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COVID and Church Doctrine

The only thing that may be more divisive in our country today than politics is the COVID vaccine. Many disagree on the issue, including me and who I refer to as my creative genius, Mary Kate, who manages Mark Joseph Ministries’ communications. Although not the point of this blog, we can disagree without being disagreeable. It is possible and I would argue a good thing. In doing so, our country would be a better place and we would have more peace in our lives.   

Related to the title of this blog, some background is required. In addition to those I’ve heard about in the news, I now personally know two people who face termination from their employment if they’re not vaccinated. One works 100% remotely, which would seem to pose no risk to a safe work environment. Both Catholic, they’ve looked to their faith, our Church, for support in the form of a religious exemption, which is stated as being valid by the organizations forcing vaccinations. 

In doing an internet search, there are at least 10 Bishops who have issued instructions to their clergy, mandating they not assist the faithful in any efforts to claim religious exemption. Add to that many Bishops mandating vaccination for all Diocesan employees. Interesting view by Church leadership, as you’ll see below. 

You may have been vaccinated. I fully support whatever decision you make for yourself on this issue, given your free will and conscience (the point of this blog), which was given to you by God. That said, points that might contribute to people’s hesitation are worth considering, whether you agree with them or not: 

  • Vaccines typically take 8-10 years to develop, test, and be approved by the FDA. The 3 COVID vaccines on the market began being used on a wide basis in less than a year, with FDA approval granted months after initial use. 
  • Messenger RNA, the key component in 2 of 3 of the vaccines, has never been put into the human body before. 
  • There are numerous examples of severe side effects from the vaccine, namely blood clots and associated disorders, inflammation of the heart, including in teenagers, life threatening allergic reactions, Bell’s Palsy, miscarriages, and premature births. 
  • Given the short timeframe of the trials, less than a year vs. 8-10 as stated above, we have no idea what the long-term impacts are of these vaccines. 
  • The swine flu vaccine was stopped in 1976 by the US Government when fatalities from the shot hit 53. The government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) indicates there have been 6,128 deaths in the US due to the COVID vaccines. The number is double that worldwide. 
  • There are treatments (not vaccines) that have been proven to be effective in curing patients of COVID, specifically hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, and monoclonal antibody therapy, along with Vitamins C, D, and zinc. 
  • It’s widely known that those who risk severe sickness or death are the elderly and those with comorbidities. We also know that our youth rarely get COVID and if they do their symptoms are mild unless they have comorbidities. So, what is the rationale for 100% vaccination? 
  • When COVID broke, the issues were deaths, ventilators, and hospital beds, none of which have spiked with the uptick in cases and the delta variant.
  • The government’s (and big tech and big business and others) insistence on all people being vaccinated negates whether they’ve had COVID, therefore having the antibodies which are recognized as being better protection than the vaccine. They’re being forced to be vaccinated anyhow.
  • On May 1st, the CDC decided to stop tracking break through cases (already vaccinated), but instead only cases from the fully vaccinated that result in hospitalization or death, leaving health officials without full data. 
  • If vaccines work, why the masks for those vaccinated? If vaccines work, why would those vaccinated care if others aren’t vaccinated?   

You may think the above is pertinent or not. You may be vaccinated or not. Again, I respect your decision. That said, I think we can all agree that the above list could give pause to at least some, which leads to the following. 

Specific to Church doctrine (the point of this blog), you’ve read before where I’ve stated that all the answers to life can be found in Scripture and from the teachings of the Church. As it turns out, the Church speaks to the above issue in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC): 

  • Our identity in Christ, made in the image and likeness of God
    • CCC Paragraph 1700 – The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God; it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude. It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment. By his deliberate actions, the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience. Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth. With the help of grace they grow in virtue, avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son to the mercy of our Father in heaven. In this way they attain to the perfection of charity.
  • Our judgement, given moral conscience 
    • CCC Paragraph 1776 – “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”
    • CCC Paragraph 1782 – Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. “He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.”

If interested in the above, including how it relates to real life issues, I suggest reading the Catechism, Paragraphs 1700 – 1802. Understand, I’m not a theologian, but as supported by the Catechism (and other sources, including Scripture and other Church teaching), we know that:

  • We are made in the image and likeness of God,
  • With a free will and a conscience,
  • Which God calls us to exercise. 

As such, I’m not sure why some of our Bishops are hesitant to have Clergy assist with religious exemptions; or why some would be forcing vaccinations on all Diocesan employees when arguably at least some are resisting due to matters of conscience. Lastly, in the name of social justice, what about the impact of forced vaccinations on those in most need in our society? 

This is tough stuff, and we live in a challenging world. There’s always going to be an interplay between politics, culture, and faith. That said, we know the impact of the life changing message of Jesus Christ. With our dramatically declining numbers, it’s my prayer that all Christians be intentional about rebuilding our Church, genuinely sharing the love (and truth) of Christ both to those in our pews and outside our Church walls. 

As always, please feel free to contact me at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com with questions, comments, concerns, challenges, or prayer requests.  

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Remember…God made you for GREATNESS!!!

 

Mark Joseph

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The Gift of Our Faith

Do you ever wonder what you’d do without your faith? How you’d experience life? It’s hard to imagine. Having Jesus Christ as my lens through which to see the world is an extreme comfort. After all, we know the end of the story…as they say. We know who wins. 

As I referenced two weeks ago, life can and does get tough. We are presented with many challenges. Some are far reaching and although may not have an immediate personal impact, can create worry nonetheless. Others are very personal and close to home. 

Related to the latter, this COVID thing is crazy. It hits different people in various ways. I have a friend, Ben, who’s been in the hospital with it since June 17th, first on a ventilator and getting dialysis. We would get updates from his wife, Mariely, regularly and for a while they weren’t good. He was in real danger. By the time this blog posts, he will hopefully have had the trach tube removed and is now able to talk. 

I visited Ben recently and he looked amazing, really amazing, especially given what he’s gone through. We prayed together and received Communion from a visiting Deacon. Ben is wearing a scapular and has a Rosary ring. There’s a large picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the windowsill. Given the great devotion they have to our Virgin Mother, Mariely was sharing with me the Marian Feasts that take place during August, each one marking a new milestone in Ben’s recovery. Mariely also shared the soothing impact it has on Ben when she prays the Rosary daily, along with the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  

Because of COVID, I had stopped going to daily Mass and was dragging my feet going back. It was Ben insisting that I do so, that got me to go again…never missing. I work with Ben. I love asking him to pray before our meetings, where he always reverently invokes our Lady. Ben is one of the holiest, kindest, conscientious, most compassionate (and btw smartest), men I know and I’m not just saying that because he’s been sick. He deeply loves our Lord, along with his wife and kids. His faith is a part of him. You can hear it in his voice and see it in his actions.  

 

Be Not Afraid

I was on a call this past week, where the person I was talking to said, “be not afraid”, making reference to our faith. I reminded him that it says some derivative of that, 365 times in Scripture. Ben has no fear because he has faith. It was such a joy being with Ben and Mariely, whose faith is so strong. What an example they are. 

Here’s the deal. We are going to have challenges in life…big struggles, even tragedies. They’re going to occur whether we’re in relationship with Jesus or not. Here’s what I know, having done it both ways. Life is always better with God in it. Our faith really matters. It changes everything, including eliminating the fear. It’s a gift. It’s very apparent in those who truly live it, like Ben and Mariely. 

Please join me in praying for Ben (and Mariely), that he soon gets out of the hospital and fully recovers prior to his ordination to the Diaconate this fall. Let’s additionally pray for all of those who lack faith and live in fear. May God bless all of us on our journeys. 

As always, please feel free to contact me at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com with questions, comments, concerns, challenges, or prayer requests.  

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

God made you for GREATNESS!!!

 

Mark Joseph

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The Boiling Frog and the Church

A quick internet search dispels the myth of the boiling frog. Who knew? From Wikipedia, “the boiling frog” is a fable describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death”. Tests indicate that the frog jumps out of the water as the temperature rises and it becomes uncomfortable.

The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of initiatives or threats that arise gradually”. I don’t know about you, but whether a fallacy or not, I feel like the boiling frog of late. Over the course of the last year, particularly related to COVID, but otherwise too, we have witnessed our government take more and more control over our lives, locally and nationally. While the actual health impact of the pandemic can be debated, what can’t be disputed are the changes we’ve been forced to endure, whether related to our:

  • Churches
  • Restaurants
  • Work
  • Schools
  • Stores
  • Gyms

And the list goes on. In the greatest and freest country in world history, under penalty of law (and shame), we are being forced to act a certain way. We continue to destroy lives and livelihoods.

Don’t get me wrong. My wife and I are taking COVID very seriously, following all the protocols, with it dramatically impacting our lives over the last 12 months. Related, many of us are familiar with Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day, where he lives the same day over and over. We were just commenting on us living Groundhog Week, with it being the same week after week after week. Thank God Spring is right around the corner.

It’s not politically controversial to note that the current administration is in favor of greater government control over our lives, given its stated agenda and actions. Our liberties are decreasing. We’re all the boiling frogs while the rich and powerful appear to be getting more rich and powerful.

So, what does the Church have to say about this. Chapter 2, Article 1 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses The Person and Society. Two paragraphs make the primary points:

  • CCC 1881 – Each community is defined by its purpose and consequently obeys specific rules; but “the human person is and ought to be the principle, the subject and the end of all social institutions.
  • CCC 1883 – Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, i.e. family, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.

I’d invite you to read the entire Chapter…find the Catechism on the internet with a quick search if you don’t have a copy.

So, as always, here’s the $64,000 question. What are we to do? Here are some ideas:

  1. Do your own research, identifying the issues. We can’t solve for something we don’t understand.
  2. Pray about it:
    1. What are we witnessing being done by our government versus the teachings of the Church?
    2. What is the Lord calling us to do, collectively and individually?
  3. Take action:
    1. Given your God given talents and treasures, how is our Lord asking you to spend some of your time?
    2. Love God, love others, share our faith

Point 3b speaks specifically to the Great Commandments and the Great Commission, spoken to us by Jesus. My sense is that if we as Christians spent more time on these three things (love God, love others, share our faith), the rest, including everything above, would take care of itself.

As always, please feel free to contact me at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com with questions, comments, concerns, challenges, or prayer requests.

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Remember…God made you for Greatness!!!

Mark Joseph

 

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Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner

I’m assuming (I know what “assume” means (past post)…I think I’m safe here) that many of us have heard before, “Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner”. That doesn’t mean that we live it…certainly not all the time. I don’t and often it’s a struggle.

I remember living through my first wife’s addiction, confessing to my therapist that there were times when I literally hated her (that’s probably shocking to read). Given the family dysfunction related to addiction, the disease was killing her and it was killing me, emotionally and physically (stress, weight loss, headaches). Gratified to hear that my feelings were normal didn’t mean that they were acceptable. Having heard the expression previously, it was the first time I really began to understand “hate the sin, not the sinner”.

We touched on these concepts last week, siting from Scripture…“do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12) and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Another Scripture verse that speaks to this issue is where Peter asks how often he is to forgive. Jesus responds to him in Matthew 18:22, “I do not say to you even seven times, but even seventy times seven times”.

All of these verses speak to “hate the sin, not the sinner”. As I’ve learned, one of the tricks is to not assume malice. Most often, when someone does something that upsets you, they’ve not done it to intentionally make you mad. It helps to have an attitude of understanding, believing that the other person wasn’t intentionally wanting to hurt you, then trying to work it out. BTW, all of this is easier said than done. It really takes practice.

My experience would indicate that there’s another factor in all of this, that is the complicity that we may have in the conflict. How have our actions added to the dilemma? What role have we played? How does how we feel about ourselves contribute to the reaction we’ve had? All questions I’ve had to ask myself as I mature in life and in my faith.

Let’s consider a more global issue, i.e. abortion. As Christians, I’m hopeful that we can all agree that it is an intrinsic evil, as identified by the teachings of the Church and documented by the Unite States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I’m not getting political here…I promise.

Related, I just saw a post indicating that a group of protesters interrupted a Mass being celebrated by Bishop Brennan at St. Joseph Cathedral, in the Diocese of Columbus, on January 22. The US Catholic Church had made this day, the 48th anniversary of abortion becoming legal in the US, “A Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children”.

The protestors were parading through the Church with signs during the Mass. As expressed to a friend, I can’t imagine the audacity in this act, just like I can’t understand the riots, looting, or violence in our Capitol nor any city in our country.

With the significant political and cultural divide in our country (promise…I’m not getting political), the vitriol from all sides is at a fever pitch, really I believe, unprecedented in our history. We are seeing a lot of “hate the sinner”.

As Christians, we need to be better than this, abiding by Matthew 7:12 and 18:22, as well as Mark 12:31. We need to recognize that ALL OF US are beloved children of God. We’re also all sinners, each and every one of us. Another verse I’m reminded of here is when Jesus says, “how can you see the splinter in your brother’s eye and not see the board in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3).

It may be easy to hate the protesters sited above. I get it and I’m guilty of it. Their actions, like those in our Capitol and other cities, are reprehensible. But that’s not what Jesus calls us to do. And the reality is that hating them isn’t going to change them, nor our world.

Lastly, related to our potential complicity, with of all things…abortion, think of this. Assuming we’re all pro-life, are we doing anything to support that belief? Do we talk to our kids and others about the issue; do we support the pro-life movement…with our time, talent, or treasures; do we pray for the unborn…and all life; do we pray for the precious aborted babies, or those who support or participate in the abortion industry?

I’d encourage all of us to try very hard to “hate the sin, not the sinner”. It’s the only way we’re going to change hearts and change our world. I’d also suggest that we examine our role in all things. And always, for guidance and as our greatest example, go to Jesus.

As always, please contact me at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com with comments, questions, concerns, challenges, or prayer requests.

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Always remember…God made you for GREATNESS!!!

Mark Joseph