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

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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 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.

Meet His Reach with Your Own


 

Meet His Reach With Your Own

Mark 5:21-43  tells us the stories of two reaches….one by a woman afflicted with terrible hemorrhages and the other by  Our Lord to bring a little girl back to life.  The woman’s reach was  desperation mixed with faith and Our Lord’s was, as always, pure love and compassion triggered by the father’s faith.  Many people were touching Jesus in that crowd, but only one touched Him in faith, and she was carried out of the darkness of her disease.  Many people mocked Jesus when He told them that the little girl was only asleep, but His touch carried her out of the darkness of death. We are living in a world which thrives on hands-on proof of everything, which always seems to favor what the senses can perceive over what the soul and the heart can perceive.  Many years ago, AT & T had a commercial which told us to “reach out and touch someone”.  Is that not what following Christ is all about?  Doesn’t He ask us to reach out to others in love, to touch their lives with that love and service?  Was not His entire ministry a vibrant example of just that kind of touch, in action and word?

Surely, if we even partially follow this world’s dictates, tastes, whims, persuasions, and superficial traits, we always seem to be just out of Christ’s touch, just a bit beyond the warmth of His influence.  Given this reality, it is no wonder that those who truly follow the Master always seem to be reaching, to have to extend themselves beyond the rules of a world whose regulations, dictates, recipes, and instructions always seem to avoid, to flee Our Lord

On one hand, some may argue that having to reach for Christ is a sign that we are not fully engaged in following Him for, if we really did try, we would never be far enough from Him to have to reach.  While such thinking is understandable, it is not realistic.  We are imperfect humans following a perfect Master:  reaching is fully included in such an unbalanced situation.  I tend to agree with those who argue that, indeed, reaching is part of the deal and, in fact, part of the mission.  I believe that we are called to reach for Christ just as that woman did. Perhaps our reach, like hers, will be part desperation and part faith but, like hers, at least it will be a reach in the right direction.  We are also called, and expected, to reach for others in love, just as Christ did, for that is where we truly clothe the naked, feed the hungry, satisfy the thirsty, and visit the sick.

Ultimately, then, finding Christ is about loving Him enough to reach for Him, wanting Him enough to extend ourselves beyond what this world finds appropriate or acceptable. Ultimately, as well, finding Christ’s path is about loving others enough to reach for them in love, in service, just as He did so often.  Salvation is about free will directed toward God, and free will is about reaching in that very same direction with one hand while reaching for others in love with the other hand.  In a sense, we are called to be bridges connecting others to God.

Reaching is not about convenience or comfort. In fact, most of the time we reach, we are embracing discomfort and inconvenience, for a purpose we find more important than being comfortable or in a convenient position. In a sense, the only way we can “reach” Heaven is to “reach” out to others while always “reaching” out to Christ.  In the simplest sense, salvation is ultimately about meeting Christ’s loving reach with our own and reaching out to others in love even when our reach may not always be a welcomed or expected one.

Copyright, 2012  Gabriel Garnica

Embrace The Rain


[11] Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: [12] Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.  ( Matthew 5:11-12, Douay-Rheims)

If you call  yourself a follower of Christ, you have to decide what kind of follower you will be.  You may be one of those followers who calls himself a follower of Christ in the comfort  found beneath your bed, where you proudly whisper His Name in defiance of the world outside.  Better still, you may be one of those followers who dares to utter His Name in the safety of your home, where you valiantly speak His Name when no guest who might be offended or become angry is around.  Perhaps, you may be one of those followers who actually speaks His Name in  your home while some people who might not like it are getting a drink or a snack from your refrigerator.  Dare I go further?  Yes, why not!  Could it be that you have the courage to actually speak His Name outside your home, making sure the nobody is within an earshot of what you are saying.  Better still, maybe you actually speak His Name within hearing distance of someone who might be deeply wounded by the mere mention of your Master’s Holy Name.  If you are any of these, I challenge you to be much, much more, not because I am in a position to judge you much less compare myself to you, for like you I am a sinner badly needing Christ’s Mercy. No, I challenge you not on my accord or by any virtue of being qualified for this labor but; rather, because My Lord gives me the audacity to suggest that He is all that should matter to you, and that anything you think, feel, see, say, do, or plan should be run through a simple test; namely, whether it brings greater glory to His Name, and helps others to be closer to Him.

What kind of follower am I challenging you to become then?  I am asking you to consider one who embraces the spit.  Yes, Christ told us that we will be spit upon, mocked, despised, and unfairly persecuted if we follow Him.  Doors will be closed on us just as they were closed on Him the night He was born.  Laughter and insults will be hurled against us by mindless imbeciles too ignorant and arrogant to respect as well as too hypocritical and illogical to be relevant.  You will be tempted to abandon Him, to avoid the rain that awaits those who follow His Word.  I challenge you not to avoid that rain, not to run for cover from it.  Rather, smile and welcome those storms, for they are a blessing from Heaven.  Stand up and open your arms and mind to the privilege of being criticized, mocked, ridiculed, insulted, and persecuted for having the courage to believe, speak, and act as a true follower of our Master.

There will surely be those who will mockingly say, “Who do you think you are, do you think you are better than we are?”  Others will squeal “Look who is judging me, the one who…..”  Do not listen to these cries, for they come from the evil one who only wants to make you feel like a hypocrite, like a fool with no standing in this fight.  I am here to tell you that you have a very good standing in this battle, and every reason to be part of it.  If you truly love Him, and you truly want to follow Him, then you belong in these front lines fighting for Him.

The world will not understand you because it cannot grasp why following anyone, much less a distant Carpenter who hung like a criminal should be worth all of this aggravation in the present. You can try to explain your loyalty if you wish, and perhaps Our Lord will give you the words to do so.  What matters most, however, is that you bravely and loyally serve Him, follow His Word, model His actions and love, and proudly speak of Him to all who will hear.  Where you will most confuse this world, however, will be in the way you will embrace the rain rather than run for cover from it.  You will relish any suffering you find due to following Him, and see such sorrow as a blessing well worth the effort. At the end of the day, at the end of your days, and at the end of this world’s days, you will embrace the rain if you believe that God alone, is what matters in this world, in this life, and in your future.

Copyright, 2011  Gabriel Garnica