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)
The miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him. Jesus Christ celebrated the first Mass with His disciples at the Last Supper, the night before He died. He commanded His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The celebration of the Mass then became the main form of worship in the early Church, as a reenactment of the Last Supper, as Christ had commanded. Each and every Mass since commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through the Holy Eucharist. Because the Mass “re-presents” (makes present) the sacrifice on Calvary, Catholics all around the world join together to be made present in Christ’s timeless sacrifice for our sins. There is something fascinating about continuing to celebrate the same Mass—instituted by Christ and practiced by the early Church—with the whole community of Catholics around the world…and in heaven.

THE REAL PRESENCE

Why does the Catholic Church believe Christ is really present in the Eucharist?
The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity. Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because Jesus tells us this is true in the Bible:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” - John 6:48-56
Furthermore, the early Church Fathers either imply or directly state that the bread and wine offered in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrine of the Real Presence that Catholics believe today was believed by the earliest Christians 2,000 years ago!

This miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

TWISTED SCRIPTURE

Passage: Luke 23:39-43
Twisted by: Mainly Protestants
Used Against: Necessity of Baptism, the Necessity of Good Works, Purgatory

Full Passage:

"And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."

How It's Twisted:

Various Protestants interpret this verse to deny the necessity of baptism and good works  or perhaps even the existence of purgatory. The reasoning is that this malefactor (thief)  was never baptized, nor was he able to perform any good works before his death, yet  Christ said that he would go to paradise. Further, they reason that since Christ never  mentioned that the thief would go through purgatory, it must not exist.

Setting Things Straight:

There are several problems with this. First, he might indeed have been baptized, since the apostles had been administering Christian baptism since the early days of Christ’s ministry (John 4:1–2). Second, his death was before the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, meaning it was still under the Old Testament economy, where baptism was not required. Third, this is an exceptional circumstance.

The thief on the cross may be an example of what God will do for people who are dying on crosses or kept alone in prison cells or otherwise in situations where they have no ability to receive the ordinary things of the Christian life like baptism. But the thief does not provide a model for the ordinary course of affairs. If he did, then the fact he was never  baptized (assuming he wasn’t) would mean that we should never be baptized, either.

But that is clearly false; other scriptural passages state that we should be baptized. If a Protestant is willing to concede that the thief was excused from that rule due to his inability to be baptized, then he must allow the Catholic to say the same thing.

While one cannot use exceptional cases as models for the ordinary, one can use them to learn about what is possible. The principle is not that exceptional cases prove nothing. They do teach us about what God may do in exceptional circumstances.

Claims that the thief performed no good works is incorrect, since his very confession and public, humble cry for forgiveness is a work it itself. The thief likely also offered his suffering up to God, a practice which Catholics call works of  "redemptive suffering,"  which Paul alludes to in Colossians 1:24. Finally, it is even more likely that he would  have been praying to God in his final moments, which is also considered a good work by the Church.

Lastly, to claims that purgatory doesn't exist because Jesus never mentioned it here, we can understand this to be a weak objection. The reason is that, again, his death was  before the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, meaning it was still under the Old Testament economy, where purgatory did not yet exist. In this reality, the thief would then go to Abraham's bosom, which was made a paradise for all the righteous people who died before the death and resurrection of Christ.

Some theologians speculate that if Jesus did mean heaven by "paradise," then Christ must have forgiven the thief's sins in such a way that even the guilt and punishment required of all his sins were remitted due to his extraordinary show of faith. Using terms that the Catholic Church uses, this kind of forgiveness can be described as "absolution" coupled with a "plenary indulgence." Thus purgatory is not in the least bit contradicted  here.

Hadock's Catholic Bible Commentary:

I say to thee: This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise; i.e. in a place of rest with the souls of the just. The construction is not, I say to thee this day, &c., but, thou shalt be with me this day in the paradise. (Witham) --- In paradise. That is, in the happy state of rest, joy and peace everlasting.

Christ was pleased by a special privilege, to reward the faith and confession of the penitent thief with a full discharge of all his sins, both as to the guilt and punishment, and to introduce him, immediately after death, into the happy society of the saints, whose limbo (that is, the place of their confinement) was now made a paradise by our Lord's  going thither. [As a side note, Michael would like to clarify that the limbo being spoken of here is not the limbo we commonly imagine. He is rather referring to Abraham's bosom which was located in Sheol, the abode of the dead prior to Christ's death on the cross.]

(Challoner) --- The soul of the good thief was that same day with Jesus Christ, in the felicity of the saints, in Abraham's bosom, or in heaven, where Jesus was always present by his divinity. (St. Augustine) --- St. Cyril, of Jerusalem, says he entered heaven before all the patriarchs and prophets. St. Chrysostom thinks that paradise was immediately open to him, and that he entered heaven the first mankind. (Tom. v. homil. 32.)

4 comments:

Kiran Ignatius said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kiran Ignatius said...

Many Non-Catholic Christians say baptism is not necessary, but at the same time they are very particular that baptism should be by immersion and not by sprinkling. If the baptism is itself not important, why should the method be so important?

My views on this topic:
http://catholicbriefly.blogspot.com/2009/11/infant-baptism.html

Michael said...

Many Non-Catholic Christians say baptism is not necessary...

Dear Kiran,
The Christian belief that baptism is necessary for salvation is so unshakable that even the Protestant Martin Luther affirmed the necessity of baptism. He wrote: "Baptism is no human plaything but is instituted by God himself. Moreover, it is solemnly and strictly commanded that we must be baptized or we shall not be saved. We are not to regard it as an indifferent matter, then, like putting on a new red coat.
It is of the greatest importance that we regard baptism as excellent, glorious, and exalted"
(Large Catechism 4:6).

Yet Christians have also always realized that the necessity of water baptism is a normative rather than an absolute necessity. There are exceptions to water baptism: It is possible to be saved through "baptism of blood," martyrdom for Christ, or through "baptism of desire", that is, an explicit or even implicit desire for baptism.

Thus the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

"Those who die for the faith, those who are catechumens, and all those who, without knowing of the Church but acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, are saved even if they have not been baptized" (CCC 1281; the salvation of unbaptized infants is also possible under this system; cf. CCC 1260–1, 1283).

Michael said...

If the baptism is itself not important, why should the method be so important?

Dear Kiran,
Q: Baptism must be by immersion only, not by the Catholic method of sprinkling. Acts 8:38-39 records that when the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized, "both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away."

A: The general Catholic practice is wrong. Sprinkling (aspersion) is not used; pouring (affusion or infusion) is-so, for that matter, is dunkin (immersion).

The Code of Canon Law states: "Baptism is to be conferred either by immersion or by pouring, the prescriptions of [one's] national conference of bishops being observed" (CIC 854), and the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "Baptism is performed in the most expressive way by triple immersion in the baptismal water. However, from ancient times it has also been able to be conferred by pouring water three times over the candidate's head" (CCC 1239).

All Acts 8 shows is that Philip and the eunuch were standing in water at the time of the baptism. It may well have been by immersion, but the text does not show that because in the early Church baptism by pouring was often performed while the candidates stood ankle-deep in water.

The walls of the catacombs, for example, show depictions of this form of baptism, and all the early representations of Christ being baptized by John at the Jordan show him standing in shallow water, with John pouring water onto his head from a shell.

Sometimes people try to get immersion out of Acts 8 by stressing the fact that they "went down into the water" and "came up out of the water," but this won't do because the text says they both went down and came up.

If that meant immersion then Philip got baptized, too-which is certainly not the case as he had been a baptized Christian (in fact, a deacon) for some time-or it means that Philip went under the water with the eunuch and baptized him there, but who would try to pour water while under water? (Could you even tell whether the poured water reached the head of the candidate?)