Friday, September 25, 2009

"Be Holy! For I Am Holy"

The other day, my 6 year old son found an old Talking GI Joe doll in the closet that was mine when I was his age. Talking GI Joe had life-like hair and a beard. In the technology Stone Age of the late 60s, this was an awesome toy for a young boy. GI Joe had a draw string on his back and when you pulled it, there were four different phrases he would say. With age and normal wear-and-tear, GI Joe began to say one phrase over and over. No matter how many times I pulled it, he just kept saying the same thing:

"I have a tough assignment for you!"

What does that have to do with religion? Well, it reminded me of Father Corapi's Immortal Combat series (about our spiritual battle against Satan) and the tough assignment we Christians have on a day-to-day basis. Especially, when I read this command from God in Leviticus 11:44:

"Be holy, for I am holy."

  • 1 Peter 1:13-16: Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

This reminded of another phrase Talking GI Joe used to say: "This is going to be rough. Can you handle it?"

Yes, being Holy and like God is a real challenge. Judging from a poll I found on the Internet, many Christians aren't even sure what it means to be Holy.

So what does being Holy mean?

HOLY: Spiritually whole or sound, of unimpaired innocence and virtue, separate from sin, set apart for God, pure in heart, pious, saintly, acceptable to God, dedicated or devoted to the service of God

How does one become more Holy?

Ask this question and you'll get a variety of answers. I wrote a previous blog in June "How to do I become a Better Christian" that can help but remember the importance of being humble. As Father Corapi says, "No Humility, No Holiness. No Holiness, No Heaven."

  • Matthew 23:12: For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
  • Hebrews 12:14: Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

Talking GI Joe's third phrase: "We must get there before dark. Follow me!"

Yes, as Christians, we should reach out to those in the world before darkness sets in and be like stars that illuminate the night sky. We accepted this challenge when we chose to follow Christ.

  • Job 30:26: Yet when I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness.
  • Matthew 4:19:"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."

Finally, the fourth phrase Talking GI Joe used to say was: "Mission accomplished. Good work, men!"

This comment reminds me of the scripture below if we fight the good fight in this spiritual battle on earth until the end:

Matthew 25:23:

His master replied,

'Well done, good and faithful servant!

You have been faithful with a few things;

I will put you in charge of many things.

Come and share your master's happiness!'

Talking GI Joe, Spiritual Action Figure. Weapons (Bible, Crucifix, Rosary, Holy Water bottle) sold separately.

And if you can't tell, yes, I played Army men with my son. That helps too.

  • Matthew 18:3-4: And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Humbly Yours,

© Michael J. Cox

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Sacrament of Marriage

Marriage is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. It is one of the many reasons why I chose to become Catholic. But what is the scriptural proof that marriage is a sacrament? First, we have to know the definition of what a sacrament is.

What is a Sacrament?

A sacrament is "outward signs of inward grace instituted by Christ for our sanctification."

Another definition of a sacrament is: "a rite, instituted by Christ, that mediates grace, constituting a sacred mystery."

Since the New Testament was originally written in Greek, not Latin, the word for sacrament we find in the Bible is the Greek word mysterion, "mystery." Sacraments are something of a mystery, something we cannot fully understand.

Marriage as a Sacrament

Most Protestants don't view marriage as a sacrament. John Calvin was very influential in this line of thinking. Calvin wrote:

"Lastly, there is matrimony, which all admit was instituted by God, though no one before the time of (Pope) Gregory regarded it as a sacrament. What man in his sober senses could so regard it? God's ordinance is good and holy; so also are agriculture, architecture, shoemaking, hair-cutting legitimate ordinances of God, but they are not sacraments."

This is not true.

More than a eleven hundred years before Pope Gregory and the Council of Trent (1545-1563), Saint Augustine (Augustine of Hippo) stated:

"Among all people and all men the good that is secured by marriage consists in the offspring and in the chastity of married fidelity; but, in the case of God’s people, it consists moreover in the holiness of the sacrament, by reason of which it is forbidden, even after a separation has taken place, to marry another as long as the first partner lives . . ." (Source: St. Augustine, De bono conjugii - chap. xxiv in P.L., XL, 394)

The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) was the first to list marriage in the official list of church's seven sacraments.

As Catholic Encyclopedia explains: "The reason why marriage was not expressly and formally included among the sacraments earlier and the denial of it branded as heresy, is to be found in the historical development of the doctrine regarding the sacraments; but the fact itself may be traced to Apostolic times."

Calvin's Viewpoint

Backing up to Calvin's viewpoint, the difference between marriage versus agriculture, architecture, shoemaking, etc, is that these vocations lack a mysterious bond that unites man and woman.

When a man and a women are married, they are united as One:

  • Genesis 2:24: For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
  • Mark 10:7-9: 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.

  • Ephesians 5:31-32: “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall I be one flesh. This mystery is great; but I speak in regard to Christ and the church.

Earlier in Ephesians, what is marriage compared to? Christ’s church.

  • Ephesians 5:23: For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
  • Ephesians 5:25: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

And what makes marriage higher than any vocation? What is often the result of this union? God willing--Children--more potential members in Christ's Kingdom.

  • Malachi 2:15; Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.

And God won't hate it if you divorce your career as a farmer, architect, shoemaker, etc. God does, however, hate divorcing your spouse.

  • Malachi 2:16: "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel

Christ's First Miracle

Is it any surprise where Christ's first miracle was performed and what his first miracle turned out to be? At a wedding at Cana when he turned water into wine. See: John 2:1-11 The covenant of marriage parallels the New Covenant Jesus brought to the world. See: Luke 22:20

Building Your Marriage Around God

The following scripture shows the benefit of marriage and hints at the importance of making God the center of it.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one,

because they have a good return for their work:

If one falls down, his friend can help him up.

But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.

But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered,

two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

The three strands in the cord above are husband, wife and God. Simple math: 1 + 1 = 2. Whereas God's math: 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 (Husband + Wife + God = One). God is the steel strand in the cord. If you center your marriage around God, Satan will not be able to unravel it, divide it or break it.

Given the fact the U.S. has the highest divorce rate in the world, it is important to understand the real purpose of marriage. It isn't necessarily to make us happy, it is to make us more Holy. Ultimately, our happiness comes from our Lord.

Just like religious vocations in the priesthood, we are called to devote ourselves to our spouses as priests devote themselves to their flock. More importantly, as Christ gave himself up for us. That is why marriage is compared to Christ's church in Ephesians. Loving and forgiving the one closest to us, is a great day-to-day test of our Faith.

So please remember:

  • Colossians 3:13: Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
  • Ephesians 5:25-28: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
  • Ephesians 5:22-24: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

And also remember, in troubled times in your marriage and everyday life:

  • Ephesians 6:12: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Don't let Satan ruin your marriage with selfishness, pride and anger.

Pray for humility and to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Peace be with you,

© Michael J. Cox

Friday, September 11, 2009

Alcohol, Drugs and Happiness

I am sure that quite a few people have been impacted by alcohol or drug use in their own life or with someone close to them. Nineteen percent of alcoholics are married. One out of thirteen deaths in the U.S. are alcohol related. Since many alcoholics and drug users resort to drinking or doing drugs to escape from the real world or to elevate their mood, this blog will look at the summit and source of real happiness.

Alcohol/Drug Use

Simply stated: drugs and alcohol, if abused, ruin lives and can destroy marriages. Most people who use drugs or abuse alcohol have had trauma in their past and are wounded spirits. They are depressed and are seeking something else to fill void.

As Father John Corapi brilliantly described in his talk on Humility, if we are wounded physically, lets say we get shot with a bullet in our arm, we bleed. But eventually the wound heals up. Yes, sometimes an infection can set in. We have antibiotics for that.

But when our spirit is wounded, Satan is an opportunist and loves to enter these wounds and inflict more damage.

What is our antibiotic spiritually? Jesus Christ.

Instead of using alcohol to fill the void, fill yourself with the third person of the Blessed Trinity--The Holy Spirit.

  • Ephesians 5:18: Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Since most people who use or abuse alcohol or marijuana suffer from depression, how much sense does it make to put something into your body that is a Central Nervous System (CNS) depressant? That is the equivalent of throwing gasoline onto a fire.

Alcohol doesn't make you a rational thinker, more peaceful or wise.

  • Proverbs 20:1: Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

And being around those who have had problems with alcohol, do not do anything that could cause them to stumble.

  • Romans 14:21: It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.


  • "Indeed, man wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible." -- Saint Augustine

Happiness in today's fallen world can be traced to human psychology and the desire to have everything we want in life now--I called it our Drive-Thru Happiness mentality. There have been studies on humans (and lab mice too) that show we tend to opt for immediate gratification without regard to future consequences. That is, we place more emphasis on current happiness than what is really best for us in the long run.

Blend this with all the wounds that our society receives in early life and what are the outcomes? Drug and alcohol problems, sexual promiscuity, eating disorders, materialism, high divorce rates, spending problems, etc.

This desire for instant happiness is an example of emotional immaturity of lost souls and relates to what Dr. Jerome Murray calls stimulation hunger:

Stimulation Hunger- This includes demanding immediate attention or gratification and being unable to wait for anything. Stimulation hungry people are incapable of deferred gratification, which means to put off present desires in order to gain a future reward. Stimulation hungry people are superficial and live thoughtlessly and impulsively. Their personal loyalty lasts only as long as the usefulness of the relationship. They have superficial values and are too concerned with trivia (their appearance, etc.). Their social and financial lives are chaotic.

It is important to remember that patience and self-control are fruits of the spirit that identifies us as Christians without wearing a crucifix around our neck.

  • Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The Ultimate Happy Meal

If you feel empty inside, how about the ultimate Happy Meal? His name is Jesus Christ.

  • John 6:35: Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

  • John 6:53: Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

And don't overrate happiness of earthly things or think the purpose of marriage is to bring happiness. Happiness comes from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ--through His Love, His Forgiveness and the promise of heaven and eternal life. The purpose of marriage is to make us more Holy. The purpose of hardships in our life is to test us and draw us closer to Christ and to make us stronger Christians.

  • 2 Corinthians 12:10: That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

French philosopher Joseph Joubert once said: "Happy is the man who can do one thing: in doing it, he fulfills his destiny."

True, but let me expand on that:

Happiest is the man who lives a life for Christ. His destiny is the greatest reward: heaven and eternal life.

  • Matthew 13:44: "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field."

Get high on the Holy Spirit and eternal life, not on drugs or alcohol.

And always remember:

"The only real failure in life is the failure to get to heaven at the end of it." -- Father John Corapi

Peace be with you,

© Michael J. Cox