Introduction: Ephesians Bible Study

armorofchrist

From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship:

I think one of the biggest lies we can ever believe is that the universe is indifferent and that there is no purpose or meaning to life. There’s an entire philosophy that revolves around this called “existentialism” and the appeal of this particular way of thinking is that the only way to create meaning in life is through our choices. Life literally becomes what you make of it.

The Letter to the Ephesians is a testament that contrasts the philosophy of existentialism. Instead of appealing to self-centered individualism, it puts an emphasis on a sense of community and unity There is a meaning and a purpose to life and it all centers God: it’s to live a life unified with Christ in one church, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God. In other words, we are all called to be saints.

Read the rest here! The study also comes with a free study journal, complete with questions and reflections!

"Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?"- Reflections on the Seven Last Words Part 4

Maria_Taferl_-_Kreuzaltar_2a_Bild

Catholics get mistaken for being masochists a lot. We put a lot of emphasis on guilt and pain and enjoying the sufferings we endure in life. It’s not like we actually get off on the pain, you know. And I think the Fourth Last Word can show the Catholic perspective on coping with suffering.

When Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” it may seem like a cry of despair at first glance. For those three hours, the sky is darkened and Jesus’s human nature echoed the laments of those who feel abandoned by God. But Jesus’s human nature was never separate from His Divine Nature. Venerable Fulton Sheen compares this seeming contradiction to a mountain obscured by clouds, even when the peak of the mountain is bathed in light. Jesus took on the nature of sin and allowed Himself to feel that separation for just this moment.

But there is a deeper meaning to this phrase beyond the words themselves. The words are actually the beginning of Psalm 21 (or 22 depending on your translations), which starts out with a lament of suffering that foreshadows the Crucifixion, but ends with a cry of hope and a triumphant declaration of overcoming the suffering.

My biggest issue with existentialism is that it is centered on the idea that the universe is indifferent. The entire philosophy is built on something that, to me, brings great despair. And those who believe in existentialism admit that the belief is both terrifying and beautiful and that the power to make the world better relies on the choice of the individual.

I’m just gonna quote my favorite Marshwiggle for a minute here:

There is one thing to say. Suppose we have only dreamed and made up these things, like sun, sky, stars and moon and Aslan himself. In that case, it seems to me that the made-up things are a good deal better than the real ones; and if this black pit of a kingdom is the best you can make, then it’s a poor world. And we four can make a dream world to lick your real one hollow. As for me, I shall live like a Narnian! Even if there isn’t any Narnia, so thanking you very much for supper. We’re going to leave your court at once and make our way across your great darkness to search for our land ABOVE!

I would rather try to find light or bring light into the world than spend my life cursing the darkness. My fellow Catholics and I may lament our sufferings, but we also know that, to quote Dumbledore from Harry Potter “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times,if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Existentialism, Choices, and Discerning God's Will

One verse I keep seeing a lot lately in my social media is Jeremiah 29: 11

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—says the Lord—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”

I’ve lamented before that I always wish that I knew what exactly those plans were. But some discussions with my friends have given me some perspective on God’s will.

My friend Justin recently made this video:

At first, I felt like this video was bordering on existentialist. If taken the wrong way, the idea that God doesn’t exactly have a great big master plan for every person makes it seem like He is indifferent. But of course, I know otherwise. God is not indifferent,

So I asked Justin some follow-up questions and here’s what he had to say:

If God doesn’t really have a grand master plan, how can you prove His omniscience?
Just like we know that the sun will rise tomorrow and can study everything about its orbit but don’t actually control the sun, so also is it with God. God knows everything we will choose, but He isn’t the one dictating our choices.
 
How would you explain divine intervention?
God intervenes when He sees fit, but other times He expects us to live according to our conscience and free will. 
Explain the Felix Culpa
The happy fault of Adam and Eve that resulted in the coming of Christ was an example of God turning something bad into something good. Of course, this is what often happens in life. When we make a terrible decision, God always gives us opportunities to alter the consequences of our actions, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the bad decision has already been made.
He already has plans on making a follow-up video which I plan to share on here as soon as it’s uploaded.
I am also reminded of a conversation I had with one of my college friends. I lamented to him about my discernment issues and he said:
Maybe he’s waiting to see what you have planned.
I think your vocation is your actualizing your own deepest desire and living it out in the world. So instead of asking God what do you want me to do? Or how are you going to lead me to my destiny? Etc. I think the silence we often experience with those sorts of prayers is really an invitation to reverse the questions. Don’t ask God anything except for the strength and purity of heart to be deeply honest with yourself and then ask yourself, What do I really want? Then you can explore that for awhile. And once you get some clarity you can start asking how you can make that dream come true. I don’t believe God makes any of these things happen for us. Don’t get me wrong I’m not denying grace or providence I just don’t think these realities work the way we often think they do. It’s much more up to us than we’re usually comfortable to accept. We have to choose and then do something about it. God gives us the strength to do it but it’s up to us. I think.

Having free will is a great power that comes with great responsibility. The temptation of existentialism is to believe that the universe is indifferent and that we have to make a choice or else life doesn’t have any meaning. God always allows us to make choices, but one wonderful part of having faith is that we can turn to Him and ask for His help in making our choices. Stanley Kubrick said that in spite of the darkness, we must create our own light. Thankfully for people who have faith, God supplies the light and we reflect and refract it into the world. 

God is the author of our lives. We have the power to choose what we want to do with our lives. What results from those choices, I think, becomes our vocation. It took me a long time for me to realize this but vocation isn’t just a lifestyle choice, but a daily process of choices we make in order to become as holy as we can be.

So even though a certain atheist/absurdist writer wrote this quote as sort of an existentialist manifesto, I look at this quote and think about how balancing our free will with our faith ultimately makes us stronger:

So here’s the part where you make a choice. What if you could have that power, now? In every generation, one Slayer is born, because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power, should be *our* power. Tomorrow, Willow will use the essence of this scythe to change our destiny. From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?

My answer is “Yes.” The choice is yours.

Faith and Trust vs Doubt and Discouragement

One of my favorite quotes from CS Lewis is “There are far, far better things ahead than anything we leave behind.” I keep going back to that quote whenever I face a setback.

I know you guys are probably gonna laugh at the idea of a twentysomething having a quarter-life crisis, but the fact is that it happens. I apply for jobs and don’t hear back or I get the interview, but not the job itself. I fall for guys who never give me a chance. I have a million writing ideas but get writer’s block as soon as I see the blank page of a word processor.

I know that God has a better plan for me. It would be nice to know what that plan was, though. I mean, what could be better than having a full-time job, having a car, driving where I want to go, and having a normal relationship? I’m not exactly sure if it’s in God’s plan that I stay at home blogging and only talk to people through the internet.

There are times that God led me to wonderful things that ended up changing my life for the better. The real test is living out that faith and trusting God on a day to day basis. To quote my favorite show “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.” Believe me when I say that it’s sadly true. It’s hard to live life on a daily basis not knowing what’s gonna happen next, not knowing where life is going to lead you, and faced with a world that is seemingly indifferent. And it’s easy to think that this world is indifferent and to try and create our own meaning or to go the other direction and wallow in angst for the rest of our lives.

But by the grace of God, I am not a nihilist. I think that there is a bigger meaning to life. But I’m not anti-nihilist, either.  The universe is not indifferent to us because God created the universe and he created us. I think that while God has a plan, he always incorporates free will. But there are moral absolutes. I studied way too much Aquinas in my college days and one frustrating thing about reading his works is that I ended up asking more questions. (Which was the point of the Summas, apparently.)

So I don’t have a label for my philosophy, not yet anyway. I’ll always be asking questions and find answers that make me want to know more. And while I don’t like the core value of existentialism, I can say that I can make the most of the time I have now and push forward towards making it better.