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Religiosity VS. Holiness

Dr. Marcellino D'AmbrosioReligiosity vs. Holiness

 Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

 

Holiness, Sign of the Cross

The Call of Matthew, the tax-collector and notorious sinner, to be a disciple and apostle of Jesus,  rattled the pious people of Galilee and caused them to dismiss the new rabbi from Nazareth.  It calles us to reflect on the true nature of holiness and how it differs from the pompous religiosity and empty piety that is the great temptation inherent in religion.

 

Religiosity and holiness are two different things. 

 

By religiosity, I mean religious practices such the sign of the cross before praying, genuflecting before the tabernacle, or hanging a crucifix on a bedroom wall.   By holiness, Iím referring to that divine love called ďcharityĒ that gives of oneself to another for Godís sake. 

 

There are external practices in religion and there will always have to be.  We human beings have bodies as well as souls.  And we must use those bodies to express what is in our souls.  In fact, outward expression is designed to strengthen and spread what is inside.  And if we fail to express it outwardly, what is inside withers and dies.

 

Thatís why human beings, whether they are religious or not, express the invisible love they have for others through visible signsĖhugging, holding hands, kissing, and giving special gifts.  Families that stop expressing outward affection for one another very quickly find that they no longer have any affection to express.

 

Catholic Faith, Holiness, Catholic FaithBut original sin throws a wrench into the system that God designed.  It introduces into our lives a tendency to disconnect the outward from the inward, so that outward acts, if we are not careful, become mechanical and devoid of meaning.  In fact, they become dangerous, even treacherous.  Because they are designed to express love, we are fooled into thinking that we have love for God and others because we do them, even when that love has grown cold.  And then love of God becomes replaced by love of self, since we become very impressed by what we wrongly perceive to be our own holiness.

 

This is what happened to the Israelites and why Hosea and other prophets criticized their religiosity (Hos 6:3-6).  They were going through the motions but were actually going nowhere.  Sacrificing a precious animal was supposed to be a sign of giving oneís very self to God.  But the Israelites in Hoseaís time were sacrificing animals in place of giving themselves.  Instead of being an expression of self-giving, their sacrifices were a substitute for self giving.

 

Pharisees, Holiness, Catholic FaithThe Pharisees fell into the same trap.  They multiplied externals and took pride in them.  Unfortunately, pride happens to be the deadliest of the 7 capital sins.  Blinded by religiosity gone bad, they failed to recognize Holiness Incarnate and even criticized the love he showed to Matthew and his unholy friends (Mat 9:9-13).

 

Some religious people donít go quite as far as the Pharisees.  They donít sneer at the unbelievers in self-righteous disdain.  They just ignore them.  They prefer to congregate with the decent folk who share their faith and piety.  It feels good to be with like-minded people.  Itís safe.

 

But true holiness is not preoccupied comfort and safety.  Love is about giving itself away, regardless of the cost and discomfort involved.  Mercy is loveís effort to relieve suffering, and true love cannot long rest while there is suffering to relieve.  Hunger, thirst, and nakedness are all examples of suffering that love must relieve.  But so is sin and spiritual ignorance.  Love sees the abortionist, the prostitute, the drug dealer, and terrorist not as disgusting eyesores to be eliminated from our pleasant human landscape, but as human beings who are wounding others because they themselves are wounded, desperately in search of the divine physician though they donít know what he looks like or where he is to be found.

 

Pope John Paul II, Rosary, HolinessJesus response to such folk was the response of mercy.  He did not wait till Matthew found him because he probably would have waited forever.  No, he went out and found Matthew.  Then he told Matthew to go out and find all his outrageous friends and bring them to meet Jesus.

 

So should we get rid our rosary beads and abandon liturgy to serve in soup kitchens?  Catholics have been there, done that.  It doesnít work.  We need religiosity and devotional exercises to express and strengthen love.  And we need to draw strength from the community of faith.  But we ever need to be on our guard lest we end up fooling ourselves--true holiness does not just huddle with the saved and preach to the choir.

 

For an explanation why tax collectors were considered the epitome of sinfulness in the time of Jesus, read Dr. D'Ambrosio's commentary on another tax collector, Zaccheus.  For a commentary on the call of Matthew, the tax collector, by St. Bede the Venerable, click here.

 

 

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The Seven Deadly SinsThe Seven Deadly Sins -

This dynamic 3 talk set is a BEST SELLER! Have you ever wondered what exactly the Seven Deadly Sins are? Dr. D'Ambrosio will shed new light on them and he offers practical life-changing suggestions for keeping the Deadly Sins at bay!

Seven Deadly Sins CDs - $24.00

 


First Corinthians: The Church and the Christian Community, 10-Part Study
 First Corinthians: The Church and the Christian Community, 10-Part Study (4 DVDs) The conflicts of the early Christians in Corinth were in many ways similar to our struggles today as Christians. With divisions, immorality, persecution, and other trials of the faithful, the message of St. Paul to the Corinthians is a much-needed message for our own times. First Corinthians: The Church and the Christian Community explores the key elements that the apostle Paul introduced to a new and growing Church. St. Paul taught the Corinthians about the nature of grace and the Church as the Body of Christ. In addition, he introduced the Corinthian Christians to the most powerful gift of all, the Eucharist.
In this DVD series Dr. Tim Gray provides comprehensive teaching and commentary on Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians. Each 30 minute talk is designed to follow a lesson in the First Corinthians Study Set.

 


 

Praying Scripture for a Change - Dr. Tim Gray (Book and Workbook)
 Praying Scripture for a Change - Dr. Tim Gray (Book and Workbook) In this succinct book, Catholic theologian and biblical scholar Dr. Tim Gray walks the reader through the Bible and the wisdom of the saints to reveal the practical steps of this great treasure of our Tradition. Learning the simple steps of lectio divina will provide a practical and effective way for you to enhance your prayer life through the power of Godís Word.

This study guide is designed to help the reader of Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina increase the fruitful harvest of this wonderful short book.


 

Great Adventure Kids Pack
 Great Adventure Kids Pack The five items included in this educational package (Chart, Game Set, Bible Story Coloring Book, Bookmark, and Prayer Beads) are based on the color-coded system of the Great Adventure and will aid in teaching children the narrative story of salvation history. Through play, memorization, prayer, and interaction, these learning tools bring familiar Bible stories into a system where children can relate them to their own life.

 


 

The Fathers of the Church - Who They Are and Why They Matter

Early Church Fathers, Marcellino D'AmbrosioIn a single, upbeat talk, full of examples and stories about some of the Church's most intriguing personalities, Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains who people are talking about when they refer to the "Fathers of the Church" or "Early Church Fathers.  Though the ranks of the fathers include a tremendous variety of cultures, locales, and personalities, there is surprising consensus that emerges from them on a variety of the most important questions of our day.  In this talk, Marcellino makes clear just how much these figures have to teach us today. 

 


 

God's Seven Gifts: The Sacraments of the Catholic Church
In the Gospels, Christ made it clear just how important the sacraments are for our lives. Yet today, many Catholics take them for granted. With little understanding of the importance and power of the sacraments, these Catholics are simply going through the motions.

But as Marcellino DíAmbrosio explains in Godís Seven Gifts, God gave us the sacraments as a gift to help us in our walk with him.

 

 


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