Revised through substantial expansion on 2-20-18
My process for transformation emerges from personal experiences of both the physical world and the spiritual realm, and the interconnection of each. The most important relationship that anyone can ever have is a relationship with God. All other relationships flow from and are sustained by a sound relationship with God. Prayer must be Christ-centered.
The state of our spirituality can greatly influence our physical bodies just as the way we treat our physical bodies can affect our spirits. Because my education, parish work, and other past experiences and beliefs are rooted in Christianity, this site caters to Christian believers, but without judgement for whether they currently practice any faith. My prayer is that the content of this site be accessible to all believers regardless of their particular church affiliation.
A prerequisite for relationship transformation is the desire to go to heaven and a willingness and resolve to avoid the sins which lead to hell. Please recall that the Gospel of Matthew makes it clear that hell is easier to reach than heaven. This may be the opposite of what many people teach and millions more now believe. Unfortunately, a personal belief in something does not make it a reality regardless of how many people believe it. Furthermore, Jesus instructed, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few” (Mt 7:13-14).
We easily delude ourselves because the wide road (the easy road) is seductively simpe, accepting of things that are prohibitted by the gospel. This easy road leads many into sin. On the narrow road we are reminded to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Yet, the narrow road is difficult because we need to deny our fleshly desires and focus on what God wants of us. It’s no wonder that few people take the narrow road that leads to life. However, the narrow road that leads to life is what Jesus want for us. Jesus taught often about heaven and hell. He died to redeem us, and to invite us to seek eternal life with Him and the Father. He founded His Church, not as an instant means of salvation, but to shepherd souls along the narrow path leading to eternal life with Him.
There can be obstacles to transformation, especially if you adhere to the teachings of the modernist culture, and even many so-called religious leaders, that things that were sins in the past are no longer sins (which is a false teaching). False beliefs abound through out the secular world as well as in religious organizations. People have become more willing to accept half-truths as if they were complete, and even to live a life based upon outright lies, than to embrace any fullness of truth.
Objective truths remain objectively true through every age. Given the amount of false informaiton, false history and false religious ideas bombarding us, it may seem difficulot to discern objective truths. However, if we really pay attention to what Jesus said we can easily learn a few objective truths that reveal the false teachings that have deceived so many believers. Although many people have adopted various false interpretations regarding scripture, the scriptures themselves are clear when Jesus was admonishing hypocrites or speaking analogically, in parables, or giving commands, or reminding his followers of the objective truths contained in the Ten Commandments.
Acceptance of beliefs contrary to the Ten Commancments indicates that you may inadvertently have joined the modernist teachers on the wide road to destruction. Many people are on different paths which they all falsely believe leads to the same destination. Hopefully you have arrived recently at a fork in the road at which you may choose the narrow, constricted road leading to life which few can find. With desire to seek the truth along with proper discernment and conscience formation, and willingness to follow the Lord, we may arrive on that one narrow path that leads to all Truth. The successful journey requires more than accepting Jesus one time–that’s just the start. A life-long commitment to Jesus and truth is required.
When I was a young adult while riding in a car with friends, we would occasionally see a bridge abutment or railroad trestle with a spray painted message that read, “Jesus is the answer.” Trying to be funny, I would always yell out, “What’s the question?!!” The sad part of this is that I was denying a truth that I wouldn’t admit until more than two decades later–that it doesn’t matter what the question is and that Jesus either has or is the answer to all questions. Once I accepted that truth, life became immensely more beautiful. My problems did not go away; but I could see light at the end of the tunnel. Challenges could be faced and overcome. You should find that even if you think that you get no answers to your prayers, you still typically get something valuable–a connection with God that yields peace, and understanding that replaces anxiety and confusion. However, if you are in the frame of mind that I had in my younger days, and if you choose to remain there, then this site may not be helpful to you. Acceptance of God’s graces and providence is assumed for those who will be helped through my process. Regretfully, this website will be of little benefit to those who are adamantly opposed to Christianity.
For those who have been coached in Protestant beliefs, there may be some aggravation or conflicted opinon to overcome as you proceed. This is understandable because we all tend to believe what we have been taught by the authorities in whom we happen to believe. Furthermore, we tend to reject without much consideration beliefs that are contrary to what we have been taught. Given that there are over 30,000 different churches that claim to be Christian, two important questions should immediately arise: “How can we be certain that the authority that we have chosen to believe has the right to claim teaching authority, and how can we be certain that their teaching is actually true?”
Pastors and leaders of different churches often have extensive knowledge of scripture, yet their interpretations of scripture vary. Pastors may claim to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, yet, they arrive at differing beliefs and doctrines. However, true inspiritation by the Holy Spirit should lead to truth–not various interpretations and half truths. Yet, a true Christian must believe that there are objective truths that apply to eveyone.
Before, continuing, let’s dispense with arguments that claim that truth is subjective: Anyone who asserts that there are no objective truths disagrees with Jesus who is God incarnate. One cannot disagree with Jesus and still be a true Christian.
This leads to the next question: “Where do we find the truth?” We should be able to agree that the salvation of souls was the reason why Jesus founded a His Church, or as He stated, “Simon, thou art Peter (meaning rock) and on this rock I wil build my Church.” He indicated one “church” in the singular–not plural or multiple churches. He added something important to keep in mind that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. So, Our Lord founded one Church, not multiple ones. Furthermore, if a church was not founded by Jesus, then it was founded by a man. In the last five hundred years, hundreds and thousands of churches have been founded by men. They may claim to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, but if they really were inspired with truth, they would all arrive at the same beliefs. Many of these new churches were founded out of dissatisfaction or disagreement or disbelief with the doctrine of an existing church. When the new church was initiated, the founder retained the doctrine and trappings that he liked from the previous one and discarded the things that he didn’t like. A well known example of this is Henry VIII, who abandoned the Catholic Church and formed the Church of England specifically because he wanted to annul his marriage or divorce his wife who had not borne him a male heir to the throne. The Church cannot put an end to lawful marital vows because it has neither the ability nor authority to do so. The decision of the Church is based upon Chapter 19 of St. Matthew’s Gospel. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery (Mt 19:8, NAB). Clearly, Henry had no moral high-ground. However, he may have appealed to the discussion which follows in verses 10-12 regarding the phrase who can accept it:
His disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry. He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it” (Mt 19:10-12, NAB).
Unfortunately for Henry, the Church interprets this as meaning that those who cannot accept these teachings on marriage should not marry. Again, Henry had no moral high-ground.
Given that individuals arrive at different interpretations of scripture and doctrine, how would we know which church is the one founded by Jesus with the authority to interpret scripture and guide souls to salvation and do so without error? If a church forms from outside the tradition of the Catholic Church or has split from the Catholic beliefs, how can one assert that their church is the one founded by Christ on Peter?
Until the Eastern Church split from the Church of Rome, most people believed the same things about the faith, and the sacraments. Through the ages, those who taught different or new things that disagreed with the deposit of faith were branded as heretics. Yet even in light of the Eastern schism, the beliefs of East and Western churches were essentially the same. The split was largely a matter of personal disputes between Constantinople and Rome. Until Martin Luther’s split in 1521, most of the Christian world believed in the necessity of, and God’s presence in, the sacraments. He would eventually revolt and reject the need for them except for Baptism.
As you read, you will encounter many thoughts and interpretations of scripture that are distinctly Catholic. You could immediately point out a couple of scripture passages and insist that they prove that Catholics are wrong. As you will see, we could each pick a couple of scriptures here and there to make our points regarding issues. However, theological and philosophical argumentation on Christian doctrine must take into account all of scripture and Tradition. And the interpretation of those passages needs to be consistent with the full deposit of the faith. Furthermore, the Protestant tradition is only 500 years old, and in order to justify breaking away from the Catholic Church, Martin Luther invented new doctrines, deleted Sacraments and tweaked scripture (to put it mildly). We know the stated reasons for what he did, but you may discover that his reasoning for doing so was to arrive at what he wanted to proclaim. As an Augustinian monk (a Catholic priest), he should have known better than to conflate infallibility with impeccability. He had to have known very well, for example, St. Augustines’ explanation of Papal Infallibility–that the pope need not be sinless or impeccable in order to be infallible on Church morals and doctrine. In fact, in a twist of irony, whether consciously or unconsciously, Luther accepted Augustine’s reasoning to explain why he (Luther) might not need to be holy or perfect (impeccable) in order to correctly oppose papal infallibility. Yet at the same time, he refused to accept the papacy as infallible because the pope was not perfectly without sin. Therefore, if Luther’s reasoning follows: Luther claims to be correct about the faith and doesn’t need to be sinless in order to be infallible; but the pope is a sinner and therefore cannot be infallible. Here is an interesting article that sheds light on that. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2015/08/luthers-straw-man-papal-infallibility-personal-impeccability.html
The point of this website is to help people in their relationships, first with the Lord; then other relationships will be more easily supported once a solid foundation is laid. Intellectual curiosity and even honest skepticism regarding Christian beliefs might ultimately lead to benefits through this website. Skepticism is different from opposition because one who is skeptical is at least open to possibilities, whereas, one who is adamantly opposed to a concept or belief is not open to learning any more about it. So, I will provide this much for now: Although you may find some basic Christian apologetics here, this site is directed to those who are already believers or consider becoming believers. We have no intent to attack anyone for holding differing positions. Unfortunately different beliefs abound even among those who believe in Jesus. While everyone is entitled to an opinion, not every opinion can be true or valid. Therefore, at times, it will be necessary to examine various positions in the full context of scripture and deposit of the faith. If you are able to tolerate the approach to Christianity that is based upon the earliest of Church traditions, then the gospels may open up to you in a way you may never have known. It’s important to recall that there were no New Testament writings for at least two decades after Christ ascended. And for nearly the first hundred years of the early Church the compilation of the New Testament writings was incomplete. Furthermore, until the fourth century there was no canon of Christian scripture. The Church formed the scriptures as we know them, except for changes which Luther made.
Many authors and websites have already done a great job with apologetics. I’ll eventually include some links to other sites; but for now, this site may be of help only to those who already believe or are at least willing to approach with an open mind these basics: that the Jesus of history was God in human flesh, was crucified, died and rose from the dead and appeared to his apostles and many other people after his death and resurrection. Jesus was the only prophet who claimed to be God and was able to prove it by miracles and by revealing His resurrected body. As a result of Jesus’ teaching, the miracles he performed, and his resurrection and ascension, his followers became convinced that He was the Christ, the Son of God; and these early believers spread the faith throughout the world. So convinced were His followers and those to whom they related these events, that multitudes of people became believers in Jesus as Lord and Savior; and thousands of Christians suffered torturous death rather than deny that Jesus was God. Viewing events with skepticism and without the lens of scripture, historians have recorded facts about Jesus and Christians that concur with the major events found in the Christian scriptures, which we now refer to as the New Testament.
Many people assert that there are no objective truths, and therefore, sin and guilt are relative. Their reasoning, if it were based on a valid premise, would mean that we do not need a Savior. However, it is impossible to assert ABSOLUTELY that there is no objective truth. Such an assertion contradicts itself.
Here is an assertion that is falsely attributed to scripture and I paraphrase now because we hear it all the time, “Don’t judge!” This is an incomplete excerpt based upon Luke chapter 7 (vs 1 & 2) “Stop judging that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged. For the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” If we stop reading there, then we miss the following three verses which clarify the actual meaning of the entire passage which is not to judge harshly or arrogantly. Verse 5 reads, “You hypocrite, remove the beam from your eye first and then you will see clearly to remove the beam from your brother’s eye.” Interpreting verses 1 and 2 while ignoring the verses which immediately follow arrives at a meaning that is contradictory to the intent of the passage which is to show that we can correct our brother, but must do so without arrogance and after we have corrected ourselves. It also ignores Matthew’s Gospel verses 15-17 that indicates that we can correct others, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” This passage gives further explanation in how to judge and correct. Therefore, isolating passages of scriipture outside the context that has always been understood by the Church leads to error.
Many half-truths have crept into beliefs of many people who call themselves Christians. Yet, it behooves us to have sound reasons for what we believe. These reasons must go beyond the fact that someone or even many people teach something. Millions of people teaching something means that it is a popular belief. However, the popularity of something does not equate to truth. For example, cohabitting without the benefit of marriage is popular now eventhough it opposes the truths spoken by Jesus regarding fornication. Furthermore, besides being sinful, studies have shown that cohabitting is generally not helpful for relationships.
Lots of false arguments that appear to be based upon scripture may seem intriguing at first, but do not hold up under investigation or within context of full scripture and deposit of faith. The fact that there are hundreds or thousands of these differing beliefs based upon personal interpretation of scripture just goes to prove that you can make scripture portray whatever you want it to say. This is called reading into scripture. And this is where many people have been led astray.
Varying interpretations of scripture prove that we cannot rely soley upon one or a few people who come along 1500 to 2000 years after Christ and say that scripture means something different from what Peter, and the apostles handed on to successive popes and bishops. Apostolic succession and adherence to Christian Tradition has kept the teaching on faith and morals consistent for two thousand years. Whenever that tradition is abandoned, the world is led into greater ignorance of truth. For example, the abandonment of Tradition led people to believe that salvation is achieved through their own minds, belief systems or even wishful thinking as if they were capable of saving themselves. If people were truly capable of saving themselves, Jesus would not have established a Church and Sacraments in which He is made present to us and gives us graces needed to overcome sin and follow the narrow path to salvation.
Apostolic succession has not meant that the Church believes things or created doctrine through Papal Infallibility. On the contrary, the Church maintains its dogmas, in part because they have been maintained by all the bishops acting through direct and unbroken succession of the first apostles and in accord with what was handed to them through Peter and Paul and the other apostles. In spite of what non-Catholics teach about the Catholic Church, the various Church Councils rarely promulgated any beliefs or understandings that were new. Church councils didn’t invent new beliefs. Rather, in order to counter various heresies, the councils clearly delineated what the Church had always believed. Popes infallibly uphold doctrine when they defend Church dogma and protect their flocks from falling into sin and heresy. Popes are not infallible when they speak in opposition to Church tradition or dogma.
Due to the break from Traditional Church by Luther 500 years ago, the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles are now being ignored in many Protestant churches. Many of the sins that are prohibited in scripture have become accepted in different Protestant churches–adultery (including divorce and remarriage), fornication, actively engaging in same-sex relationships. How do we know that they are accepted in many churches? Those churches not only refuse to speak out against those sins (or any sin, for that matter) but also these churches are ordaining people for ministry who are in those very same habitual situations that are prohibited in the Ten Commandments given by God. Furthermore, Jesus and the apostles warned about these sins. Jesus said that sins of the above type would exclude people from heaven and cast them into hell. The Apostle Paul warned about the same things. Jesus spoke about hell often. Tragically, ironically and incomprehensibly, people deny Jesus while claiming to be Christian. Denial of Jesus and the existence of hell are false beliefs that satan uses to decieve and lure the unwary to rush gleefully into the lake of fire.
Clearly, the Catholic Church needed reform due to abuses with indulgences; and it was already in the process of correcting abuses, having issued seven different Papal condemnations between 1268 and 1478 of various practices that were occurring with regard to indulgences. In Luther’s 95 Thesis, he never denied or rejected the authority of the church to administer indulgences. He did not reject the existence of Purgatory or the significance of Sacraments at this time either. Rather, his complaints were over the way different prelates and some priests were promoting indulgences.
In order to support partial truths and to justify the break from tradition, many false interpretations and new doctrines had to be created in an effort to make sense of the half-truths. This was done by removing some scriptures and interpreting scriptures out of context through convoluted argumentation, and then taking snippets of scripture out of original meaning and context.
Until Luther founded his own church, the efficacy and power of the Sacraments was generally believed by most of the Christian world, including Luther himself. His complaint was about the selling of indulgences by some unscrupulous priests and bishops, the selling of church office, and the political involvement of the Church. Luther’s complaints were valid, and his observations were not new issues. These had been problems for centuries, and for the previous two hundred years the Church had been in the process of correcting them. Obviously, things happen slowly in the Church especially in those days when there was no air mail or email. Consequently, communication was slow, and news of events traveled slowly. Furthermore, during this time the Church experienced a 40 year period during which there were two duly elected popes. Canon Law itself made it difficult to depose duly elected popes; and the decision to depose the previous two in absentia and elect a new one resulted in there being three popes when the first two refused to step down. The chaos was purely political and never theological. The gates of hell never prevailed over the Church. Also during this time, the Black Death was claiming millions of lives in Europe.
As a Catholic priest (an Augustinian Monk), Luther believed in and administered the sacraments. However, after his excommunication, in order to distinguish his new church from the Catholic Church, he threw out much of 1500 years of Apostolic tradition along with the existence of Purgatory as well as all the sacraments except Baptism. He did so unilaterally, albeit with the approval of Calvin and Zwingly who later abandoned Lutheranism over doctrinal disagreements, and started their own churches. Was Luther wiser than 1500 years of tradition and all the Church Fathers put together? Who was correct, the Catholic Church, John Huss, Martin Luther, Zwingly, Calvin or one of another 30,000 churches that have sprung into existence, many of those in just the last 200 years? Obviously, only one can be correct.
If Luther was correct, that would imply that for 1500 years until Luther established his church, Christians never had a Church. However, that can’t be true because we know that there has been a succession of bishops and records of Councils going all the way back to Peter. Writings of the Church Fathers (first successors the the apostles) confirm that the Church believes and practices what was taught by the apostles especially Peter and John. Ignatius of Antioch called the Church Catholic around 107 AD. The Church believes and practices today the things that it practiced and believed since the time of the apostles. The Church never disappeared. There were some dark times politically, but the Church never lost its way theologically. There was never a need to reinvent the Church.
There is no question that there are evil people in the Catholic Church–there always have been and always will be weeds among the wheat. Jesus predicted as much. The existence of bad people in the Church, does not negate the apostolic succession or mission of the Church and does not make Church teaching evil or heterodox. In spite of bad characters, the Catholic Church is the “guardian of morality and virtue” (Fathers Rumble and Carty, Radio Replies Press).
Like it or not, the Catholic Church has the same old doctrine it always had. It simply cannot change although many modernists within the Church, including Pope Francis, would like it to change. The modernists are flawed just as Luther was flawed. Many people are being led away from Christ by false teachings as portions of the Church turn towards modernism. Parts of the Church are beginning to look Protestant. However, even if most of the hierarchy were to fall into apostasy, there will continue to exist a remnant of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Many are being attracted to what seems like an easier way in some of the less restrictive false doctrines being proposed. However, the reality is that the road is wide that leads to destruction. At first glance, the wide road looks easier, especially compared to the discipline of the one true faith. However, faithful Catholics have all we need to face the challenges of holiness. We have the valid Eucharist with Christ’s true presence. We have the opportunity to confess our sins and be forgiven. Jesus breathed on his apostles giving them new life and the Holy Spirit along with power to carry out their mission Then, Jesus said, “If you forgive any sins, they are forgiven. If you retain any sins they are retained” (John 20:22-23, New American Standard).
The Catholic Church cannot be faulted for practicing the sacrament of Confession or Reconciliation. The Church is only doing what Jesus said to do; and the only way for the priest to know what is to be forgiven or retained is to hear the confession of the repentant sinner. Protestants claim that the priest can have no part in the forgiveness of sins. They base their position upon other scripture passages that make it appear that all sins are already forgiven by Christ’s completed work. However, they overlook the fact that Jesus’ statement is conditional: if you forgive, and if you retain. This implies that regardless of Christ’s previous salvific work, sins are forgiven only if the priest, by authority given by Christ, hears the sins and forgives them in the Sacrament of Confession or Reconciliation.
There is no better place for believing Catholics than in the original Church founded by Christ with sacraments instituted by Christ for the good reason that we need them. Therefore, regardless of confusion that abounds, the laity as well as many priests and bishops will remain faithful to the 2000 year old tradition. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. We have Jesus’ word on that.
Luther’s idea,Scripture Alone, that all one needs is scripture, is not a scriptural concept. Although there is a passage (2 Tim 3:16) which states that scripture is useful for several things, it doesn’t state that it provides all one needs for salvation. In fact, in 2 Thes 2: 15 we read, “Hold fast to the traditions that you have been taught whether by word or letter from us.” Clearly, not everything is written down, just as the John the Evangelist suggests in Jn 21:25 that Jesus said and did so many things, but not all of it is written down.
For many years after Christ, there existed mostly Old Testament scripture because the New Testament was still being written. It took 15 to 25 years after Christ’s ascension before we have any epistles. Even then in 25 years we have only four letters. Later, the gospels and rest of the new testament, except for John’s books, were written between 55 and 65 AD. Finally, John’s books were completed between 85 and 95 AD. Then the canonicity of existing writing was discerned between 100 to 220, and only by the year 400 is the final decision made regarding canonicity of New Testament scriptures, a canon of the Old Testament having been completed around 100 AD. Jesus had not instructed the apostles to write books. Instead, He commanded them to teach and baptize and receive him in Eucharist by commemorating his last supper on the Feast of Passover–the Supper of the Lord. Consequently, the faith spread through both an oral and written tradition which the apostles handed down and maintained through a liturgical tradition as well.
The majority of the world was illiterate until the 15 century; so few people would have been able to read. Even if one could read, even it would hardly be affordable to own a complete bible until the invention of Gutenberg in 1450 which reduced the cost of printing. The Old Testament books had been preserved and revered also by Catholics. Consequently, except for the parts of the Bible that Luther changed, the bibles that Protestants use, or upon which they base their translations are from the Catholic Church. It’s ironic that Protestantism began only 500 years ago, but Protestants use scripture in an effort to refute the teachings of the Catholic Church. However, it is the Catholic Church that for nearly 2000 years maintained and canonized those scriptures, preserved scripture within the full context of the Christian faith and tradition under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Catholic doctrine has come to be hated; but the arguments against Catholic doctrine only impress those who who either never knew the faith or have a misconception of what Catholics actually believe. This little blog will cover only topically the main misunderstandings held by non-Catholics. Other writers have provided fine apologetics; and links will be provided to fill some of the gaps that are left here. Many Catholics who left the Church probably would never have left if they had really known their faith. If people will come to understand what Catholics really believe and why, then not only would they see things in a different light but would probably want to join the Church.
Protestants, and even many who were fiercely anti-Catholic, and delighted in Catholic bashing by their own admission, have converted to Catholicism after learning the actual truths that Catholics believe, and by reading the Church Fathers–the immediate successors of Peter, many of whom who were taught directly by Peter or John.
When these same previously mentioned Protestants attended a Catholic Mass out of curiosity, they discovered to their amazement that the Mass is totally based upon scripture. Not only that, but these potential converts who also really knew the Old Testament, discovered that there is an undeniable connection and synergy between the concept of sacrament in the Old Testament and the Sacraments of New Testament. Sacrament was not something new that the Catholic Church made up or invented Neither was the concept new when Christ instituted them for His Church although they took on a greater meaning and purpose in the salvation of souls. The sacraments actually effect what is being signified.
The concept of sacraments has existed since the Exodus. Sacraments are signs that make present events of the past as well as making present God’s grace. Several events of the Old Testament prefigure Eucharist and the sacrifice of the Mass.
When we study the person of Jesus, we see Him as counter-cultural. Indeed He was with regard to perople. He was always doing things that were considered taboo–even associating with the dreaded tax collectors. Yet, if we know Jesus even better, we see that he was very traditional when it came to worship and liturgy. He was an observant Jew who is now both a great high priest and passover victim. An appreciation of Passover enlightens and enlivens the heart and soul with love and amazement as the full meaning of the New Covenant is revealed in Communion with the Body and Bood of our Lord. He gave us Himself as Sacrament on the Feast of Passover on the night before He died. The apostles were also observant Jews who anticipated commemorating the Passover as was their annual custom. However, at this particular Passover Meal, Jesus would give them much more than they could have anticipated–His own flesh as true food and nourishment for many believers as well as His true and continuing presence in His Church. Now Jesus gives of Himself at each and every Mass.
The Hebrew scriptures reveal that the priests offered sacrifice in the temple; and sacramental events were celebrated at God’s command at certain festivals throughout the liturgical calendar. The Hebrews experienced sacrament in the temple prayer and ritual, through the practices of priestly sacrifice. The Hebrew Passover commemorates the protection by the blood of the lamb from the final plague that would break Pharoah’s obstinance and enable the Hebrews to go free. God commanded the Hebrews to remember this event each year (Ex 12:17). When Jews celebrate this meal (with unleavened bread) not only do they remember the events of that night but they make them present along with God’s grace. An extra seat is provided at the table for the prophet Elijah, and a cup of wine is pured for him at the end of the meal. Then the front door of the house is opened, and Elijah is invited in. Jews expect to receive God’s grace in these signs which also point to an event beyond Exodus–a future redemption which they await. The link below is to a site operated by a Hebrew Christian. This will provide insight to appreciating Passover from the Hebrew tradition and perspective.
While the Jews expect to receive the Pophet Elijah at the Passover meal, Christians receive their Redeemer in the flesh. Jesus said of the bread and wine, I paraphrase for the sake of brevity, this is my body and blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant which wil be shed for you and for many… Then Jesus commanded, “Do this in memory of me.”
The institution of Eucharist on the Jewish Feast of Passover on the night before He died, surpasses the event that prefigured or foreshadowed His sacrifice on Calvary. The blood of the Lamb becomes elevated to greater significance and gives fuller comprehension of God’s salvific plan for His people.
Catholic Tradition holds that at the Last Supper, the Apostles were given the command and authority to confect Eucharist, that is, to perform the Consecration Rite in which the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Christ. The term for this change is called transubstantiation which means that Christ becomes present under the appearance of bread and wine alhough the characteristics of the bread and wine, the look, feel and taste remain familiar. Unleavened bread is always used just as the Jews used unleavened bread at Passover.
Just as the Jewish priests offered the sacrifice, the Catholic priest, validly ordained by a bishop through apostolic succession, is the one who is allowed to confect Eucharist. Catholic lay people and non-Catholic clergy have not received the faculty to confect a valid Eucharist.
Just as the pope does not need to be impeccable to proclaim with infallibility, so the priest deos not have to be impeccable to perform the Rite of Consecration. Thus, even if he is in serious sin, the Eucharist is real and valid as long as he has the proper intention. (By the way, the concept of Papal Infallibility that was mentioned above is rarely used. It does not imply that the Pope is holy or sinless; and it concerns matters of faith and morals only. In 2000 years, Papal Infallibility has been utilized only about three times)
Although there have been some instances of Catholics and Lutherans receiving communion at each other’s services, this has been traditionally forbidden by the Catholic Church. Communion implies unity of belief. For this reason Catholics are not supposed to receive communion in a non-Catholic service as this would imply a unity of belief that does not exist. Similarly, non-Catholics are not invited to receive Holy Communion in Catholic Churches. A person who wishes to become Catholic and receive Holy Communion must have the proper disposition and have been fully prepared through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)–a process of formation which may last a year or more. In addition, Catholics must be in a state of grace. A Catholic who is aware of having an unforgiven mortal sin, must go to confession before receiving Holy Communion. As St. Paul wrote, one who receives unworthily profanes the body and blood of Christ , and eats and drinks damnation upon himself (1 Cor 11:29).
The scriptural basis for the Sacrament of Confession includes, ” Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven, whose sins you retain they are retained. In order ot know what to forgive or not forgive, the priest must hear the confession of the penitent. Hence, the penitent must tell his sins to the priest. The sacrament is not new, but its practice has changed over the centuries, from public to private confession. Greater detail will be provided in another post. While it’s true that sins are forgiven by Christ’s death on the the cross, Jesus left His Church with two sacraments by which sins may be forgiven. The first is Baptism in which original sin and any personal sins are remitted. When a person sins after Baptism, then another method is available–the Sacrament of Forgiveness or Reconciliation or Confession. Reconciliation was foreshadowed in the Book of Exodus by the Day of Atonement.
Sadly, many evils have infltrated the Catholic Church. The pedophilia and pederasty scandals are horrible and sickening, Many abused victims have been terribly wounded for life. They and their families and others have lost faith. And now it is becoming apparent that many priests and bishops are living the lifestyles that Jesus warned about. Some priests and bishops are advocating a faith in which anything goes, and any life style is acceptable. Some are speaking against 2000 years of Church Teaching. Their sins are evil enough, but those who teach heresy like this to their flocks (“lead little ones into sin”) will at their judgment day prefer to have a giant millstone tied around their necks and be cast into the sea. The spiritual warfare has been ramping up in the last few years; and satan seems to have won many battles by attacking the leaders and getting deviants into the priesthood and leadership roles. Still ther are many good priests and bishops. The great evils that have penetrated the Church, even if compounded tenfold, could never negate the truth that has resided in His Church since Jesus appointed Peter to lead. Many Catholics will remain faithful even should the leaders join the common culture of sin and death. We know how this plays out. There are more of righteous laity and priests and bishops than apostate clergy; and greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.
The topic of discerning truth is a matter which I’ll take up later. But here is an example of a belief that is unreasonable because it is taken out of context of the full deposit of scripture: Many non-Catholic positions assert that a one-time acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior is all that is needed for salvation. Unfortunately, the belief is not based upon the entire context of sacred scripture and is primarily wishful thinking that nothing else needs to be done. Those who teach this ignore the words of Jesus as well as the Apostle Paul who was constantly writing to believers, (those who had already professed belief in Jesus, and exhorting them to amend their lives and be holy. Again, these were people who had already become believers in Jesus through Paul’s teaching. Jesus told his followers to be holy as our heavenly Father is holy. Whenever Jesus would heal someone, he would tell the person to go and sin no more. He spoke often of hell which He described as eternal punishment for sin by fire where there would be great and unrelenting suffering–weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus did not build His Church on himself and then leave it to flounder without a supreme earthly leader, as some people wish to believe and attempt to convince others by using far flung arguments. Jeus built His Church on Simon whose name He changed to Peter meaning rock (Mt 16:16-19). (In scripture, a name change by God has geat significance for example, Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul.) Jesus gave Peter the Keys to the Kingdom. This is also very significant in tradition. In ancient history, the person who held the keys was in charge of the fortress or kingdom while the king was away. Jesus gave Peter, among other things, and later the rest of the apostles (also Mt: 18: 18), the authority to teach, and to bind and loose–forgive or not forgive sins. Watever Peter would bind on earth, Jesus promised, would be bound in heaven.
Some positions claim that Peter lost his authority by denying Christ three times. However, that is not the case, although Peter may have been worried about what Jesus was going to say or do about that. After Jesus rose from the dead, He gave Peter an opportunity to redeem himself (no pun intended). Imagine Peter’s concern when he arrives on shore to see that the breakfast that Jesus is preparing is being cooked over a charcoal fire–possibly the first charcoal fire that Peter has seen since denying Jesus three times while warming himself near a charcoal fire. Then Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Peter assured Jesus, three times, and each time, Jesus told him either to feed or tend His lambs and sheep (Jn 21:15). In other words Jesus told Peter to care for His flock, thereby not only reaffirming Peter’s leadershop role, but also affirming Peter as the shepherd of His flock.
In the early Church, whenever there were questions about practice, Peter was present as leader and was involved in discerning the movement of the Holy Spirit, even if he, Peter, might ultimately change his position on matters. For example, Peter initially believed that Gentile converts to Christianity should follow the old law (including being circumcised) just like the Jewish converts to Christianity. But, on the witness of Paul and others, Peter changed his position (to the delight of potential male converts) and he led the assembly of apostles and presbyters in debate and decision. And the result is that the decision reached was not the dictate of one individual, but the entire assembly of apostles and presbyters acting in one accord. In the same way, Church decisions on faith, morals, doctrine and practice have typically been made by bishops and the pope discerning what the Holy Spirit is clarifying to the Church. These affirmations are always in conformity with the deposit of faith that has already been divinely revealed to the Church. As noted previously, New Testament writings were sparse in the early Church. Jesus had instructed the apostles to teach and make disciples. Consequently, the apostles were busy teaching. Fewer than half the apostles wrote anything that we know of; and even then it was nearly twenty years after Christ’s ascension that gospels and New Testament writings begin to appear. Clearly, Church dogma has not been determined on the whim of one person, but has rested upon the bishops acting in accord within the context of the full deposit of faith handed down through tradition whether in word or writing as in 2 Thes. 2:15.
A detailed study of Peter as “rock” and leader of the Church is at this link: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2018/04/primacy-of-st-peter-verified-by-protestant-scholars.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=BRSS&utm_campaign=Catholic&utm_content=127
After a thousand years, the Eastern Church split from the Roman Church due to, among other things, its belief that all bishops were equal and the chair of Peter was not superior to them. There may have been some political motivations as well, prompted by forced changes in hierarchy as well as changes in discipline or practice being imposed by Rome. In spite of Papal Supremacy, the Roman Church governed and continues to govern mostly by authority of the bishops acting in unity based upon scripture and tradition. The Eastern Church also claims that it maintains traditions which go back to Christ. In reality, the Eastern Rite Church allows divorce and remarriage under certain circumstances and also is more lax than the Roman Church with regard to the use of artificial birth control.
The Church that Jesus founded was not for a one-time reception of Him, but to help believers to be holy and receive Him regularly, and to be a constant support for them. Jesus and the Father wish to dwell in us. Therefore, we need to make our temples as perfect as possible right now. That begins with a minimum of regular attendance at the Sunday worship. Those who believe that God would not send them to hell for failure to attend church on Sunday without good reason (or for any other sin of omission or commission), have created their own God–themselves. Furthermore, because we have free will, and because God does not force us to comply with His will, it is the sinner who sends himself to destruction.
I was guilty of something almost as irresponsible as making myself a god. I decided to continue in sin and hoped that God would give me the chance to repent before I died. After doing things my own way for more than two decades, I found my life in a mess, and decided to repent and do things God’s way. Thankfully, although I had abandoned God, He comforted me in my time of remorse. He was present to me, and I could sense His presence in a most powerful way as I prayed and cried. It was an amazing experience to discover that in spite of my sins, God loved me enough to be present to me and forgive me. Many people have had similar life changing experiences such as this. However, it is still possible that we, just like the Israelites, may fall back into sin. It is necessary that we always try to advance in holiness, and then repent again when we have ignored God’s commands and refused his graces.
It is very difficult if not impossible to remain a lukewarm Christian for very long without falling into sin. Just as regular physical exercise is needed to keep our bodies strong, so spiritual holiness requires attention and effort to advance in grace and overcome our earthly sinfulness. This is why we need to be on fire and always try to be holy, praying frequently and guarding our thoughts and actions. Without regular Sunday worship, daily and frequent prayer, reading scripture, examination of our lives, and asking forgiveness and seeking discernment, even the nicest person is likely to fall gradually into sinful patterns and habits. But a heart contrite and humbled He will not spurn (Psalm 51).
Sadly, many people throughout the world have fallen away from true faith in Christ. Europe has very few Christians remaining; and North America is following suit at a rapid pace. Evil has permeated the world to the degree that nothing is a sin anymore. Since Luther, people have become their own Pope and started their own church–at least 30,000-40,000 of them believing different things and accepting any behaviors, supposedly inspired by the Holy Spirit. But many diverse beliefs cannot all be true. Evil has penetrated the Catholic Church at many levels; and-a sustained attack by Satan in many seminaries has resulted in the recruitment and ordination of many unholy men into the priesthood, while intentionally excluding many righteous ones. Many unorthodox priests have been elevated into the hierarchy and the Vatican itself. Many are teaching novel, unholy doctrines under the guise of mercy. They no longer call out the sin. They no longer recognize sin. Therefore, the idea of mercy is a lie There can be no mercy unless there is forgiveness, and there can be forgiveness if there is no sin. Since there is no sin, all are invited to get into one big, happy vessel headed to hell.
God’s mercy towards repentent sinners is what the Church traditionally taught. Unfortunately, many are preaching a false gospel not only in opposition to Church teaching about sins of the flesh, but also, blatantly against the same teaching of Jesus. St. Paul writes in Gal 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed!” (in Greek “ananthema”).
Prayer Must Be Christ-centered
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