Sow the Seeds

“We must sow the seed,
not hoard it.”

-St. Dominic

I have spent the last four years studying to be a catechist. I have felt called to be a catechist for even longer. It wasn’t until my college years that I really grasped the significance of the calling of the catechist. While I grew in my understanding of the role of the catechist, I grew in my love and passion for that calling. Jesus Christ calls us to make disciples of all nations. We canNOT neglect any people as we seek to bring the Good News of Christ to others. All people have a right to the truth. When we have come to know the truth, we have the right, the responsibility, and the obligation to share that truth with others.

St. Paul proclaims, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). When one has encountered truth and been enraptured by its beauty, they cannot help but to preach the Gospel. Imagine finding out the best news you’ve ever heard. Would not want to tell everyone with whom you come in contact?? That is ultimately the role of the catechist. We are called to bring that truth to others. We are to guide others to these truths, which have impacted our lives so drastically. Whatever our calling, we can share these truths. Our different callings can determine the way in which we share it, but we are all called to share it. And why would we not want to??

I am currently preparing to go out into the field and to take up my role as a catechist. This vocation is a daunting call. Paul himself says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). Well dag-nabbit! Jesus had said a couple decades previously, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). Well that is absolutely terrifying. The souls of many little ones are entrusted to our care. It should be my mission to get them to Heaven. Thus, if something that I do makes it difficult for them to get to Heaven, I will be judged harshly because of it.

Additionally, we are called to sow the seeds of the Kingdom amongst those of the world. Catechists are called specifically to sow these seeds to their students. It can be tempting to see students who do not seem to care, and think that they are not worth the effort, that they would be wasted effort. However, if we recall from the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13), the sower sows the seeds indiscriminately. Despite the rocky ground, or the thorns, or what-have-you, the sower sowed the seed. We are called to do the same. As the quote at the beginning says, “we must sow the seed, not hoard it.” It is not our responsibility to decide who is worthy of it. All of them have a right to the truth. Thus, we must seek to SOW the seeds to ALL, constantly praying for their conversion toward the Lord. We cannot neglect this calling.

I am preparing, as I said, to go out into the world. Some would say that I have spent the last years in a bubble. In a certain sense, that is true. But I will be honest, and say that I needed that bubble. The world can be a harsh place. Now that I have grown in my own relationship with the Lord and my knowledge of Him, I have been prepared to put out into the deep. At the end of every blog post, I put Duc In Altum. With all of the words I write, there is some sort of message that I hope people will take away from it. No, I’m not perfect, and I don’t expect people to try to be like me. (I don’t want more of me in the world.) Rather, in my years of study and observation, there are some things that I’ve learned that I hope to pass on. I hope that you can take that and bring it into your own life. Thus, I hope that you, along with me, can Duc In Altumput out into the deep of the world. The world is harsh, but we are called to live out in the world, but not live of the world. Thus, I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to go out into the deep of the world, seeking to bring God’s love to all. Sometimes we’ll fall. Often we’ll fall. But we need to learn to pick ourselves up.

“Life is not about how hard you hit;
it’s about how hard you can get it
and keep moving forward.”

-Rocky

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Duc In Altum

An Open Letter to ‘You’

Dear You:

What are you thinking right now? I have no idea what you’re thinking. But you have no idea what I’m thinking. What is it like being inside your head? I don’t know how to tell you what it’s like to be inside my own head. You are other than myself, and I am other than you. How can I know what it is to be you?

There’s no way for us to know as if we were each other. I don’t what you’ve been through; I don’t know what you’ve done. I don’t how quickly thoughts run through your head; I don’t know how long you reflect on other thoughts. There’s no way for me to see the world through You-colored lenses, but there’s no way for you to see the world through Me-colored lenses.

There’s no way for me to know what it’s like being you. But I mean, there’s an objective reality. Why would I need to know your subjective reality? I should just come to know the objective, right? And there’s no way I could even know your subjective, so why try? Right?

The objective is objective; nothing can change that. But we aren’t conscious of it in the same exact way. We all have that subjective experience of the objective reality. I don’t always agree with you, and you don’t always agree with me. We butt heads; it happens. But must the world remain like that? Can we never know what it means to be you?

I examine all scenarios through my eyes – my eyes that have been fashioned by my experiences, my family, my friends, my pains, my joys, my sufferings, everything in which I have come in contact. You’re the same way, right? There’s a part of me that wants to seek improvement – constant improvement. You want that too, right? But I fail; I’m not perfect. Are you perfect? I don’t want to tell you that you’re not perfect, but I can surely say that I am not. Because I’m not perfect, I can’t expect you to be.

Sometimes you say something, and I don’t react well; sometimes you just set me off. But I know that I can be insensitive too, and what I say sets you off. I have no right to get mad at you. Life can be tough; we sometimes just have those days. Other times, I act like I know you, like I do know exactly what you’re going through. When you try to sympathize with me, I have no right to go off on you. I know you’re just trying to help.

You and I – we’re not that different. Sure, we have different experiences; we get upset over different things; different things bring us joy. But we both have the desire to be happy, to become better, to know what is true. We do what we can to bring us those things. Sometimes we step on toes; sometimes we forget about each other, pushing the other on our way to our goals. We neglect each other sometimes when we should be seeking each other’s help. You do truly desire what’s best for me, and I desire what’s best for you. But I know I don’t always realize that, and I’m sure you don’t always realize it.

I want to know you. I know that Spanish gives us two words for ‘to know’: saber (to know things) and conocer (to know a person). I want to know you (conocer). But I can’t do that if I don’t seek to understand where you come from or where you are. Help me know you. And I will help you come to know me. We can share in this experience. We will know each other, and it will be beautiful. So don’t tear me down when you don’t know me; I won’t tear you down if I don’t know you. Sometimes it will be hard, but it will be worth it.

Can we know each other’s pains, each other’s joys? Can we really know each other’s experiences? Not really. We can do what we can to share in them. But we can’t actually know them. But I want you to step back and think for a second. Think of that raw feeling of pain. That’s what I feel when I’m in pain. Think about that raw emotion of pure happiness. That’s what I feel when something brings me joy. Maybe you cannot know exactly how I feel in every situation, but you know how you feel in those certain moments. And I can seek to do the same. I want to know how you feel, so I can think of my own experiences of joy, pain, etc. When I bring those to mind, I know that, to some greater or lesser degree, that is what you feel.

Sincerely,
Me

P.S. Duc In Altum. Put out into the deep, into the depths of the human person, into the depths of me, and I will put out into your depths. There’s the risk of getting hurt. But in the words of Machiavelli,

“Never was anything great achieved without danger.”

 

Ring out the False, Ring in the True

“The object of a New Year is not
that we should have a new year.
It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose;
new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.
Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions,
he would make no resolutions.
Unless a man starts afresh about things,
he will certainly do nothing effective.”

-G.K. Chesterton

In the past, I have indeed taken a somewhat cynical view of New Years and resolutions. I don’t want to do that this year. The new year is a time for us to truly renew ourselves, renew our lives. We all have our birthdays. We Christians all have our Baptism days (when we have our spiritual birth). However, those dates differ amongst most people. There are few people that share my birthday, or my Baptism day. New Years Day is that common day amongst all people. We all have that day to seek to renew ourselves. We need not do this alone. We have (essentially) every person on earth by our side to seek this renewal that we all know we need. We have others to hold us accountable. We have others to encourage us. We have others working on their own resolutions to serve as that additional reminder. We are not alone, so we need not go through this all by ourselves.

However, it’s not inaccurate to say that New Year’s resolutions have a tendency to fail. Actually, let me correct that: we have a tendency to fail at our New Year’s resolutions. It’s not just cynical to say that; we would be lying to ourselves if we said otherwise. What is to keep that from happening again? I can see two main aspects to examine in regards to this: ourselves and our resolutions.

Firstly, we ourselves are different. We do more each year. We experience more each year. We learn more each year. NResolutionso, our identity does not change. However, much of how we are does change. We are entering this New Year much different than when we entered last year’s, and even more than the year before that, etc. We know more what we’re capable of. We know more what we need. We can deny as much as we want that we need not change. However, no one is perfect. We can easily see in others the need to change, but how often are we willing to see the need to change within ourselves. We enter this year to form a new soul, new eyes, new ears, etc. We seek to change, to be changed by our experiences. Where do we need to change? What are some practical things we can do to improve ourselves in this coming year?

That brings me to my second point: our resolutions. People have a tendency to ‘resolve’ to do things immensely impractical. I resolve to go to the gym everyday. I resolve to not eat ANY junk food. I resolve to not drink alcohol. While those things might be great to do, they are so impractical. When we make those resolutions, we don’t actually expect them to be successful. They are cop-out resolutions, because they are not true resolutions. All they do is make others see how much we’re willing to change this year, but we need not actually change, because we know we cannot achieve them. Like I said above, we should all be able to agree that we all have need for change. Therefore, our resolutions should reflect that. We need to take a good look at our lives and honestly say to ourselves that places where we need to change. Then, we must be able make resolutions based on those areas for change. If we don’t make practical resolutions, then why make resolutions at all? Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Lastly, I want to challenge you. This year, I challenge you to duc in altum. At the end of every post, I put “Duc In Altum.’ It means ‘put out into the deep,’ coming from Luke 5:4 when Jesus tells Peter to cast his net into the deep water. It can be taken a few different ways, in a spiritual sense. Ultimately, it can be taken as going out to do something difficult, which will have much resistance. In the Church, it can be used to refer to going out into the world to evangelize, for there is much resistance to the Gospel in the world. There are many things that we need to do in our lives that will be met with much resistance. I challenge you to hold true to those. Bringing the Gospel out into the world is one of the hardest things to do, especially with the status of society today. But Christians have been given the duty to ‘make disciples of all nations.’ I challenge you to duc in altum, to put out into the deep in this coming year. Happy New Year, and good luck with your resolutions.

“Resolution One: I will live for God.
Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.”

-Jonathan Edwards

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Duc In Altum

Attack My Belief: Attack Me

“Toward no crimes have people shown themselves so cold-bloodedly cruel
as in punishing differences in belief.”

-James Russell Lowell

Everyone has beliefs, whether you accept it or not. If you blindly follow others’ beliefs, while that is its own issue, those are still your beliefs. Whenever we accept a belief or a judgment, we take it in and make it a part of who we are. To a certain extent, man is compiled of belief systems and judgments about the world around him. Man’s identity is closely woven into and connected with those things/people to which he conforms himself: friends, family, beliefs, etc. Have you ever noticed how people will refer to themselves or others as ‘a Republican/Democrat,’ ‘a Christian/atheist/Jew,’ ‘Pro-Life/Pro-Choice,’ or many other things. They place those words as among the defining terms of one’s identity. Sometimes it’s harmful, sometimes it’s helpful, but it does make a difference in how we view ourselves or others.

Søren Kierkegaard is known for saying that ‘once you label me, you negate me.’ As we begin to throw labels and identifying terms on ourselves and others, we lose sight of ourselves/them as actually persons, and we just see them as a compilation of these beliefs/skills/etc. That makes it a lot easier for us to attack them. For example, anyone who drives would know that, whenever a car cuts us off or runs through a stop light or whatever, we look at them, instinctually, as a mere car; we neglect to look at the fact that there is a human person driving that car. That person has a life, a personal subjectivity about which we know nothing. When we look at them as merely a car, we can easily get mad at them, allowing the anger to fuel a sort of ‘road rage.’

When we label ourselves as, say, ‘Pro-Life’ and others as ‘Pro-Choice,’ we do a couple things. 1) We create an Us-versus-Them mentality, further distancing ourselves from each other. 2) We also limit the person to that specific idea/belief. So I am no longer speaking with a person about the abortion issue; I am now speaking with ‘Pro-Choice.’ That idea has no personal subjectivity and so possesses a certain finite dignity, as opposed to the infinite dignity possessed by a human person. That belief has less dignity than that of a person. That is just basic math – infinity > finitude. Therefore, we seek to attack that idea. We think that we are not harming anyone, because we are seeking to dismantle the idea/belief. However, in reality, because that person has become so interlinked with this idea/belief, we are actually attacking them and their personhood. This idea of ‘respect’ seems to only last as long as the speaker wants it to last. Once it’s there turn to respond to an argument, they can proceed to dismantle the idea, the person, and their dignity. And that is just not right.

Why should we have discussions with people about their beliefs? We should be seeking to understand why they believe what they believe, while seeking to show them why we believe what we believe. If we are seeking to change their minds, we should stop. If we are seeking to shut them down as persons, we should stop. As we attack people’s beliefs, we are attacking something bound to their identity. We take things in and make them a part of who we are. An attack on that belief would mean an attack on our personhood. There is not one person who does not deserve love and respect. If you disagree with someone, we should not be seeking to attack them and their beliefs. That gets no one anywhere. All that we are doing is making ourselves more likely to continue on with each of our beliefs. But if we seek to come to understand one another, without attacking each other’s beliefs, then we can show them the love and respect they deserve, while coming to a greater understanding of them and their beliefs.

So if I write or post about something that you disagree with, if one of your friends expresses a belief different than that of your own, there is absolutely no need to attack them or their belief. That gets no one anywhere except for further apart. We should seek greater understanding. Otherwise, we are allowing beliefs (of ideas and of other people) to persist out of ignorance of the truth, which most people agree to be bad – when we neglect the truth.

“I speak to everyone in the same way,
whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”

-Albert Einstein

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Duc In Altum

Come, Follow Me

“As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon, who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.
At once they left their nets and followed him.”

-Matthew 4:18-20

Today, the Gospel reading comes from Matthew. Jesus calls His first Apostles. As we listen to these words, we can’t merely Fishers of menjust think, “Oh. Cool. He called those dudes who became the first bishops. Noted.” No. We need to realize that that call goes out to EVERYONE. Matthew chooses to stress the fact that Simon and Andrew were fishermen. Fishermen weren’t exactly set apart from everyone else. Fishermen were just ordinary people. That’s whom Jesus called, that’s whom He calls: ordinary people. We, as ordinary people, must heed Christ’s call. Accepting God’s love and grace, we must bring Christ to all. We must be able to bring all to know the love and mercy of God. God sent us as messengers for him, not for ourselves. We must bring all people to come to know Christ. If they don’t know us, that is fine. That may even be best. They should not be recognizing us as we come to them; they should be recognizing Christ and the love He brings.

Today we hear a message of hope. In today’s first reading, Isaiah proclaims:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.” (Isaiah 9:1-2)

God’s prophet reveals this message of hope to all. God leads man out of darkness and into the light. Only by His grace can man truly escape the dark of sin and death, and enter into the light of love and life. We are called to participate in this in two main ways. Firstly, as said above, we are all called to be fishers of men. By the love and grace of God, we are called to seek to bring the nations to Christ and bring Christ to the nations. Our Faith does not call us to ‘Be good.’ We aren’t just supposed to seek to be ‘nice.’ Our Faith is so much bigger than that. We must seek to share the Truth and Love that is God Himself. God is the Light of the world. When we bring the Light TO the world, God banishes the darkness. People will rejoice in the love of God, being released from the darkness. We are all called to live that wish of Christ, evangelizing Christ’s message of love to all the nations, by word and by deed.

Also, we are called to bring the light of Christ to our hearts, minds, and souls. None of us our perfect. We all sin. We all do crap that hurts God, hurts our neighbors, and hurts ourselves. We can’t truly rid ourselves of that darkness without the light and grace of God. So we must continually seek God’s help in prayer (and in the Sacraments, for Catholics). He can bring the light of His love into our hearts to help us see our failures. God will forgive us, IF we ask for it. If we’re not sorry and willing to seek His forgiveness, we won’t get it. We get the forgiveness for which we truly ask and the forgiveness we give. When we seek God’s healing hand, He will heal us. His light will guide us in the darkest of times; we just have to follow it. When we go astray, we can run back to Him. We just need to always remember to accept His grace. In the Gospel today, Christ proclaims to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). That is what we must continually do: repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand and among us. We need to trust in the Lord and recognize that.

“Have you no wish for others to be saved?
Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!” 

-Charles H. Spurgeon

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