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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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?

El Dia de los Muertos and the Catholic Take on Death

Dia de los Muertos

So here in America when October 31st rolls around, we all get excited for Halloween. We think of ghosts, zombies, witches, and candy. I’m not quite sure what we are actually celebrating in America anymore, to come to think of it.. Maybe that we like playing dress up and eating candy? But Halloween has a pretty interesting history. The word “Halloween” comes from “hallowed evening” or “holy evening,” because it takes place on the evening before November 1st, which is to Christians All Saints Day. November 2nd is All Souls Day.

Dia de los Muertos is such a cool tradition.. in Latin cultures it’s less about fearing death but more about embracing death as the next part of life. In this tradition, it is said that the souls of children come back the 1st, and then the souls of adults come back on the next day. Families put out offerings for their loved ones who have died to welcome them home. This tradition is kind of a combination of both the indigenous traditions of the native peoples and the tradition of the Spanish Catholics, and I see a lot of beauty in it: especially in revealing how we should be honoring and praying for the dead, and that death is not something to be feared.

But I can only talk about Dia de los Muertos so much. I’m white. I learned about that stuff from Spanish class. What I can talk about is the Catholic take on death. I think in our culture, death is pushed to the back of our minds, we try to forget about it. But it happens, doesn’t it? Death is actually the reason why I’m giving this talk.. Perla’s aunt, her Godmother, passed away last week. Perla is back in Mexico grieving with her family right now.

But here’s a fun question: do you know anyone that didn’t die?

Jesus? Nope.

Jesus died, but then He Resurrected, didn’t He! That’s an important point.

Let’s start at the beginning. Were Adam and Eve created to die? No! Adam and Eve were created to live forever in paradise with God.. the Garden of Eden. They didn’t have to work, had no pain, walked around and spoke with God in the garden, etc. They had the life! Man was not created to experience suffering, pain, and death. As it says in the Book of Wisdom (2:23), “God formed man to be imperishable.” As a missionary, I go around asking people about deep stuff like this all the time. Basically everyone universally believes that there is some sort of afterlife, some sort of meaning behind everything that we struggle through in this life, and there is truth in that! All people, no matter our faith, still know deep down that we were meant for eternal life. ..But then something big happened that changed the course of history. Adam and Eve sinned: they disobeyed God. God warned them beforehand, of course. Eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge wasn’t just a rule for the heck of it- God told them that they shouldn’t eat it because they would die. Genesis 2:17, “From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.” It seems explanatory enough for me. But they went ahead and ate from it anyways.

We messed up, didn’t we? God warned us, then we messed it up. That sin affected everything about the human condition, from death to the need for clothing. In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans he says, “The wages of sin is death.” Our relationship with God was fractured forever- you can think of us and God being on the opposite sides of the Grand Canyon. We need God’s forgiveness to repair this relationship. You know, if I do something wrong to Ania, I can’t forgive myself. No, I need Ania’s forgiveness for our relationship to be ok again. It’s the same way with our sin and God: we need God’s forgiveness.. we can’t just go on with our lives pretending that everything is alright when it isn’t.

Let’s see how God comes to forgive us. Jumping forward through a couple thousand years of Jewish history, we land in Bethleham around year 0. In a little stable there’s a baby boy in a manger: an animal’s feeding trough. This boy is God incarnate. Emmanual: meaning God with us. Jesus: meaning God saves.

Jesus did amazing things during His public ministry: water to wine, healings, multiplication of food, walking on water, and even raising other people from the dead. But the most ridiculous thing that happens to Jesus might be that HE dies. Jesus died in one of most horrific ways imaginable: He was scourged at the pillar until his entire body was bleeding, spit on and forced to wear a thorny cross that was hardly a fashion statement, forced to carry his cross, and then finally He was nailed to the cross and left there to suffocate.. your arms get too tired to pull yourself up to get each breath. Of course on top of this He was bleeding all over the place and after He died, His heart was pierced with a spear to make sure that He was dead. Here’s a quick side note: I’ve played Jesus in a stations of the cross event before, carrying a smaller life-sized cross for a half hour or so before on a flat surface.. it’s ridiculously difficult to the point where I was looking forward to those 3 falls and not worried at all whether the cross fell on me or not. I have two points in sharing this: 1. Jesus didn’t have the option of “faking” His death so that He could be “resurrected” 2. He didn’t have to do that. He didn’t have to do any of that. He could have snapped His fingers and we would be forgiven. No, God doesn’t just have a little mercy on us, a little liking for us. No, God has a Fatherly love for us where He is willing to go through whatever it takes to get us back. Think Liam Neeson talking about his daughter in Taken. “I would sacrifice anything for her.” God will leave the other 99 sheep just to go and find that lost one. Just like a good shepherd, He will even sacrifice His life to save the sheep. That’s God’s love for us. This isn’t just a “sad” love story though, this is an amazing story with a powerful ending! Jesus rose from the dead! WHAT! God died, and then He was resurrected. This is huge on the Catholic take on death and the afterlife, and now I’d like to think that I’ve set the stage enough for some Catholic theology.

As a Catholic I believe that just as Jesus died and rose, if we follow Jesus in dying to ourselves and becoming a new creation in God in our baptism, joining the Church, we can also rise with Jesus on the last day. See, Jesus didn’t just DIE for us, but He also ROSE for us, so that we can also rise and be with Him forever in paradise. In John (11:25), Jesus says “I am the Resurrection and the life.” We come into communion with Jesus every time that we go to mass, where we get to receive Jesus Christ Himself: body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the Eucharist. St. Irenaeus said of the Eucharist, “Just as bread comes from the earth, after God’s blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection.” Being nourished by Jesus in the Eucharist, we become the Body of Christ. As the Body of Christ, we can be united with Jesus for eternity. We will be united with God forever, in ecstasy forever. Most people think of heaven when they think of the afterlife, but we have to remember that our destiny is resurrection. Everyone will be resurrected, the faithful to eternal bliss in new heavens, new earth, and the cruel to eternal despair.

See, what’s new about Christianity is that death isn’t the enemy anymore. Death has been defeated, as long as we’re clothed in Jesus in the Church, with the sacraments. Loving God is our purpose and meaning, and death should not scare us anymore. Our earthly lives will testify to how we love. Jesus said, “No greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The martyrs are great witnesses to this beautiful truth. A great example of this is St. Ignatius of Antioch, a bishop and disciple of the apostle St. John. St. Ignatius was captured for his Christian faith in the 1st century and taken to Rome, where he was martyred in the Roman Coliseum, probably eaten by lions. He wrote this while he was on his way to martyrdom, “It is better for me to die in Christ Jesus than to reign over the ends of the earth. Him it is I seek- who died for us. Him it is I desire- who rose for us. Let me receive pure light; when I shall have arrived there, then shall I be a man.”

I suppose it is worth a moment to talk about hell and purgatory. Of course we believe that there are two destinations: heaven and hell. Don’t think of them as physical places, but rather states of relationship with God. God is always seeking us, but are we seeking Him in return? God gave us free will, if we truly don’t want Him then He is going to give us what we want. Unfortunately for the souls in hell, life separated from God sucks pretty bad. Nobody is predestined to heaven or hell, it takes a willful turning away from God, or mortal sin, and persistence in it in order to be in danger of hell. But for those who are on their way to heaven but haven’t quite been purified of all their sins, there is a place of final purification called purgatory before heaven.

Heaven: being intimately with God forever, is our goal. There we will see God face to face. Often this is compared to a wedding feast. You’ve probably heard of the apocalypse before, right? And when you hear about the apocalypse, what do you think of? Monsters? Darkness? Chaos? Earthquakes? Well, actually, apocalypse means “unveiling,” like the unveiling of a bride at a wedding. The apocalypse is the unveiling of the bride of Christ: the Church, and then the wedding feast and eternal bliss they share forever. It’s the perfect love story, eh? St. Cyprian commented, “How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God, to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God’s friends.” At the last day, the dead will be resurrected, Jesus will return again and will have the last judgment, where He will separate “the sheep from the goats,” “placing the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left… And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31,32,46) In this new heaven and new earth, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness, where the righteous will reign forever with Christ. In this heavenly Jerusalem, God will have His dwelling with us, and “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev 21:4.

I’m not just talking theory here. Just this March and April, two of my friends from college died within a few weeks of each other. Phil then Dan. Phil died in an accident. He was handicapped for nearly all his life and constantly witnessed to me what it is to be a humble servant of God. Though he could barely even move his hands and had to sit in his power chair chair all the time, he never complained about anything. When the weather was cold out and he couldn’t put on his own hat and gloves, I’d still see him driving along to class in the harsh Illinois winters. He would always say please and thank you when he needed help in the cafeteria, or with anything else. Phil is in heaven, there are no ifs ands or buts about it.

Dan is a different and more radical story. Dan was a year younger than me, he was in my bible study for a couple of years and we were good friends. I never noticed but in hindsight it’s so clear: Dan had issues with depression. He had a particularly difficult time this past school year, and would go home often. After a particularly difficult time, he needed anti-depressants. But getting off of anti-depressants transforms people: they aren’t themselves. One time the pain was too much for him and he committed suicide. Thank you God for Dan. It hit me hard, because it came out of nowhere. I never would have imagined I’d have to deal with that. I’ve actually had another good friend commit suicide before, so I kind of had an idea of how difficult it would be to grieve, but as always, I had hope in God. It helped that Dan was a Christian at least, it made me feel much better. We all have that longing for eternal life, to be with our loved ones forever. That’s how we were created to be.

I kind of went on with the hopeful but curious mindset after the wake and funeral.. after all, suicide is a major sin. God can forgive it, especially when people are not in the right state of mind, but it’s never something to joke about. So I always had hope, God is so merciful, after all. One day a week later his whole family came back down to the University of Illinois for our memorial mass for him, and his mom shared this story with us at the end: Dan has an uncle who is a Salesian priest in Japan or Korea or something like that. On the same exact day that Dan died, even at the same exact hour, Dan’s uncle was saying mass and lifting up the Host at the consecration. At that moment, Our Lady, Mary, appeared to him holding Dan. There is no way that his priest-uncle all the way in Japan could have any idea what was going on let along timing the whole thing down to that hour. Praise God for that sign, we now know that Dan is in heaven. God’s mercy is endless, and our hope has to be in Him.

I’d like to share with you Dan’s last Facebook status ever.

“Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.”

Happy Easter! He is risen indeed!

No Time Like the Present

Two of my friends have passed on to heaven in the past month.

College kids. Wow. And totally out of the blue. Praise God for faith. I can’t help but think of the divine mercy image and repeat to myself “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Jesus, I trust in Thee

It reminded me that the Christian faith isn’t just for the nice times. No, it’s actually more appropriate for when things ARE NOT okay. Because at times like this when I could easily despair that I lost them forever (with the agnostic outlook), I know through my faith that they are with God in heaven and that this isn’t the end but just the beginning of the glories of life!

Sometimes I forget that people die. But with all of the horrible events in the world news like the bombings in Boston, it’s helped me think more about the necessity to live every moment the way that I’d like to die.

I don’t think that I love enough. I don’t think that I go out of my way for others enough.

Life isn’t about picking the safest path, but about living in boldly to glorify God.

Pope Francis gave a fantastic reflection on this theme today:

“(The parable of the talents) makes us reflect on the relationship between how we use the gifts we have received from God and his return when he will ask us how we have used them. … This tells us that our awaiting the Lord’s return is a time of action … time to make the most of God’s gifts, nor for ourselves, but for him, for the Church, for others. [It is] the time in which to always seek to make good grow in the world. Particularly in this time of crisis, today, it is important not to be locked up in ourselves, removing our talents, our spiritual and material riches, everything that the Lord has given us, but to open ourselves, to be compassionate, to be attentive to others.”

I know that I could do a better job of honoring God with the gifts that He has given me. Often I am too selfish and think about what I want instead of what others need.

“In the square today there are many young persons. To you, who are at the beginning of life’s path, I ask: have you thought of the talents that God has given you? Have you thought of how to put them at the service of others? Don’t take your talents away! Bet on great ideals, those ideals that enlarge our hearts, those ideals of service that make your talents fruitful. We were not given life so that we might hold it back, jealously, for ourselves, but it was given to us so that we might offer it. Dear young persons, you have great souls! Don’t be afraid to dream of great things!”

Don’t be afraid to dream of great things! This was something that I have had some trouble with. For the longest time, I thought that my life had to follow a certain calculated “safe” path. But slowly God has revealed to me how I should not take my life for granted as much. I chose to become a Catholic Missionary, and I’m incredibly excited for that next adventure starting next year! In addition, I have seen many friends discern vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It’s been so inspiring to see their courage and love of God that inspires them to make such radical choices! But dreaming of great things isn’t just becoming a priest or missionary.. there are great people like Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati who simply lived with charity towards all in the midst of regular lives!

“We will be judged by God on charity, on how we have love our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and most needy of them. Of course, we always have to keep in mind that we are judged, we are saved by grace, by an act of God’s gratuitous love that always precedes us. Alone we can do nothing. Faith is foremost a gift that we have received.”

He’s saying this over and over again because I need to hear it over and over again. Often it is the hardest for me to be charitable in the “normal” times of life: making dinner with my housemates, riding the bus, conversations with family. I have to remember to treat those situations as opportunity to serve God as well.

“Looking to the final judgement must never frighten us, rather, it urges us to live the present better. With mercy and patience, God offers us this time so that we might learn every day to recognize him in the poor and the small, might strive for the good, and might be vigilant in prayer and love. The Lord, at the end of our existence and of history, may then recognize us as good and faithful servants.”

The Significance of Easter

Jesus Started From the Bottom Now We Here

“If  Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.” -1 Corinthians 15:14

There would be no point in becoming a Christian without the Resurrection. Without the Resurrection, Jesus would have just been one of countless moral and religious teachers in human history.  This is how non-Christians and even some Christians tend to think of Him nowadays. But with Jesus’ Resurrection, we see that Jesus’ words are not only wise, but they come from God.  Jesus had prophesied many times beforehand that He would suffer and die, but rise again on the third day. We see this in Matthew 17:22, Mark 8:31, Luke 9:22, Matthew 27:63, John 2:19, Mark 14:58, Matthew 26:61.

Without the Resurrection, there is no hope for eternal life. But with it, we all can have hope that one day we can rise again in glorified bodies just like Jesus. The Resurrection shows us God’s justice in exalting one who “humbled himself unto death” (Phil 2:8-9). Just as in dying for us Jesus forgave us of our sin, in rising He restored privileges that were lost because of sin (Romans 4:25).

So Easter is a big deal. Jesus died but rose again! As Pope Francis said,

“What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom.”

Even though Jesus was crucified, it shows us that real power is service and love, not selfishness and control. As I have come to know Jesus more in my own life, I have slowly been learning this beautiful truth. It encourages me even when things are not going well, so that I know that even if I am not alright at the moment, as long as I try to do what is right to the best of my ability, it will all be ok, well actually more than ok- perfect!- in the end.

Today I attended a wake for a friend, but it was very comforting that of all days it was on Easter! It was super appropriate for what an amazing person he is, and it was touching to remember that though he is not with me on earth anymore, he has moved on to heaven, all thanks to Jesus! Jesus has even defeated death, we must remember that. So don’t get down! Maybe I can end this post with another Pope Francis quote?

“And this is the first word that I want to tell you: ‘Joy!’ Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy that comes from having many possessions, but it comes from having encountered a Person, Jesus, who is among us. It comes from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them! This is the moment when the enemy comes, when the devil, often times dressed as an angel, comes and insidiously tells us his word. Don’t listen to him! Follow Jesus! We accompany, we follow Jesus, but above all we know that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joy, this is the hope that we must bring to this world of ours. Please don’t let him steal our hope. Don’t let him steal our hope, that hope that Jesus gives us.”

Our Message is Love

“Jews demand SIGNS and Greeks look for WISDOM,  but we proclaim Christ CRUCIFIED” – 1 Corinthians 1:22-23 (emphasis mine)

Our culture likes to put things in a box, to try and label things and make them nice, not much unlike the Greeks or even the Jews back in the day. Some examples:

Divorce -> exercising your freedom to be with whoever you want to be
Abortion -> health procedure
Death -> doesn’t happen
Missing mass -> you can pray at home

And then there’s perhaps the worst: Jesus -> social teacher.

Yes, Jesus is ZEALOUSLY (Jeremiah 1:5, Mark 9:37, think cleansing of the temple) pro-life and unabashedly pro-marriage (Matthew 19:4-6). He sought out opportunities to serve the poor and disregarded certain social norms. Nowadays He would still be pointing out the hypocrites who follow some of His teachings but disregard others, just like He did to the pharisees.

But that’s not the point. That’s how our culture has boxed Jesus in. They’ve labeled Him “old traditional moral teacher whose views don’t matter anymore.” We can’t let ourselves be tricked by this simplification! The Devil loves to lie, he loves to turn people against each other, he loves to make things all wishy-washy.

The point is that Jesus loves us. He loves us so much. So much that He died for us. He gave His life for us. He didn’t have to do that. But He did.

Jesus is GOD… He’s not just some guy, some moral teacher. No, He’s our only hope, our only salvation, the only truth.

And so, as Christians, we are called to love others with all that we are, to even die for others in the name of Jesus. This is following His example of sacrificial love, a love that we call Agape, “The love of God.”

The whole point of Jesus’ life was to give it for us. So when we talk about Jesus, let’s remember that our message is love. Not everyone is going to agree with all of the social teachings. That’s okay, for now. We all have an incomplete understanding of the fullness of the truth. The first thing is proclaiming Christ crucified so that all may come to know that they are loved, that there is purpose in life, that there is hope even in the darkest moments.   The social teachings come as a response to God’s love, rather than as a prerequisite.