Friday, January 11, 2013

The Seventh Commandment and Stewardship

Photo by Elhombredenegro

I recently found a blog post named What's mine is God's and What's yours is God's

The Seventh Commandment

The reality is that the seventh commandment is more than what we know it to be. It is also related to stewardship; taking care of what God has given us.

To further emphasize this and explain it, we should look at what the Catechism has to say about stealing.

 The seventh commandment forbids theft, that is, usurping another's property against the reasonable will of the owner.Even if it does not contradict the provisions of civil law, any form of unjustly taking and keeping the property of others is against the seventh commandment: thus, deliberate retention of goods lent or of objects lost; business fraud; paying unjust wages; forcing up prices by taking advantage of the ignorance or hardship of another.The following are also morally illicit: speculation in which one contrives to manipulate the price of goods artificially in order to gain an advantage to the detriment of others; corruption in which one influences the judgment of those who must make decisions according to law; appropriation and use for private purposes of the common goods of an enterprise; work poorly done; tax evasion; forgery of checks and invoices; excessive expenses and waste. Willfully damaging private or public property is contrary to the moral law and requires reparation. (Catechism 2408-2409)

This passage is a great description of what it means to steal. Stealing is not only in terms of items that have been gained illicitly, but it constitutes a whole lot more. Anyone who has done  poorly done work, out of not wanting to do their best, damaging private property willfully, and lavish spending can all be considered stealing.

This is why stealing and stewardship go hand in hand. We know that nothing belongs to us, on the contrary everything belongs to God. We are simply stewards of what God has given us. It is our duty of taking care of what God has given us. Not doing so would in one sense be considered stealing.

Take these two examples 

You have started a small painting business and get quite some clients. Yet you have been taking advantage of your customers by charging quite a lot and doing a very poor job. You leave most of the work undone, or intentionally not put in your best effort in your job.

The second scenario is that you are given money by your parents to help you out. Let's say you just moved out and your parents give you a good sum of money. Yet you spend it lavishly and loosely. This is kind of like the story of the Prodigal son.

In both these scenarios you are in essence stealing. It is not that you physically took something from someone without asking permission, but that you did not take care of what you were given. In the first scenario you robbed the client of his money, by charging a lot for something while choosing not to put quality in your work. By doing so you have stolen money from someone. In the second scenario although that money was given to you, you did not take care of it by spending in lavishly.

Respecting copyright law

Something that many of us have been guilty of including me. It is something common in our generation that should be addressed, as it is stealing.

Just as there are tangible goods, such as property, cars, land, etc, there are also intangible goods. These are those such as patents, copyrighted works, music, ideas, songs, and much more.

We live in a time where many of us recreationally download and share these intangible assets; most of the time songs and movies. We have gotten use to doing this that we may have forgotten the fact that many times we are breaking copyright law without even knowing it.

The problem is that many times it is hard to know what is copyrighted and what is not. This is true when it comes to using things like images and songs out of another website. Many times these things are free to use, but not always. For this reason it is our job to find out before using something. I have been guilty of breaking copyright laws before simply because of ignorance and lack of understanding. Now I am a lot more careful when it comes to this.

As Catholics we should have respect for the law at hand. Even when it comes to paying taxes and  yes this even means copyright laws. This is just as Jesus said " Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar" Mark 12:17
Stewardship and the seventh Commandment

The word steward is defined as someone who manages the property, finances, and other domestic affairs of another. I thus think that the parable of the talents is a great example of what stewardship means.
“It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
 Mathew 25:14-30

In the parable of the talents we learn about the last servant who chooses to put his talents in a hole, thus not doing anything with them. Later his master takes them away and gives them to the other servant. The passage ends by stating that " he who has not, even what he has will be taken away".
The Catholic church extends our role of stewardship and gives us a bigger role, than just financial matters or dealing with property. The church commands us to be good stewards with all of our actions that they may be of benefit to all. The Catechism of the Catholic church summarizes our role of stewardship.
In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits. The right to private property, acquired or received in a just way, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind. In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself.” The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family.
(Catechism of the Catholic church 2402-2404)
Love of thy neighbor
Thus by it being of benefit to all, it is saying that we are to do what benefits our neighbor. This includes respect and love for each other. Stealing, taking advantage of, and doing actions that only benefit ourselves is not being a good steward. Rather we are to do the opposite, as we are accountable for our actions.
It is that we must act on the best interest of others. We do this by not stealing as that is contrary to the moral law. Doing so hurts thy neighbor which is against Jesus telling us to love thy neighbor. We are also to be good stewards, in that we act by taking care of what has been given to us. By knowing that everything belongs to God, we would want to keep everything in good condition. We wouldn't let something borrowed to us be damaged would we?
A priest is to take care of his congregation, just as a shepherd is to take care of his flock. As children of God we are to take care of each other.




Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My Conversion Story: The Road To Catholicism

I think it would be fair to everyone to write about my conversion to God and his church. It is not that I was not Catholic at some point, but it is that I did not always live it.

My Beginning

I am what most people would call a cradle Catholic. I was baptized Catholic, and was raised in a Catholic home. I went to Mass most Sundays, I would pray each night, and I would pray the Rosary about once a month.

Yet I did not always understand why I did things. I always thought that the reason that I did what I did was because I was Catholic. This is the only answer I could give. It's the only answer that I knew. I had never really read the bible before, never was really catechised, nor had any solid knowledge about the Catholic faith. My Catholic faith for a long time was nothing more than a cultural thing. I believed in God and in his church, I just didn't understand why we did what we did.

Although I grew up in a Catholic family, I also grew up in a mostly liberal household. For the most part I was thought by certain people in my family things that I took as truth.I was told things like masturbation was ok, that it was something normal for humans to do. Things like all religions are basically the same, that besides the difference in belief, they all led to truth about God. That they all led to salvation. I was told that we should learn other faiths and to be respectful of the difference in ideas.

Learning other faiths and being respectful is something that we should all do. The problem comes when it is seen as if Catholicism and Christianity are no different than another religions. For example I was told as a kid that it was ok for a Catholic to practice Buddhism. That it was ok to practice other spiritualities as well. This is simply not true.

Like I said we as Catholics and Christians should learn other faiths, and to be respectful of other people’s ideas. The problem is that we are also called to follow what was told to us by Christ and handed down to the apostles, as well as the church.

It was during my early teens that I started backsliding away from my Catholic faith. This was around the same time that I was introduced to Buddhism. I was also introduced to another philosophy. The Laws of Attraction.

This was a belief I strongly held on to for years. I had read books like The Secret, The Science of Getting Rich, and other New Age books. At first I really thought what this philosophy promoted, the idea that we could be and do whatever we wanted based on what be focus. That if it made you happy then it was good. I first thought it to be no more than the idea that if you held a positive mindset then you could achieve whatever. It wasn't until later that I found out that there was a lot more than this.

My Slide Hill Down

It was when I turned sixteen that I let myself get as far away from God that I would ever do. I had a hard time knowing what a sin was. I started committing sins such as masturbation. How could I know this was bad? After all I was following a belief system that said that if you think something to be bad then it is. At the same time some of my liberal family members would tell me that things like masturbation weren't bad. I could have not known.

When I was seventeen and a half is when I hit rock bottom. I think this is something that is different for each person. All rock bottom means is the time that you let yourself go as low as possible. For me my rock bottom was at seventeen. I remember one day just feeling so guilty and depressed that I just sat depressed near my bed. I really just felt horrible.

It is that I realized that what I was doing was wrong. Although I did not have anybody tell me that the way I was living was wrong, I felt it. Every time I would commit a sin such as masturbation I would feel a feeling of guilt. I did not know why I felt it I just did. Something was telling me that I was not doing what I should. I started questioning the Laws of attraction. I finally started seeing the flaw of logic behind it. If something that I was doing was wrong, then I would feel bad. It doesn’t matter what type of mindset you had.

My journey to the Catholic church

I was just not in the right state of mind. I felt horrible and depressed for weeks. I knew it was that I had come to acceptance that what I was doing was wrong. I felt like Adam and Eve after they had bitten the apple. I felt ashamed.

I made the decision to get closer to God. The first thing I did was pray the rosary. Something just told me to pray it. I started praying at least a couple of times a week. I just kept asking the Blessed Virgin Mary for God’s mercy. Something told me to pray to her. I just kind of knew that she would bring me closer to her son Jesus our Lord and Savior.

After a couple of weeks I started reading the bible almost everyday. This is the book that I credit for really changing my life. It was the new testament that made me realize the truth. From it took me a while to get further, but finally after a couple of months I told myself that I was going to start attending Sunday Mass again.

I felt a burst of thirst for the truth in God that just came out of nowhere. From here God had let me closer to his church little by little. First by going back to church, then by attending confession, and last my getting confirmed. Since then He has let me closer and closer to his church so much that know I am trying to bring people closer to God.






Friday, January 4, 2013

You Are What You Eat


Just yesterday I went to a group at my church that I go to on Thursdays, " The Brotherhood of Saint Dismas". It is a local group where we get together and grow in our faith, as well as do charity work.

As I was in the group, my friend and I were talking about Eucharistic miracles that have happened in our lives. My friend told me about how recently that he had lost some close members in his family, he has seen the Eucharist in a new light. He has felt the real presence of the body of Christ.

I told him that I too have experienced Eucharistic miracles, and not too long ago neither. I suffer from what is known as scrupulosity. It is something that makes daily life difficult to cope at times. It is easy for people with scrupulosity to have intrusive thoughts, see sin where there is no sin, and have a hard time remembering past sins.

I told my friend that about just a week ago I made the decision to do my best to go to daily Mass. The thing is that each day that I received Communion, the more I felt God's presence. It was out of a sudden easier for me to deal with all these obstacles that I have because of scrupulosity. Somehow I was not disturbed by all these things, be it the intrusive thoughts, or even the remembrance of past sins. I just felt at peace, and I felt God's mercy. I felt closer to God.

It was not until another of my friends in that same group spoke and said " you are what you eat". Once his said these words, I thought about it for a moment; not really getting what he was talking about, but finally it all made sense to me. Just as people say this phrase to describe someone's diet, this same phrase can be attached to the Eucharist.

The Catechism of The Catholic Church 460 states
460 The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature":78 "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God."79 "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."80 "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."81

This passage is describing a theological concept known in the west as Divinization, while in the Eastern churches, and the Orthodox Theosis. I have to say that this concept has been one that I recently learned about, and probably one I will struggle with my whole life. This passage does not mean that we become God himself, or even equal to God. It means that we share in the divine nature of God, meaning that since we are made in the image and likeness of God, we begin to share in the Beatific vision. This means seeing God face to face as he really is, The Trinity itself would be a great example.
The more that you take the Eucharist which is the body of Christ are you not taking him in? Are you not sharing in his divinity and having him with you? For this reason it is that the more we take the Eucharist, the more that we become in a way as Christ is.