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

Advertisements

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

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.

 

 

 

The World is Good Friday, and We all Play Roles on That Stage


   

We have all heard Shakespeare’s famous “All The World’s a Stage” line from As You Like It wherein we are reminded that life is but a large play in which we are players who change roles depending on the circumstances that face us. I propose that increasingly, this world is Good Friday, and we as Christians will play various roles in that production. Sometimes we will portray the terrified followers of Jesus, boasting eternal loyalty just before heading for the hills like terrified sheep.  Other times, we will gleefully embrace the role of Pilate; boasting of authority, and pretending to be wise, while judging while clothed in hypocrisy and washing our hands in cowardice.  Perhaps this will be the year we sink our teeth into the role of Simeon the Cyrene, annoyed to no end at being forced to help Christ carry His cross only to be eternally depicted in that fraudulent gesture of assistance. How many times have we impressed the audience with our portrayal of Peter, denying Our Lord while warming our hands in the fire of this world’s perceptions?

Before we are through, unless we have already mastered the role of the soldiers driving the nails into Christ’s hands with our sins, we will play the villains in this play with increasingly realistic effectiveness. Whether we are mocking Jesus with our demands that He prove His power, gambling to see who can own the robe of His fame,  or pushing the crown of thorns on a Christ we want to twist into our own deluded sense of majesty, we will all take turns in this litany of roles offered on the most important Friday this world has ever seen.

While I am sure that each of us has grabbed the chance to take the low hanging fruit that the roles above represent, roles that allow us to participate, on our own terms and in our own time, perhaps this is the year we stick our necks out and try for those more challenging roles which Good Friday offers.  Maybe, with a little effort on our part, we can try the role of the weeping women, at least identifying and mourning the injustices that sin inflicts upon this world. Perhaps, in fact, we can go outside of the envelope and portray Veronica, bravely ignoring risks to provide a little comfort to our suffering King, with a resulting reward of His Image in our hearts that is far better than any golden trophy. Dare we aspire, for that matter, to play St. John, standing by Our Blessed Mother as Our Lord blesses our fidelity to Her?

Ideally, as followers of Christ, we are supposed to be carrying crosses right behind Our Lord on this Good Friday play, enthusiastically and proudly proclaiming to all our firm loyalty, love, and obedience to the Playwright of our eternal stage. Ideally, we should be embracing every mocking insult, sarcastic challenge, and spitting utterance of hatred in His Name. In our own way, we should be sacrificing ourselves for others regardless of how much they actually appreciate our efforts, and loving the very actors who want to turn our masterpiece play into a farce.  However, as God very well knows it and we very well depict it on a daily basis, we are far better at playing some roles than others and, all too frequently, those roles are the low hanging fruit from the same tree that first caught Eve’s eye.

Perhaps, just maybe, this will be the year we stop pretending and portraying, running and hiding, or judging and seeing being a Christian as some annoying task or convenient mask of imagined immunity. Possibly, this time around, this will all be more about living as, and being, a follower of Christ instead of merely portraying one in this world’s very temporary stage.

Copyright, 2014 Gabriel Garnica   All Rights Reserved.

God is All About Re-Gifting


As secular society brushes off Christmas for another year, Catholics know very well that Christmas never truly ends because, at the end of the day, giving never ends.  You see, secular society has Christmas all wrong and, in fact, has it upside down, as it has so many things that truly matter.  For secular society, Christmas is all about getting gifts or finding the gift that will make us look good.  Sure, people often get excited about finding the right gift, and that is certainly better than being simply obsessed with getting gifts, as some are. However, this focus is still far more superficial and fleeting than it should be.  We have all heard that “it is better to give than to receive” and with good reason. The road to sanctity and holiness is paved with unselfish humility lined with unconditional love and service.   The saints certainly provide us with scores of examples of unselfish giving with love, and that is certainly a part of the Christmas we should embrace.

As noted above, most of secular society’s concern with Christmas is figuring out ways to make a buck off people’s desire to give or get the perfect gift.  Even more sadly, the remaining focus is on figuring out ways to make a buck off people’s dissatisfaction with the gifts they did get.  The mantra seems to be “pay us to be the perfect giver” and “pay us to turn  bad gifts into good ones”.   There is nothing inherently wrong with returning gifts we cannot use or prefer to exchange for something else. The problem lies when we focus too much on gifting as some sort of equal exchange or, perhaps worse, some sort of investment on achieving more of what we want.

In our society and media, re-gifting, or having someone give a gift they have received as a gift to someone else,  is often mocked as a cheap way of turning those gifts into bargains.  We often see how TV characters are deeply offended upon discovering that some gift they gave has been re-gifted. The greatest joke, of course, is when we receive our original gift back from an oblivious or forgetful recipient.  This is supposed to be  deep gash or insult demonstrating ingratitude, rejection, and who knows what other evils.

This is not, however, God’s take on gifting.  He wants us to re-git as much as possible, spreading what He has blessed us with to as many other folks as we can.  Recall how the servants who re-invested and spread the talents received were praised while the servant who merely hid his talent was criticized and lost what he was given.  God does not want us to hide our gifts for ourselves, for that defeats the original purpose and potential of the gift in the first place.  No, on the contrary, God calls us to use our gifts to serve others and bring glory to Him.  In a sense, he who re-gifts God’s gifts is doing God’s work and following Christ’s example to a tee.  Think about the gifts God has given you, and about the ways you can use those gifts to change lives for the better.  If you do, you will surely be celebrating Christmas, and giving, all year round.

Gabriel Garnica   Copyright 2014,  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.