How I Define Myself

About two months ago at the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) general member meeting, we played a very interesting social game. The leader assigned different names to each part of the room: class, race, religion, sex, and gender. We were told to stand in the part of the room that we identify with the most. I really enjoyed the premise of the game, which really made me think, and I especially liked the opportunity to talk as a group about why we identify with one over the other.

Being LASO, the LATIN AMERICAN Student Organization, you can guess which part of the room was most populated… the race one. But I noticed a unique pattern for why people identified with class, race, sex, and gender: they usually identified themselves with the one that they were most discriminated against for. The people who came from the lower class talked about how they didn’t have the same opportunities as their peers from middle or upper class families. Women talked about how because of their sex they have been treated as objects and haven’t had the same respect as men. The story goes on similarly for race and gender.

Interestingly enough, I was the only one to stand at the “religion” section. I’m the white guy in the group, and a missionary on top of that, so yea… I stood out like a sore thumb as always. Because of the awkwardness of being the only one in my group, they didn’t ask me to share why I was standing there. But I think I’d like to share now, in case anyone is curious. It really made me think, that’s for sure.

I identify with religion more than the others not simply because I am a “normal” American. Middle class, white, male. So what. There’s plenty of reasons for me to be proud to be from a middle class family of immigrants that “made it.” The ancestors that I identify with the most is my mom’s side, German farmers who immigrated to America because of religious persecution in 1841. They founded the town that I was blessed to grow up in. (Big honking beautiful Catholic church right in the center. Take that, religious persecution.)

My home parish: St. John the Baptist

My home parish: St. John the Baptist

Note: I very much resonate with and respect the students who identify with their Hispanic heritage above all else. These students are mostly first or second generation Americans, faced with difficulties in their homelands and searching for a better life in America. I bet that many of their parents have trouble speaking English because of that and many other factors school has always been more of a personal struggle for them. I bet that most of their families have been through times of living paycheck to paycheck. I also resonate with and respect the students who identified most with sex, gender, and class. This post is not to bash those students at all in any way. My goal is just to point out that while those are great things to identify with, I believe that religion – properly understood – takes the cake hands down in this one.

I identify with my Catholic Christian religion the most because I do not define myself by what other people think of me, instead I define myself by God’s love for me. I was created out of love for love. People might make fun of me and tear me down, but I try not to be bothered too much by what they try to do or say to me, because no matter what, I know that God loves me exactly the way that I am. God loves each of us exactly the way that we are, no matter our background, skin color, sex, gender, religion, age, etc. This gives me hope at all times and is a relationship to cherish. God is my rock and my foundation, so the rest of my life is at least set on firm ground.

If I were to define myself according to what others think of me, wouldn’t that leave me vulnerable to being hurt by them? I absolutely love this line by Lecrae:

“If you live for their acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection.” – Lecrae

Our true hope in both good times and bad is God’s love for us. He has a great plan for us, even despite the struggles that we will surely go through, and He reminds the prophet Jeremiah:

“I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

I think that most of the students identified with a certain thing because that’s a struggle that they have to deal with from their background. I’d say that that’s okay! We all have struggles, there is no shame in that. But I would encourage us all to turn what we identify with from a negative to a positive. Why dwell on your struggles if you could look forward to the future?

There are also those who identify with something because they genuinely like or treasure it, like their heritage for example. Even this pales in comparison to our relationship with God, our ultimate heritage. At the end of the day, though race, class (that you grew up from), sex, and gender are permanent things, they are just earthly things. The only thing that lasts through eternity is our relationship with Jesus.

“What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we are being slain all the day;

we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35-39

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Hip Hop and The New Evangelization: What We Can Learn from Lecrae

I recently wrote a blog post for FOCUS Blog, check it out!

Hip Hop and The New Evangelization: What We Can Learn from Lecrae

It’s fun to see that since I wrote the post, Lecrae’s latest album Anamoly was released to stunning success, topping the Billboard chart and in the process becoming the first Christian Hip Hop artist to do so.

Elephants in the Room

Life. You’re living it right now.

If you’re anything like me, you probably take a lot of things in life for granted. I take for granted my life, family, friends, health, gifts, talents, experiences, faith, etc. on a day to day basis. I am who I am, and who has the power to take that away from me?

But there are those moments in life that shock us back to reality. Broken friendships, injuries, and the death of loved ones are common occurrences. They have the power to shock us straight to the core and make us reevaluate everything that we once stood for. What was it that I was looking for in life anyways? What drove me each day?

There’s a danger of living our lives in our own little world. We can get closed off to experiencing new things or meeting new people. We can be tricked into thinking that life can never be anything more than it is right now. What if there was something more to live for?

I’m of the opinion that we don’t necessarily have to wait for a tragedy to happen before we evaluate what our goals are in life and what we’re living for. It’s about being responsible with the gift of life that we’ve been given.

There are elephants in the room of our culture nowadays. We don’t talk about them, but they’re actually probably the most important things to talk about in the world.

Death. It happens to all of us. So why not live for something greater than just earthly things that will pass away anyways? Why not live for eternal things?

Truth. There are a billion different opinions out there, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all true. We have to test them all, and only keep what is true. People are very sensitive nowadays, but believe it or not, it’s actually possible to have a mature conversation about deep topics without bickering and fighting. Hint: they take place face to face, not on Facebook.

Jesus. He claims to be the way, the truth, and the life. Historically we have an overwhelming amount of evidence that He walked this earth. He claimed to be God. Who do you say that He is? Do you know who He is?

Love. Everyone loves love and nobody seems to know what love is. Is it a feeling? Is it just for couples? Is it not worth it? It’s hard to see in a country that celebrates abortion and no-fault divorce, but there is such thing as true love. Love is a verb, a way of serving others before ourselves in all things. Love is a choice to put others before yourself. It will change the world, one choice at a time.

Next time that we catch ourselves taking something for granted, let’s try and remember to cherish this life and look to lead lives of purpose that help others and lead to eternal life 🙂

What other elephants do you notice in our culture? How can we open up a conversation about them with others?

Perfect Worship

Pope Francis mass

The following is a guest post by John

I think a lot of Christians instinctively think of their worship services in terms of what they get out of them. Was I inspired by the sermon? How did the music make me feel? Did I learn something? While these may be good things to think about, if we step back and think about the purpose of our worship services, we will see that this way of thinking is totally backward.

What is the purpose of our worship services? It seems obvious when you take a step back and think about it; the purpose is to offer our worship to the Lord. The reason why the mass is the most perfect form of worship on earth is because in the mass we offer worship in the way Jesus taught us to worship. We participate in Jesus’ sacrificial offering of himself to the Father. What offering is more perfect than Christ himself, offered by Christ himself? This is what we have in the mass.

The mass is the source and summit of our faith, because in the mass we most closely imitate the perfect worship of heaven. This reveals to us why we make every effort to array the mass in beauty — incense, chanted antiphons, stained glass, vestments, iconography… In the mass, we participate in the worship of heaven, and we should make every effort to imitate more perfectly the worship of heaven. Indeed, our hearts cry out within us to participate in this type of worship, and the more beautiful and universal we make the mass, the more attractive it will be. We will not attract Christians with modern-looking churches and popular music. We will attract Christians with beautifully adorned churches, beautifully chanted music, and our beautiful Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Indeed, we were designed to be attracted to this type of worship in our very nature, because we were designed for heaven.

When you go back to your worship service, think about what is your purpose for being there — to offer worship to God. Think about what is the most perfect offering we can make to God and the one he told us to make — the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, offered by Jesus Christ. Think about how we can more perfectly participate in the heavenly worship we long for — by making every aspect of our worship as beautiful as possible.

John is a friend of mine from the University of Illinois. He’s a fellow engineer and is now a professor at the University of Minnesota. He’s also part of my mission partner team for FOCUS, and he says you should all contact me to find out how you can join my team too!

Mass: The Liturgy of the Eucharist

Eucharist

Today in bible study we finished up the mass (technically we skipped the closing rites.. hopefully nobody minds too much)

The Liturgy of the Eucharist

What scripture passages can you think of that help to explain our understanding of the Eucharist?

Accounts of the last supper in the Gospels:

Matthew 26:17-19, 26-30, Mark 14:12-16, 22-26, Luke 22:7-20

It is time for the Passover. Jesus has His disciples prepare the Passover in an upper room. Everything is there except the LAMB! Jesus took the place of the Passover lamb! He said that He will be sacrificed! “He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” The cup is next: “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” “Do this in memory of me.” Remember the Jewish tradition of memorial that we’ve talked about before. They celebrated the Passover each year as a “re-presentation”, not just a “way to remember” what happened. Ask your Jewish friends, the youngest asks the dad why this night is special: the dad responds, “It is because of what the Lord has done for ME” Not “our ancestors”. They understand that they are tied to their ancestors and shouldn’t take the past for granted.

John 6:22-71 “The Bread of Life Discourse”

Immediately after the multiplication of the loaves and the walking on the water, Jesus give a very long speech on how He is the Bread of Life. “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”

Luke 24:13-35 Jesus walking with two strangers on the road to Emmaus, he interpreted the scriptures for them, stays with them for the evening, “he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him” If the Eucharist is just a symbol, how could this story even make sense? If the food and drink that Jesus talks about in John 6 are just symbols for faith, how does this story make sense?

1 Cor 10:16-17, 11:23-26

“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”

“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” <- That last sentence is what we often say in the Mystery of Faith after the consecration.

Acts 2:42,46

Immediately after Pentecost after Jesus had ascended. “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” “Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes.”

Matthew 14:19

Multiplication of the loaves- He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, gave it

Acts 20:7,11

The Christians gathered on the first day of the week to break bread

Rev 4-5

There is a liturgy in heaven similar to the temple liturgy of the Jews and the mass for Christians! Here’s a list of similarities:

The mass in the Book of Revelation, by Scott Hahn, in the book The Lamb’s Supper:

Sunday worship 1:10

High priest 1:13

Altar 8:3-4; 11:1; 14:18

Priests (presbyteroi) 4:4; 11:15; 14:3; 19:4

Vestments 1:13; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9; 15:6; 19:13-14

Consecrated celibacy 14:4

Lamp stands, Menoarah 1:12; 2:5

Penitence 2; 3

Incense 5:8; 8:3-5

The book, or scroll 5:1

Eucharistic Host 2:17

Chalices 15:7; 16; 21:9

The sign of the cross (tau) 7:3; 14:1; 22:4

The Gloria 15:3-4

The Alleluia 19:1; 3; 4; 6

Lift up your hearts 11:12

“Holy, Holy, Holy” 4:8

The Amen 19:4; 22:21

“Lamb of God” 5:6 and throughout

The prominence of the Blessed Virgin Mary 12:1-6; 13-17

Intercession of angels and saints 5:8; 6:9-10; 8:3-4

Devotion to St. Michael the Archangel 12:7

Antiphonal chant 4:8-11; 5:9-14; 7:10-12; 18:1-8

Readings from Scripture 2; 3; 5; 8:2-11

Priesthood of the faithful 1:6; 20:6

Catholicity, universality 7:9

Silent contemplation 8:1

The marriage supper of the Lamb 19:9,17

 

So what actually is happening during mass?

The bringing of the gifts and offering:

We offer up our hard work from the week to the Lord. It is our way of making spiritual sacrifices.

Mixing the water and the wine:

Shows reality of Jesus’ both diving (wine) and human (water) natures.

Eucharistic prayer:

Praise, thanksgiving, supplication. Similar to the haggadah story told of the first Passover and barakah prayer over the cup of wine that is done at Jewish Passovers.

“Lift up your hearts”

The most important part of the mass is coming. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Things that are above is where Christ is. Col 3:1-2.

“The Sanctus: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord”

Isaiah 6:1-5 The words of the Seraphim to the Lord seated on the throne in Isaiah’s vision, Psalm 118:26

Words of institution

Already thoroughly covered in the Lord’s Supper passages above.

Mystery of faith

1 Cor 11:26 “We proclaim your death..” or John 4:42 “Save us Savior of the world..”

Anamnesis

Final offerings, thanksgiving, great amen.

Communion rite:

The Lord’s prayer

Luke 11:1-4, Matthew 6:9-13

Rite of Peace

John 14:27- “Peace I leave with  you; my peace I give to you.”, Gal 1:3, etc. greetings of peace from St. Paul

Agnus Dei

Rev 5:11-12 Lamb of God is Jesus in heaven, 1 Cor 5:7 St. Paul calls Jesus our Passover lamb, John 1:29 St. John the Baptist calls Jesus the Lamb of God, Isaiah 53 “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter”

Holy Communion

“Behold the Lamb of God..” Rev 19:9. The marriage supper of the Lamb and the bride! Rev 19:7., Eph 5:21-33 “Lord I am not worthy..” Matthew 8:8

The Church is for You, too.

Ash Wednesday

Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the season of Lent. It’s a very interesting day because it is the one day of the year when there is a physical sign that shows whether you are Catholic or not (technically you don’t have to be Catholic to receive the ashes, but you get the point). Many other religious traditions have more obvious ways to tell whether you practice a certain religion or not, but Christians in general basically just blend in- at least in how they dress (remember, modest is hottest!).

What I couldn’t help but notice was that despite the fact that over 1 billion of the 7 billion people, or about 17% of the world, are Catholics, and about 20-25% of students at the University of Illinois (10k of 40k students) are Catholic, out of everyone that I saw outside of mass, I saw maybe 10 Catholics with ashes on their foreheads. I have to admit, as an electrical engineering student, many of the students that I have class with and interact with are international and from Asia (South Korea, China, and India), so that defaults the percentages even lower than average for obvious reasons.

My point here is not that I’m better than anyone. My point is not that our society sucks. My point is not to judge others.

My point here is that as Catholic Christians, we cannot just sit around and be content with keeping the Gospel and the Church to ourselves, Jesus desires that all people would become a part of His Church! It is our duty, our obligation, to share it with as many people  as possible!

People are not saved by having ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday. But they sure as heck can be saved by becoming a part of the Body of Christ, the Church!

I can’t help but notice that there are a boatload of difficulties in sharing the Gospel with others.

Relativism, a denial that absolute truth exists, is a fundamental stumbling block in this endeavor. When people don’t believe that truth about morality, faith, and God can be known, then they have no reason to think twice about them. They are left as matters of opinion. But what if Newton just treated his ideas about gravity as a matter of opinion instead of an absolute truth? What if Dr. Martin Luther King treated his conviction on the equality of the races as a personal belief, instead of an inherent truth? Nothing would have been done, and modern science and culture would have suffered from the consequences. We must always strive to come to know the truths of reality, while being respectful of others in the process.

Relativism also manifests itself in the idea that all religions are the same, or equal. This is a fun exercise for me, so here I go: Was the big bang the beginning of the universe? If it was, then something was created out of nothing. That is not physically possible. There must be a God to have started it all off. Is the universe’s fine tuning evidence for an Intelligent Creator? If you’re happy with the coincidence idea, check out the facts. This means that a mere entity as God doesn’t pan out, sorry Hindus and Buddists, no hard feelings. Was Jesus God? You can’t possibly be a Jew or a Muslim if you agree, you must be a Christian. The question that divides Muslims and Jews fundamentally is whether Muhammad was a prophet. Finally, did Jesus found a Church on Peter and promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it? As you can see, all of the great religions have  beliefs that are contradictory to the others. If you said yes to all of those questions, congratulations, welcome to the world of Catholicism!

Another obstacle that I notice is the emphasis on political correctness and fear of speaking about things that really matter. This is especially dangerous in a democracy. A democracy requires that the people of the nation are informed, but if the honest debate of ideas is shunned, the people will not be informed enough to make the best decisions, and there is opportunity for those in power to take even more control.

Despite these difficulties, I know that sharing the Gospel is completely and totally worth it. Thousands and thousands of men, women, and even children have given up their lives over the centuries for it. There isn’t anything more important. Faith isn’t just some “nice” thing, it is a way of life. The Catholic faith is a way of life taught to us by Jesus and His Apostles through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is an opportunity to live according to the truth in peace and joy even in trial.

It would kind of suck to be forced to believe something that isn’t true, wouldn’t it? I’m afraid that that is how many people look at Catholicism nowadays. But it is true! And living according to the truth is freeing! Why would you want to live for a lie? Sooner or later the truth comes to light. And the awesome news for us is that that truth is an infinitely loving God who wishes us to enter into an ever deeper relationship with Him!

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” – Jesus (John 14:6)

Sunday Snippets-A Catholic Carnival

Hello Sunday Snippets crew and followers!

This week’s posts:

The Ark of the New Covenant – people make this out to be such a mystery but it’s actually much simpler if you give it some thought. Crazy parallels between the old Ark and the new Ark in scripture.

The Case Against Same Sex Marriage – what a doozy, this is a very controversial topic so I attempted to explain the reasoning behind the Church’s opinion of it. If you have anything to add please let me know!