What Defines “Success”?

God works in mysterious ways indeed, and while we are still on earth there are many, many things we don’t have the capacity to understand yet. And this issue, naturally, is addressed in Scripture. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Sometimes we feel that what we do is meaningless, and it isn’t going to get us anywhere. But how do we, as human beings, define being “successful” as? Are you successful when your work brings you approval from other people? As you successful when your work brings you money or other worldly pleasures? If so, this is very dangerous.

For example, a website that receives 100,000 likes per month is not necessarily better, from God’s perspective, than one that only receives around fifty. What the people in our society think of us is not exactly what God thinks of us! And, as I said earlier, there are dangers to measuring our success by human standards. We may start indulging in what appears to be confirmation of our greatness from other people.

Since success should not be defined by human standards, is our work really meaningless as we feel it can be? Not necessarily. If it is truly meaningless and even harmful, then hopefully God makes this clear to us. But sometimes we want to give up doing something because we feel it is a waste of time and fruitless, yet we know there is a higher power that is urging us to continue, not matter what. So what are we supposed to think in this situation?

I would like to share with all of you an excerpt from my novel, Missa Solemnis, that I hope will adequately express what I am trying to say. In this particular scene, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the characters, feels unappreciated. While he feels ready to give up, one of his friends offers him advice as tells him that he should continue to do what his conscience is telling him to do, since it is God’s will, though not necessarily what he believes is “meaningful” from a human perspective. (And, as one of my friends pointed out, I might have made a reference to 1 Corinthians 12 without really meaning to!)

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Mozart sighed and put down his pen. He turned and looked at Franz, who was busy working. “What’s the use?” Wolfgang heard himself ask.

Franz looked up, startled. “What are you talking about, Wolfgang? What’s the use of what?”

“What’s the use of working so hard? I’m not appreciated here, and my music isn’t even performed so much anymore. My job at court pays only eight hundred gulden a year!”

How could Mozart’s great talent, and the utter beauty of his music, be so unappreciated, treated so carelessly by those who should know better? Wolfgang was almost living in poverty, and he was starving. What does this mean? Franz wondered. I know it’s merely our job to create, but do we always have to pay with every fiber of our beings? He’s working himself into the grave! Unless…

“Who says you aren’t appreciated?” Franz asked. “Whether it’s now or in a hundred, or a thousand, years, you’ll be appreciated. Besides, the less our reward here, the more we get in Heaven.”

“Do you really believe that?” Wolfgang turned around to stare at him. “Do you really think God planned for me to unappreciated, and then…?”

“Look at it this way,” Franz said. “Maybe we’re just contributing to something greater, but we just don’t know it. It’s probably part of God’s plan, and someday we may know why things happened this way, since everything happens with a reason. When you were a child, did your father tell you everything he had planned for your family? Probably not, since he knew what he was doing and didn’t need a child’s limited viewpoint. Isn’t our viewpoint limited compared to God’s? He knows what He is doing and doesn’t need our opinion on this, but everything will turn out fine.”

Franz’s explanation was convincing, but something else was on Wolfgang’s mind. “Franz, I had a weird dream last night. Before I tell you…well, I feel like I’m writing this music just to give it away, and that I’m not earning anything from it. I dreamed I was growing flowers and that I had many assistants helping me with this. I was growing all those beautiful pink flowers just to give them away!”

While Wolfgang was still puzzling over this, Franz immediately understood. “Wolfgang, pink is the color of love. You were growing pink flowers and giving them away to show your love for others.”

“But what about the assistants?” “Going back to what I said about God’s plan…these assistants probably represent other musicians over the world, who are contributing to this plan. Don’t you see, Wolfgang? You could get a government job to make Constanze and her mother happy, but you don’t! Why? Because you were born to give the world your flowers of love, expressed through music.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Wolfgang said. “But still, even if things are really like this, I still need to get a commission and earn some money. I’d still rather not end up on the streets!” He lowered his voice. “The other day I applied for position of Second Kapellmeister, under Salieri. It was, as usual, to no avail.”

He returned to his work.

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Roses. Just roses. Everywhere Wolfgang turned, he saw nothing but roses. It was beautiful, but he didn’t know what to make of it. What is the use of working so hard? Wolfgang wondered. I never keep any of my roses; I grow them just to give them away! But somehow I know this is what I was made to do, to give out my flowers of love, in spite of the fact that I am living in poverty.

He turned around and saw some people standing near the fence to his garden. What are you doing? Wolfgang called out.

We’re here to help you, responded one young man. All of us will grow flowers of love and release them into the world to give the world beauty. Why else are we here, on earth?

And everybody who walks upon the earth is different, replied a young woman who looked not much older than fifteen. I see that every flower here is different; different colors, shapes and sizes. But they’re all the same in another way, they’re all beautiful. Let us show everyone that they are all different from each other, like these roses, but that they’re all beautiful and special in their own ways, all as children of God.

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“Wolfgang?” Franz asked. “Are you okay?”

“What?” Wolfgang blinked and was startled to find himself sitting at his desk, holding his pen limply in his hand.

“I kind of lost you for a second,” Franz explained, relieved. “I was talking and you were staring at me, but your eyes had this blank look…”

“Oh, sorry!” Wolfgang exclaimed. “I was daydreaming and thinking about my dream from last night. After hearing what you said…I understand. When the group of people came to help me with my flower garden, there were two people in particular who came and spoke to me personally, a man and a woman. Now I realize they were supposed to represent you and Dorothea.”

“Truly?” Franz asked, suddenly interested. “Tell me about it.”

“You told me…” Wolfgang whispered, “We are all here on earth to give the world beauty. Dorothea said she had noticed that all the flowers were different in certain ways, but in other ways they were the same… Just as we, as people, are all unique, but all are the same as children of God.”

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This quote from 1 Corinthians proves that there is not a single person in the world that is useless, because nothing that God does is meaningless. Therefore, from a human perspective, although our work can appear to be useless at times, if it is God’s will and He is the reason why we do what we do (hopefully!). It is my hope that my writing can share the Good News, but if someday God tells to find some other way to do this, I’ll follow Him. I know I shouldn’t follow my own will, but God’s, for “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Sometimes I may think it is in my best interests to do a certain thing, but God knows me better than I know myself. And God will never ask you to do something useless as well – as long as it is for His glory, what you’re doing will help yourself and others, even if you don’t see it now.

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From an earthly and human perspective, one could argue that even Jesus was a failure! Jesus obviously had valid reasons to tell those He had healed not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah. Of course, everybody would misunderstand, just like Peter did. One could have expected Jesus to lead a rebellion against the Romans and win a victory, but he didn’t! However, Jesus’s death on the Cross did us more good than if he had won a victory against the Romans (or anything else, for that matter)! It seems that the Cross was a failure, but God had his own mysterious plans and we don’t understand. Something that seems to be one thing on the surface can actually be quite the opposite. When we determine our success by how much money we earn and how much adulation we get from other people and from society, we are, like Peter did, “thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

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The Distinction Between Humans and Animals

The Catholic position on the distinction between humans and animals can be quite controversial, especially among those who love animals as pets. Debates about whether animals can go to heaven after death have been well-rehearsed, and it should suffice to say here that there can be no certainty. What is clear, however, is that Church teaching does make a distinction between people and animals, a teaching that is clearly backed by Scripture, logic, and common sense. Biologically speaking, we have some characteristics that animals also have, but we must not fail to consider the spiritual side. Spiritual speaking, we are very different from animals because we possess free will, intellect, and creative ability.

God created man in His image, and out of His infinite goodness, He gave man free will. At first glance, animals seem to have free will because they, too, can make decisions, this is an over-simplification of the definition of free will. As human beings, we use our free will to choose either good or evil, and we also use our free will to choose whether to accept or reject God Himself. Animals can choose things, but they do not have free will. They only have instinct. When we hear of a shark attack, do we blame the shark? No – in fact, sometimes it could actually be the fault of the person if he provoked the shark in some way. The shark did not attack the person out of evil intent or malice; it was simply acting from its instincts, and its instincts help it to protect itself and to survive.

Animals also do not have intellect like human beings do. This is not to say they are stupid, because many animals can be intelligent and can even help people in dire circumstances. However, animals do not, for example, gather together in groups and discuss the existence of God! Unlike humans, animals do only what their instincts tell them, or what humans have trained them to do. Much of what animals do is done in order to protect themselves or to survive. As for people, life would be very boring if we thought about nothing except how to survive. We think about topics like the meaning of life or the existence of God, while animals do not. Therefore, animals do not have intellect like humans do. Nor do animals have creative abilities like humans do. Although animals do create things, they only create things out of instinct. A certain type of bird only builds a certain type of nest. A certain type of spider only makes a certain kind of web. As people, because we have creative abilities and free will, we can create whatever kind of home we like. The creative abilities God gave us also allow us to create different kinds of art, architecture, music, or literature.

Scripture shows that human beings are more important than animals. From the very beginning of creation, we were given “dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). In Matthew 10:29-31, Jesus says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore have no fear: you are worth more than many sparrows.” Catholic teaching re-affirms this: Although it is “contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly,” it is also “unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons” (CCC 2418). Saving human lives is, of course, more important than saving the lives of animals. Scientific experimentation, for example, on animals is morally acceptable as long as it remains within reasonable limits.

Man was created in God’s image, and this is what gives human life a certain dignity that does not pertain to animals. This is not to say, of course, that Catholics believe that animals are not important, or that they can be abused. However, in the beginning, God gave us dominion over all other creatures, and for this reason we are distinct from animals. As people, we possess free will, intellect, and creative ability, while animals do not. It should be clear now that humans are different from animals, but the question mentioned in the beginning still remains: can animals go to heaven? Many theologians have pointed out that if one really needs their pet to be happy in heaven, then one is definitely not ready for heaven! All this is true, but Matthew 6:33 states, “…seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If we seek God first, then perhaps – someday – God will give us our pets back.

The Christian Reaction to Violence

Watching the news the other night left me utterly speechless. Recently, so many acts of violence have been perpetrated in the United States and around the world. Terrorist attacks and deadly shootings. Suicide bombings. Peaceful protests that turned violent. Religious persecution. Need I say more?

Does it not violate a person’s conscience to commit such despicable crimes? Clearly, many of them thought about their plans thoroughly, and had clear, yet terrible, motives as to why they would ever do such a thing. Even after sufficient reflection, they, using their free will, made the choice to murder innocent people. Is this not contrary to moral law?

Brothers and sisters, this is a time of crisis, and prayer becomes even more important. First, we must pray for the families, both the immediate and extended, of those who have lost their lives in despicable acts of violence. After such a tragedy, many people may be tempted to believe that God has abandoned them, question His mercy and goodness, and turn away from Him. Yet God can give comfort to those who have lost their loved ones. We must pray that those who are grieving will turn to God, rather than away from Him.

Second, we must pray for the victims themselves, so that they may be saved and enjoy everlasting peace and joy with God in heaven. Through no fault of their own, they have lost their lives; some were even in the act of defending and helping others when they died. Third, we must pray for those who are thinking of following the examples of the terrorists. We must pray that these unfortunate would-be terrorists can experience conversion and a change of heart, through God’s grace. And fourth, we must pray that government officials will make morally correct decisions while handling the crisis.

Violence cannot be solved with more violence, but only with peace. As Christians, we need to, at times, fight the temptation of getting revenge on someone who has wronged us. Christ tells us to love and pray for our enemies. Instead of responding to violence with more violence, we need to solve the problem in a more effective way – love. Through prayer, we can help stop future terrorists from attacking, offer God’s peace and comfort to grieving families, and ask for the salvation of the victims of terrible crimes.

Evil exists on earth because God respects our free will, but He still loves us all as His children. Let us pray for the conversions of those who are lost, and let us help those who are in the dark see the “Son” shine!

The Problem of Evil

One of the most common arguments against the existence of God refers to the problem of evil. This can be phrased in many ways, but it all comes down to the same question: If God exists, and He is all-loving, then why is there so much evil and suffering in the world? The idea that an all-good and all-loving God should exist alongside a world with so much evil and suffering in it seems to be self-contradictory. However, while many of Jesus’ teachings seem to be contradictory, upon further contemplation, they make sense in a beautiful way that can only be attained when opposites are reconciled with each other. While it may sound strange, the fact that God permits evil actually proves that He is loving and merciful. We, as mere human beings, cannot possibly understand everything, for God’s ways are so much higher than our own. Only when we accept that everything God does and allows is for the best can we even begin to scratch the surface of the answer to the problem of evil.

First and foremost, it should be made clear immediately that “God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it” (CCC 311). Here we enter the mystery of God’s will. God has a perfect will and a permissive will; while He does not control everything that happens, His perfect plan is still accomplished nevertheless. He uses His perfect will when He directly wills something, and whatever He directly wills must be good because God is goodness itself. However, He also has a permissive will, and therefore allows certain things – which are contrary to His perfect will – to happen. The aforementioned quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that God permits evil because He respects our free will, and that He knows how to mysteriously derive good from evil.

To explore the reason why evil exists, we must begin by examining the fall of the angels. Of course, God did not directly will for the angels to sin; however, He allowed it to happen. The Church teaches that in the beginning, Satan – the devil – was created by God, and that he was a good angel. However, he and the other fallen angels became evil by their own doing. “It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable” (CCC 393). It is not right to say that God was responsible for this evil, and it also isn’t right to say that because God allowed this to happen, He is not loving and merciful. However, Scripture can give examples of the devil’s disastrous influence upon the earth. In spite of all this, divine providence allows this influence of diabolical activity. This is, of course, a mystery, but “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him” (Romans 8:28).

God loved us so much that He gave us the gift of free will, which makes man different from other creatures in a certain way. Ever since the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, we all have inherited original sin, that is, all people apart from Jesus and Mary. “How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam ‘as one body of one man’ By this ‘unity of the human race’ all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called ‘sin’ only in an analogical sense: it is a sin ‘contracted’ and not ‘committed’ – a state and not an act” (CCC 404). Human nature, therefore, “is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence” (CCC 405). The Catechism continues by stating that,  “by imparting the life of Christ’s grace,” baptism “erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.”

Much of the evil that we see in our world is caused by man’s sins and evil actions. Someone who decides to commit a mass murder – with full knowledge and full consent – has used his free will to turn away from both God and man. To reject God is to reject our neighbor; to love God is to love our neighbor. When terrible things happen, we may wonder why God chooses to respect our free will and allow suffering to happen. Why can’t He simply take away our free will? God knows that our free will is one of the greatest gifts He gave us. While it is true that free will can give us the opportunity to sin and reject God, it also allows us to repent and turn back to Him. We also use our free will to decide whether to love God or to reject Him. Love is a freely made decision. When love is coerced, it is no longer free, and therefore no longer authentic love.

Applying this same concept, would we ever really become “good” if God continuously forced us to do good? This also explains why God allows us to sin and make mistakes. Sometimes, that is the only way we’ll learn. Let’s use an analogy: let’s say you have a son who is in high school. One morning he comes to you and asks you to call the school and say that he is sick. The real reason, however, is that he has not completed a project that was due that very day, because he has been procrastinating for the past few weeks. In this situation, as a parent, you cannot simply let him get away with this action because he’ll learn his lesson if you allow him to fail occasionally. “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (Proverbs 13:24). This is why God allows us to sin and face the consequences of that sin; through suffering, not only can we learn from our past mistakes, we can also expiate for those mistakes.

The Catechism teaches that “God would not permit an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life” (CCC 324). Therefore, we can be certain that the fact that there is evil in the world does not mean that God doesn’t care about us, is distant, or is dead. He doesn’t just stand by silently and watch us sin; He actively brings about a greater good from any evil in the world. Often times, we cannot immediately see that there is a greater good derived from an evil, but some examples are obvious. After a terrible tragedy, people can come closer together, and there is also an increase in prayer. These tragedies can serve to remind us of our own mortality, and that ultimately, we are not fully in control of our fate. They can also remind us that death doesn’t discriminate and can come at any moment, so that we must always be vigilant and guard our souls against sin.

Many examples of God’s providence – and that He can derive good from evil – can be found in Scripture. “It was not you,” said Joseph to his brothers, “who sent me here, but God… You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (Genesis 50:20). The greatest example is found in the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Of course, God did not directly will for Jesus to die; he simply allowed it to happen by using His permissive will. However, the greatest good in the history of the world – our salvation – came about through the greatest evil – the death of God, caused by men.

The fact that there is evil in the world does not prove that God doesn’t exist, or that He is not all-good and all-loving. He is not the cause or creator of any evil. The evil in the world is often caused by the devil’s influence and by man’s sinful actions, but God permits this because He respects His creatures’ free will, and He knows that He can bring about a greater good from an evil act. However, in spite of the fact that God can derive good from evil, evil, in essence, never actually becomes a good. There is hope, however, because although free will leaves room for sin, sinners can still use their free will to turn back to God. Therefore, it is very important that we all pray for all the sinners of this world and ask for God’s forgiveness whenever we have sinned.

Music and the Catholic Liturgy: Are the Sanctus and Benedictus Supposed to be One Section?

Throughout history, people with various talents and careers have found ways to glorify God with their work. Many well-known composers of the eighteenth centuries, such as Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, wrote mass settings and other forms of sacred music, such as hymns. Even today, there are many Catholic composers who have written mass settings and songs to be sung during the liturgy. However, there are many differences between sacred music today and the sacred music that was used two hundred years ago. The Second Vatican Council encouraged active lay participation during mass, and because of this, liturgical music has changed greatly.

In many mass settings from the eighteenth century, the liturgical section called the Sanctus was often divided into the Sanctus and Benedictus. In the mass, the Sanctus is translated as: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.” Centuries ago, this was not the case. The Sanctus ended with the first “Osanna in excelsis” (Hosanna in the highest), and the Benedictus ended with the second “Osanna,” usually either a reprise of the first, or a shortened version of the first. However, most modern settings of the mass, especially those in the vernacular, set the entire Sanctus and Benedictus as a single section.

In the eighteenth century, composers began to write long and embellished settings of the Sanctus and Benedictus. The music would often go on so long that a break after the first “Osanna” was necessary, since the Consecration is considered the most important part of the mass. The Benedictus would be sung afterwards. This practice was forbidden for a time in the twentieth century, but in his 1958 document, Pope Pius XII declared that the Sanctus and Benedictus should be sung without a break if Gregorian chant is used. For longer settings, the Benedictus is to be sung after the Consecration of the Eucharist.

To divide the Sanctus and Benedictus would have been necessary because, as Pope Pius X says: “It is not lawful to keep the priest at the altar waiting on account of the chant or the music for a length of time not allowed by the liturgy…it must be considered a very grave abuse when the liturgy in ecclesiastical functions is made to appear secondary to and in a manner at the service of the music, for the music is merely a part of the liturgy and its humble handmaid.”

Music is a great way to worship God in the liturgy, but composers must be aware of their limitations. If the music is too long and embellished, it will distract from the liturgy, and instead bring too much attention to the musicians. Many composers, however, have written mass settings not intended for liturgical use. Why, one might ask, would someone write liturgical music that could not be used for its intended function? Music is, after all, a form of prayer, and throughout the centuries the Church has continued to support sacred art as a form of worship of God.

On Homosexuality and Gay Marriage

“Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.” [1]

The media is constantly misinterpreting Pope Francis’s words, and the result is that many people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, may be confused about what he really meant. Many articles on the Internet claim that this quote shows that the Pope is going to change the Church’s traditional teaching on gay marriage, [2] but this is nothing but wishful thinking from those in support of gay rights. Nowhere is this quote does he say that gay marriage is morally correct, because that is simply not the Church’s teaching. He merely means that Christians should never condemn or be judgmental towards those who are homosexual, and even those who engage in homosexual activity, even if their actions aren’t morally correct. Does God condemn sinners in this world? Does God refuse to love them? Of course not! God loves even the worst sinner in hell. Here is another question: when we meet an atheist, should we judge them or do we help them see the error of their ways? Why should the same concept not apply to all other sins, including homosexual activity?

It should become self-evident that Pope Francis’s opinion is perfectly compatible with the teachings of the Catholic Church. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (CCC 2358). The Church’s teachings are clear: those who suffer from same-sex attraction do not sin unless they act upon their desires, which are in and of themselves, morally wrong. Temptation itself is no sin, but giving into temptation or taking delight in it is a sin. [3] Same-sex attraction is, in fact, a cross that God allows some people to bear. In regards to a blind man, Jesus said that the man was born blind so that others may see God in his life. Similarly, we should try to see God in the lives of those who suffer from same-sex attraction, and we should not judge or condemn them. [4] Someone who suffers from same-sex attraction does commit sin, however, if they choose to act upon this desire. As the Catechism states: “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection” (CCC 2359).

Pope Francis is not going to change the Catholic teaching on homosexuality, and neither is that possible, since the teaching is a divine law and not a merely ecclesiastical or human one. [5] The official position of the Church remains unchanged: although homosexual desires, in and of themselves, are disordered, the temptation of being attracted to a person of the same sex is not a sin. Only when one gives into that temptation and engages in homosexual activity, is homosexuality a sin. And since homosexual activity is a grave moral wrong, we as Christians have a moral obligation to oppose the legalization of gay “marriage”, which will inevitably lead to a greater acceptance of homosexual activity. The Supreme Court may have ruled that gay “marriage” should be legal, but the opinion of government officials cannot overrule the opinion of the God of the Universe. Aside from religious reasons, there are also other reasons why homosexual “marriage” should not be legalized. Simply put, homosexual marriage should not be allowed because it is not a valid marriage, it is not open to procreation, and it can have a negative impact on children.

Gay “marriage” is simply not a true and valid marriage. A homosexual couple would never be allowed to get married in the Church because matrimony is a sacrament, and the Church cannot change the substance of a sacrament. A homosexual marriage can never be a valid sacramental marriage, just as baptizing someone with wine, using gingerbread for communion, or ordaining a woman to the priesthood are invalid. Outside of the Church, however, homosexual “marriage” is also invalid, because God created marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. God created men and women to be sexually compatible with each other, for the purposes of procreation (to “be fruitful and multiply”). Adam was a man, and Eve was a woman; God did not create two men, or two women. Although in the New Testament, Jesus never outright condemned homosexuality, He did re-affirm what was written in the Old Testament: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-5).

When God created marriage, He intended for His people to “be fruitful and multiply”, and therefore sex is a means of procreation. However, because two people of the same sex cannot biologically and naturally have their own children, the legalization of gay “marriage” would be disrespectful to this sacred purpose of marriage. Sex simply cannot be seen as a mere act of pleasure and the sexual act should not be motivated by lust. “Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes” (CCC 2351). Since a “marriage” between two persons of the same sex is not a valid marriage, homosexual activity is obviously sinful because sexual activity should be within marriage only. Homosexual activity does not have any “procreative” and/or “unitive” purposes.

Finally, gay “marriage” is dangerous to people and society because of its harmful effects on children. A growing child needs both a father and mother. Studies show that children who grew up with only one parent are more likely to be suspended from school, have emotional problems, become delinquent, suffer from abuse, or take drugs. It is self-evident that children do best when they grow up in a family with both a mother and a father, in a low-conflict marriage. They live longer and healthier lives, for example, and are more likely to do well in school, graduate, and attend college. They are also less likely to live in poverty, get in trouble with the law, drink, or do drugs. Most importantly, they are likely to have a successful marriage and family life when they are older. [6] This is why, logically, the Catholic Church defends the dignity of marriage and the family.

In the case of homosexual “marriage,” the couple cannot have their own children, and so they must adopt if they want children. These children are denied proper growth and development because they will lack either a father or a mother. As Pope Francis says, “A marriage (made up of man and woman) is not the same as the union of two people of the same sex. To distinguish is not to discriminate but to respect differences… A father is not the same as a mother. We cannot teach future generations that preparing yourself for planning a family based on the stable relationship between a man and a woman is the same as living with a person of the same sex.” [7] In short, a homosexual “marriage” is not marriage and a family cannot be sustained when the parents are the same sex. A child cannot develop properly without both a mother and a father. There are certain things that only a father can teach his child, and certain things that only a mother can. No child should ever be denied proper development, both physically and mentally, because of their parents’ wrongdoings.

Although nowadays the Church emphasizes the importance of treating homosexual people with love, mercy, and compassion, the official teaching has never changed. The Supreme Court was clearly wrong when gay “marriage” was legalized, because is not a valid marriage, it is not open to procreation, and it can have a negative impact on children. Catholics should not remain silent but continue to proclaim the gospel to the world, showing people the error of many worldly ways and speaking the truth. And when we do that, we need to be careful to avoid judging and condemning others. [8] As the Catechism explains, being attracted to a member of the same sex is not a sin, even though the temptation is morally disordered in and of itself. One only sins when one acts upon those desires and/or seriously entertains thoughts of such an action. People who have same-sex attraction still have an equal chance at salvation as everybody else, and this condition is a cross that God allows some to carry. On His Cross, Jesus died for everyone, and paid the price for all sins past, present, and future. Anyone who repents will be forgiven.

Footnotes

[1] Spadaro, Antonio. “A Big Heart Open to God: An Interview with Pope Francis.” America Magazine, 30 Sept. 2017, http://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2013/09/30/big-heart-open-god-interview-pope-francis/.

[2] Here is an example: Hale, Christopher J. “The Pope Francis Statement That Changed the Church on LGBT Issues.” Time, Time, 28 July 2015, time.com/3975630/pope-francis-lgbt-issues/.

[3] It should be pointed out that even Jesus was tempted (see Matthew 4:1-11), but He never sinned.

[4] See John 9:1-34. Even after the blind man was healed, the Pharisees did not accept Jesus and did not believe that the miracle was from God. Continuing the analogy, if we refuse to believe that God permits some to suffer from same-sex attraction and that He can work through the lives of these people, then we are no better than the Pharisees. Condemning people with same-sex attraction is also similar to how the Pharisees judged the blind man who was healed: “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!”

[5] Ecclesiastical law is man-made, while divine law comes from God Himself. An example of an ecclesiastical law can be found canon 378.1 n.3 in the Code of Canon Law in the Catholic Church (1983). It states that a priest must be at least thirty-five years old in order to become a bishop. This law can be changed by the pope if he deems it appropriate; in fact, the age requirement for becoming a bishop was only 30 in the old 1917 Code. Ecclesiastical laws can not only be changed, they can also be dispensed in certain circumstances. Divine laws, however, come from God and cannot be changed. No church authority, even the pope, can change divine law. Therefore, it is not possible for the Church to change her teaching on homosexuality because God Himself declared that this kind of activity is morally wrong.

[6] More information can be found here: Sprigg, Peter. “New Study On Homosexual Parents Tops All Previous Research.” Family Research Council, http://www.frc.org/issuebrief/new-study-on-homosexual-parents-tops-all-previous-research/.

[7] “Same-Sex Marriage Debate: Where Does Pope Francis Stand on Same-Sex Marriage?” The Irish Catholic, irishcatholic.ie/article/same-sex-marriage-debate-5/.

[8] “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:25). While it is important to keep in mind that there is absolute truth and to make it clear that certain things are objectively wrong, it is not okay to condemn or act judgmental toward the people that one is trying to evangelize.

What Makes a Blog Successful?

“I am only a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”

~Mother Teresa

Sometimes people measure their success by human standards. What I mean is, for example, a blogger like me might measure their blog’s degree of success by the amount of views, likes, followers, and comments. However, what seems successful in human terms may not be the reality.

For instance, some people read a lot of blog posts, and even they were extremely inspired, may not be in the right circumstances to click the “like” button or comment on a post. They might be on someone else’s computer, or just not logged into their own account on the same site. On the other hand, to prove that they’re a nice person, other people go around liking every article they read. In the same vein, a follower doesn’t necessarily read every post, and regular readers don’t always become followers.

As you can see, these indications are not always accurate to judge from whether or not the blog was successful. And are we, as human beings, really that insecure? So insecure that we measure our success by what other people think? What about what God thinks?

As site that receives 100,000 likes per month is not necessarily better, from God’s perspective, than one that only receives, say, 50. In fact, there are actually dangers to receiving too many likes! Our human nature causes us to indulge in what appears to be confirmation of our greatness from what other people say about us all over social media!

On the flip side, no matter how many likes we get, we still are envious of those that are receiving more on their sites! (The sins of pride and envy are quite evident here.)

Ironically, the most satisfied bloggers appear to be those that are humble and modest in their views about themselves. One needs to be confident about what they are writing about, and particularly with persuasion, confident that they can explain what is right.

To me, if I can inspire even just one person per day, I’d consider it a success.