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

Modern Secularism’s Triple Distortion of Divine Morality


 

 

I continue to be amazed by how this secular society tries to twist Divine Mercy into blinking, happy-go-lucky acceptance of every behavior one can imagine.  This warped and sinister reasoning follows a three-way distortion of logic, Church teaching, and Divine Mercy.

First, we are told that, since we are all created in God’s image, it therefore follows that we must be inherently good and, by extension, that everything we do is, at some point, inherently good. This twisted logic, of course, pretends that just because we are initially created in God’s image that, therefore, it follows that we are as infallible as God is. It is the height of logical absurdity to say, for example, that since we are created in God’s image our actions are created in the image of God’s actions.  God is all good, loving, merciful, just, and wise.  Is anyone who has not been drinking heavily lately willing to argue that we are all good, loving, merciful, just, and wise? Since we were initially created in God’s image, but somehow, along the way, have managed to mess that up to some degree, then it follows that we must be very capable of sin, distortion, confusion, and many other taints and stains on that initial beauty. In short, we may be created in God’s image, but that does not therefore mean that everything we do is inherently good, wise, or acceptable, as our distorted secular modernists would have us believe.

Following the above logic, if God is perfect and we are not and therefore fully capable of imperfection, then how can it be that such a God would then accept, embrace, and respect our imperfection?  If perfection accepts imperfection, does not that perfection therefore become imperfect in the process which, in the case of God, is impossible?

Second, in order to cover up the twists and turns of the first distortion, a second distortion is put forth. Namely, that God accepts people as they are but that the Church is the one which has it all wrong, and has excluded, rejected, bullied, and abused anyone it deems different through the ages. Under this fable, we are supposed to believe that the Church is this evil institution whose main conduct over the ages has been to judge, reject, and persecute anyone who does not conform to its twisted view of what is right and wrong. This argument will focus on the clerical sexual abuse of children, the Spanish Inquisition, and anything else it can drag up to prove that the Church has been wrong a lot, and has hurt people a lot, simply because it has failed to protect and embrace the voiceless and marginalized in our society.

The problem with this second fable is that true history shows that, while the Church is imperfect because humans are imperfect, it has, by and large, done much more good than evil, and helped many more people than it has harmed, over the course of  history. Also, Church positions are grounded in clear core Church teaching, and not fanciful notions created a few years ago.  The argument contends that Church teaching which contradicts modern societal views is simply outdated, ancient, and narrow minded. Such contentions, of course, assume that current practices and values are somehow more enlightened, wise, and true to God’s original intent.  Again, we go back to the distortion that modern thinking and practices are somehow better than anything believed or practiced in the past and that anyone contradicting modern thinking should be excluded, marginalized, rejected, and the like.  It does not take a genius to see the absurdity of arguing that the Church has been guilty of excluding those who are different while at the same time having no problem with excluding, rejecting, mocking, and ignoring those who are different from that very same proposition.  If there is one trait which modernist secular thinking is fully versed in, it is hypocristy!

Lastly, modern secular society confuses, either unintentionally or not, compassion with acceptance.  According to this logical pretzel, the Good Samaritan’s actions mean that he was to fully accept, embrace, and welcome everything the injured man he helped practiced or believed!  In other words, if the Good Samaritan happened to rescue a a thief, rapist, selfish lout, or atheist then, according to our learned secular modernists, the Good Samaritan would not really be “good” unless he “compassionately” embraced and accepted the theft, rape, selfishness, or disbelief in God exhibited by the man he rescued!  One can only hope that these people do not seriously believe that, because one is compassionate, that means that one must therefore accept and embrace everything about the one assisted in one’s compassion!  I can feed the hungry man who is a wife beater, for example, without embracing, accepting, promoting, and defending his abuse of his wife!  Helping a dying thief does not mean that I embrace theft.  Jesus loved the sinner without accepting the sin, as He so clearly demonstrated by telling the woman caught in adultery to “sin no more”.  The modern distorters would have us believe that true love ultimately equates with total acceptance and welcoming of everything about the one loved, lest we be practicing exclusion and not “welcoming” the “different” one.

Christ’s beautiful promise of Divine Mercy comes to those who turn reject their wrong and sincerely seek forgiveness in a spirit of genuine, trusting humility, obedience, and conformity to God’s Word and Will.  Ultimately, Divine Mercy is an open invitation to humbly conform, not a get-out-of-jail card!

It is eerie and ironic that modern secularism’s twisted view of Divine Mercy is reflected in the typical public school classroom, where administrators and faculty are either afraid to point out incorrect behavior or attitudes or have actually bought into the lie that wisdom and tolerance demand acceptance and even embracing dissident behavior.  Modern secularism spews the fraud that differences are automatically to be celebrated, defended, embraced, accepted, and even promoted as opportunities for tolerance and rejection of intolerance and narrow-mindedness.

Modern educational theory, for example, increasingly mirrors this trend toward seeing compassion in diluted, blurred, all-embracing tolerance, acceptance, embracing, and even promotion of rebellion, insolence, ignorant arrogance, and victimization. Consequently, we see schools paralyzed at the whim of bullying, cheating, disrespectful, ignorant, and arrogant rebels who believe that the institution has a duty to cater to individual whim and agendas no matter    what.

Christ embodies loving compassion and mercy in the face of sincere contrition, genuine humility, and a true desire to change. This Divine Mercy, so profoundly exhibited in the writings of St. Faustina, is the true example of Heavenly tough love.  In contrast, modern secularism’s version of such mercy, labeled as “compassion”, “tolerance”, “acceptance”, and a “welcoming” open-mindedness, is nothing but diluted rationalization wrapped in the false garb of compassion.

Anyone who sees an eerie similarity between such a diluted, feel good morality and Common Core education, for example, is not far off the mark.  Many years ago, students were rewarded for getting correct answers, taught about absolute truths and principles which did not waver, and given tools for finding precision and clarity. Today, 2 + 2 can be 5 if you can explain why you feel that way, tell us the process you followed to get to that answer, or will be deeply offended or scarred for life should any teacher dare to point out your error.

At the end of the day, modern, secularist society is not so much looking for absolute, correct answers as for absolutely acceptable answers which avoid the sort of precision, accountability, personal responsibility, and clarity that can put the spotlight on incompetence, inconsistency, hypocrisy, or personal agendas.  Ultimately, this society defines mercy as being at the mercy of the individual, not as the caring, firm, compassion of a loving God.

2015 Gabriel Garnica

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

The Ultimate Lemonade


 

                                        

 

We have all heard the expression “making lemonade out of lemons” as an illustration of positive thinking.  Certainly, we need such thinking in this world given the overwhelming assaults from all sides on our psyche, emotions, and, in full order, our faith.  The devil is a cunning, shrewd, and highly intelligent foe, and one of his most powerful weapons is negativity.  We play into his hands when we despair, lose hope, surrender, or simply decide that there is no hope for us.  In such a state, we are more likely to fall into a self-fulfilling paradox of sorts whereby we will simply sin because, on some subconscious level, we wonder what difference it will make if we add a few grains of sand to our desert of sinfulness.

While there are many things to discuss with regard to the role of positive thinking in faith, let us confine ourselves here to one simple point, which is that Christ’s Divine Mercy and God’s love for us provide us with the ultimate lemonade in a sea of lemons.  This reality presents us with three different perspectives which each give us new insight into the power of Divine Mercy and the need of us to embrace that Mercy.

First, we cannot deny that, without such Divine Mercy, we would already be doomed and lost and then, yes, what difference would it make if we sinned yet again for, in truth, we would already be damned by now. Second, that very Divine Mercy is precisely what makes getting up and trying again so wonderful, and so constructive. If, no matter how badly we have strayed, we know that we will start fresh if we are sorry, confess our sins, and try again, then there is always hope, always the chance to save ourselves and, consequently, always a reason to limit or flee from further sin.

The third and most important aspect of all of this, however, is the actual value of our own sinfulness and weakness.  Many of us might be tempted to wish that we would never sin, fall, or drop the ball with regard to our relationship with God. Certainly, many of us may reason, such a state would make our lives and our job of saving our souls so much easier, and perhaps that is true on some level.  However, I suggest that you consider which student appreciates passing a major exam more:  the one who passes it easily with flying colors the first time or, in the contrary, the one who has repeatedly failed that test and finally gets over the top.  Certainly, we know that those who have struggled usually appreciate victory more than those to whom victory comes as easily as breathing.

On an even deeper level, our falls enable our rising; our fumbles enable our recovery; and our sin enables The Almighty to show us His Divine Mercy and forgiveness.  Many folks spend most of their time trying not to sin when, in fact, they should be spending most of that time loving The Almighty with such relentless audacity that sin is trampled as merely a very temporary obstacle on the way to loving God forever in paradise. This is not to minimize the power or danger of sin but, rather, to maximize the power and importance of Divine Mercy.  At the end of the day, we have to love God so much that no sin has the power to make us surrender our drive to love Him forever. We need to stop trying to be perfect and start accepting and embracing our imperfection, asking for forgiveness for that imperfection which offends God, and then continually and relentlessly go about the business of saving our souls and that of others as well.

We must realize that, for all of its destructive power, sin is what enables us to truly appreciate God’s Mercy and Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.  One cannot truly see the light until one has dwelt in the darkness. The irony here is that we cannot fully defeat sin until we embrace it as the contrast that enables us to seek sanctity. Some of our greatest saints were also some of our greatest sinners.  Peter denied Christ three times before he became the rock.  St. Francis was apparently no stranger to great sin before he rose to spiritual greatness.  Christ came to heal the sick, and we cannot experience His healing power until we admit and accept that we are as sick as it gets and move on. So the next time you slip up, as we all do all too often, love your God with such relentless zeal and determination that your fall will be but a very minor and temporary obstruction on your path to eternal salvation for, if that love is true, it will be much easier to admit your sin, ask for forgiveness from it, and move on.

2014, Gabriel Garnica

Do Not Play Prevent Defense with The Devil !


As things are getting interesting in pro football, fans like myself start remembering why we love the game. There is so much strategy, constant action, and consistent excitement in football that, in my opinion, it is a usually a much more interesting viewing experience than say, baseball.  That being said, there is much to learn about life in football-overcoming obstacles, crafting strategies to advance personally and professionally, dealing with and overcoming fumbles and interceptions of our plans, and knowing when to punt, to name just a few.

One of the most fascinating topics in football is the so-called prevent defense, which is basically when a defending team basically pulls back and allows shorter advances in order to prevent huge gains by the opponent, eating up clock time and basically strangling the time remaining for the opponent to catch up.  The legendary football coach and commentator John Madden once said that the only thing the prevent defense prevents is winning, and there is considerable support for this criticism of the ideology behind allowing your opponent to gain on you in a controlled environment and basically hoping that your foe will run out of time to beat  you.

The opposite view of prevent defense, the alternative approach, of course, would be to stay aggressive, keep doing what you have been doing to gain the lead in the first place, and not play “not to lose”. It really comes down to how much you trust in your team’s ability to stifle the opponent while remaining aggressive and playing to win. Yes, you can give up a big play that leads to quick points with a badly timed slip but,  you might also bash your opponent further and romp to victory.

Make no mistake about it, the devil is as shrewd a customer as they come, and he is also very patient and cunning.  He wants us to believe that, regardless of any advantage we may have at any time with God on our side, we might suddenly give up a big play and end up losing our souls and, of course, that is always a possibility. Furthermore, the devil will entice us to play prevent defense, giving him more and more ground in our lives, minds, hearts, and souls under the pretext and illusion that we are somehow preventing much greater and stunning loss if we do not “play it safe”.  We can surely see how this society has slowly allowed and even promoted the erosion of moral responsibility, strict behavior codes, and heightened ethical awareness.  The list of “not so bad” or “comparatively ok” behaviors grows by the day.  Anyone with strict moral codes is declared to be an extremist, fanatical, hateful, judgmental, old-fashioned, dangerous, and even a terrorist.  Simply stated, our society is clamoring for us to play prevent defense with the devil, encouraging us to give ground as we diminish the eternal implications of what we do, feel, believe, and aspire to.  The load of rationalizations, exceptions, loopholes, and twisted notions of mercy grows by the hour.  Before we know it, the devil will be a yard away from putting  us in eternal damnation and we will have never seen it coming until it is too late.

The trick, then, is to stay aggressive with our moral compass, and to maintain our personal moral standards regardless of societal opinions, protests, rationalizations, or mockery.  Yes, we will fumble and be intercepted from time to time because we are weak humans.  True, we might even be thrown for a loss when things do not go as planned.  Definitely, there will come times when we will question our game plan, our chances of success, and even God’s coaching style.  Ultimately, however, we must love and trust God enough to lay it all on the line, to throw our fears and hesitations to the wind, and to go for it with all of our hearts, minds, and souls. The “it” I am referring to is serving and glorifying God by placing the talents He has given us in the loving service of others.

You see, when we play prevent defense with the devil, we are surrendering huge chunks of life real estate to him in a pathetic attempt to barter our salvation under the delusion, and illusion, that he will be appeased with just that, and not try to snatch our eternal souls in the process.  Remember that the devil is the best liar that has ever existed, and that, while he is patient and cunning, he has a relentless desire to seize our souls for all eternity.  Appeasing the devil is a deadly game, and the language of those who have placed more trust in him than in God.

Therefore, put your faith with your attitude is, and trust that God has your back if you will only play believing that He does and stick to His game plan for your salvation.  Regardless of how often you fall, and you will, believe and trust in God enough to keep being aggressive and not play scared. Never surrender any part of your life, or any weakness you may have, to the devil, accepting the notion that you cannot beat him there.  Likewise, do not fall into the slippery slope of accepting seemingly smaller sins as ransom for preventing larger sins for, as is so often the case, small sins only lead to great sins.  Remember that, whether we realize it or not, we as a society and as individuals only measure evil by how far we fall from our current state. In other words, the petty thief will consider grand theft a lesser sin, if a sin at all, than the man who has never stolen anything in his life. Stay vigilant and keep your moral standards high.  Immediately and defiantly get up after  you fall, even when it seems more hypocritical than sincere to do so.

So, I beg of you; do not play prevent defense with the devil, trusting more in his power to influence your life than in God’s ability to lovingly save it. Instead, fight the devil with all of your strength, amend our life as best you can, and trust in God’s Divine Mercy to back you up.  Never surrender an inch of your life to this lying fiend without a fight, regardless of how hopeless at times it may seem to stop his onslaught.  Most of all, accept that we are all weak sinners more likely to fall than to remain upright, and vow to spend your energy fighting through that weakness rather than using it as an excuse to weaken and surrender more.

To extend John Madden’s famous line, the only thing that moral prevent defense prevents is your salvation.

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.

 

 

 

Judas, Peter, and Divine Mercy


                   

 

With Lent just past, and the mix of pain and joy which that time serves us, I am reminded of a discussion I have had numerous times with various friends and relatives. Namely, who was guilty of the greater sin,  Judas, or Peter?   Scholars seem to fall on both sides of this debate, with those targeting Judas seeing the ultimate result as their central focus, while those targeting Peter as guilty of the greater sin seemingly focusing on a number of points.  Those who argue that Judas was the guiltier party seem to focus on the fact that, one way or the other, the betrayal of Judas had the more direct impact on Christ’s capture and murder. After all, one can argue, Peter betrayed Jesus after Jesus had been arrested and, clearly, whether or  not Peter denied Christ was not going to have any impact on the fate Jesus had before Him.  The enemies of Christ did not push for His death because Peter denied  him but, rather, regardless of that fact.  Had Peter jumped on a chair and proudly announced that he was, in fact, a follower of Christ and, in fact, the leader of those followers, Jesus would not have been released with a wink and a smirk of “Sorry about that!”.

If the actions of Peter, then, had nothing to do with Christ’s fate that day then, we might ask, did the actions of Judas have much more to do with that result? Surely, it would seem so, at least on the basis that Judas made it much easier for the enemies of Jesus to get their hands on him.  Without Judas, it would likely have been much tougher for these enemies to grab Jesus without causing a riot but, one might consider, it is likely that, sooner or later, one way or the other, they would have ultimately gotten their target, albeit with much more difficulty and far less convenience.  Thus, we can say, Peter’s actions had nothing to do with Christ’s fate and the actions of Judas certainly facilitated and accelerated a fate which would have likely happened sooner or later, given the power and influence of His enemies.  Let us hit Judas with 2 guilt points given that his acts had a more direct impact on the fate of Our Lord.   Guilt Score……Peter 0    Judas 2

As to the motives of the two men, Peter sold out Christ for safety and out of cowardice, while Judas sold Him out out of a mix of greed and confusion, so let’s call that a draw and post the guilt score at  Peter 1   Judas  3.

As to the quantity of the betrayals,  Peter betrayed Christ 3 times and Judas once, so let’s throw those amounts into the mix and call the score   Peter  4   Judas  4.

Both men were followers of Christ who had known him for a long time and  seen His great Holiness and love of others, so let’s call the length of their relationship with Christ a draw and have the score at Peter 5  Judas 5.

As to the centrality and stature of each man among the apostles, there is little doubt that Peter was the leader of the group and, therefore, his actions would have a much  more devastating example and impact on the integrity of the group, given his leadership and example role.   Peter 6   Judas 5.

Now, let us add the fact that Jesus had already placed Peter in a special position and called him the Rock upon which Our Lord would build the Church, so we can argue that, in betraying Christ, Peter was falling much farther from grace than Judas ever did.   Peter 7  Judas 5.

Scripture tells us that both men bitterly regretted what they had done, so let’s call that a draw also.  Peter 8  Judas 6.

Despicable as the actions of Judas were, they were necessary for the plan of Salvation to unfold.  Despite the fact that Scripture notes that it would have been better if Judas had never been born, the fact remains that, detestable as his actions were, they served a purpose in God’s salvation plan.  Despite the fact that, even if Judas had not betrayed Jesus, He would likely have been murdered sooner of later by His foes, the fact remains that Judas served a predestined role in these events.  In brief,  Judas was serving himself and, likewise, God’s ultimate plan.  By contrast, Peter was only serving himself, as his actions had no indirect or external purpose in God’s plan, but only served Peter.   Peter 9  Judas  6.

So, we see, Peter was considerably more guilty than Judas in terms of selling out Christ.  In fact, some would argue that, while betraying someone is despicable in that one is abusing trust, at least the betrayer admits to having established the trust he is abusing.  In other words, the betrayer is  not denying his relationship to the betrayed. Rather, he is abusing that relationship after implying that such a relationship existed on some level.  One might even argue that, in order to be more effective, betrayal needs a closer relationship to work.  Thus, how rarely does one hear of someone betraying a stranger?  No, it seems the very essence of betrayal that one needs to admit to having a close relationship in order to carry out such betrayal in the first place.  Simply put, Judas may have stabbed Jesus in the back but, in order to do so, he had to admit that he had Christ’s back at some point and was close, at some point.

What of Peter?  In denying Christ three times, Peter basically rejected the idea that he even knew Jesus.  What would hurt you more; if someone you knew stabbed you in the back or, conversely, if someone you held as a special leader denied even knowing you in the first place, as if knowing and being associated with you was a curse?  Let’s give Peter 2 guilt points on that one and Judas 1, so that our new score is  Peter 11  Judas 7.

In the near final analysis, by the standards of this world then,  Peter was more guilty than Judas in his actions.  However, this is where Divine Mercy comes in.  Our Lord told Sister Faustina that, the greater the sinner and the sin, the greater the possibility of Divine Mercy in the face of sincere contrition, audacious love, and trusting abandonment to God’s Divine Mercy.  Despite being much more wrong than Judas, Peter drowned his pride and self-interest in a sea of total love and trust, as well as a relentless desire to not be separated  from Our Lord, which happen to be the necessary ingredients for Divine Mercy as outlined by Our Lord to Sister Faustina.

While the numbers used here are only meant for illustrative purposes and, obviously, are in no way meant to be concrete or precise measures of relative guilt, the fact that Divine Mercy wipes out these subjective measures is what matters here.  Ultimately, Peter’s greater sin was wiped out by his infinitely greater love of Christ and total trust and abandonment to Our Lord’s Divine Mercy.  By contrast, Judas remained mired in self, in pride and, worse still, wandered into blasphemy, which many scholars define as thinking that one knows better than God.  On that last point, Judas very clearly thought that he had a clearer grasp of his guilt and opportunity for reconciliation than God did, which led to  his total despair and ultimate surrender to sin with further, conclusive, sin.

With apologies for one more play on subjective measures of guilt:   Peter 11  –  11  Divine Mercy  =   0  as opposed to    Judas = 7 with waiver of that Mercy = 7

At the end of the day, Divine Mercy is about not letting yourself be defined by your sinfulness but, rather, by your total love and trust in God.

Copyright, 2014,   Gabriel Garnica.    All rights reserved.