Bible Reflection: Jesus is the Christ

After staying in Antioch some time,
Paul left and traveled in orderly sequence
through the Galatian country and Phrygia,
bringing strength to all the disciples.

A Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria,
an eloquent speaker, arrived in Ephesus.
He was an authority on the Scriptures.
He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord and,
with ardent spirit, spoke and taught accurately about Jesus,
although he knew only the baptism of John.
He began to speak boldly in the synagogue;
but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him,
they took him aside
and explained to him the Way of God more accurately.
And when he wanted to cross to Achaia,
the brothers encouraged him
and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him.
After his arrival he gave great assistance
to those who had come to believe through grace.
He vigorously refuted the Jews in public,
establishing from the Scriptures that the Christ is Jesus.-Acts 18:23-28

In the first reading of today’s mass we read about a man by the name of Apollos.  St. Luke tells us in the book of Acts that he was well versed in the scriptures, was a great orator, and spoke boldly for Christ.  Those in the synagogue opposed him at every turn, and Priscilla and Aquila took him under their wing and helped him to explain the scriptures even more accurately. In short, he was open to correction and wanted to teach right doctrine.  Having learned from this correction he refuted the Jews that denied Christ, and established through scripture that Jesus is the Christ.

We can lean something very helpful from Apollos.  No matter how much training, or how much others praise us we must remain humble.  We must be open to correction especially to those appointed over us.  This will help us better proclaim that Jesus is the Christ as the scriptures teach.  Let’s make it a daily goal to study the scriptures, pray, and perhaps even look for a spiritual director that can help us learn the faith in a deeper way.  In addition, lets be open to the Holy Spirit and proclaim Christ just as Apollos did.

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The creator of the heavens obeys a carpenter; the God of eternal glory listens to a poor virgin. Has anyone ever witnessed anything comparable to this? Let the philosopher no longer disdain from listening to the common laborer; the wise, to the simple; the educated, to the illiterate; a child of a prince, to a peasant.”
-St. Anthony of Padua

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Book Review: All The Pope’s Men

All The Pope’s Men was an interesting book.  When I started reading it I was expecting more of a theological expose of how the Vatican works, but to my surprise this was not the case.  This was not a bad thing, but a very good thing.  It allowed me to step back and see the church in a whole new light.  As Catholics we see the Vatican as this holy place, which it is, but it is so much more.  It is literally a country of its own, and it has diplomatic relations with other countries.  I think that is one of the reasons for the book’s popularity.  It gives detailed insight into the different aspects and offices that comprise the Vatican.  I found it particularly fascinating that the various offices of the Vatican are totally autonomous from each other.  They each have their own separate leadership.  In the pages about the Roman Curia Allen wrote about how one office was comprised of two people who spoke two different languages.  This was done so they would not develop a favoritism toward each other.

Another reason for the book’s popularity is that it is not a theological treatise or a church history book about the importance of the Vatican.  Allen strives and succeeds in my opinion, between the roll of the Holy See and its relationship with the rest of the world.  A third reason for the books popularity is that it acts as a myth buster about popular conspiracy theories about the Vatican.  I recommended this book to a non-Catholic friend for those pages alone.  They are filled with sources that can be easily obtained.  Allen’s views on the American and Vatican perspectives is also interesting, and if you look closely you can see them play out pretty regularly.  In America we want things done the way we want yesterday (immediately).  The Vatican doesn’t work that way.  It is a 2,000 year old Institution that moves slowly.  It isn’t because it doesn’t care, but because it is concerned with Catholics worldwide not just in Los Angeles, CA.  Because of that there are times where relations between the two seem strained, but overall relations are good.  Overall I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

You can check the book out here.

Gospel Reflection: Grief to Joy

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn,
while the world rejoices;
you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.
When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived;
but when she has given birth to a child,
she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy
that a child has been born into the world.
So you also are now in anguish.
But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.
On that day you will not question me about anything.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”-John 16:20-23

Today’s Gospel presents a beautiful scene between Christ and his disciples.  Christ has told them that he must go, and the disciples are sad to hear that their teacher and friend will not be around.  Jesus is honest and tells that they will mourn and that the world will rejoice.  Jesus encourages them by saying that their grief will turn to joy.  He then uses the imagery of a mother who has just given birth.  Though the birth was painful the child was worth it.

Is there something that you are grieving over today.  Perhaps it is a hard situation at work, the loss of a loved one, or some other difficulty.  It is easy to focus on the bad that is happening, but lets remember who we are in Christ.  Christ is with us and he we will go through hard times.  People will look at how you react to certain situations and will draw their own conclusions.  Will they conclude that you are a catholic by the way you react, or will they fail to see Christ?  Let’s remember the words of Christ in today’s Gospel.  He told the disciples that their hearts will rejoice.  The period you are in is temporary.  Keep your eyes on Christ and let him lead you.

 

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“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!”
-St. Catherine of Sienna

Gospel Reflection: Go Into All The World

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.-Mark 16:15-20

Today we celebrate the ascension of the Lord.  With his earthly mission now complete Jesus has some last words for his disciples.  He tells them to go and preach the Gospel to every creature.  Mark phrases slightly different that Matthew and Luke.  In Matthew’s Gospel Christ tells the disciples to go to all nations and teach them all that he commanded and to baptize in the name of the blessed Trinity (Matthew 28:19-20).  Luke’s version takes place in the first chapter of Acts, and he writes that Christ commanded the disciples to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and the rest of the world (Acts 1:1-11).

These were the last words of Christ on earth and they were significant.  When we lose a loved one we remember the last words that were spoken.  We remember them and we cherish them, and we try to fulfill their last wishes.  We should do the same with these last earthly words of Christ.  After 2,000 years the church is still spreading that Gospel message as Christ commanded, but what are you and I doing individually?

We have a tendency to think that this is the work of our priests and deacons, but spreading the Gospel is the duty of all of us as disciples of Christ.  Are we taking these words of Christ seriously?  This doesn’t mean that we have to go overseas.  We can be that witness at work, with our families at home, and in our neighborhoods.  May we go forth today and spread the Gospel as Christ commanded.

 

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The minute you walk outside of your church on Sunday you’re in mission territory.
Bishop Robert Barron

Dei Verbum: What is Divine Revelation?

In my years as a Protestant a topic of great passion was just how God reveals Himself to mankind.  Sola scriptura, or the Bible alone, was my battle cry for many years. However, once I started reading the early church fathers, something hit me.  These sound a lot like Catholic teachings.  After further research I found that there was a piece of revelation that I had ignored, but it was one that answers many questions. The purpose of the article is to go over how God reveals himself and to answer some of the very questions that I had in my faith journey.  This will be done with the aid of Dei Verbum, which was written at Vatican II.

What is divine revelation?  Through the mercy of God, He has decided to make His will known by various means.  This was necessary so that we can draw near to the Father, through the son, and with assistance of the Holy Spirit to participate in the divine nature (Dei Verbum, para 2).  The pattern of revelation is contained in the deeds and works of God that match His words.  God backed up his words and put into motion His plan for salvation history.  Evidence of God is everywhere and evident in all areas of creation, and preserves all things.  As a result, when Adam and Eve fell it was then that God set forth a plan for redemption instead of destroying creation and starting over.  What great love God has for us!

He initiated this plan through Abraham and fulfilled His promise of making Abraham a great nation.  After Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “He taught this nation, through Moses and the prophets, to recognize him as the only living and true God (Dei Verbum, para 3).”  Through God’s work, He taught Israel to look for the messiah.  As St. John the evangelist tells us “the word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  God sent his son to tell the people about God’s love and how He works.  Through His son we are able to have life through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Obedience in faith should be our only real response to this revelation.  It is through this faith that we give of ourselves; we submit ourselves to God and enter into a relationship with Him.  We love Him because He first loved us and gave Himself for us.  He paid a debt we did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay.  This is done only by the grace of God, and through the working of the Holy Spirit.  Through the gifts of the Spirit, our understanding of this revelation grows stronger and is understood in a more profound way.

Through the revelation of God we see that God is manifested not only through sacred scripture, but also in nature.  This is done through reason because man knows deep within his soul that there is something out there greater than himself.  Though he may not know what it is it is ingrained in all of us to understand that it was not accidental.  It is the teaching of the church that “these things themselves are not beyond the grasp of human reason, can, in the present condition of the human race, be known to all with ease, with firm certainty, and without the contamination of error (Dei Verbum, para 6).”

So far we have discussed a lot about sacred scripture.  The Church has taught from the beginning that the scriptures are the word of God.  As the word of God they are to be treated reverently and with the tradition of the church make up the full teaching of the Apostles.  The church has gone through great trial to deliver the proper scriptures to us.  According to the Council of Trent, there are forty six books that make up the Old Testament.  These books include Wisdom, Sirach, Tobit, Judith, and 1 and 2 Maccabees.  Our Protestant brethren do not acknowledge these books.  All Christian churches are in agreement with the books of the New Testament which is twenty seven in number.  We will now look deeper at the Old and New Testament which make up the written part of the tradition.

The Old Testament is a collection of writings that have narratives about the creation of the world, the fall, and prophecies about the messiah.  In it we find a truth that becomes lost in some people’s minds.  “In his great love God intended the salvation of the entire human race (Dei Verbum, para 14).”  This was obviously plan B because our first parents fell from grace.  However in preparation for the salvation of all he chose a small nation.

God entered into a covenant with Abraham and made a great nation that is as numerous as the stars in the sky.  God revealed himself through words and deeds as the one true living God (Dei Verbum, para 14).  God chose Israel as a type of pet project to show himself and to teach them by experience.  In turn Israel would use this experience to teach other nations about God.  The books of the Old Testament are vital to the revelation that God gave man.  In the books we have life lessons and stories of hope that are still valid today.

Stories of hope and the patriarchs are great, but there is one theme that is overwhelming in the Old Testament.  That theme is the coming of Christ. The prophecies starting in Genesis 3:15 all thru the rest of the prophets prepare the people for the Son of God.  He was revealed in signs, little by little, to prepare the hearts and minds of the people. While some people find it very startling to see stories of violence these stories show the mercy of God. God had every right to terminate our existence, but the writings of the Old Testament show how merciful God is with humanity.

The Old Testament is a vital part of the liturgy of the church and should be a vital part of each individual’s biblical study.  There is a tendency to only read the New Testament, because some mistakenly think that is the only part of scripture that discusses Christ.  A closer look at the Old Testament shows that Christ is revealed throughout.  The new is hidden in the old and the old is fulfilled in the new.  There are several places where a working knowledge of the Old Testament helps explain things in the New Testament.  A good example of this in the letter to the Hebrews which discusses what the Hebrew priests do.

The New Testament contains autobiographies of our Lord (Gospels), writings of apostolic origin, and an early history of our church.  In these writings the saving power of God is manifested throughout. This Testament would be worthless without one thing, and that is Christ incarnated as the Word who dwelt among us.  The Son of God humbled Himself, took on human form and established the kingdom of God on Earth.  He revealed himself and the Father by performing various works and deeds to establish and show who He was.  His work on earth culminated in giving himself as the propitiation for the sins of all mankind.  When He ascended to Heaven He sent the Holy Spirit as a guide to teach the people through the ministry of the Apostles.

Christ alone has the words of eternal life; after all it was He that said He is the way, the truth, and the life.  The twenty seven books of the New Testament bear witness to these things.  From these twenty seven books the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John hold a special place for Christians.  It is in them that we find the words and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.  From the beginning the church “has maintained the apostolic origin of the four gospels (Dei Verbum, para 18).  Matthew being written by the tax collector, Mark being written by Mark but dictated by Saint Peter, Luke was written by Saint Luke who was a companion of Saint Paul, and John by Saint John also known as the disciple that Jesus loved.

The church has taught with absoluteness that the four gospels historically and faithfully pass on what “Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men and women, really did and taught for their salvation, until he was taken up (Dei Verbum, para 19).”  After the Lord ascended into Heaven the Apostles spoke about what he did and said.  The Apostles were now blessed with the Holy Spirit and fully understood everything that the Lord had told them.

Each of the Gospels is written in its own form and style.  However it is important to note that the message of Christ in the Gospels is absolute, and the authentic message of Jesus was presented.  When Christ presented the apostles with the Great Commission they had no intention of writing down what the Lord had taught them.  Later on it became necessary to ensure that the truth about Jesus and His teachings were maintained within proper orthodoxy.

In addition to the Gospels we have other books in the New Testament, such as the writings of Saint Paul.  These writings were also done under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  These writings involve things as proper Christian living, church order, and further clarification of the teachings of Christ.  These writings are great and further establish just want the Lord meant in certain areas, and preach about the saving power of Christ through His death burial, and resurrection.

Looking back on salvation history we can clearly see the plan of God from the beginning.  There is little doubt that our ancestors in faith, and the patriarchs of Israel went remember that God is always in control and knew that we could only handle small amounts of his revelation at one time.  Just as we need to prepare our souls to receive Holy Communion the souls of our ancestors needed to be prepared for Christ to come.

This happens by God revealing himself in His creation, the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament, and finally through Christ Himself and the teaching of the Apostles.  The gift of sacred scripture and the tradition handed on from the Apostles equips us to understand the revelation of God.  This understanding should put us in a state of awe, and render us speechless and teary eyed.  God has done great things for us.  Now let us do great things for Him.

See the source image

Works Cited

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

Gospel Reflection: True Peace

The disciples said to Jesus,
“Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech.
Now we realize that you know everything
and that you do not need to have anyone question you.
Because of this we believe that you came from God.”
Jesus answered them, “Do you believe now?
Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived
when each of you will be scattered to his own home
and you will leave me alone.
But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
I have told you this so that you might have peace in me.
In the world you will have trouble,
but take courage, I have conquered the world.”-John 16:9-33

There is nobody in the world that is exempt from worry.  We are being bombarded from a million different directions.  We have family obligations, work obligations, church obligations, and many more.  We don’t take enough time to rest and refresh ourselves.  What does this have to do with today’s Gospel reading?  If you think about it carefully, the two are very closely related.

The disciples made a statement that they believe that Christ came from God.  Christ responds by saying that each will be scattered.  What happens when we let the pressures of the world become our priority?  We try to do so much that don’t study scripture, the catechism, or may even miss mass.  Everything else becomes more important than God.  At this point we become scattered, and Satan has easy prey.  He has someone that he can deceive and twist their priorities.

In today’s Gospel Christ tells the disciples that He has overcome the world.  He also says that true peace lies in himself.  We have busy lives, but you will find peace in your job, money, or more toys.  True peace is found by cleaving to Christ.  Is Christ our priority today?

Image result for peace of christ

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“Christians must lean on the Cross of Christ, just as travelers lean on a staff when they begin a long journey. They must have the Passion of Christ deeply embedded in their minds and hearts, because only from it, can they derive peace, grace, and truth”.-St. Anthony of Padua

Moral Relativism, Moral Code, and Human Freedom

In modern times it has been increasing popular to say that truth may vary by person. One person may say that murder is wrong, while another may say it is wrong depending on the scenario. Though the example given may seem outlandish is denotes a trend of moral relativism among our culture. The power to decide what is truth, and what is right of wrong is the domain of God. In the great encyclical, Veritatis Splendor, Saint Pope John Paul II writes, “Revelation teaches that the power to decide what is good and what is evil does not belong to man, but to God alone” (Veritatis Splendor para 35). The ideas taught within nominalism have manifested themselves twofold within moral relativism. Furthermore, God has revealed through reason and natural law certain moral principles that man is to uphold. Sin undermines this by destroying what God had established, and in a sense, man has become their own god.

Image result for veritatis splendor an moral relativism

As previously stated God has revealed in natural law, and the scriptures the moral code in which man is supposed to act. Concerning morality, or the moral order, natural law helps us discern universal and binding moral principles and precepts. God gave this gift to man to show us how to love him and how to love each other. Natural law implies that there is a moral realism, or a defined moral order that we called to uphold. When we follow natural law, seek to know the truth about God, and seek to do good we echo the words of scripture “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39 NRSV). These appetites worked together to help man have happiness.

However, man wanted to be happy at all costs, and that would eventually mean transgressing moral law. Man wanted freedom, but what man does not understand is that the moral code leads to freedom. Saint Pope John Paul II writes, “God’s law does not reduce, much less do away with human freedom; rather, it protects and promotes that freedom” (Veritatis Splendor para 35). Sin destroys that freedom, and man becomes a slave to sin. Man tried to change morality was, and in the 14th century William Ockham said that universal ideas like truth and love were ideas and not reality . This would eventually give way to moral relativism which says that there is no objective truth. Truth is in the eye of the beholder and can change from one person to another. Through sin, man lost sight of what truth is and what would make him happy. Regarding this Servais Pinckaers writes, “With the advent of nominalism we witness the formation of the first morality obligation: The moral life will henceforth be circumscribed to obligations. The desire for happiness will be systematically set aside” (Pinckaers 72). Truth is not a concept or an abstract idea. Truth is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ.

Works Cited

Pinckaers, Servais. Morality: The Catholic View. St. Augustine’s Press. South Bend, IN: 2001. Print.

Pope John Paul II. Veritatis Splendor. http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html. Accessed February 27, 2018.

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

May 8 Gospel Reflection: We Have An Advocate

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Now I am going to the one who sent me,
and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’
But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts.
But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go.
For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.
But if I go, I will send him to you.
And when he comes he will convict the world
in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation:
sin, because they do not believe in me;
righteousness, because I am going to the Father
and you will no longer see me;
condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”John 16:5-11

When I read scripture, I often try to put myself in the place of the disciples.  I wonder how I would reacts in a particular situation.  I have the benefit of looking back and asking the disciples “How did you not see that?”  To do that is to miss the point in my opinion.  They walked, talked, and ate with Christ.  They were friends and went with him wherever he went.  At this point in Jesus’s ministry he was telling them that he had to leave, and this was a terrifying prospect for them.

What I find interesting is that not one disciple inquires as to where Jesus is going.  They were so terrified at the though of not living with Jesus that they couldn’t gather the courage to ask.  As I put myself in their shoes I don’t blame them.  I would be terrified as well.  Especially after all the bad things that Christ said would happen to those who believe in them.  However, that was not the case and he was looking out for them as he does with us.

The Holy Spirit, the advocate, had to come to empower the disciples.  In today’s passage we see the disciples as being scared, but when the Holy Spirit comes they boldly proclaim the Gospel, preserve the truth, and helps them teach the ways of God.  The Holy Spirit also convicts the world of its sin, and is acts in the defense of the disciples.

Like the disciples we may be afraid and think that Christ has left us.  The Holy Spirit is present and working among us even if we don’t realize it.  The Holy Spirit works in the Church and through us today.  Through scripture and sacred Tradition the Spirit is working for the ultimate good of all of us.  Are we open to the Holy Spirit prompting us to action?  Are we open to the Holy Spirit telling us that we are doing something wrong?  What is the Holy Spirit telling you to do today?

Image result for holy spirit pictures

Quote

O  Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.  –Saint Augustine

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