The Sacrament of Confession actually works!

ImageI must admit, I am not a regular confession goer. I honestly forget most of the time, or I make excuses. “I’m too busy” “I don’t really need to go” “I’ll go next week” are often my go to phrases. When I teach about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I talk about how beautiful God’s grace is, how sinful we are, and how much we need to receive forgiveness from our Lord in the sacrament of penance. I always talk about how confession frees us from the bondage of sin, and restores us to communion with God.

I say all these things, but I don’t know if they really sunk in.

I make sure I go to confession at least one every few months, and sometimes if I feel guilt about a particular sin I will feel like I need confession. However, I always tell people ‘if you don’t go to confession often you will start to feel far from God’. I preached this, but I did not heed my own advice. So Senior year Fall semester is going by quickly, jam-packed with school, thesis writing, social events, and job applications. I never felt I did anything bad enough to accumulate enough guilt to make me feel like I had to go to confession. As time went on, I was feeling swallowed up by my life. I was overwhelmed by all the things I needed to keep up with, homework, exams, papers, household, work, relationships, rent, car insurance, life…. My prayer life was not at it’s peak, and I very suddenly realized what the problem was. I hadn’t been to confession in over 6 months.

This is how the Devil works. The devil is sneaky, he may not always come right out and smack you in the face with temptation. Sometimes he is slow and subtle. Without even alerting us to what is happening, he turns us away from God and toward much less important things. This effected the rest of my life. Everything was great, yes, nothing awful was happening, but I was feeling a little lost and very overwhelmed. It was like I was a magnet and everything in life was attaching itself to me, making me feel heavy and weighted down. This was causing me to be tense, and stressed.

Then I went to confession. It was like a switch turned off the magnetic field and allowed me to turn back toward the face of God and receive his amazing grace. All the little sins, the ones I tend to shove under the rug and forget about or justify, had built up and swallowed me down. The grace that God constantly pours out on me, without end, was being stopped by my preoccupation with my self and my life. It was the first time in my life that I realized just how strong the Sacrament of Reconciliation is. I truly felt reconciled with God.

I hadn’t even realized I was being separated from him. I didn’t hate him, or feel angry at him, but I was slowly getting far and far away. It was like he was my best friend, and as each day went by I forgot to call him back. With every missed call my relationship with him was getting weaker, but in my head I could still remember him as my best friend so I didn’t think it was that important.

Confession is so important. Being united with the God of the universe matters. This experience really solidified my love for the sacrament, and gave me a very real taste of the efficacy of grace. The sacraments really work, God truly pours out his grace through them to us!

If you want to learn more about my take on confession read this:

Confused about Confession

Comfortable with Community: Our Tower of Babel

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The Original Call

God is very clear with his commands in the Old Testament. He told Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Replenish could be translated as ‘fill’. God wanted man to fill the entire earth. His command called for man to spread out over the face of the planet and fill every place with his creatures. This is a scary concept, one must leave family and friends and a familiar place to go to an unknown land. God wants his people to trust him and rely on his providence, not on their own understanding. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)

Didn’t you hear me the first time?

Unfortunately, as clear as God was, humanity didn’t quite get it. God however, the always patient father, reminds his children again of his command. After the flood, God again tells his people to spread out. “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 9:1). Again, God is very clear. He wants his people to leave their comfort zones and rely on communion with God over communion with each other.

Let’s do it Our Way

So, like any rebellious teenager, humanity decided that they knew best. Instead of obeying God’s command and spreading out to fill the earth, they decided on a better plan. “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth”(Genesis 11). Heaven forbid they be scatter abroad over the face of the whole earth! Who would even suggest such a terrifying concept??

Don’t Make Me Come Down There

So God watches as his foolish people build this centralized tower. He laughs, as God often does at our attempts to outsmart him. And he takes charge Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11). God needed to show his children that obeying his command was the only thing that would give them what they needed. The people wanted communion with one another. They were terrified at the thought of having to leave what they knew and loved to go somewhere unknown. However, God knew something that they didn’t. If they did not first have communion with him, they could never enjoy true communion with each other.

Do We Trust God Enough to Move?

Often times in our own lives, we are the people who build the tower of Babel. We like to be comfortable, and surrounded by familiar faces and places. However, God has not called us to be comfortable. God has not commanded us to build a tower for our human relationships. God has called us to not dwell in earthly homes, but to keep our eyes fixed on him. Scripture tells us “Do not love the world nor the things in the world” (1 John 2:15). God wants us to fill the earth, and to depend on him not on other people or things. Nothing is sure, everything is temporal, everything but God. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). Do we dare build our tower in earthly desires? Or do we obey God’s command to trust him as our source of communion, our source of happiness?

Are You Born Gay or do You Choose to be Gay?

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The Inspiration

I have been wanting to write on the topic of same-sex attraction for a while, but have been unable to find a way to do so. I was timid because I did not want to spark an internet debate, I only wanted to present my opinions and those of others. Then I attended a talk on Same-Sex Attraction given by David Prosen, a therapist who used to have same-sex attraction. That sparked my attention, and I now present to you my summary of his talk.

Identity Crisis

A person is not gay. A person is not a homosexual.  You cannot define a person by their sexuality, they are a human person created in the image an likeness of God. A person is a person. A person experiences same sex attraction, but same-sex attraction is not an identity.  However, this idea of homosexuality being an identity and a label is extremely prevalent in our culture.  This stems from the belief that people are born gay.

Are people born gay or do they choose to be gay?

The problem with this question is that it is most often asked as an either or. Either you are born gay, or you choose it. However, this questions needs to be separated into two distinct questions. Is a person born gay?  The answer is no. However, does a person choose to be gay? The answer, a lot of the time is also no.

Are people born gay?

So to tackle the first question, people are not born with same sex attraction. Boys are born boys and girls are born girls, and they are created for one another (boy for girl and girl for boy). There is no gay gene. Same-sex attraction is not inherited, it is not genetic. Just like there is no gene for a basketball player. However, there are genes that make a person more likely to choose to be a basketball player. Just as there are some genes which predispose a person to be tempted toward same-sex attraction. If you are a Christian, Scripture tells us it was man was not created for man, and woman was not created for woman. And if you are not a Christian, Science tells us that a man biologically isn’t created to fit with another man. There is absolutely no scientific proof that there is a gay gene.

Do people choose to be gay?

Does a person choose to be made fun of, to stick out, to be shunned? No. Some people may choose to be gay, but many people (I dare say most) could never recall a time when they actively chose to be attracted to the same sex. They have always felt this way, and they believe they have felt this way since birth. Despite the fact that their is no scientific evidence for a gay gene, there are many studies that prove that same-sex attraction can stem from many different events or occurrences in the way you grew up.

  • A weak masculine identity from lack of male acceptance.
  • A mother who is overly dependent, or is perceived as overly dependent.
  • A mother who is absent
  • A mother who is hurtful, or is perceived as hurtful
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Trouble making friends.
  • Poor body image
  • Unmet same-sex love need
  • Culture

Same-Sex Attraction is Normal

I want to address the last two items on the list above. Our culture is highly pro-choice. I am not talking in the realms of abortion alone, but what I mean is the idea that a human person can choose to do, act, and feel however he or she wants. Because of this our culture has become more and more tolerant and accepting of things that once were seen as sinful or shameful. Same-sex attraction is a normal healthy part of every person’s social experience. A man admires another man for his strength and his charm with women, and strives to be like him. A woman admires her friend because she is beautiful and talented. This admiration is a beautiful expression of appreciation for human relationships. However, when mixed with one of the above mentioned situations, a person may feel shame or self pity when admiring someone of the same sex. Sometimes this can lead from healthy admiration, to a sexualized feeling, especially during puberty when hormones are raging wild.  Here is where our culture comes into play. Instead of redirecting the misled feelings of sexual attraction to healthy admiration of member of the same sex. Our culture says, it’s okay to have same-sex attraction. Someone who is struggling with same-sex attraction is immediately reinforced by media, magazines, television shows, and especially psychologists that being ‘gay is okay’ and normal. When someone with unwanted same-sex attraction goes to a counselor, more often than not the therapist will tell them that they are coming out, and they need to accept it. The counselor will change the person’s values and beliefs in order to match the feelings of same-sex attraction. This is called gay-affirmative therapy and it is the norm for psychologists and therapists these days.  Well is there another option?

Gender-Affirmative Therapy

Unlike gay-affirmative therapy, gender-affirmative therapy doesn’t assume the person is coming out. They work with the person struggling with same sex attraction and guide them to explain their feelings in line with their values and beliefs. Gender affirmative therapy helps the person to develop nonerotic same-sex relationships, become more secure in their gender-identity, and enjoy heterosexual relationships. This may confuse people because due to our cultures misconception that you are born gay or you choose it, therefore there is no ‘cure’ for same-sex attraction.  However, this is wrong.

Is there a Cure?

Cure is a strong word, and I wouldn’t use it in this case. There is not a 100% sure fire way to ‘cure’ same-sex attraction. I don’t like that language, and instead I will use ‘redirect and heal’. There is healing to be found in therapy for same-sex attraction.  David Prosen struggled with poor body image his whole life, he had an absent father and he was constantly trying to get approval from other men. During puberty, this escalated and it turned into sexual feelings. David Prosen became a ‘homosexual’ and participated in same-sex relationships and behaviors. He didn’t want to be like this, and he didn’t choose it. But after a deep conversion in his life, he realized he wasn’t born this way either and he could change how he viewed men.  David Prosen has not completely eliminated his feelings of same-sex attraction, however they have greatly diminished. Not only that, but he now is attracted to women. In many studies done on gender-affirmative therapy, 30% of the people in therapy had completely eliminated same-sex attraction. Another 30% noticed a major reduction in the feelings of same-sex attraction.  (Bieber 1962; Clippinger 1974; Fine 1987; Kaye 1967; MacIntosh 1994; Marmor 1965; Nicolosi 1998; Rogers 1976; Satinover 1996). There IS proof that you can triumph over some same-sex attraction. Just like anything that anyone else struggles with, it does not define you as a person, it only hinders your ability to be the person you were created to be.

What about the 40% that can’t change? What about those who don’t want to change? Well this topic is large, and it is a very sensitive issue. I could write several more posts on the subject, and maybe someday I will. For now I will just simply keep it about the hope in the changes that people can make in their lives. I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, I am simply summarizing a talk given by David Prosen. For more information:

http://www.catholictherapists.com/davidprosen/

http://theaquilareport.com/identical-twins-studies-prove-homosexuality-is-not-genetic/

http://www.islamawareness.net/Homosexuality/bornorbred.pdf

Grow Up

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Pigeon Holeing

There is a common tendency of our culture to pigeon hole ourselves, label ourselves, put our selves in a box and stay there. Complacency is embraced, over-tolerance is praised, and growth is unnecessary or in some cases impossible.

I find this is especially the case with college students. I’ve heard so many times from a wide variety or people, ‘I can’t do that because I’m like this‘ or ‘well that’s just who I am’ or ‘I’ve always been this way’. Unfortunately no one objects to that excuse. However, it is just that. An excuse.

So many people, including myself, exclude themselves from the growing, maturing aspect of life because we are complacent and comfortable with where we are. Or, on the other hand, we are complacent even though we are not happy with our state of life. We lead a life based on how we ‘label’ ourselves.

This is a naive and immature way to view life. For Christians, faith is meant to catalyze a profound transformation. Many of us claim to keep the faith, to be Christians, to love the lord. We went to all the religious education classes, the retreats, and received the Sacraments. We are Christian in our heads, but the faith hasn’t moved its way into our hearts. And that is what moves us to get out of our box and grow up.

Our culture is in an interesting predicament. Everyone wants to be the best version of themselves and to flourish as a human being, to be happy and comfortable. However, our worldly desires lead us to a life of complacency. We do not like change, we do not like challenge. So we’re stuck not being happy, trapped by our own oppression.

What do you need to grow out of to become more Christ-like?

As Mother Teresa once said, “We are all called to be Saints.” Some people see that goal as a lofty impossible dream. One that cannot even be fathomed in the extreme state of sin we live in. However people aren’t born saints, they become saints due to their choices.

As I said earlier, the faith is meant to start a profound transformation in your life. However, this transformation is not an instantaneous conversion of heart such as St. Paul experiences.

As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” (Acts 9:3-5)

We cannot all be as fortunate as Paul. All of the saints and even the apostles though they all had profound transformations, the transformations were gradual. The apostles after following Christ for two years and watching him die on the cross went back to fishing after his death! People have fluctuation in transformations and it will not always be an on-fire unstoppable growth toward holiness. It requires conscious effort and work.

That is why I posed the question What do you need to grow out of to become more Christ-like? Nothing is permanent in you. You cannot make the excuse, ‘this is the way I am’ ‘I can’t change’. People do change, it just takes great effort and zeal. It also takes a reason.

The Reason

If you say you believe in the good news of Jesus Christ, ask yourself what difference does it make in your life? If nothing changes, what’s the point of believing in so great a mystery as the Resurrection of Our Lord.  How does your faith in Christ change your life.

What must you grow out of, what habit must you work on, in order to grow into Christ? Do not put yourself in a box and limit your God-given ability for greatness by your own human despair.

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

(2 Corinthians 5:17)

Let your faith in Christ move you to profound transformation. There is no need to be complacent, there is no need to believe you cannot change.

Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)

Stand firm and give yourself fully to the transformative power of Christ. Look to all the saints as an example of true change: St. Paul persecuted Christians, St, Augustine was promiscuous, St. Teresa of Jesus was a major flirt. Even the biblical characters serve as a great source of hope: Peter denied Christ, Rahab was a prostitute, David was a adulterer and a murderer. What is common between all of these people is not only that they were sinner, but they turned their lives around and grew out of their sin and into Christ.

Do not believe the people who say people don’t change. People do change and it is through the power of God.

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)