Christmas Musings

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It’s been awhile since I’ve written an actual post. Finals week can just be too busy. But as day 1 of Christmas comes to an end,  I’d thought I’d share a little something that God showed me (and I think has been trying to make me see for awhile) at midnight mass.  But I think a little background is needed first.

I’ve noticed a  lot lately how many people I have encountered and am around regularly have a very negative outlook on the capability of human beings to be good and rational. They see humanity, as a whole, as a group of hopeless people who have no chance at doing the right thing, as a group who does not think rationally about their choices.  These people wish they could say that human beings make decisions based on rationality, but they just can’t. Their experiences in life have been less than kind and they cannot, or won’t let themselves, hope that things can better. They have lost all faith that good defeats evil so to speak. They’ve experienced betrayal and hurt, sometimes from others, sometimes committed by them upon others. And this has completely distorted their view on the human race, which to them has become nothing but biological beings who are only capable of acting on their impulses. I had started to question whether or not good exists or can prevail over evil, struggles, and pain. And then I went to Midnight mass.

I was sitting in the pew before mass and began pondering life and reflecting on what it meant when Christ was born some two thousand years ago. I typically just think about how 30ish years later he would die on the cross and save me from my sins, and how I get to join him in heaven one day if I continue to follow him. But last night, God showed me a more broad picture. He expanded my view beyond myself. I finally saw that Christ’s life did not just provide me with salvation, but the whole world. I knew this already, but I never took much time think beyond my own salvation. Christ conquered evil when he defeated death but it’s hard when we live in a fallen world to remember that evil has been conquered. It’s hard to remember that we have been promised and can know that good will prevail in the end. I think God reminded me of this to give me hope, to help me see that having a negative view on the potential that humanity has will get me, or anyone for that matter, nowhere. I already know how the story ends and I need to live my life fighting against the views of good and evil that society has. I need to live my life showing that evil has already been conquered, that human beings are, in fact, capable of thinking rationally and doing good. By living my life by the example Christ set throughout his lifetime, maybe I can restore some of the hope that he intended to give to those around me who need it most. This is my prayer this Christmas season, that the world will see that there is hope for humanity and that it will encourage them to live out that hope. I want the world to see that we are more than just accidental beings who act solely on impulse, that there is a plan. And that plan is to prosper us and not to harm us.

So all I want to say is that good will win. Keep that in your heart when you are feeling like there is nothing good left in the world. It won’t always be like this. There is hope!

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Educating the people

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One thing I’ve noticed as I listen to the stories of former Catholics is that they often, though not always, feel like they were never taught what the Church teaches. Or if they don’t express this concern, it is evident by the way they understand Church teachings. I was listening to a friend of mine talk about her religion classes that she took as a young Catholic, and she was very dissatisfied with them and seemed to feel like they were pointless. Basically, it sounded like they consisted of the kids memorizing a prayer and getting checked off for it, but no real in depth (as in depth as you can get with children) lessons on the beliefs and reasoning of the Church.  Of course knowing prayers is important, but there are so many other important things as well, like Church history, scriptural studies, lessons on morality, etc. And this was not the first time I had come across this issue from former Catholics, and unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last.

The Catholic Church, as I see it, is the church Christ founded and what she teaches as dogmatic truth cannot be wrong because of the protection Christ promised to Peter. But this does not mean that the Church is perfect in every way. Clearly, she could do a much better job at ensuring, as much as is in her power, that the lay people of the Church know what they are attesting to when they claim to be Catholic. Or what they are rejecting when they decide to leave the Church.  There seems to be a lack of understanding about what the Church believes and it’s not just coming from the outside. This lack of proper education for people of the Church makes them easy prey to false gospels and the secular views on morality.

Something needs to be done to correct this, whether it be on a local level by the priests,  a global level by encouragement from the pope, or somewhere in between. Maybe parents can try harder to teach their children about the Church they are a part of. Maybe those who claim to be Catholic can step up and take the time to learn what exactly it is that they are attesting to and why the Church teaches it. So many people can be held accountable for the teaching of the lay people, but bottom line is, something needs to be done. Just because at times and in some places she fails to adequately teach her Truths does not mean that these Truths are not true. The Catholic Church is a beautiful thing founded by the Savior of the world and it’s important to make sure that people are taught the Truth.

The Hijacking of Christmas

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We live in a very secularized society and this Advent season I’ve noticed more than ever how Christmas has been hijacked by non-Christians. The real meaning of the holiday is lost on society at large and those who do not even believe in God, who have chosen not to live for Christ, or who are “anti-religion”, celebrate what should be a very Christian and religious holiday. It makes me sad to see the state that Christmas has been reduced to by this era that we live in.

All around me I see department stores with gigantic Christmas trees all lit up and shiny with glass ornaments. I see crazy sales advertising the best stocking stuffers and promising total happiness to whom ever receives this gift. I hear the radio taken over  by songs about riding in sleighs or snuggling up with your loved one by an open fire, dotted with the occasional genuine Christmas carol or hymn about the baby boy whose birthday it truly is. All around me I see the focus removed from the birthday boy and placed by each individual on themselves. We go around telling people what we want this year, not even always waiting to be asked by the other person. To many, this is just another excuse to expect presents from the people around us, or a reason to put up really neat decorations without considering what they mean or stand for traditionally.

This is what Christmas has become. Who can have the biggest, brightest tree?

By no means am I completely innocent of this behavior. I did not grow up going to church or talking about the real meaning of Christmas. Until Junior year of high school I had never really thought of the birthday boy at all, just like the rest of society. It has become a habit to focus on what I want during this time of year, and it’s a tough one to break. But when I see how things are around me, I have a strong desire to never be like that again, to show the world what it’s really all about. It’s about the hope that entered the world upon the birth of Christ. It’s about the joy of knowing that despite all the horrible things we do as imperfect human beings, God chose to come live among us so that we might have a chance at real life. It’s about gratitude for what this baby boy would someday do for all of us if we just accept it and live for Him. It’s about loving others and giving without expecting anything in return. I fail at this often, but that doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have to keep trying, to keep praying. It means that I need to depend more fully on God. This holiday season I pray that we can take back our holiday from the secular grip and restore the true meaning of Christmas. And I pray that I will not fall to the temptation of focusing on me this year.

Music Monday

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This week is brought to you by Josh Groban. I love this song. It’s so inspirational and uplifting and definitely one of my favorite holiday songs by my favorite artist. Enjoy!

To have child-like faith

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Oh to have the faith of this young boy, diagnosed with a rare genetic disease. To have his perfect, innocent joy and complete trust in Jesus. This is a truly beautiful video. I pray that we can all look at life and death in a way similar to this young man, and embrace whatever God has sent our way.