Who is God?

There’s a lot of ideas of God out there. You’ve got the Buddhist/Hindu version of God being in everything and everything is the same, you’ve got the religions stemming from Abraham, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, which believe in one God, you have the many gods of native tribes, and the general heavenly spirit of contemporary “spiritual” people, and countless other ideas.

So what does that say about humanity? I’d argue it means that means that it is instinctive for humans to believe in a higher power. Modern atheism as we now know it is actually a pretty modern phenomenon, and even now as I do a little Wikipedia research, only 2.3% of humanity labels themselves as atheists. Over the years man has sought meaning in life and tried to understand who we are and where we are from. God has been the instinctive answer, and it makes a great deal of sense. As we look at it from the brute scientific point of view, the universe as we know it must have been created by a higher being.

But what sort of higher being are we talking about here? This is a God who is all powerful. God is all powerful because He would have to have the power to create the universe, to set those universal constants, etc. This is also a God who doesn’t need any more glory, love, etc. This is because if God needed things, God would therefore not be God, God would be limited. This means that God does not need us (yea, I know, that’s pretty mind-blowing in and of itself). We learn that God is eternal, because if He existed before the big bang and so on, it only makes sense that God was always present. What would have changed to have created the Creator of all? Check out Scott Hahn’s “A Father Who Keeps His Promises” for a  more thorough take on this concept.

Dr. Peter Kreeft’s 12 Ways to Know God is a great list to check out. I’d encourage everyone to check out the rest of his website as well, what a great resource!

We learn a heck of a lot more about God, like His omnipresence- His being present everywhere- as we look back at human history on how He has interacted with us, most significantly in the incarnation of God, in Jesus Christ. There we truly see that “God is love,” as is often quoted from the first letter of John in the New Testament. I believe that in order to qualify this I will be exploring why we can trust the Bible and who Jesus is and why we can believe Him in later posts.

Despite all of these ways of knowing God, He still remains incomprehensible for us. He is above our imagination, anything that we could think of. Crazy, huh?! But we do know that we can come to know Him more and more, and we can find out more and more about Him,  who created us out of love, in our lives. Keep searching! Check out this cool quote by a guy most scientists and engineers are very familiar with:

“Something incomprehensible is not for that reason less real.” -Blaise Pascal

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The HHS Mandate

So there’s this HHS Mandate that’s made the news lately. Have you heard of it?

On January 20th, 2012, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, and President Obama declared a mandate that forces private health plans to cover sterilization and contraception, including some that can cause abortion. This was done to make sure that Americans nationwide have greater access to these services, the same way that Americans have to be covered for diseases.

Yep, our president just lumped sterilization and contraception in the same category as the measles. But that is beyond the point.  …Wait, what do you mean that is beyond the point, Chris? Well, get this: the HHS Mandate isn’t about contraception, sterilization, or even abortion! Huh? Yea, that’s probably not what you’re reading from the major new sources. Just yesterday a student in the Daily Illini wrote a column about this issue, and she talked about the need for college aged women to have access to affordable birth control. Thanks, but that doesn’t even begin to help us in this issue. Thankfully, our DRE at the Newman Center wrote this rational column against the mandate, taking the mandate as it actually is and analyzing it.

The HHS Mandate debate should not be about contraception, etc. That is a topic for another day. This issue is about our freedom of religion and conscience rights. The very first Amendment of the US Constitution reads,

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

The second part of this Amendment is in danger today because of this mandate. Let’s take a look at what this mandate will do:

  1. This rule forces all private health plans – nationwide, by the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen – to cover sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion.
  2. This rule treats pregnancy like a disease – every other mandate like this has been for diseases.
  3. This rule forces health plans to cover abortifacients, which violates existing Federal conscience laws.
  4. This rule would force insurers to include this in policies, employers and schools to sponsor the coverage, and individual employees and students to pay premiums for it. There is not an exemption in place for any of these parties.
Alright, that sounds pretty bad. But wait, didn’t he compromise? Yea, he did. So what changed? To put it plainly, nothing. Here’s Senator Roy Blunt’s quite blunt take on it:

“It’s still clear that President Obama does not understand this isn’t about cost – it’s about who controls the religious views of faith-based institutions. President Obama believes that he should have that control. Our Constitution states otherwise. Just because you can come up with an accounting gimmick and pretend like religious institutions do not have to pay for the mandate, does not mean that you’ve satisfied the fundamental constitutional freedoms that all Americans are guaranteed.I’ll continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that we reverse this unconstitutional mandate in its entirety.”

This mandate means that in a year, Catholic schools (which cumulatively educate over 2 million Americans, saving our government nearly $6 billion a year! Student info, cost info), hospitals (which serve 1 in 6 Americans), charities (which provide 2.2 million free meals to the hungry in Chicago alone each year), and more institutions will choose between paying heavy fines or closing. They will not comply. Every single Catholic bishop in the US has condemned it. If President Obama really cared about women’s education, health, and the poor, he would never even think of doing something that would have such horrible repercussions. Unfortunately, many people are blind to these facts as well as the extrapolation that if this goes through, our government now in essence has given itself the right to disregard the consciences of American citizens. Have a problem with the infanticide of children? Assisted suicide? The government now has the authority to disregard your conscience. Scary thoughts, huh?

This isn’t just a Catholic issue. The Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Orthodox Jews, and more are all coming together in support of the freedom or religion and conscience. Stand up for our country. Stand up for our rights. Stand up for our constitution, and let congress know that we won’t stand for this.

“But our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to God.”
“We are bound, you, I, and every one, to make common cause, even with error itself, to maintain the common right of freedom of conscience.”
“No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the “rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.”
– All by Thomas Jefferson

Read more:
Official Statement from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops
Charles Kadlec’s editorial, Forbes Magazine

Lent

It’s that time again! Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, and it’s even more exciting than usual here at the University of Illinois! Bishop Daniel Jenky (he has a blog too!) of our Diocese, Peoria, will be saying the 5:00 mass for us here at St. John’s Chapel at the Newman Center. I’m going to go really early so I can get a good front row seat!

So what is lent about? Where does it come from? I really can’t do a better job than Fr. William Saunders does here, so check it out! I can summarize, though 😉

Lent is a time of prayer, penance, sacrifice, and good works for Christians in anticipation for Easter. Christians practiced some sort of lenten fast as early as 203 AD. After Christianity was legalized in the Roman Empire in 313, it became more organized as 40 days of fasting. And why 40? 40 is a pretty special number to Christians. We think of the 40 years of Moses and the Israelites in the desert waiting to be allowed to go to the promised land, Jesus going off before his ministry to fast for 40 days and be tempted by the devil, and before Moses received the 10 commandments he fasted for 40 days on Mount Sinai. So it seems like 40 days is a good way to prepare for such a special time like celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection on Easter. Did you know that Sundays and Solemnities you don’t have to do your lenten promises? Those are still days of joy and celebration!

So as you can see, we give up meat on Fridays and other things in order to prepare ourselves for the Lord. I’d suggest “giving up” or doing something that will actually help you grow closer to the Lord, and to go through with your promise even if it is hard. Maybe giving up ice cream this year won’t actually help that, but maybe saying your prayers every day will.

Have a blessed lent!

Faith and Works

Last night I had the opportunity to tweet at PRO (@mynameisPRo), one of my favorite Christian Hip Hop artists, after he commented on salvation by faith. He said:

Your works do NOT save you! Goodnight. So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Romans 9:15, 16 ESV)

To which I responded:

@mynameisPRo As a Catholic, we believe that salvation depends on both faith AND works. Check out James 2 for example:biblegateway.com/passage/?searc…

And then he responded:

@ItsChrisGoulet james is not a proponent of faith plus works. He is showing us that one works because he already has faith 🙂

Ok, let’s figure this thing out. PRO’s original claim is that we are only saved by faith. This us Catholics agree with wholeheartedly. Christ paid the price for our salvation and we cannot be saved without faith in Him. We also agree that our works do come from faith. The difference that I would like to point out is how Jesus did stress that our salvation depends on our works.

What James is saying in his second letter is the question, how can we have faith, if we do not express it with works? In James 2:17, St. James writes “..Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” This in essence means that without works, our faith is a lie. He goes on to explain how Abraham, our father in the faith, also had his faith completed by being willing to give up his only son, Issac, to do the will of God.

PRO, I love your music, and you even seem to agree that in order to more fully serve our Lord, we need to amend our lives and show others the love of Christ. In your song “Before I die,” which is one of my favorites, a part of the song is:

“And maybe before my last breath, You will see a man that, Finished the race and ran hard until his last step.”

You are referencing 2 Timothy 4:7 here, which is about how we must keep the faith through the entirety of our lives. So if we are only saved by faith, why is there this need to finish the race by doing good and not evil? Wouldn’t you agree that by doing evil, we reject the Lord and abandon our faith? So only in doing good works and avoiding evil can we accept the salvation which Christ offers to us in faith. If the only thing necessary for our salvation is faith, isn’t that an invitation to hypocrisy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? This way, Christians could “have faith,” and then live lives like the secular culture presents to us completely contrary to the Gospel.

Now let’s look to the example of Jesus and St. Paul. Jesus taught us many times to do good and not to do evil, like in the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5. He gave us the example of caring for the poor and needy, like his words to his disciples after washing their feet:

“If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

Look at Matthew chapter 25, where he talks about the separation of the sheep and the goats:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And then the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirst and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’  Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

See, what factor is Jesus talking about that differentiates the sheep and the goats? Faith was never mentioned in this instance, instead the key to eternal life was serving the poor and needy.

Let’s also look at the example of St. Paul, who wrote to the Corinthians in his first letter,

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

St. Paul wasn’t only content to have faith in Christ. If he was only saved by faith, why would he have the need to undergo such severe hardships in spreading the gospel? St. Paul was on fire for the Lord and always sought to proclaim the gospel. His ministry was that of both faith and works, and he finished the race in faith, dying a martyr in Rome.

A tree is known by its fruits, may our fruits continue to glorify God in all that we do.

Your brother in Christ,

Chris Goulet

Want more scripture?
Ezekiel 18- If a man lives by God’s statues and ordinances, he shall surely live. God will judge each according to his ways.
Ezekiel 33:17-20- God will judge all according to their ways
Matt 5:19-26- Obey and teach the commandments to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven
Matt 16:27- Son of Man will repay everyone according to his conduct
Rom 2:5-7- God will repay everyone according to his works, eternal life…through perseverance in good works
2 Cor 5:10- each will receive recompense according to what he did in the body
1 Cor 9:27- St. Paul drives his body and trains it so as not to disqualify himself
Gal 5:6- only faith working through love
James 2:14- James doubts that a faith without works has potency to save a person
James 2:20, 22- faith without works is useless/faith incomplete without works
James 2:24- a person is justified by works and not by faith alone (this is the ONLY occassion in scripture where the phrase “faith alone” is found)

More information:
EWTN http://www.ewtn.com/library/answers/faworks.htm

Apostolic Succession

Apostolic Succession still happens! It’s crazy because when I think about it I think back to the days of the early Church, but Jesus instituted a Church that would be one and “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” So of course it makes sense that that would continue! Check out this video of Pope Benedict installing 22 new Cardinals today in Rome:

In the ceremony, Pope Benedict called the new Cardinals, just like the rest of the faithful, to the life of Christ, even to martyrdom, following the examples of Saints Peter and Paul:

Dear Brothers who are to be enrolled in the College of Cardinals, may Christ’s total gift of self on the Cross be for you the foundation, stimulus and strength of a faith operative in charity. May your mission in the Church and the world always be “in Christ” alone, responding to his logic and not that of the world, and may it be illumined by faith and animated by charity which comes to us from the glorious Cross of the Lord. On the ring which I will soon place on your finger, are represented Saints Peter and Paul, and in the middle a star which evokes the Mother of God. Wearing this ring, you are reminded each day to remember the witness which these two Apostles gave to Christ even unto martyrdom here in Rome, their blood making the Church fruitful. The example of the Virgin Mother will always be for you an invitation to follow her who was strong in faith and a humble servant of the Lord.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/pope-creates-22-new-cardinals#ixzz1mktxu5EF

It is beautiful that 2000 years later, Apostolic Succession continues the same way that St. Titus, St. Timothy, St. Ignatius of Antioch, and St. Linus were successors of the Apostles. May we always keep these men in our prayers that they may strive to be like a “slave to all” as Jesus said after washing His Apostles’ feet. May the Church be one always, as Jesus prayed in the garden.

I Believe in God

Hey, just saying it is controversial nowadays! I’d like to explain why in this post. Here are some of my reasons:

1. Scientifically, it makes sense. Look into astrophysics. I’d encourage you to check out this resource compliments of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith: http://www.magisreasonfaith.org/files/pdfs/magis_factsheet.pdf

The most obvious scientific proof of a creator God is the Big Bang. The Big Bang means that there was a beginning, that before, there was nothing, and then after, there was something. But wait, how is this possible? In physics we learn that out of nothing, nothing comes. If the ball is rolling along a plane with no forces on it, it will simply continue rolling exactly how it has been. Well, this nothing was happening, and then all of a sudden things were happening! The Big Bang happened! Therefore, the most reasonable explanation is that there is some sort of creator God, because something happening out of nothing is simply improbable! There is way more scientific evidence, especially science that shows how improbable the possibility of life was even though it still happened.

Here is Fr. Robert Spitzer of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith:

2. We yearn for more. And more. And more. Cue the Black Eyed Peas song “Just can’t get enough” for this part..

Think about it, if you could have the world, would you take it? Of course you would. But would you be satisfied even then? Probably not. That’s an extreme example. How about a simple thing: how many oreo cookies does it take to satisfy you? For me, as long as the milk hasn’t ran out, I’m going to keep going. As a child, after school I would eat and eat and eat those wonderful things! Extrapolate that to everything that we do in life. What is the reason for that? The reason is obviously that we were made for life to the infinite, infinite love, infinite joy! Some faiths like the Buddhists try to resolve this problem by “removing themselves from the world.” As Christians, we know that God created us for Him, and as St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” By being with God one day, we will finally be satisfied.

3. Experience. This would have to be both the experience of knowing God’s presence, answered prayers, and the experience of the Christian community. Honestly, I’m pretty sure I’ve had out of body experiences. In these times, it’s just a moment of weirdness and feeling all disconnected, and then all of a sudden I’m back and I have to look around and blink and stuff. It’s like I forget where I am. Answered prayers are pretty darn obvious. Maybe the most remarkable part about them are the ones that were “crazy,” there were a couple of those for sure. And then what’s so cool is seeing how black and white the difference is between the Christian community and regular American society. This is something that most people haven’t experienced, though, unfortunately.

4. Miracles. Even the secular press saw the predicted miracle anticipated by three little children of the sun in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917 and reported it. Have you heard of the incorrupt bodies of some Saints? Check it out, you can literally visit them in person too: http://www.catholicapologetics.info/library/gallery/incorrupt/incorrupt.htm

Manhood

Houston, We Have a Problem.

There is a void in our society. I think it is safe to say I mean western society in general. It affects sons, daughters, wives, neighbors, and friends. It is undeniable that it has steadily become worse over time.

This void is the lack of strong male leadership. It is most evident to see this deficiency when you turn on the tv. Who’s offered as role models for boys? You have Homer Simpson and Co from the sitcom world, who are generally lazy and inattentive to their families. You have Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods from the athletic world, both unfaithful to their wives. You have politicians like Bill Clinton and Herman Cain who were also unfaithful.  Lil Wayne and Drake are two rappers that most boys idolize growing up, with lyrics like “I might go crazy on these ***** I don’t give a **********, run up the ***** house and shoot his grandmother up, what” and “sometimes I need that romance, sometimes I need that pole dance, sometimes I need that stripper thats gon’ tell me that she don’t dance.”

It is easy enough to illustrate the problem, but how do we fix it? What does manhood really look like nowadays?

A real man treats others, especially women, with respect. A real man’s word is true. A real man seeks to help those in need. A real man takes initiative in the workplace and at home, always lending a hand. A real man is forgiving and just. A real man knows that to love means to sacrifice of yourself for others, not just to have passionate feelings towards another. A real man keeps his head when the going is rough.

An example of a real man nowadays is Mark Wahlberg. Check out this clip of him with Piers Morgan:

We need more real men like Mark Wahlberg. These men will make great fathers, husbands, leaders, and role models. They will teach their sons how to treat women well. They will teach their daughters how they aught to be treated. They will do everything that they can support their wives. Men, I challenge you to step up to the plate and become real men.