BREAD OF LIFE

BREAD OF LIFE
 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. (john 6: 50)
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. (John 6: 53)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

FOR THOSE WHO HATE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

(and especially for Catholics who need some inspiration)

Ask yourself: why do I hate the Catholic Church? Who taught me what I think I know about the Catholic Church? Is what I was taught true? Have I looked at what the Catholic Church has to say about itself, using official resources such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and papal encyclicals?

Could my opinion of the Catholic Church possibly be based on bias, bigotry, bad history, propaganda from the secular media, or the bad priests who get publicity (i.e., the sick, and sickening, pedophile priests or those certain heretical modernist priests the secular media love to give press to)? Is it fair to judge doctrine by such things? Is any group with human beings in it free from sin and scandal? If I am wrong about the Catholic Church, what does that mean?

Here are some common myths about the Catholic Church:

Because Catholics reject the tradition of "sola fide" ("faith alone"), they think they can work their way into Heaven and believe they are saved by works

Catholics think the pope does not sin

Catholics re-crucify Christ at their Masses (or at least think they do)

Catholics think Mary is part of the Godhead and is to be worshipped

Catholics worship statues

Catholics think they can't pray to God directly but have to go through saints

Catholics conjure the dead

Catholics believe people can be saved after they die

The Catholic Church teaches that one who isn't formally a Catholic is damned to Hell

The Crusades are an example of Catholic aggression

The Inquisition(s) killed hundreds of thousands of people and targeted Jews

Pope Pius XII was "Hitler's Pope" and didn't do a thing to help Jews during WWII The Catholic Church wasn't around until the time of Constantine, a pagan who controlled the Church.  The Catholic Church did more than baptize pagan calendar days for the good of Christ, it is pagan in its very roots.

If you believe any of the above myths, I implore you to research. For doctrinal questions, ask the Church what it teaches; it's the only fair thing to do. For historical questions, look at balanced and objective scholarly research from a variety of sources (including Catholic ones).

And as you research, keep in mind the common logical fallacies that are often used in attacks against Catholicism:

Generalization: "I knew a Catholic/ex-Catholic (or I was a Catholic) who was (mean, a drunk, not holy, didn't like the Church, was superstitious, didn't know the Bible, didn't have a deep relationship with Jesus, etc.), so therefore, the teachings of the Catholic Church are wrong." (Ignores the fact that bad catechesis, miunderstandings, or other shortcomings of a few Catholics do not reflect on what the Catholic Church teaches)

Bifurcation: "If the Catholic Church doesn't teach that it's faith alone that saves, then it must teach that men are saved by their own works." (Ignores that we teach that we are saved by Grace alone -- a Grace with which we must cooperate through "faith that works in love")

Cum hoc ergo propter hoc: "Winter Solstice is on 21 December; Christmas is 25 December. Therefore, Christmas is a pagan holiday. (Ignores that fact that there are only 365 days to choose from in a year and that the early Church Fathers had good reasons to choose the date they did. It also ignores that Protestants' "Reformation Day" is celebrated on 31 October, the pagan festival of Samhain.)

Post hoc ergo propter hoc: "Constantine must have been the real source of the Catholic Church's teachings because after his reign the Church grew tremendously, and before his reign it wasn't as well-known" (Ignores the simple fact that Constantine merely stopped the persecution of Christians with the Edict of Milan and allowed Christianity to spread. It also ignores the writings of the Church Fathers who lived before Constantine -- and who were Catholic.)

Straw man: "You guys worship statues, and that's evil. Therefore, your religion is Satanic." (Ignores that fact that we don't worship statues)

Meanwhile: The Final Challenge ... and now I challenge my brothers and sisters in Christ to take two hours of your life to listen to theologian and former Presbyterian minister Scott Hahn and to Rosalind Moss, who was raised Jewish and later became Evangelical. Both are now 100% Catholic; don't you want to know why? Truly, I challenge you to listen and pray and think about what you hear, all with an open heart to God's will.

Monday, October 20, 2014

PRACTICING CATHOLIC

What it really means to be a “Practicing Catholic”

by Stephen Spiteri

A few years ago, before I started this blog and before I seriously started getting into apologetics, I trekked cyberspace for an online Christian community to discuss all matters pertaining to faith. I came across one particular Christian forum (which shall remain nameless) and before learning that is was very, very anti-Catholic and filled with rabid-mouthed fundamentalists, I read their forum disclaimer and the administrators had something to say about Catholicism in particular. Apart from claiming that they believed Catholicism was not Christian, their disclaimer read something like this:

“… we are Christians who believe in the biblical message of Christ and that a personal relationship with Christ is the only way to get to Heaven. We don’t ‘practice’ our faith; we believe that your relationship with Christ is not something that has a set of rules, rituals or is something that is formulaic. We live our faith, preach it and desire others to come to the full biblical truth of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ …”

It’s the middle part that really caught my attention and got me thinking. Up until recently I’ve never really thought about what it truly means to be a “practicing Catholic” and dare I say there would have been a point in my life even as a Catholic that I would have agreed that being “practicing Catholic” meant going to church, receiving the sacraments, and more or less going just through the motions; attending, being present, and ticking boxes. How wrong I would have been; how wrong these fundamentalists are.

You could define “practicing” in terms of doing something frequently or habitually, true, but one someone describes themselves as a “practicing Catholic” without knowing it, they are professing sound deeply profound. I play the guitar and I have played the guitar since I was 12 going on 13 years old, and while the practice has slowed down these days, for years and years I practiced playing the guitar. Why did I practice? Because I wanted to get better.

When a Catholic says they’re a “practicing Catholic” what they really say is that they’re trying to become more like Christ; to be a better Catholic-Christian. Being a “practicing Catholic” means putting your faith into action. When the priest says to the congregation at the end of Mass, “Go forth, the Mass has ended”, “Go and proclaim the Gospel of the Lord” or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life” he is indeed exhorting you to go out and be a practicing Catholic; to put your faith into action. We are not called to be Catholic-Christians once every week on the Lord’s day, but every day and in every moment in our lives.

We know that “faith without works is dead faith” (James 2:26), so in order for our faith to grow, as exercise strengthens muscles and improves our fitness, faith must be put into action and we must allow ourselves to be led by God’s grace. Christ himself tell us “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) and becoming more Christ-like and Christ to other requires practice. And this we all know, practice makes perfect.

Amen.

Friday, October 10, 2014

FINAL JUDGEMENT

What the man without a wedding garment was lacking, A reflection on the day of judgment

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time; Matthew 22:1-14

Posted by Father Ryan Erlenbush

My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?

The Savior invites all people to the wedding feast of the Lamb, the eternal banquet of heaven. Yet, though salvation is offered to each, yet only few accept the gift and come to the wedding. However, what is most striking about this Sunday’s parable isn’t only that many who are called refuse to be saved, but that even this one who had come was cast out into the darkness.

What is the symbolic meaning of the wedding garment which the man lacked? What is our Savior teaching us about the judgment?

Overview of the parable

In this Sunday’s Gospel, our Lord gives us a parable about the kingdom: The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.

The first portion of the parable is divided into two parts: The ingratitude of the Jews, He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come; and the opening of salvation to the gentiles, The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.

After the hall has been filled with the newly invited guests, the king came in to meet the guests. However, one guest was not dressed in a wedding garment, who was reduced to silence and then bound hand and foot and cast into the darkness outside.

We consider who this man is who is cast out from the wedding feast.

A parable of the final judgment

But when the king came in to meet the guests…

While the first portion of the parable emphasizes that fact that salvation is indeed offered to all people bad and good alike, the latter scene describes the day of judgment when each will receive the proper reward of his labors.

When the king comes into the wedding feast to greet the guests, we are meant to recognize our Savior coming on the day of his judgment. Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide speaks well, “When the king came in, that he might survey and examine them. This shall take place when God shall come to the general judgment at the end of the world, to judge, and reward or punish all mankind.” This follows the interpretation of Origen and many others.

Recognizing that this scene is a representation of the judgment, we can quickly discern what this man is lacking who had no wedding garment.

Who will be judged on the last day

In his Commentary on the Letter of St. Paul to the Hebrews, St. Thomas (on the authority of St. Gregory the Great) states the following concerning the last judgment: “There are four orders in the judgment: some will not be judged, but will judge and be saved, namely, the Apostles and apostolic men; others will be judged and be saved, as the moderately good; still others will be judged and be damned, as wicked believers; finally, some will not be judged, but will be damned, as all unbelievers.” [On Hebrews 10:31, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.]

There are four classes of men on the day of judgment:

1. Those who will not be judged and will be saved.

2. Those who will be judged and will be saved.

3. Those who will be judged and will not be saved.

4. Those who will not be judged and will not be saved.

When we consider this parable carefully, we will see each of these classes of men.

Preliminary note about the final judgment and the particular judgment

We admit that those who die before the final judgment will have already receive the pronouncement of their eternity in the particular judgment at the moment of their death. The damned in hell and the blessed in heaven will nevertheless also undergo a general judgment in which the particular judgment is made manifest to all.

The judgment given by God at the moment of death certainly cannot change or be altered, yet the general judgment is necessary as extending the authority of God throughout all history. If in the particular judgment God reveals his sovereignty over each individual, in the general judgment this power is revealed as triumphing over all the injustices which occurred throughout the course of human history.

Not judged, and saved

Those who will not be judged but will be saved are represented by the servants in the parable of the wedding feast. They go out and call all men to salvation, they are the apostles and other great saints who are so clearly united to the king that there is no need to discuss their merits or demerits.

So excellent and holy, these greatest saints will simply be saved without any judgment of their actions, for there is no need to weigh merit and demerit with such as these.

Judged, and saved

Those who will be judged and will be saved are the guests who have come to the wedding feast. Upon the king’s arrival, they are found to be properly clothed and are welcome to remain at the feast.

These men and women have died in the state of grace and, upon the inspection of the king, are found worthy.

Not judged, and not saved

There are also those of the fourth class, who are not judged but are simply damned straight away. These are those who have no meritorious works as never having possessed the gift of faith. Without faith, man cannot please God – without sanctifying grace, no work can be of any value for eternal salvation.

These are those who refused to believe but, hardened in their perfidity, refused to come to the wedding feast. These ones are not judged by the king, but rather the king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. These ones are simply damned without any judgment, and this is made manifest on the last day.

Judged, and not saved – without a wedding garment

And now we can see whom this man without a wedding garment represents: Those who are judged, but who are damned. These are those who do have faith and who therefore are united to the Church (either visibly or, at least, invisibly), but who lack charity which gives life to the soul.

The man without a wedding garment is the believer who is in the state of mortal sin, lacking charity and good works – this is the teaching of Sts Jerome, Hilary, Gregory, and Augustine, as well as Tertullian. Such is the man who has faith, but no works; present at the wedding feast, he is yet found wanting and will be rejected by the king.

Many are called but few are chosen

Thus, we are encouraged to preserver in virtue and to accomplish good works. Ultimately, it is most necessary that we should die in the state of grace with charity in our soul. Indeed, even if a man were to have worn his wedding garment for most of his life, if he were to throw it away for some cheap momentary pleasure and to be found naked when the king should return!

O how sad a thought! To be found without charity’s garment and cast into the darkness of hell! To have traded heaven away so lightly!

And yet, the one act which will assure us of being among the few who are chosen is open to all! It is to pray! Prayer assures us of salvation! If only we pray daily for the grace to persevere to the end, and if we pray also during moments of temptation, we shall surely be saved.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

BEING PERSECUTED FOR BEING CATHOLIC

Being persecuted for your faith puts you in very good company. Many of our saints suffered for their faith. Jesus was persecuted, and he told us that the same thing would happen to us in John 15:20 “Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” And, while that is true, it certainly seems like a reasonable expectation that you would be treated with respect and not ridiculed or persecuted in today’s culture.

A few years someone (who isn’t even Catholic) wrote a book called ABThe New Anti-Catholicism; The Last Acceptable Prejudice . Unfortunately, for some people, talking bad about Catholics doesn’t seem to have the same social stigma (and consequences) as making racist, sexist or other negative comment - even about other religions.

As you probably know, most of these comments come out of ignorance and lack of understanding. As Bishop Fulton J. Sheen famously and powerfully said, “There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.” So, keep in mind that some of this negativity maybe rooted in ignorance, hate or a bad personal experience someone had with the Church – or a representative of the church The Bible clearly states that Christians will be persecuted. It still happens today in many different forms, from as simple as being mocked to as serious as murder.

Be that as it may, you should not let persecution discourage you from being a Christian. Accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior is one of the most important things you will do on this Earth. You shouldn't avoid it just because of the persecution. Although life may be hard for you at times because you are a Christian, be strong. Christian persecution may not be avoidable, but as Christians, we can endure it.

You can try to get through those trials by reading Bible verses about persecution. Read the scripture on persecution here and try to find peace in your life.

Bible Verses on Persecution

Psalms 9:13 Have mercy on me, O LORD; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, you that lift me up from the gates of death:

Psalms 119:86 All your commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully; help you me.

Jeremiah 20:11 But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten.

Matthew 5:12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

John 15:18 If the world hate you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.

John 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

1 Corinthians 4:12 And labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:

2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

1 Thessalonians 3:4 For truly, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and you know.

2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

Hebrews 10:33 Partly, whilst you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst you became companions of them that were so used.

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you:

1 Peter 4:16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

CALL TO REPENTANCE


God is looking for one thing, and one thing only: repentance. Those who hear the Word of God preached week after week, yet refuse to apply it to their lives, will be judged more severely than those who never heard it.

by Lorraine E. Espenhain | Source: Catholic.net

"Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles had been performed, because they did not repent." [Mt 11:20]

In the eleventh chapter of St. Matthew’s gospel, he records a stern warning given by Christ Jesus our Lord to the unrepentant men and women who lived in the cities of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Jesus preached the good news in these cities. Not only this, but He performed many wonderful miracles right before the eyes of the people. The people who lived in these cities had been exposed to both the Word of God and the power of God as well, a power that was demonstrated in miracles, healings, and the casting out of demons. Yet, in spite of this exposure, the people still refused to repent. Their lives remained unchanged. They went right back to living as they’d always lived.

In denouncing these cities, Jesus cried out as follows:

"Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down into Hades. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you." [Mt 11:21-24].

Jesus is saying some pretty hard things. If we don’t take the time to reflect on what He is saying, we might be tempted to think that He is referring only to the people who lived in those towns at that time. But the warning Christ gave to them is a warning that He also gives to us. A sobering warning. A warning that never ceases to send chills up my spine whenever I read this account.

Simply put, God is looking for one thing and one thing only: repentance. When all is said and done, the only individuals who will be received into Heaven are those individuals who repented. God isn’t looking for church attendance on Sunday morning; He is looking for the fruits of repentance.

One has to wonder at the hardness of the Jewish hearts in Jesus’ day. Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were not Gentile cities; they were Jewish cities. They were filled with men and women who professed to believe in the One True God. Yet, when the One True God sent His Son into their midst to preach anointed messages and perform incredible miracles, they still did not believe. They still did not repent. According to Jesus, if the miracles that were performed in Israel had been performed in Gentile cities, the people would have responded in faith and repentance. Sodom would not have been destroyed. It would have remained to this day!

In these verses of Scripture Jesus makes it very clear that those who have been exposed to the Word of God will be held more accountable to God than those who have never heard it. According to Christ, it will be more bearable for an unrepentant man who has never heard of Christ and His Gospel on the day of judgment than it will be for the unrepentant man who heard it week after week, yet refused to apply that Word to his life. Brothers and sisters, this is a hard saying, but it’s time for many to wake up in this season of Lent in order to hear what Christ is saying to His Church.

The Church of Jesus Christ in the United States of America (both Catholic and Protestant) is rife with sin, carnality, and all manner of uncleanness. Our churches are filled with men, women, and young people who hear the Word of God being preached week after week, yet refuse to repent of their drunkenness, greed, fornication, adultery, selfishness, bitterness, gossiping tongues, materialism, and overall love of this world. It’s not enough that we believe in Jesus. It’s not enough that we attend church week after week. The Lord is calling us to repent. Only when we repent of our wrongdoing and start lining our lives up with the Word of God does our faith in Christ or our church attendance have any value.

Jesus made it very clear that those who have been exposed to the truth of God’s Word will be held more accountable to Him than those who have never heard it. Not only this, but elsewhere, Jesus taught that on Judgment Day, there will be varying degrees of punishment executed against those who refused to repent. According to the Son of God, the greater punishment will go to the one who was exposed to the Truth, yet refused to yield to it.

"The servant who knows his Master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his Master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." [Lk 12:47-48].

Let’s suppose that Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones both die on the same night. During Mr. Smith’s lifetime, he attended church services on Sunday morning, but that was pretty much it in the way of ‘devotion’ to God. Week after week, he heard the Word of God being preached. He was exposed to the truth. He knew how God wanted him to live, but he just didn’t want to do it. He didn’t want to make any changes in his life. He lived for the devil all week long, while playing religious games in the church pews week after week. One night, he died of a massive heart attack and entered eternity.

Mr. Jones lives in a part of the world where the Gospel of Jesus Christ has never even been preached. In his little village, the people worship spirits, nature, and anything else that crosses their paths. They live like this because they’ve never even heard of the One True God and His Son Jesus Christ. That night, Mr. Jones also dies and enters eternity.

According to Christ, the one who will receive the greater punishment is Mr. Smith because Mr. Smith was exposed to the truth week after week, yet refused to apply it to his life. "Woe to you, Mr. Smith! It will be more bearable for Mr. Jones on the day of judgment than for you!"

The Lord is calling us to repentance, not church attendance. He wants our lives to line up with the truth of His Word. If I attend Mass week after week, yet refuse to put into practice anything that I hear at the Mass, how can I expect to be received into Heaven when my time for departure comes? Will I be rewarded on the basis of my church attendance or my obedience to Christ and His Word?

In America, we have become so politically correct that messages like this are preached few and far between. People become offended when exposed to the hard truths of God’s Word. As a result, many church leaders refuse to preach these messages for fear of losing people and money from their congregations. But the truth must be proclaimed. The Word of God must be preached - the hard messages as well as the soothing ones.

Christ is coming back. The day of God’s judgment is near, and many will not be able to stand before the Lord on that day. Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on Judgment Day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" [Mt 7:21-23].

Not everyone who goes to church will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of the Father and repent. Many will say to Christ on that day, "Lord, Lord, I went to church week after week. I put money into the offering plate. I even taught CCD!" But because that individual refused to repent of his sin by lining his life up with the Word of God, he will not be recognized by the Lord Jesus Christ as one of His own. Christ is looking for repentance, not church activity.

This message is not directed toward those in Christ’s Church who truly love Him and are making a sincere effort with the help of the Holy Spirit to live according to the eternal truths of God’s written Word. It is directed toward those individuals who hear the Word of God being preached week after week, yet refuse to put it into practice in their lives because they simply do not want to repent. They like living as they do and have no intention of changing.

Brothers and sisters, those whom Christ loves, He rebukes and disciplines. Now is the time for repentance, not tomorrow. If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. Repent, yield, and be saved!

He who has a listening ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.