Last weekend (Oct 11-12), I attended the wedding of a friend whom I served with in Peace Corps Guatemala (’05-’07). Aside from sharing a wonderful moment in the life of a friend, I was also deeply grateful to see my other friends. Some became parents or will soon be parents. Others were engaged. All were brought together because of this wedding. The Bible refers to Heaven as a wedding feast (Mt 22:2, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son”). So, I felt like I was in Heaven. I remember having the same feeling when my family went home this past winter. I wrote a letter to my family and friends:
I imagine Heaven is like the conversations we had, the food we ate, the places we visited, the movies we watched, the games we played… except there would be no limit to space & time. We can cook all our favorite recipes together, eat the dishes and pair it with the most amazing wines, and not worry about it “getting too late” or “eating too much” or ”being too expensive.” We would share our experiences of all the wonderful places we’ve been and even re-visit them together (who needs planes when we have wings?) In the course of a conversation, we might mention a great book or a well-made movie — I’d blink, read the book or movie you recommended, and then blink back to our moment to say, “Yes! It was great!” Or, “Mmm… it wasn’t for me.” In short, I imagine Heaven as being able to spend an eternity in the pleasure of your company.
I regret that we didn’t have enough time. My jetlag also didn’t help me be at my social best. I kept on falling asleep at the reception.
I miss the genuine friendships that were formed during those couple of years in Guatemala. A lot has happened since then and everyone’s lives have basically moved on. Things are different, but my affection for them stayed the same. I truly do hope for Heaven, when I can catch up with them without earthly restrictions like time and stamina. God bless my friends and may they make it to Heaven so we can spend an eternity having fun.
I started out wanting to disagree with the author of the post, http://wp.me/p3Ptcl-9W, but I ended up agreeing with his view. I guess I was caught up with the word “free will.” That made the title more controversial than if it was “The Arrogance of Individualism Christianity.” Then again, if that was the title, I would’ve agreed and not bothered to read his post.
I’m not sure I agree with his last sentence, though: “Instead of preaching your personal testimony, preach the Gospels and the good things that Christ did for all of us—that is the definition of evangelism.” There are times where our personal testimony is a good way to evangelize. If an acquaintance or friend asked me why I converted to Catholicism or how I came to believe in God when I was a vocal atheist, my personal testimony would be important. Yet, I can see how my personal testimony out of context wouldn’t be effective. Then again, talking about the Gospels out of context and without establishing a relationship first with the people you’re addressing is also ineffective. That’s why Pope Francis said in a recent interview that “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense.”
I feel a call to evangelize, but not standing-on-a-soapbox-in-the-street-corner type of evangelization. I remember reading Scott Hahn saying that we should live our lives as if it was a billboard. Do I live a life full of joy? Or do I look grouchy because I always have to be good & moral all the time? It is especially during the times of stress and difficulty that I can be a great witness to God. Maintaining my peace and joy during a hectic trade mission, or finding the time to counsel others while going through a personal crisis… this is how I can live out a life of constant evangelization. Be a good father. Be a good husband. Be a good officer. This is a higher calling because it is more difficult; I actually have to live out daily what I want to preach and internalize what the Gospel teaches. And the only way I can do that is by changing my heart, work out my interior self. I can’t just cover myself with Bible verses. I have to let the Holy Spirit do open-heart surgery.
Just as a bodily open-heart surgery is scary for people, a spiritual open-heart surgery is even scarier. You can physically see a doctor and look up her credentials. You can’t see the Holy Spirit and her scalpel of wisdom gently revealing the soul. This brings to mind a current friendship. I’m trying to be a good spiritual big brother to another diplomat. He’s having a tough time coming back to God. He knows he has wounds as has admitted as much. He acknowledges that he has a God-shaped hole in his heart that he tries to fill up with other things. He knows he needs to pray, to go back to church, but he still drags his feet. Just like a person would if he had to go into surgery.
How did I consent? At what point did I say “yes” to the Holy Spirit’s knife? Contemplation, self-reflection. Is that the secret? I’ve never been afraid of just sitting and thinking about the fuzz on my navel. If I can only pick one thing that I’m good at, I’d say I’m good at thinking about myself (haha). I have high intrapersonal intelligence. Normal men, according to Richard Rohr’s book “From Wild Man to Wise Man,” don’t like to be introspective and think about feelings, emotions. It doesn’t come naturally. I remember what a breakthrough it was for my aforementioned friend to just accept moments of solitude to self-reflect. He had previously filled his life with many empty-calorie social engagements. It was a long road, but at least my friend now has a diagnosis.
My wife suggested that I should blog about an analogy I used to explain why I felt the need to point out teachings that are damaging to the Christian faith. She said I should not judge and argued that believing in Jesus is better than not believing at all. I used the following analogy to explain why it is important to explain false teachings:
Imagine someone taught you an investment method that would generate over a billion dollars in monthly income. Your monthly investment income will be more than you can ever use in a lifetime, but you keep on receiving billions of more dollars every month. There is nothing that anyone can do to you to take away that ability. Only by your own sins can you lose this incredible stream of income. With such security, you become magnanimous. You become very charitable and want to teach others how to also make a billion dollars a month. It’s so easy!
Pointing out false teaching is like warning other investors about bad financial advice. Some financial advisors may even genuinely believe in their own advice, but they are scams. People will lose their hard-earned money. They will lose their souls. I point out the financial scams not because I will make more money; I don’t need more money. I want to teach others how to make a billion dollars a month out of gratitude for the Person who taught me. It’s out of love for the Teacher. This Teacher merely wants others to enjoy their original inheritance: to be divine sons and daughters of God. He already has everything He needs. All he asks is for the nouveau riche to teach others how to also become rich. Everyone can make a billion dollars a month! There is no inflation in Heaven.
So, calling out bad financial advice is not being judgmental. It’s being charitable. And it is not with my own investment knowledge that I speak, but from the wealthy storehouse of knowledge that is the Catholic Church. Whether or not they believe is their choice.
I am honored to be nominated for a Sunshine Award. I would like to thank Lyn over at New Things for the nomination. Just this morning, I asked my wife whether she had read my most recent blog post. I wanted her opinion on whether I successfully explained concepts from JPII’s Theology of the Body. She confessed that she had not yet read my post, but Lyn came around with this award. I take it as a light pat on the back from God, working through Lyn! 😉 She was the answer to my unspoken prayer.
The Sunshine Award recognizes bloggers whose writings “light up the dark corners of our minds.” It’s a great way to discover other bloggers who write about similar themes — not just from my recommendations below, but also by going backwards and visiting the nominators. The rules are simple:
Thank the person who gave you the award in your blog post.
Do the Q&A below.
Pass on the award to 10 – 12 deserving and inspiring bloggers, inform them and link to their blogs.
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Favorite color? Light blue.
Favorite animal? Hamster.
Favorite number? 16.
Favorite nonalcoholic drink? Watermelon juice from Korean watermelons.
It is good to be reminded not to worry. This post resonated with me because I recently have been suffering from spiritual desolation. It’s getting better now that I have a praying routine down. I’m seeing God at work in my life, again. But, I’m not out of the woods, yet.