Adam’s Apple: Catholic Evangelization, Trial by Fire

Ever been challenged to save a Soul?

Caveat:
This is, at the start, purely just thoughts from a recent personal
interaction and the resulting flurry of the mind.  It’s not meant to insult anyone,
but take it as it may, questions seeking answers and truth seeking seekers.

I had a recent internet contact with a distant relative whom I hadn’t heard from in over 40 years.  Back in the day, we had occasional, but not frequent meetings.  He is maybe 10-15 years older than me.  As I understood his spirituality back then, I would classify his faith as atheism, as a person who did not believe in God.  Yet, like myself, he is also a scientist.

Now, I was born into Catholicism, and although I would not call myself fervent in the faith back then, I did attend Mass weekly, received the Sacraments, didn’t eat meat on Fridays and always added my nickel to the collection basket.  Yet, my faith was strong enough, even back then, to kinda feel sorry for his lack of it.  There was just this hole there that I so wished I could help fill.  But that hole seemed as though it was locked behind a door that was plastered with the words, “Prove it!” which, of course, is the scientist’s motto.

Now, my own faith has greatly grown since then.  I would describe it today as having a pocket full of diamonds, that I would just love to give away.  (And yet, in truth, God’s love and salvation are worth an incalculable amount more than diamonds – like, our eternal lives!)  However, evangelism* by Catholics is not something innate, as it may seem to be with “evangelical protestants,” though it’s probably not any easier for most of them either.  It is something most Catholics tend to avoid to the extreme that even the word ‘evangelize’ gives us the shutters.  And I’ve discovered through a life of many periods of unemployment and recovery attempts, that if there is one thing I have unquestionably proven as a scientific fact, it is that I couldn’t sell a glass of fresh water to a dehydrated nomad in the desert, for free!  I have just not been gifted as a salesman or evangelist!  As proof, how many time have you visited my webpage entitled “Whispers to the Wind”?  And that’s why it’s named as such (Like diamonds tossed into quicksand, they just don’t know what they’re missing).

Anyway, after pleasant, yet cautious reintroductions to this distant relative through a popular social networking service, I took the ever challenging, evangelical dip to ask this relative if he ever found God in all the messes of his life.  As I know it, he’s lost at least a wife and granddaughter to unpleasant deaths – not easy experiences to grapple with – especially without a faith in God to help cope with those losses.  And the slightly closer than distant answer I received, was that he didn’t believe in any “organized” religion, but did believe he had a ‘spirituality’.  Yet, he was still “trying to find himself.”  I would interpret all of that as still being “lost,” still having a gaping, unfilled hole in his life.  So, being the non-evangelical Catholic that I, sadly profess to be, I decided to let it go at that…

Then, just the following weekend, I read a book that was exaggeratedly recommended from several sources as a “must read.”  It was called, “Heaven is For Real” by Todd Burpo.  If you’ve read it, your response might be “Ahhhh yes, that was awesome!”  If not, in summary, it is the true story about the medical challenges of a father and his young son, from the father’s viewpoint.   Within a year this man had experienced several personal emergency-medical situations, immediately followed by the misdiagnosed burst appendix of his 3 year old son.  After that traumatic event and the miraculous recovery of the boy, the still very young youth slowly began to reveal extraordinary wisdom about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and heaven, that he apparently learned in a “near death experience” during the surgery.  Yes, we’ve heard all those stories before.   But this time, coming from the mouth of a 4-year old who had no detailed indoctrination of those religious intricacies of the faith, nor knowledge of things, like his mother’s miscarriage before his birth or the personal details of a grandfather he never knew, this story was just a bit more believable to this  semi-skeptical Catholic.

As a matter of fact, in my maybe slightly premature excitement about the book, I dove into evangelist mode and recommended it to this distant relative of mine, in hopes that maybe it could be a back door entry for bringing him to a new-found belief in Jesus – my Catholic evangelization attempt.  Uggggh, wrong!  Felt like I tossed a pretzel stick to a starving grizzly bear.

The response I received was, “Yeah, people have been mentioning that to me for ages.  Just haven’t gotten around to it yet.”  “But . . . have you read this book by ‘——,’ he’s an MD!”  Now the “MD” (in my opinion) is one of those, I’d call ‘crank, psychiatrists’ who has discovered this great “new spirituality” on reincarnation.  And he’s turned it into his own “new” religion that can be used to “heal” all those sick people.  He’s got dozens of examples of people who have been ‘healed’ through encounters with their 2000 year old, former selves, who have now been dragging them down in their current lives.

Which then brings us into a whole different can of worms or cave of snakes or whatever you’d like to call it – but, of which I’d truly prefer to avoid, though now it just may be too late!  Remember, I’m a typical, evangelization-avoiding Catholic.  And apologetics** is one of the reasons why.  I’m just not real big on confrontation.  You see – we believe by FAITH.  They DO NOT believe by proof.  And they will do everything in their power to prove you wrong, even if that means twisting the truth a little – which is perfectly acceptable for the faithless, since morality is all relative (to them) anyway.  And that, then, leaves – everyone nowhere!  God didn’t say I had to force you to believe – It’s your free choice.  But in order for you TO believe you need to take a few things on Faith.  And when you do, you WILL find that everything that CAN be proven only confirms everything you’ve already taken on Faith, as taught by God, through His Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit.  God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are One, and are TRUTH.

Which brings to me this question, “Does Satan use, sometimes good, maybe true, stories to bring confusion among the faithful?”  – the apparitions of Mary, the miracles of more recent times, all of these “out of body” near-death stories, the saints, etc, etc.  I’m sure he certainly does.  Those weak in their faith might get really mixed up by miraculous reincarnation stories compared to miraculous prayers answered, or the meaning of resurrection, or eternal life.  A bite of “the apple” presented by that heresy (reincarnation) could actually lead to a total loss of one’s faith in God – which is exactly what Satan desires.

But at least at this point in my faith, I immediately recognized my relative’s dilemma, and the absolute falsity of this “MD’s” teaching.  It’s simply ‘new age’ stuff.#  It’s what the Bible and Jesus teach us as evil, wrong, witchcraft, occult, etc.  And it’s simply not true.

You see, reincarnation teaches that mortal life is done over and over and over again until it is finally gotten right.  That could mean, why worry about doing anything good or right, because there is always another chance.  It could mean maybe if I can get in touch with my earlier selves, I can learn what I did wrong then and I can fix it now.  It’s saying that I am the controller of everything in my life and there is no God and no need for God.  But – just run into an unexpected death, or a job loss, or an accidental disability, or an incurable cancer and what happens to your control?  Where do you go when you lose it, when you lose it all?  No, reincarnation is not truth!  Life IS eternal, but there is only one shot at this mortality part.  We have only this mortal “lifetime” to make the connection with God.  And all the information, knowledge, spirituality and human community we need is available to make that connection.  God loves, God forgives, God wants nothing more than our being with Him forever.  But it is our choice – to believe!  And that choice is whether or not we spend our eternity WITH or without him, heaven or hell.  ETERNITY!  And loneliness is an awful despairing place.  A place we wouldn’t even wish on our enemies!  And that’s why it’s hard to see a dear relative lost in the mire of unbelief.

Then the next question is – what about our own belief in all this “out of body” stuff, like the boy and his experience of heaven.  If we don’t believe the MD, why should we believe the boy?   Did Satan use the boy’s story to discredit our own Faith?  I think he did in this situation.  You can’t disprove mystery with mystery.  It was just the wrong tool for me to use to introduce Jesus to a spiritually mixed up person.  In retrospect, if I recommended any book it probably should have been the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  But after his lifetime of refusal to believe, that probably wouldn’t have been the correct tool either.  And it’s hard enough to even get Catholics to read the Catechism, as answer-filled as it is! (Remember I couldn’t sell a salmon to a hungry polar bear – for free!).  Maybe my relative’s response, his recommendation of a new-age book, was just a test from well-versed anti-Catholic, or a strong Catholic-in-disguise – just don’t know him well enough yet!

And so I might ask myself, How strong IS my faith?  Jesus said “Whoever is not with me is against me and whoever does not gather with me scatters”(Mt 12:30).  So,  if we are FOR Jesus (God) – even though we may not fully understand everything, we ARE with Him!   Now, I must admit, I have not fully read the MD’s book, just the web summary of his philosophy.  But I did interestingly discover in that summary a very slight hint of truth there – maybe again Satan’s lure, but regardless, his philosophy is clearly NOT “With or For” Jesus!

Here’s that quote: ” In Many Lives, Many Masters, the author opened an unexpected door into the astonishing realm of past-life regression. In Only Love Is Real, he showed us how we all possess soul mates from our pasts who wait to reunite with us today. Now, drawing on the wisdom of the Masters, the spirit guides who shape our destinies, this bestselling author gives us his most outstanding achievement to date. He reveals the essential life force in the universe and the ultimate healing energy. Its name is love.”

So ultimately, his “ultimate healing energy” is GOD!!!  All he needs to do is to make the transformation that, as St. John said – “God is Love.”  And then make the transformations that Jesus is God and came to teach us Love, to show us the “way” to salvation, to heaven.  He came to show us that despite the suffering we may have to endure in these mortal lives, there is HOPE, there is eternal life.  And He died for us, to make that point.  All Truth!  But unfortunately that truth gets twisted to avoid or eliminate God from the picture and replace Him with “Ourselves” and our “Spiritual Masters.”

I guess now I more personally understand why the Church so slowly acknowledges the truth of many of the Marian apparitions.  They can be dangerously used to undermine our own faith, especially as evangelization tools.  I’m certain that Satan would love nothing more than my dropping the ball with this relative of mine.  After his lifetime of maybe 70 years of skepticism, disbelief and tragedies – I now ask myself, how does a simple, young deacon bring Jesus to the “hardened-lost”???    How do you, my beloved readers?

Come, Holy Spirit!!!!!

Would love to hear your thoughts or comments…

____________________

*Evangelization is that process in the Christian religion which seeks to spread the Gospel and the knowledge of the Gospel throughout the world. It can be defined as:

The announcement of the Good News of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit with the goal of inviting all listeners to trust Him. —Dr. Alvin A. Low, Touching Lives for Eternity (Effective Evangelism), published by Lulu.com, p. 10.

In its precise sense, evangelization is the missio ad gentes directed to those who do not know Christ. In a wider sense, it is used to describe ordinary pastoral work, while the phrase “new evangelization” designates pastoral outreach to those who no longer practice the Christian faith. —CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Doctrinal Note on some aspects of Evangelization, 12, 2007

**Apologetics (from Greek ἀπολογία, “speaking in defense”) is the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of reason. Early Christian writers (c. 120-220) who defended their faith against critics and recommended their faith to outsiders were called apologist.

#The New Age movement is a Western spiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. Its central precepts have been described as “drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and then infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational psychology, holistic health, parapsychology, consciousness research and quantum physics“.[2] It aims to create “a spirituality without borders or confining dogmas” that is inclusive and pluralistic.[3] Another of its primary traits is holding to “a holistic worldview,”[4] thereby emphasising that the Mind, Body and Spirit are interrelated[1] and that there is a form of Monism and unity throughout the universe.[5] It further attempts to create “a worldview that includes both science and spirituality”[6] and thereby embraces a number of forms of science and pseudoscience.

Definitions referenced from Wikipedia

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