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Feed My Lambs

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them,
he said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. 
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”-John 21:15-19

There is a lot that are going on in today’s Gospel reading.  It may helpful to oneself in the place of St. Peter to fully understand.  You may recall that when Jesus was on trial, and according to Matthew’s Gospel Peter denied him three times.  In today’s passage Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him.  The significance of this was not lost on Peter as John describes Peter as being in distress about this.  Peter would go on to be the head of the church on earth, and the first Pope in the Church.  This was a moment of restoration and forgiveness.  Christ goes on to tell Peter that he would suffer martyrdom.

What does this mean for us?  In Matthew 16:18 Christ calls Peter the rock and says that church will be built on him.  Just a few verses later Jesus tells Peter that he is acting contrary to the will of God.  He even denied Jesus!  How many of us have acted contrary to the will of God?  How many of us even denied him?  The bottom line in the life of Peter is about a man who was restored even though he fell from grace.  God’s mercy is greater than anything we have ever done.  Peter went on to lead the early church and feed the sheep.  We may not be priests or bishops, but we all have a gift that help to feed the flock.  Are we using it?

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Quote

“We are to love God for Himself, because of a twofold reason; nothing is more reasonable, nothing more profitable.”
-St. Bernard of Clairvaux

The Ten Commandments, Part Two

6.  You shall not commit adultery

This command prohibits sexual activity with any person other than one’s spouse, and also any emotional connection as well.  This command also extends to masturbation as it turns the sexual gift into a selfish act. It protects the dignity of the sacramental marriage, prohibits divorce, and encourages a chaste life.  Regarding this command the catechism states, “They are contrary to the moral law. the sexual act must take place exclusively within marriage. Outside of marriage it always constitutes a grave sin and excludes one from sacramental communion” (CCC para 2390).  This command helps us remember that our bodies, though a gift from God, are also a gift to our spouses.  Our spouse may be going through a situation, such as a medical condition, that would not allow sexual activity.  This reminds us that marriage is much more than sex, but a union with that one person.  It reminds us that our sexuality is gift to be given freely to our spouse.

7.  You shall not steal.

This command prohibits the unlawful taking of one’s property.  Two examples are stealing physical property and intellectual property.  This command tells us to treat others how we want to be treated and promotes the fair treatment of all.  It also helps us to treat the poor virtuously as not to take advantage of their situation and steal the time that they have with their families.  The command tells us to treat every person with dignity, and the catechism echoes this when it states, “respect for human dignity requires the practice of the virtue of temperance, so as to moderate attachment to this world’s goods” (CCC para 2407).  One situation that is dealt with daily is in regard to social media.  Someone may post something that is insightful, but when it is posted it is now intellectual property.  It is ok to share the quotation, but not ok to post it without citing who said it.

8.  You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

This command tells us to not be dishonest in any way.  Two examples are not to lie and not to gossip.  The command encourages us to be fruitful witnesses to Christ and the gospel.  It also tells us to denounce hypocrisy.  Regarding this the catechism states, “Since God is “true,” the members of his people are called to live in the truth” (CCC para 2465).  An example of how this command can be applied happens at places of employment throughout the world.  When someone has a juicy piece of gossip to tell we must resist the temptation.  To listen is to encourage, and the character of the person may never recover.

9.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.

This command tells us to not lust after someone else’s spouse or to look for sex outside of marriage.  This command encourages us to live a life of modesty and chastity.  We are to be chaste in the vocation in which we are called.  If we are single then we are chaste, and if married we have sexual relations with our spouse.  As the catechism states, “chastity lets us love with upright and undivided heart” (CCC para 2520).  This command helps us make sound moral decisions by reminding us that we are set apart as a Christian people.  Temptation is all around us, and we may be attracted to someone who is married.  It reminds us to respect the marriage sacrament and the dignity of the individual.  They are much more than their looks.

10.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.

This command tells to not be envious by the material possessions that some one has, and reminds to not be greedy.  The command reminds us that we are to keep God first and be thankful for the blessings that he has given us.  God has given us so much and we must remember that.  The catechism says it best when it states, “The economy of law and grace turns men’s hearts away from avarice and envy” (CCC para 2541).  This command plays out perfectly when looking at those who have been blessed with riches.  Many think that since they have much they won’t miss it if we take a little.  If we see them drop a $100 bill it is not okay to keep it.  This command reminds us to act uprightly with our fellow man, and what is theirs is theirs.  It keeps us from having bad thoughts and keeps us from breaking other commands.

Works Cited

Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Doubleday Books.  New York, NY:  1995.  Print.

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

Seek Unity

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying:
“Holy Father, keep them in your name
that you have given me,
so that they may be one just as we are one.
When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me,
and I guarded them, and none of them was lost
except the son of destruction,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
But now I am coming to you.
I speak this in the world
so that they may share my joy completely.
I gave them your word, and the world hated them,
because they do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
I do not ask that you take them out of the world
but that you keep them from the Evil One.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth.
Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”-John 17:11b-19

Today’s Gospel reading from the mass is very interesting.  This is what is known as the high priestly prayer of Christ, and it happens before he is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus prays that the disciples may be unified as Christ was in unity with the rest of the Trinity.  However Christianity is anything but united today.  The Protestant reformation ripped the church apart, and the division has not stopped since.  So what are we to do?

Christ consecrated the disciples, and steadfastness to the truth is what we are called to.  Speak, listen , and inform.  There are a lot of misunderstandings about the Catholic church, and we have the obligation to speak the truth.  In a loving manner lets address the concerns of our Protestant brethren, and in turn lets listen to what they have to say.  It will be frustrating at times, but they love Christ as well and we need to remember that.  We are not of this world and we don’t write off people because they believe differently than we do.  Christ wants unity, and that was one of his last prayers.  How are we bridging the divide?  Let’s address the questions of our Protestant brethren.  Not all of us are comfortable speaking, but if they are sincere about learning the truth they should be ok with getting a link or book.  Remain steadfast in the truth of the faith.

Quote

Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup for the unity of his blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the elders and deacons [lit. servants], my fellow-servants.-St. Ignatius of Antioch

The Ten Commandments, Part 1

1.       You shall have no other gods beside me.

The first commandment forbids idolatry and polytheism.  It promotes putting God first in our lives and aligning our lives in such a way that nothing takes the place of God.  Regarding this commandment the catechism says, “The first commandment forbids honoring gods other than the one Lord who has revealed himself to his people” (CCC para 2110).  This commandment is important in moral decision making because it tells us what is important.  We have many things such as cell phones, social media, and television that can take the place of God.  This commandment tells us to make sure He stays in his proper place in our lives.

2.       You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

The second commandment is a prohibition against taking false oaths and debasing the holy name of YHWH.  The catechism states that “Rejection of false oaths is a duty to God” (CCC para 2151).  The second virtue that this commandment promotes is honestly before God and man.  There are many ways in which this commandment comes into play in regard to moral decision making.  One that comes to mind is our faith.  Christianity is under attack in many areas of the world, and it may be tempting deny that we are Christians depending on the situation.  That is a false oath, and this commandment encourages us to make the right choice and stand up for our faith.

3.       Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.

This command tells us to keep worship of God as a priority.  It is also a call to rest and remember everything the Lord has done for us.  It prohibits taking advantage of the poor in our employment, and worship of money.  Regarding this commandment the catechism states, “The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money” (CCC para 2172).  Since worship is a priority it stands to reason that we should do everything possible to attend mass and receive the Eucharist if at all possible.  This assists our decision making by reminding us of what is important.  Though we may be exhausted by a hard work week, we must make the right choice and attend mass to worship with the community.

4.      Honor your father and mother.

This commandment implores us to honor our parents, but to also honor those whom God has given that authority to.  This includes teachers, police officers, and government officials. The commandment prohibits abuse of our parents in the latter stages of their lives, and manipulation of authority figures for personal gain.  Regarding this the catechism states, “This commandment includes and presupposes the duties of parents, instructors, teachers, leaders, magistrates, those who govern, all who exercise authority over others or over a community of persons” (CCC para 2199).  This commandment helps in moral decision making by helping us remember the great gift that has been given to us.  Though we may be experiencing hard financial times, it is never appropriate to take advantage of an elderly person for our own gain.  We must show them the respect that God tells us ins granted to them.

5.      You shall not murder.

Regarding this commandment the catechism states, “God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being” (CCC para 2258).  This commandment prohibits the taking of an innocent life or deliberately disrespecting those around us.  This commandment also tells us to protect life from the moment of conception to natural death.  Therefore, the commandment helps us virtuously protect life and to preserve peace among fellow humans.  This command assists in moral decision making by helping us remember that everyone is made in the image of God.  Though we may be disrespected by someone, we must show them grace because they are made in that image.  We must only resort to violence only if our own lives are threatened, and only as a last resort.

Works Cited

Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Doubleday Books.  New York, NY:  1995.  Print.

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

Blessed Be the Lord Who Saves

Blessed day by day be the Lord,
who bears our burdens; God, who is our salvation.
God is a saving God for us;
the LORD, my Lord, controls the passageways of death. -Psalm 68:20-21

Today’s Bible reflection is taken from the second part of the responsorial Psalm.  Though it is short there is much contained within its words.  We are reminded that is God who saves, and it is He who controls our eternal destiny.  He has done much good for all of us, he gave us life, and we are to respect and be in awe of him.  In short, blessed be the Lord.

We have a tendency as humans to want to do things on our own.  This is fine and dandy if it is something like riding a bike, but not something we should be doing in terms of our salvation.  The fact of the matter is that we can’t get to heaven on our own.  God is our salvation as the Psalmist says.  Are you trying to do it alone?  Christ established the church to guide us on the road we should go and teach us the truths about God.  It is God who saves and we do not save ourselves.

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Quote

“Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.”
-St. Augustine of Hippo

Go and Bear Fruit

I chose you from the world,
to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.-John 15:16

Today’s gospel reflection is taken from the antiphon before today’s Gospel reading.  Jesus makes a very direct point and simply says “Go and bear fruit that will last”.  It seems so easy, and yet so complicated at the same time.  To bear fruit you have to start with a seed.  In its journey to become fruit the seed go through various stages.  As a seedling it pushes through the dirt towards the sun, it relies on the rain and the sun to nourish it to maturing, and when the time is right it brings forth fruit to bring nourishment to the recipient.

In the Christian life we look to the Son, Jesus, and he provides nourishment through his scripture and the church.  Scripture says that all of us have a gift that can help with the mission of the church.  Some are given the gift of teaching, administration, leadership, mercy, etc.  Each gift is vital and needed to fulfill the mission of the church.  Are we being faithful in this mission?  Using this gift is fruit that will last.  It lasts because it spreads the Gospel and helps teach the next generation that will pass it on.

Quote

He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows. –St. Gregory of Nissa

 

The Legacy of Vatican II

The legacy of Vatican II is one that can bring up mixed emotions.  Many see the council as something that was needed, but the implementation was flawed.  Others go as far to say that the Church broke from its sacred duty with the council.  No matter what view one may take, the council’s influence is still felt within the Church, and within the world.

The world was changing in the twentieth century, and the Church needed speak of its relevance in a culture in the face of a modernist society.  The tone of the council is one that is vastly different than it 19th century counterpart Vatican I.  Vatican I addressed the issue of Papal primacy and infallibility, and at time did so in a triumphalist tone. The Vatican II council fathers, addressed issues, but did so in a tone that seemed to me for inclusive.  This inclusion did not change doctrine or tradition.

The tone was one of a Church seeking dialogue and was welcoming.  Regarding this Christopher McMahon writes, “Furthermore, the tone of the Church is far less trimphalistic than seen in the controversies surrounding the battles between the Church and secularism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries” (McMahon 90).  This paper will look at the legacy of the Vatican II documents concerning ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and religious freedom.

 

 

ECUMENISM

As previously stated, the council father of Vatican II used a different tone than was used in previous councils.  Gone were the words, but still agreed upon by Pope Pius IX, “We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation” (EWTN).  Though this is the consistent teaching of the Church, it is something that is seen as a negative by other Christian groups.  The Vatican II document Unitatis Redintegratio, or decree on Ecumenism, lays a foundation that helps to foster further communication among Christians of all kinds.

The document lays out the case that it is the will of the Lord Jesus Christ that all Christians be unified.  We see this in his high priestly prayer in John 17.  Our Lord states in John 17:20-21, “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word,  that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (RSV).  The thousands of denominations that are in Christendom provide an obstacle to missionary work.  In paragraph one of the Decree on Ecumenism the council fathers state, “Certainly, such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the sacred cause of preaching the gospel to every creature” (UR, para 1).

The council’s legacy on Ecumenism goes further that stating the obvious about the divisions in Christianity.  In regards to Protestants previous councils, such as the Council of Trent, openly anathematized those who were not part of the Church.  Vatican II, while still saying that are not in full communion, call our Protestant brothers and sisters separated brethren.  This can be seen in para four on the decree on Ecumenism, “Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren” (UR, para 4).

This language of the Church continues today, and Catholics are encouraged to be in dialogue for the good of the whole Christian community.  It is not a Catholic versus Protestant mentality, as this is not the will of the Lord.  By virtue of their Trinitarian baptisms our Protestant friends are worthy of the title of Christian.  The call of Vatican II was also seen in the 1996 encyclical by Pope Saint John Paul the II titled Ut Unum Sint.  In the opening paragraphs the document lays out the intentions of the Holy Father.  In it he writes, “The courageous witness of so many martyrs of our century, including members of Churches and Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church, gives new vigor to the Council’s call and reminds us of our duty to listen to and put into practice its exhortation “(Ut Unum Sint para 1).  As a result, the legacy of Vatican II regarding Ecumenism is once again shown in our time.  The Church is committed to the cause as Christian unity is something that we should all strive for the sake of the gospel.

 

INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE

To Catholics today the decrees of Vatican II may seem to be from that of a bygone era, but they are a vital moment in the history of the Church (McMahon 75).  In the previous paragraphs we see the legacy it left with ecumenism.  The legacy is great in the area of interreligious dialogue.  In fact, it can be said that without the Church’s commitment to ecumenism that its strides in religious dialogue would not have made the strides it has.

This commitment can be seen in the Church’s communication with leaders of the Eastern church’s.  The Eastern Orthodox churches have valid orders, apostolic succession, and valid sacraments.  However, the issues of the Great Schism (such as Papal Primacy and the Filioque), are still prevalent.  The council fathers drafted Orientalium Ecclesiarum, or the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches.  Of special consideration here is the emphasis on those eastern churches that are not in communion with Rome.  The council fathers write in paragraph 25, “Nothing more should be demanded of separated Christians who come to catholic unity under the influence of the grace of the holy spirit” (OE 25).

As a convert this section was very telling as it is applicable to converts that make the Catholic profession every Easter vigil.  The Church sees baptism done in the trinitarian formula as valid, no matter the denomination.  Our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters have received valid sacraments, and the church has the door wide open for them.  The same can be said with the Anglican, as several Anglican ordinariates have popped up across the world.  Vatican II left a legacy of teaching the faithful to find common ground with all religions to further the cause of humanity, and also as a means to evangelize.  To this end Pope Francis at the plenary assembly for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue states,

It is for this reason that interreligious dialogue and evangelization are not mutually exclusive, but nourish each other. We do not impose anything, we do not use any underhanded strategy to attract the faithful, but witness with joy and simplicity to what we believe and who we are (pciinterreligious.org).

 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

 

The thirteenth document of the Council was the Declaration on Religious Liberty, or Dignitatis Humanae.  This document is controversial because some think that it breaks with earlier magisterial writings which describe the governmental role of suppressing religious error.  One document that is often cited is an encyclical by Pope Gregory XVI titled Mirari Vos.  Paragraph thirteen of that document states, “This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained” (MV para 13).

            The irony is that this encyclical, and the Vatican II document on religious liberty are not in conflict.  The Council fathers address this very quickly in the document and say that the Catholic Church is the “true religion and one church of Christ” (DH para 1).  The document lays out the case that it is a matter of human dignity that one should not be made to act contrary to one’s conscience.  As such there should be no government coercion, and people should not be made to feel less than human if they adhere to a different religious creed.

This concept of religious liberty is one that we see engrained in American culture, and in other denominations.  Our Baptist friends as an example were founded on the very concept of religious freedom, and advocate that for all as well.  Religious freedom has become a hallmark of our society, and that is part of the legacy that the council leaves behind.  While advocating for the rights of the individual, the church maintains its traditional stance towards the faith and still advocates for the proclamation of the gospel message.

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CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the second Vatican council left a legacy that has left the Church in a better place to evangelize the world.  Though the implementation of the council was less than desirable that is not the fault of the council itself.  The church continues to demonstrate its commitment to ecumenical dialogue, with the end goal being Christian unity in the face of a world that desperately needs it.  More than ever before Church leadership is speaking more with leaders of other faiths and denominations.  And lastly, the Church is embracing its motherly role in advocating for the protection of those who practice another religion altogether.  The combination of these three allows all members of the Church to evangelize more effectively.  Though the council is without controversy, its legacy lives on and its effects are still felt today.

  WORKS CITED

Donovan, Colin.  “No Salvation Outside of the Church”.  EWTN.COM.  Accessed September 4, 2017.

Flannery, Austin ed.  The Basic Sixteen Documents of Vatican Council II.  Northport, NY:  Costello Publishing, 2007.  Print.

Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version

McMahon, Christopher. Called Together: An Introduction to Ecclesiology. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2010. Print.

Pope Francis.  “To Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue”.  PCIINTERRELIGIOUS.ORG. November 28, 2013. Web.

Pope Gregory XVI.  Mirari Vos On Liberalism and Religious Indifferentism.  Vatican: Holy See.  Rome.  August 15, 1832

Pope John Paul II.  “On Commitment to Ecumenism-UT Unum Sint”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  May 25, 1995.

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on Ecumenism-Unitatis Redintegratio”.  Vatican:  Holy See. Rome.  November 21, 1964.

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on Religious Liberty-Dignitatis Humanae”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  December 7, 1965

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches-Orientalium Ecclesiarum”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  November 21, 1965.

God is Love

Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another.
No one has ever seen God.
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.

This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,
that he has given us of his Spirit.
Moreover, we have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world.
Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in God.
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.

God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him.-1 John 4:11-16

The second reading in today’s mass is from the first letter of St. John.  This letter is a personal favorite of mine.  There is so much theological depth and things we can use on an everyday basis.  This letter is an extension of the Gospel he wrote, and we see a lot of talk about love.  Today’s passage is especially challenging for us.  St. John writes that to love is how we remain in God because God is love.  In a world that seems to be about revenge and shaming to get what we want this may seem extreme.  In fact, it is outright countercultural.

If we acknowledge and accept Christ as the Son of God then St. John says that we have come to know the love that God has for us.  Since we know that love we have been called, and have the obligation, to love others.  Even those who may not like us.  This doesn’t mean that we need to have someone in our home who does us harm, but we have to acknowledge their worth as someone who is made in the image of God.  Remember that God is love, and if we claim Christ then we have an obligation to reflect that love to others.  Are we doing it?

Quote

The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.
–Pope St. Gregory the Great

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