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Archive for March, 2011

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...

Denial of God

The first commandment tells us that we have to  love God above all else.   If the premise comes from such belief, then if we give unqualified boundless love to ourselves or to any creature more than God, then we are violating the first commandment.   We must give our glory, adoration, and service  only to God.

The holy scriptures tell us that “You shall not have other gods besides me. You shall not carve idols for yourself.. you shall not bow before them or worship them. For I the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” (Ex. 20, 3-5)

Idolatry does not have to mean worshiping idols. Anything we do that does not put God at the top of our lives is idolatry. Even our good deeds such as being dedicated to our family or our profession could be perverted if they become the main purpose of our lives. It does not matter how lofty they are or how intrinsically good they might be but if we place them on top of our lives other than God, then we are committing a sin.

The three theological virtues are faith, hope, and charity. When practiced, they enrich and strengthen our relationship and love of God. However, when we commit mortal sin, we violate the first commandment which makes us reject God.  In particular, the sins against faith, hope, and charity are opposed to the love of God. When we deny the truth of our faith or when we willingly doubt our faith we commit  sin against faith.  However, temptation might set in but we must counter this by praying  for an increase in faith.

It is also necessary that we protect our faith.  For instance, if we want to take care of  our body, we try to avoid certain drinks and food which are bad for our health. In the same manner, we also have to take care not to put our faith at risk.

There are many popular books by atheist writers these days. These authors deny God’s existence.  It could be argued that it is good to read their books if only to gain a perspective of their views and to counter them. However, unless one has a strong formation and faith,  it would be better for an ordinary Christian to abandon reading them. We may put  our faith at risk if we gladly read books that are contrary to faith. We run the risk as well if  we engage in activities which can harm our faith.

The sin against hope may come in two forms: despair and presumption. Despair occurs when we abandon all hopes and even deny  the possibility of God’s will and mercy.  Some people also lose hope in God by believing that heaven can be created on earth. Presumption also is  sin against hope when we presume that God will save us even if we do not do our part in saving our souls.

Hatred of God is the worst sin against charity just like the sin of the devil. Indifference to God is also a grave sin and happens when we lose that supernatural understanding of the need to struggle to do God’s will. When we let ourselves be led by our desires, love of comfort, and laziness,  then we may become lukewarm.

The bible tells us that:  “I know your works; I know you are neither cold nor hot. I wish  you were either cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev 3, 15)  and “To those whom I love, I reprove and chastise. Be earnest, therefore, and repent” (Rev 3, 19)

Reflection:

Have we placed our faith in danger by going to certain places or going with groups that are harmful  to faith and morals?

Have we been lukewarm in our faith, hope, and love of God?


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Loving God

LOVING GOD

When Jesus Christ was asked what was the greatest of all the commandments, our Lord answered:

“The most important commandment is this, Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”

A reflection of the commandment handed down to us by Christ guides us to what God expects from us.  He expects nothing else but our whole selves. As St. Augustine said “He who made you asks for everything that you are”.

Love of God versus Love of Self

We love by impulse. This human love is natural.  The love that God expects from us is not human but supernatural.  The love that is expected of God’s children is a choice between loving God with our whole self or loving ourselves.  This divine love that God wants from us  requires us to either choose God or ourselves.  One cannot love God and at the same time prefers oneself. If we prefer to give in to our personal desires, we become selfish and only think and do what is in our best interest without regard to God’s plan.

St. Agustine said that there are two types of love, the love of God to the point of disregarding oneself, and the love of oneself to the point of disregarding God.  In other words, the love of God is heavenly while the love of self is earthly.

Love in action

We love God through our deeds and not by mere emotions or sentimentality. We love God first and foremost by adoration or by glorifying God.   We also love God by  doing our ordinary duties as a Christian, as a member of the family, in our work and in society.

We can do this by focusing our actions towards God’s glory even in the little things that we do. “Whether you eat or drink or do anything else, do all of the glory of God”(1 Cor. 10.31).

So how do we know that we  are glorifying God?

When we do our ordinary work, we could pause and ask ourselves: Is this pleasing to God? By doing so,  we could  base our actions toward pleasing God which naturally makes us prefer less of ourselves.

When we purify our intentions, even the little things we do on a day-to-day basis such as washing the dishes, mowing the lawn, or studying, or working on our projects could be forms of prayer.   In so doing, the ordinary becomes extraordinary, the commonplace becomes special. These forms of adoration when done in God’s presence, are truly pleasing to God.

Keeping God’s word

Loving God means that we keep his commandments. The scriptures tell us that “for this is the love of God that we keep his commandments “ (1 Jn. 5,3).   Our Lord Jesus said “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him”(Jn 14,23)  Jesus also warned that “not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of the Father in heaven shall enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 7,21).

We can’t do it alone, We need God to increase our faith

The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character.

Loving God is divine. It is   supernatural love with faith.   We cannot please God without faith (Hebr 11,6)  To have faith means that we believe in God’s revelation. But how do we have faith? Can we do it alone? Is it enough that we want to believe? The scriptures tell us that we have to ask God to increase our faith since faith is a gift from God.

Rewards

The reward of having abiding faith and love of God gives us hope that we will one day see God  and that he will grant us eternal happiness. The three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity are supernatural and only God can grant them to us.

Let us seek the intercession of Our Lady for God to grant us the grace and to increase our faith, hope, and love.

Reflection:

Do I pause and ask myself if what I am pursuing is pleasing to God?

Do I love myself more than I love God by giving in to my desires and love of comfort even if it is against God’s commandments?

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The avoidance of Sin

Sin

In the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve violated God’s will when they ate the forbidden fruit in the tree of knowledge of truth and evil.

A couple of years ago, Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti of the Vatican released a new list of sins.  The new list includes excessive greed that causes poverty, environmental destruction, carrying out morally debated scientific experiments, or allowing manipulation of genetics which alter DNA or compromise embryos.

Sin is the wilfully violation of the moral law.  The moral law  represents God’s will, and its  violation  is considered disobedience to God. In the New Testament, sin is defined as “lawlessness”  (John 3:4).

In the Gospel of Matthew (22:35-40), Jesus Christ  reiterated  the love of God and introduced a new commandment, to love one’s neighbour as oneself.

A Black and White Cartoon of a Man Shunning Sin - Royalty Free Clipart Picture

What makes mortal sin  serious? Apart from offending God, it causes the demise of the soul.  It makes one lose the life of holy grace and sever our  friendship with God.   When we commit mortal or grievous sin, we separate ourselves from God completely.

A sin to be considered mortal must  have three conditions: (1) it must involve a serious matter, (2) there must be full intention (not just a slip) and (3)   with  full consent of the will. If any of the three conditions for mortal sin is lacking, then the sin would be considered venial or less serious. However,  venial sins  may not separate us from God but it can reduce our desire to please God and make us prone to mortal sin.

Therefore, the struggle against evil is necessary.   We can escape from the state of sin and return to the state of grace through acts of contrition and the sacrament of confession. Sin is an act of will and an external action makes it more serious. However, it is not just in deeds but also in one’s thoughts that a person could commit sin.  Even if one does not act  one’s intention. One must guard no to consent to temptation.

Sin is not just the external manifestation of doing evil deeds but also the internal actions which may not be visible to others.   God sees us and he knows what is in our thoughts and in our hearts.

Mistaken Views about Sin

There are theories that external actions are only sinful when they harm another person or society. This is erroneous. Because there are sins that are against moral law such as blasphemy, missing Sunday Mass, or self-abuse, which may not directly injure another person. However, the person who commits such “private” sins violates right reason and disregards human dignity.

There is another view that  collective responsibility is superior to personal responsibility. Wherein,  man is not responsible for his  personal action that are contrary to moral law but are viewed as common in society (social vice).  This is also a mistake.

The improvement of society must boil down to the welfare of human beings. Christian spiritual struggle cannot be substituted by the struggle to fight unjust structures of society however noble. It is right to strive hard to achieve a more just world and at the same time struggle to be just in our own lives.  Through personal improvements we can improve society. If we become better individuals we can contribute effectively to the benefit of our family, our workplace and public life.

Reflection:

Do we love God above all things and our neighbours as ourselves?

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Church of Saint-Eutrope in Clermont-Ferrand, s...

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Conscience: Is Personal Conviction Enough?

The story of the good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke (10: 25–37)  is an example of how an unloved Samaritan acted out of conscience by helping an injured stranger left on the road.  Such acts of compassion may have been motivated by an “inner voice” to do what is right.  Conscience guides our actions  to do  what is right and wrong. There are several acts of conscience in our modern world including whistle-blowers, freedom fighters, and  conscientious objectors.

Is personal conviction enough?

Others may think that it is enough to judge right and wrong using one’s intuition.  But it’s hardly enough.   If we use purely personal principles to dictate our actions, we are bound to err because we are humans after all.

While it is certain that  conscience is an excellent guide for  our actions, our personal principles must be guided by right principles.

God’s Law provides us  with a moral compass to determine what is good and bad (positivist). It also teaches us to do what we ought to do (normative).  Based on our human nature,   we have the intellectual capacity which enable us to judge rationally.

It is the Moral Law that takes place in our conscience and helps us to  know what is good or evil in our actions.

One commandment tells us that  “You shall not steal” but if we were to steal goods from a jewellery shop that would be  against the  7th commandment. Likewise if we commit murder that is against the 5th commandment.

Individual Conscience Does Not Create Moral Law

The moral law is not based on our individual sense of right and wrong.  It is through our conscience that we can attain the  knowledge of the law and from which basis we judge our actions.

Nowadays, people follow their individual conscience independent from moral law. They view that personal principles are above objective moral law. The danger of this view is that  a person’s subjective opinion or argument becomes the norm for judging his or her  actions.

What happens is that the self or ego is put on top of God’s place.  Do you wonder why even some good Catholics, who are pious,  decide based on individual conscience on issues contrary to the position of the Church.  For instance, there’s a case of a church-going mother working in Paris  as a domestic helper advising her daughter in the Philippines to use artificial contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies with her live-in boyfriend.

Although it is always correct to follow one’s conscience, it does not mean that it is free from error.  If the conscience has doubt, it has to be resolve first before acting on it.

The formation of conscience is vital in leading a good life.

One way to form our conscience is by studying the Moral Law and all aspects of it. We have to know the Moral Law to be able to use correctly. For instance, in  the legal milieu,  magistrates or judges    study all aspect of the law.  They must have a complete knowledge of the law so that their application of its precepts in a given judgement has sound basis.

However, a  theoretical knowledge and understanding of the Moral Law is not enough. The law has to be lived. By following the precepts of the moral law, despite its difficulty and challenges,  is a sure way to develop our conscience. By living the law,  we can make our judgements clearer and stronger.

If we are to run a 42 KM marathon, we need to train steadily on a regular basis until we develop the strength and the muscles to run the race. Just imagine if we were to run in a marathon without preparation, we might expire by the first kilometre. Regular practice of prudence is like training the body for harder hurdles. On the contrary, if one yields easily to what is easy and repeatedly violates the dictates of his or her conscience, it is likely that the conscience can become deformed, lose its clarity and firmness in distinguishing good and evil. Would you drive a car in heavy fog in the highway without clear vision?

Another way to form one’s conscience, apart from dedicated study and regular examination of conscience is through spiritual direction.  A regular chat with a priest or having a good confession where you can talk about your spiritual struggles and hearing the advice from the priest is helpful.  The sacrament also frees us from sin and as well as guilt.

We can also talk about the same struggles in confidence with a reliable and trust-worthy friend who has sound formation and upright life to help us in forming the conscience.


A well-formed conscience will give us the  courage and the strength not to be easily swayed by public opinion or popular beliefs which may be in conflict with the good and the truth.

Reflection:

Do I examine my conscience regularly before retiring to bed by asking for the grace to know our faults and right actions in our relationship with God and fellowmen, and in our duties at work?

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Ash Wednesday for Children

Image by mtsofan via Flickr

To start the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday, I have decided to create a new blog titled Reflective Moments.  The blog will contain personal reflections on my study of faith and reason which I would like to share with family and friends.

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