Follow Christ and You Will Never Face Humiliation


 

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I once got into one of those deep discussions with a friend about the difference between being humbled and being humiliated.  My friend insisted that both were the same but I insisted that they were not.  Although we never managed to agree, the debate led me to think about why we could not ultimately find common ground.  Ultimately, I concluded that we were looking at two completely different things. My friend saw humiliation as being put down, and humility as resulting from being put down, so he concluded that humiliation brings about humility.  While I agree that being humiliated might make one more humble, I believe that this is only a small part of the story and certainly not enough to generalize and sweep both terms under the same rug.

Humiliation is Public and Humility is Private

Humiliation only occurs when we feel we have looked bad in public. A castaway living on a deserted island who burns his dinner will not feel humiliation because there is nobody to judge his performance.  In other words,  the flames of humiliation are fanned by public exposure and shame.  The less we care about public acceptance or judgment, the less we will be humiliated by anything that public sees.  Humility, on the other hand, does not depend on and even avoids public exposure.  The humble person does not do what she does to gain public acceptance or acclaim. Humility is pure and simple. Its motivation is not public favor but, rather, private value.  The Virgin Mary, for example, a paragon of humility, did not seek fame or popularity but only the fulfillment and satisfaction of loving, serving, and obeying God.

Humiliation is Superficial and Humility is Transcendental

Since humiliation is obsessed with public perception, it is by nature superficial.  A criminal who is not caught will not feel humiliation because nobody is aware of his crime. That criminal’s only concern is not being caught. Humiliation does not concern itself with the right or wrong of things but with public perception. Humility, on the other hand, transcends what is merely superficial and goes much deeper. People are not humble in order to look good because false humility is so apparent and obvious. Humble people never think about their humility because to do so would contradict their very humility.

Humiliation is Selfish and Humility is Selfless

By definition, humiliation is obsessed with self. The person who fails to help an elderly person cross the road because he is afraid that his friends would mock him for doing so is only thinking of himself in trying to avoid humiliation.  In fact, one cannot feel humiliation unless one is thinking of oneself. Veronica did not feel humiliation in jumping to wipe Our Lord’s face because she was not thinking of herself and, consistent with the earlier points, did not care what others thought of her actions.  In fact, Veronica was humble yet courageous in her actions.  Her selfless love and compassion for Our Lord was so great that what we perceive as courage was, in fact, as natural as breathing for her. There were no other options to her than to help Our Lord because she humbly saw herself as a simple instrument to bring relief to him.

Conclusion

How often do we hear that Christ suffered a humiliating death!  How foolish is that assertion in the light of what we have discussed here!  How can lovingly sacrificing oneself out of love ever be humiliating?  Perhaps only to the eyes of a selfish, self-obsessed world so steeped in appearances and popularity! Love and service to others can never be humiliating. How can we say, for example, that Mother Teresa humiliated herself by caring for the personal needs of the poor and sick?  At the end of the day, we can never humiliate ourselves by following Our Lord, who humbled himself to save us.  Our Lord showed us that the value of what we do never depends on what this world thinks of our actions. Rather, the more we place God and others before ourselves, the closer to God we will move.  Let us follow Christ in loving and serving God and others. Let us look only to God for favor and we will truly be oblivious to the foolish swipes which this superficial world calls humiliations.

2017  Gabriel Garnica

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What does being Grounded mean?


For many people, the word “grounded” will only bring up notions of being punished by parents and not allowed to go out or use the car. However, a more positive view of that word means being being focused on one’s present and not obsessed with the past or the future.  It means to know who you are as a person and, consequently, who you are not.

Having Roots

Many folks think of having roots as owning a home or having a long connection to a community. While this meaning of roots is certainly popular, another meaning is having a firm and deep sense of who one is and is not.  If you understand what your values are, for example, and have assessed their relative importance in your life, you will have a greater grounding.  In order to understand what my values are and their relative importance, I need to have thought about them at length and reflected on why I have those particular values. I also need to have considered the connection of my respective values to my overall sense of myself as a person. We each have a self-identity as a person and as a Catholic. One would assume to we would rank each respective value by how closely that value ties into our self-identity.  While having good penmanship may be one of a person’s values, it is unlikely to be too closely connected to his sense of what being a good Catholic is all about.  Conversely, attending religious services and being kind to others are values which would likely have a closer connection and hence be considered more important.

Just as knowing who you are and what you want to be is important, knowing who you are not and what you do not want to become is a critical aspect of having roots. If I do not want to be seen as liar or arrogant, I will likely do all I can to avoid giving off that impression.  Therefore, by avoiding things which hinder our values and embracing things which enhance our values, we deepen and strengthen our roots as Catholics.

The Role of Falls in Developing Roots

Whenever we experience any kind of mishap, stumble, or misfortune, we have the option of using such falls to grow toward God or away from Him.  To the extent that we think of such falls in terms of only ourselves, we may often grow away from God.  Why?  Because we will likely only consider how these falls impact how others see us and how we see ourselves apart from God.  On the other hand, to the extent that we consider such falls in terms of our relationship to God, we will have the opportunity to grow toward God.  Why?  Because rather than see each fall as some humiliating event, we will only consider how the fall provides us with an opportunity to grow closer to God. Ultimately, growing closer to God is all that matters anyway.

Seen in this way, falls provide us with a wonderful opportunity to grow roots in our Catholicism, We need only to approach such falls in this way and let God do the rest.

2017   Gabriel Garnica

 

 

 

 

 

Find Your Holiness Now….


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Mother Angelica of EWTN fame once wrote that the only true path to holiness is to live in the present.  What did she mean by this?

The Past: For Educational Purposes Only

We all know that the past provides us with many wonderful opportunities to learn and grow.  Our mistakes and stumbles provide us with a great educational resource as we try to grow toward God. Everything from learning how to deal with struggles to identifying and appreciating good friends  comes from our ability to reflect on our past experiences. However, we should keep the past only for that purpose. Too many people use the past as a pit of resentments, regrets, and ruminations which get us nowhere good.  I believe that the past should be like a newspaper:  read it, learn from it, and move on.

The Future:  God 

Many will argue that we must plan for the future.  Others will add that anticipating problems is smart thinking.  While this is all well and good, the only future we should spend much time on is figuring out how to have an eternity with God. Whatever future we think about better be thought about in the context of how God is involved.  A future without God is no future at all.

The Present:  Where Holiness Lives

As Mother Angelica so often stressed, too many people lose opportunities for holiness because they spend their time digging up the past or plotting the future.  See each moment in the present as the gift from God that it truly is.  The key to finding God and getting closer to God is right in front of us each day if we only take the time to look. Remember that the past is done and the future belongs to God.  If we live with God in the present, the future will take care of itself and the past will be more gentle on us.

2016  Gabriel Garnica

Our Falls are Calls to Action


An athlete on the ground is rarely in the midst of glory.  He or she has either been injured, knocked down, tackled, or somehow overcome.  We associate victory and success with standing tall, arms raised in the V for victory.  I do not recall seeing a fallen athlete on the cover of a cereal box. That is because people on the ground are not seen as victors or anyone we want to copy.  However, is such a view short-sighted?  In fact, going a step further, are we missing what being a true follower of Christ is all about if we shy away from or ignore those who fall?

Falling is Inherent in Christianity

Our Lord was all human and all divine.  His humanity caused his tortured body to fall under the weight of the cross and his divinity allowed him to rise again despite such terrible circumstances.  Christ did not fall spiritually, of course, since he never sinned. However, we read how he fell emotionally praying in the Garden.  We also see how he fell physically under the weight of that cross.  Jesus fell in those instances because he was human, and all of us fall from time to time.

The early Christians were martyred and went through much suffering in the early days of the Church. Those were certainly falls of a kind.  We have seen how Peter denied Christ three times and how the other apostles, other than John, ran for the hills when Christ was arrested.  There was no shortage of cowardice on that cold night when Jesus was arrested, nor the following day when he made the ultimate sacrifice for us.  Thus, we see that falling is part of being human and certainly part of being a Christian.

Christianity is about Rising From Those Falls

Christians are not made when they fall but, rather, when they rise from those falls.  We see how Peter rose to become the first pope and Paul rose from his hatred and persecution of Christians to become arguably one of the most important figures in the history of the Church.  We saw how so many saints overcame suffering to become great examples of perseverance and dedication to their faith.  The Christian is not introduced in the glory of earthly victory but in the struggles of earthly defeat. It is in the dirt, the dust, and the mud that Christianity shows its true colors.

Christianity is not about the falls but, rather, about the rising from those falls.

Our Falls are Calls

Ultimately, the Christian must see falls as calls to action and challenges to achieve the greatness that God intends for each Christian.  We are each given a mission on this earth which we must first discern and then fulfill.  There will be challenges in the way and falls in the process, but we must look beyond these mere bumps in the road and keep our eyes, minds, hearts, and souls fixed on the ultimate prize of eternal salvation in the arms of Our Lord.

At the end of the day, when the going gets tough, the Christian shows his or her true colors.

2017  Gabriel Garnica

 

God and Backseat Drivers


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

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

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

A Little Faith Goes a Long Way

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

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

Locus of Control

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

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

Proactive vs. Reactive

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

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

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

Our Way and Sin

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

The Key and Bridge

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

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

Conclusion

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

 

 

 

2016  Gabriel Garnica

Divine Mercy: The Ultimate Mulligan


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

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

The Story: Words and Image

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

The Message:  Contrition, Trust, Faith, and Love

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

Gabriel Garnica, 2016

Christian Feet


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

Language

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

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

Cleansing

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

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

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

Action

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Gabriel Garnica, 2016