Dia de los Muertos: Why are the Skeletons Happy?

Dia de los Muertos altar

The following is a talk that I gave for a Dia de los Muertos celebration this week, where I looked at the religious significance of the holiday.

Hi everybody, my name is Chris Goulet and I’m one of the missionaries at Montclair with Newman. It was great being able to speak with you last year at the Dia de los Muertos event, and it was amazing to see so many beautiful friendships begin thanks to that event, and I’m hoping and praying that we’ll see more of the same this year!

I’d like to start off with a fun topic: ghosts. What do you think that Catholics think of them, do they exist or not? How about I poll you guys. Raise your hand if you think that Catholics believe in ghosts.

The correct answer is yes! We have to define what we mean by a ghost, though. A ghost is a human soul without a body, which is what everyone is after they die. At death, our souls leave our body. Since humans end up going to heaven, hell, or purgatory, we can technically say that there are ghosts in heaven, hell, and purgatory! We can even see stories of ghosts all over the bible, for example how Moses appeared to Jesus in Matthew 17 at the transfiguration.

I’d be more than happy to try and take a stab at any other questions about ghosts, demons, spirits, zombies, and vampires after my talk if you have questions, but for now I’ll keep it to Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead for those of you who are Spanish challenged.

I think I was in 7th grade when I first saw a happy skeleton. Growing up in the United States, when I thought of Halloween, I thought of ghosts, vampires, demons, and of course skeletons. Halloween was a scary time where we watched horror films and in a sense glorified evil. The skeletons that I grew up around had glowing red eyeballs and would come and strangle you. Has anyone seen the movie Mars Attacks? I think American skeletons remind me of those Martians more than anything else. Anyways, when I saw those happy skeletons in my 7th grade Spanish class, I was pretty confused. These skeletons were definitely the G rated version. They’re singing and dancing and wearing funny hats! I thought that skeletons had to be creepy? Why would those weird Latin American people tease us with these happy skeletons? They must be a little coo-coo… Well, it wasn’t until I learned more about my Christian faith years later that I was able to fully appreciate the beauty of Dia de los Muertos.

In Dia de los Muertos, the dead are remembered by their loved ones. This is a unique take on the Catholic holidays of All Souls Day and All Saints day on November 1st and 2nd. I’m sure that all of you have unique ways that you honor your family and friends that have died. In my family, we often go and visit the gravesites of our loved ones on special days like when they died and Christmas Eve. We bring flowers to decorate their grave and even sometimes pray for them out loud. It’s a way of showing them respect and remembering them after they’ve passed on.

But here’s a question for you: why is it human nature to do things like this? What is it in our hearts, our souls, that makes remembering the dead a natural reaction? Any ideas?

I’d argue that deep down, we know that death is not the end. If death is the end, and we are simply “warm bodies,” then why care about people after they died? If we are just bodies, then we cease to exist at our death. That’s it, I hope you had a nice life. Oh and by the way, there was no ultimate purpose or meaning to it, you simply took up space and added to the greenhouse effect here on Earth.

But I’m sure that most of you agree with me that there is something more to human beings. Life doesn’t end at our death, that’s only the beginning. We know that our loved ones are still close to us even after they die. We naturally are inclined to pray for the dead because we know that there is some sort of judgment at the end of our lives, and we want the best afterlife possible for our loved ones. We also are naturally inclined to ask for their intercession for us, that they pray to God to protect our families and friends. So for all of these reasons, praying for the dead makes sense.

Here’s another question for you: why do you think that death shocks us? If death is a part of life, why is it shocking when people die? After all, we all know what we’re going to die sooner or later.

To answer this, I’d argue that death was not supposed to happen. It’s unnatural. Human beings were created to live forever. The famous story of Adam and Eve in the bible shows us a theological explanation for our death: we die because we are sinners. Adam and Eve weren’t supposed to die, but because they chose to disobey God, the entire world was fractured and humanity’s relationship with God was shaken. It is only by God’s mercy that we have an opportunity of a restored relationship with Him, and hope for life after death. This mercy, of course, came in the form of Jesus Christ, the God-man. Jesus came to show us God’s love and defeat sin and death once for all. Thanks to His sacrifice on the cross, we now can hope for eternal life through Him. So this is yet another reason why we pray for the dead.

So those happy skeletons that I was talking about at the beginning? Well, they’re happy because they know that there is more to life than just this earth. It’s a healthy reminder that death isn’t to be feared, but that Jesus came to redeem them, and one day those old bones will come back to life in the resurrection. Death and sin have no power over them when they are in Jesus. Even the devil himself can’t overcome them when God is on their side. The skeletons are happy because they are not removed from their families and friends forever, but instead they are closer than ever to their destiny of love and peace in heaven. They know that the pains of this world are temporary and will soon pass away. They know that there’s hope even in the greatest trials because Jesus is always there for us. They know that death is not the end of life, but merely a transition into a better one.

God bless you all and have a great Dia de los Muertos!

You can check out my talk from last year right here if you’d like.

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Why I Believe in God

Colorado

This sure as heck isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some very simple reasons why I’ve never struggled with belief in God:

– We live in a beautiful world

– How else could anything exist if there wasn’t something there to “bang” the Big Bang?

– Love exists

– When I pray, things happen. Not every time, and not always in the way that I want them to, since God isn’t a magic genie but rather our Father.

– The entire story of Jesus is way too crazy to fake. Starting with the 12 Apostles themselves, millions of Christians died for Him, especially those first 300 years afterwards when it was a crime to believe in Christ. Those people that died in the Coliseum? Those people were often Christians. Why die for something that you knew to be a lie?

– There is purpose and meaning to life

– Even in the darkest moments of life, we have hope

– We desire more than what this world has to offer and are incomplete without God. Just listen to Drake: “I want it all, and then some.” According to the world, he’s made it. But even he admits that he’s still missing something. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” – St. Augustine

– The most genuinely happy people that I know are always the ones who have a close relationship with Jesus. They know that God loves them, and everyone else, and there’s nothing that this world can do that can take that from them.

– I have experienced Jesus’ peace and love in my own life, and seen how He’s worked through me in ways that I could have never expected

How to Share the Gospel: For Catholics!

A few months ago I was preparing a presentation for student leaders on the topic of sharing the Gospel, and for fun I decided to see if there was anything extra online that I could use to show them. For some reason, the #1 hit on Google for “how to share the gospel Catholic” is an article from some “biblical Christian” group on tactics for how to convert Catholics into “biblical Christians.”

That’s an easy way to understand our situation in a nutshell. The Popes have been pushing for the New Evangelization for 50 years now but it’s taken a while to trickle down to Catholics in the pews. As a Catholic missionary with FOCUS, I’d like to share with you what the Gospel is, why we need to share it, and how to do it.

What is the Gospel?

According to New Advent, the word gospel was derived from the Angelo-Saxon god (good) and spell (to tell). It was treated as the equivalent of the Greek word euaggelion (good tidings- usually from an emperor). When emperors had won a battle, they would proclaim the euaggelion to the people. The same way, we share the Gospel, or good news, of our King, Jesus Christ!

The word gospel could be used in many different ways. It could be used to tell any generic good news. It could be used to reference a type of music. It could refer to the Gospels in the bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Gospel of Jesus Christ that I am talking about essentially is Jesus, who is revealed most perfectly through the example of the Church and in a unique way in the bible: a book compiled by the Catholic Church.

The Gospel essentially is Jesus: His life, death, and resurrection. In my own words, the Gospel is that though we have fallen away from God through sin, Jesus- God Himself!- has given all of humanity an opportunity for salvation through His passion. By believing in Him and joining His Church through baptism and receiving the sacraments, we can hope to partake in His resurrection at the end of time. The Gospel is that God not only acknowledges our existence, but loves us all enough to die for us, and eagerly desires that we live in relationship with Him.

Why do we need to share the Gospel?

Let me begin with a hypothetical situation. Suppose that you hit your friend. All of a sudden, there is tension and discord in your relationship with that person. What can be done to right that relationship? One wise thing to do is to ask forgiveness for what we’ve done. But the relationship is still not right until your friend actually forgives you. There is absolutely nothing that we can do to make them forgive us, it is completely in their power to choose to be merciful or not.

Now think about our relationship with God. Unfortunately, we have also broken our relationship with God through our sins. As we learned in Genesis, there are real consequences for disobeying God (aka sinning). Because of their sin, Adam and Eve would now die, struggle to find enough food to live, not be able to trust each other innocently, etc. God has called us to repentance. Before Jesus began His ministry, St. John the Baptist went around Israel preaching repentance. We always need to repent first and ask for God’s forgiveness. But we also need something that we don’t deserve, something that we have no control over: we need God’s forgiveness. Remember, God doesn’t have to forgive us. But the good news is that He did! Thanks to Jesus’s mercy, we can be forgiven if we believe in Him and are a part of His Church: who He entrusted to share the Gospel throughout the world. The Catholic (universal) Church must make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19)!

We will die with no hope if we die without faith in Jesus. Our eternal souls will be in danger of eternal damnation without Jesus. Every single person that has ever lived can only be saved through Jesus.  That’s it. There’s no other way to heaven. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Just being a “good person” isn’t good enough. It is an integral part AFTER we believe in Jesus, but it doesn’t REPLACE belief in Christ, who is truth itself. There is one God and one Lord Jesus Christ. There is one true faith: the Catholic Christian faith. Acknowledging this is not hateful or discrimination but is merely following the truth just in the same way that we teach children that 2+2=4 and not 5 or 3. Living according to the truth is not constraining but rather freeing because it allows us to live the most relevant life possible. What’s the point in living with the dream of being the MVP of the NBA if at the end of your life you end up in Hell separated from God forever?

With all of this in mind, I want to remind you that it is not just the duty of priests and missionaries to share the Gospel, this is the duty of every baptized Christian!

Jesus did not say: “go, if you would like to, if you have the time”, but he said: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” – Pope Francis at WYD

How do you share the Gospel?

By this point in this post I’ve actually covered a lot of what to say in actually sharing the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus, so anytime that we are sharing Jesus, we are sharing the Gospel. Merely sharing belief in God or belief in the Catholic Church is not sharing the fullness of the Gospel. As I believe Pope John Paul II said, if we haven’t shared Jesus Christ, then we haven’t shared the Gospel.

Practically, the best way to share the Gospel is in a conversation with a friend. We share who Jesus is in our actions and words, but actually sharing “the Gospel” is something that we need to actually speak. Another quote that I’m remembering is that “every single time that the Gospel is shared, something happens.” People won’t always welcome it or change their lives right there, but that’s an experience that should stick with them for the rest of their life.

God actually gave us a  model for how to share the Gospel when He gave St. Catherine of Sienna (1300’s) the “cross bridge” image to communicate aspects of salvation in Christ.

Jesus Bridge

I’m not sure if this is the actual image but this is a basic picture of it, with some verses to back up each step in salvation. Check out those verses! It is so powerful to read them all in order.

In addition to the image, God himself communicated this basic message to St. Catherine of Sienna to share:

“I have created them in my image and likeness so that they might have eternal life, sharing in my being and enjoying my supreme eternal tenderness and goodness. Because of their sin they never reached this goal and never fulfilled my truth, for sin closed heaven and the door of mercy. I will make of my Son a bridge… a bridge of the Word, my only-begotten Son.”

A great way to follow up sharing the Gospel is to invite your friend to join you in prayer inviting Jesus into their life.

If Christianity, as has so rightly been said, is not primarily a doctrine but a person, Jesus Christ, it follows that the proclamation of this person and of one’s relationship with him is the most important thing, the beginning of all true evangelization. To reverse this order and put the doctrines and moral obligations of the Gospel before the discovery of Jesus would be like putting the carriages in front of the railway engine that is supposed to pull them. The person of Jesus opens the highway of the heart for the acceptance of everything else. Anyone who has once known the living Jesus has no further need to be goaded along; we ourselves burn with desire to know his thought, his will, his word. It is not on the authority of the Church that we accept Jesus, but on the authority of Jesus that we accept and love the Church. So the first thing the Church has to do is not present herself to the world, but present Jesus… Insistence on the importance of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ is not a sign of subjectivism or emotionalismbut is the translation, on the spiritual and pastoral place, of a dogma central to our faith: that Jesus Christ is “a person.” – Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the Papal household (both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI)

Update: Check it out! My friend Andrew and I filmed a simple Gospel presentation for your benefit right here!

Related posts:
Why Evangelize?
A Case for Discipleship and Spiritual Multiplication
“Work Out Your Own Salvation with Fear and Trembling”
Salvation, Jesus, and Works

What is the Relationship Between Faith and Science?

God Universe

For the first few weeks of school, I led a discussion group on faith and science. I decided to summarize my points on this blog for your benefit. This post is on the relationship between faith and science. In future posts I will cover supposed reasons why God has been disproved, and close with reasons to believe in God.

So why faith and science?

As a graduate of the University of Illinois with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering, I come from a prestigious university well known for engineering (EE is #3 in the nation). In this environment, faith in God is often bashed as blind and baseless. Our culture in general in the West often makes fun of people of faith for being “ignorant.” Despite these criticisms, I found my faith while in college and found answers to all of the questions that I had. I hope to explain some of the answers that I found in this post and in the following ones.

Faith

What is faith? What do we mean by faith?

In the strict religious sense, faith could be defined as whether or not you believe revelation from God. But faith is also used in everyday experiences. For example, if I were to tell you that my favorite color is green, there would be no way for you to prove that I’m telling you the truth. In addition, when we start our car in the morning, do we double check that all of the parts and equipment will work? Do we double check our brakes? No, we don’t. These are examples of faith, but they aren’t blind faith.. there is actually reason involved in these decisions.

You probably trust that with sharing a simple thing like my favorite color, I wouldn’t have a reason to lie. In addition, you probably have the idea that I’m at least a pretty decent person and wouldn’t be prone to lying. With regards to the car, we realize that though we haven’t checked all the parts, they were working just fine last night and nothing should have changed over the course of the night. In a similar way, our faith in God isn’t just blind. We have good reasons to believe, reasons that aren’t always 100% verifiable, but they can make a very solid case. I’ll be going through these with you over the next couple of blog posts in this series.

Revelation

How does God reveal Himself to us?

God reveals Himself to us in many different ways: through reason, philosophy, and the sciences, in the world around us, in who we are, and in what He directly reveals to us. God reveals Himself to us through reason as we contemplate how the world came to be and exists. He reveals Himself to us through our own longings like our desire for the infinite, for truth and happiness, for unconditional and infinite love. God reveals himself to us in the human person: in our desire to truth and beauty, our sense of morality, and our own inherent idea of God. God also reveals Himself more directly, as the God of Noah, Abraham, and Moses. As a Christian I believe that God most fully revealed Himself as Jesus. God reveals Himself in the world from its order and beauty.

Science

What is science?

When we think of science, (I hope) we think of the scientific method, which allows us to test and prove things in a quantifiable manner.

The Scientific method:

1. Define a question

2. Gather information and observe

3. Form hypothesis

4. Test the hypothesis, perform an experiment

5. Analyze the data

6. Draw conclusions from data

7. Publish results

8. Retest conclusion

The scientific method is a powerful way to make conclusions about quantifiable phenomena. We can use science to measure data in the physical realm, but even science has its limits. With the scientific method, we can find out what we are made of and how our bodies work, but we can’t find out our purpose and meaning in life.

An interesting point to make is that science isn’t the only rational system of thinking: all of the branches of philosophy require reason. Philosophy is basically the study of being: what exists and why they exist. This is specifically called metaphysics and is the basis of all philosophy. There are other branches of philosophy, like philosophy of man (what is human nature), philosophy of ethics (how should man act), philosophy of politics (how should society be), epistemology (study of knowledge, how does man know what he knows), and finally natural philosophy (study of nature). What we call science is actually only one branch of philosophy, natural philosophy. All the other branches of philosophy still require reason and rational thought, but often the only one that we think of nowadays is science.

Can the scientific method be applied to God? We know that science can only be applied to things that we can quantify, things we can measure and observe. So now we have to see if God matches up to these requirements.

Who/What is God? How would you describe Him?

There are a few traits that we have to become familiar with in order to describe God. The first is that God is omnipotent, which means that God is all powerful. The next is that God is perfect- all good and benevolent. God is also omnipresent, which means that He is continuously and simultaneously present throughout the whole of creation. God is eternal- He always was and always has been. The final important trait of God for now is that He is transcendent, or outside of the universe.

With all of this in mind, we have to realize that God cannot be studied by science. Since God is transcendent, he can’t be measured or observed. God isn’t a material being (besides the part where Jesus walked here on Earth and Jesus in the Eucharist in the Tabernacle of your local Catholic Church).

How does the Catholic Church view faith and science?

Believe it or not, Pope John Paul II wrote an entire encyclical on the topic in 1998, called Fides et Ratio (Latin for Faith and Reason). You can read it in English here. In the encyclical, Pope John Paul II argues that faith and reason are essential together, like two wings of a bird.

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth- in a word, to know himself- so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.” – Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio

Can faith and scientific reason ever contradict each other?

Since the Catholic Christian faith is true and reason is true, they should never conflict. Often people have misconceptions of the faith which makes the faith appear to be false, though. I’ll cover that in the next post.

We don’t need necessarily need “blind” faith to believe in God’s existence, God’s existence can be understood through reason, which I’ll cover in the last post. Specific things about God and Jesus, etc. must be taken by faith in God’s revelation, though.

Here are a few more quotes from the Church on the relationship between faith and reason:

“Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.” – St. Thomas Aquinas

“Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church 159

“Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church 159

In terms of religion, the whole point of this discussion is to show you that believing in God isn’t a “blind” faith based decision but rather an exercise of reason. Believing certain things about God may require faith, but believing in God’s existence does not.

The next post will be about supposed reasons why God has been “disproved” and I’ll debunk them. In the final post I’ll share some reasons to believe in God.

Thoughts on People with Same Sex Attraction

So as a Catholic Christian, Jesus calls me to love everyone. Even people we don’t like, even our enemies, even people who want to kill us (Jesus forgave the soldiers and people who put Him to death- He died for them too!). I don’t mean emotional love necessarily but the type of love where you take care of your neighbor as yourself. So that’s a great rule and all, but in practice it is so hard to live! How often do we argue and bicker with our family and friends, let alone strangers! So we are all hypocrites, we are all sinners. Homosexual sex is a sin just like any sex outside of marriage for Christians. So we don’t promote the gay lifestyle just like we don’t promote cheating on your spouse. BUT ****this is the most important thing that I can say since nobody seems to get this**** having same sex attraction is not a sin. How can we judge someone for what they feel?! This is what Pope Francis said recently that made the news. Even if someone is living a gay lifestyle we still love them! We don’t agree but we love. You don’t deal with people by yelling at them, you share your beliefs out of love. So how do Catholic Christians treat people with same sex attraction? We love them like everyone else. They should not be bullied or made fun of in any way. They have a unique cross to bear but we all have unique crosses, we all need to be courageous in certain parts of our lives. I hope that that made sense and I didn’t offend anyone (love you all 😉 ) The part about homosexual sex being a sin is probably what everyone disagrees with but if you take that premise for granted then the rest of the argument should make sense I’d imagine. I guess I should note here that I have at least one friend with same sex attraction who is a practicing Catholic so this isn’t all just theoretical. Love him the same as the rest of my friends.

“It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.”

Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons

Salvation, Jesus, and Works

As I’ve been gearing up for my first year as a missionary this summer, I’ve had a unique revelation with regards to evangelization and the aspect that “works” play in salvation. I suppose a big part of this is from a Peter Kreeft (and Ronald Tacelli) book that I’m reading, Handbook of Catholic Apologetics.

First off, I’d like to share an awesome piece from that book on the importance of salvation:

“The Church also seems to be in the social service business, the counseling business, the fundraising business, the daycare business- dozens of the same worthy businesses the secular world is also in. Why? What justifies these things? The Church’s ultimate end for all these things is different from the world’s end; it is salvation. This is her distinctive “product.” Why put out a product that is just the same as other companies’ products already on the market? Why would anyone expect such a product to sell? That’s why modernist or liberal Christianity, charitable as its services are, is simply not selling. The only reason for the very existence of the Church at all, is exactly the same as the reason Jesus came to earth: to save poor and lost humanity. The Church, after all, is in the same business as her Head. When a body runs in a different direction from its head, it is like a chicken with its head cut off: it goes nowhere and quickly dies. Jesus did not come to be a philosopher or a doctor. If he did that, he failed. He didn’t solve most of the philosophers’ problems. He healed some people but left most of the world just as sick as before. He healed some bodies to show that he could heal all souls. Not only is salvation the reason for the Church’s existence; it is also the ultimate reason for your existence: your goal, point, purpose, hope, final cause, summum bonum, meaning. The difference between success and failure at life’s first task- becoming who you were meant to be- is not the difference between riches and poverty, fame and obscurity, health and sickness, pleasure and pain, even niceness and nastiness, but between salvation and damnation. Leon Bloy wrote, “There is only one tragedy: not to have been a saint.”

Salvation matters, a lot. So what does it take to be saved? When people with a Christian background talk a little about salvation, they often only mention whether or not you are a “good” person. This is nice, but is it enough? Is it enough to just be a good person to go to heaven?

The Catholic Church has a nice little clause that it seems like I’m always reminding people about (because the Church is so horrible and restricting! haha). This clause is that if someone by no fault of their own doesn’t hear the Gospel or know who Jesus is, they can still be saved by striving their very best during their life to live an upright, charitable, and selfless life, which is common sense whatever background you come from. God is merciful, much more than you and I.

Yes, that’s good and generous of God, isn’t it? The problem is that everyone who reads this blog obviously doesn’t live in a remote area and has had contact with Christians in some way, shape, or form. For people who have heard the Gospel, the nice clause of just being a good person isn’t enough to earn salvation, according to Jesus. Salvation is only possible through Jesus:

“There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” – Acts 4:12

Again, Jesus was clear Himself in this teaching:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

In Lecrae’s song Truth, he gives a great analogy for why we need Jesus. In one of the verses (around 3 minutes in) he discusses the issue of why an all  powerful loving God would allow evil to happen. He points out that though God allows evil natural disasters to happen, He also allows people to have free will and murder. Well, we all agree that stuff like that is evil, but here’s the brilliant part: Lecrae asks if lying and cheating are evil too. They are. And things like that are evil even if we just think them. So he turned around the argument: why does God allow us to live, as we all sin? Thanks be to God that Jesus died on the cross to forgive us of our sin, otherwise we’d all be going straight to hell. Only God can forgive sin, that’s why Jesus and the incarnation are such a big deal! No one other than Jesus can forgive us, that’s what St. Peter was saying to the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:12!

Please note that there’s a very important sacramental side with regards to salvation, centering on baptism (1 Peter 3:21 and Mark 16:16), confession (John 20:23), and the Eucharist (John 6:52). Salvation requires faith and works. Gotta offer this life for Jesus and live it out. But for this post I’m staying high level.

With all this in mind, I figure that most Christians- and Catholics are especially susceptible (not by bad teachings but misunderstandings of the teachings)- don’t seek to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ as much as they can because they unfortunately don’t believe that Jesus Christ specifically is very important in the economy of salvation.

Most people seem to believe that it is most important to be a good person, and if you believe in Jesus that’s a cherry on top. Actually, we see something that is quite the opposite in terms of Dismas the good thief: he was a thief and pretty bad person all his life, but when the time came, he repented and turned to Jesus in faith. Jesus promised him salvation. Jesus Himself stressed that people believe in Him and repent. He wanted their hearts to be converted not to niceness but to Him.

So is being a good person important? Yes! We ought to follow Jesus who is the way and the truth and the life! We ought to love God and love our neighbors as our self. But good works explicitly without Jesus will do nothing with regards to the economy of salvation. Takeaway: we must be more courageous in actually sharing Jesus with others instead of just assuming that they believe and are faithful.

Why Faith?

door to heaven

Why is faith so important to God? Why does He have to “hide” from us? After all, in other relationships, people who love us reveal themselves to us and are personally involved in our lives. Why would God seemingly do the opposite?

I don’t have the official answer, but I’d love to take a stab at it. Let’s imagine that God revealed Himself to everyone out of love for them. It’s kind of funny to write that out because you could understand it two ways: God HAS revealed Himself to everyone through Jesus Christ, yet God HASN’T personally revealed Himself to everyone in the same way that people reveal themselves to each other.

Faith is important because we haven’t experienced God in a very tangible way, even very active Christians like myself. I don’t have to have faith that my laptop exists, it’s right here in front of me. I can touch it, it functions how I’d expect a laptop to, it makes noises, etc. Since God doesn’t often reveal Himself in a tangible way to us, we need faith to believe in Him because He isn’t someone we can see or hear. This faith isn’t as unreasonable as some people might say it is. We also use the same type of faith to trust that the brakes in our car are working.. we haven’t checked the brakes every time before we get in the car to even see if they are there, let alone working, before we drive off on our way. We have faith in many things that aren’t God, and it isn’t out of ignorance but out of understanding what makes the most sense. I have faith because I have experienced God. God has revealed Himself to me through the generosity of Christians, the infinite desires in my heart, the reality of the story of Jesus and the Catholic Church- especially Jesus’ life and the lives of the Apostles, prayer (I think I could write a whole post about this one), answered prayers, the complexity of nature and the universe, and of course in the sacraments! With all of these experiences, the only reasonable explanation IS to believe in God!

So why would God value faith? I began this post by pointing out that having faith isn’t just limited to religious things. But there has to be more too it than that. I think that God values faith because it is a test to see if we truly love Him. He will reveal enough of Himself for us to begin to know Him, and He is always running after us (remember, He’s the God who came to us, that’s why Christmas and the Incarnation are such big deals!), but He also gives us enough wiggle room to actually have difficulty in this department. He’s not going to just show up the moment that we are about to do our favorite sin. He’s there cheering us on to do the right thing, but He gives us all free will. He doesn’t force us to believe in Him but lets us find Him.

God does not have us rely on faith to “hide” from us, He is the one seeking us, and I’m only one of many baptized Christians whose job it is to share His message with the whole world. That’s what He commanded us to do in Matthew 28:18-20. If God really wanted to hide from us, He definitely wouldn’t have sent Jesus. Another point of note was that God the Father didn’t even reveal Himself to Jesus, the Son, even at His darkest hour! Jesus participated in the same difficulty that we do!

God likes to see if we actually love and trust Him as much as He loves us. Faith is just one of the methods of His perfect justice and love. He can’t wait to reveal His love to anyone who seeks Him.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” – Jesus, Matthew 7:7