Awkward Catholic

Living my faith as the awkward man of God that I am.


Leave a comment

Unbounded Grace

VulnerableDo you believe that God wants to heal you from your wounds, to set you free from your fears? Do you truly believe that God wants to set you free? It’s easy to claim that we believe it. Every Christian will quickly give a mental assent to this truth. But few actually embrace it with their hearts. I know this because I too fail to fully embrace it. Each night I somehow convince myself that watching the T.V. will be more satisfying than reading Scripture or spending time in quiet prayer.

Why is that? Why do we cling to our fears and sin when we know the Truth? Perhaps it’s because we’re comfortable in our brokenness, it’s familiar to us. We know what to expect. Or perhaps it’s because we don’t really trust God. I mean, he’s so distant and intangible to us! How can a God up in heaven set me free down here on earth? If he wants to set me free, he can do it, but I’m not letting go of my sin until he does. Or perhaps we’re too afraid that our particular sin or fear it is too big, too embarrassing, or too unforgivable.
So we keep our fears and sins buried (or we try to) in the deep recesses of our hearts, allowing them to spill over into our real lives by preventing us from embracing prayer, loving others, following Christ with all our heart, mind and strength and hindering our relationships with our friends and family. We bury our fears and sins deep within and verbally claim Christ’s grace without letting it penetrate our souls.

This is not what Christ wants for us. He did not die so that we might live in fear. He did not send his Spirit so that we might lock ourselves in the prison of our hearts. As it says in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.”

Both God and Satan have a plan for us:
God desires us to know, love and serve him by bringing his life giving, soul freeing love to others.
Satan is hungry to devour with the lust of a child predator. We are to become his food, his slaves.

T-Rex
The devil tries to get us to focus on our faults and failings and despair. God gives us unbounded power and grace*. And his grace doesn’t just make up for what we lack, it completely transforms our failings into our strength!! He takes our weakness and makes us strong. He sees our faults as opportunities to demonstrate his awesome love and power. He uses our sins and creates opportunities to love. It is from our woundedness that we serve him best, where we recognize his love and grace and find our hope and our salvation!! As it says in 1 Cor. 1:25, “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”

God has a plan for your life, a beautiful, glorious and challenging plan. He is calling you. He wants to set you free! Even when Jesus walked the earth, he didn’t call the perfect, the best speakers or leaders, but he called Simon, a loud mouthed know-it-all and Judas, a thief and betrayer. He could read hearts. He knew exactly where they excelled and exactly where they would be stretched. And yet, he still chose them! Not because it would grow his ministry, but because he wanted them to experience his real and true love!!

But not all those he called responded with openness. We can see what happens when we simply acknowledge God’s grace but don’t accept it into our hearts… Judas. Judas wasn’t forced to betray Christ, he chose to betray him. He acted out of fear and selfishness; he refused the grace of God. And we see what happens when we do truly accept it: St. Peter, St. Paul, the Good Thief and so many more.
We cannot, however, receive this grace of God if we don’t acknowledge and humbly accept our need for it. We must search out those places we need healing and wholeness and ask for God’s grace in those places. God desperately wants to heal you, but he will do nothing without your permission.

So what is your biggest fear, where do you need God’s grace the most? Acknowledge your brokenness and sin (the best way is to go to Confession on a regular basis, but it also helps to read Scripture, meditate on the Cross and pray the Rosary, among other devotions). God truly wants to set you free to become the person he made you to be. Cooperate with that grace and allow him to heal you and shine through your wounds, which he will heal. In heaven, I believe, the glory of God will shine most intensely through our scars.

Light Cross

* CCC 1996: Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.


Leave a comment

Confessions of a Flawed Father

It’s Lent, a great time for confession, reconciliation and a new start. Hence…

I have a confession. I failed miserably the other night while putting my two boys to bed. My wife was out at a prayer meeting, her “Praying Wives Club – praying for their husbands” of all things, and so I had the pleasure of putting my two boys to sleep. It was story time and each boy got to pick a story. While reading “The Best Nest” with each boy sitting on either side of me I should have been on top of the world! I should have been thinking how blessed I was and soaked up each second, each word as two of the greatest blessings in my life snuggled close. Instead, as my eldest son (5 years old) tried to tell me what was going to happen in the story, trying to impress his father, I shut him down, “Yes, Gabriel, I know. Stop spoiling the story for your brother.” A few moments later he was again trying to impress me and I turned the page and shushed him because it was all taking too long.

Complete. And. Utter. Fail.9394078863_296f04b407_z (2)

The good news is, a little later after some time in prayer I figured out why I acted so horribly, so selfishly towards my son who was only trying to impress me and connect with me. For awhile I had been getting lazy in both my prayer and discipline. I’ve been acting more selfishly, and I’ve been letting my mind wander to where it shouldn’t. And these seemingly harmless actions and hidden thoughts have actually revealed their true nature in a big way.

Why am I telling you all this and not just to my priest? Because through this experience I’ve come to realize how my sin and lack of virtue affects not only my own soul but also all those around me! I’ve always intellectually understood that sin has communal effects, but now I see it face to face and it’s an ugly little demon.

Who does it really hurt when I fantasize in my head? My children, my wife, the teens I minister to, and myself. It even hurts those I’ve never met. So, I have resolved to fight harder, to pray longer and to love(1) deeper and when I fail, to stand back up, apologize and try again. Yes, I’m going to fail. Yes, I’m going to scar my children with my selfishness and failures. But I’m also going to teach them that their failures and wounds can do more than crush them; in God’s grace they can give glory to God through their wounds! A wise man once said that in heaven God’s glory is going to shine brightest through our healed wounds; that gives me great hope.

That night I resolved that when my son wakes me up too early the next morning, isn’t it always too early, I will kneel down on his level and apologize for something he has no recollection of. Sin is communal yes, but where sin abounds grace abounds all the more.

I think it a little ironic that we were reading “The Best Nest” since it’s all about how they made a mistake yet ended up together, happy and with new life. And isn’t that what this article is all about… abandoning what is good in a selfish search for something better only to find that the “better” thing is really just a loud clanging bell that’s only going to offer despair and grief. Fortunately, I found (was led) back home quickly.

My son, having such a good and generous heart, simply replied after my apology, “I love you daddy.” Now, with God’s grace I’ll be able to teach him what that love really means.

1. Love, as defined by Pope John Paul II is a gift of self, not some mere emotion or sentiment.