samedi 15 juin 2019

The Feast of the Holy Trinity

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Feast of the Holy Trinity"The Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say about the Feast of the Trinity: "Feast of the Holy Trinity, also called Trinity Sunday, feast in honor of the Trinity. It is celebrated in the Christian churches on the Sunday following Pentecost (the 50th day after Easter). It is known that the feast was celebrated on this day from as early as the 10th century."

Last year, I found myself in yet another debate with a social media friend on this very topic of the Trinity. My interlocutor advocated the view that the Trinitarian belief was essentially evil. He took his authority from a book from a certain preacher, Frank Ewald. He was kind enough to give me the title of the book that seemed to have convinced him to hold a position that rejects the Christian doctrine the Trinity. 

Luckily for me, I knew a bit about Ewald Frank. He was one of the prominent leaders of a schismatic movement within Pentecostalism that followed a certain former American Baptist preacher regarded as an end-time prophet by his followers by the name of William Marion Brahnam. This movement in which Frank was greatly influential is also known as Brahnamism among other labels. I went fishing on the internet and found a friend version of the book that I was told about. I read it within a week and attempted to make some responses to key objections that it raised against the Trinity.

I want to take this opportunity as we celebrate the Feast of The Trinity to share with you the link to the English version of the essay I wrote in response to Ewald Frank, titled 'On The Trinity: The Problem of Ewald Frank'.

You can also click here to access it:

I hope you find this essay worth reading and hopefully encouraging also to your Christian faith.
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen." - 2 Corinthians 13:14 

jeudi 18 avril 2019

The TRIDUM and the Order of Melchizedek

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Last Supper"Today marks the beginning of the three days commemoration of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. It will end with Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Not long ago,I was reading the sacred scriptures with some friends and we were studying Psalm 110. I came across this text:

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'” Psalm 110.4

The introduction of Melchizedek in this verse came out of nowhere. It seemed strange at first given that the last time Melchizedek is mentioned is in the book of Genesis. And David must have known that. Especially since in his time, the priesthood known and recognized in Israel as the divine institution, was the Priesthood of Aron, not the priesthood of Melchizedek. And yet, out of nowhere, David started talking of another priesthood as he informed his audience that God swore that the messiah will be from the order of Melchizedek priesthood.

Here is the other only mention we have of Melchizedek in Genesis:

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). Then MELCHIZEDEK king of Salem brought out BREAD and WINE. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.” - Genesis 14:17-19

Verse 18 of Genesis passage shows that Melchizedek brought “bread and wine”. And the author immediately points out just after mentioning 'bread and wine' that he was a priest. A priest is someone who perform religious sacrifices. The French version translate the word priest with ‘Sacrificateur’. Melchizedek sacrifices must therefore have been ‘Bread and Wine’. A shadow of things to come.
David in Psalm 110 tells us that the Messiah will be from the order of Melchizedek. This is confirmed in the book of Hebrews that identify the Lord Jesus Christ with Melchizedek:

“For it is declared: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of MELCHIZEDEK.’ ... Others became priests without any oath, but he [Jesus] became a priest with an oath when God said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’" Because of this oath, JESUS has become the guarantor of a better covenant. Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because JESUS lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” - Hebrews 7:17-25

As this biblical text proves, the Messiah, Jesus, came in the order of Melchizedek priesthood. In the original Tridum, on Holy Thursday, Jesus who is priest in the order of Melchizedek also came with the sacrifice of ‘Bread and Wine’ just like Melchizedek did when he met Abram in Genesis 14. This sacrifice of 'Bread and Wine' is significant because the Gospel tells us that it is the Messiah Body and Blood offered during the first Tridum on Holy Thursday, 2000 years ago.

In the Gospel of Luke 22, the Lord Jesus said: 
18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine [i.e WINE] until the kingdom of God comes."
19 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."
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

This is fascinating stuffs. I have written more about the Lamb Supper, its Jewish origin and its Messianic manifestation. You can access it in this link: 

I can't wait to be at Mass this evening to see once again the sacrifice in the order of Melchizedek being given to us during the Eucharistic celebration. You are also welcome to join us at any Catholic parishes today! 😇

dimanche 6 janvier 2019

The Challenge: A Year In Review (2018)

Image result for year in reviewThanks to my parent, I have always believed in God and that Christianity was the way to correctly understand true spirituality and proper theology. When I entered University in South Africa learning Science and encountering a variety of perspectives and series of worldviews collusion with mine, that is when I felt the need to know and to understand better the evidences for Christianity. The result was quite unexpected and gratifying. That is when I fell in love with Apologetic, this is how I became interested in Christian apologetic and various theological themes.

In the same vein, I have always been a Catholic Christian for as long as I can remember and I have always lived in relative peace with my protestant brothers in the Lord save for some turbulent episodes throughout the past 3 decades where I have been placed in uncomfortable position to explain and defend some aspects of the Catholic faith here and there. But usually these 'hot seat' encounters were sporadic but never as gruesome as it could have been if my inquisitors would have wanted to make it unbearable. I need to point out though that the recurrence and onslaught against some aspects of my Catholic faith  had been growing in intensity and frequency since I returned from my studies to Rwanda. Despite the recurrent intellectual confrontation, which I always welcomed with cheerfulness over the years, I have always operated with the motto, 'Live and Let live' until December 2017.

As is the custom, during major feasts of the Church someone will come up with a good humor and provocative questions or statements against the Catholic Church. I would then go into defense mode trying to explain the ins and outs of it and my interlocutors would then hit back with counter-arguments which will elicit a response from me and then back to them and so on. I was already used to this comical ritual always done out of fraternal concern from their part. December 2017 was shaping up to be the usual re-enactment for the pros and cons about Catholicism with the usual indictment: 'December 25 is a pagan feast' or 'The Christmas Tree is pure idolatry', etc. As expected the usual suspect showed up and led to a series of dialogue with arguments and counter arguments from each sides. But what was not expected though was The Challenge.

I was not expected to be challenged to a formal debate about these issues surrounding the Christmas themes. Since I do not shy away from some good Socratic dialogue about my faith, I gave my consent. Unfortunately the debate never occurred. But inadvertently something else, something good, came out of it. From the moment I was challenged for that formal debate, I took every single free time I could find to educate myself about the subject that would have been part of the debate. I watched videos, I read articles and one thing led to another and by the time it became clear that the debate would never occur I was already 'hooked' by my research. I found myself sinking deep and deep in my research and drifting from the precise aspect of the Christmas related topic to a broaden world of Catholic history first and then Catholic apologetic. I found myself falling deeply in love with my Christian Catholic faith.

I think I owed this short explanation to my family and friends who have been wondering what happened to me last year (2018) as most of my social media posts, messaging and debates were structured around Catholicism. It is not that I became Catholic in 2018 nor that I started believing deeply about the Christian Catholic faith on that year, rather as my earlier encounter with Christian apologetic, it is the year that I wanted to understand best about the evidences under-girding my Catholic faith due to the incessant and increased frequency on the attacks to which I had been subjected to for the past recent years.

The research into the primitive Christian Church beliefs and practices was gratifying and I feel that many people would certainly enjoy any of the literature that I have been exposed to throughout the year. Allow me to share some selection of books that I have read and found eye-opening about the Christian Catholic faith during the year 2018. I can't list all that the documentation that I came across throughout the year but this list is pretty much a good representation of what was covered in one way or another in other documentations that I had access to. I am only listing those books that I found outstanding:
1. 'Four Witness: The Early Church in Her Own Words' by Rod Bennet
2. 'The Apostasy That Wasn't: The Extraordinary Story of the Unbreakable Early Church' by Rod Bennet
3. 'Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church' by Steve Ray
4. 'Upon this Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church' by Steve Ray
5. 'The Protestant's Dilemma: How the Reformation's Shocking Consequences Point to the Truth of Catholicism' by Devin Rose 
6. 'The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ' by Brant Pitre 
7. 'Jesus and the Jewish Root of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper' by Brant Pitre 
8. 'Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary: Unveiling the Mother of the Messiah' by Brant Pitre
9. 'Jesus and the Last Supper' by Brant Pitre 
10. 'Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger: The Untold Story of the Lost Books of the Protestant Bible' by Gary G. Michuta
Special mention to an non-Catholic book that I read but which inadvertently also bolstered some fascinating historical aspects about the Catholic tradition:
'The Son Rises: Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus' by William Lane Craig
As I reflect about the year 2018, I can't help but be grateful for all those who have helped me think critically about my Christian faith once more and who by their incessant intellectual engagement pushed me to embark in this beautiful exploration of the origin of Christianity. It has made my faith even more alive than before and has even heighten my spiritual sensibilities on a day to day basis.

The Holy Catholic Church mandate seems to operate as the oracle given to the Jewish Prophet Jeremiah:
"Behold! I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant." - Jeremiah 1:10 MKJV  
Some evidences uncovered have re-affirmed my faith and why I should still be a Catholic Christians (and hopefully everybody else too) and some other evidences have brought to the fore-front the reality that it is not always easy to learn something new regardless of the amount of evidences unless one is also open to unlearn some other prior views and relinquish some tightly held commitments. This later part was rather easy for me since I was already Catholic but I found it taking its toll on non-catholic who started considering the evidences and arguments being advanced for the Catholic christian faith. This reminds me of an excellent remarks by the beloved Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, which I paraphrase as, "An opinion is what you can change without changing who you are, but a conviction is that which if you change, you will have to change who you are." This brilliant distinction between an opinion and a conviction might explain what happens when a protestant Christian changes a denomination within Protestantism (change of opinion) with them moving from Protestantism to enter into full communion with the Church that the Lord Jesus Christ caused into existence, the Catholic Church (change of conviction).

For good or bad, this is the current state of affair with many considering Catholicism around the world. I can only wish them well and I will join the Church in praying for all separated brethren to one day find enough courage, good reason and good sense to come back Rome Home.

Happy New Year 2019 and my best wishes to all as we continue to serve the Lord Jesus with an unalterable love and with full commitment to the growth of His Kingdom here on earth.

mercredi 24 octobre 2018

Mary as the Blessed Woman: Lesson from the Gospel of Luke

Image result for maryHow can we best understand these words of the Lord Jesus in reaction to a woman who made a positive remarks about Mary, the mother of the Savior? For some people, this is a disparaging statement Jesus made against anyone who might have in mind the intention to look with admiration to the blessed mother of our savior. If you are still not sure of what I am talking about, then please read this conversation as recorded by St. Luke:
"And it happened as He [Jesus] spoke these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice and said to Him, Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which You have sucked. But He said, No; rather, blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it." Luke 11:27-28 (Modern King James Version)
If you read this version of the King James, you are left with the impression that Jesus is matter of fact correcting the woman who spoke favorably of the Blessed mother of the Savior, Mary. However, when we read another version of the same King James, the tone of the savior is different and we may venture to say the whole emphasis of the text becomes different if not positive:
And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” 28 But He said, More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Luke 11:27-28- (New King James Version)

Is Jesus saying 'no my mother is not blessed but rather are blessed those who hear and keep my words' like the Modern Version of the King James Version seems to infer or is Jesus saying 'it is more than that, it is not limited to my mother, blessed are those who hear and keep my word' like the New King James version seem to insist? It all depends on which version you pick up. What is true of these two King James version can be found equally in other translations.

So how do we resolve this seemingly opposite messaging with one being adversarial in tone while the other being non-adversarial in tone?

May I suggest we find the solution of it from the original Greek texts. Instead of choosing the source material from another biblical translation, I will use the Greek text sources used by the King James Version itself as rendered by the eStrong Greek and Hebrew Dictionary. The word used in one version as "No rather" and by the other version as "More than that" is the Greek word: Menounge.
From G3303 and G3767 and G1065; so then at least: - nay but, yea doubtless (rather, verily).
Now we know why the King James Version uses different formulation of the same verse, it is because menounge could mean 'no but' or 'yes without doubt' or 'rather' or even 'verily (indeed)'. Given this wide diversity of words, translators have different preferences. They can choose one word with a tendency for adversity while another translator might choose a word with a positive connotation.

Nevertheless, I will argue here that Luke used the word, 'menounge' in a rather positive form and not in any negative way as this will become obvious shortly. Before I show you why this is the case from within the very Gospel of Luke itself, allow me to show you the other three other instances where this very word, 'menounge', is used in the New Testament beside Luke 11:28.

The Word 'Menounge' is used also in Romans 9:20, Romans 10:18: and Philippians 3:8.

1) Menounge: Positive Case from Romans 9

This chapter is known for its treatise on divine election. St. Paul approach to the Romans in discussing divine election is to point in anticipation of what his readers might be thinking by saying this:
(19)You will say to me then, “Why does He [God] still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” (20) But indeed [menounge], O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”
Paul uses menounge to mean to the Romans that it is more than what they were wondering with regards to 'who can resist God's will if God decides to do what He wants?', he says, matter of fact, who are the Romans thinking they are to even question God in the first place. Here menounge doesn't means that what has been said before is not true but rather that it didn't go far enough. Not only can God do what he wants as the Romans may be wondering but we, as humans, can't even dare to challenge him. St. Paul uses menounge to expand his argument and not to deny the initial statement which says 'For who has resisted His will?'. Clearly Paul is responding to this by emphasizing in the positive that indeed none can resist the divine election of Israel and more than this no one can reply or challenge God's choice.

Hence in Romans 9, the word menounge doesn't cancel the former proposition in verse 19 but rather makes it even more harder by expanding the consequence in verse 20.

2) Menounge: Positive Case from Romans 10

St. Paul makes a long argument in chapter 10 with regard to the efficacy of the gospel and its capacity to reach people's heart. And through his explanation he makes use of the word, menounge, as seen in the verses below:
(16) But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our report?” (17) So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.(18) But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed [menounge]: “Their sound has gone out to all the earthAnd their words to the ends of the world.” 19 But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: “I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.”
The argument is rather clear in this passage, St. Paul quotes the Jewish prophet Isaiah complaining about his uncertainty on the limited number of people in Israel who might have believed in his 'gospel' message (aka report), and Paul said, menounge - it is more than Israel, the message has gone beyond Israel and has reached all the earth and the ends of the world. Clearly, menounge, is not being used in a negative sense here as if it was negating the previous verse, but rather it is used to affirm the first one while expanding its meaning beyond Israel (verse 16, 19) to the rest of the world (verse 18). St. Paul is saying not only did the report reach Israel but it also went beyond Israel to the ends of the earth so to speak. It is not a negation of the first proposition but an expansion of it to include other lands beyond Israel.

3) Menounge: Positive Case of Philippians 3

In this epistle starting from verse 4 to verse 7, St. Paul tells of his credentials as a righteous man from the perspective of his Jewish heritage according to the Mosaic Law. In the middle of it, he uses the word, menounge:
(4) though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: (5) circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; (6) concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (7) But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. (8) Yet indeed [menounge] I also count ALL things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
Here again, St. Paul doesn't negate what he said in verse 7 when he said, 'these I have counted loss for Christ', rather when he uses menounge in verse 8, he affirmed such loss and goes even further, he expands the category of what he considered lost (see the list from verse 4-7). He also considered now 'ALL things loss' and not only 'these things' from his Jewish heritage.

NB: In summarizing the use of 'menounge' by St. Paul, we see that St. Paul doesn't use it to denigrate or cancel former statements, but rather he uses it to show that there is much more than what was said. He uses menounge to include the former statement into a larger narrative. In Rom 9, he meant not only you can't resist God's Will in election but you can't even question him. In Rom 10, he informed that not only Israel believed the report but also the rest of the world. And in Phil 3, he points out that not only those things he mentioned about his Jewish heritage he considered as loss for Christ but also ALL the rest too.

This leads us to the question we started with as we ponder this question, 'what are the chances that St. Luke who was a companion of St. Paul through out his ministry would use menounge to negate previous statement instead of affirming and expanding it just as St. Paul did?' I believe there is no chance he will use it differently than Paul did. And let me show you why.

4) FINALLY, Menounge: Positive Case in Luke 11

If we have learned anything from this word, menounge, in the reflection above, it is that it doesn't negate what is said before but rather takes former proposition in account and expands it. The Lord Jesus is not denying that his mother is blessed, he is expanding the category of the blessed as not to limit it to only his mother:
(27) And it happened, as He [Jesus] spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” (28But He said, “More than that [menounge], blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Luke 11:27-28- (New King James Version)
Clearly, St. Luke is reporting Jesus words to show that what made Mary, the mother of our Lord, blessed is exactly what makes those who were in that audience blessed, namely the hearing of the word of God and the keeping of those words.

The Context of Luke Gospel About Mary

If we remember how St. Luke started his gospel, he started by informing us that he investigated the content of this gospel from the eye-witnesses of those events:
"... they were passed down to us by those who had been eyewitnesses ... I, too, have carefully investigated everything from the beginning and have decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus" - Luke 1:3 
Since he referred to eyewitness from the beginning, let us remember that among those who were there at the beginning of the Lord Jesus birth, his circumcision, his presentation at the temple, his visit at the temple at age 12 and the angelic visitation during the Annunciation event that kick-started the virginal pregnancy is ... well ... Mary, the mother of the Lord. She was an eye-witness of all these events Luke informed us.

One specific thing that we are told by St. Luke about these events is that Mary heard and kept the words from the Lord:

Example 1: Mary received the word of God and accepted it from the Archangel Gabriel:
"Then Mary said, 'Truly I am the Lord's servant. Let everything you have said happen to me.' Then the angel left her.'' - Gospel Luke 1:38  

Example 2: Mary is a blessed woman for she received the word of God according to the Holy Spirit:
''When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby jumped in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she loudly exclaimed, "How blessed are you among women, and how blessed is the infant in your womb! Why should this happen to me, to have the mother of my Lord visit me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. How blessed is this woman for believing that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled!" -  Gospel of Luke 1:41-45
Example 3: Mary kept the words from the Lord as received by the Shepherd in her heart:
''When they saw this, they [the shepherds] repeated what they had been told about this child. All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. However, Mary continued to treasure all these things in her heart and to ponder them.'' - Gospel of Luke 2:17-19
Example 4: Mary kept the words of Jesus in her heart even when she didn't understand it:

''And He [Jesus] said to them, Why did you look for Me? Do you not know that I must be about My Father's business? And they did not understand the word which He spoke to them. And He went with them and came to Nazareth, and He was subject to them. But His mother kept all these sayings in her heart.'' - Gospel Luke 2:49-51
Image result for mary

IN CONCLUSION, St. Luke was inviting us to understand that what made a blessed woman of Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus, the Woman on which breast the Baby-Christ suckled in his infancy was the fact that she heard the word of the God and kept it. The exhortation and lesson to be learned here is that Lord expects as much from every single one of us: Hear and Keep His Words like the Blessed Virgin did.

The Lord Jesus was not correcting the woman who spoke these words, 'Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!', He was rather [menounge] expanding the category of those who are regarded blessed by telling her that 'you too can become blessed if you hear the Word of God and Keep It just like the Blessed Virgin Mary did countless time'.

Post Script
Allow me to end by quoting an ex-Protestant now turned Catholic apologist James Akin:
... the Greek word here translated 'rather' (menoun) does not have anything like the adversive force in Greek that 'rather' does in English. It is simply an emphatic particle normally rendered 'and'. Thus, if Bibles had italics for emphasis, the passage would be better translated: 'He said, and blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!' He i snot denying what she said, he is emphatically adding something to what she said. (Internet Question Box, 4/26/99). 

jeudi 16 août 2018

The Catholic Church and 'JUDAS'

I am often asked about what can be done about the clerical abuses within the Catholic Church namely, excessive political involvement of the clergy, sexual sins among which a predominance of homosexuality, etc.

One way to answer the question is to look at what has already been done about it in the Catholic Church history. There is a segment in Steve WEIDENKOPF book, "The Real Story of Catholic History: Answering Twenty Centuries of Anti-Catholic Myths" which shows how Pope Leo IX went about to combat Priests sexual immoralities and clergy grasps for secular power. Let me share an excerpt of it. Here is how he describes it:
Bruno of Alsace was noted for his piety. As bishop of Toul (in modern-day France), he cared deeply for his people. The abuses in the Church, especially among the clergy, pained him. When Pope Damasus II, the third German to sit on the Chair of Peter, died in 1048 after a short pontificate of only twenty-three days, Bruno of Alsace was the logical and saintly choice as his successor [and become Pope Leo IX]. By the time of Pope Leo IX in the mid-eleventh century, unchastity among the clergy was widespread. So many priests lived openly with mistresses or practiced the abhorrent vice of homosexuality that St. Peter Damian (1007–1072) wrote The Book of Gomorrah against the sexual sins of the clergy. The eleventh-century papal reform focused on ensuring the independence of the papacy from the interference of secular rulers, and was led mostly by popes who were former monks, free from the sins of secular (diocesan) clergy.
Pope St. Leo IX (r. 1049–1054) was faced with three major issues that shaped his pontificate: the protection of the Papal States from the encroaching Normans; resolution of disputes with the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantines); and the reform of the Church. And the Church was indeed in desperate need of reform in the eleventh century. The practice of simony (buying or selling Church offices) was rampant, as were violations of the discipline of celibacy among clergy (deacons, priests, and bishops).
To combat these abuses, Leo IX launched one of the most comprehensive reforms in the history of the Church. To ensure its effectiveness, he did not just issue decrees from Rome and demand obedience; he went on the most significant papal road trip in history, traveling throughout Italy, Germany, and France, and holding local synods along the way. Indeed, in the five and half years of his pontificate, Leo spent only six months in the city of Rome. Leo deposed immoral and corrupt bishops, and excommunicated clergy found guilty of simony or unchastity. These reform popes (St. Leo IX, St. Gregory VII, Bl. Urban II) recognized that reform in terms of the Church’s freedom from external secular control could be accomplished only if reform began in the Church, hence their focus on rooting out simony and unchastity among the clergy. Urban II captured the essence of the reform movement when he wrote, 
The Church shall be Catholic, chaste and free: Catholic in the faith and fellowship of the saints, chaste from all contagion of evil, and free from secular power.
I think that Pope Francis could take a page from Pope Leo IX effectiveness in cleaning up the Church like the Lord Jesus cleaned up the temple in Jerusalem. Maybe our current Pope should have taken the name of Leo IX in order to signal to all that the Church was serious about doing a thorough reform and that he meant business.

In any case, the Lord Jesus has never abandoned his Church even when among its ranks many 'Judas' were appointed to eminent offices of the Catholic Church. 'Judas' was one of the 12 apostles of the Lord Jesus and now the famous traitor in History. His proximity to the Lord Jesus makes him quite a powerful figure that it is sometime difficult to distinguish him from the honorable disciples. ''Judas'' is:

The wolf among the sheep: Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." Matthew 7:15
The false brother that put the Church in danger: "[I have been] in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, inperils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren" 2 Corinthians 11:26
We may be afraid of dragons and wolfs, but the Lord is not. Our Lord and Savior has always had the last word and this is not about to change anytime soon. All his enemies will be trampled under His feet in due time. What the faithful Christians must do is to stand their ground in holiness and courage as all Martyrs before them have done. We are not the exception to Martyrdom! Faithful Catholics will need every once of courage to resist evil which has infiltrated the Church in their generation as it does in every generation for that matter (nothing new here). And they should keep the light turned up, that is the only way that evil will flee. Here is the way to keep the light up, break the culture of silence which empowers evil and sin:
"and have nothing to do with the unfruitful actions that darkness produces. Instead, expose them for what they are." -Ephesians 5:11  
St. Paul the apostle, knowing the difficulties that the Holy Church will go through in History in pursuit of her perfection and maturity, gave us this prophecy to comfort us and encourage us not to give up in doing what is good and right even to the cost of our own lives:
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it,  that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself as the glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish." - Ephesians 5:25-27

mercredi 9 mai 2018

Catholic and Protestant: Similar Belief, different Practices on Eternal Life

Image result for Catholic & ProtestantOn my Facebook page I had put this short note as I was tagging a Youtube Video by Father John Hollowell paraphrasing Pope Benedict XVI, "We work for Christian unity by continuously define what we believe to other people and hopefully that will start a dialogue". A good friend on mine reacted that this was indeed the right way to bridge the ever expanding divide between Christian brothers from both the Catholic Church and those of the different Protestant denominations. He also made a remark that I have heard many times, "It is hard to find among lay Catholics, clear and sound explanations of their practices".

This morning on a Church WhatApp group I am part of, someone presented a similar point but in a very interesting anecdotes that I took liberty to reproduce it on my blog. I hope you enjoy this dialogue.
I was a Catholic once....

"I was a Catholic once,” said the lady a few yards from me in the parking lot. “Now I’m a Christian and you can be one as well.” She preceded to hand a tract to a gentleman standing next to the opened trunk of his car. I couldn’t help it.

“Excuse me,” I said to the lady “but could I too have a tract?” The lady's face beamed. “Are you saved?,” she asked. “Of course I am; I’m a believing Catholic,” I retorted. She looked at me as if I had bad breath or something. She continued, “I was just telling this gentleman that I too was a Catholic - a Catholic for thirty-some years in fact. Now I've found Christ and I’m trying to tell everyone I know about salvation through Christ.”

“Wow, that’s really something! May I ask why you left the Church?” I could tell that, by asking this question, my new acquaintance was getting excited. After all, she had probably been snubbed by dozens of people and now she has someone that she can “witness” to Christ. I didn’t mind much either, but I tried not to show it.

"You see,” she said, “I was born Catholic. I attended Mass every week, received the Sacraments and graduated from a Catholic school. Not once did I ever hear the gospel proclaimed. Not once! It was after the birth of my first child that a good friend of mine shared ‘the gospel’ with me and I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior and became a Christian. Now I belong to a ‘Bible-believing’ church and I’m sharing the gospel with whomever will listen.”

This shocked me. “You mean you belonged to the Catholic Church for over forty years and you never heard the gospel?,” I said. She was getting more excited. “Yes, I never once heard the gospel of salvation preached or taught or even mentioned in the Church. If you don’t preach the gospel, excuse my bluntness, but you're simply not Christian.” I scratched my head and said, “that’s strange. I’ve been a Catholic all my life and I bet I hear the gospel ever week at Church.” Her smile quickly faded into a look of curiosity. “Maybe, I’m missing something,” I continued. “Tell me what you mean by ‘the gospel?’”

The lady reached back into her purse to pull out a little tract and said, “This tracts explains the simple gospel of salvation. It can be broken down into four easy steps.

“First, we acknowledge that we are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.
Secondly, we recognize that only God can save us.
The third step is that Jesus Christ died on the Cross for our sins and to bring us to God.
And the fourth and final step is that each individual accepts Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior to be saved.”

I thought for a couple of seconds and said, “If I could demonstrate to you that Catholics hear “the gospel” every Sunday, would you agree to take a closer look at the Catholic Church?” Now, she knew she had me over a barrel. “Prove it,” she said.

I excused myself for a second and ran to my car to grab a Missal. “Since you have attended Mass nearly all your life, you probably remember these prayers.” I flipped open to the beginning prayers of the Mass and proceeded to show her how Catholics hear, pray and live the gospel message every Sunday.

The first step in my new found friend’s tract stated that we are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. After the Greeting, the Mass continues to what is known as the Penitential Rite. I read loud the text to her while she followed reading silently.
“I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault. In my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do.”
I mentioned that it is here in this section that each Catholic states publicly that he or she is individually a sinner - not merely in a general sense - but specifically in thoughts, words and deeds. You can’t get much more complete than that. I continued reading,
“and I ask Blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and to you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.”
The priest reaffirms this confession of sin by praying, “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.” And the whole congregation says “Amen,” that is, “I believe.” The priest continues. “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy,”
and finishes by saying; "Lord show us your mercy and love. And grant us your salvation.”

I looked at her and said, “You see, we Catholics start every Mass with a public declaration of our own personal sinfulness and look to God for forgiveness.” She responded, “But Catholics don’t believe that God alone can save them. They believe Mary and the saints will save them.” I shook my head in disagreement. “No, we don’t. Remember what we had just read in the Mass. Catholic ask Mary, the angels, the saints and the whole congregation to pray to God for mercy on their behalf - just like I would ask you to pray for me to God. Does that mean that I look to you to ‘save’ me? No, of course I don’t believe that. I’m just asking for your help. Besides the ‘Gloria’ of the Mass proves that Catholics look to God alone to save us.”

I began reading the Missal emphasizing certain words to prove my point:
“Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us, you are seated at the right hand of the Father, receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father."
Likewise, the doxology spoken just prior to communion reads,
“Through him, with him, in him; in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is your, almighty Father, for ever and ever.”
As I looked up, I could see the lady intently reading the page. She couldn’t believe that she had prayed these prayers for years and never noticed what it was saying. Yet, there it was in black and white. I continued with the third step - the acknowledgment that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and to bring us to God. The Profession of Faith reads,
“For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate.”
In the Eucharistic Prayer 1, the priest prays:
“Remember [Lord] all of us gather here before you. You know how firmly we believe in you and dedicate ourselves to you. . . We pray to you, our living and true God, for our well-being and redemption . . . Grant us your peace in this life, save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen.”
The prayer ends with an appeal to God for salvation through Jesus Christ:
“May, these and all who sleep in Christ, find in your presence light, happiness and peace. For ourselves, too, we ask some share in the fellowship of your apostles and martyrs . . . Though we are sinners, we trust in your mercy and love. Do not consider what we truly deserve, but grant us your forgiveness. Through Christ our Lord you give us all these gifts. You fill them with life and goodness, you bless them and make them holy.”
Similarly the second Eucharistic Prayer proclaims,
“Dying you [Jesus] destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory. . . Have mercy on us all; make us worthy to share eternal life with Mary, the virgin Mother of God, with the apostles and with all the saints who have done your will throughout the ages.”
Likewise, Eucharistic Prayer 3 reads,
“All life, all holiness comes from you through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit . . . Father, calling to mind the death your Son endured for our salvation, his glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven, and ready to greet him when he comes again, we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice. Look with favour on our your Church’s offering, and see the Victim [Christ] whose death has reconciled us to yourself . . . May he make us an everlasting gift for you and enable us to share in the inheritance of your saints . . ."
Lastly, the fourth Eucharistic Prayer reads,
“Father, you so loved the world that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior . . . In fulfillment of your will he gave himself up to death; but by rising from the dead, he destroyed death and restored life.”

In this prayer, the congregation proclaims the mystery of faith:
“Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Savior of the world.”
“You see, every week Catholics proclaim that Jesus died for them,” I said to the lady who was now searching for something to say. After a brief moment of silence, she shot a response back at me.
“What about accepting Jesus Christ and their personal Lord and Savior?” She retorted. “They may be saying all this stuff, but they don’t make a personal act of acceptance.” What she didn’t know was that I deliberately didn’t mention the last “step” of her “gospel.”

I explained that if Catholics don’t believe what they are praying, they ought not to be publicly proclaiming it. Since we can’t read the dispositions of other people’s hearts, we ought not to judge whether they truly believe what they are saying. Next, I pointed out the last step - where Catholics are accepting Jesus into their hearts. Right before communion the priest holds up the host (which is now the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord under the appearances of bread and wine) and prays.
“This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.”
And the congregation responds,
“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
I looked straight into the lady’s eyes and said, “It is here that all those who are prepared to receive Jesus Christ walk up to the front of the church but they don’t just believing in Christ or merely asking Jesus into their hearts.” “They don’t?” She asked. “No,” I answered, “they receive that same Christ who died on the cross on Calvary into their mouth and into their stomachs - body, blood, soul and divinity - and become one with him in an unspeakable way. Now that's accepting Christ!” She didn’t have a response. I’m not sure that she had ever really thought about the Mass and Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist because she appeared to be both surprised and intrigued.

I gave her my phone number and invited her to a study group I was heading in the neighborhood which examined the Biblical foundation for Catholic doctrine. As we departed, I couldn’t help but wonder how many other people, like my new friend, left the Church thinking that it had nothing to say about salvation. Yet the richness of the liturgy of the Mass and even more so Christ’s real substantial presence in the Eucharist so outshines our separated brethren’s “low church” prayer services that there is no comparison!

Indeed, the mystery of the Mass goes far beyond the simple “sinner’s prayer.” What I wanted to demonstrate is that all the elements of what Protestants consider the “essentials” of human salvation are presented, in Technicolor, in the liturgy of the Mass and that to deny the charge that the Church is somehow neglecting to present “the gospel".