The Way God Works

Since we humans were created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27), there are many parallels between us and God. One such parallel is how God and humans work. When work has to be done, we humans either do the work ourselves or instruct another person to do the work. God is no different. When God wants something to happen, he can do the work directly through miracles (Ex 24:12) or he can instruct his creation (angels, saints, and humans on earth) to do the work (Ex 3:2 for angels, Phil 2: 12-13 for humans). This truth has a few implications for Catholics.

When asking for help from God in our prayers, don’t be surprised if help comes in a different way than expected. Here the Catholic has some need they want God to address. Maybe they prayed for healing but no healing came. It’s possible God is going to work through a doctor, so God’s answer to the prayer is to see a doctor. Maybe another time they need comfort after a death in the family. It’s possible God is seeking to help them through their friends and family. In these moments it can feel like God is not helping, like he doesn’t care about our problems. God is actually helping; he is just choosing to help through our fellow humans.

Another case is when asking for guidance of what to do with our gifts. A Catholic might pray and pray for choosing how to serve in their community or which of their skills to foster and grow in. God could, of course, give them a straight answer in their heart or mind, but many times he will work through our fellow humans. Maybe the person sees an ad in the parish bulletin for a service opportunity, or maybe someone they’re talking to happens to mention a need they can help with. God has answered their prayer through one of his children.

The unfortunate side of the way God works is that it is hard to tell how God is working in our lives. We can get the feeling that humans are the ones doing everything, and God is not present. This is dangerous thinking. Satan has lured many Catholics away by encouraging doubt in their minds (CCC 215). Whenever you feel discouraged, always remember that the source of all love is God. Whether your prayers are answered directly by God or by someone here on this earth, it ultimately came from God. In this way, you can attribute everything to God and always maintain strength in your faith.

One last point is that God does not have to work. He could answer a prayer request with a simple “no”. Sometimes it is best if we find our own solution to a problem. He has given humans great intellect (CCC 286, 1955), with the ability to learn new things, precisely for this purpose. In these times we might feel all alone, but there is a very good reason that God sometimes decides to just watch from afar. We will not become saints automatically. Our faith must be continually tested to grow in holiness and open the path to sainthood (Jas 1:2-4).

If God solved all our problems, we would never have to face difficulty, never grow in holiness, never become saints, and worst of all, never be with God in heaven. For heaven to be an option, we must face obstacles and overcome them. Each time you make it through a tough situation, you become stronger in the faith. After enough struggles, you will have reached the point where you salvation is secured (2 Tim 4:6-8). God has won you over for all eternity. Having this on your mind during the struggles in life will provide continual relief. No matter how bad this time is, keep up the good work because you are inching toward eternal paradise.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

The Top Ten Qualities of Jesus According to the Bible

One of my first religious books was Be a Man by Fr. Larry Richards. My father bought this book for me during a Catholic Men’s Conference. One of Fr. Larry’s bold claims in the book was that if the reader did all of the tasks he put forth, he would become a real man. Most of the tasks were pretty easy for me, but some of them required a lot of work.

One task involved the reader writing down all of Jesus’ qualities in the Gospels, and then praying for God to give them these qualities. I’m not sure how far Fr. Larry intended the reader to go, but I went all the way with the task. I read all the Gospels line by line, writing down the qualities I believed Jesus was exhibiting through his actions. I also made note of how often he displayed each quality. At the end of it all, I had a list of 23 qualities, which I then ranked according to frequency.

For this list I kept just the top then qualities. For each quality, I included the total number of references from all four Gospels for that quality along with the breakdown from each Gospel. Some Bible references involved multiple qualities, so the same reference may appear under multiple qualities. Now for the list:

The Top Ten Qualities of Jesus

1. Teaching and Wisdom

This was the most frequent quality by far. It was around three times more frequent than the second place quality. Jesus knew he couldn’t live forever, so he had to teach the apostles and anyone else who would listen the most important parts of the Christian faith. Jesus founded the church, but his followers had to build it. This is the beauty of education. As long as the knowledge is passed on, it never dies. It will last forever. That was critical because Jesus was founding the eternal Church that would last forever. It would exist until the end of time on Earth as well is in eternal Heaven.

Jesus also had great wisdom. Giving the apostles this wisdom, they could focus their efforts on things that mattered in the long run, not waste time on useless things like amassing wealth. Catholics are all called to convert the world to faith in God. Today, this would be called spreading the Gospel. The Gospel is the wisdom of God. It is the recipe for eternal happiness. We don’t have to be teachers in front of a group. We can teach any individual we come across.

Total Gospel References: 238

Matthew: 52 references Mark: 42 references
4:13-14
5:1-48
6:1-34
7:1-29
8:3,13,15,16,20,32
9:6,22,25,29,32
12:3,5,25-37,43-45,48-50
13:3-9,24-33,44-50
14:27, 15:4,10-11,16-20
16:12,26
17:11-12,20
18:3-5,14,18-20,35
19:9
20:16,26-28
21:21,31-32,43-44
22:14,29-32,37-40,43-45
23:12,20-22
24:23-28,32-33,36-51
25:1-30
26:41
2:2,17,19-22,27-28
3:4,23-29,33-35
4:3-9,13-32
6:2,34
7:14-15,18-23
8:17-21,34-38
9:12-13,23,29,35-37,39-41,42-50
10:4-9,11-12,14-15,18-21,23-25,27,29-31,38-40,42-45
11:22-25
12:1-9,17,24-27,29-31,38-40,43-44
13:28,33-37
14:7,22-24,49
Luke: 67 references John: 77 references
4:24-28,31
5:3,10,22-24,31-32,34-39
6:3-5,20-49
7:24-35,40-47
8:4-8,10-18
9:23-27,48,50
10:20,23-24,26,28
30-37,41-42
11:2-13,17-26,28-36
12:1-12,14-40,42-48,57-59
13:3-9,11-13,16-33,37-52,57
14:3,5,8-14,16-24,26-35
15:4-32
16:1-13,16-31
17:1-4,6-10,20-37
18:2-8,10-14,16-17,24-25,27,29-30
19:12-27
20:9-16,18,34-38,41-44,46-47
21:3-4
22:25-30,35-38,48,52-53,67-68,70
24:27,29-30,41-45
1:48,50
3:3,5-8,10-15
4:10,13-14,21-24,26,32,34-38,48
5:17,19-47
6:5-6,26-27,29,32-33,35-40,44,46-51,53-58,60-65,67-70
7:4,6-7,16-19,21-24,28-29
8:2,12,14-19,23,25-26,28-29,31-32,34-47,49-51,54-56,58
9:41
10:1-5,7-18,25-30
11:9-10,14-15,25-25
12:7-8,24-26,30,35-36,44-50
13:8,10,12-17,20
14:3-4,6-7,9-21,23-31
15:1-11,13-16,18-24,26-27
16:4-7,9-12,21,23-24,27-28,33
18:34,36
19:11,29
20:15,17,29

2. Faith, Trust, and Prophecy

Jesus continually told the apostles they had to trust him. Things always happened how he described they would happen. Once the apostles trusted him, he could bring in the idea of faith. This is seeing without believing. The apostles were able to experience some miracles the average person doesn’t get to see, but they didn’t get to see all that Jesus promised come to pass in their lives. They had to have faith. Jesus himself had faith towards his father in heaven, God. The ability to prophesy is a special gift no human normally has. Jesus was God, so he could prophesy. Without faith there can be no belief, so every Catholic must have faith. When we fully believe in something, it’s easy to talk about it with others. We can’t follow Jesus’ example of prophesying, but we can repeat all his prophecy to nonbelievers. In this way we are aiding Jesus in his act of prophesying.

Total Gospel References: 104

Matthew: 20 references Mark: 22 references
8:26
10:19
16:21
17:22-23
20:18-19
21:5,42
22:44
24:2,4-22,29-31,36-44
25:31-46
26:2,18,21,31-32,34,45-46,56
1:15
2:25-26
4:12
7:6-8,10
8:31
9:1,31
10:33-34
11:17
12:10-11,35-37
13:2,5-32
14:9,18,20-21,25,27-28,30,41-42,62
Luke: 22 references John: 40 references
4:21,23,43
7:22-23,27
8:50
9:22,44
12:49-56
13:14-15
18:31-33
19:46
20:17,42-43
21:6,8-36
22:10-12,15-22,34,69
23:29-30
24:46-49
1:51
2:4,19
4:17-18,21,23
5:25,28
6:45,70-71
7:33-34,37-38
8:21,24
9:4
11:11,23,41-42
12:23,27,31-32
13:1-5,7,11,18-19,21,26-27,31-33,36,38
15:25
16:1-4,8,13-16,20,22-23,25-26,32
18:37
21:18

3. Leadership

Because Jesus had the wisdom of God, he knew what everyone should be doing. Someone that has wisdom can be a natural leader. They know things that others don’t. Not only that, wisdom is knowledge that leads to success. It betters the lives of people that have it. When people know someone is wise, they go to that person for advice. This happened with Jesus, but it’s also a calling of every Catholic to use the wisdom they have learned from God for the good of the world. Religion comes up in conversation all the time. It is then that we must do our best to lead people to Jesus, and ultimately, to eternal happiness.

Total Gospel References: 65

Matthew: 7 references Mark: 17 references
3:14-15
7:29
10:5
14:31,18-20
26:26-29
28:18-20
1:17,20,22
2:14
3:14-15
4:39-40
6:7-11,35-39
8:15
9:2,19,21
11:2-3
14:13-15,32,34
16:15-18
Luke: 21 references John: 20 references
4:32
5:3-4,14,27
6:13
8:22,39,55-56
9:1-5,13-14,41
10:1-12
18:20,22,40
19:5,30-31
22:8,17-20,40,46,51
1:38-39,42-43
2:7-8
4:7
5:14
6:10,12
7:3,8
9:7
11:39,43-44
13:34-35
14:1
15:12,17
20:21-23
21:15-17,19,23

4. Healing

Jesus was a great healer, but he didn’t use it just to make money or gain fame. Instead, Jesus used his healings to convert people to the faith. We humans can’t heal the way Jesus did, but we can aid people that are sick or injured. For those with terminal illness, we can be a loving presence to comfort them in their last days. For those with a simple cold, we can help out with some of their chores or other responsibilities for a short time. We can’t directly heal them, but we can aid the healing process. Doctors and nurses have a more direct way of fulfilling this quality, but everyone can help heal in some way.

Total Gospel References: 63

Matthew: 20 references Mark: 14 references
4:23-24
8:3,13,15,16,32
9:6,22,25,29,32
12:13,22
14:14,36
15:30
17:18
19:2
20:34
21:14
1:25,31,34,41-42
2:11-12
3:5
6:5,56
7:29,33-35
8:23-25
9:25,27
10:52
Luke: 24 references John: 5 references
4:35,39,40
5:13,24-25
6:10,18
7:9,14,21
8:30,32,44-46,52,54
9:11,42,58,60,62
11:14
13:4
17:14-15
22:51
4:50
5:8
6:10-13
9:3-7
11:43

5. Reproaching and Rebuking

Jesus showed disapproval of others’ sinful actions in both of these ways, though rebuke was a more severe response than reproach. Jesus used whatever technique was best to the audience to get the message across. Most times he only had to tell someone the truth and they listened. A few times Jesus knew they would not respond unless he really got their attention through a harsh rebuke. In our lives, we sometimes do need to be severe in our rejection of sin. Certainly, if we know a loved one is committing mortal sin, we need to be pretty clear how serious their situation is. We also need to rebuke when someone is tempting us to commit mortal sin ourselves, as Jesus did when he referred to Peter as Satan.

Total Gospel References: 37

Matthew: 6 references Mark: 12 references
11:21,23
12:39
16:4
17:18
26:23-24
1:25
2:8,17
4:39
8:11-12,33
9:25
11:14
12:15
14:6,37-38
16:14
Luke: 18 references John: 1 references
4:35,39,41
8:24-25,30,32
9:21,41-42,55
10:13-16
11:39-44,46-52
16:15
19:40
20:3,8,24-25
24:25-26
6:43

6. Forgiveness, Mercy, and Repentance

When people repented of their evil actions, Jesus had mercy on them and forgave them. The apostles all sinned. So did the nonbelievers. Jesus was always willing to forgive if someone was sorry for their actions. Even more, he taught the apostles that they had to forgive too. As God had no limits on forgiveness, the apostles could have no limits either. It’s the same for us. We must always be ready to forgive someone when ask for it. We can’t hold a grudge. As God does when we go to confession, we must forget the sins they have committed against us, erase them from our mind. They do not exist.

Total Gospel References: 33

Matthew: 14 references Mark: 3 references
4:2
8:3,13,15,16,32
9:6,13,22,25,29,32
15:28
17:7
1:43-44
2:5
3:10
Luke: 10 references John: 6 references
4:2
5:20
7:48,50
8:48
17:17-19
18:41-42
19:9-10
23:34,43
4:16
5:6
8:7,10-11
20:27
21:15-17

7. Courage and Calmness

These two qualities are slightly different but also very related. Jesus urged the apostles not to be anxious about their future. The only thing they had to worry about was following God’s will in the commandments and what Jesus taught them. Then they could look forward to eternal life in heaven. Jesus warned them that most of them would be killed just like he was, but they still had their work to do. They couldn’t be all worried about the suffering they would go through. This required courage. They had to do the right thing no matter how bad it would be for them. Like the apostles, Catholics today are called to have the same courage because being Catholic is not easy. It is much easier to just live a life of sin. That’s what we are constantly tempted to do, but we follow a higher order, from God himself, to be good in our actions. We can’t worry about how this will cause us to suffer, we just have to do it.

Total Gospel References: 31

Matthew: 14 references Mark: 9 references
10:19
15:3,13
19:3
21:12-13,24
23:2-3,13-19,23-36
26:52-54,55,63-64
27:11-12,14
3:21-22
6:50
7:9,11-13
11:29-30,33
14:61
15:2,5
Luke: 2 references John: 6 references
6:8-11
23:3
7:10
10:32,34-38
18:4-5,7-8,23

8. Retreats

Jesus was God but even he had to get away from the crowds sometimes. It was then that he went on a retreat with the apostles. He used this time to teach the apostles without distractions, but a big part of Jesus’ retreats was praying to God. Jesus had a human body, which could be hurt like any of our bodies. He needed to get strength from God through prayer. He couldn’t do that in the city with all the noise. He had to get away. We need to do the same thing in our lives. We don’t have to go on formal retreats all the time, but we should try to get away from distractions a few minutes each day for our prayers. We can also take a day off to just focus on God. Not everyone has a schedule that allows this, but we should look for opportunities to spend time with God in our lives. That is what heaven will be. We can get a taste of heaven when we retreat from the world, no matter short it is.

Total Gospel References: 28

Matthew: 5 references Mark: 9 references
8:18
13:36
14:13,22-23
26:36
1:35
3:7,13
4:35
6:31
7:24,33
8:9-10
9:30
Luke: 10 references John: 4 references
4:1-2,42
5:16
6:12
9:10,18,28
13:36
21:37
22:39
6:3,15
8:1
18:1

9. Compassion and Pity

Because Jesus loved everyone so much, he had a deep sense of compassion whenever they were suffering. Some people were suffering because of original sin (illness), others were suffering because of the sins of others. No matter what, Jesus did not like to see people suffer. When he came across suffering, he did his best to remedy it. Compassion comes from pity, so we must have pity on the people of the world too. This should give us a sense of solidarity with the suffering of the world, urging us to help them if we are able. That solidarity also helps when we are suffering ourselves. We don’t feel alone because we know countless people are praying for our well-being.

Total Gospel References: 17

Matthew: 6 references Mark: 4 references
9:36
14:14
15:28,32
20:34
28:10
1:41
6:34
8:2-3
10:49
Luke: 5 references John: 2 references
7:13
18:56
23:28-31
24:36,38-40
6:20
11:33

10. Friendship and Love

Jesus is love, so it made sense that this quality would be in him. In fact, every quality on this list is part of love. However, I only marked down a quality as part of love if it did not fit anywhere else. A big part of love was friendship. Jesus showed the apostles how to be a good friend and told them to go out and make new friends. Many of these friends went on to become great church leaders themselves. Even their laypeople friends contributed to the spread of the faith. We can’t really help anyone without love. It is the core of everything we do. We might express that love in many different ways, but they are all part of love.

Total Gospel References: 13

Matthew: 4 references Mark: 2 references
4:19
16:24
26:10-13,50
10:16
12:34
Luke: 2 references John: 5 references
22:31-32
24:50
11:5-6
19:26-27
20:19,21
21:12-13

I must note that these qualities were based on my own subjective interpretation of the Bible readings. My findings may also be influenced by the translation I used: New American Bible – Revised Edition (NABRE). If you repeated this same exercise, you would most likely get different results, but hopefully they would be similar to mine. I encourage you to do this exercise for your own growth in the faith. Jesus is the example we should always be following. It is good to know some qualities we should be emulating in our lives.

The Remaining Qualities

For anyone curious, here are the rest of the qualities I noted down when reading the Gospels:

Sadness and Fear (12) – Matthew (4) 26:38-39,42-44, 27:46,50; Mark (4) 3:5, 6:45-46, 14:34-35, 15:34; Luke (3) 19:42-44, 22:42-44, 23:46; John (1) 11:35
Obedience (10) – Matthew (1) 10:37; Mark (1) 14:36; Luke (5) 2:49, 4:4,8,12,18-19; John (3) 17:1-26, 18:11, 19:30
Feeding the Hungry (8) – Matthew (2) 14:16, 15:36-37; Mark (2) 6:41-43, 8:6-9; Luke (2) 5:6, 9:16-17; John (2) 21:5-6,10-11
Glory and Praise to God (8) – Matthew (1) 11:25; Mark (1) 14:23; Luke (3) 7:9, 10:18-19,21-22; John (3) 11:4, 12:28, 17:1-26
Humility (7) – Matthew (4) 3:14-15, 21:5, 27:11,142; John (3) 18:20-21, 20:20,27
Life Purpose and Efficiency with Time (5) – Matthew (3) 9:15, 10:14, 13:58; Mark (1) 1:38; John (1) 21:22
Invitation (5) – Matthew (1) 11:28; Luke (1) 8:21; John (3) 9:35,37, 11:7
Anger (3) – Mark 3:5; Luke 19:45; John 2:15-16
Value of Life (2) – Matthew 12:15; John 11:54
Truth (1) – John 1:47
Righteousness and Justice (1) – Matthew 18:6-9
Law Abiding (1) – Matthew 17:27, 21:22
Caring (1) – Matthew 19:14

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared