The classrooms where the most important Christian catechesis takes place are the holy places that define the escape route through the Valley of Tears from slavery under the yoke of Pharaoh to freedom with God and his Holy Family in the promised land, the land of milk and honey . In Catholic terminology, the holy places are the sacraments. At the holy places, the great Rabbi himself, Jesus, instructs his students. He turns them into Christians. So sit as Mary sat at the Lord's feet
The transmission of Christianity is difficult because it is not transmitted by words but by demonstration. Jesus revealed the identity of God to us not by telling us about God. Jesus put on a demonstration of God on and about the platform of the Cross. Words beget words; but love begets love. Catechesis in Christianity occurs via demonstrations of sacrificial love - nothing else.
A Declaration of Independence
The difference between a human being and a robot is that a robot never questions its programming. A robot always obeys its programmer. Human beings, however, are different than robots. Our maker did something unique with us. He made us autonomous. He appointed us sovereigns over ourselves. He made each of us a king. Instead of endowing us with CPUs, he endowed us with consciences and rationality. He made us in his own image and likeness by giving us the capacity to love - a heart that can be filled to the brim with love. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another". The greater the love in our hearts, the higher is the fidelity of our image and likeness to God.
Furthermore, he endowed us with curiosity. We like to figure things out for ourselves. We delight in learning the truth for ourselves. We cherish the independence of our fact-finding mission so much that, when others try to jam truth down our throats against our wills that we have not discovered ourselves, our gag reflex is triggered. We regurgitate it. Our curiosity has no limits. We are interested in all of the truth in which we live. God is the author of the truth in which we live. He creates and controls our reality. God is the artist who paints the masterpiece of reality on the canvas of our rationality in the pigments of truth. All truth, however, is not of equal importance. Some truth matters more than other truth.
"...in Catholic doctrine there exists a "hierarchy" of truths..." . The most valuable truth is the truth about the sourness of godlessness and the truth about the sweetness of paradise. It derives its value from its ability to push and pull us along the escape route through the Valley of Tears. It is waiting for us to discover it. God is supremely confident in the liberating power of the truth and its ability to move us from godlessness to paradise. His confidence in the truth enabled him to say to us: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" .
So the curiosity God gave us made human beings investigators - independent investigators. Moreover, God gave us a hint about the direction of our investigation.
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" .
God let human beings loose in the Valley of Tears so that we would discover the truth for ourselves by dint of our own investigation. In the Valley of Tears, the truth is not handed to us on a silver platter .
Investigators discover the truth the hard way by experiencing it themselves - both the sour truth and the sweet truth - instead of learning it the easy way by taking God at his word. Experiencing the truth ourselves during our own investigation of it is the most effective type of persuasion.
As a result, we read, write and think for ourselves. And, therefore, we do not automatically accept the programming of our programmer. We question the algorithm. This is important so let me emphasize it: Human beings are creatures who question the algorithm. God made us this way. God is satisfied with how he made us. God is not interested into turning us into robots. God is not interested in transforming us into creatures who blindly obey programming . He is not interested in transforming us into creatures who are obedient. He is not interested in transforming us into a flock of docile sheep .
God isn't such a small thinker. He has a higher goal and a bigger plan for us. He is only interested in transforming us into creatures who love - like himself . Religion goes wrong when it tries to turn human beings into robots. The docility of robots is not God's plan for us. In 1906, Pope Pius X got us wrong . He misinterpreted human nature. He couldn't wrap his head around the notion of the autonomous human being so, in his disdain, he attempted to reduce us to robots. He attempted to enslave us to his programming. He tried to turn our hearts into CPUs.
What a mistake! Pius's disdain for our autonomy and dignity as independent human beings has infected the Church to the present day. It has warped the Church's perception of reality. It distorts how the Church evangelizes. Therefore, in good conscience, unabashedly delcare to the Church, "I am not a robot. I read, write and think for myself. So I expect you to treat me like a human being."
À la carte Christianity
I have never seen anybody order everything off the menu. Such a glutten does not exist. The consumer of everything on the menu is a rotund, falstaffian, fictional character invented by religious fanatics to scare normal people to eat more despite their limited appetites for the items on the menu. Normal people pick and choose. Strange people eat everything. When a menu item is forced down my throat against my will, my gag reflex is triggered. I regurgitate it.
The serpent testified that we become gods without God in the Valley of Tears
. God testified that without God we die .
Yet, even though it would have been less painful and deadly for us to have listened to God, stayed safely in paradise and not have tried to resolve the conflict in the testimony ourselves, he did not turn paradise into a prison, himself into our warden and us into his prisoners. A cage is still a cage no matter how gilded.
God allowed us to discover the hostile truth of the Valley of Tears the hard way by experiencing it for ourselves.
Model your behavior on God's.
When we look at the body of Christ, we do not see uniformity in its organs. We see diversity. Each organ is different. We see eyes, a heart, lungs, a liver, etc. The body of Christ is not a collection of the same or similar organs. It is not made up of all hearts. If it were, it wouldn't work. It would be dead.
What we see when we look at the body of Christ is a unity of its organs. We see a diversity of organs working together as a unit. Unity, not uniformity, is beheld in the body of Christ.
The "Game" is Rigged
God has set the "game" up in such a way as to make our beliefs, behaviors, etc irrelevant to salvation. Salvation comes despite our sinfullness. Great is the generosity of God! The playing field is not on the level. The "game" is rigged. It is tilted downhill from godlessness to paradise to help us reach our salvation.
What is important is not our beliefs, behaviors etc. What is important is our interaction with the truth. Our interaction with the truth forms our beliefs and behaviors. "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" . Right? This is why witnesses to the truth are more important to our salvation than kings who try to rule us. Our interaction with the truth - both the sour truth and the sweet truth - drives us to our salvation. The truth pushes and pulls us on the escape route through the Valley of Tears from slavery under the yoke of Pharaoh to freedom with God and his Holy Family in the promised land, the land of milk and honey .
In addition to the gift of life, God gave us the gift of rationality. We are rational creatures. Rational creatures behave in a predictable manner. We follow a pattern. It is not a complicated pattern. Sweetness attracts us. Honey draws the bees back home to the hive. Sourness repels us. We flee from it. It is contrary to our self-interest to do otherwise. It is crazy to do otherwise. Hence, the truth is the engine of our salvation.
Christianity is all about sacrificial love. What is sacrificial love? It is not a feeling. It is a purchase. Sacrificial love is the purchase of a benefit not for oneself but for another (or the carrying of a burden for another) with the cost coming out of your own pocket. The Cross, Jesus crucified, is the apotheosis of sacrificial love. The benefit to us was knowledge - the revelation of the nature of God - a high fidelity representation of the reality of God. Jesus demonstrated the identity of God for us in the violent collision between himself and the evil we did to him. His asymmetric reaction to the evil we did to him showed us the identity of God.
The cost of the demonstration came entirely out of his own pocket.
When Jesus paid us a visit more than two thousand years ago at and about the city of Jerusalem in a region of our planet called the Middle East, he did not merely deposit his real presence. He deposited a life rich in words and deeds, the most important of which was the conversation between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Likewise with the most Holy Eucharist. Into the bread and wine of the most Holy Eucharist, he deposited his body and his blood. The connection between his body and his blood is his bloody wounds.
Jesus wants us to contemplate the meaning of his bloody wounds. Without food and drink, we die, Withouting contemplating his bloody wounds - without consuming their meaning, death is just as certain. They are as important to us as food and drink - essential to our survival.
The Church is first and foremost a fisherman ? So, pray tell, what bait ought it impale on the hook to fish for the children of Adam and Eve ? On what side of the boat shall the net be cast ?
What is the sales pitch? What induces the children of Adam and Eve to participate in - and keeps them participating in - the new Exodus, served by the new Moses, the Church, that is making its escape on the Christian escape route through the Valley of Tears from slavery under the yoke of Pharaoh to freedom with God and his holy family in the promised land, the land of milk and honey ?
Jesus impaled on the Cross like a worm on a hook is the bait that the most Holy Trinity cast into the Valley of Tears to fish for the children of Adam and Eve . The fish take this bait hook, line and sinker.
The modern Church, however, no longer baits the hook with the Cross of Christ. Yet, it is surprised that it is no longer catching fish.
To succeed, the modern Church needs to stop baiting the hook with bricks.
Between the hammer and the anvil
Pursuing the sheep from behind through the Valley of Tears is the new Pharaoh, the serpent, and his minions, the army of the new Egyptians, a pack of wolves hell-bent on devouring us. They are the hammer. The hammer is driving us toward the anvil. The anvil in front of us is the Red Sea of death.
Without a miracle, our destiny in the Valley of Tears is to be crushed between the hammer and the anvil.
The Exodus is A Powerful Allegory
The exodus of the Jews is a powerful allegory that the genius of God embedded into the history of humanity to inform us about our place in the Big Picture of life here on earth. The Jews made their escape through the hostile desert. So, too, Christians. We are making our escape through the Valley of Tears. The Valley of Tears is our hostile desert - everyone's hostile desert.
Who will save you from slavery under the yoke of the new Pharaoh?
Who will part the Red Sea of Death for you? Do you have the power to do it yourself? Will God part the Red Sea of death for the new Exodus as he parted the Red Sea for the Jews so we, too, may safely pass through it to the promised land , the land of milk and honey ?
"Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?" .
Hasn't the script already been written? Will the immutable God rewrite the script? Have you not read the script? Having read the script, isn't it smarter to participate in the new Exodus rather than trying to go it alone? Will there be two partings of the Red Sea of death, one special one just for you and one for the new Exodus?
Straggler, why do you continue to straggle ? Are you deliberately trying to miss the boat ? We tortured and killed him. He suffered and died. Yet, he did not take the invitation off the table. He did not rescind his offer of salvation. Our gentle God is still inviting you to participate in the new Exodus despite the evil we did to him. For your own sake, accept the invitation. God wants to make your acquaintance and he does so at the holy places that define the escape route .
So, come, join us as we make our escape from the misery of the Valley of Tears to the kingdom of the gentle God.
The new Exodus is marching through the Valley of Tears hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm together as one family to the rhythmic beat of the loving heart of our living God!
Far better to be pilgrims passing through the Valley of Tears than settlers roosting in it.
The Escape Route
To rescue the children of Adam and Eve from the sour truth of the Valley of Tears, God built an escape route through the Valley of Tears , defined the escape route with holy places, made a map of them, established a Church, entrusted the map to the Church and gave the Church the job of serving the new exodus as the new Moses.The Church has the map and knows the way .
It is unreasonable to expect a person to behave as a Christian until after he becomes a Christian
It is the testimony of witnesses to the truth that moves us along the escape route through the Valley of Tears, their testimony about the sourness of godlessness and their testimony about the sweetness of paradise.
We have heard the testimony and believe.
The Church's byzantine codex of rules, regulations, red tape and rigmarole, however, does not move us. Imposed on us by fiat from the outside in, it is a burden that weighs us down as we try to make our escape through the Valley of Tears - it is an obstacle in the way. It is not the truth that moves us. It does not have motive force.
When it wells up from within us from the inside out , however, it becomes the crown of glory that adorns the heads of Christians making their escape.
Let us not confuse cause and effect. The cause of a Christian is participation in the escape. The effect of becoming a Christian is behaving like a Christian. We become Christian by participating in the escape. "Becoming" precedes "behaving". As we participate in the escape, we move from holy place to holy place that define the escape route at which we experience close encounters with our gentle God. Our gentle God transforms us. We do not transform ourselves. The Church does not transform us. Only God transforms us and he does so at the holy places.
Wrapping ourselves flamboyantly in the rules, regulations, red tape and rigmarole of the Church as a patriot wraps himself in the flag is the effect of transformation - not its cause. Moreover, we are warned against hollow transformations - transformations only in appearance but not in substance . Dressing up as a Catholic does not make it so . The Catholic identity is hard to spot because it exists below the surface in our hearts . Transformation is all about increasing the fidelity of our resemblance to God . The greater the love that we hold in our hearts, the higher is the fidelity. Therefore, for many reasons, it is critical that we keep our hearts filled to the brim with love. We must cling to love, hold tight and refuse to let go. It is contrary to our self-interest to do otherwise. It is crazy to do otherwise. At all costs, we must not become the most miserable and hideous of loveless beasts.
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another". Jesus hung from his Cross to teach us how to hang from our crosses. When you hang as Jesus hung, cling as Jesus clung, love as Jesus loved. Hold tight and refuse to let go of love, sufferings invincible foe. Only love kicks suffering's ass. Jesus transported from heaven to earth the technology that enables us to pick up and carry our crosses. Furthermore, the Son of God demonstrated for us that the technology works by using it himself. He donned the jet pack and flew to show us that we, too, can fly. What a crazy daredevil this Jesus was.
The testimony of one witness to the truth is more fruitful to salvation than one thousand kings trying to rule us.
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" .
There are two ways to do religion - both are legitimate. One way, however, is over-emphasized and the other is under-emphasized. One way is by looking up to God to try to discover the truth about him. The other way is by looking sideways to our neighbors to try to rule them. Are you a witness to the truth about God? Or are you a king who tries to rule us? What part of your day do you devote to testifying to the truth about God? What part do you devote to playing the king trying to rule us?
More revelation; less regulation. More foundation; less roof. More pizzazz; less nitty-gritty. More Mary; less Martha. No change in doctrine; just a change in emphasis - a tweak, nothing more. Can we stop excluding God from the conversation? Can we devote at least 25% of the conversation to God? Is 25% too much to ask?
Why do I frequent the holy places that define the escape route through the Valley of Tears? Why ought you? At the holy places, we perfect our knowledge of God through close encounters with our gentle God. Close encounters with our gentle God only take place at the holy places. At the holy places, the teacher and the students meet.
The testimony of witnesses to the truth pushes and pulls us along the escape route through the Valley of Tears. Therefore, the truth is important. All truth? No, just the subset of truth that pushes and pulls us, that is, the truth about the sourness of godlessness and the truth about the sweetness of paradise. The Church needs to focus on the truth that matters. The "game" is won or lost by the subject matter of the testimony and the credibility of the witnesses.
What is the problem with Christianity today?
God has become a stranger to us and nobody follows a stranger . Therefore, the first goal of Christianity is to perfect our understanding of God. Perfecting our understanding of God is primary. Nothing else matters. Everything else is secondary. Anything that interferes is suspect .
Is there a relationship between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection? If so, how are they connected together? What is the yoke that binds the two events into a team?
The Crucifixion and the Resurrection are two pieces of a single puzzle. To complete the puzzle, they need to be put together. The way they connect together is invisible until you are informed of the existence of the connection and try to see it for yourself. Then the connection becomes obvious. Startled by this epiphany, you smack yourself on the head with the palm of your hand, wonder why you never saw the connection before and, like Archimedes, exclaim,'Eureka' !
The conversation between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection is apocalyptic.
The apocalyptic conversation between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection is the basis that supports the true and perfect understanding of God. It is the source of a high fidelity representation of the reality of God.
God, the author of reality, staged a violent collision between his dearly beloved Son, Jesus, and the evil that we did to him.
The violent collision was bigger than the Big Bang and larger than CERN's Large Hadron Collider . The rubric under which we classify the violent collision is the Crucifixion.
Incandescent truths erupted from the violent collision that illuminated the darkness of our understanding of God in a glorious burst of epiphany. The rubric under whcih we classify the incandescent truths is the Resurrection.
Having come to the knowledge of God by paying attention to the apocalyptic conversation between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, Christians are the children of Adam and Eve who are fleeing the Valley of Tears and seeking to establish their residency in the kingdom of the gentle God .
The Crucifixion and the Resurrection are two parts of one conversation - an interrogation to be precise.
Are you privy to the conversation? What question did we ask him? What answer did he give us?
In the conversation between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, Jesus revealed to us the good news of great joy.
In the conversation between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, Jesus wrote the Autobiography of God - he painted God's self-portrait.
The evil that we did to him was the key that opened the treasure chest of Christianity. His asymmetric reaction to the evil that we did to him is the treasure.
The Crucifixion was the test. The Resurrection was the results of the test.
Evil propagates itself, like a wave, across the gap between evildoer and victim, contaminates the victim, and transmogrifies the victim into the most miserable and hideous of loveless beast. Christianity tries to build a firewall between the evildoer and victim. The firewall that Christianity tries to build is a heart filled to the brim with love.
Our God is different than us .
When evil is done to us, it follows a predictable pattern. It jumps the gap between the evildoer and us, contaminates us, and transmogrifies us into the most hideous and miserable of loveless beasts. At the very least, it pisses us off. It antagonizes us. It earns the evildoers a place on our shit list. It provokes our instinct for justice. "An eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot". It triggers our reflex for revenge, retaliation and retribution. But not so with God. Not so.
Jesus deviated from the predictable pattern . The reaction of Jesus to the evil we did to him was radically asymmetric.
Jesus refused to let the evil we did to him to transmogrify him into the most hideous and miserable of loveless beasts. Instead of releasing his grip on love, He clung to his love for us, held tight and refused to let go.
The fidelity of our resemblance to God depends on the love we hold in our hearts. The greater the love, the higher the fidelity. By keeping his Most Sacred Heart filled to the brim with love for us, Jesus maintained a perfect resemblance to God.
Because his most sacred heart stayed filled to the brim with love for us, Jesus was able to say "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
Jesus's radically asymmetric reaction to the evil we did to him illuminates the darkness of our understanding of God in a glorious burst of epiphany.
What makes God angry?
If torturing and killing him while he was human, alive, tender, vulnerable and our guest upon the earth did not piss him off, I daresay that nothing can or will.
What do his bloody wounds tell us about him? They tell us everything. When we contemplate the Crucifixion on the near side of his bloody wounds and the Resurrection on the far side, we perfect our understanding of God.
Question: "Who are you, Jesus? Identify yourself! Friend or foe?"
"I am your friend not your foe. I want to help you, not hurt you, as you pass through the hostile truth of the Valley of Tears.
I am the love note that our Father composed for you in heaven and sent to you at Bethlehem to console you in your misery here in the Valley of Tears. I am the way . "No man cometh unto the Father, but by me" .
Into the bread and wine of the most Holy Eucharist, I shall deposit my bloody wounds to remind you that their meaning is as essential to your survival as eating and drinking. Without consuming food and drink, you die of hunger and thirst. Without consuming my bloody wounds, , death is just as certain.
My bloody wounds are rich in meaning. They enrich the poverty of your understanding of your God. Come, make yourselves rich. Eat the bread and drink the wine of the most Holy Eucharist in memory of my bloody wounds .
His bloody wounds connect the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. To escape from the Valley of Tears, we must pass from the Crucifixion on the near side of his bloody wounds, through them, to the Resurrection on their far side. Our passage through his bloody wounds perfects our understanding of God.
His bloody wounds are the rungs of the ladder of truth. We climb them from the Crucifixion on their near side to the Ressurection on their far side to perfect our understanding of God. When we perfect our understanding of God, we escape from the Valley of Tears.
His bloody wounds are the telescope through which we catch a glimpse of heaven from here on earth.
His bloody wounds are question marks that stand between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. They separate the evil we did to him from his asymmetric reaction to it.
"What a paradise it is for a soul when the heart knows itself to be so loved by God." (St. Faustina - Notebook VI, 1756).
At Mass in the most Holy Eucharist, Jesus deposits his body and blood into the bread and wine as a memorial to his bloody wounds. When we eat the bread and drink the wine, we remember and contemplate the Crucifixion on the near side of his bloody wounds and the Resurrection on their far side. We remember the sharp question we asked him in the Crucifixion and the gentle answer he gave to us in reply in the Resurrection. In the conversation between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, Jesus revealed the identity of God to us. Rejoice and be glad. Jesus demonstrated to us from the platform of the Cross that he is our friend not our foe - he is our almighty lover.
Without consuming food and drink, we die of hunger and thirst. Without consuming his bloody wounds, , death is just as certain.