Tuesday, December 21, 2010

There's Something About Mary

One of the things many Christians do not understand, is Catholics veneration of Mary. We do not worship her, we simply honor and respect her for what she was--a saint who was more than a figurine you drag out every Christmas as part of your Nativity scene.
Other than hearing the "Virgin Mary" mentioned in the Nicene Creed every Sunday, you rarely hear Mary's name discussed during Mass unless she is part of the rotated scripture readings or at a special Mass. But we have tremendous respect for her. Catholics aren't unique in this regard, most Orthodox Christian denominations, some Anglicans and Lutherans venerate Mary as well.

Why should Mary be venerated and considered more than simply Mother of Jesus?

Ark of the New CovenantMary was the Ark of the New Covenant. To understand this concept and the true meaning behind it, remember the following scriptures in John Chapter 1:
  • John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God.

  • John 1:14: And then the Word became flesh

The Word became flesh in Jesus Christ.
Also remember the Ark of the Covenant which was a vessel containing the Tablets of Stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed:

  • Exodus 26:34: Put the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law in the Most Holy Place.
  • Exodus 40:3: Place the ark of the covenant law in it and shield the ark with the curtain.
  • Hebrews 9:4: which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.
  • Revelation 11:19: Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.
Mary carried Jesus in her womb. Jesus came into the world and turned it upside down with a New Covenant of Love that was recorded and written in the New Testament. So in essence, Mary was the Ark of the New Covenant.
Mother of God

Mary was Jesus's mother. If you believe that Jesus was God, then Mary has to be Mother of God. To deny this would be to deny scripture and to deny that Christ was fully God and fully man. Remember what Elisabeth said to Mary?

  • Luke 1:42-43: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
The Greek word Theotokos (Mother of God) is literally translated into God-bearer or one who gives birth to God. The earliest use of the term Theotokos came in the middle of the third century (250AD) by Dionysios of Alexandria in an epistle to Paul of Samosata. And the title Mother of God was formally affirmed at the First Counsil of Ephesus in 431 AD.
Neither Martin Luther (the Father of Protestantism) and Protestant reformer John Calvin had issues with calling Mary "Mother of God."
God could have created Jesus from dust like he did Adam or from a rib like He did Eve but God wanted the full human experience. God loved us enough to be with us and fully one of us.
God also fulfilled His promise in Genesis by putting an enmity between the Serpent and the woman. The enmity God created between the serpent was Jesus Christ.
  • Genesis 3:15: And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”
Is there any coincidence that God used Mary? Eve disobeyed God by eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge casting us with the taint of original sin. God uses a woman, The Virgin Mary, to give birth to our Redeemer of sin.
Mary is just not "Mother of God", she is our mother too.

  • John 19:25-27: Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Note that Jesus did not say to the disciple: "Here is your sister" to denote her as simply a female Christian. He said "Here is your mother" which has a stronger, much deeper meaning.
We have a Father and a Son, God felt we needed a Mother too.

Nobody was Closer to Jesus
Mary played a role in Jesus's very first miracle at a wedding at Cana, in fact she precipitated it asking Jesus to turn water into wine (see John 2:1-10):

  • John 2:1-3: On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

  • John 2:4: “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
  • John 2:5: His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Jesus showed humility and obliged his mother and turned the water into the best tasting wine at the wedding feast. This closeness Mary had with Jesus, her prompting of Christ's first miracle is why Catholics believe in intercessory prayer to her--especially via meditation with a Rosary.

Queen of Heaven
Mary is Queen of Heaven. Revelation Chapter 12 is our scriptural proof. Mary is the woman and the dragon is Satan symbolically revealed in Revelation Chapter 12.
  • Revelation 12:1-2: A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.
Some Protestant scholars (perhaps in an attempt to nullify the importance of Mary?) believe that the woman mentioned in Revelation Chapter 12 refers to Israel and that the twelve stars on the woman's head represent the 12 tribes of Israel.
But the last verse in that chapter reveals otherwise. Who does the dragon, enraged at the woman, wage war against?
  • Revelation 12:17: Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus
If the woman was to represent Israel, did all of the woman's offspring (Israelis) hold fast their testimony to Jesus? No, not all of Israel were Christians. This is proof that the symbolism of the woman is Mary and Mary's offspring is Christ's church (those who hold fast to the testimony of Jesus).

Mary said Yes to God

When the angel Gabriel asked Mary to mother our savior, she said humbly accepted:
  • Luke 1:38: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Most importantly, what you can take from this blog this Christmas, is the fact that Mary said yes to God, she followed Jesus and nobody was closer to him.
This is what we Christians should do and strive for every second of our life.

Peace be with you,

© Michael J. Cox

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Real Gift of Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching, many probably wonder, what gifts will be left for them under the Christmas tree this year. As a kid, I always remember getting that one special gift each Christmas: "I've got a tough assignment for you" Talking GI-Joe, the electric race track that entertained me and the family cat for hours, Electric Football with the Kansas City Chiefs players who quickly vibrated straight for the sidelines each play.

So we are all probably wondering...

What will be the best gift we receive this Christmas?

As an RCIA sponsor, this was shared with me in my parish RCIA class and I think it is appropriate here:

The Difference Between Santa & St. Nicholas

Santa Claus belongs to childhood;
St. Nicholas models for all of life.

Santa Claus, as we know him, developed to boost Christmas sales—the commercial Christmas message;
St. Nicholas told the story of Christ and peace, goodwill toward all—the hope-filled Christmas message.

Santa Claus encourages consumption;
St. Nicholas encourages compassion.

Santa Claus appears each year to be seen and heard for a short time;
St. Nicholas is part of the communion of saints, surrounding us always with prayer and example.

Santa Claus flies through the air—from the North Pole;
St. Nicholas walked the earth—caring for those in need.

Santa Claus, for some, replaces the Babe of Bethlehem;
St. Nicholas, for all, points to the Babe of Bethlehem.

Santa Claus isn't bad;
St. Nicholas is just better.

—J. Rosenthal & C. Myers

See: Who is St. Nicholas?


As far as what will be the best Christmas gift this season, maybe the above will cause us to refocus. Let's take a look at our Savior and what gifts he left behind.

There are quite a few Christian denominations who subscribe to the Sola Scriptura ("by Scripture alone") doctrine--one of the five solas developed by Martin Luther.

Sola Scriptura is the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. The belief that "Scripture interprets Scripture" and the Bible is sufficient of itself to be the final authority of Christian doctrine. Hold on to this concept for a minute. If scripture was able to interpret scripture properly, why do we have 25,000 different Christian denominations? Knowledge is important but the New Testament was written after Christ's Death.

So what did Jesus leave behind for us?

Jesus didn't leave us a Bible. Besides a legacy of love, Our Lord and Savior, left behind two important things.

1) His Church:

  • Matthew 16:18-19: "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Jesus said this shortly before predicting his own death. He entrusted Peter with authority over His earthly church which mirrors Isaiah 22:20-22.

Apostolic Succession is confirmed in the book of Acts (Acts 1-15-27) and in Acts Chapter 20:

  • Acts 20:28: Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

The Holy Bible is important. The Holy Bible contains Truth. We know that Jesus quoted from scripture..."For it is written"...to teach but what does scripture tell us is the pillar and foundation of the truth?

  • 1 Timothy 3:15: if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth

Reading the Holy Bible and knowledge is important. As St. Jerome once said: "Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ."

Father John Corapi, who has five advanced degrees in theology, has said that if knowledge was the key to sainthood, he was sure that he had enough knowledge to be canonized a Saint someday. But as he correctly noted, knowledge is not what makes one a Saint. Most of the Saints were not overly educated people.

If the Holy Bible was the most important thing Christ wanted to leave behind, He could have taken a tree and turned it into a million bibles and handed them to his disciples. But not everyone can read, not everyone can see. The most important things Jesus Christ left behind was His example of love, His church and the Holy Spirit.

2) The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is needed to properly read and interpret scripture and the Holy Spirit and the power to forgive sins was the last gift the Resurrected Jesus left behind.

  • John 20:21-23: Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Proof that the Holy Spirit was passed on by Apostle Paul (not one of the original 12 apostles) can be found in Acts 19:1-7

What are the fruits of the Holy Spirit?

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

The above embodies the Spirit of Christ and what the Spirit of Christmas should be. We all probably have a good working knowledge of what is right and wrong, what is good or evil and sometimes we can probably recite the scripture.

The Holy Bible is a "Do-It-Yourself Manual" but you cannot do it yourself very well without proper spiritual guidance and the aid of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is needed to guide us into doing what is right to avoid sin.

Having been to numerous churches over my lifetime, I have never been able to find a church that connects me more to the Holy Spirit than the Catholic Church. The gifts of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Holy Communion which renews my baptismal promise and helps keep me alive in Christ and helps me from getting disconnected from the Holy Spirit.

So this Christmas, remember the greatest gifts Christ left behind. And the circumstances and situations in which he gave them--shortly before his death and returning from the tomb. And the greatest gift of all if we choose to receive it.

John 6:47: "Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life."

Have a very Merry Christmas!

A recommended video to watch, click HERE

Peace be with you,

© Michael J. Cox

Monday, November 15, 2010

"How Do You Read It?"

Luke 10:25-37:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This parable of the Good Samaritan has another way it can be read.

Although this involved a theft of personal property and being physically beaten, leaving the man on his way from Jerusalam to Jericho half dead, how often do we find people like this in everyday life in the spiritual sense?

You see, Jericho here represents some place we feel we need to reach in life (financial success, power, love, etc). Then on our way there, the fallen world spits us out, robs us and strips us of our dignity and emotionally wounds us---leaving us spiritually half dead.

And how many of us see this person in everyday life and decide like the two others, to walk on the other side of the road. We just don't want to get involved. Afterall, they are not physically crying out for help.

How many of us recognize this person needs help and offer them the bandage for their wounds called Jesus Christ?

Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness, to pull another hand into the light. ~Norman B. Rice

How many of us go the extra mile and bring them to the inn--in this case Church--and introduce them to the pastor (the innkeeper) and tell him to "Look after him."

The great message in all of this is that everybody is our neighbor and if you truly love thy neighbor as thyself, you want the best and greatest thing for that person: the final destination of heaven. The Holy Spirit is our GPS. This is what we should try to do as Christians, to lead others on a different pathway to the gift of life eternal.

As Jesus would say: "Go and do likewise."

Peace be with you,

© Michael J. Cox

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Understanding Catholicism

I was watching a movie the other night titled Molakai: The Story of Father Damien. Father Damien was a Belgian priest who did missionary work with Lepers in Hawaii in the mid to late 1800s. In the movie, a man (who was Protestant) asked Father Damien: "Do you honestly believe only Catholics go to heaven?" And Father Damien replied: "I am not absolutely certain. But I know that Catholics can go to heaven." Brilliant answer.

With this in mind, I feel that there are some issues that I need to discussed in this blog.

First, in my previous blog, Prayers of the Saints, I talked about why Catholics ask for intercession from saints and a little about the canonization process. Specifically, that two posthumuous miracles are required for anyone to be canonized a Saint. Well, Father Damien was canonized a saint last year in October. The second posthumuous miracle involved a woman given 6 months to live due to cancer and how she was miraculously healed. Click HERE to read this amazing story.

Secondly, for those becoming Catholic, you will not understand how misunderstood our faith is until some of your friends/acquaintances find out that you are becoming Catholic. In an age with so many different Christian denominations, I wrote a blog one year ago that sheds light on why I decided to become Catholic. It is titled: A Halloween To Be Remembered

Other blogs that I have written regarding sacraments that might be useful here are: The Benefits of Confession, The Real Presence of Christ, The Sacrament of Marriage.

But a few other things seem hard for many non-Catholics to understand, like Purgatory, mortal vs venial sins, why Catholic kneel so much during Mass, etc. So I will address a few more here.


Many claim that purgatory is unscriptural because it cannot be found anywhere in the bible. It is true the word purgatory cannot be found in the bible (neither does the word Trinity) but the concept of purgatory is scriptural:

But first, you have to know what purgatory is and what it is not.

Purgatory is the final purification of the elect. It is a state of being, not a physical place like heaven or hell, where after death, souls are purified before entering heaven. How is it scriptural?

In Revelations Chapter 21, it tells us that nothing impure will enter heaven.

  • Revelation 21:27: Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

So when somebody dies, unless they are in an extreme state of grace at the exact moment of their death, their soul is stained with sin and would not be able to enter heaven without being purified.

Catholic teaching makes no claims to how long someone stays in purgatory. Nobody knows for sure, it could be seconds or years. But it is a Catholic belief that once someone makes it to purgatory, they will eventually make it into heaven.

For those who want discount the concept of purgatory as unscriptural because "the bible only mentions heaven and hell", I would invite them to research the difference between Sheol and Gehenna in the Old Testament. Research how these words were translated in the New Testament and how the New Testament seems to draw a distinction between the two. And to research The Bosom of Abraham that involved Lazarus and the rich man found in Luke 16:22-23 which was neither heaven or hell.

Mortal vs. Venial Sins

Another concept that many non-Catholics do not understand is mortal vs. venial sins. As scripture tells us in Romans 6:23 "the wages of sin is death." Many believe all sins are created equal but scripture tells us otherwise.

  • 1 John 5:16-17: If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

The sins that lead to death are mortal sins. The sins do not lead to death are called venial sins.

An excellent guide for determining what is a mortal and venial sin, click HERE. And after reading that list, perhaps you will understand the next topic better.

Why do Catholics kneel during Mass?

Out of love and reverence to God and Christ. It is one of the many ways to pray. The following scriptures probably explain it best:

  • Daniel 6:10: Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

  • Ephesians 3:14-15: For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name

  • Philippians 2:9-10: Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth

Peace be with you,

© Michael J. Cox

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Prayers of the Saints

One thing many non-Catholics do not understand is praying to saints. As my Protestant father once told me about his belief in prayer: "We go directly to Jesus." So should Catholics but this doesn't mean that you cannot have others pray for you as well. I don't think I would get much argument with Protestants about their belief in intercessory prayer and the benefits associated with it. Scripture instructs us to pray for eachother:

  • James 5:16: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Who can be more righteous than a saint?

No Contact with the Dead?

Some Protestants will state that the Old Testament prohibits communication with the dead (Deuteronomy 18:10-11) but what this scripture is forbiding is conjuring up spirits for the purpose of gaining information. A great example of this would be séances.

We are all One Body in Christ

Jesus came and established a New Covenant and Catholics believe what Jesus said--that true believers never really die:

  • John 11:25-26: Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Ironically, Jesus asked this question to Martha, mother of Lazarus, who was mourning her son Lazarus's death. If communicating to the physically dead is wrong, why did Jesus do it? Further into John Chapter 11, Jesus talked to a physically dead man (Lazarus) and then raised him from the dead:

  • John 11:43-44: When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

And why did Jesus talk to Moses and Elijah on the Mount?

  • Matthew 17:3: Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Also, twice in Revelations it demonstrates that the prayers of the saints are offered to God in heaven:

  • Revelation 5:8: And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

  • Revelation 8:3: Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.

In conclusion, do what feels right in your heart. But many miracles have occurred when praying on the Rosary or when saints have been asked for their help in prayer. In fact, two posthumous miracles are required for any man or woman to be canonized a saint, no matter how holy of a life they lived or how many miracles they were associated with during their lifetime.

So as it says in First Timothy:

  • 1 Timothy 2:1: I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone

And always remember:

For God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive --Luke 20:38

Thanks be to God and for all the prayers of the saints,

© Michael J. Cox

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thanks Be To God

One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving. Why? The 3 Fs - Food, Family and Football - and since it is a non-commercialized holiday where you can sit back and reflect on what you should be thankful for in your life. A lot of people pray for things they want from God but I would bet that we are all guilty of not giving enough thanks to God for things He has blessed us with.

Having been to a number of Protestant churches in my life, there is nothing more beautiful than Catholic Mass or the Catholic faith in general. But just like with the sacraments, this depends on the disposition of the receiver and their understanding of it. Too often, many go through the motions. After the first and second scripture readings during Mass, the congregation says: "Thanks be to God!"

This should be more than an empty repetitious verbal response. So giving thanks to God is the theme for this blog. Here is a good scripture reading on this subject, that involves Christ:

Luke 17:11-19: Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him,
"Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

Only 1 out of 10 of the lepers had faith and were mindful enough to truly thank God? Has anything really changed in 2000 years? Have you known people who were truly blessed by God but discounted it or didn't really demonstrate thankfulness to God in their life?

Being Thankful For Our Brothers & Sisters In Christ

We should be more thankful for what God has blessed us with. We should be more thankful for the Christian brothers and sisters that God has put in our life along the way. Below is a passage from a letter Apostle Paul that hits home on this subject. Paul wrote this while being imprisoned for his Christian beliefs.

Philippians 1:3-10: I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ

This is a beautiful example of Christian love and a great testament to Saint Paul's thankfulness to God.

"God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say "thank you?" ~ William Arthur Wood

Thanksgiving Day is several months away but Thanksgiving should be celebrated every day. Even if it is only for a few seconds. We have a lot more to be thankful for than we will probably ever come to realize.

Peace to you,

© Michael J. Cox

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Case For The Sign of the Cross

The making of The Sign of the Cross, or crossing oneself, is often mistakenly believed to be a purely Catholic ritual. Comedian Bill Cosby once joked about Catholics, calling us quiet people and that we "could communicate with God using hand gestures." Cosby also joked and said that us Catholics didn't have to shout the way Protestants did.

But crossing oneself is not just a Catholic ritual. It is used by Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodoxy and to various degrees in Protestant denominations like Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist and Anglican churches.

Understanding The Sign of The Cross

The making of The Sign of the Cross isn't (or shouldn't be) an empty hand gesture, it should be used to begin prayer, in blessings by priests and accompanied by the words "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit." The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about the Sign of the Cross:

CCC 2157 The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior's grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father. The sign of the cross strengthens us in temptations and difficulties.

How Do You Make The Sign of The Cross?

One takes their right hand touches their forehead (which symbolizes Heaven and the Father for wisdom), then their stomach (which symbolizes the earth and the Son who became incarnate) and then shoulder-to-shoulder (which symbolizes the power of the Holy Spirit). Catholics make the motion from their left shoulder to right but many Orthodox Christians go right-to-left.

There are various ways to use the right hand for crossing oneself. Some Christians use an open hand to represent the five wounds of Christ. Others use two fingers (index and middle finger together or crossed) to represent the human and divine nature of Christ. The more common way in Catholicism is to place the thumb, index and middle fingers together to represent the Holy Trinity.

Criticism Of Its Use

Some Christians have criticized usage of making the Sign of the Cross as not scriptural. However, making the Sign of the Cross on the forehead has been a part of the early Church since the 2nd Century. But it begs the question: Does everything have to be in the bible in order for it to be a good or Holy thing? We greet people with a handshake, we wave at friends when we see them in public places, so why can't we use our hands for prayer? Prayer helps us establish and keep a friendship with God.

There are many different religions in the world whose followers all pray to a God or Gods. The use of the Sign of the Cross easily identifies us a Trinitarian Christians (those who believe in the Holy Trinity). Making the Sign of the Cross also reminds us of our baptismal promise since we were baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And having sat in a special Mass for the deaf and hearing impaired, where we had someone translating the Mass readings into Sign language, it was quite moving and unifying to see these people all make the Sign of the Cross in unison with the rest of the congregation.

Why We Shouldn't Take It For Granted

I remember watching a video of the 1981 Canada Cup with a Russian hockey player friend of mine named Mikhail Kravets. In the championship game, the Soviet Union faced Canada and playing in the nets for the Soviets was the great goaltender Vladislav Tretiak. Tretiak had come under fire from Soviet hockey coach Tikhonov.

In the 1972 Summit Series, Tretiak gave up a goal to Canadian Paul Henderson with 34 seconds left in Game 8 to give Team Canada the win in the series. In the 1980 Olympics, Tretiak was pulled and replaced in the first period of Soviet Union-USA game which saw the upstart Team USA comprised of college kids defeat the Soviets in what is now called "The Miracle on Ice."

Before the fall of the Iron Curtain, Americans were led to believe that most Soviets were atheist because atheism was the official religion of the Soviet Union. In fact, the Soviet Union discouraged religion and oppressed it. My friend Kravets was Russian Orthodox and he smiled and pointed out to me in the video of the championship game (between the Soviet Union and Canada) how the Vladislav Tretiak inconspicuously made the Sign of the Cross in the nets just prior to the drop of the puck. Tretiak, hunched over, disguised crossing himself by fidgeting around with his goalie glove but it was an obvious Orthodox right-to-left Sign of the Cross.

Tretiak and the Soviets went on to win that game 8-1 and take the Canada Cup. Tretiak was named Tournament MVP. Ten years later, the Iron Curtain fell and today, 72% of Russia's population consider themselves Christian.

And if anything, making the Sign of The Cross before prayer serves as a visual reminder to others of what Jesus said in Luke 14:27:

"And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple."

The Cross, whenever and however we see it, also should remind us as Christians that it represents the greatest evil--the creature kills The Creator--but more importantly, the greatest love--that Christ willfully suffered a humiliating, brutal death out of love for us.

So in essence, it is a sign language of FAITH and LOVE

But to those who live or lived in countries where Christianity was oppressed, it was a sign language of FAITH, HOPE and LOVE.

In the name of The Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Peace be with you,

© Michael J. Cox

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Will of God

A recent trip to Minnesota, where I visited the beautiful Cathedral of St. Paul, caused me to delve more into Paul's life and his letters. Apostle Paul authored the majority of the New Testament Non-Gospel books (His first encounter with Christ was the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus). Anyway, I noticed a number of times Paul identified himself as:

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God"

So, I got a little curious and decided to do a search of the exact phrase "Will of God" in the NIV version of the bible on www.biblegateway.com: (Click HERE)

Curiously enough this exact phrase seems to be associated with most of the books attributed to Paul.

Here is one of my favorites scriptures using "Will of God":

  • Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

As Father Corapi brilliantly said in one of his talks, God is reality and a good working definition of insanity is to to be out of touch with reality. And the world we live in is out of touch with reality.

Will of God vs. Will of Man

But how many Christians--in their day-to-day lives--can discern the "Will of God" and do the right thing and take a stand for our Heavingly Father?

Jesus warns us about doing the will of the Father:

  • Matthew 7:21: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."

How do you discern the Will of God?

Well, you have to be connected to the Holy Spirit. How do you do this? Through prayer, reading The Word and Godly Counsel. Because if you aren't connected with the Holy Spirit, you will become influenced by other type of spirits not from God--those from Satan.

Whenever you are making a decision and unsure about God's Will, ask yourself if it will please self, man or God and remember who comes first:

  • Colossians 3:23: And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men

But realise that being a Christian and being true to the Lord won't always endear you to those of the fallen world.

But as Saint Peter says:

  • 1 Peter 3:17: It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

As Jesus says:

  • Mark 3;35:"For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”

And always remember:

  • 1 John 2:17: The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

Peace be with you,

© Michael J. Cox

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Way

Many people go through life in search of love and happiness. At one time in our life we have all thought we knew how to get there and have felt that we control our own destiny. It is true that God gave us free will, so we do control a large percentage of our own destiny. We can chose to follow God and His plan and have true happiness in our life or we do it our own way and accept the consequences--which might provide short-lived happiness.

If you experience hardship in your life and are unhappy, get close to Christ. You will find peace and love:

Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord" -- St. Augustine

And remember that God is a loving god and He will do whatever it takes to get our attention:

  • Hebrews 12:6: because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.
  • Hebrews 12:10: Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.

We are no different than God's Son who suffered. Christ suffered a humiliating, brutal death out of love for us:

  • Luke 24:26: "Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"

What is the benefit of being a follower of Christ? He will do whatever you ask in His name as long as it is good for us or not a selfish, materialistic request:

  • John 14:13: And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

As Christians, we sometimes get discourged or get comfortable and slip back to ways of our past when we didn't live as Christians to find happiness. As Satchel Paige once said:

"Don't look back. Something could be gaining on you."

That something is probably Satan and his false hopes and lies.

Christ said something important here to his followers about not looking back:

  • Luke 9:62: Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

But still, many people try to do it their own way to find happiness and love. Why is this when we have Jesus Christ?

Quite a few times in scripture, Christ said "Follow me." However, Christ did not say that he knew "The Way."

Christ said He was THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE:

  • John 14:6: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Peace be with you,

© Michael J. Cox

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Faith, Hope and Love

Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:13:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Why is love the greatest of them all? Paul tells us:

  • 1 Corinthians 13:1: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:2: If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:3: If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is the greatest of them all because it "always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13:7

If you want great love, you have got to be strong in faith and hope:

Faith is what gets you started. Hope is what keeps you going. Love is what brings you to the end.

~ Mother Angelica

One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life; that word is love.

~ Sophocles

What is love? God.

  • 1 John 4:8: Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
  • 1 John 4:16: And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

Where there is love, there is God also.

~ Leo Tolstoy

If you want great love, get close to God and strengthen your faith. And have hope:

  • Romans 5:3-5: Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.

~ Mother Teresa

Peace be with you,

© Michael J. Cox

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How We Know Love

A friend has this quote posted on her Facebook:

"Love is everything it's cracked up to be...It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for." -- Eric Jong

I couldn't help but think of this on two levels--the romantic level and how this also applies to our faith.

First, on how this applies to our faith. Think of the example Christ set for us as well as the early Christians. Christ willingly suffered a humiliating, brutal death out of love for us for the forgiveness of sins and so that he could understand the pain and suffering we all go through in life. The early Christians were martyred, beheaded, throne to the lions out of love and reverence for their faith. Christ and the early Christians had perfect love:

  • 1 John 4:18: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

On the romantic level, love is difficult to find. You can't buy love because love is priceless. When you find love, you should cherish it and fight for it. But so many people in relationships let pride get in the way and pride always kills love. Pride is not something from above, it is from below.

  • It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels. -- Saint Augustine

Having humility is something that God desires and He will bless us when we are humble. We are all supposed to be faithful, humble servants. And this includes being faithful humble servants to ones we love because we do it for our Lord, not because our loved-ones always deserve it. True authenic love, agape love, is supposed to be unconditional because Christ's love is unconditional.

Want to find or have great romantic love? It is a two-way street. If you want great love, you have to give great love. You have to be the person you desire in your life. Christ gave us a great example of love and selflessness to follow.

If you are a single Christian and want to find great love, make sure the one you get into a relationship with goes to church regularly. Not that going to church makes someone a Christian anymore than standing in a garage makes one a mechanic--but it is at least a good start.

If you have to drag them to church, don't be so eagar to drag them to the alter. My theory, if you can't love God by going to church and dedicating one hour of your time every week for Him, it brings up the question of how faithful and dedicated that person will be to you. If they don't show love and reverence for God, how well will they show you love over time?

Where there is love, there is God also.

~ Leo Tolstoy

When you invariably go through difficult stretches in your life as a couple, being strong in faith will help you get through these times. Nobody is perfect. We are all human. We are all sinners and we all will all slip up from time to time, say or do something we shouldn't have or say something in a tone we shouldn't have. We all will allow anger to overcome us on occasion and we all we will, no matter how hard we try not to, will at some point disappoint or hurt the ones we love. Being strong in faith and being united with someone strong in faith should enable us to find the humbleness to apologize and repent as well as the necessary heart to forgive.

  • 1 John 4:12: No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

How do know what love is?

  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Christ gave us an example of perfect love:

  • 1 John 3:16: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

If you want great romantic love that lasts forever, be united with someone strong in faith. Christ's love never ceases, neither does the love of someone made whole in Christ.

Peace be with you,

© Michael J. Cox

Monday, March 15, 2010

Our Daily Battle and Having a Heart of God

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.

Yes, this is what we fight on a day-to-day basis. I used to discount this long ago a religious craziness, but I have seen this with my own eyes. This struggle is real: a struggle between good and evil, lightness vs. darkness-between God and Satan. I recommend Father Corapi's Immortal Combat series as he is someone who has seen greater depths of this in his own life.

Yes, we live in a fallen world. Who controls it?

  • 1 John 5:19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

Even Jesus didn't refute Satan's control on earth:

  • Matthew 4:8-11: Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

But we know that Satan is fighting a losing battle, his time is short and that goodness wins out over evil:

  • Revelations 12:12: Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.

Satan - the Master of Lies and Division

Unfortunately, until the end of time, Satan will try to inflict as much damage as he can. He is the Master of Lies and tries to blind you from the truth:

  • 2 Corinthians 4:3-4: And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Satan takes great delight in dividing and destroying anything that is good or Holy. He accomplishes this when we don't stay close to Christ, when we are wounded, when we make things of the world (money, alcohol, drugs, material things, etc,) our god and when we lack forgiveness:

  • 2 Corinthians 2:10-11: If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

This is why it is important to stay close to God, through prayer, reading the bible, hearing the word in church and fellowship with other Christians. We all need friends, acquaintance friends and close friends. But we must be careful who we chose to be close friends with.

As Christians, we need to be out in the world but not "of the world." Christ ate with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus said in Mark 2:17: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

But unlike us, Christ was free from falling to temptation from Satan. He could not be influenced to do wrong, he influenced to do what is right. Jesus helped raise the spiritually dead through example and teaching.

Therefore, we need good Christian friends around us that can lift us up and be positives influences in our life and in our spiritual journey. We need to be a light in the world and be surrounded by the light can make our light burn brighter.

"Friends are the mirror reflecting the truth of who we are." ~ Unknown

This is why we need really good Christian friends if we truly are Christian. Steel sharpens steel. If we are called to be the light of the world, then think of ourselves as candles in a world filled with darkness. A candle that burns and gives off light needs oxygen. The Holy Spirit is our oxygen. The Holy Spirit is replenished by reading scripture, hearing the word in Church, praying, Holy Communion, listening to spiritual music and fellowship with other Christians.

If we don't do these things, then we chance having our light get blown out or dimmed.

How can we can tell a Christian? By the fruits of their spirit:

Galatians 5:22-24: 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. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

Having a Heart of God

One of the fruits of the spirit not identified above is forgiveness. Why? Because forgiveness is love. God is love. So forgiveness is key to having a heart of God:

“There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.” -- Bryant H. McGill

Jesus taught the importance of staying free from things that cause sin and the importance of forgiveness:

Luke 17:1-4: Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."

When you do things that don't glorify God, watch out! God is a loving god and he will do whatever it takes to bring you closer to Him.

Here are some great quotes on forgiveness:

A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.

~ Robert Quillen.

He who is devoid of the power to forgive, is devoid of the power to love.

~ Martlin Luther King Jr.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

~ Mahatma Gandhi

Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.

~ George MacDonald

Forgiveness is the remission of sins. For it is by this that what has been lost, and was found, is saved from being lost again. ~ Saint Augustine

Having a Heart of God is greater than having a Heart of Gold. Because God is love and love is worth all the gold on earth.

I love you all,

That means I will always be ready and willing to forgive you,

© Michael J. Cox

A new video I recommend: Click HERE

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Anger and Blame

We all get angry from time to time. Whether it is when someone cuts us off on the highway, from co-workers on a stressful day on the job or to our loves ones at home. But is it OK for a Christian to get angry? Well, anger is a real human emotion.

Many people believe it isn’t Christian to get angry but God got angry at times:

  • Jeremiah 21:5: “I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm in anger and fury and great wrath.”

  • Deuteronomy 29:28: In furious anger and in great wrath the LORD uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.

Slow to Anger

The key here is, God was slow to anger. "Slow to anger" is mentioned 9 times in the NIV version of the bible. Click HERE

But God sent us his son Jesus Christ to serve and set an example for us on this earth. And yes, even Christ got angry at times too. Here are a few examples:

In Matthew 23, Jesus was angry at the Scribes and Pharisees and he didn't sugarcoat what he thought. Read this chapter and see how many times that Jesus calls them hypocrites, fools, and blind guides. And in Matthew 23:33, he even referred to the Scribes and Pharisees as snakes.

In Matthew 21, Jesus became angry for all the buying and selling that was going on in the temple.

  • Matthew 21:12-13: Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves."It is written," he said to them, 'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a 'den of robbers.'"

In Mark Chapter 3 Jesus shows visible anger with the Pharisees who doubted him:

  • Mark 3:5: “And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.

But Christ’s anger wasn’t over petty things or for selfish reasons. Christ had righteous anger that centered around moral issues (making a mockery of God’s house), leading people to do wrong, refusing to listen to God, for lack of faith, injustice, taking advantage of the poor or due to hardness of hearts.

And most importantly, knowing that we will get angry at times, we are instructed to not sin in our anger and resolve it quickly:

  • Ephesians 4:26: "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”

Jesus tells us the importance of forgiving:

  • Matthew 6:14-15: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. "

So in our busy, hectic lives, we Christians always need to be remember the parameters of anger and how to appropriately deal with it. And also to employ the fruits of the spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23, which are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The above spirits identify us as Christians.


The key fruit of the spirit in dealing with anger is self-control. Nobody really makes us get angry. We can feel anger but we don't have to show anger. There is an equation for this: Event + Response = Outcome. We may not have much control over the Event but we do have complete control over the Response part of the equation and how we react to an event.

  • Proverbs 25:28: Whoever has no rule over his own spirit--Is like a city broken down, without walls.

Whenever we lose self-control and get out of touch with our Holy Spirit, we are inviting Satan into our soul and expect many bad or hurtful outcomes.


The first human sin recorded in the bible is found in Genesis Chapter 3 when Eve disobeyed God and ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. This sin was pride as Eve disobeyed God and thought she could be like Him and gain His knowledge by eating the fruit.

The second sin was blame as Adam took the fruit from Eve and ate it and then tried to blame God--"it was the woman you gave me!"

  • Genesis 3:12: The man said, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."

Likewise, Eve blamed the Serpent (Satan):

  • Genesis 3:13: Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

Here is a great quote on blame:

"All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won't succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy.” -- William Dyer

When we constantly blame others, we give up our power to grow spiritually. We cannot blame other people, other things or Satan for when we stumble and sin. The devil doesn't make you do it, we have to take personal responsibility for our actions because we all will be held accountable to God someday.

  • Romans 14:11-12: It is written: " 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.' So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

A good concluding scripture:

  • Ephesians 4:31-32: Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

A video I recommend that I think can help when you get angry and calm your spirit: Click HERE

Peace be with you,

© Michael J. Cox

Friday, February 5, 2010

Authentic Love

With Valentine's Day drawing near, it is probably a good time to write on the topic of love--not romantic love, authentic love. The kind of love that has no end. Also, picking up from my last blog "Does God Really Exist?" it is a good time to talk about what makes us a Christian since it deeply involves love as well.

I am sure if you are reading this blog that you do believe that God exists. I am also pretty sure that you believe that Jesus Christ exists too. This, unfortunately, doesn't really make us a "Christian." Why? So did Satan.

What constitutes being a Christian? Generally speaking, holding to Christ's teaching and loving him enough to obey him. And praying to him and asking for forgiveness when you have failed (i.e. having a relationship with Christ).

  • John 8:31: "To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples."

  • John 14:15: "If you love me, you will obey what I command"

Does doing good things for people who are good to you (family and friends) make you a Christian? While it certainly displays kindheartedness, read what Christ says about this:

  • Luke 6:33: "And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that."

Jesus also wants us to help the poor and unfortunate. God gave us two hands, one for receiving and the other for giving. Read Matthew 25:

  • Matthew 25:40: "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Jesus taught us a lot about love when someone asked him which is the greatest commandment:

  • Matthew 22:36-39:"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'

Love God Above All

This is why our priorities in life should be: 1) God, 2) Spouse, 3) Children, 4) Career. When these priorities are out of order, expect disharmony in your life. Trust me, I have experienced this myself and seen it in other couples lives. Jobs come and go, children eventually grow up and leave the nest, careers hopefully end in retirement but your spouse is someone you've made a lifetime covenant with.

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

Loving your neighbor is the second greatest commandment. Who is your neighbor? Everyone.

If you love your neighbor as yourself, you want the best and greatest thing for that person: that is heaven and eternal life. You also wish for them to find love and happiness. God is love (see 1 John 4:16) and God is the source and summit of real sustained happiness. Things of this world only provide short-lived happiness. You will keep wanting more and more things, but you will find as many have, that you cannot substitute the happiness and love you get from the Lord.

We fail to love our neighbor when we don't take a stand on political issues that leads others away from God's love and mercy such as abortion and gay marriage.

Did you know that the woman in the famous court case Roe vs Wade that legalized abortion is 100% Pro-Life today?

Yes, Norma McCorvey (aka Jane Roe) is now totally against abortion and is a vocal member of the Pro-Life movement. She also turned away from a lesbian lifestyle and is now a converted Catholic. As a surprise to many, she also never had an abortion but was used politically by feminist abortion activists. Here is a link to many interviews and articles about her: Click HERE

McCorvey found like many, God is love and God is the truth. When we run from the truth, we run from God's Love and Mercy. Norma McCorvey wrote a book about her life experience, titled "Won By Love"

Our Failure To Love

We fail to love anytime we confirm someone in their sin by silence or approval. We should love the sinner and hate the sin.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines our obligation.

CCC 1868 Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:

  1. by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
  2. by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
  3. by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
  4. by protecting evil-doers.

Being a Christian means following Christ and helping build his Kingdom on earth and leading others away from traps set by Satan.

Jesus didn't say: "Come follow me and I will make you oblivious to sin."

Jesus said:

Matthew 4:19: "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."

And when you take a stand on these issues, expect to be hated. Jesus warned us:

  • John 15:18-19: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."

Do Not Judge?

When you take a stand on the above issues, expect to hear the "Do not Judge" or "He who is without sin, cast the first stone" arguments. This is sometimes the brilliance of Satan. The bible tells us that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) but Satan hopes to confine us as slaves to sin. Satan is the master deceiver who wants to exchange the truth for a lie. "Do not Judge" is used by Satan as "Do not Love."

When Jesus said "Do not Judge, or you will be judged" he really meant not judge (condemn) anything before its time and not to be hypocritical (committing the same sin but judging others who commit it). See Romans 2:1.

God will judge everyone on judgment day, not man. However, we do know what the bible says about who will not inherit the Kindgom of Heaven (See: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:19-21). And we certainly should call sin as a sin and try to lead ourselves and others away from it and grow in holiness. If we hold eachother accountable, we will all grow in holiness.

When Jesus said, "He who is without sin, cast the first stone" he made this comment about a woman caught in the act of adultery to the Pharisees who were ready to stone her to death. And even then, after he saved the woman from the stoning, he said to her: "Go and sin no more."

Jesus said for us to judge with righteous judgment.

  • John 7:24: "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

Greatest Example of Love

What is the greatest example of Love?

  • Romans 5:8: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • 1 John 3:16: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

Christ laid down his life for us in the most brutal and humilating fashion. Why? Because of sin and so that sins may be forgiven and also so that he could understand our pain and suffering. What is the depth of your faith and how much do you really love your neighbor if you don't try to lead others away from sin?

Fortunately, we don't have to be nailed on a cross and die for anyone. All we have to do is help give the world life. Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6). We can give life by taking a stand for Christ in the world and in the voting booth.

And those closest to us, to speak the truth in love to help set the captives free:

  • Romans 6:6: For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.
  • John 8:31-32: To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

There is no end to God's love, only many beginnings

I love you all,

© Michael J. Cox

Fr. John Corapi in the Archdiocese of St. Louis