What if you have it all – And you are still unhappy?

We have so much and yet we say we are unhaaaaapy.

We live in a time with:

  • automated dish washing
  • clothes washing
  • air conditioning
  • refrigeration
  • central heat
  • mini-computers, TVs, and libraries in our pockets
  • automobiles
  • intercontinental travel
  • cheap clothing and shoes
  • cosmetics
  • fresh food and cuisine variety
  • health care
  • endless entertainment options

Most of us are very wealthy. A person making $30,000 in the United States has a higher quality of living than a European monarch in the 1800s. And King Nebuchanezer would have sold half of his Babylonian kingdom just to purchase your magical iPhone 5 with a cracked screen.

And yet we are often so unhaaaapy. Why?

I’ve been re-reading the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes (attributed to King Solomon as a testimony of his repentance), and I was struck with one of the most powerful passages in the entire Bible. It’s the last three verses of Ecclesiastes chapter 5.

Behold, what I have seen to be good and to be fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life which God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Every man also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and find enjoyment in his toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

He grants in verse 19 that God has given some people wealth and possessions. But that’s not enough. He adds “and the power to enjoy them and accept his lot.”

That’s it folks. Getting the best or next [iPhone, spouse, house, retirement account, car, jet, diamond, child, etc.] is never enough. It takes a supernatural superadded gift of being able to enjoy it. Solomon says, “this is the gift of God.”

Ultimately salvation and access to the Beatific Vision of the Holy Trinity (that is, Heaven) is our final goal and purpose for this life. But along the way in this life, we should also pray for the “the gift of God” which is the “power to enjoy them and to accept [your] lot and find enjoyment in this life.”

So add this to you prayers daily: “God give me the Ecclesiastes gift to enjoy whatever you have given and me and whatever you will give me.”

Godspeed,
Dr. Taylor Marshall

Will you know everything in Heaven? Thomas Aquinas answers

Will you know everything in Heaven? This question is best answered by exploring the spiritual gift of “counsel.”

One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is “counsel.”

What is counsel? Thomas Aquinas defines counsel in this way:

Again, it is proper to the rational creature to be moved through the research of reason to perform any particular action, and this research is called counsel. (STh II-II, q. 52, a. 1).

So counsel is research led by the influence of the Holy Spirit. Thomas also explains how it relates to the virtue of prudence – making right decisions.

It might be asked whether this gift of counsel remains in Heaven. Do the saints in Heaven need counsel? Do the angels need counsel?

Thomas says that counsel remains in the blessed and in the angels. Why?

Because the human saints and the angels in Heaven do not know everything. Contrary to what you may have learned in Sunday school, God doesn’t reveal everything to us in Heaven. There will remain mysteries.

The Blessed Virgin Mary knows more than the angels and saints, but she is still limited in our celestial knowledge. Only the Persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) know all things. Only the three person of the Holy Trinity are omniscient.

Because humans and angels in Heaven are not omniscient, we will continue to seek spiritual counsel. Angels are guided into helping those on earth. Even humans are guided by counsel from the Holy Spirit in aiding those on earth. Yes, Holy Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint Peter, Saint Therese of Lisieux, and your guardian angel continue to exercise that spiritual gift of “counsel.”

And we on earth especially need spiritual counsel. How do we gain it:

  1. by not clouding our minds with venial or mortal sin.
  2. by checking in with the Holy Spirit frequently throughout the day “Am I living your will for my life?”
  3. by reading the documents written by the Holy Spirit – Sacred Scripture. Here we find explicit teaching and advice for our lives.
  4. by explicitly asking the Holy Spirit to give us counsel on difficult problems in our lives.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

PS: You might also enjoy my Podcast: Did the Holy Spirit really appear as a Real Dove?

Is Our Salvation Based on the Concepts of Debt and Law?

I just happened upon your blog so I admit that I have not read your books or very much of your blog. However, it concerned me that in this article, you suggest that our salvation was accomplished by payment of a debt.

I am a Catholic and that is not what I believe. The concept of “debt” implies that sin is a sort of legal problem rather than an ontological one. However, I will hold off (for now!) on sharing any further thoughts because quite possibly I have misunderstood you.

Thank you Mary. I love how you hold off on judgment and ask for clarity. So often in the Catholic theological community, people start casting stones. I appreciate your moderation, prudence, and charity. Let’s look more deeply on this topic of debt and law.

“Ontological” = referring to being:

For new readers, by “ontological,” Mary means “having to do with our being or nature” (from Greek ὄν (gen. ὄντος) meaning being. Ontology is the study of being.

If you’d like to get a dictionary or lexicon of all these philosophical words used in Catholic theology, please download my book (for free), Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages (top right corner of taylormarshall.com).

Ontological or Debt/Law?

Salvation is ontological (the elevation of our human nature) and entails Christ transforming us “in Him” into “new creations.” We partake of the divine nature of Christ through His humanity. The hypostatic union becomes the bridge by which we partake of the divine nature. We are deified and in the Beatific Vision, Thomas Aquinas teaches that we will become “deiform” while remaining human and creatures.

So yes, ontological all the way. Catholics (like the Eastern Orthodox) teach that salvation is chiefly a transformation and elevation of human nature.

However, Scripture is replete of examples also discussing salvation in terms of both law and debt/remission.

It’s true Protestants focus almost solely on legal/forensic categories and hence Catholics tend to move away from them. This is a mistake on the Catholic’s part.

We are “freed from the law”. We are “justified” (legal term). Our debts are paid. The jubilee remission of debts is inaugurated by Christ.

Our terms “remission” and “redemption” (to buy back) are financial terms.

The Greek word for “redemption” is strongly legal and financial: ἀπολύτρωσις. It literally means “buying back from, re-purchasing, winning back what was previously forfeited.”

Saint Paul repeatedly refers to how the baptized have been “purchased” by the blood of Christ: “you were bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:20).

Christ Himself uses money examples as an analogy of sin remission: “And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt” (Matthew 18:27). “So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’” (Luke 16:5). “And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

It’s not either ontological or legal/debt. It’s all. It’s both/and.

Thomism on Nature and Law

As a Thomist, I would go on to say that all true law (lex) must necessarily based on being (esse). In fact, if a law does not conform to being (natural law), according to Thomas it is not a law at all.

This is why Thomas divides history and covenants into three epochs: Natural Law (Adam to Moses), Old Law (Moses to Christ), and New Law (Christ till Parousia).

For him “New Law” is just another way of saying “New Creation.” Law and ontology are parallel.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

Mental Experiment: How Would Demons Lead You to Hell?

Your Personal Screwtape Letter

C.S. Lewis wrote a popular book titled Screwtape Letters in which a senior demon writes to an apprentice demon on how to sinfully deceive humans into Hell.

st antony of egypt

During Lent, it may be helpful to imagine a draft “Screwtape letter” written by demon precisely about you.

Here’s a mental experiment for Lent discernment:

Knowing what I know about myself, my spiritual strengths and weaknesses, how would a demon go about deceiving me and bring me into Hell?

Which lies, insecurities, and ingrained vices would the demon use to deceive you into betraying Christ by apostasy or mortal sin. Think about that for a moment.

For review, here are the 7 deadly sins explained in this video on “How to Make a Catholic Confession.”

Every military general contemplates the weak areas of his armies and his strategy. That is where he places the most effort into improvement.

Pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom. Use that wisdom during Lent to build up your spiritual defenses where you are weak.

And remember, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4). Stay near to Jesus and the evil ones will never triumph!

Have a Joyful Lent,
Taylor