Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Eucharist is "only symbolic"... say WHAAAT?!?

At 'The Last Supper', Christ gave his disciples a gift and a special instruction to go with it. Christ's gift to us: the Eucharist; and his intruction to go with it: "Do this in memory of me" (Luke 22:7-23).


Why do Catholics hold the Eucharist in such high-esteem? Anti-Catholics suggest that Catholics commit the sin of idolatry ("again") when we revere the bread and the wine, and why? Mainly because they think we're simply bowing down to a symbol; nothing more than a wafer of bread; "grape juice and crackers" and some demeaningly put it; a "graven image" as the anti-Catholic also suggests.


For starters, we believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, that by transubstantiation, the bread becomes the body of Christ, just as Jesus suggested himself when he said at the Last Supper:


"And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me'". - Luke 22:19 (NIV)


The first argument the anti-Catholic may make is on the use of the word "Eucharist" itself, that the word never appears in the Bible and thus the sacrament of the Eucharist is "false doctrine" and "unbiblical". The anti-Catholic believe they've come up trumps with this argument and this attack may seem indefendable by even the most staunch of Catholics, because yes: the word "Eucharist" itself does not appear in scripture. But the anti-Catholic would then need to ask themself this question: "Why would a Greek word appear in an English translation of the Bible?"


The word "Eucharist" is derived from the Greek word "eukaristos" which, when translated, means "grateful" or "to give thanks". Now pay attention to the wording of Luke 22:19 with that information in mind (and I'll use different translations of the Bible just for kicks):


"And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me'". (NIV)


"And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me." (KJV)


"And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'" (NAS)


"Then Jesus took bread and spoke a prayer of thanksgiving. He broke the bread, gave it to them, and said, 'This is my body, which is given up for you. Do this to remember me.'" (GWT)


"And taking bread, he gave thanks, and brake; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me." (Douay-Rheims)


Eucharist = "grateful/to give thanks"


When Catholics go to Mass to celebrate Holy Communion, we come together to give thanks for a few reasons:


1.) To thank God for sending us His son that we may truly know how to relate with Him, the Eternal Father;
2.) To thank God for offering His son as a living sacrifice for our sins, so that we may have Eternal Life;
3.) To thank Christ for offering himself for us so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have Eternal Life;
4.) To thank Christ for giving us a means to come together to remember Him as he instructed: "do this is rememberance of me" (Luke 22:19); and of course
5.) To thank God for His Word: wisdom given to us and found in Sacred Scripture, as we listen to readings both from the Old and New Testaments.


The other and probably most scathing argument on the Eucharist anti-Catholics make (or at least they think it's a scathing argument) is that when Jesus spoke of his body being bread and bis blood, wine, in John 6, he was being figurative. But the attack does not stop there. Anti-Catholics also seem to think that at the Catholilc Mass, during the Eucharist, Christ through this sacrament is resacrificed; an offense to them since we already know that Christ's sacrifice in the cross for us was sufficient. Such was an argument I received from a fellow Youtube user (who will remain nameless for the sake of his own embarrassment). I'll call him "Thomas" for all intensive purposes:


"Transubstantiation is false. In John 6:63 Jesus states that His words are spirit and the flesh profits nothings. READ John 6:48-63. Its not literal. Catholics believe in re crucifying Christ for the sins of the people in Mass. Which means that Catholics think His work on the cross is incomplete. THIS IS BLASPHEMY! Try reading Heb 9:12, 26, 28; 10:2, 10, 14; 1Pt 3:18. Communion is a REMEMBRANCE not a REENACTMENT. Re crucifying Him over and over again is SLAPPING Him in the FACE. REPENT REPENT..."


Firstly, let's have a look at what John 6:63 says:


"The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life."


Thomas is taking 6:63 out of context. When Jesus says that the flesh "counts for nothing" (or "profits nothing" in other translations of the Bible) he is of course referring to a life led by the flesh rather than the spirit. Galatians 5 consolidates the discourse of a life in the spirit rather than the flesh. Jesus in this instance is not speaking about or even referred to the kind of flesh he was speaking of earlier in the chapter:


"Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.'" - John 6:53-56


If we go by the anti-Catholic's argument, that Christ's flesh "counts for nothing" (or "profits nothing"), then applying this logic one could argue that Christ's physical death for us, i.e. death of the flesh (crucifixion), itself counted for nothing and is completely contradicted and made void! Not only then is this anti-Catholic argument ridiculous, it's self-contradicting. Not to mention it highlights the anti-Catholic's inability to read scripture in context and how they distort scripture to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
 
On to the argument of Catholilcs "resacrificing" Christ at the Eucharist, we know very well that Christ's sacrifice on the cross for us was more than sufficient for our salvation. Christ's life, death and resurrection are the central points of the Christian religion and this is no different for Catholics (let's ignore for the moment the fact that many anti-Catholics don't seem to think that Catholics are Christians themselves, which is utterly ridiculous). In the Mass, we remember the sacrifice Christ made for us; He is not "resacrificed" at the Eucharist. The Mass is a memorial of Christ's life, death and resurrection. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this quite clear:


"The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the making present and the sacramental offering of his unique sacrifice, in the liturgy of the Church which is his Body. In all the Eucharistic Prayers we find after the words of institution a prayer called the anamnesis or memorial." - CCC 1362


"In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men. In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of believers so that they may conform their lives to them." - CCC 1363


"In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present. 'As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which 'Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed' is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.'" - CCC 1364


"Because it is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the Eucharist is also *a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: 'This is my body which is given for you' and 'This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.' In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he 'poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'" - CCC 1365


*a sacrifice; not "another sacrifice" or "resacrifice".http://www.cfpeople.org/page18.html


The Eucharist makes present Christ's sacrifice on the cross because, as Christ said himself as he took bread and gave thanks, "This is my body, given for you..." (Luke 22:19). Christ speaks of the same body (flesh) in John 6 where he says: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him" (John 6:56). Christ is never re-crucified or dies at every Mass. The sacrifice of Calvary and the sacrifice of the Mass are one and the same sacrifice, the manner in which they are offered is alone different. The Council of Trent (1562) put it in these terms:




"And forasmuch as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner, Who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross; the holy synod teaches that this sacrifice is truly propitiatory, and that by means thereof this is effected that we obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid…For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different."


And what of the anti-Catholic argument of Eucharistic "symbolism", that Jesus wasn't being literal in John 6:41-59? What is worthy of note is when some of Jesus' followers walked away (John 6:66) because they were disgusted with what he was suggesting ("eat of my flesh; drink of my blood"), Jesus didn't stop them and say, "Hey guys, don't go; I was only being figurative" (or something to that effect). In fact, the ones that walked away said this:
 
"'This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?'" - John 6:60


What's important to keep in mind is that Jesus was in the habit of explaining what he meant when he was being figurative - namely when he was speaking in parables - but not in this instance; he wasn't being figurative (i.e. John 6:41-59). Had Christ's discourse on his flesh and blood in John 6 been figurative (i.e. not literal) he would have offered an explanation for it and very likely in an attempt to stop his followers from leaving him. But no, Jesus says this when his followers fail to accept what he is teaching:


"Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, 'Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.' For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.'"

It doesn't seem like Jesus is attempting to make any explanation here, in fact, Jesus seems surprised that these followers have rejected this discourse:

"From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." - John 6:66

Jesus then goes on to ask Simon-Peter and the other disciples if they are going to leave as well. We see here that Jesus was perhaps fearful that others would abandon him:

"'You do not want to leave too, do you?' Jesus asked the Twelve." - John 6:67

Simon-Peter's response is the resposne of a true believer and one that has a stoic faith:

"Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.'" - John 6:68

You don't see Simon-Peter asking Jesus if he was being figuartive, do you? No. Simon-Peter, in this instance, exemplifies the kind of faith that it takes to affirm and know that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, that at the Last Supper as Jesus commands, the bread becomes His body and the wine, His blood (Luke 22:19,20).

Jesus cannot make it any simpler:

"... For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." - John 6:33

Jesus did not say: "For the bread of God is like he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

"I am the bread that came down from heaven." - John 6:41

Jesus did not say: "I am like the bread that came down from heaven."

"I am the bread of life." - John 6:48

Jesus did not say: "I am like the bread of life."

"This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." - John 6:51

Jesus did not say: "This bread is like my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

And from John 6:53-58...

"I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you..."

Jesus did not say: "... unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood which is like bread and wine, you have no life in you."

"For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink."

Not: "For my flesh is like real food and my blood is like real drink."

Can you see the difference? How can anyone say that Christ was being figurative in this instance? Christ's discourse on the body and blood is the most profound and poignant of all his teachings, and yes, while for many it is difficult to accept for unbelievers, we learn from Simon-Peter and the 12 the great faith and belief in Christ required to accept all that he taught us.

If you're a Catholic and you don't believe that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, then fold your arms across your chest when you approach the priest during the Communion Rite and before you attend Mass again, pay heed to the words Christ spoke in John 6; he wasn't kidding around or speaking in parables; his life, death and resurrection is serious business, and his body and blood at the Eucharist offers us eternal life. This is not possible without a two-fold faith:

a) Faith that affirms that Christ is the Son of God and that he gave his own body in atonement for our sin and for our salvation; and
b) Faith that affirms that if we eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood, we will have eternal life, and Christ will raise us up at the last day (John 6:54). By doing so Christ remains in us, and us in him (John 6:57).

If you're an anti-Catholic that rejects transubstantiation and belies Christ was not being literal in John 6, then take into consideration what has been said in this blog and don't just stop there: read, pray and ask! Here's some further reading which you may find useful:

http://www.staycatholic.com/ecf_the_real_presence.htm - The Early Church Fathers on The Real Presence

http://www.catholic.com/library/Christ_in_the_Eucharist.asp - Christ in the Eucharist

http://www.catholicapologetics.org/ap060500.htm - The Eucharist: The Lord's Supper

http://catholicapologeticsresource.com/wiki/index.php?title=The_Eucharist - The Eucharist

http://www.chnetwork.org/journals/eucharist/eucharist_5.htm - Transubstantation and the Eucharist

But what does the Eucharist mean to me personally?

For me, every time I go to Mass and partake in Holy Communion, I feel as though I am sitting with Christ and his disciples in a dining hall in the city of Jerusalem, and I am filled with an undying warmth within me knowing that Catholics for nearly 2000 years have been doing as Christ instructed and taught as he did in John 6 and at the Last Supper. For nearly 2000 years the chain has gone unbroken and Catholics today share in the miracle and gift of the Eucharist, for my faith concerning the Eucharist is two-fold:

a) I believe that Christ is the Son of God and that he gave his own body in atonement for our sin and for our salvation; and

b) I believe that if I eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood, I will have eternal life, and Christ will raise me up at the last day (John 6:54). By doing so Christ remains in me, and me in him (John 6:57).

Amen.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Spirit Magnus on Youtube...

In case you hadn't noticed (one the right-hand side of the blog page), I've got a channel on Youtube which has video versions of some of the blog entries I've made, plus some on other topics.

I will be making a habit of recording video versions of blog entries I make; I will try do this for every blog entry I make.

Here's where I live on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/SteveSpitz1981

Thanks for reading... watching... whatever! ;-)


-Stephen

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Vain repititions: What did Jesus really mean by this?

What did Jesus really mean when he told his followers "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking" (Matthew 6:7 KJV)? What exactly are "vain repititions"?


When Jesus gave this instruction (advice) for prayer, anti-Catholics believe that Christ meant that we should not make any prayer in repitition or utter words in prayer in an uninterrupted sequential manner. This is the anti-Catholics argument against Catholics saying prayers like the Rosary where we would pray five decades' worth of the "Hail Mary" prayer, the "Our Father", the Apostles Creed, particular litanies, etc. The emphasis the anti-Catholic makes is on the use of the word "repititions". So according to them, any prayer made in succession or that is repetitive in nature is not valid prayer and is the prayer of the "heathen" (pagan). But what does scripture tell us about prayer? Many anti-Catholics seem to neglect the fact that we are encouraged to pray fervently, and for what purpose? Well, we all know that if we don't speak to a loved one on a regular basis or if we neglect to relate with them, the relationship may suffer.


We know that Christ himself prayed and prayed on numerous occassions. In fact, if we read on from Matthew 6:7, we see how Christ instructs his followers to pray; the "Our Father" prayer:

"This, then, is how you should pray:

'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.'" - Mathew 6:9-13 (NIV)

How many times do you think this prayer is recited/prayed by the same anti-Catholics that tote the "vain repititions" argument? Would they not themselves be guilty of praying like the "heathen" (pagan) does? Because of their focus on the word "repititions" it's apparent to them that any prayer made in repitition is a prayer of the heathen. What they, anti-Catholics, ignore is the use of the word "vain". Before we look into that, let's have a look at the Douay Rheims Bible citation of Matthew 6:7...

"And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard."

I wonder how "speak not much" made it's way to "vain repititions" over the years of scriptural translation and interpretation!

The meaning in the phrase "speak not much" is simple: Jesus is speaking of mindless babble! "Vain repititions" refers to words without meaning, intent or purpose, and prayers made in vain! Jesus refers to the heathens in this verse of scripture because they:

a) Pray in public to be seen as righteous;
b) Pray many words in the hope they will be heard;
c) Do not pray with purpose or genuine intent.

This is precisely why Jesus gave us the Lord's prayer, so that we may be able to prayer with pure and genuine intent, and not babble as the heathens do.

A vain repitition or the babble of the heathen is prayer made without direction, intent or purpose. It's is perfectly okay to repeat a prayer so long as it has direction, intent or purpose, or else every time we sing those hymns at Mass or any non-Catholic Sunday service, we could be in a lot of trouble!

The issue is not with the repititions but with the vainness of prayer. Jesus' focus is on the vainness and not the repitition. If His focuse had been on the repitition then He would have said, "... use not repititions..." rather than "... use not vain repititions..." (Matthew 6:7 KJV). The distinction is made quite clear.

When Christ makes His prayers in the garden of Gethsemane, do we not see Him making numerous prayers?

"And leaving them, he went again: and he prayed the third time, saying the selfsame word." - Matthew 26:44 (Douay Rheims)

And are we not encouraged throughout the New Testament to be fervent/persistent in prayer?

"A religious man, and fearing God with all his house, giving much alms to the people and always praying to God." - Acts 10:2

"And he, beholding him. being seized with fear, said: What is it, Lord? And he said to him: Thy prayers and thy alms are ascended for a memorial in the sight of God." - Acts 10:4

"For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers" - Romans 1:9

"rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing stedfastly in prayer" - Romans 12:12

"Pray without ceasing" - 1 Thessalonians 5:17

"And the four living creatures had each of them six wings; and round about and within they are full of eyes. And they rested not day and night, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come." - Revelations 4:8

The bottom line is this: no prayer, whether it is a prayer you're making up on the spot, a prayer read out of a book, or a prayer memorised, should be made without direction, purpose or intent. Always, always, always have give yourself a purpose to pray, whether you are thanking God for something or making petition for a friend or loved one for any particular need:

"Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit." - James 5:13-18

When Catholics pray the "Hail Mary" in the Rosary and prayer their litanies, while yes they make repititions, but they are not vain repititions because the prayers are always made with direction, purpose or intent.

Pray with purpose and give yourself a purpose to pray!

Amen!

Further reading: http://thoughtsfromaragamuffin.wordpress.com/2009/04/01/vain-repetition/

Friday, August 21, 2009

I bid my students welcome

I have recently given out this website to a couple of students of mine, and I offer them a warm welcome, but kids, please don't forget that...

"...with great power comes great responsibility."

Use this website only for the purpose of good and not to poke fun at your beloved Religious Education teacher.

Regards,

Mr. Spiteri

:)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

2 Timothy 3:15-17 = "sola scriptura"? Are you sure?

I like to ask my Protestant friends about sola scriptura, or "scripture alone", a doctrine that attests that the Bible by itself is sufficient for anyone to learn about their faith and salvation. It sounds reasonable, and I personally believe that all Christians should get in to the habit of reading the Bible to learn about their faith and salvation, and how to live as a Christian. Yes, the Bible is the inspiried Word of God and is an authority on such matters, but it is not the sole authority; by scripture and tradition we learn of our faith, salvation and how to live the Christian lifestyle ("scripture and tradition" is a matter for another blog entry, so let's stay focussed on 2 Tim. 3:15-17).

When I ask my Protestant friends, "Can you show me the verse or reading in the Bible where it tells us scripture is the sole authority?" I'm usually met - very quickly, I might add - with this response, 2 Timothy 3:15-17...

"and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

It's a good response, but unfortunately it's not sufficient, and here are the problems with it:

1.) What scripture do you think they're talking about in 2 Timothy 3:15-17? There certainly wasn't a Bible around at that time nor had the New Testament been compiled. They were of course speaking of the Old Testament.

2.) Pay attention to the wording in 2 Tim 3:15-17, namely verse 16:

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is USEFUL for teaching..." (NIV)

"and is PROFITABLE for doctrine..." (KJV)

"For all scripture inspired of God is PROFITABLE to teach..." (Wycliffe NT)

2 Tim 3:15-17 proves nothing more than scripture (OT; written word that existed at the time) being "useful" or "profitable" in the DEVELOPMENT/TEACHING of doctrine.

There is nothing there that suggests or even implies "scripture alone" (sola scriptura). Scripture is not the only authority.

3.) 2 Tim 3:16 ("All scripture, inspired by God, is profitable to teach..." Latin Vulgate Douay-Rheims); the word from which "profitable" is translated from is "utilis", which means "useful, advantageous, helpful". It does NOT mean the following:

- essential;
- mandatory;
- binding;
- obligatory;
- irremmisible; etc.

4.) The Bible did not become the Bible until the fourth century when St. Jerome, by papal authority (Pope Damasus I) in 382AD, was given the order to translate the Gospels, epistles of St. Peter and St. Paul and other now New Testament books, from Greek and Hebrew into Latin. St. Jerome's translations became the definitive and official Latin version of the Bible of the Roman Catholic Church. The word "Bible" itself is derived from the Latin word "biblia" which means "book", so when one was speaking of the Bible (as in the sacred scriptures) back in those days, it was referred to as "biblia sacra" or "holy book".

5.) Even scripture itself tells us to pay heed to sacred traditions:

"I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you." - 1 Corinthians 11:2

"So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter." - 2 Thessalonians 2:15

"if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth." - 1 Timothy 3:15

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." - Acts 2:42

"Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation." - 2 Peter 1:20

"He [Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." - 2 Peter 3:16

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" - Proverbs 3:5

"In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us." - 2 Thessalonians 3:6

"I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them." - Romans 16:17

6.) Sola scriptura propagates division and confusion! It it were up to every single individual to interpret scripture, then how is the individual Christian supposed to know whose interpretation is right? What's stopping one from saying to another, "My interpretation is right and yours is wrong!"? From "fallible" men, who among them is right? Who can we go to for a reliable and unbiased interpretation of scripture (2 Peter 3:16)?

Further reading:
http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/num6.htm

For me, the sola scriptura argument is a no brainer: if Christ's followers could learn about salvation, their faith, and growth in the Christian lifestyle without a Bible, then anyone can do the same. The difference is today, however, is that we have the advantage of a readily-available Bible and 2000 years of Christian sacrament and worship heavily steeped in tradition!

I'm a big fan of the Bible, so don't be mislead by the core arguments of this blog entry; I think, as I have already declared, all Christians should read the Bible, but it mightn't be wise to rely entirely on the Bible. We have a beautiful gift in the traditions that have been passed down from Christ to his disciples, and his disciples on to us. We can experience the fullness of the Christian faith by immersing ourselves in both!

Make mine sacred scripture and tradition!

Amen!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Celibate Clergy: Scripturally and Sensically Justified

Arguments FOR priestly celibacy

1. Celibacy reaffirms marriage.
In a society that is completely saturated with sex, celibate priests are living proof that sexual urges can be controlled and channeled in a positive way. Far from denigrating the sexual act, celibacy acknowledges the goodness of sex within marriage by offering it up as a sacrifice to God. The sanctity of marriage is dishonored if it is treated merely as an outlet for sexual impulses. Rather, we as Christians are called to understand marriage as the inviolable commitment of a husband and wife to love and honor one another. A priest offers up a similar commitment of love to the Church, a bond that cannot be broken and that is treated with the same gravity and respect as in marriage.

2. Celibacy is scriptural.
Fundamentalists will tell you that celibacy has no basis in the Bible whatsoever, saying that Christians are called to "Be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). This mandate speaks to humanity in general, however, and overlooks numerous passages in the Bible that support the celibate life. In 1 Corinthians, for example, Paul actually seems to prefer the celibate life: "Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage... Those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that... The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided" (7:27-34). This is not to say that all men should be celibate, however; Paul explains that celibacy is a calling for some and not for others by saying, "Each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another" (7:7).

Jesus Himself speaks of celibacy in Matthew 19:11-12: "Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom it 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 God. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it." Again, the emphasis is on the special nature of celibacy, one for which not all men are suited, but one that nevertheless gives glory to "the kingdom of God."

Perhaps the best evidence for the scriptural support of celibacy is that Jesus Himself practiced it!

3. Celibacy is historical.
Most people assume that the celibate priesthood is a convention introduced by the Church fairly late in history. On the contrary, there is evidence that even the earliest Church fathers, such as St. Augustine, St. Cyril, and St. Jerome, fully supported the celibate priesthood. The Spanish Council of Elvira (between 295 and 302) and the First Council of Aries (314), a kind of general council of the West, both enacted legislation forbidding all bishops, priests, and deacons to have conjugal relations with their wives on penalty of exclusion from the clergy. Even the wording of these documents suggests that the councils were not introducing a new rule but rather maintaining a previously established tradition. In 385, Pope Siricius issued the first papal decree on the subject, saying that "clerical continence" was a tradition reaching as far back as apostolic times.

While later councils and popes would pass similar edicts, the definitive promulgation of the celibate, unmarried priesthood came at the Second Lateran Council in 1139 under Pope Gregory VII. Far from being a law forced upon the medieval priesthood, it was the acceptance of celibacy by priests centuries earlier that eventually led to its universal promulgation in the twelfth century.

4. Celibacy emphasizes the unique role of the priest.
The priest is a representative of Christ, an alter Christus. In this respect, the priest understands his identity by following the example of Jesus, a man who lived His life in perfect chastity and dedication to God. As Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe of Grado explains, "[A priest's] being and his acting must be like Christ's: undivided" (The Relevance of Priestly Celibacy Today, 1993). As such, the sacramental priesthood is holy, something set apart from the rest of the world. Just as Christ sacrificed His life for His bride, the Church, so too must a priest offer up his life for the good of Christ's people.

5. Celibacy allows the priest's first priority to be the Church.
The image used to describe the role of the priest is one of marriage to the Church. Just as marriage is the total gift of self to another, the priesthood requires the total gift of self to the Church. A priest,s first duty is to his flock, while a husband's first duty is to his wife. Obviously, these two roles will often conflict, as St. Paul noted and as many married priests will tell you. A celibate priest is able to give his undivided attention to his parishioners without the added responsibility of caring for his own family. They are able to pick up and go whenever necessary, whether this involves moving to a new parish or responding to a late-night crisis. Celibate priests are better able to respond to these frequent changes and demands on their time and attention.

Objections and responses...

We know the apostle Peter, the first pope was married.
Circumstantial, and yes: Peter was married when Christ first asked him to go and follow him. Would Christ himself have expected anyone of His followers to divorce their wife in order to do His work? As a reasonable human being, I don't think anyone would have even considered terminating their marriage so that they could become the pope, a bishop etc. The fact that Peter was married is no more contrary to the Catholic faith than the fact that the pastor of the nearest Maronite Catholic church is married.

In 1 Timothy 4:1-3 the apostle Paul calls the teaching that forbids marriage a "doctrine of devils"… Just as no human law can alter or abolish a command of God, neither can any vow alter a command of God.
It comes down to choice. If you choose that vocation; if you respond to the calling placed-upon your heart, then you know full-well the sacrifices you must make. And what of people that choose the consecrated single life? Is a person committing a sin because they do not feel called to marriage and procreation? Is a married person committing a sin when they abstain [naturally] from intercourse?

For example, Paul recognised that since he was unmarried he could devote all his time to the ministry and not have to divide his time between ministry, wife and children (1 Corinthians 7:32-35). However, the Bible states that “if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1st Corinthians 7:9). Moreover, although even a married couple could abstain from physical relations it is to be for a predetermined and agreed upon temporary period of time (1 Corinthians 7:5).

Paul even goes on to make a case for preferring celibacy to marriage: "Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. . . those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. . . . The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband" (7:27-34).

Paul’s conclusion: He who marries "does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better" (7:38).

Celibacy is neither unnatural nor unbiblical. "Be fruitful and multiply" is not binding upon every individual; rather, it is a general precept for the human race. Otherwise, every unmarried man and woman of marrying age would be in a state of sin by remaining single, and Jesus and Paul would be guilty of advocating sin as well as committing it.

Obviously there were issues that recurred with the allowing of the clergy to marry, thus the doctrinal teaching and canon on priestly celibacy. To be quite frank for a moment, if a man cannot control his sexual urges, then he should probably not be considering the clergy in the first place, and the same can be said for a person that is considering marriage: if they cannot control their sexual urges, then they should not marry for fear of the sin of adultery. Both marriage and the priesthood require mastery of the sexual urges and acknowledge that sexual unification is a gift given to us by God that allows a husband and a wife to express their love ordained by Christ physically, and to bear the fruit of children; the epitome and climax of married life.

I had a friend who spent eight years in the seminary, and was on the cusp of his ordination before he left because he desperately wanted to be with a woman he was with before commencing his clerical studies. This woman had taken her first vows and was on her way to becoming a nun.

It comes down to matter of the human heart: if you feel God calling you to a particular vocation, no matter what it is, they require some sort of sacrifice in order for the work of the Lord to be carried-out. Think of the many sacrifices a married person has to make in order to raise and rear their children in the way that God instructed us to.

"All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven."70 Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to "the affairs of the Lord,"71 they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church's minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God.72" - CCC 1579

70 Mt 19:12.
71 1 Cor 7:32.
72 Cf. PO 16.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sola Fide? The Bible says otherwise, so why do fundamentalists ignore THESE verses?

"Sola Fide" or "faith alone" is the assertion made by Protestants (or a majority of them at least) that faith alone is sufficient for one's salvation, even to the exclusion of all human effort and works. This was a recent topic of discussion between myself and a Protestant friend of mine when we were discussing the doctrine of Justification and "faith and works". So what does the Bible have to say about this?

"Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 7:21

"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." - Galatians 5:6

"And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love." - 2 John 1:6

"We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." - 1 John 2:3-6

"And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books." - Revelation 20:12

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." - 2 Corinthians 5:10

"But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God "will give to each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger." - Romans 2:2-8

"Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear." - 1 Peter 1:17

"For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." - Romans 2:13

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" - Matthew 25:40

"Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith." - Romans 1:5

"Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully." - 2 John 1:8

"It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned." - Hebrews 6:4-8

"First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds." - Acts 26:20

"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" - Luke 6:46

"But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." - Luke 14:13-14

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." - Luke 5:14-16

Another example that comes to mind is the thief hanging on the cross next to Jesus (Luke 23:32-43). Some argue that it was faith alone (sola fide) that saved him, and in part this is true, but the thief could have retained faith in his heart and done nothing to receive the grace of salvation. It was the fact that the thief spoke out and asked Jesus, "remember me when you come into your kingdom" (verse 42) that he received the gift of salvation. It was faith that enabled him to do so, but faith without showing you have faith is dead faith.

Another example to consider would be the woman who suffered bleeding (Luke 8:43-48); she reached out believing that she would be healed by touching the hem of Jesus' cloak. If she had sat there and done nothing, would she have been healed? Would faith alone been enough to heal her? The woman stepped out in faith in order to be saved. In the same way, good works must come from faith in order for them to be good works.

There is also the matter of Abraham in Genesis 22. God asked that Abraham sacrifice his only son. Abraham went to do so willingly but imagine if he refused! Abraham was able to do so because he had faith, but never did he ask "Lord, is it not enough that I have faith in you?" Abraham's faith is justified when an angel of the Lord stops him from sacrificing Isaac: ""Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son" (verse 12).

For me the kicker is
James 2:14-26 (follow link to read).

The common misconception made by anti-Catholics is that we preach "faith OR works". But James 2:14-26 makes strong emphasis that faith alone (sola fide) is inadequate, but works accompanied by faith will save you. Good works must always be performed with faith, as it is faith (grace) that enables us to perform them.

What is most poignant in James 2:14-26 is this:

"You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." (verse 19)

"Even the demons believe..." if to have faith is to believe, and if to have faith in Christ is to have believe in Christ, then honestly, as a believer, I sure don't want to be likened to that of a demon!

How do we know faith is real? Faith is real because of what it enables us to do! How do we know if another has faith? Can we see faith? No, but we can see faith put into action, and this is how we know that faith is real and resides within people who have it:

"By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" - Matthew 7:16

In order for faith to be known, it must be manifested; faith alone is never sufficient:

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men." - Matthew 5:13

How do you keep the "savour" of salt? How do you keep the light and warmth of faith? By putting it into action, of course; by using it and showing the world that you have it:

"Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house." - Matthew 5:15

Christ wants our faith to shine from the inside out:

"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock" - Matthew 7:24

It's one thing to hear the word, but to act on them is something different all together, and this is what Christ instructed us to do.

We do ourselves and each other a great disservice when we do not put into pratice what we have been taught by Christ, as to do so comes from faith. By putting our faith into action we prove the genuineness of our faith. If you have faith, it needs to be demonstrated, else it is dead faith and justifies nothing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The blog is now being linked over at AskACatholic.com

Hey folks,

Just thought I'd let you know that my blog is now being linked over at
AskACatholic.com (http://www.askacatholic.com/_WhatsNew/bloggers_page.cfm).

AskACatholic.com is a terrific website containing a great wealth of information about Catholicism and is great point of reference for any Christian, no matter where they are in their faith journey.

Peace out!


-S

Monday, August 10, 2009

I'm no longer a "Weet-Bix kid"!

Some time ago I received some hate-filled anti-Catholic diatribe in the mail, and needless to say it really grinded my gears! The material came from the Perth base of the Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) "Church".

Now, normally I'm very tolerant of the beliefs and others and have no issue with other Christians wanting to practice their faith in the way they think is right - I believe in all growing together in harmony and reserving all judgement for God (Matthew 13:24-30) - but something I will not tolerate is baseless attacks and felonious claims against the faith I follow, and the only Church that can claim to have been founded by Jesus Christ himself (Matthew 16:13-20).

The SDAs since their inception have been known for the prejudice towards Catholicism and are major toters of the "Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon" horn. The SDA official website does their best to alleviate any concerns that one of their drives is to point out the "errs and flaws" of Catholicism, but recent interactions with members from the SDA church - both online and face to face - have left me thinking otherwise!

Now I'm not suggesting that Catholics are innocent of this themselves, but personally, I've never known any of my Catholic friends or Catholics that I know to drag a particular church's name through the mud, tell a non-Catholic Christian that they're "wrong" and are "living a lie", etc. No Church can claim that they have "perfect" people in them.

Anyway, so I'm thinking about the SDA church and what pies they have their fingers in. It may shock some people to know that the SDA church owns Australian brand 'Sanitarium', most famous for "Australia's favourite breakfast cereal", Weet-Bix (source:
SDA South Pacific) .

Yes, that's right; the seven Weet-Bix that Brett Lee does every day is thanks to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, and the 10 (sometimes 15) Weet-Bix a day that I used to do growing up was thanks to the SDA church!

The sad part about all this is that Australians are unaware of this connection and this is quite deceitful. Imagine you're an atheist, and you've done your best not to expose yourself or your family to anything linked to religion or pertaining to Christianity, and all of a sudden you discover the SDA link to Sanitarium Weet-Bix! I wonder if it's indicated anywhere on their packaging that Sanitarium is owned by the SDA church? It would certainly make a lot of people around the world think twice about the products they buy.

And so I've come to the decision to boycott anything Sanitarium for as long as I shall live.

Am I doing so because I hate the SDA church? No, not at all; I don't hate the SDA church!

Am I doing so because I hate SDAs? No, not at all; I don't hate SDAs!

Am I doing so because I feel morally adversed to supporting the SDA church financially? Yes, you bet I do! Why? Because the money spent to purchase their Sanitarium products went to the production of the anti-Catholic diatribe I received in my letterbox recently, and the in turn the hate-mongering they propagate. I also do not feel well-minded about supporting their agendas! If my money is going to support any church, it's going to be the Catholic Church because there I know for certain that it will bear good fruit.

We're told by society to be "clever consumers" and to know where our money is going, and I believe this includes each consumer investigating and going beyond whether their money is supporting foreign markets. The Internet is a wonderful thing; if you want to know who you're supporting when you buy a product, look-up the company on the web and learn whose finger is in their pie! For all you know you could be supporting the next KKK movement somewhere in the world or the global child slavery market.

Does this sound like a petty and childish thing for me to do? Probably, but on principle, it's no different to boycotting a particular cosmetics company because of their testing and experiments on animals, or not voting for a particular member of parliament because of connections with dubious individuals.

I just hope to God that Uncle Toby's or Kellogg's aren't owned by Charles Russell Taze or Joseph Smith (or their benefactors) or anyone like that because I'm going to be running out of cereals to eat! Perhaps this is a good time to give Black & Gold or Home Brand a whirl! ;-)

Friday, August 07, 2009

A bolt from the blue II

I received another email from Rob recently, and since the first time I heard from him he has been asking me LOTS of questions about Catholicism and so forth, but last night, he shared with me some very exciting news:

This September, Rob will be partaking in the RCIA program at a local parish (or a parish nearby, I assume)! How good is God? Honestly!

Please continue to pray for Rob as I will be; this journey will not be a walk in the park...

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." - Matthew 7:13-14

Recommended Reading: Patty Patrick Bonds' Conversion

Patty Patrick Bonds is no ordinary woman, and when I say this, I mean she has "connections". This particular connection makes her conversion to Catholicism all the more powerful, unique, and inspiring. Patty learned the truth about the Catholic Church and genuinely found Christ within her (the Catholic Church) despite the very strong opposition from this "connection" of hers.

Patty writes in her testimony:

"Even as I write these words, furious opposition from my brother continues. One of his main accusations has been that before becoming Catholic I didn’t listen to tapes of his debates; therefore, I wasn’t really informed about the problems with Catholicism. My response is that I was well aware of his positions and arguments against Rome, partly because I had studied his written material, but mainly because I grew up in that same milieu. I was raised from childhood to believe in the same doctrines and attitudes toward Rome that he was."

Patty Patrick Bonds' "connection" is her brother, James White.



Who is James White? Well, his website tells us this about him:

"James White is the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the author of more than twenty books, a professor, an accomplished debater, and an elder of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church."

That's some nice PR in action, but what makes Patty's conversion all the more powerful is the fact that her brother, James White, is a rampant anti-Catholic!

Patty in her testimony also writes:

"I challenge you who are outside the Catholic Church to take off your Protestant glasses and read the writings of the early Church Fathers and the scriptures in the light of the time and the culture in which they were written. Lay aside your prejudices and fears. Be open to the glorious possibility that God did indeed establish a visible Church and entrust to her the truth of the Faith. Be open to the fact that 2000 years later He continues to keep his promise to lead the Church into all truth."

If you would like to read about Patty's journey to Catholicism, you can find her testimony in full at this location:
http://www.askacatholic.com/_WebPostings/Answers/attachments/Conversion_Of_PattyPatrickBonds.pdf
If you're a Catholic yourself or a Protestant just curious about Catholicism, then I recommend without any hesitation that you read Patty's story. You will not be left disappointed.


God bless.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

If all things that exist have a beginning, then what created God?

Since all things we know have a beginning and an end, we can also assume that time itself has a beginning and thus was itself created. All things that are created have a beginning - an inception or manifestation - and thus their time of existence can be measured. Theists believe that God is the creator of all, and this includes time (God being the creator of time): beginnings, inceptions, manifestations, etc.

If God is the creator of time, he exists outside of it and therefore has no beginning or no end. All that God has created has the trademark of the creator: life itself; all that has a beginning and an end.

1. Everything that begins to exist has cause of its existence.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.

More specifically:

a. From nothing, nothing comes.
b. Therefore, if nothing existed in the past, nothing would exist now.
c. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
d. If the universe began to exist, then the universe has a cause of its existence.
e. The universe began to exist.
f. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
g. An actual infinity cannot exist.
h. An infinite regress of cause and effect would be an actual infinity.
i. Therefore, something must always have existed that is the cause of all other things.

But how was "time" created?

"Time" is simply what human-kind describes as the start and end of things. Things close to the end of their existence are usually considered "old", and things close to the beginning of their existence are usually considered "young". While the measurement - e.g. how fast, slow, young, old, high, low, etc. - is man-made, the concept of time existed long before we gave it a name.

We, mankind, learned that there was an order to things in their lives and in the universe, but what created that order? That sequence? Those beginnings and those ends?

If we talk about space, time and the universe: Nothing can have an end if it doesn't have a beginning. Conversely, nothing could have a beginning if it didn't have an end.