Culture of Life vs. Culture of Death

Evening Prayer (“Magnificat” version) this evening included James 1:15: “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.”

This reminded me of Blessed John Paul II’s term, “culture of death,” which includes sins of concupiscence / the flesh.

Such sins in particular destroy the human individual, marriages, families, and society at large. Via unchastity, the using and abuse of others, inordinate and excessive emphasis on worldly pleasures, a plethora of addictions (drugs, alcohol, pornography, masturbation), self-deprecation and mutilation, hatred, murder… the list goes on… the human soul no longer teems with life, but is blackened by death.

Even when it might “feel good” at first, the soul is slowly… being killed… dying. One day, it’s dead. It’s over.

And like James 1:15 says, it all starts in small, subtle ways. Very lovely-seeming ways. Our inordinate desires can deceive us. Satan uses them to steer us off course from the Giver of LIFE… from a Culture of LIFE.

But you know what is so beautiful?

Jesus Christ has already won the battle! By His Passion and His Resurrection.

Jesus assures us: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11).

The question is: will I let Him conquer my heart?

O, if I but let the thorns of his crown pierce my hardened heart… it will become flesh again. It will become alive again.

I must think this over and over in Lent! How can I continually let Him give me life as He is wanting? More and more abundantly?

As Jesus said “no” three times to Satan, who was tempting Him in the desert (when He was famished from fasting), I too can say “no” to Satan.

I have nothing to fear! Only my mediocrity, my own lack of courage.

By saying no to my (inordinate) desires this Lent (with which Satan so subtly plays), I can let the Culture of LIFE triumph in this battle in the world of LIFE vs. death.

LIFE will win. Christ Jesus assures me of that!

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Prayer After Vegas

I found this little prayer that I wrote after going to Vegas during the summer a couple of years ago. I had a great time with family and friends, but the culture there — a culture of death — left me confused and disheartened.

The world expects me to flaunt my body, but I know God calls me to take pride in my dignity.

Thought I’d like to share just in case any other young women felt the same way as me. Following are a few snippets.

Monday, August 31, 2009

O Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar,

I come to You today empty and confused. I went to Las Vegas this weekend and I felt so much cognitive dissonance. The world wants me to be beautiful, sexy, young, wild. I know you want me to be beautiful in my purity, sexy in my virginity, young in my faith, hope, & love, and wild with the passion of the Holy Spirit that has so touched my life! Drinking and dancing aren’t sinful to You; they are both gifts from You that can be properly used. Getting drunk and dancing provocatively would be abuses of those gifts. I think perhaps You are revealing Your Holy Will to me now.

I love Your, Lord, and I want to serve You. I pray for the grace to see as You see, to hear Your voice, to speak Your words, to serve and glorify You, and to love as You love.

Give me the grace that my heart might ache daily for You, for Your love, for You in the Eucharist!

love,

Rosanna Noelle

Lord Jesus Christ, as I reflect on this prayer that I wrote 2 years back, help me truly and genuinely to live a culture of life!

Purity & the Purifying POWER of Confession: Living a Revolution Against Sin

When following Christ, is there no hope for someone who has fallen in their pursuit for purity, or who has given away his or her “V-Card” — virginity — sleeps with their boyfriend/girlfriend, or lived life promiscuously?

Is there no hope for someone who continuously falls to the sins of the flesh, such as willfully entertaining impure thoughts, masturbating, looking at pornography, etc.?

No. Absolutely not!

There is enduring hope found in genuine repentance, the willingness to change… and the Confessional.

Matthew 5:8 reads: “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.”

Obviously, if God never thought we could be clean, He wouldn’t torture us so with the thought that we could never see Him. But as baptized children of God, we are called to imitate Christ’s holy purity and given the power to do so: Christ’s very grace within us!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph #2345 states: “Chastity is a moral virtue. It is also a gift from God, a grace, a fruit of spiritual effort. The Holy Spirit enables one whom the water of Baptism has regenerated to imitate the purity of Christ.”

We will never be able to escape our fallen will or our concupiscence, including our inclination to lust. However, we CAN grow in our virtues and in our holy purity; we CAN grow more inclined to fight off these temptations! Better yet, Christ instituted the Sacrament of Confession to freely return to sinners the gift of sanctifying grace that they reject when they sin.

When we commit mortal sin, we willingly reject the life of God within our soul (the very definition of “grace”). A mortal sin is only considered “mortal” when we know it is a grave sin and can cut us off from God and we fully decide to commit the sin anyway.

Yet during Confession, Christ Himself– via the priest who acts “in persona Christi”– infuses His grace, His very LIFE– back into the penitent!

Jesus Himself exhorts us: “Be you therefore perfect, as also your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Striving to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect is only possible when we have the sanctifying grace of Christ within us as our strength to choose what is right and to reject what is evil!

After we sin, we may think: “Well, I still believed– I just went the wrong way, and sin/darkness overcame me, and now I’m sorry and I’m coming back to You, LORD.” Yet such a prayer to reconcile with Him is not enough if a sin is mortal; we must Confess in a sacramental prayer, to a priest, a representative of God.

This is pointed out in the Bible. St. John says: “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray” (1 John 5:16-17).

It is for these “deadly” sins– these mortal sins, including most sins of impurity– that we must go to Confession.

Again, we must not worry, just be aware, and take ardent hope!

As we repeatedly commit sin, including sins of impurity; Christ Himself longs to unite us to His Cross and repeatedly purify us via Confession, that we may be always be ready again to give ourselves as pure offerings to one another and to Our Father.

Just as the “once and for all” sacrifice at Calvary can mysteriously permeate all time and space in the perpetuation of the Sacrament of the Eucharist (the timeless Body & Blood, Soul & Divinity of Christ), so too can this “once and for all” sacrifice at Calvary mysteriously permeate all time and all space in the timeless perpetuation of the Sacrament of Confession (the timeless Mercy & Justice of Christ!).

Hebrews 13:8 says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” So, too is the Power of His Cross: in the Eucharist, when the Sacrifice of Calvary is re-presented perpetually till the end of the age, and in Confession, when the cleansing of sins and re-infusion of grace is re-presented perpetually till the end of the age.

Our Savior Jesus Christ died 2000 years ago on the Cross, and His sacrifice was a “once and for all” redemption, but Christ’s saving graces permeate all time and all space and save us in mysterious ways.

Yet Jesus Himself warns of our ability for sin to separate us from Him when he heals the paralytic on the exterior (his illness) and the interior (his sin), but still warns the paralytic: “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:16).

Jesus posits that sin can indeed make something worse happen to us after He heals us: we can willingly separate ourselves from Him if we sin again; we sin again over and over.

Yet Jesus is more than willing to purify us again and again in Confession, that we may truly be clean of heart, and so blessed as to be able to see Him (Matthew 5:8)!

LORD Jesus, blessed be the Sacrament of Confession, which allows the redemptive power of Your Cross to work mysteriously, outside of time, to perpetually save us from ourselves, when we willingly separate ourselves from Your saving Cross. You alone can save us, o LORD!

Holding Back Your “V-Card”: Sex as a Sacrifice

The vast majority of young people in my generation say that they are willing to give their “V Card” –their virginity– to someone that they genuinely love, within the context of marriage or not. Sex itself is no longer reserved for marriage; it is reserved for someone who has earned your trust, or perhaps who you would consider marrying– or perhaps just anyone, for no reason at all.

One of the biggest aspects of my own falling in love with Christ circa my college years was seeing the beauty and the value He places on sex, sexuality, and their meaning.

After learning about the “Theology of the Body,” Pope John Paul II’s exposition on human sexuality, I better understood why we were created as complementary men and women and why sex was so sacred as to save for marriage. As of late, however, I have had some new thoughts on purity and virginity to add to my former understanding. So, here goes:

God the Father in the Old Testament wanted families to offer Him lambs as a sacrifice. At the time, lambs were considered the finest livestock; they were of utter value and importance to families. And not only did God the Father want just any lamb– He wanted a family’s most pure, holy, and unblemished lamb.

To give up such a perfect lamb was a sign from a family that it truly loved the LORD above itself and its own interests. The purity of the offering, of the lamb, increased its worth exponentially and was a stronger offering that spoke of genuine love to our LORD.

In the Holy Eucharist, our LORD Jesus Christ offers Himself as the Lamb of God on the altar. Jesus Christ makes of Himself a most pure, holy, and unblemished offering to God the Father. In fact, His sacrifice of Himself was so pure, holy, and unblemished, that it will forever be known as the One Perfect Sacrifice– the sacrifice that granted all of humanity salvation! He is THE Sacrifice whose blood wiped away all of our sins, and saved us from ourselves.

My realization?

In Holy Matrimony, a man and a woman are called to live in purity before offering themselves up to one another and to GOD. Just as Christ gave Himself as an unblemished sacrifice for all on the altar, so too in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony are we to give ourselves as unblemished sacrifices for our spouses, on our wedding night on the marriage bed. Just as a church has an altar, the domestic church (the family) has an “altar”: the marriage bed itself. This is where we lay down our bodies for one another, and together, for God.

Just Christ says, “This is my body; it has been given up for you,” so too shall spouses say this to one another, as well as together to the LORD: “This is our body (now “one flesh”) which has been given up for You.”

Marriage reflects the familial, one-in-three, triune nature of God. Accordingly, the marital embrace (sex) is called to reflect the perfectly holy and pure nature of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, makes for the Church, His Bride (both on the Cross and till this day in the Holy Eucharist). Purity before and during marriage is thus of immeasurable worth! Striving for purity proclaims: “I love you… and You, LORD!” with an individual’s entire body, heart, and soul. Purity is the mark of the sacred romance of marriage, a sacrament that only Our Romantic Creator Himself could design!

Just as a family in the Old Testament was to offer their most perfect lamb to the LORD, so are those who are called to married life asked to offer up their most perfect selves to one another and to the LORD: before marriage, when they get married, and throughout their marriage via sacrifice– such as that which Natural Family Planning demands– and lifelong fidelity.

What wondrous beauty! Human sexuality is called to speak purity, sacrifice, love.

On Deciding to Love

The culture I have grown up in has told me that love is a feeling. It just happens. You fall into it. Then you drop out of it. Love is a state of being. A noun.

But Jesus Christ, in His living and dying for me, teaches me that love is a decision. And more importantly, love is a verb. Love is something that you do.

According to Jesus, love is not something that you receive, fall into, or drop out of — all of which are out of your control. Love is something that you are always capable of freely doing.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph #1766 defines love as a verb as well:

To love is to will the good of another.” All other affections have their source in this first movement of the human heart toward the good. Only the good can be loved. Passions “are evil if love is evil and good if it is good.

The Catholic Church has also taught me that love is Someone. It is Jesus Christ, He who lived and died for me! One of my favorite chapters in Scripture, 1 John 4:7-8, reads:

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.

The culture that I live in has taught me to live for my own success: for my achievements and a prestigious career.

But my achievements and a prestigious career can only take me so far. How much recognition, wealth, and power will it take till I am finally satisfied, if those are the only things I live for?

The culture that I live in has taught me to make a significant other or a spouse, or even my parents or children, etc., the very center of my world and the core of my being.

But if I make those that I love the center of my world, how long will it be before I go crazy from realizing just how badly they can fail, because humans always fail– even the best of us? At times, I will fail those that I love quite miserably as well.

These very reasons are why my hope lies not in the culture of death before me but in the culture of LIFE. My hope lies in Jesus Christ, Love Himself! In Him and in His promise, I will never find disappointment, depression, or death, but only fulfillment, joy, and LIFE. Only He can fill my very center; only He can fill my core.

As a Catholic young adult in a world that increasingly shuns the Divine, I am excited and invigorated and ready! The Black Eyed Peas in their smash hit ask: “Where is the Love?” I want to shout it out to my generation: “Love is right here, in the Holy Eucharist! Jesus Christ is Love.”