Archives For July 2013

Páuperem

July 31, 2013 — Leave a comment

“On the Kindness and the Blessedness of the Poor”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 5:3).

A photo of a few children I visited yesterday:

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Of the many documents that developed out of the Second Vatican Council, my favorite is Gaudium et Spes, a pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world. Reflecting on recent events in my life in Honduras, a sentence from Gaudium came to mind earlier today: “Many nations, poorer in economic goods, are quite rich in wisdom and can offer noteworthy advantages to others.” As a young man from the U.S., I recognize that my country is rich in economic goods, but it suffers in the area of wisdom. Honduras, on the other hand, is poor in economic goods and rich in wisdom.

In a way it is a blessing to be poor economically because the rich often forget about the most important things in life: faith and love. Generally speaking, the poor place their trust in God while the rich place their trust in material advantages. Though poverty surrounds me here in Honduras, I’ve yet to hear anyone complain about a lack of wealth.

Just yesterday I spoke with a family of eight living in a small hut up in the mountains. They have no electricity and no clean water. Just a few months ago their house burnt down, so they had to built another. They have weekly encounters with poisonous snakes, and they are frequently robbed of what little they have. For food, they cook rice and beans over a fire and collect fruit from the ground in the jungle. Despite all of these misfortunes and disadvantages, they ceaselessly praise God for their health. They rarely pray for themselves because they are so busy praying for others. Their attitude towards life is incredibly positive, yet they earn meager wages and have next to nothing.

Though financially impoverished in the worst of ways, they gave me gifts in offers that I couldn’t refuse. I left their house with photos, toys, and food for the road. They took pleasure in making me feel hospitable because they considered my presence a gift from God. I can’t adequately explain how awesome that family was to me. They are the beacon of hope in today’s world. I’d trade their faith and their generosity for anything.

I ask that you pray for the safety of that family. May God change our hearts so that we become more like the them. May our faithful Lord give the gift of his kingdom to the most deprived amongst us.

Contact me by e-mail (inczdj0@wfu.edu) if you have any questions about how you can support my service in Honduras.

Best wishes,
David

Sanctificationis

July 29, 2013 — Leave a comment

“On Certainty and Sanctification”

“I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me,” (1 Corinthians 4:4).

A painting of St. Paul by El Greco:

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Have I been justified? This question merits attention because it has divided evangelical Protestants and orthodox Catholics for centuries. The reformers of the 16th century claimed that a Christian can know with absolute certainty whether or not he or she has been justified. Generally speaking, they thought, “If I have faith in Christ, then how could God reject me? Jesus has already accomplished my salvation; therefore, I am saved when I believe in Him.” Using this line of argumentation, Protestants generally consider “salvation” or “eternal life” to begin at a specific moment in the past. They say things like, “I was saved when I first believed in Christ through the grace of God.”

While there is some truth to this Protestant doctrine, Catholics at the Council of Trent felt impelled to condemn the Protestant belief in absolute certainty. There are a number of reasons for this condemnation. Primarily, the council fathers associated justification with sanctification. They said that our justification is our sanctification. To separate the two would be a disservice to the Bible and to theological tradition. Let’s think about the following quote from Paul’s letter to the Hebrews:

“Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord,” (Hebrews 12:14).

Holiness, or sanctity, is the result of a process of sanctification, which Christ achieves through us over the course of our lives. Without this sanctification, which makes us holy and acceptable to God, we cannot “see” the Lord. During this process, God showers his faithful with graceful and ever-increasing blessings. When we accept these blessings in faith and in love, we grow in sanctity and conform ourselves to the image of Christ. God’s grace is inexhaustible, so pointing to one moment in life as a moment of “salvation” makes little sense because God’s grace extends in both temporal directions infinitely. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are specific historical moments, but what matters for us is our encounter with the risen Lord. This encounter grows and grows without end. Because of God’s grace, we can initiate a conversation that always gets better and never disappoints.

Where, then, do Catholics find biblical support for this idea of sanctifying grace? Take a look at the following verses:

2 Peter 3:18 – “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

2 Cor 9:10 – “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.”

Combined, these verses bear witness to the truth of Catholic doctrine–namely, that grace multiplies and that the multiplication of that grace is connected to our “righteousness” or “justification.”

Aside from understanding and accepting the intimacy between salvation and sanctifying grace, Catholic theologians recognize that our justification is uncertain because St. Paul himself was unsure of his righteousness. He wrote, “I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me,” (1 Corinthians 4:4). The Holy Judge will decide whether or not we will be acquitted. Only He is certain of our fate. We, meanwhile, must “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12). I have no right to say that God will save me. Only He has that right. Additionally, Paul writes, “I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified,” (1 Corinthians 9:27). This declaration presumes that if he did not “punish his body and enslave it,” he would risk his salvation. We must pursue holiness: for if we don’t, we may be disqualified from the race towards salvation.

Hence, for these two reasons–the uncertainty of salvation and the connectedness of salvation and sanctifying grace–I assert that justification is a life-long process, not a moment of commitment. Our salvation is a covenant constantly renewed and reinvigorated through prayer, through the sacraments, and through social justice; it’s not a done deal.

May the Lord bless your path of sanctification with abundant and increasing graces. May He fortify you as He draws you closer to Himself and to eternal life.

Let me end with another piece of wisdom from Paul: “If you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall,” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

–David

Every so often, God fills my heart with a moment of empathetic compassion. Today contains one of those moments.

For the last few weeks I’ve been in Honduras working with and doing research on a non-governmental organization called “Helping Honduras Kids.” This organization runs an orphanage for 20-some abandoned and/or abused children and an elementary school for around 100 impoverished children. As a way of rewarding a few of the children who are struggling economically yet thriving educationally, we–the foreign volunteers–decided to invite 7 kids to a day at the local water park. A few details are worth mentioning.

1) Most of the children did not know what a “water park” was when we invited them.

2) Most of the children had never entered a pool before today.

3) One 3rd-grade girl was shocked by the fact that air-powered hand-driers exist. (She literally leaped up into the air and screamed when the machine began to run.)

While these little details are actually not particularly surprising considering the situations in which these children find themselves, they are worthwhile to mention because they highlight the overwhelming joy and sense of adventure that the kids felt at the park. They had a great time!

However, a darker story overshadows the numerous positives associated with the trip to the water park. Three of the children we invited are siblings. The oldest of the three is a sixth grade boy. The middle child is a fifth grade girl. The youngest is a girl in first grade. Near the end of the day, the two older siblings walked over to me with looks of sadness on their faces. The girl said, “Our mother is gone.” I confusedly replied, “What do you mean?” She responded, “Last night she just packed her bags and left. She couldn’t take it here anymore. Our father is a drunkard and is abusive. We have no money. She felt helpless, so she left. She said she’s going to the US. If she makes it, then she’ll send us money. If she dies, then she dies.” At first I couldn’t believe what the girl was saying. Just last night their mother had signed the consent form allowing us to take the children to the water park, and now she decided to run away? I was shocked. There was not much left for me to say, but I assured the kids that I would pray for them and for their family. I also told them that they could count on me for any support they might need in the future. They smiled briefly, but the smiles faded away within seconds. Both the children and I knew that they would be returning home to a nasty mess tonight.

This factual story seems like a clip out of a novel or a soap opera, but it’s powerful to me because it’s true. I care about these kids. I teach them in school every weekday. Their success both personal and academic is important to me. If you feel in your heart that you need to reach out to these three children, then please do. Pray for them or get in touch with me to find out more about what you can do to support them.

May the Lord bless all the children who are struggling to find unity and hope in their lives. May He give us the grace to support them.

Your friend in Christ,
David

inczdj0@wfu.edu

“On Fear and Peace”

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Though in general I’m not a particularly fearful person, I was afraid to come to Honduras. This past June I finished up a year abroad in England, a country with a murder rate of 1.2. For three days I returned to the U.S. to visit with family and friends. The U.S. has a murder rate of 4.8. Then I left to spend the summer in Honduras, which has a murder rate of 91.6. Needless to say, it was a tough transition.

Oxford has a friendly feel to it. It’s so safe that the police don’t even carry firearms. Honduras, on the other hand, comes off as a hostile place. Not a day goes by in which I didn’t see heavy weaponry in the streets. There are armed guards everywhere. I never know who to trust. Extreme precautions are necessary.

My initial fear was understandable, maybe even helpful. However, fear can also be paralyzing. It is one thing to have a healthy dose of fear in order to keep you on your toes, but it is entirely another thing to be so fearful that each day is a struggle. Fortunately, I have not by seriously threatened by the second type of fear.

Here’s why: Romans 5:1. “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” St. Paul writes. Faith leads to peace with God through Christ. When we are faithful, we are in a good place. St. Augustine prayed to God, “Our heart is restless until it rests in You.” I find Augustine’s declaration to be true. When we find peace in Christ, our hearts can rest. Threatening, hostile fear gives way to healthy, sensible fear. Hope conquers evil and renews us with God’s peace.

Many medieval theologians spoke about death in a positive way because they knew that death would ultimately take them to union with God in the fullest sense. Even St. Paul said, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain,” (Phillippians 1:21). Knowing that the joy of Christ will fill our souls even more after we depart from this world gives me the strength that I need to make it through life in Honduras and life in general. For me belief in the afterlife is not a cop out or a reason to ignore the struggles of the world; actually, my hope for the ultimate fulfillment of God’s kingdom fortifies my resolve to make a difference here and now.

Let the peace of Christ transform you! Pray that Jesus will guide you through your fears in order to lead you to Himself!

Your friend in Christ,
David

Caritas: On Love

July 16, 2013 — 3 Comments

“Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love,” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

1 Cor. 13:13 is by far my favorite verse from the Bible. It shows that love is the greatest of all the virtues–greater than faith and greater than hope. It is my opinion that many Christians live with a faith-centered mindset. Don’t get me wrong; faith is important. However, love is greater!

Yet how often do we reflect on the meaning of the word love? What is love? The following biblical verse comes to mind immediately: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” (John 15:13). This quote from Jesus nearly moves me to tears every time that I read it. Our Lord clearly teaches that love requires an ultimate self-gift, a fatal sacrifice. Though it may seem that we are incapable of such an act, I believe wholeheartedly that we can and must spiritually and literally “die” for our friends as Jesus died for us. We–the baptized–have the power of the Holy Spirit within us so that we may live as Christ lived. Equally, the Spirit gives us the fortitude to die as Christ died. We cannot take away the sin of the world in the same way that Christ did thorough his death and resurrection, but we can benefit from the fruits of the Holy Spirit in order to do our part in reducing sin and spreading love.

If you have a free moment, I ask you to reflect on the following questions:

1) Are you ready to give your life for your friends?

2) In the coming week what actions can you take to initiate or continue the process of sanctification through self-gift?

3) What might giving your life for your friends look like in this day and age?

May the Holy Spirit fill you with the strength of God. May He bless you with many opportunities to give to others by sacrificing yourself.

With love,

David Inczauskis

Nostram Salútem

July 14, 2013 — 4 Comments

“On Grace and Salvation: A Post Dedicated to My Protestant Brothers and Sisters”

We are saved by the grace of God! How accurate and abiding is this basic truth of the Christian faith! Yet how much misunderstanding it has produced!

The most common Protestant objection to the Catholic Church deals with a simple misconception about what the Church actually teaches. Many Protestants believe that Catholics think that they can earn their salvation merely by meritorious actions that please the Lord. While some uneducated Catholics may claim that moral activity is the only means of justification, the Catholic Church has constantly and vigorously condemned the heresy of works-based salvation. The true position is that of justification by faith and by God’s grace.

The reason for the difference, then, is the addition of the word alone to the salvation “formula.” The Church has maintained that salvation by faith alone is un-biblical. Though I’m not typically one to quote the Bible without providing the context, I would ask Protestants to consider the following verses (in the appropriate context):

1) “And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God fora good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 3:21). This section demonstrates that baptism, a sacrament, also saves. Furthermore, the Bible connects baptism with a good conscience.

2) “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone,” (James 2:24). The only time that salvation by “faith alone” is mentioned in the Bible, it is explicitly condemned. Given that James 2:24 is the inspired word of God, it is very difficult to explain away the verse.

3) “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did,” (Luke 13:3). Repentance, too, is essential.

4) “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified,” (Romans 2:13). Justification necessitates the “doing” of the law, which is written on the hearts of all men according to the teaching of St. Paul.

Now, I equally understand that there are numerous verses that suggest a faith-based salvation. They are not to be ignored. However, neither should we ignore the verses that I’ve noted above. We can’t toss out certain parts of the Bible simply because those parts don’t align with our personal theology. Therefore, with this in mind, I choose the Catholic faith. Or, better put, God has ordained for me to be a follower of the Catholic Church. I accept both sorts of verses. We are saved by faith, but not by faith alone!

Please leave a comment if you have a statement or a question to add.

May the Lord our Savior bless you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN!

Your friend in Christ,

David Inczauskis

 

Iudicare

July 11, 2013 — Leave a comment

“On Tolerance and Intolerance”

A few days ago I was teaching the natural sciences to a sixth grade class in Honduras. The subject of the lesson was human development. The textbook enumerated a few different areas of human development including physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual. Under the “spiritual” heading, the textbook authors wrote that one develops spiritually by acquiring certain universal virtues, among which are love, respect, solidarity, and tolerance. Upon reading that section, I reflected for a moment on the “virtue” of tolerance. Fulton Sheen once wrote, “Tolerance applies only to persons, but never to principles. Intolerance applies only to principles, but never to persons.” This distinction is wise, yet infrequently recognized in today’s world. I should be tolerant of another person because that person espouses an inherent human dignity, but that personal tolerance does not necessarily entail an implicit acceptance of the other person’s ideas and/or principles.

Where, then, do I think many of us–including myself–have gone wrong in the recent past? Let me pose the following question to illustrate my point: how often have you heard a friend say, “I believe such-and-such, yet I would never want to impose that belief on others.”? I certainly encounter it frequently, and I am guilty of employing it from time to time, too. The result of this mindset is a vast and dangerous indifference that prefers political correctness over the truth. Let’s be honest. Where would Christians be today if our forerunners failed to ruffle some feathers back in the 1st century Roman Empire? What would Black America look like now if brave souls from the past had decided not to put forth an agenda of equal opportunity because that agenda might step on some toes? These revolutionaries certainly did not give way to permissibility simply for the sake of permissibility. They fought for what they believed deep inside. They refused to yield to the game of polite politics because their cause was great. We don’t have to be tolerant of ideas. When it comes to the realm of principles, intolerance is to be encouraged.

In the voting booth tolerance does not have to be the default position, especially if we think that we hold the correct position. Let’s debate the difficult topics not with reluctance but with passion, logic, and truth. We don’t have to bow down to negative historical trends when we have every opportunity to shape them anew towards the greater good.

I pray for the reemergence of the recognition of the dignity of every human person alongside the reemergence of the recognition that not every opinion is equally valid. Though there may have been several positives that came out of the Protestant Reformation, there is at least one negative that has spawned the evil of moral relativism: individualistic thinking. Don’t get me wrong. We should think for ourselves. However, we should not think only for ourselves. Our choices have implications, so we have the duty to think through what those implications might be. If we reflect carefully and research rigorously, then we should not be afraid to act by voicing our opinions in public. We may encounter resistance, but that resistance might be the first step towards building a better world.

May God bring you explosive and numerous blessings.

–David Inczauskis