Tag Archives: salvation

Week of the Darkness versus the Light: Death

In honor of this week of Halloween, and remembering the departed, I will post about themes that deal with the battle of darkness versus light.  This post’s theme: death.

What I always find deeply ironic is how many Christians I know are afraid of death, or feel sorry for someone who has died.  Yet, there is a firm belief in Heaven.  So what gives?

Photo Credit: Wallpaper 4 God

There is a deep attachment to our world that is not conducive to what Christians have faith in.  Why would any Christian be worried about another Christian who has died?  The only good reason to be worried is the answer to this question:  will a person be granted access to Heaven, or has the person done unspeakable things and will go to hell for it?  This question is reason enough for worry, nonetheless, I don’t run into people who are concerned with it.  The concern about the dead tends to be placed about the tragedy over someone not living any longer, or the fact that we have to now live without the person.

These thoughts are not Christian.  What is Christian is the certitude that there is an afterlife.  It is Christian to hope that God’s mercy is deeper than anything we can imagine, and therefore, a soul does have a real chance of getting into heaven.  To help that soul reach it’s destination, we pray for the soul.

I am not arguing against sorrow and mourning.  In fact, I have seen how people have not properly recognized the importance of grieving.  I have noticed when people are not sympathetic enough.  They don’t offer consolation, but instead, empty statements.  “It’s okay, it was her time to go.”  “God works in mysterious ways.”  “Don’t cry, everything will be ok.”  Statements are not what people need in their time of distress.  Presence, listening, and crying along with someone are some of the supports people need.

This simple reflection on death is more about recognizing how we understand it when we are not in distress.  Why would a Christian think it is sad for someone to pass on into the afterlife?  Is not the Christian message to the world that it is not trapped in a meaningless life cycle, but that we are given an opportunity to enter the Kingdom of Heaven through Christ?

Since there is an afterlife, Catholic theology promotes praying for those that have passed on as well as asking those who might be or certainly are in Heaven for help.  That only makes sense if we can communicate with the dead.  No, you don’t need to have supernatural powers or bust out magic to start talking to the dead.  Prayer is already that special way to connect with those that have transitioned from this physical reality to the spiritual.  It is that simple.  Just don’t believe your going to get any concrete communication back…after all, it would freak you out.

St. Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, “O Death, where is your sting?”(1Cor 15:55)  In the letter to the Romans, he goes on to further explain this crucial soteriology (theory of salvation; Rom 6).  Christians do not need to fear death or be saddened by it.  It’s natural to feel that way, but alas, there is much to hope for!

Go, and celebrate with others this Good News: humanity no longer is a victim of death; death has been conquered, and we have the opportunity to make it a transitional event versus a final event of our life.

God our Father,
Your power brings us to birth,
Your providence guides our lives,
and by Your command we return to dust.

Lord, those who die still live in Your presence,
their lives change but do not end.
I pray in hope for my family,
relatives and friends,
and for all the dead known to You alone.

In company with Christ,
Who died and now lives,
may they rejoice in Your kingdom,
where all our tears are wiped away.
Unite us together again in one family,
to sing Your praise forever and ever.

Amen.

Extra! Extra! Extraordinary Blessings Available NOW!

Yes, the Catholic Church still promotes “plenary indulgences” and “partial indulgences.”  These are special blessings that the authority of the Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, bestow upon its followers.  These are not just any blessings, but a type of blessing that actually lessens or eliminates time in purgatory!

Okay, what if you’re not into purgatory or ranking blessings?  Well, bare with me.

The Catholic Church ranks blessings according to their hardship and their intention.  Sure it’s great if you prayed to God every night.  That is a blessing.  But imagine saying a prayer every night for 28 to 30 minutes, and doing that for some months….even for some years!! Isn’t that person gaining more spiritual benefit than the one who is just going to “say a quicky” before bedtime?

And there are blessings for those who decide to study the bible, or make a pilgrimage, or pray for those that have died, etc, etc.  Prayer helps a person be in touch with The Divine.  The type of prayer does matter because it’s like eating.  Certain foods are needed to gain different types of vitamins.  So as much as you may want to live off of pancakes and milk, a lack of vegetables will harm you down the line.  This is the same with prayer.  A person who sticks to only one type of prayer, like maybe a routine of reading the bible 15 minutes and then saying an “Our Father”, will miss out on the richness of other types of prayer, like community prayer and meditative prayer to name two other types.

So, check out this list, and try some of it yourself.  Even if you’re not Catholic, you will gain something out of the experience of prayer, because God bestows blessings on all people who will try to communicate with The Holy One.

Plenary Indulgences (aka Prayer Practices) for Year of Faith:

(Catholic note: A Catholic earning indulgences also needs to be truly penitent, go to Confession in a timely manner, receive the Eucharist afterwards, and pray thinking about the Pope’s needs and intentions for the Catholic Church and the world, which this webpage is helpful.)

  1. Listen to 3 sermons or lectures about the documents of Vatican 2, or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
  2. Do a pilgrimage to a cathedral, or to catacombs, holy sites and take part in a sacred celebration or say a specially thought out and designed prayer at that site in honor of the pilgrimage completed.
  3. Visit a baptism font, or the place where you were baptized and renew your baptismal promises.

Here’s the article I got this info from: Vatican Announces Plenary Indulgence for Year of Faith |Blogs | NCRegister.com.

Sorry, We’re Playing for Keeps (on our Soul!)

Ok, so not all horror movies have great theological themes to it.  But have you ever wondered about those movies that do have religious references to it?

In this case, “Paranormal Activity 4” has the typical religious and supernatural references about the spirit world that you would find in movies featuring paranormal activity: witchcraft, demons, and possession to name some of the main ones.

Granted, when I saw the movie, I didn’t feel enlightened.  I was out for a good spook.  I went with friends, and we all have a good laugh at each other’s lack of tolerance for fright.

But I started thinking about a homily I heard at a Sunday Mass a few weeks ago.  The priest said that in some areas of the Gospels, Jesus tries to emphasize the harsher reality of the kingdom of heaven….it’s not “easy” to get in.

I can talk about this subject of salvation and what theologians call “soteriology” (the theology of salvation) for a whole month…and I may only get a decent chunk of it blogged about, but not the entire explanation.

Yet, there are some things to consider, and worthy of dialog and feedback.

In “PN 4,” and from what I remember of the other movies in this franchise, the strongest theme is about demon possession.  The demon basically haunts a family, and the deeper story is that it’s trying to achieve the goal of possession so to do whatever its other goals are.  The audience is aware of the demons’ motives as much as the characters are….basically every one is in the dark.(pun intended)

In Christianity, there is a story of possession as well.  But we don’t call it that when it deals with Jesus and a person’s relationship to him.  We call it the path of salvation.  Jesus has offered the possibility of salvation, and on a very basic theological level, the person needs to at the very, very least, have faith, hope, and love in Jesus.  A complete surrender to him.  Like a possession.  But we don’t call it that because Jesus continues to give the person “free will” until death, which then the soul transitions from the physical realm to the spirit realm, where all sorts of stuff happens.

So, if I’m a follower of Christ, and I know what he’s asking of me, it would seem so simple to just follow along, right?

Well, maybe for someone like Mary, Mother of Jesus, yes, but even the strongest in faith, like St. Paul, struggled.  So if he struggled, you bet most of us disciples are far from getting this discipleship right.

But here’s the scary part: it’s not a game.  It’s for keeps.  God is guiding His disciples to an eternal promise, but needs us to do enough surrendering so that we do inherit such a promise.  The opposite path doesn’t lead to God, but to a total loss.  We are either God’s because we choose to keep ourselves as holy as we can and offer it up to God, or we are on the path to become Godless, and therefore lifeless.

“PN 4” does have some spooky moments.  I know I would absolutely hate to be caught dealing with a demon! Yikes!!  But the reality is, we all deal with demons, who are playing for keeps.  And they don’t need to be eerie.  They dress up as whatever our desires are.  And tempt us.  A spooky thing would be to view our life in a movie theater, and ask, “Wow, how close was I to letting myself be possessed by disordered desires?”  Or even get to the parts where we hopefully say, “Dang, I’m sorry for letting myself give in!”

May we humbly ask God for forgiveness, and the foresight to see and avoid the demons of temptation around us, all the time.