Friday, February 24, 2012

Sacramentals, Saints & Devotions

As a Catholic, I'll go ahead and admit that some of the saints and devotions are a little weird.  We've got saints that bi-located (being two places at once) levitated, received stigmatas and ones that have never really decayed (incurruptibles).  There have been miracles that the Eucharist has began to bleed during mass.  Studies showed the Eucharist became heart muscle, and was AB which is the universal donor.  There have been apparitions of Mary, and witnesses of spinning suns, and color changing rosaries from Medjugorje.  There are some weird stuff right?  Critics want to doubt and make fun of all the weird things when people come out claiming they saw Jesus in a tree, or toast... maybe they saw him in their marshmallow floating in their hot cocoa that morning and they raise a ruckus which really just washes out and almost pokes fun at everything else that may be real and good.

For an outsider of the church, they probably find it difficult to accept a tradition that is not their own.  They've probably been taught that if it isn't directly about Jesus or the Bible, its out.  This stance is something I like to call the "limiting factor reduction theory".  My theory goes like this - If you reduce something to it's simplest form, it's very clear what the substance is - however you lose the greater value in that deduction process. 

Lets look at Cool-aid - because who doesn't like cool-aid?  What do we love most about it?  It's refreshing!  It's an ice cold sugary beverage great in the summertime right?  Well, lets break it down... We boil out all the water, and we have red die, some flavorings, and a ton of sugar.  Since sugar is the main ingredient, we've gotta break that down and get carbon, hydrogen and oxygen (carbohydrate).  Now along the way, yes, you've broken it down and you get to the root of what cool-aid is made of, but it's not near as exciting as cool-aid itself as a whole!  By breaking it down, and taking away some of the "fluff" you've actually made it lesser than what it was meant to be.  In the same way, those Christian faiths which cut out the Catholic traditions, devotions, sacraments, saints, liturgy and everything else and simplify it to Bible and Jesus only - they're missing something.  This is my Limiting factor reduction theory. 

We see this with the first Christians.  The Jews had a huge list of rules from the Torah.  It was tough to follow as it required the eating of certain foods, circumcision, when and where they could worship and so much more.  In fact, there are 613 laws outlined in the Torah.  It was very strict and if you did not fit in the set of rules, you were an outcast.  A Jew wasn't even allowed to sit at dinner with a non-Jew.  When Jesus came along, he reduced the requirements for people to follow him.  He replaced circumcision with baptism and emphasized the works of mercy rather than sacrificial offerings of animals.  It was easier for the average person to follow and it did not outcast anyone, rather included everyone who was interested.  It was relatively easy to accept and live the teachings of Jesus, therefore was very attractive if this would assure salvation.  Again we see the split in the 1500's.  (I'm not going to include the Schism because there was no separation in tradition, only leadership)  In the split of the reformation, again we see a reduction in requirements and expectations as a Christian.  Claim Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and you'll be assured salvation.  Pretty easy right?  Anyone can do that right?  Absolutely!  Along the way, anyone who wanted to start up a new church could, and would, and because they do not follow any particular lineage, they had no tradition.  Result - exclusion of everything except for the bible and Jesus.  

What happened to the Saints?  I guess since the Saints were Catholic, they didn't want to include them in their tradition for it might lead them away from their church and back into Catholicism.    What about the rosary that reflects on the life of Jesus?  Where are the crazy miracles?  Where is the Eucharist which Jesus gave us and specifically said in John 6:53 - "So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."  I guess that's a Catholic thing too, so they can't do that.  A new theology develops that teachings against Catholic tradition.  The focus of the 10 commandments were changed pointing out idolatry of statues and artwork - and it was taught that Catholics are idolaters.  The bible states in Exodus 20 - "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,  but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments." - This is referring to OTHER GODS - as at the time this was written, it was accepted to believe in multiple Gods as long as your accepted Yahweh as the supreme God.  The statues and artwork in our churches point to something else as a symbol and are not worshiped as a God themselves.  I guess because this stance, some of the churches got rid of all christian artwork leaving nothing but an open auditorium full of tv screens, lights stage and seats.

What happened to Mary which the bible states as blessed in Luke 1:42 "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb".  We honor her as the mother of Jesus.  If Jesus is God, and the source of our existence, and Mary is his mother which God chose above all women to bear his child and raise him up - don't you think she's pretty special?  We simply honor her as the mother of Jesus, and are called "Mary worshipers". 

If we include all that is in the bible, we should include faith AND works as it's stated in James 2:17 "faith without works is dead".  Instead, certain scriptures are the focus to produce a reduced version of religion.  Yes, the bible and Jesus are the source and summit of our faith.  Yes, every Christian church has those aspects, but many are leaving out some incredibly valuable tools of faith.  After all - cool-aid wouldn't be cool-aid without Sugar - but Sugar alone doesn't make the cool-aid.  ALL Christian faiths are beautiful!  ALL Christian faiths have value, but many of them are missing some key ingredients that encompass the entire and complete message.

The Saints aren't Jesus and they don't replace Jesus - they point to Jesus.  Mary simply points to her son ALL TIMES and never is asking for her own glory.  The rosary doesn't replace the bible - but it takes the life of Jesus Christ, and helps us meditate with Mary on His life.  Yes, some people have mistaken some of these traditions as superstitions and used them outside of their purpose.  Some people have worshiped Mary rather than honoring her as the Mother of Jesus.  Some people have only "heard" of these traditions and never really understood them, so they bash them because it is not their own.

As an Aggie, we have some ridiculously AWESOME traditions!  We have a saying - "from the outside looking in, you don't understand it and from the inside looking out, you can't explain it".  I've heard more trash talk about our Aggie traditions from Texas longhorns, and Red Raiders - why?  Because they're not "in the club" therefore they bash it.  If it isn't theirs - they make fun of it.  As an Aggie, I couldn't be more proud and honored of the school I attended.  For me, there was no better place!

As a Catholic, we have some ridiculously AWESOME traditions!  I've heard trash talk about our traditions, and I just shake my head because being Catholic is the REAL DEAL!  We don't exclude things just because we don't like them.  We use the ENTIRE bible not just the verses that tell us what we like to hear.  We use the Saints who lived for Jesus and who died for Jesus.  We use them as an example to follow for they experienced much greater persecution than I ever will and they persevered through it.  We include all possible ways of reaching a deeper faith rather than excluding certain parts because they are not our own.  We value all Christians and what they bring - including baptisms and marriages - where some churches won't accept a baptism outside their own church.

The limiting factor reduction theory - reduce everything Jesus and the first Christians gave us to its most important aspect, and eliminate all the small pieces that brought us along the way.  I'm an includer, and I'd rather have every possible mode of connection to Christ then the two best ways.  I LOVE the value of confession.  I love that we anoint the sick!  I love the Saints and everything they teach us about Christ and faith as a struggling and sinful person.  I relate to the Saints and strive to become one myself.  Yes, some of the stuff is weird, but wasn't Jesus a little weird?  I mean, you've got a guy who comes along and heals the sick with a touch.  He heals the blind by spitting in mud and wiping it in his eyes.  People are dropping their friends through roofs to get to him.  He chased the demons out of people on the spot.  He walked on water!  He could command the winds and the storms and the fish in the sea.  He tells his disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood so they could have everlasting life.  He appeared out of no where with wounds in his hands and side and asked Thomas to put his fingers in them.  If you think Jesus wasn't the least bit strange, you've gotta be out of your mind.

The Church is seeking the FULLNESS of the truth!  You're always welcome on board.  Sacraments - Saints & Devotions - gotta love'em! 

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