Teaching & Suggestions

adam_and_eveThis is a question that has puzzled people from the beginning. If God is good and all powerful why didn’t he stop Adam and Eve from sinning? Fair question. Of course we all know that he took the risk of giving us free will so that we could choose to love him.

I don’t want my kids to be born with a red button on their forehead that I push every time I want to hear them say, “I love you Daddy!” I want them to choose to say it from their own free will. No one wants a robot son or daughter – God included. 

But even knowing God created us with a free will, wasn’t there something he could have done to keep Man from sinning? Why did he allow this evil deed that brought alienation and death into the world? My friend Jimmy Akin did some pondering after reading a paragraph in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He wrote,

Today something leapt out that deals with the problem of evil, even though it wasn’t in the section on the problem of evil. It deals with the question of why God allowed original sin to take place.

Here’s what it says:

CCC 412  But why did God not prevent the first man from sinning? St. Leo the Great responds, “Christ’s inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon’s envy had taken away.” and St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “There is nothing to prevent human nature’s being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. Thus St. Paul says, ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’; and the Exsultet sings, ‘O happy fault,. . . which gained for us so great a Redeemer!’”

communion-of-saints_sThe answers provided by Leo the Great, Aquinas, Paul, and the Exsultet [at Easter] all converge on the idea that God allowed man to fall into sin because he knew he could bring about a greater good by doing so.

This does not necessarily mean a greater good for every individual (e.g., people who commit mortal sin and decide to stay there may not end up with a greater benefit in the long run, although this is itself arguable), but it does mean that there will be greater net good in general.

Thinking of Jimmy’s words reminded me of another paragraph in the Catechism which has caused quite a stir at times. It deals with the divinization of us humans. Had we not sinned, God would presumably not had to become Man. But when God became Man, though his humanity he drew us up into himself and made it possible for us to be sharers in his nature, to share in the very life of the Trinity!

CCC 460  The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”: “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.” “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” “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.”

This is not some strange kind of Mormon theology or New Age nonsense. It is the essence of our salvation. We are not just saved from our sins, but we are drawn right up into the very nature of God by the incarnation and redemption acquired through Jesus Christ.

St. Peter reminds us in 2 Peter 1:4, “He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.”

If you are not dancing yet, re-read the above and then start dancing and sharing this joyous news with everyone!!

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Who Are the Poor I’m Supposed to Care For?

by Steve Ray on September 6, 2020

As we leave our rented apartment in Rome and walk towards St. Peter’s Square I notice a ragged, filthy woman sitting on a piece of cardboard with a baby laying lethargically in her arms. She looks up with mournful eyes and pathetically mumbles something as she reaches out hoping I’ll put coins in her hand.

A few feet beyond her is a man stooped over his cane so painful-appearing that he is barely able to lift his eyes to make contact with mine. A paper cup is stationed on the sidewalk in front of him; he also reaches out a filthy hand plaintively begging for money.

We stop by a sidewalk café for a quick coffee before entering the Square. We are approached by children with tinny-sounding accordions. They boldly step up playing and singing. When they have finished a few moments of this “performance” they walk among the tables with blank faces and their hands out.

This weekend at Mass we were exhorted by Our Lord Jesus to feed the poor, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty and other sorts of charitable action to help the poor. But who are the poor Jesus is referring to?

Are the people I passed on the street the poor I should help? Are they the one’s that Jesus refers to? Is the man sitting on the corner nursing the last few drops from his whiskey bottle the one I’m supposed to give a drink to? Many people asked these questions today and struggle with the commands to help the poor and the thirsty. They ask the question who are the poor and the thirsty and hungry?

Most of the beggars we encounter in major cities around the world are what we call Romani, or more commonly known as gypsies. I don’t know all of them, of course, but we see everywhere children who do not go to school but are used as beggars and thieves to supply cash for their camp. My heart weeps for these kids as I see a young boy sitting in an underground walkway by himself all day without friends or family looking up to strangers who walk by ignoring him. It rips my guts out.

I’ve often said to my wife, “I’d like to rescue that boy and take him home and raise them properly.” But if I did this, I’d be arrested for kidnapping. I picture my grandchildren and I have a sense of loathing, pity and despair. What can I do when they are part of a family and a clan that treats their children this way and think it is normal. If I give him money it only propagates his abuse. A kind word or bit of food is about all I can do with a clear conscience.

I remember walking through Mumbai India. In advance, I had packed a bunch of sandwiches in a bag to hand out as I walked through the poor parts of the city. I would spot destitute people sitting on the sidewalk, or children climbing into dumpsters for their breakfast. I handed out the sandwiches with joy but was stopped by a young Indian boy about 10 years old. He was very bold and said, “You are doing a very bad thing.” I asked, “Why?” he said, “People need to take responsibility for their lives. If you give them things they will never learn to be responsible for themselves.”

Very wise words for a 10-year-old. It’s not that I believe that everyone is able to look out for themselves–there are many who are in desperate need of our help and unable to help themselves, but his point was well taken. I told him his father must be a wise man.

I’ve watched a crippled man leaning on a cane whimpering in pain until 5:00 PM when his “shift ended”. He looked at his watch, he stood up straight and walked back home. He was there again the next day exploiting the sympathies of naïve, kindly-hearted people.

We’ve had two young girls with babies in their arms standing very close to us on a bus full of smiles. We spoke kind words and paid attention to the babies only to find out a few moments later that our fannypacks, purses, and everything else had been unzipped. The babies are often drugged to make them look lethargic and pathetic. They are used as zombie props in the art of theft. Often the girls are not even their mothers. They can be referred to as “rent-a-babies.”

Once my wife caught a boy with his hand in her pocket. Many of these people beg for a living and when they don’t make enough begging they steal. My wife lost her wallet this way a while ago and tourists often find their passports, credit cards and cash have disappeared. This is why we repeatedly warn our pilgrims to watch out for pickpockets everywhere we go.

Personally, I cannot give money to such folks because to do so propagates their lifestyle, supports their continued child abuse, thievery and despicable lifestyle. We cannot support and condone such conduct. How do I know the real poor and those that are just making a dishonest living, some of them quite a good living?

Two things I try to do besides pray for folks that I see in need. First, if I see a person who is obviously in distress, missing a leg, blind, or some other obvious disadvantage I will pull money out and share with them along with a kind word.

Second, I look for the Missionaries of Charity in their simple white habits striped with blue. It does not have to be their specific order but these I know and have confidence in.

We know where they are housed in Rome. It is an inconspicuous door with a simple doorbell to the right. I push the doorbell, then push it again and sooner or later one of these beautiful sisters will open the door. They all have the same gracious smiles and kindly faces as their founder, Mother Teresa. My wife and I return her smile and hand them a generous donation. We ask them to use it for the poor and to assist in their ministry. I don’t know who really needs the money, but they do.

Once in Mumbai India we were invited to visit one of their compounds. The Missionaries of Charity took us on a tour—room after room of disadvantaged, mentally handicapped, diseased and dying (out of respect we took no pictures except of the sisters you see here). One room contained about 100 cribs in neat rows, each with a child unable to care for themselves. Many had diseases, mental handicaps, twisted bodies. Janet and I were in tears having never seen anything like this in our lives. What touched us most was the sisters and volunteers working among these castaways treating them with great love and affection. They bathed them, fed them, changed their diapers, caressed them.

However, not everyone that comes to their compound are admitted. They are selective who gets admitted to their care.

One little volunteer, a lady no more than 5 feet tall, said proudly, “I come here every day. I love serving Our Lord Jesus this way!” Looking around Janet and I were repulsed by the pain, disease, twisted bodies, staring eyes, gangrene, foul smells and seeming hopelessness. We were moved tears as we watched the sisters love these disadvantaged people as though they were loving Jesus himself. We hugged them all and with choked voices said, “Sisters, you make us proud to be Catholic. I couldn’t do what you do for even 10 minutes. You make us very proud!”

In Jesus’s time there was no Social Security, unemployment benefits, welfare or other social supports for the underprivileged. Churches had not begun charitable work and few cared for anything but themselves. In ancient Rome life was cheap and cities were full of slaves and the destitute. A drink or offering of food to a slave laboring under the hot sun was a true act of charity because no one paid any mind to the slaves. Jesus stopped to heal and care for the blind, the lame, the hungry of his time.

In the time of Jesus, a woman without a husband or son could be left destitute. Unwanted infants were tossed under bridges only to be eaten by the wild dogs. It is no coincidence that Scripture often uses the care of widows and orphans as a sign of one’s spirituality.

Many were unjustly imprisoned and the truly poor were cast aside. Were some poor because they were lazy or because they made poor choices? Of course. The book of Proverbs in the Bible is full of exhortations for hard work and to eschew laziness and sloth. It is the same today.

But often others are made poor by choices of their parents or others around them. At the same time in America it is hard to think of someone as poor who has cable television, a cell phone and many other benefits and amenities of our modern welfare society–especially since I’ve seen so much from around the world. Our society has a good number of people who know how to “milk the system”, get what is undeserved and avoid the effort and work to care for themselves. For them St. Paul writes, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat.” (2 Thess 3:10)

There are still people who truly need our assistance and we should see them as Jesus himself. I am not one for condoning irresponsibility, laziness or habitual bad choices. But, we also want to help those who are truly in need as Jesus requires of us. Now that we are Catholics we make sure our donations are given to legitimate Catholic charities. We also make sure to help our own when they are in need.

When we are in Jerusalem we take up donations and give money to the Patriarch of Jerusalem and needy Christians. We know that such gifts will be given to the truly needy among our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. There are too many charities that use the money improperly and not all of it gets to those who need it. Unhappily there are many of these, even in the Holy Land. So, beware.

Discernment is important, charity is essential, obedience to Our Lord is crucial and caring for the unfortunate and disadvantaged is not an option. When we were Protestants we used to believe in “faith alone” but that mantra is hard to chant when hearing the gospel which says heaven and hell will be the result of our choices—whether we care for others or whether we ignore them.

Dear Lord, give us wisdom and charity and the means to help and willingness to do so. Mother Theresa, pray for us!

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Free Market Economy or Socialism?

by Steve Ray on August 22, 2020

I was recently asked:
“Between a Socialist system of economics or a Free market Capitalist system, which is more Moral? Which system best represents a Christian view?

My short response:
The Catechism reflects the teaching of the Church by stating that a society should protect the right to private property and to free enterprise (CCC 2211, 2402). This is the basis of a free market system and the freedom and security of individual rights and the family.

509DFB04-6C79-4D4B-AA15-F4FCDBCA7FCEThis of course does not preclude the proper use of taxation and social concern and care for the less fortunate. Socialism, though it often espouses high ideals, views the State as the ultimate owner of property and the individual can be taxed or their property confiscated at the will of the State.

Though the Church teaches the fair and equitable distribution of material things among peoples, it does not approve of rewarding sloth nor punishing industrious enterprise to create wealth. God spoke through Moses who said, “God gives the power to make wealth” (Deut 8:17-18). Wealth is not an evil but a blessing and something that can be desired as a good thing and the rewards of honest labor and risk.

EA3A85F8-2320-43A7-B437-D335B635751EHowever, those who have wealth should share with those who are truly needy, but have no obligation to subsidize the poor who choose to be poor by lacking ambition, hard work or honesty. St. Paul taught, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10–11).

The Catechism clearly expresses the duty of the individual and the state to use property justly and to care for the less fortunate. The socialist system usually penalizes hard work and industry while rewarding the opposite.

Democracy and Free Enterprise without a Christian philosophical base can quickly become a system of greed and oppression; on the other hand, socialism becomes a system of greed and oppression and the government will always grow and grow and cater to those who it feeds.

History has shown that every time a socialist or communist country exists it deprives the people of freedom and property and violates personal rights. Looking at countries in the world today that practice socialism proves the point. Consider Venezuela.

2EE4D8B2-CC1F-4344-99F1-D8109CE226ABSo I am in favor of limited representative government to protect the individual and his rights, the family, private property and free enterprise. I am in favor of a free market capitalism that is tempered by charity and compassion with reasonable and limited governmental controls and protections.

The sinfulness and greed of Man makes this all difficult and a delicate balancing act. With a Christian consensus within a nation—as with the inception and beginnings of the United States—the goals are possible and for over 200 years approved workable.

But if there is a lack of moral and charitable consensus, the goals cannot be achieved and people are willing to give up their rights and freedoms bowing to a stronger government promising to insure peace and control and redistribution of wealth.

Catechism 2257  “Every society’s judgments and conduct reflect a vision of man and his destiny. Without the light the Gospel sheds on God and man, societies easily become totalitarian.” I would also say socialist.

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Vine, Branches & Fire: Where Will You End up?

July 27, 2020

One has to take time to care for their land. We own two acres in the country and awhile ago I was cutting wild vines out of the trees and burning them. The overgrown branches from the bushes and trees were also trimmed and burned. The flames brought to mind the words of Jesus in […]

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Mass with 2 Protestants and 1 Crucifix

July 14, 2020

A while ago we went to Mass with two Protestants.  As we walked in the door — there it was, as big as life — a CRUCIFIX with the Body of Our Lord hanging over the altar. I knew what the Protestants were thinking — I used to think the same — “CATHOLICS ARE WRONG, JESUS IS […]

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“Life is about the Journey, not the Destination!” Huh?!

June 10, 2020

“Life is all about the Journey, not the Destination!” (paraphrase of a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.) I saw this sign at the airport recently. Imagine! In an airport of all places! What stupidity! Grab a passenger arriving at the airport to catch a flight and shout, “Hey, take any flight you want sir, it […]

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How Long Was Jesus in the Tomb? Another Contradiction?

April 12, 2020

“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:38-40) Skeptics claim to have discovered an error in the New Testament —claiming Jesus was not in the tomb […]

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Did God Die on the Cross? How Can God Die?

April 10, 2020

Almost every day I get questions. I always try to answer, even if briefly. Today I received a question from Raymund in the Philippines. He is part of a apologetics group and they got very hung up on whether God died on the cross. Here is his e-mail: Greetings Mr. Stephen:  I am a great follower […]

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Why Are We Catholic?

March 30, 2020

This excellent little summary was prepared by the Faith Formation ministry in Escanaba Michigan and sent to me by Mike Cousineau. Enjoy and be challenged and edified. Sent it to a friend who needs to read it. 1.  St. Cyprian of Carthage, martyr & Bishop, wrote in 249 AD, “He who would have God as […]

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More and more Catholics identifying as “born-again”

March 13, 2020

This is an unsettling development in the American Catholic Church. However, we had it coming. With priestly scandals, weak-kneed bishops, liberal and leftist theology and politics — what are serious Catholics to do? The answer is to hunker down, pray and work for revival, but many are looking to the conservative, experiential, emotionally-satisfying Evangelical churches […]

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Was Jesus Nice?

January 7, 2020

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me. “That was not very Christ-like.” This response usually comes after being honest to the point of making someone upset.  The implication is that Jesus was a cuddly little nice guy who was always smiling, always accepting with kind words – in […]

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Lots of my Talks, Books and DVDs on Sale and in Bundles

December 11, 2019

Check out my store for lots of sales and bundles and free shipping. I have added 11 new talks never before available. All 11 can be purchased as a bundle for discounted rates. Visit SteveRaysStore.com. A special deal on all my Footprints of God DVDs with included Study Guides.

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Was He Ready to Die?

October 19, 2019

It was just a normal morning — alarm clock, shower, espresso, dress and a saunter down the sidewalk to work. For Paul, it was another day with a whole lifetime ahead of him. But today was different. Someone else got up this morning too. They had their coffee dressed and jumped in the car. They […]

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Was Abraham Saved by Faith Alone? Are the Protestants Right?

August 25, 2019

Today (Monday) I will be on the radio with Gary Michuta at 1 PM at https://virginmostpowerfulradio.org/. Hope you can listen in. Our topic will be Abraham, Father of Faith & Works. I am looking forward to this live show. In honor of this event today I am posting this article on Abraham, a critique I made of […]

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Bias in Bible Translations

August 22, 2019

Translating Holy Scripture is a necessary process by which the sacred text is provided in various languages, usually rendered from the original languages. Not all translations are created equal. Some result from one scholar’s work, others the work of a committee of scholars. Some are literal while others tend toward paraphrase. Translation resembles a sliding […]

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Evangelism Antennas: A Fun Story of One Woman’s Day and the New Evangelism :-)

August 6, 2019

A while ago I gave a talk in Ann Arbor Michigan. It was about the New Evangelization. As part of my talk I explained how Janet and I have our “evangelism antennas” up first thing in the morning – alertly watching for open doors and ways to share our Catholic Faith throughout the day. And […]

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