It's no secret that I am a Catholic. I mean I go by the name Catholic Kittie. Well last year I went through a big stuggle that really had me struggling with my faith. I was really trying to find myself and going to give up on having faith completely, when this book really helped. Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly I went to Catholics Come Home and requested the book absolutely FREE!
I must admit I was WANTING to be convinced to have faith. It worked. I know that everyone who reads my blog is not a catholic book reader but my best friends aren't either and I shared this book with them via my personal blog, and they found some of it very inspirational. So I am going to post a blurb/excerpt from the book and hope you like it enough to check it out.
You're driving home from work next Monday after a long day. You tune in your radio. You hear a blurb about a little village in India where some villagers have died suddenly, strangely, of a flu that has never been seen before. It's not influenza, but three or four people are dead, and it's kind of interesting, and they are sending some doctors over there to investigate it. You don't think much about it, but coming home from church on Sunday you hear another radio spot. Only they say it's, not three villagers, it's 30,000 villagers in the back hills of this particular area of India, and it's on TV that night. CNN runs a little blurb: people are heading there from the disease center in Atlanta because this disease strain has never been seen before.
By Monday morning when you get up, it's the lead story. It's not just India; it's Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and before you know it, you're hearing this story everywhere, and they have now coined it as "the mystery flu." The President has made some comment that he and his family are praying and hoping that all will go well over there. But everyone is wondering, "How are we going to contain it?"
That's when the President of France makes an announcement that shocks Europe. He is closing their borders. No flights from India, Pakistan, or any of the countries where this thing has been seen. And that's why that night you are watching a little bit of CNN before going to bed. Your jaw hits your chest when a weeping woman is translated in English from a French news program. There's a man lying in a hospital in Paris, dying of the mystery flu. It has come to Europe.
Panic strikes. As best they can tell, after contracting the disease, you have it for a week before you even know it. Then you have four days of unbelievable symptoms. And then you die. Britain closes its borders, but it's too late. South Hampton, Liverpool, North Hampton, and it's Tuesday morning when the President of the United States makes the following announcement: "Due to a national-security risk, all flights to and from Europe and Asia have been canceled. If your loved ones are overseas, I'm sorry. They cannot come back until we find a cure for this thing."
Within four days, our nation has been plunged into an unbelievable fear. People are wondering, "What if it comes to this country?" And preachers on Tuesday are saying it's the scourge of God. It's Wednesday night, and you are at a church prayer meeting when somebody runs in from the parking lot and yells, "Turn on a radio, turn on a radio!" And while everyone in church listens to a little transistor radio with a microphone stuck up to it, the announcement is made. Two women are lying, in a Long Island hospital, dying from the mystery flu. Within hours it seems, the disease envelopes the country.
People are working around the clock, trying to find an antidote. Nothing is working. California, Oregon, Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts. It's as though it's just sweeping in from the borders.
And then all of a sudden the news comes out. The code has been broken. A cure can be found. A vaccine can be made. It's going to take the blood of somebody who hasn't been infected, and so, sure enough, all through the Midwest, through all those channels of emergency broadcasting, everyone is asked to do one simple thing: Go to your downtown hospital and have your blood analyzed. That's all we ask of you. When you hear the sirens go off' in your neighborhood, please make your way quickly, quietly, and safely to the hospitals.
Sure enough, when you and your family get down there late on that Friday night, there is a long line, and they've got nurses and doctors coming out and pricking fingers and taking blood and putting labels on it. Your spouse and your kids are out there, and they take your blood and say, "Wait here in the parking lot, and if we call your name, you can be dismissed and go home." You stand around, scared, with your neighbors, wondering what on earth is going on, and if this is the end of the world.
Suddenly, a young man comes running out of the hospital screaming. He's yelling a name and waving a clipboard. What? He yells it again! And your son tugs on your jacket and says, "Daddy, that's me." Before you know it, they have grabbed your boy. "Wait a minute. Hold on!" And they say, "It's okay, his blood is clean. His blood is pure. We want to make sure he doesn't have the disease. We think he has the right blood type."
Five tense minutes later, out come the doctors and nurses crying and hugging one another-some are even laughing. It's the first time you have seen anybody laugh in a week, and an old doctor walks up to you and says, "Thank you, sir. Your son's blood is perfect. It's clean, it is pure, and we can make the vaccine."
As the word begins to spread all across that parking lot full of folks, people are screaming and praying and laughing and crying. But then the gray-haired doctor pulls you and your wife aside and says, "May we see you for a moment? We didn't realize that the donor would be a minor and we...we need you to sign a consent form."
You begin to sign, and then you see that the box for the number of pints of blood to be taken is empty. "H-h-h-how many pints?" And that is when the old doctor's smile fades, and he says, "We had no idea it would be a little child. We weren't prepared. We need it all! .... But...but...I don't understand. He's my only son! .... We are talking about the whole world here. Please sign. We...we...need to hurry!"
"But can't you give him a transfusion? If we had clean blood we would. Please, will you please sign?" In numb silence you do. Then they say, "Would you like to have a moment with him before we begin?"
Could you walk back? Could you walk back to that room where he sits on a table saying, "Daddy? Mommy? What's going on?" Could you take his hands and say, "Son, your mommy and I love you, and we would never, ever let anything happen to you that didn't just have to be! Do you understand that?" And when that old doctor comes back in and says, "I'm sorry, we've got to get started. People all over the world are dying," could you leave? Could you walk out while he is saying, "Dad? Mom? Dad? Why...why have you abandoned me?"
And then next week, when they have the ceremony to honor your son, and some folks sleep through it, and some folks don't even bother to come because they have better things to do, and some folks come with a pretentious smile and just pretend to care, would you want to jump up and say, "EXCUSE ME! MY SON DIED FOR YOU! DON'T YOU EVEN CARE? DOES IT MEAN NOTHING TO YOU?"
I wonder, is that what God wants to say? "MY SON DIED FOR YOU! DOES IT MEAN NOTHING? DON'T YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I CARE?"
It also should come as no surprise to us that, in this modern environment, the relevance of Jesus is being seriously questioned. The reason is simple. The philosophy of Christ is very different from the prevailing philosophies of our modern culture. In fact, they are completely opposed to each other. And yet, the teachings of Christ and these modern philosophies both claim to be the key to the fulfillment of a yearning that is common to us all.
Our Quest for Happiness
The human heart is on a quest for happiness. Every human heart yearns for happiness like the desert yearns for rain. You have a desire for happiness, I have a desire for happiness. This desire is universal, common to every member of the human family. We simply desire to be happy, and we act from this desire.
We often do things that we think will make us happy, but which in fact end up making us miserable. Under the influence of philosophies such as Individualism, Hedonism, and Minimalism, we often seek the happiness we desire through pleasure, possessions, power, and the path of least resistance. Each of these may offer moments of happiness, but they end too soon, having lasted ever so briefly, and our quest for a lasting happiness continues. These moments of happiness are of course real, but only as real as a shadow. The shadow of a person is real, but it is nothing compared to the actual person. So many of us spend a large portion of our lives chasing shadows.
The modern search for happiness is governed by Individualism, Hedonism, Minimalism and their fruits: greed, lust, laziness, gluttony, selfishness, exploitation, and deception. And yet, as these philosophies become more and more the focus of modern lifestyles, people seem to be filled with a greater discontent and unhappiness with each passing day.
Is it possible that these philosophies cannot deliver what they promise? Is it possible that there is something lacking in these philosophies that makes it impossible for the human person to find happiness through them?
God and Happiness
I believe God wants us to be happy. I believe God gave us the yearning for happiness that constantly preoccupies our human hearts. It is as if God placed this yearning within each human heart as a spiritual navigational instrument designed to reunite us with our destiny. As a Father who takes a sincere and active interest in the lives of his children, God sent his only Son to respond to humanity's yearning for happiness, and to offer direction in satisfying that yearning. After all, God himself is the author of our yearning for happiness.
The philosophy of Christ is the ultimate philosophy of human happiness. At the same time, the philosophy of Christ is one of self-donation. This is the great paradox of God's teaching. In our misguided adventures, we may catch glimpses of happiness living outside of the philosophy of Christ. You may even taste happiness for a moment living a life contrary to the philosophy of Christ, but these are stolen moments. They may seem real, but they are just shadows of something infinitely greater.
The Attitude of Christ
Jesus never asked, "What's in it for me?" He was not motivated by the Individualist creed; he was motivated by a spirit of service. Far from advocating a Hedonistic deification of pleasure, Jesus gently proclaimed a life of self-denial, saying, "Whoever wishes to follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross" (Matthew 16:24). He certainly didn't ask himself, "What is the least I can do and still bring salvation to humanity?" No, he asked, "What is the most I can do?" For this is the question of the lover. The attitude of Christ forms a stark contrast to the philosophies of Individualism, Hedonism, and Minimalism.
The life that Jesus invites us to live is very different than the lifestyle our modern culture invites us to live. Individualism, Hedonism, Minimalism - and their various sundry ally philosophies such as Relativism and Materialism - encourage us to do whatever we want, wherever we want, whenever we want. On the other hand, Jesus invites us to a life of discipline.
Having appeared to Mary Magdalene after his Resurrection, Jesus summoned the disciples to Galilee. When the eleven were gathered together on the mountain, Jesus said, "Go therefore and make disciples of every nation" (Matthew 28:19). Jesus did not say, "Go and make followers of every nation."
It is easy to be a follower, but to be a disciple requires discipline. Christ invites us to a life of discipline not for his sake, but for our sake; not to help him, but to help us; not to make him happy, but to allow us to share in his happiness.
The Role of Discipline
Jesus said, "I have come that you may have life and have it to the fullest" (John 10:10). The path that leads to "fullness of life" is discipline. There are four major aspects of the human person - physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. When we eat well, exercise often, and sleep regularly, we feel more fully alive physically. When we love, when we give priority to the significant relationships of our lives, when we give of ourselves to help others in their journey, we feel more fully alive emotionally. When we study, we feel more fully alive intellectually. When we come before God in prayer, openly and honestly, we experience life more fully spiritually. All of these life-giving endeavors require discipline. When are we most fully alive? When we embrace a life of discipline. The human person thrives on discipline.
Are you thriving? Or are you just surviving?
Discipline awakens us from our philosophical stupor and refines every aspect of the human person. Discipline doesn't enslave or stifle the human person; rather, it sets us free to soar to unimagined heights. Discipline sharpens the human senses, allowing us to savor the subtler tastes of life's experiences. Whether those experiences are physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual, discipline elevates them to their ultimate reality. Discipline heightens every human experience and increases every human ability. The life and teachings of Jesus Christ invite us to embrace this life-giving discipline.
Many people consider Jesus irrelevant today because he proposes a life of discipline. Is discipline then to be considered the core of Jesus' philosophy? No. Christ proposes a life of discipline not for its own sake, and certainly not to stifle or control us; rather, he proposes discipline as the key to freedom.
In the midst of the complexities of this modern era, we find ourselves enslaved and imprisoned by a thousand different whims, cravings, addictions, and attachments. We have subscribed to the adolescent notion that freedom is the ability to do whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want, without interference from any authority. Could the insanity of our modern philosophy be any more apparent? Freedom is not the ability to do whatever you want. Freedom is the strength of character to do what is good, true, noble, and right. Freedom without discipline is impossible.
Is freedom then to be considered the core of Jesus' philosophy? No. What then, is the core of his philosophy? Well, as it turns out, the people of his own time were curious for an answer to this very question.
One day, while Jesus was teaching a large group of people in the synagogue, a man asked Our Lord a question from his position in the multitude. He was a learned man, one of those doctors of the law who were no longer able to understand the teaching revealed to Moses because it had become so twisted and entangled in the ways of men. He questioned Our Lord, saying, "Teacher, which is the greatest of the Commandments?"
Jesus opened his divine lips slowly, with the calm assurance of somebody who knows what he is talking about and replied, "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole mind, and your whole soul. This is the first and the greatest of the Commandments. And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Upon these two rest the whole law and all the prophets" (Matthew 22:34-40). (Continued on page 5)
Love is the core of Jesus' philosophy. But, in order to love you must be free. For to love is to give your self freely and without reservation.
Yet, to give your self - to another person, to an endeavor, or to God - you must first possess your self. This possession of self is freedom. It is a prerequisite for love, and is attained only through discipline.
Jesus in History
Before Christmas last year, I saw a Jewish scholar interviewed on television. The topic of discussion was the influence Jesus has exerted on human history. In summary, the scholar concluded, "The impact this man has had on human history is undeniable. Because of this man we call Jesus, the world will never again be the same. Because of Jesus, men and women will never think the same. Regardless of whether or not we believe he was the Son of God, because of this man who walked the earth two thousand years ago, men and women will never live the same, will never be the same."
Sometimes, in this turbulent cultural environment, which can be particularly anti-Christian, we can lose sight of the impact Christ has had on history. Caught up in the day-to-day challenges of our busy lives, it is sometimes easy to forget the unfathomable influence this one man has had.
There are a great many people today who think that Jesus is irrelevant in the modern context. I suspect these people are suffering from a modern madness caused by an ignorance of self and history. As we get to know ourselves, our deepest needs, and the history of humanity, the relevance of Jesus Christ to modern man becomes startlingly clear.
Is Jesus still relevant?
Gather all the books that have been written about the life and teachings of Jesus. Add to them all the artwork Christian life has inspired. Now consider all the music inspired by Christ. Not to be forgotten is the fact that the Church nurtured and nourished the development of the arts for centuries. Christianity was the moral foundation upon which America and many other nations built themselves. Now con-sider the fact that prior to Christ walking the earth, there was never any such thing as a hospital. Where were the sick when Jesus walked the earth? They were on the side of the road, left there to rot and die by relatives who feared for their own health. How is it that we have also collectively forgotten that until the Church introduced education for the masses, there was never any such thing as an education for the common man? Education was only for the elite until the Church recognized and proclaimed the dignity of every human person and introduced education for the masses.
All of these represent aspects of the measurable impact Christ has had on human history. And yet, these are all just dim reflections of the person who was and is Jesus Christ. Adding all of these together is still nothing compared to the impact Christ can have on your life, on my life. All the worldly success of Christ and the Church are insignificant compared to the change Christ can effect in your heart, in my heart.
The life of Jesus Christ is indelibly engraved upon history, neither the erosion of time nor the devastating and compounding effects of evil have been able to erase his influence. Some people thought he was crazy, others considered him a misfit, a troublemaker, a rebel. He was condemned as a criminal, and yet, his life and teachings echo and reverberate throughout history. He saw things differently, and he had no respect for the status quo. You can praise him, disagree with him, quote him, disbelieve him, glorify him, or vilify him. About the only thing you cannot do is ignore him, and that is a lesson that every age learns in its own way.
You can't ignore Jesus because he changed things. He is the single greatest agent of change in human history. He made the lame walk, taught the simple, set captives free, gave sight to the blind, fed the (Continued on page 6) hungry, healed the sick, comforted the afflicted, afflicted the comfortable, and in all of these, captured the imaginations of every generation. His teachings are not complex or exclusive, but simple and applicable to everyone, everywhere, in every time in history, regardless of age, color, or state in life. Beyond life's complexities, there is simplicity. Beneath life's confusion, there is understanding. It is the Gospel, the Good News. Within it, through it, we find salvation. And I believe that part of that salvation is happiness - not the foolish, empty happiness that this modern age associates with getting what you want. It is a happiness deeper and higher than any happiness we could imagine or design for ourselves.
Christ came to reconcile us with the Father, and in doing so, offered the satisfaction of this craving for happiness that preoccupies our human hearts. Love is our origin and our destiny. Our yearning for happiness is a yearning for love. Created to love and be loved, we seek out the fulfillment of our purpose. "God is love" (1 John 4:8), and our yearning for happiness is ultimately a yearning for God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church wastes no time in addressing this truth. The opening point of Chapter One, Section One, reads, "The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will man find the truth and happiness he never stops yearning for."
Our desire for happiness is not going to go away. It is part of the human condition. Our quest for happiness is a quest for God. This is the genius of God. Our yearning for happiness is the ultimate and eternal homing device, designed to draw us gently toward our eternal home. Our yearning for happiness is a yearning for union with our Creator. As Augustine pointed out so simply and eloquently, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, Lord." Wherever men and women yearn for happiness, Christ will be relevant. He alone is the fulfillment and satisfaction of this yearning, and so for every person in every place and time he remains, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6).