Monday, December 17, 2018

How Do You Praise God?

My husband and I came across a Netflix show called Designated Survivor.  Have you seen it?

At first I became so intrigued with it because the storylines were interesting and kept me wondering what was going to happen next, even if the background sets were tremendously unrealistic.

But, after watching a whole season, and then some, I have begun to see a pattern that is actually getting a little tiring.  Just when one thing gets resolved, another unbelievable crisis pops up.

And admittedly, I have a little trouble following all of the characters.  I am forever pausing to ask my husband, “Who was that person?  When did we seem him?  What did he do?”

The idea of crises popping up unexpectedly is a lot like real life though, I must admit. Doesn’t it seem like once things settle just a little, something else always crops up?

As a matter of fact, a few years ago, whenever I would say—out loud—“Isn’t this nice?  Things are going so well, everyone is settled, etc.” within a few hours of my statement, things would start to happen.

It got so bad that I made a commitment to myself not to say anything like that out loud!  Now you might think it’s funny, or that I am kidding, but let me tell you, it’s true.  

Of course, I found myself with a great dilemma—how do I openly express gratitude to God when it seems that I am endangering the peace? (I know I really don’t have that kind of power, but it sure felt like it!)

Just to give you an example, my husband and I went up north one weekend for just an overnight because we wanted to take this nice little boat trip to an island and have dinner.  We managed the trip and the dinner and when we got back to the quiet of our room, I uttered the fateful words that I can no longer say out loud.

Within—literally—ten minutes of me speaking them, we got a phone call to tell us our son was on his way to the hospital.  Rushing home that night led to a week in the hospital!  Of course, he’s fine now, but that was the first of other instances that have forced me to refrain from outward gratitude expressed to my husband in sentences like “Isn’t this nice?  Just for this moment, all is quiet.”

But I must say, I am now beginning—very slowly—to gain a renewed confidence that maybe, just maybe, it was all a coincidence, this joining of my words and trouble.

Perhaps I should test the waters once again, because I think giving God gratitude for everything is important.  Too often today, we give ourselves credit for the good that comes our way and we simply forget about God.

Whatever good we do, whatever gifts we have, whatever kindness is in us, is from God; we are co-workers with him.  In light of this understanding, it really is false piety for us to deny these things when someone compliments us, because it is a denial of the Holy Spirit in us.

There are ways to accept compliments without being conceited, especially if we know where the credit should be placed.

I have heard a few priests, upon receiving a compliment, immediately give God praise for his work in them, usually through the occasional, softly uttered “Praise God.” 

Maybe those simple words would be a good place for me to start testing the waters again!

Janet Cassidy

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

My Coat Dilemma

Kind of an odd thing . . . every day when I pull my winter coat out of our front closet, the hanger falls on the floor.  Now you would think that after doing this countless times, I would develop the habit of grabbing hold of the hanger and catching it before it falls, forcing me to bend over to pick it up.

I’m just sayin’.

But before you judge me, think about this.

Do you have a habit that you have allowed to continue that you know you should get a handle on?  Is there something in your life that you do ritually every day, that doesn’t make sense?  

Uh huh, I thought so.

While my little coat hanger problem doesn’t impact my health negatively (it maybe actually be helping me because I have to bend over), that is not true for other habits that we develop.

So what are we going to do about our problem?  Can I be retrained to grab my hanger to prevent it from dropping to the floor whenever I grab my coat?  Sure, if I stop doing it mindlessly.  And therein lies the problem.

So much of what we do, we do on autopilot.  For instance, driving can become dangerous if we do it automatically.  Eating can become unhealthy if we are not careful.  And even binge-watching our favorite show can turn into the sin of laziness.

But there’s another place we often function on auto pilot—our faith.  Spiritual apathy can be our undoing; it may be just as dangerous—or maybe even more so—than those other daily rituals we perform without thinking.

If we move through life uncommitted or not believing in the necessity of faith, we are placing ourselves in quite a precarious position.  Let’s look at the importance of baptism, for instance.

Why do we need baptism?  What does it actually do for us?

Well, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which is the compendium of the Church’s teaching on faith and morals), baptism is the “basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to other sacraments.”

This isn’t some nice ritual that the Church made up in order to force people to become Christian.  It is pre-figured in the Old Testament and actually instituted by Jesus himself in the New Testament.

That is why it does not make sense for someone to believe in God and yet be unwilling to be baptized, or have their children baptized—if they consider themselves Christian.

Baptism is the path to eternal life with God, something that we can hope for.  When holy water is poured over the unbaptized, there are a few things to consider:

  • Water can be deadly or life-giving
  •  In baptism, we “die” to our old self and take on our new “life” in Christ
  • We are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
  • We receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are active in us our entire life
  • We are given God’s grace as “all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin.” (*CCC1263)
And the last thing I want to mention about baptism also comes from the Catechism whose clear and concise statements add clarity:

“Immersion in water symbolizes not only death and purification, but also regeneration and renewal.”  (CCC1262)

You see, baptism is not simply about “joining” a church, but it is a saving act of God.  If you believe in God, why would you reject his gift?

If you have had a falling out with the Church, or if someone has said or done something that offended you, please do not let that prevent you from re-establishing your foundation in Christ in his church.

If you are new to this faith thing, it is easy to get started.  Just make a phone call to the church you are interested in and let them show you the steps to take.  You will never regret it.

Like my coat dilemma where I mindlessly reach for my coat and drop the hanger, mindlessly moving through life believing in God but allowing your faith to drop simply does not make any sense at all.

(Be sure to click on links inserted in this blog for further information or additional resources.) 

*CCC 1263 refers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its paragraph number

God bless,
Janet Cassidy