Last Super Bowl Play is a Primer in Faith and Salvation; The Response to It is the Anti-Divine Mercy


We have all seen it, and anyone who knows anything about football knows it was probably the most bone-headed play ever called in a Super Bowl. Needing only one yard to repeat as champions, Pete Carroll, the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, decided to call a slant pass with the explosive Marshawn Lynch standing in the backfield ready to ram the ball into the end zone.  Had the inexplicably risky play worked, people would have called Carroll as gutsy as ever but, even if it had, throwing the ball in those circumstances makes no sense at all. In the end, many felt Carroll tried to get “too cute” in his strategy rather than merely do the safer, simpler, and much more practical thing by calling a running play with perhaps the most dangerous runner in football in important situations.

Given the above, many have asserted that Carroll, true to his nature, likes to shoot from the hip and display an almost reckless swagger that has come to characterize his team. Others cite an arrogance just beneath the surface of that swagger, displaying a subtle disdain for the conventional, as well as  a distaste for the expected.  This swagger worked when Carroll went for and got the tying touchdown just before the half when most would have settled for a field goal to cut the margin. It seemed destined for another inevitable fairy tale ending when Jermaine Kearse juggled, and caught a long pass while sitting on his behind to put the Seahawks within sight of victory with less than a minute remaining. However, as often happens, those who rely on improbable miracles built on reckless abandon run out of luck, and so this amazing catch was destined to become but a bitter precursor to the collapse that followed.

Our faith and salvation depend on our ability to simplify and apply God’s laws to our lives. It is only when we try to get too “cute” and pretend that we can improvise God’s recipe for success and salvation that we get into trouble.  Rather than develop a lunch pail, workman-like approach to bringing glory to God and serving others, we often go for the big play,  the sexy display of sheer nobility or holiness.  I bet that many of us, given the chance to gain world-wide fame for helping one person or total anonymity for helping a thousand people, would opt for the former rather than the latter.

If bringing glory to God and serving others in His Name is too complicated for us, it is only because we make it so by pretending that God’s ways are somehow too dry and dull for our taste.  We dare to fancy ourselves so much more multi-dimensional than God calls us to be, adept at serving others and praising God while reading our own press clippings. In the end, I will take controlled excellence over reckless spectacles every day.

As for the reaction to this foolish play, there we have the complete opposite of the kind of mercy which Christ calls us to exhibit. This biggest of blunders in clearly the biggest of stages has resulted in the biggest of backlashes possible from fans too eager to pretend they know more about football than these coaches have forgotten.  Yes, it was a terrible mistake but, no, that does not mean that Carroll or any of his coaches should be forever bashed for the move.  Christ calls on us to forgive the biggest falls from precisely the biggest stages more easily than the smallest missteps from the most unimportant situations. I think that it is safe to say that Carroll, quarterback Russell Wilson, and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will have to live with this painful memory for a long time, so bashing them now is just too easy and clearly vicious.

So there you  have it.  Simplify and execute God’s simple plan for your salvation; do not try to get fancy with the basic formula God has provided us. Secondly, be ready to forgive the biggest blunders and harms in the biggest situations, for our eternal judgment will be the scene of far bigger blunders in a far more important game for each of us, and we will need all the compassion, consideration, and mercy we can get.

2015  Gabriel Garnica

Advertisements

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 You Practice “Take Home” Catholicism?


The other day I was thinking about the difference between “eating out”,  “fast food”, and “take home food”.  I realize that, for many folks, there is no difference between these three terms. However, the more I thought about it, I began to see a difference, not in general terms but, more importantly, in emphasis.

The concept of eating out has been identified with eating away from home, where less work is involved since one does not prepare the meal, with payment involved, providing a change of pace from the norm, expecting a commercial transaction of some kind ( food for payment), and most often involving a big meal with some provision for small snacks taken outside the home from time to time.

In contrast to eating out, fast food is taken to be a quick, convenient meal making way for more time spent with other parts of life.  It would seem absurd, for example, for a family to go to a fast food place and then take two hours to eat the meal there. People associate fast food with eating out because fast food places are outside the home, but the two are not completely compatible. In other words, most fast food places involve eating out, but not all eating out involves going to a fast food place, since one can eat out at a restaurant and take three hours to eat one’s meal there.

The concept of take home food, however, is quite different than the two above.  While it does overlap, as all three of these concepts do, it is not really the same thing. In a sense, most of the food we eat is take home because we buy it outside and take it home to eat. More generally, however, take home food is considered practically synonymous with take out food, which is food prepared outside the home but taken off the premises to be eaten in the home or at least somewhere else, as in an office etc.

The central theme of eating out is seeking an occasional or at least planned convenience outside the home for a price. The key focus of fast food is, of course, quick convenience to make way for other, seemingly more important, life events. The emphasis of take home food, however, is obtaining food outside the home which one then brings back to one’s place of living of working to consume and, possibly, share.

While you may be wondering what any of this has to do with Catholicism, I ask you to consider if, in fact, you are practicing your faith out of mere convenience, rote habit, occasional entertainment, or simply to fulfill some duty.  Do  you look at your faith as something you obtain for one hour out of 168 hours in the week ( if that) where you pray, sing, read deep spirituality, eat a cookie, and then go home?  Do you seek a pre-packaged faith prepared by someone else which you can quickly consume in church and then go about your business once you escape from church premises? Are you looking for an easy faith, prepared by someone else, which does not require any work on your part?  Is your focus more on gulping down the practices and particulars of worship like some hamburger rather than actually saving your soul while helping others save theirs?

I suggest that you consider developing a deeper, more fulfilling, form of Catholicism.  Perhaps you may look into beginning to practice a “Take Home Catholicism”  in which you partake of what church has to offer seriously and with focus consistent with its importance and then, just as importantly, you then go out and take what you have been shown inside the church outside in your life, your work, your interactions with others, and in your home.

What good does praying and singing devoutly in church do if followed by arrogance, disregard, negligence, mockery, disrespect, and mistreatment of others once you are outside?  What good does it do to shake everyone’s hand inside the church if you follow that up with banding together with your sacred clique and alienate others later?

Jesus did not like those who publicly practiced devout faith but did not follow those rituals up with practical, real applications of that faith in the rest of their lives.  He did not like hypocrites, and those who sing hymns, pray prayers, and then later patronize, mock, and alienate others through their arrogant self-entitlement and feelings of superiority are surely hypocrites.  Make it a practice to practice what you preach, and to speak only if such speech will bring others to Christ, as opposed to bringing yourself up in other people’s eyes or popularity.

Take your Catholicism home, or you will starve your faith and your salvation in the long run.

Gabriel Garnica, 2014

Catholic Exceptionalism Has Developed an Inferiority Complex


 

 

 

 

I recently saw some videos wherein young Catholics at the recent March for Life were asked if the Catholic Church is superior to all other religions.  The vast majority of these young people, who should be commended for supporting life under brutal conditions, seemed to shy away from the word “superior”.  Many of them answered “no” and some of those, when later asked to provide more detail in their answer, seemed to not want to offend or insult anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings.  Since when has the word “superior” become a curse word?  Since our society began to worship what I will call militant, rampant, and non-conditional equality. This so-called equality demands that people spread the wealth, spread the love, spread the pain, spread the gain and, ultimately, only succeeds in spreading something for more organic and fertilizing.

We believe that we are all created in the Image of God, and that we are all God’s children. As Catholics we not only believe that Jesus Christ came down to us to provide us with the opportunity for eternal salvation, but that we receive His Body and Blood at Mass, which is not a glorified meal but, rather, a re-enactment of Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross. We also believe that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, and that She, like Her Son, was born and lived without sin.  We love and honor Mary as our ally in the struggle for salvation. That effort is a struggle, not because Christ made it so but, rather, because we make it so with our human weakness, inconsistency, disloyalty, selfishness, and disobedience as personified in sin.  We believe that we need to unburden our sin through the Sacrament of Confession before a priest, and to feed our souls, minds, and hearts with the Body and Blood of Christ as often as possible to help us in our struggle for salvation.  We believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and that the Pope is God’s representative on earth.  

We also believe that the great privilege and blessing of being a Catholic carries with it a similarly great responsibility and duty, which is to live according to a higher standard than that practiced by this world, and by other faiths. In addition to following God’s Word, as well as seeking and accepting God’s Will as best we can define that Will, we are expected to combine God’s Word in the Bible with Christ’s example in both the Bible and the Gospels to serve as messengers and models of salvation for this world. We are not called to bash, humiliate, or mock other faiths, for Christ did not do that but, rather, to lovingly and consistently exhibit words, actions, and examples which will encourage others to seek salvation through our faith.  Being Catholic is a gift we should want to share with others out of love, not a burden or a toy which we should endure or play with.

If you found a great electronic device, or a fantastic recipe, or an awesome website,  which you thought would transform the lives of those you love, wouldn’t you tell them about it, and even try to convince them to give it a try?  If you were selfish, you might keep this information to yourself, but then you would not be following Christ’s example and, ironically, endangering your own salvation while neglecting that of others.  By telling them about this item, process, or place that you saw as so special, would you be necessarily be telling them that all other electronic devices, recipes, or websites were total garbage, useless trash with no redeeming value whatsoever?  Of course not, yet this redistribution society wants to pretend that, unless we say everything is equal, we are saying that everything, and everybody, outside of our agenda is worthless garbage.

Another insidious influence of this society is that we are told to question and suspect everything said and  done by those who have, blindly favor  and defend everthing said and done by those who have not, and assume and even demand that everyone, regardless of merit or qualification, should be equal.  Thus, everyone is going to Heaven no matter what, and nobody will go to a Hell because that would just be wrong and mean or, because, God would never have a Hell in the first place.

This society and world loves to call itself “progressive”, “modern”, “sensitive”,  and “tolerant”  yet it is least forward thinking, advanced, caring, or tolerant with regard to those who disagree with the accepted or popular thinking or opinion regarding the deepest and most intimate of matters.  At the end of the day, this world and society are about subjective morality built on rampant, militant, and blind equality with no foundation in truth or merit.  If all go to Heaven no matter what, what is the value of holiness and the consequence of sin?  If everyone and everything everyone believes is equal, there will never be a need to seek the light since that light will be everywhere.  The truth told, there is darkness, and light, in varying degrees, as one moves farther, or closer, to God in varying degrees.  The truth told, only God can judge who is, and who is not, worthy of salvation.  

At the end of the day, we should proudly believe that, if we are faithful and practicing Catholics,  we will be further down that path toward God, and that we will be judged by how well we loved others enough to help them along that same path.  That certainly seems unique, special, and exceptional to me, and is clearly something we should be willing to proudly and assertively proclaim to others. So, please, for the sake of your own salvation and that of those you can touch, rip off your Catholic inferiority complex and proudly wear your hat of Catholic Exceptionalism. This is not about putting other down but, rather, about lifting them up.  What do you think?

Copyright, 2014,  Gabriel Garnica,  All rights reserved.

The Trojan Horse of Unity


We are constantly bombarded with the virtues of unity, as if finding unity was the solution to all problems in all situations.  Today, being one who unites, tolerates, compromises, or seeks unity, is presented as a great compliment.  Alternatively, those who are depicted as divisive, intolerant, stubbornly attached to their positions, are presented as arrogant, ignorant fools who bring nothing but trouble.  It seems to me that we end up with three levels of unity as a result of this mess, with only one level being the true path to God.

At the first level, many extol unity as a deity and goal unto itself. These people seemingly place unity as a god which will solve all of our problems.  Such people ignore God, of course, since who needs a God when unity will transform our lives and efforts from struggles and failures to ease and success.  Why oppose, or contradict someone or something if you can find common ground, break bread with, and put aside your differences and avoid hassles altogeher? In theory, of course, this level seems so clean, so disinfected of humanity’s mire. The problem, of course, lies in the fact that everyone seeks unity on his or her terms, and according to his or her agenda.  The political candidate who spews litanies of unity is only interested in the unity he seeks.  Conversely, those who seek unity for unity’s sake will do anything and everything to achieve that unity, which often includes deception and worse.

At the second level, we find those who pretend that Catholics should seek greater unity with non-Catholics to show that our faith is mature, tolerant, open, flexible, reasonable, etc.  Here we find the media’s insidious use of the word “progressive” to distinguish between those Catholics mired in the middle ages and those enlightened by this society’s and this world’s great wisdom.  Here we find leading clerics joking with the rich and powerful as a supposed sign of diplomacy and tact.  Here we find those who have hijacked the mantle and label of Catholicism while promoting everything but Catholicism in some twisted yet unfortunately effective way of creating the impression that Catholicism is moving toward this world’s views.

At the highest level, we find those who find unity, not because they seek it, not because they somehow see it as expedient, diplomatic, politically correct, or convenient. Rather, here we find those who stumble upon unity as they keep their moral and spiritual gaze upon God and eternal salvation.  Unity is not a god; it is not some magic bus that will take us to God; it is certainly not a political, social, economic, moral, or even practical magic bullet that will solve all of our problems, at least not regarding what really matters.  Rather, it is mostly the myth that we were placed here to find friends, make everyone happy, avoid issues, or find common ground.  It is the lie that there is safety in numbers or that differences always hurt.  It is the pretense that Christ came to unite or that God is all about not distinguishing among us.  Yes, finding friends, being happy, avoiding problems, and compromising can be good things at times. However, unity leaves the room when it comes to true dedication, service, love, gratitude, and devotion to God and God’s Will.  If we have not figured it out yet, being closer to God, following God’s Will, serving others, and loving each other as God wants us to do will more often than not bring us a world of problems, a heap of issues, a pile of pain, and a path of suffering. However, none of these things matter because, as we have often heard in Church, anything that separates us from God while uniting us here on this rock is a dangerous waste of time and a huge threat to our eternal salvation.

At the end of the day, the only unity we should achieve on this earth is coming together in worship, devotion, dedication, and obedience to God.

The next time you hear someone wail on and on about how great unity is, remember that compromising diplomacy, wide-eyed tolerance, and mindless political correctness which offend God is the fasted way to destroying the only unity that matters…..eternal unity with God in Heaven. 

Copyright, 2013,  Gabriel Garnica   All rights reserved.

PARETO AND PARADISE


                                              


Some of you may have heard of the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, which states that, for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.  This rule, based on the findings of the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, has become a common rule of thumb in business, demonstrating, for example, that 80% of sales and complaints come from 20% of customers,  roughly 80% of the world’s wealth is controlled by 20% of its population,  80% of sales and human resource problems come from 20% of  employees, 80% of computer problems come from 20% of computer bugs, 80% of injuries come from 20% of hazards,  80% of health care costs come from 20% of patients, and 80% of crimes are committed by 20% of criminals.  This amazing phenomenon has been used by personal growth scholars to project powerful strategies for human development.  If 80% of our problems come from 20% of our lives and 80% of our achievement and happiness comes from 20% of what we do, it stands to reason, Divine Reason, that we can transform our lives, our eternal salvation, and that of others by simply focusing on the 20% of what is most important in our lives and efforts 80% of the time and cutting out as much of the 80% of our lives that is getting us nowhere eternally.

Given all of the above, it occurred to me that, if this principle has been so successfully applied to business, one should be able to apply it to the most important business of all, which is our personal salvation and the salvation of those we cross paths with.

Thus, I propose that 80% of our sins come from 20% of our activities;  80% of our salvation possibilities come from 20% of our words and deeds; 80% of the good we do is only directed at 20% of the people we come in contact with; 80% of our worries are spent on only 20% of what is truly important; 80% of our time is spent on only 20% of what Christ has taught us;  80% of our prayer is directed at 20% of what we should be truly praying for.  I further suggest that 80% of what it takes to become a saint requires a change in 20% of our effort, but that that 80% of that very same effort is only 20% of our usual attention and care.  I could go on and on, and I invite you to send me your own elaborations of this 80-20 rule applied to the business of salvation, of following Christ, and of bringing Christ to this world on a daily basis.

My purpose behind all of this is to suggest that we apply Pareto to Paradise by following a few simple steps. First, we must identify and expand the mere 20% of our lives that is actually moving us closer to God. Second, we must identify and reduce the 80% of our lives that is actually moving us farther from God or causing us to simply spin our wheels on what is most important.  Third, we must identify and expand the 20% of our prayers that are properly and constructively applied toward connecting us with our Creator and identify and reduce the 80% of our prayers that are improperly and destructively applied toward favoring our wants and whims over God’s Divine Providence and love and service of others.  As St. Therese of Lisieux, “the little flower” of Jesus often observed, it is the little changes in our lives that often make the greatest impact on our holiness.

Ultimately, we must ask ourselves if we would call someone our friend if they supported, assisted, cared, and defended us 20% of the time. Despite our inconsistency, stubbornness, arrogance, disloyalty, and weakness, Christ continues to reach out to us, hoping that we will turn that 20% into our 80%.

Gabriel Garnica,  Copyright, 2013,   All rights reserved.

The Parable of The Vineyard Workers: Divine Mercy in Action


One of my favorite Scripture stories is the Parable of The Vineyard Workers ( Matthew 20:1-16) wherein a landowner pays the exact same pay to workers who work different amounts of the day, much to the subsequent anger of the original workers who worked an entire day for, as it turns out, the same pay as those who had only worked a few hours.  We can all relate to those workers who worked the full day.  Not fair!  Are you kidding me?  This is an outrage!  Imagine how you would feel if a co-worker who worked three hours was given the same pay as you were given for eight hours of work.

By human and earthly standards, this landowner is either crazy, sinister, drunk, viciously malicious or, at the very least, stupid. After all, why would any boss want to create a riot by being so blatantly unfair?  Truth be told, however, a simple and careful reading of the parable will demonstrate that the landowner was not, in fact, deceiving or playing with anyone.  He gave every single worker what he promised to give him. The landowner paid the full day workers exactly what he said he would pay them, and he paid the other workers what he felt was right.

Our human perception of unfairness in this story comes, not from the interaction between the landowner and the workers but, actually, from the comparison between the pay given the workers in relation to what they worked.  Steeped in our flimsy human arrogance and presumption, we assume that the pay here is proportional to the work because that is our earthly measure.  We arrogantly presume that this landowner must adhere to our perceptions of fairness and justice because, after all, aren’t those very same perceptions simply brimming with our wisdom and common sense?

Our arrogance allows, even demands, that we measure the landowner’s actions by our measures of justice, with no regard to the fact that, at the end of the day, as the landowner reminds all of the workers, it is his money to do as we wishes.

Enter Christ’s Divine Mercy as brought to us directly through St. Faustina and indirectly through the writings of other saints.  Try as we might, we simply cannot put our brain around the fact that, like that landowner, Almighty God is so generous as to offer us salvation, via an incredibly generous supply of mercy, regardless of how little we have paid our share of service and loyalty to His promises, if only we will do our best once afforded the chance and with what opportunities are presented to us.

We would be fools to presume that we come anywhere near deserving the generous payment of eternal salvation offered us by our Eternal Landowner, yet we are just as likely, and foolish, to both disbelieve the reliability of that Divine Generosity as well as dare to compare ourselves to others in its attainment.

When you come right down to it, most, if not all, of sin is about worrying more about ourselves and our relation to others than keeping our souls and being focused on God and the beautiful eternity He lovingly, generously, and mercifully offers us.

The next time you feel that God has been unfair, unjust, or ignored you, look to the great saints who lived to love and serve others, lived the idea that the last shall be first, and were too humbly content, and grateful, to be working in God’s vineyard to be worrying about who was getting how much mercy and reward for doing what.  Love and serve God by loving and serving others, put others ahead of yourself, and  faithfully believe that God will do right by you, and you will be cashing the greatest paycheck of all when all is said and done.

Copyright, 2013,  Gabriel Garnica  All rights reserved.