Sunday, July 31, 2011

"The Bible Needs the Church" - Daughter of Glory

I recently came across this new blog which I think will be an interesting one to follow.

 The link above is particularly interesting as “Daugher of Glory” puts forward a very simple yet profound case for why the Bible needs the Catholic Church.

Have a read of her blog – it really is interesting. Her other posts are also VERY good.

God bless

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Conformed to the Image of Christ

In the second reading for today’s Liturgy of the Word (17th Sunday in Ordinary Time), St. Paul tells us that God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son, and that the end result of His work in us is a sharing of His glory (Rom 8:28-30).

In order to be conformed to the image of Christ, we need to be filled with Christ. That is why God uses the Word and Sacraments as the primary means of transforming us. The Scriptures change us because Jesus Christ, the Word of God, is present in them and it is He who changes us. The same is true of the Sacraments. God changes the ordinary everyday things in our lives so that they might become the means by which He pours His grace into our lives. What makes the Sacraments effectual is not some magical power imbued in them; but it is the Word of God that makes them effectual. It is Christ who is present in the Sacraments who changes us by the Sacraments.
As Catholics we affirm that the greatest Sacrament – the Sacrament of Sacraments – is the Eucharist because it is the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.  What starts out as simple bread and wine is transformed by the Word of God when the priest, acting in persona Christi, utters the words of Christ “This is my Body” and “This is my Blood”.

Herein is the wonder of the Eucharistic celebration – when we bring our offerings of bread of wine in thanksgiving to God, we are offering ourselves to Him; and as we offer ourselves, He receives and unites it to the offering of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross when our gifts are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. After this transformation, the Body and Blood is then given back to us to receive so that we can be changed by Christ as He fills us with Himself in the Sacrament.
St. Bonaventure reminds us of this when he says:

“With the external mouth we receive Him sacramentally, with the inward mouth we receive Him spiritually”.

In other words, although what we receive is physical, the change that takes place in us transcends the physical, and permeates to the spiritual. St. Jerome, referring to St. Elisabeth’s words “Blessed is the Fruit of thy womb”, says that this was the whole reason that God the Son had to take on a human form when he says that “the Flower of Mary became fruit that we might eat of it”.
There is an old saying: “You are what you eat”. So, when we worthily eat and drink of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, it is not an empty ritual or symbolic exercise. When we share in the Eucharist, God is using the Blessed Sacrament to conform us to the image of Christ.

If we realise this, the only reasonable response is to fall on our knees in thanksgiving to God for the great and undeserved gift that He gives to us in the Blessed Sacrament. May God grant that we would grow in our realisation that what we receive in Holy Communion is nothing less than the God the Son, and that as we grow in this realisation may we more freely to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him in a deeper pursuit of His holiness.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Can Protestants Rely Upon the Council of Jamnia for their Bible"

An interesting blog that touches on some of the issues regarding the Protestant Canon (which removes some of the books from the Old Testament Canon that Christians had always accepted up until the time of the Protestant Reformation).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Marks of the Church

A friend recently recommended an article by Ligonier Ministries (an organisation which in its own words is “the teaching fellowship of RC Sproul”) which speaks about “The Marks of the Church”.

In the article, the author comments that the Catholic Church teaches that THE mark of the church is the bishop – and that this bishop must be in a line of succession with the Apostles and submit to the Pope. This statement contains an element of truth, but not the whole truth i.e. a bishop in a line of succession and in communion with the Successor of St. Peter is a mark of the true church, but it is not THE sole mark. There are other marks as well, as I hope to demonstrate below.

The author goes on to say that, contrary to his assumption of the Catholic position, the marks of a true church are the Word of God and the Sacraments; which he tries to back up using 1 Cor 11:17-34. Now, it is true that the Word of God and the Sacraments are necessarily present in the Church of Christ; however, nowhere in this passage does St. Paul make the case (either explicitly or by inference) that  these are the marks by which the True Church is known as such.
In addition, the author’s case tends to fall a bit flat when pushed a bit – because no two Protestant denominations are able to agree on these two “marks”. They cannot agree on the Word of God because each Protestant denomination interprets the Scriptures differently according to their own self-assumed authority. And they cannot agree on the nature and effect of the Sacraments (that’s if they’re even willing to call them “Sacraments” in the first place); and yet he would affirm that there are denominations other that his own that he would gladly call “true churches”. Yet, how could they be if they don’t believe the same about the Word of God, and hold different theology regarding the Sacraments?
I sometimes wonder why the Protestant Reformers felt such a need to make such a strong point on this assumption of the “marks” of the Church when the Scriptures don’t specifically spell them out. My suspicion is that it is because they were up against the insurmountable claim of the Catholic Church – a claim rooted and grounded historically with evidence tracing all the way back to the Apostles. And, within this historic Christianity, the Church had already established what the “marks of the Church” were in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed (AD 381) in which the Church throughout the ages affirms the belief that “We believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”. In other words, the “marks of the Church” are that:
a)    the Church is One;

b)    the Church is Holy;

c)    the Church is Catholic; and

d)    the Church is Apostolic.

The Catholic Church is the only Church that has been, is, and always will be, able to stand up to this test. Whereas, with at least on the points of unity, catholicity, and apostolicity, the Protestant Reformers were not able to give full assent and remain honest. The only way that they were able to continue to “affirm” the marks contained in the Creed was through a redefinition of terms – a redefinition that runs contrary to what the Fathers of the Church meant by these terms.

For example, the Protestants took the meaning of “apostilicity” to refer solely to the teaching of the Apostles. However, when worked through logically, this becomes a bit of a circular argument because “Apostolic teaching” ends up becoming subjective by being equated solely with the teaching of a particular denomination over against the thousands of other denominations in existence, who also claim to hold to “the teaching of the Apostles”.
The Catholic position is stronger than this because whilst it naturally affirms the teaching of the Apostles, it also goes a step further and requires that the direct line of Apostolic Succession exists.
Firstly, this idea of direct succession being necessary for the transfer of true authority and doctrinal purity is biblical (e.g. Matt 10:40; 1 Tim 1:3,11; 6:20; 2 Tim 2:1-2; Tit 1:5).
Secondly, it is taught by the earliest of the Church Fathers. For example, St. Clement of Rome, the third successor of St. Peter wrote in the late first century:
“...[the Apostles] having received perfect foreknowledge, appointed those who have already been mentioned [i.e. the bishops], and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry.” – To the Corinthians

St. Ignatius, a disciple of the Apostle John, had the following to say early in the second century:

“...let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters [priests] as the council of God and college of Apostles. Without these it cannot be called a Church.” – To the Trallians

“Those, indeed, who belong to God and to Jesus Christ – they are with the bishop. And those who repent and come to the unity of the Church – they too shall be of God, and will be living according to Jesus Christ...if anyone follow a schismatic, he will not inherit the Kingdom of God....for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of His Blood; one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons.” – To the Philadelphians
“You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father...Let no one do anything without the bishop...Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” – To the Smyrnaeans

And late in the second century, we find St. Irenaeus saying the following:
“It is necessary to obey those who are the presbyters in the Church, those who, as we have shown, have succession from the Apostles; those who have received, with the succession of the episcopate [i.e. bishops], the sure charism of truth according to the good pleasure of the Father. But the rest, who have no part in the primitive succession and assemble wheresoever they will, must be held in suspicion.” – Against Heresies

This is just the tip of the iceberg from the Church Fathers, but it illustrates that from the earliest days, the Church has faithfully upheld the doctrine of Apostolic Succession as proceeding from the Apostles themselves. To reject Apostolic Succession, as the “RC Sproul disciple” does, is nothing less than to oppose the Church Fathers, many who were disciples of the Apostles and martyred for their faith.

I know that I have a few Protestant friends reading this blog who made up their minds long ago that the Catholic Church is “evil” and “riddled with heresy”...but I also know that those same Protestant friends have never given the Catholic Church a “fair trial”. What many Protestants believe about the Catholic Church is based on hearsay (for the most part) and sometimes even downright lies which have filtered down through the years since the Protestant Reformation (this is sad, but true. But the Catholic Church has many enemies, the greatest of which is the “father of lies” himself). This kind of evidence would never be allowed to stand in a court of should not be allowed to stand in the court of our hearts and minds either.

So, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage my Protestant friends to give the Catholic Church a fair hearing – don’t make up your mind before you have heard and prayerfully examined all the evidence. For many years, I did...but I just thank God that He granted the grace for me to be open to hear the Catholic position because I now realise that what I was closed to for so long was nothing less than that pearl of great price that our blessed Lord spoke about in Matt 13:45-46. And because the Catholic Church is the true Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is only in the Catholic Church that I have really been able to know and experience our Lord in the fullest sense.
And that is why my heart is heavy for my Protestant friends – because I only wish you could know what it is that you are missing out on...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Seeing Jesus in Mary

Earlier this evening, I was reading a blog by Taylor Marshall in which he pointed out that some English translations of the Bible are inaccurate when they translate “megaluno” in Luke 1:46 as “praises” rather than “magnifies”. The main point of his blog was that Mary does more than simply praise God – she magnifies Him or helps us to see a bigger picture of Him.

As I was praying the Rosary this evening and meditating on the Visitation (Lk 1:39-56) in the second decade of the Joyful Mysteries, I realised another beautiful truth about the role of Our Lady. You see, when Mary greeted Elisabeth, Elisabeth knew nothing of the fact that God Incarnate was residing in the Womb of the Blessed Virgin. Yet, moved by the Holy Spirit, Elisabeth exclaimed that the child within her (John the Baptist) leaped for joy in her womb when he heard the voice of Mary, the Mother of the Lord.

As I pondered this thought, I could do little else than ask God to help me to learn more of Mary because she doesn’t just point us to Christ, but she helps us to see Him so much more clearly. And it is only when Mary points us to Jesus (i.e. when we see Jesus in Mary) that we, like John the Baptist can truly leap for joy.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Image and Likeness of God

I was having a discussion with my dad yesterday about whether the Angel of the Lord broke the 5th commandment (You shall not murder) in putting to death the all the firstborn  in Egypt who did not partake of the Passover (see Ex 12). We agreed that the simple answer is that God alone has the right to give and take life, and in committing murder, we become guilty of “playing God”. But even more than that, God’s own reason to Noah for condemning murder was that He created mankind in His own image (Gen 9:6). This is an allusion to Gen 1:26 where God says “Let us make man to our image and likeness”.

I remember in my pre-Catholic days as a Calvinist, I wondered how it was possible for mankind to be “TOTALLY depraved” (as John Calvin taught) and at the same time remain “in the image of God”. Of course, looking back, I now see that Calvin’s notion of total depravity was wrong; however, the question still remains of the effects of the Fall upon the image and likeness of God in us.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us a good answer to the question when it says:
Disfigured by sin and death, man remains “in the image of God” ... but is deprived “of the glory of God” [Rom 3:23] of his “likeness”.  CCC # 705
In other words, when God created mankind, He created us in His image AND likeness, but as a result of the Fall, whilst we retained His image, we lost His likeness (or His glory). And it is this likeness which our Lord Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, came to restore. He gave Himself for us so that we might again become partakers of God’s divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). The Church Fathers understood this concept all too well. For example, St. Athanasius tells us that “the Son of God became man so that we might become God” (On the Incarnation; Chap 54:3).

Our Lord accomplishes this “divinization” in us by the means of the Sacraments. The very first step is our baptism in which all our sins (original and actual) are washed away and we are born again (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Jn 3:5; Tit 3:5). This change is so real that not only are we merely called children of God, but we are IN FACT children of God (1 Jn 3:1).
The Catechism reminds us of this when it says that “the Holy Spirit begins the restoration to man of the “divine likeness” through the new birth of “baptism in water and the Spirit” (CCC # 720).

Of course, the pinnacle, the summit, of our partaking of the divine nature takes place in the greatest way when we receive our Lord Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Most Holy Eucharist. Each time we receive our Lord in Holy Communion, we are changed little by little; being slowly but surely transformed and conformed into His image and likeness (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18). As St. Augustine said:
“I [the Lord] am the food of strong men; grow and you shall feed on me; nor shall you change me, like the food of your flesh into yourself, but you shall be changed into my likeness.” Confessions; Book 7, Chap 10.

I don’t know about you, but for me, this is such an awesome thought - even though we were the ones who sinned and fell away from God, He who is rich in love and mercy condescends to us and meets us where we are, so that we might be restored to complete communion with Him, as He intended when He first created us. Thanks be to God!!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Pope St Sixtus and the Holy Mass"

A great little blog by Taylor Marshall. It shouldn't take you more than two minutes to read, but this guy has some real gems if you are keen to read some of his other blogs.

Anyway, as you read the below blog, remember that Pope St Sixtus reigned very shortly after the Apostles died, during a time when the Church was still being persecuted.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Mother and her Boy

As I was contemplating the Nativity this week, something about the shepherds and the wise men struck me. We are told in the Scriptures that the shepherds and the wise men came to visit and pay homage to the Baby Jesus (Lk 2:8ff; Matt 2:1ff). What never occurred to me before is that these men would not simply have barged into the stable or the house and demanded to see the Child. On the contrary, it is common courtesy amongst human beings to first ask the mother if you can see her baby (unless you want to be greeted with a thump to the side of the head by a flying handbag).
I have no doubt that it was any different with the Baby Jesus (minus the handbag of course given that Our Lady was never given to any ill temper). Before the shepherds or the wise men could see Jesus, they would have first asked Mary.
That then got me thinking a bit deeper. The shepherds are often interpreted to represent the poor of this world, and the wise men the rich. Or sometimes the shepherds may be interpreted to represent the Jewish nation and the wise men the Gentiles. Either way, it makes no difference because these two groups of people ultimately represent all of humanity who came to pay homage to the Baby in the Manger as a foretaste of the day when all humanity in reality bows before Him (Phil 2:10-11).
Our Lord Jesus is no longer the Babe lying in the He is seated at the right hand of the Father in glory. But I think that the principle still holds true...if anyone, rich or poor, slave or free, Jew or Gentile – it doesn’t matter who we are – if anyone wants to see Jesus for who He really is, we need simply ask Mary. After all, that is the great role of Our Lady – she leads us unfailingly to the Lord Jesus Christ. As the Catechism says:

“...through Mary, the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, the objects of God’s merciful love, into communion with Christ”. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 724
Never has there been a Christian who has sought Christ through Mary that has ever been disappointed. If you seek Christ through Mary, she will show Him to you. St. Louis Mary De Montfort reminds us of this when he says:
“If, then, we establish solid devotion to our Blessed Lady, it is only to establish more perfectly devotion to Jesus Christ...If devotion to Our Lady removed us from Jesus Christ, we should have to reject it as an illusion of the devil...” True Devotion to Mary, no. 62
No one knows a child better than it’s mother...and so no one knows Jesus better than Mary. So, let us be encouraged – if we want to know Jesus better, let us ask Mary to show Him to us. And one of the greatest gifts that Our Lady has given us to achieve this end is the Rosary – because when we pray the Rosary, we are walking with Our Lady and meditating with her on the Life of her dear Son.
Hail Holy unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus...AMEN.