Tempted to Learn the Secret?

Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?" — Luke 9:23-25.

Historically, Catholics have done a magnanimous job of carrying their crosses.  So much so that we have often overlooked, or underplayed, the glory of the Cross as witnessed in the Resurrection.  But today, even Catholics, vigilant carriers of the cross, are succumbing to New Age teachings that deny the necessity of such an action; of carrying a cross.  New Age thinking has infiltrated the staunchest of our pews and Catholics everywhere are abandoning Christ's call to pick up our crosses in favor of some New Age "Secret" that purportedly reveals the underpinnings of the Universe (New Age capitalization, not mine).  If, after all, we have a choice to carry a cross and unite our sufferings with Christ, versus abandoning our crosses to fill our lives with untold riches, health, and well-being, well, who wouldn't opt for the Universe's treasures?  I would.  In fact, not doing so has become a whole new cross for me bear.

But why shouldn't we pursue such a glorious life experience?  Doesn't God "want" us to be rich and healthy and happy?

"And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for fish?  Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?  If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?"  — Luke 11:9-13

 Catholics have always understood that all good things come from God in heaven; not from the Universe with a capital "u."  We have followed His word and petitioned Him through His Son, understanding Christ as the way to the Father.  We have venerated His saints and made use of novenas.  We have honored Mary and prayed for the souls in purgatory.  And yet our lives haven't always been a beacon of prosperity that the world clamored to emulate.  Many people have looked at us and thought, "Those things don't seem to be working.  I think I'll try something else."  And that's fine.  We have always known that to be set aside is to live in the knowledge that His ways are not our ways; that His plans are for our good.  We only have to look at Job for confirmation of God's sovereignty.

But when New Age thinking pokes its nose around in our dogmas and edicts, we begin to wonder, "Why am I suffering when Ralph, over there, isn't?"  A door is opened and a nagging takes hold as we continue to lament the difficulties in our lives.  We wonder, "How beneficial is this cross I continue to carry?"  We ask ourselves, "Would it be so bad to put it aside and join my fellow man in petitioning the Universe for just a small share of its treasures?"

If we are not careful, the entire camel will soon be in the tent.  Our rituals and customs begin to seem archaic and we long for the excitement and appeal of the New Age thinkers.  We want to hear, know, and experience the secrets of the Universe and are tempted, just as Eve was in the garden, to take but a small bite of the shining apple.  The message taunts us, "Doesn't your God want you to be rich and healthy and happy?"

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done." — Luke 22:42

Would I say that I serve a God who wants me to be rich and healthy and happy?  I would.  And yet I would quickly follow up with the clarification that I believe I serve a God who knows what is best for me.  Jesus Himself uttered the words which gave us the perfect example of living life for God.  He let us know where the ultimate authority was found and that our petitions, while valid and valuable, are to take second place to God's will.  If we live with the realization that everything we do and experience has merit for His kingdom, then we live righteous lives for Him.  God bestows righteousness as a gracious gift, given not because of our meritorious nature but because of His great love for us.  Sidestepping crosses that we are able, or meant, to bear for His kingdom would be detrimental indeed.  St. Paul recognized the value of pain and suffering in that it allowed him to empty himself of self and in such serve Christ more fully, more completely. 

"Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple" — Luke 14:27.

It bears repeating and that is why Christ said it again: We must carry our cross to be a disciple of Christ's.  He does not mince words or offer parables on this matter.  He doesn't want a case of mistaken understanding to be our downfall.  He says, "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple."  Words that are in direct opposition to the New Age thinking that the world is filled with treasures for our taking and that with enough concentration, imagination, and focused thinking we become creators of our own reality.  No room for crosses to bear in this philosophy.  No wise acquiescence to God's will. 

This isn't to say that the world isn't filled with God's treasures, because it is!  But they belong to Him and are His for the giving; not ours for the taking.  While we are able to work diligently towards earthly goals, and God is often a willing and wonderful partner for these goals, we are still, nonetheless, at His mercy.  He is not called to do our bidding, but rather we are called to do His.

Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build — Psalm 127:19.

It is clearly an unpopular idea that without the Lord, we labor in vain.  That cuts the New Age philosophy to the core.  It reduces our role to less than the sovereign masters of our own destiny, an unthinkable position for a New-Ager to take.  It indicates a reliance on God.  And not just any god; not whatever god I imagine, but the God.  This doesn't mean that we can't labor without God, or that such labors won't produce success.  Some of these New Age bags of tricks are sold by people dripping with worldly wealth and rolling in worldly success.  They often suggest that everything fell into place for them because they came into "harmony with the Universe."  But did not satan (now there's a name I won't capitalize) tempt Christ with riches and glory and honor?  The evil one was more than willing to deliver to Christ a bag of goods that did not come from God.  He hasn't changed his tricks. The Secret is one shiny, appealing apple.

Rely on the mighty Lord; constantly seek his face — Psalm 105:4.

Cheryl Dickow

By

Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic wife, mother, author and speaker. Cheryl’s newest book is Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Womenwhich is co-authored with Teresa Tomeo and is published by Servant (a division of Franciscan Media); there is also a companion journal that accompanies the book and an audio version intended for women’s studies or for individual reflection. Cheryl’s titles also include the woman’s inspirational fiction book Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. Elizabeth is available in paperback or Kindle format. Her company is Bezalel Books where her goal is to publish great Catholic books for families and classrooms that entertain while uplifting the Catholic faith and is located at www.BezalelBooks.com. To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, write her at Cheryl@BezalelBooks.com.

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  • Guest

    Excellent article.  I'm so glad to see a discussion of this on CE.  I first heard about "The Secret" on Oprah, and saw the red flags immediately.  Some of the principles of "The Secret" seem valid:  positive thinking and letting go of the victim mentality can have a positive impact on daily experiences.  But the whole philosophy is based on self-worship and self importance.  It is the devil's way of luring people away from the Church into something that seems more attractive.

  • Guest

    Great Article! But in referece to Luke 11:9-13, the referece given by so many of the "God wants us to be rich" preachers, they have miss quoted the verses. First, they have decided that the "Good Things" automatically mean riches. Riches is not always good for every person. Some times the good thing would be something else. We always dont know what is good for us. With that in mind we need the spirit of God to help us pray for the truly good thing for our lives. Which brings me to this…… the thing we are to be knocking and asking for, according to these verses is not riches, but the Holy Spirit.

  • Guest

    We should definitely pray for followers of the new age "secret".  They may be looking for God, but trying to find him in all the wrong places.  We cannot be certain how wounded they are by life, but we must give them the benefit of the doubt, as Christian charity demands of us, and continue to share the Truth with them, no matter what the personal cost to ourselves.  

    I just felt so terrible for a woman being interrogated on oprah's show by the author of that ridiculous book about the "secret", like he was the expert in her life, she was reduced to tears and he pretended to have all the answers for her.  Even Catholic priests cannot pretend they have all the answers for us, so why would we ever think a man who has not even taken an oath to God would have all the answers.  I felt sympathy for her because she might have been so hurt in life and she was looking for a way out and this man was leading her astray.  We need to pray for his conversion and that woman, hoping she'll catch on to the deception and seek the Truth.
  • Guest

    Well done.  I would hope a lot of people read the article.  It speaks to the same choice Adam and Eve had to make, and the choice every human has had to make since we were booted out of The Garden.  It is The choice.  Satan told Adam and Eve they could be God – just as he is telling the very same thing to New Agers and all other forms of Secular Humanitsts. Our Father asks: Do you believe that I am God, or do you believe that you can make yourself God?

    Christ said: I come to make all things new. New Agers tell us – (Satin again, he is still hanging around with the same old story) - that we don't need Christ.  We can do it without Him (If He existed at all)  We are really all Gods just waiting to be developed (knowing myself so well I just don't understand how anyone could believe that).

    We don't enjoy doing it, but we carry the cross because we understand why we were exiled, and we do so willingly because we know that Our Father has already written the end to this story about choices.  As we carry the cross – and some people suffer a great deal in this world – we better understand how much Jesus Christ loved us and suffered for us – and we learn to love Him all the more.  Our Father has a very unique talent for making all things work for the good of those that trust Him.

  • Guest

    This article really hits home, because of the community I live in.  There's a lot of wealth and ostentatiousness, the whole town is like a very exclusive country club.  Though we've lived here for 24 years, and I've been active culturally through music, we're definitely not members of the "in crowd".  This article has really helped me understand the reason for that.  As Our Lord said Himself, the servant is no better than the master.  St. Thomas More added, "We may not hope to go to heaven in our feather beds, for Our Lord went thither with much trial and suffering."  How can we, His servants, expect better treatment than our Master?  We need to remind ourselves daily, through prayer and reading of the Scriptures, that even though we suffer here on earth from time to time, we have the powerful support of God our loving Abba and of His Son Jesus, Who gave every last drop of His Precious Blood for us.  As Dannycomelately put it so well, we learn to love the Lord all the more.  That love is worth more than all the riches of a thousand universes.  Thank You, Lord! Smile

     

     

  • Guest

    Dannycomelately, thanks for "coming among us".  May I point out a Scripture that might give you something to think about re this article?  You mentioned that "We don't enjoy [carrying our crosses]…".  Check out Hebrews 12:2: "[Jesus], who for the JOY that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame…"  (emphasis mine).  While you marvel over that one, check out Psalm 22:3: "But You are holy, You who INHABIT the praises of Israel."  We CAN praise God–and even find the joy of the Holy Spirit–in our crosses when we truly believe they are a GIFT from God.  Whether He's using the router or the chisel for my own good (to make me more like Him) or someone else's good, the promise of ultimate good remains.  He doeth all things well!

  • Guest

    Not to stray off the subject, but the comment about "good things" not always meaning riches… it made me think of something that I was talking about yesterday about the virtue of Charity. Most of us when we think of Charity, usually think of giving money to a worthy cause or perhaps our time. This it true, but also, I think that we should have Charity for others in our thoughts as well. For example, when we are wronged or even just slighted by someone, instead of jumping to conclusions and judging them, perhaps we could be charitible and give them the benefit of the doubt. Even if they are guilty, be charitible and make the first move to forgive.

    God Bless and have a great week!

  • Guest

    Cooky.  It is difficult for me to imagine that anyone finds a great deal of joy in learning that they have cancer, or that their teen age child was killed in an automobile accident.  It is easier for me to relate their pain and those crosses that they must carry, to the agony Christ suffered as He sweated blood in the garden contemplating the cross He was to carry. In Catholic tradition, literature and prayer, carrying a cross, or offering up our suffering "from this valley of tears" is endured (not enjoyed) so we may share with Christ in that which He suffered for us. These things are not normally associated with joy. You will find these events amongst the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, not in the Joyful Mysteries.  It was in that sense that I wrote. 

    Read your citing of Hebrews 12:2 more closely.   Jesus endured the cross, but he certainly did not enjoy it.  The joy that was set before Him refers to His being seated in the place of honor beside God's throne – after the cross - as explained in the next sentence - Hebrews 12:3.

    I don't understand your reference to Psalm 22.3.  All of the 22nd Psalm is prophecy and it describes the agony Christ experienced during His crucifixion.  Read Mathew 26 and 27 to see how all of the prophecy of the 22nd Psalm is completed in Christ.  Both Psalm 22 and the two chapters of Matthew to which they relate, are excellent descriptions of just how much Christ suffered for us. 

    Don't confuse the pain and suffering that must be endured by the Body of Christ, with the joy of that which Christ sets before us – eternal life, filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, serving Our Father through Jesus Christ, being motivated by an eternal love that we can not now even imagine.  Wow.    

  • Guest

    Hey, Dannycomelately, thanks for writing back.  I do understand your viewpoint.  I'm just saying that you can move past that.  For instance, what does Scripture say about Jesus during his Passion?  Acts 8.32 says he was "dumb (meaning making no sound) like a sheep before its shearers".  (c.f. Isaiah 53.7)  How many sufferers do you know who can keep quiet about their suffering?  I've had Catholics who've pointed out to me that complaining "takes away all the 'merit'" as in Matthew 6.1-6 (I know that's talking about alms, but the principle applies)…..and all but one has turned around and cried on my shoulder about how horrible their particular cross is!  As an inveterate complainer, God took me in hand one day and showed me Psalm 95: I work studiously at NOT complaining about anything since then.

    Secondly, I think you're confusing "happiness" or "enjoyment" with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.  There's a name for people who enjoy suffering, and no, I'm not one of them.  But there IS a joy in knowing you are right where God wants you, doing exactly what God wants from you.  (If you still can't find it, it sits on the right hand of Peace, and directly across from Abandonment.  Look there.)  This may sound harsh, but it needs to be said in all Christian charity: don't excuse yourself by saying it's a Gift of God and He gives His gifts to whom He wills when He wills, and we can't make Him give us His Gifts.  I think the answer to that is in Matthew 7.9-11.

    Thirdly, I do not in any way diminish the suffering of Jesus for our salvation.  I believe He suffered more than we can even imagine.  That was Love, and that's another Gift of God.  I didn't mean to imply that Jesus "enjoyed" His sufferings, but that He DID see the joy beyond the suffering……..and "left us an example" (1 Peter 2.21).  (Btw, I got a lot of this in a small booklet, Uniformity with God's Will, by St. Alphonsus Liguori–avaliable from TAN Books.)

    And, lastly, to answer your first comment, no, I do not have cancer, nor have I lost a teenager in an accident.  But I did have the example of a 'saint' whose response to a diagnosis of terminal cancer confirmed my "personal doctrine".  She told me, with tears in her eyes and the biggest grin on her face, "I'm so happy: I get to go Home and be with Jesus."

    Prayerfully, Cooky

     

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