people want to “hear”, and of “hearing” only what is convenient to us? How much time do we spend “talking” about others, and defending or explaining ourselves regardless of whether what we have done deserves or can even be solved by such efforts?

We often say that we “smell a rat” but do we ever smell our own faults?  Do we stick our neck out for others, or are we cutthroat in our evaluation of them?  Do we find it necessary to “get something off our chest” oblivious of how our self-serving rants and efforts may hurt others?  Are we drinking this society’s moral kool-aid and making our own stance for our faith toothless by rationalizing, diluting, and apologizing for who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to stand for?  How often do we swallow our pride and try to bring peace and forgiveness to a situation?

Where is our heart?  Is it with Christ, or with this false, manipulative, and hypocritical society? Where is our soul?  Is it taking the express train to perdition, or is it anywhere near where Our Lord wants it to be?  When faced with the many temptations of this world, do we go with our moral gut, or do we take the easy way out and just follow the most popular route? Have we developed an unhealthy taste for sin, able to stomach almost anything without much moral revulsion?  Are we constantly turning our back on our Faith, treating it like some convenient hat we wear whenever it is convenient?

Do we sit on our comfort level rather than pray on our knees? Do we reach out to people and does our claim to be faithful have a leg to stand on?

Lastly, do we relegate our faith to a daily footnote, touching on it only when there is nothing else to do or when we cannot avoid it any longer?  Like the feet, our Faith provides the foundation for where we will go and how balanced we will be there. However, that Faith should not be treated like the feet.  It should be housed in our minds, hearts, and souls, and feed the rest of our existence with its influence.  When we keep our Faith at our feet, it is an uphill journey for it to impact our lives.  However, when we keep that Faith in our minds, hearts, and souls, it can more easily spread its influence throughout our existence.

The next time you think about where your Faith resides in your life, get off your feet, shake a leg, and get it into your head to get to the heart and soul of the matter.

Gabriel Garnica, 2014

 

Dust off Your David


 

 

We have all heard the story of David and Goliath ( 1 Samuel 17) whereby the Philistine and Israelite armies faced each other on opposite sides of a steep valley, ready to do battle, but knowing that the first army to charge would be at a disadvantage below the other one. To make matters worse for the Israelite army, the Philistines were led by a giant named Goliath, who was much bigger, stronger, and terrifying than the meanest, toughest, and largest football player we can think of. Goliath spent forty days mocking God and the Israelite army, challenging them to send their best warrior in a winner take all match. Saul, the King of Israel, and his entire army were terrified of this guy, and were practically paralyzed in fear and frustration, not knowing how to get out of this situation, much less ever dream of solving it.  In fact, Goliath seemed so much better, stronger, tougher, and bigger than they were, that it started to seem that the easiest thing to do was just give up an surrender. Have you ever faced a test, situation, problem, challenge, or bully that seemed unbeatable?  Were you sometimes tempted to just give up, thinking that it was easier to just run, hide, or avoid what was facing you?  Now you know how the Israelite army felt.

Well, David, the son of Jesse, was a shepherd, and his father sent him to the battleground to find out how his brother were doing. When David heard Goliath mock and defy God, and saw how scared the Israelite army was, he volunteered to fight Goliath himself, which must have made everyone on both sides laugh. After all, they all figured, a teenage shepherd armed with a slingshot and rocks would have to be crazy, stupid, delusional, arrogant, or all of the above to even think that he had any chance to beat a giant, experienced, mean, armed warrior like Goliath. What both sides did not realize was that David was none of these things; He just loved and trusted in God so much that he put all of his faith, efforts, and chances in God’s Hands. He knew that what he was doing was the right thing, and that was all that mattered. Sure, his opponents, and even people who were supposedly on his side, mocked and criticized him but, in the end, he knew that the only Judge, the only Referee, who mattered was God, and that as long as he was doing what God wanted, everything would be alright in the end.

Have you ever seen someone being mistreated, bullied, or made fun of?  Has someone ever tried to make you do something you knew was wrong, or go against what your parents and family have taught you? People who do and say bad things often want others to agree with them, and they will try to push and even force you to go along with them. Why do you think  David refused to think and act like the crowd wanted him to?

Do you know what an underdog is?  Have you ever been an underdog?  The dictionary tells us that an underdog is someone or a side which is expected to lose to an opponent which seems much better, more talented, prepared, or the popular choice of most people. There is that word again, “popularity”; popularity is like ice cream,  pizza, or macaroni and cheese; we all like it, but that does not always mean that it is the right thing for us. That is because what most people like, prefer, or would do is not necessarily what God wants us to do or be. Following God means listening and following God’s Word, His Commandments, and the examples of Jesus, Mary, and the saints.  Praying and coming to Church are very important, and God wants us to do these things, but it is not enough.  We have to go out and try our best to be like Jesus to others. What good is praying and coming to Church if we then go out and ignore or disobey what God wants us to do?  What are we doing if we call ourselves followers of Jesus and then go out and ignore, mistreat, bully, or expect special treatment without treating others as special?  Jesus taught us to love and serve others, to be unselfish not expecting everything for ourselves, to not always look at things from our interest or agenda, and to genuinely care and feel happy for others. If we are not doing these things, we are not following Jesus and obeying God, no matter how much we pretend we are, and we are certainly not being a good example to others either.

The world considers the story of David and Goliath the ultimate underdog story and, as a fan of the Mets and Jets, I know a thing or two about underdogs. However, the popular speaker and writer David Gladwell challenges us to see this story in a different way. The world, the popular view, is that David somehow managed to overcome great disadvantages to beat someone he should have lost to, but that is only looking  at things the way the world measures things.

By the world’s view, Goliath was an unbeatable, experienced, powerful, imposing, and popular opponent expected to win; and David, was a small, insignificant, foolish, punk daring to stand in Goliath’s way. However, Gladwell tells us that Goliath likely suffered from a disease that made him a giant, that he was slow, had bad vision, and was not the brightest person in the world.  We know that Goliath did not respect, credit, or obey God from his actions and words that day, and that he took all the credit for whatever went right. By Heaven’s view, David was a fast, creative, resourceful, intelligent, courageous expert in hitting a target 100 feet or more away with a slingshot and stone who used God’s gifts to maximize his performance. Above all, he loved, trusted, and believed in God above everything, and everyone else. History will tell us that he was certainly not perfect, and had many faults, as we all do, and he accepted the consequences of those faults, but it remains that he offered what he did on that valley that day to God, and humbly gave God all the glory, praise, and credit for it.  He did not seek glory, credit, fame, or any selfish interest for himself on tht day, but rather offered his God-given talents in the service of God.

The world today is Goliath. It  seems to have many advantages, to make a lot of sense, and to have all the answers. It pretends to know right from wrong, and is very happy to push us to follow its preferences on how to be more popular. It mocks and disrespects God and those who follow and love God often, and expects them to grow up, get a life, figure it out, and change to be more inclusive, more positive, and make people more comfortable. It is more concerned with its depiction of truth than what truth really is, and is increasingly intolerant, even while portraying itself as a champion of tolerance, of any views which oppose its version of truth.  It wants us to apologize for being Christians, to surrender our loyalty to God, and to give up trying to follow a poor Carpenter who ended up nailed to a cross for making the wrong people feel comfortable and the wrong people feel uncomfortable.

We can be the Israelite army, shaking in our boots, expecting to lose, apologizing for even being  around, preferring to run and hide, mocking those in our ranks who even try to follow Christ, and  forgetting that faith and belief in God always beats earthly fear and threats. Some people say Jesus was our First David, fighting evil for us on the cross, and they may be right. However, make no mistake about it. If Jesus was David for us, it is our turn to be David for Him.  We all have a David inside us; all we have to do is dust off our David, find the God-given talents God has given us to serve Him and others, take out our slingshot, and find the stones to do what God put us on this earth to do.

Gabriel Garnica,  2014.

 

 

 

“Lent” is a Good Name for This Time of Year


We are told that the word “Lent” is from Anglo-Saxon roots and means Spring. However, in an ironic way, the word “Lent” is perfectly suited to what this period before Easter is all about.

In addition to the known meaning as the 40 days before Easter wherein we fast, pray, and give up pleasures in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice, the word “lent” happens to also be the transitive verb form of  the verb “lend” which is to give something with the understanding that it is to be returned at some future date, perhaps with interest. This second meaning is very ironic to me because, if we think about it, everything we are, have, and will ever be is lent to us by God with the understanding that we are to make some use of it during our lives to bring greater glory to Him.

Our earthly materialism is mere absurdity given the eternal reality that, not only is whatever we have here on earth very temporary and cannot be “taken with us” after we die but, also, even its temporary use here on earth has the very strict requirement, if it is to be properly used, of being used to serve and bring greater glory to the wonderful God Who gives us everything, and to Whom we owe everything in return.

Taken in this context, our lives, our possessions, our children, all of our blessings, our health, our money, and everything we have or are, for that matter, are temporarily handed to us as an experiment to see what we do with all of these blessings. Our first responsibility, or mission, if you will, is to discern and discover what each of these blessings are. Our second responsibility, it follows, is to maximize these blessings to the fullest in the  service of the greater glory of God Almighty. It is thus that our third responsibility, then, is realized, which is to give these blessings back to God with interest. What is that interest? Perhaps it is the added enhancement of having been used for God’s purpose beyond its mere existence.

Just as Ash Wednesday reminds us to repent, and that we will all eventually return to dust, so too the entire context of the word “Lent” should remind us that every hair on our head and every moment of our lives has been “lent” to us by God, with the clear understanding that we are to do something very unique with those blessings beyond the selfish use for self-comfort and benefit. This is why materialism and possessiveness are such absurd, foolish traits.  Everything we are and have belongs to God, and it is our responsibility to return as much of what we own and are to  God with some return on His investment, or else have to answer why we failed to uphold that responsibility as children of God.

Notice, as stated before, that “lent” is considered a transitive verb. Now,, the word “transitive” itself means being characterized by transition and having a direct object. Well, should  not this earth be nothing but a transition to us, a temporary holding post on our journey back home to Heaven?  Likewise, should the Word of God and the example of Christ be our direct objects, that which all we do aims to?

So, you see, the word “Lent” means more than a coming spring. For true Catholics and likewise fervent Christians, the word “lent” reminds us that we came to this earth naked and poor and we will leave it that way as well since, after all, wealth comes from people and circumstances of this earth, and has no special connection of influence with Heaven.

Ultimately, we each have a duty to bring others to Christ through example and word, which means that we are merely temporary stewards awaiting a rich reward in Heaven while adding interest, compounded spiritually, to everything we do, everyone we help, and everything we are, as long as God is involved.

Copyright, 2014  Gabriel Garnica,  All Rights Reserved.

David vs. Goliath Revisted


Like most people, I assumed that I had looked at the story of David and Goliath ( 1 Samuel 17) completely, discerning that it reminded us of the power of faith and, above all, the power of God. Recent readings and study, however, have given me a new perspective. The popular author and speaker, Malcolm Gladwell argues that David was not the quintessential underdog that we make him out to be. As a skilled user of the sling possessing great accuracy and technique, David could launch a stone faster than the best major league fastball with pinpoint accuracy.  That skill, of course, came to David through God’s Grace and Will as applied to David’s background and experiences.  David was no experienced warrior in the traditional sense when he brought Goliath down with a well-placed stone to the forehead. He merely used a God-given gift in the service of God to bring God greater glory. That, in a nutshell, is our mission in this life.  Now it happens that, since Christ taught us that our purpose in this life is to love God above all else and serve others in love as Christ did, more often than not, the most effective use of our God-given gifts in the service of bringing greater glory to God is in the service of god through serving others.  Therefore, our primary mission in life should be to discover and apply our God-given talents in the service of God through the example of Jesus Christ.

Many folks point out that David refused to confront Goliath on his own terms, in full armor in suicidal one-on-one combat. Such an approach would have been foolish because it would have played to Goliath’s apparent strengths of size, strength, and experience in hand to  hand combat. Others argue, with valid points, that David so refused, not out of fear but, rather, out of respect for and comfort with his own skills, experience, and gifts.  The lesson here is that we do not have to apply our skills as others would prefer we do but, rather, as is most fitting and effective to our unique style, temperament, and individuality.  God provides the gifts, but He leaves the way we will apply those gifts to serve others up to us.  Interestingly, there is no indication that Goliath knew a thing about slings, nor that he could hit the broad side of a mountain with one.  David, then, attacked his obstacle on his own terms, using what God-given skills he had in the manner most effective and fitting for him. That is the crux of free will in the service of God.  God gives us the ingredients of eternal greatness. It is up to us to prepare the soup using our own recipe which, however, must  include Christ’s example and teaching as the key ingredient.  As Catholics, of course, we can also include what we have learned from the examples of Our Blessed Mother and the Saints as well.

The story goes that David volunteered to confront Goliath upon seeing his disrespect and blasphemy against the people of God and, as well, the reluctance and fear to confront Goliath by the Israelite soldiers given his apparent strength and great size.  God does not force us to apply our skills to serve God. He merely provides us with the tools which, in the course of time, will find opportunities for use. It is up to each of us to seize upon those opportunities to make a difference in others’ lives while serving and bringing glory to God. Obviously, if we use our gifts and those opportunities for self-gain, we will be corrupting the purpose of those gifts and will have to answer to God when the time comes to render accounts for what we have done with our talents.

Gladwell also argues that Goliath likely suffered from acromegaly and the poor vision often seen in people so afflicted.  He bases his views on his own research and study plus Scriptural passages indicating that Goliath did not initially nor effectively assess David’s approach and may have even believed David to be carrying more than one stick, or staff, as he did.  The lesson here, in my opinion, is that those apart from God will always have poor vision for what truly matters, and that will be one of their great vulnerabilities.  By contrast, those who follow and serve God will have a greater vision of what matters to eternal salvation, and will be expected to use that greater vision to help others improve their “in” sight.  Again, we see God reminding us to use any advantages He has given us to serve others rather than to crush them.

Many may argue that David was not exactly serving Goliath when he smashed him with a stone and cut off his head but, actually, he was serving God’s Will and God’s chosen people, the Israelites. This reminds us that we must serve God and God’s Will above all else, and that in the course of serving others we may, in fact, dis-serve others who oppose those we serve.  Simply put, it may be practically impossible to serve everyone as everyone may wish, and that should not be our proper objective.  Every teacher and leader knows that he or she who tries to please everyone is looking for disaster, and mayhem.

Finally, we should note that David did not compromise, dilute, twist, betray, or alter  his purpose, mission, agenda, or actions in order to “reach out” or meet Goliath halfway.  There was no settlement or tie here. God does not deal in ties or across-the-board equality as many clueless people argue a loving God should.  God does not have weekend followers, sort-of followers, or appeasing followers.  Ties and compromises are the work of the feeble who, lacking in the faith of their convictions and brimming with twisted notions of peace, play not to lose rather than to win for God at all  costs and at all times.  True service to God, and the eternal salvation which is promised through that service, is not for the faint of heart, the wishy-washy, or the ambivalent.  John the Baptist, Joan of Arc, Thomas More, and Christ Himself did not play it safe.  The true follower of Christ does not play prevent defense, kick field goals or burn the clock.  He or she goes all out in the faith that God will always be there when needed.  He or she knows that, as Gladwell puts it, sometimes our instinct or perception of where power comes from is wrong…if we do not refine and sharpen our instincts toward God rather than this world.  Gladwell also reminds us that much beauty and power comes from adversity and struggle, and that those who appear to have no advantage by this world’s standards may actually be much more powerful than they appear to be. The implication, of course, is that God is the Ultimate Game-Changer, turning apparent earthly defeat into transcendent eternal triumph.

Now, I no longer see David as the patron figure of underdogs who overachieve or surprise against greater foes.  Rather, I see a David in all of us, just waiting for the chance to overcome obstacles, achieve great things, transform lives, serve and love others, follow Christ and, above all else,  place the gifts and talents God has given us at His Feet, knowing that we have used those gifts as tools, even weapons, of mass salvation!

Copyright, 2014.  Gabriel Garnica.  All rights reserved.

Bethlehem’s Lessons


Amid this selfie society so immersed in our preoccupation, nay, our obsession with our personal agendas, it might be refreshing to consider the lessons found in that Bethlehem so long ago.  To begin with, we should ask ourselves if ever look “up” toward Heaven with enough frequency to even catch a glimpse of the star which beckons us toward Christ.  Are we so transfixed in the secular, the mundane, the everyday, and the here and now that we lose sight of Christ’s signs in our lives, reaching out to invite us toward His infinite love, mercy, compassion, and tenderness?  I regret to bet that we have each, at one time or another, lost more opportunities to approach Christ than we have seized.  Forget about stopping to smell the roses. Try stopping to glimpse, to feel, to inhale, Christ’s Presence in our lives and His call to action.

Likewise, have we so filled our lives with stuff, with useless entertainment, amusement, and other superficial trash that we truly have no room at the inn of our soul for both Our Lord and the example of His Holy Family shivering in the cold?  Do we even bother to hear the knock on our door, much less open that door, when Christ beckons us amid a world increasingly cold to His message.  Are we so determined to warm ourselves and our toys in the glow of this world’s measures that we leave Our Lord out in the cold and darkness, away from our sight, external and internal?  It is time to reach for and open that door, and make that room, for those Holy Visitors who bring the real light, the real warmth to our cozy, flimsy, and earthly abodes.

Have we considered the silent holiness of humility?  Are we more prone to boast, to affirm our unique greatness, to flash our possessions and accomplishments, than shift the focus to others? Consider that the Savior of The World chose to be born in cold poverty amid barn animals, to be rejected even before He was born, to be subjected to every humiliation as quickly as possible into His earthly mission. Now consider how much we dread even the most marginal slight, the most minimal misstep toward our person.  Do we value ourselves so highly above others that, faced with the mistreatment we must all face at one time or another, we cry bloody murder and demand exacting compensation and justice?  How can we, defective creatures that we are, demand such payment when the most innocent and perfect King neither demanded it nor received it?  Clearly, it is time for us to get a Bethlehem reality check.

Consider that the angels announced Our Lord’s birth, not to royalty, wealth, or prestige but, quite the contrary, to poor peasants of little earthly importance, where such an announcement would most likely find welcoming ears and hearts.  Do we relish associating with power, prestige, and money above surrounding ourselves with the powerless, voiceless, marginalized, and poor?  Do we reach out to those who cannot pay us back in any way, or do we help seeking later interest?  Perhaps the fastest path to Heaven may be found precisely in the directions, and people, which this earth most ignores, most  mocks, most ridicules as a waste of time.

Speaking of payback, are we all about gifts to us, or do we consider the gifts  God has given us as the best kind of re-gifting possible.  Perhaps we have a duty to identify our gifts and use them to help others, to bring them closer to God by bringing God closer to them.  Consider that we may be more judged and how well and how much we re-gifted our gifts to others seeking to serve the greater glory of God.  The Magi brought their gifts to Our Lord; are we all about doing the same or, on the contrary, are we all about bringing our gifts to ourselves?

Consider the jealousy of Herod in seeking to destroy the Holy Child, all in the name of earthly power.  Are we so consumed with grasping the dirt of this earth that we become mired in the mud of its very temporary nature?  Who would lose their eternity to earn a moment of pleasure in this world?  Perhaps we should consider that anything gained without Christ is a waste of time.  Perhaps we will someday realize that earthly power, prestige, and gain are merely chains  holding us from rising to our true eternal potential.  Money is not a bad thing, as long as we keep it in perspective.  The only noble value of power is to use that power to change lives for the better, not serve our personal purposes.  Consider the murder of the innocents brought about by earthly convenience. Are we not living in a world where this evil is hailed as law and as a noble human right?

Consider that the Holy Family fled for safety because they were open, and obedient, to God’s guidance. Trust in His Will, and contentment with that Will, are critical ingredients if we are to find holiness and salvation in this present world.  The sooner we realize that we must be passengers in God’s bus, and never drivers, the better off we will be.

Lastly, it will be to our best interest to realize that we are no farther from that Bethlehem of so long ago than we were a thousand years ago. In fact, the more we consider ourselves so far advanced, so much more civilized and modernized, from that town so distant in time and space from our tech world, the closer we are to that very village we consider so far below our standards.  We are truly a high-tech Bethlehem, so preoccupied with self, with amusement, with personal agendas, that we consider Christ something between an interesting ornament and an annoying woodpecker reminding us that our thrones and obsessions are mere dust in the eternal perspective.  Like that Bethlehem of long ago, we spend one third of our time ignoring Christ,  another third pushing Him conveniently out of the way to some corner, and a final third of the time trying, directly or indirectly, to stamp Him out of our lives lest He bring discomfort to our desperate comfort.

Consider the lessons of Bethlehem.  Perhaps we will realize that, try as we might to deny it, we are all citizens of our own Bethlehem on steroids.  Given that realization, we might ask ourselves if we will be shivering in the Holy Warmth of Our Savior’s Divine Innocence or basking in the empty warmth of our divine comforts.

Copyright, 2013  Gabriel Garnica   All rights reserved.