Taking Chances

 

Catholic theology teaches that God consists of three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All are co-eternal, all equal, and all distinct. Because, in His very nature, God is perfect, the interrelationship between the Persons is also perfect, meaning that the Trinity lacks nothing and needs nothing else to enhance it in any way.

Yet, God did create the world and the human race simply because He wanted to; there was no need to do so whatsoever. He wanted to give humans the opportunity to participate to some degree in the divine life, not become divine, which is impossible for humans, but to enjoy a union with God that will never end.

In one sense, this was a pure gift. God needs no human person or any number of them to make Him more complete. (If He did need humans, He would be lacking something. And, that means He would not be perfect.) The world could vanish tomorrow, and He would be none the worse for it.

This union with God is a potential gift, not an absolute gift. There is a price of admission. Humans are creatures of God and must honor and obey their Creator in order to attain this eternal union. Those who do this satisfactorily are what is often referred to as “saved,” or as saints. Those who fail to follow God’s commands will be eternally deprived of ever sharing divine life. That is their own choice.

Mankind is morally weak. He likes what we call “sin.” (Modern man has deleted the traditional list of sins (i.e. the Ten Commandments), so that for him, the only real sins are racism, sexism, environmental abuse, and being intolerant of wrong ideas. Virtue is not easy to attain, and we are constantly “falling off the wagon.” To reach the eternal reward is a lifetime chore. God knows that we are weak and too often fall back in sin. We don’t want to, but we do. Any sin is an offense against God who is all-holy, but some sins are worse than others, for example, murder (including abortion), adultery, skipping Sunday Mass for insufficient or no reason, blasphemy, etc. The only remedy for serious (i.e. mortal) sin for Catholics is to seek divine mercy through Confession/Reconciliation in the Catholic Church. This mercy is available to every sinner regardless of the number and magnitude of his/her sins.

Divine mercy is not an abstract idea; it is very real. If you have ever committed a mortal sin and confessed it, you experienced divine mercy. If you lived in a state of on-going serious sin for a long time, but eventually went to Confession, you, too, have experienced divine mercy. If you have lived in a state of serious sin for a long time, and you are still alive, you are experiencing divine mercy…but for how long? The millions of lapsed Catholics are experiencing divine mercy…but for how long?

Divine mercy has its limits. Divine mercy to any serious sinner is a gift. It is not required of God. This mercy must be sought by the sinner; it is not automatic. If you insist on living a sinful lifestyle, God will not interfere; it is your choice. If you ignore divine mercy, you will not receive it. Perhaps worst of all, divine mercy is not available after death. Then, there will only by judgment. There is no faith or repentance after death; no faith because you will know with certainty what you once had to accept by faith; there is no repentance because you are now existing in eternity which has no past, present, or future. Thus, you cannot see your error and claim sorrow for sin….too late. The die is cast! The sinner and saint have made their eternal choices, and God ratifies THEM. He sends no one to Hell; we send ourselves there. The time to seek divine mercy is now.

There is a movement developing in Catholic and Protestant circles that suggests Hell may not be eternal, that God is so good that He could not bear to leave people in Hell, and eventually everyone will get to Heaven. By this thinking, St. Francis of Assisi and Adolph Hitler would both be in Heaven eventually. Certainly a comforting thought for the sinner, but totally false. Why would God demand morality in this life if it didn’t really matter if you obeyed Him or not? Why should people strive for a virtuous life while history’s egregious villains end up in divine favor? Besides, Christ Himself referred more to Hell than Heaven in the Gospels because He knew it was really possible to go there. And, He never implied it was a temporary place.

I have heard too many sermons in which God’s “love” is extolled beyond reason. It is usually put forth as a romantic, sentimental, unconditional, and totally undemanding “love.” No matter how sinful we are, the most we hear from God is, “Tsk, tsk.” But, true love, in any relationship, is a commitment to another person. Basically, love is an act of the will. If the Bible says anything about divine love, it says over and over that love toward God is shown only by our obedience to divine law. (“If you love me, keep my commandments.”)

I met a man who said that he was not at all worried about sin, damnation, and Hell because he didn’t believe in them. When I was child, I was a firm and sincere devotee of Santa Claus, but my belief did not change reality; there was no Santa Cause. This man’s beliefs, or lack of them, will not change reality. Sin, damnation and Hell are realities, and their existence is not dependent upon his or anyone’s belief or lack of belief. Reality is truth, and it exists outside of us; we do not decide what it is.

Divine mercy is real, and if you need it (we all do), it is available for the asking. After we die, there will be a realization in the sinner’s mind that s/he lived the wrong life, but it will be too late to do anything about. Lord, have mercy on us NOW.

Advertisements

Forgotten, But Not Gone

Modern man has avidly accepted the false philosophy that there is no objective truth (something is really true regardless of our belief about it) in the non-physical fields. But it this non-physical world that distinguishes us from the animals; they live in a physical world and are guided by instinct. The mental world is the area of religion, politics, fine arts, music, law etc. and, of course thinking. With modern man there are no true or false ideas, no good or bad morals, no right or wrong pursuits. Everything is true or false according to his own perception, and no one can legitimately say he is wrong.

One of the negative consequences of this philosophy is the denial of personal sin. When is he last time you heard a sermon on sin? I can’t remember. After all, we are not really responsible for our “bad” actions because we are “victims” of environment, economics, race, neighborhoods etc.

Too many people may reject or “pooh-pooh” the idea of series sin, it nevertheless alive and well, encompassing the entire world. The world is in the mess it is in because of sin. Situations get worse because of the refusal to acknowledge that faulty morality may play a significant role in the world’s seemingly insoluble problems. But to even acknowledge sin is to face the task of repentance. Much serious sin has much appeal, so changing to a better moral code does not happen. A problem not admitted or rationalized is a problem that will remain unsolved. Look around you!

There are consequences to this denial of sin because sin real and its consequences are real…they exists. Look around you! Sin is really an irrational act. Habitual sin clouds the mind and prevents sensible thoughts about the situation one is in.

Serious sin always demands more. When one sin is not enough to satisfy, eventually 100 will not be enough and sinner is trapped. He becomes a slave to sin because it has become part of his mental operations. He loses sight of any of the worthwhile aspects of life because he is driven by the compulsion to sin.

Eventually he may become so hard-hearted that he becomes like a frenzied demon in his pursuit of evil. This could have happened to Hitler, Stalin, Mao, a serial killer etc. A habitual sinner is follower of Satan. (“I don’t believe in that nonsense.” Well, that’s obvious, but Satan believes in you because he is readying you for his kingdom later on.)

Habitual sin separates us from God who is the ultimate goal of human life. One who dies in the sate of habitual serious sin cannot except to share eternity with anyone but those like him. There are no former habitual sinners in Heaven. Sin is a violation of divine law and lawbreakers are not in favor with God. But, the sinner says, “God is so good that He would ever consign a sinner to eternal Hell. “God does not consign anyone to Hell…or Heaven; we do it ourselves. Once we die, the time for repentance is over. Even the inexhaustible divine mercy is unavailable because in eternity, there can be no change. Besides, when the sinner dies, he will instantly grasp what a fool he has been, but too late.

Modern man has been seduced by the idea of instant gratification; he does not want to wait for anything. “I want it now.” becomes the watchword. This is the way of the young child; it is sign of immaturity in adults or teens. Habitual sin is instant gratification run amok. Such a person cannot be serious about the serious issues of life because few of them are instantly gratified.

In the story of Adam and Eve, the focus is usually on the actual sin. If we look at the story more closely, we can see that there was a prior mistake. They fell for the idea that sin would make them equal to God. Every habitual sinner has fooled himself into thinking that he has the right to conduct himself according to his own wishes and desires. It never works because God is God and we are not.

The concept of sin may have been forgotten but it is by no means gone. It may be forgotten in the sinners mind, but it is still as real as it ever was. What you believe about it, one way or the other, does not affect it at all. If you think this is all nonsense, look around you and tell me how well things are going.

Deceptive Labels

One of the most controversial organizations in the world is the Catholic Church. No other religion is attacked and vilified as much as this Church. Bigots attack based on their vincible ignorance. Liberals see the Church as counter-cultural and a threat to their secular worldview. During the recent visit of Pope Francis to the United States, the media could be counted on to harp on the concept of “liberal” and “conservative ” Catholics. Liberal commentator Eleanor Clift said the liberal Catholics felt they had a friend in the Pope.

The labels, liberal and conservative are not really valid labels when it comes to the Catholic Church (and most everything else,too). When an issue arises, it is important to determine if it contains truth or error, if it is good or bad, if it right or wrong. There is no liberal or conservative element in objective truth.

The reason these labels are unsuitable for Catholics is because true Catholics believe that the doctrine and moral code of the Church was passed on through Christ and the Apostles. Since Chrst was divine person, His teaching is absolutely true and does not lend itself at all to liberal or conservative interpretation. Moreover “liberal” Catholics are not at odds on minor matters. For the most part, they espouse one or more the following false ideas: contraception, abortion,same-sex marriage and the ordination of women to the priesthood. The first three are not “Catholic” sins; they are violations of the natural law of morality imprinted on the human heart. There can be no rationalization for them. The fourth issue is based on the practice of Christ and the Church for 20 centuries. Now, all of a sudden, He is wrong? The priest is said to act “in persona Christ”; a woman simply cannot do that.

The Catholic Church has never been a democracy (nor are there democracies in the Bible). Since Christ, the founder is divine, He could not possibly have “gotten anything wrong”. Therefore, Catholics are obliged to accept the doctrine and morals of the Church lest they fall into heresy and serious sin.

Those who call themselves “liberal” Catholics cannot be called true Catholics because they deny certain essential doctrines and pick and choose among other doctrines.

As noted above, political liberals charge the Church with being counter-cultural, and they are absolutely right. Unlike many other denominations which have jumped on the cultural bandwagon with homosexual clergy, same-sex marriage, abortion etc., the Church shuns the prevailing culture because history shows that cultures do not last, and new cultures supersede old ones. The business of the Catholic Church is helping people arrive at death’s door ready to enjoy eternal life with God.. Culture is a very transient experience. The most important day of you life, whether you believe it or not, is the last day because the condition of your soul in relationship to God will determine where you spend eternity.

A long life is nothing compared to eternity which NEVER ends. and, it is unavoidable. The wise man will prepare for it now.

“What Did You Expect?’

A man is fined $37,500 a DAY because he built a pond on his own land, but some Federal bureaucrat didn’t think he should have done so.
Illegal aliens are pouring into the country while the government does nothing about it because the Democrats see them a huge voting block for them.
Hillary Clinton wants to be president with no record of success in any of her government positions.
Senate Democrats refused to defund Planned Parenthood after the revelation of gross scandal. Planned Parenthood gets 500 million taxpayers dollars a year.
Republicans who have the majority in Congress seem paralyzed by indecision and ineptitude.
The news media is totally corrupt and biased as it hardly reported on the Planned Parenthood scandal. Had it been a “conservative” scandal, we still be hearing about it.
The Obama administration has had a singular lack of success in anything but piling on more and more regulations.
The President has spent millions on taxpayer funded vacations because he takes a huge staff with him.
Forty percent of babies are born to unmarried women.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided the history and practice of thousands of years was wrong and declared that people of the same gender could marry legally. The majority opinion was a written a Catholic who should have known better.
The latest street slogan is: “Black lives matter.” and they do, but where is the clamor about almost 24,000,000 black babies killed in the womb?
Liberals preach tolerance…except for those who disagree with their ideas.
The sexual revolution has spawned an epidemic of sexually-related diseases never mentioned by the media.
The Democratic Party has been called the party of sin because it approves of abortion, partial-birth abortion euthanasia, fetal stem cell research, ssme-sex “marriage” and other immoralities. (I am registered as an Independent voter because I have no respect for either party.)
Congregations come to church on Sunday looking like they are dressed for anything but the serious business of divine worship.
Political correctness rums amok through the country denying reality and forcing people to pretend the false is true.
Muslims are now invading Europe. Islam has wanted to control Europe for centuries. Now it may the chance because the Europeans had no interest in curbing Muslims extremists in the past 20 years.

Iraq, after thousand of American and Iraqi deaths and tons of American money is worse off now than it was. In Afghanistan, we are no nearer to a solution than we were on the first day there.
And the list could go on and on…
If these facts were incorporated in a novel written about 60-70 years ago, it would have widely panned as too absurd to read. Yet, the it is reality of the present day.
The world was not made by humans. We don’t even understand most of it. It was a made by a Creator we call “God”. As the Creator, He s entitled to make the rules. He has done so, and He has revealed those rules to us. Because He also envisioned reward for tie faithful followers, He had to give us a free will to make decisions, good or bad because rewards have to be earned. Modern man is making wrong decisions, and when you make wrong decisions and judgments, the negative effects follow until death or the wrong decision is corrected. Our past and present wrong decisions have caught up to us. The problem is that God does not change his rules because the Supreme Court says He is wrong. Abortion and same-sex “marriage” are still wrong in His mind.
So modern man decided to adopt a philosophy that there is no objective truth, that truth arises within the individual’s mind, and he determines what is personally true or false for him. But that is not reality. Truth is outside of our mind and we take it into the mind. It’s called reality, and without a realistic view of life,chaos will follow proportionately.
The other error that modern man indulges in is to say that God has no business in public life. Thus, our media,education , government all levels and business are essentially atheistic in practice. This is not without is baneful effects.
Our ethical standards are now given to us by fellow humans whose have neither the wisdom or the purity of intention to prescribe well. Look how they have changed the U.S. in the past 50 years. Humans have been designed to need God and anything else will not succeed.
Another effector of this is the loss of ability to think and act rationally. God is the source of wisdom and rationality. Since we do not offer Him a place et the public table, there can be no certain standards by which to measure actions. We go from failure to failure, stupid idea to stupid idea. How can same-sex “marriage” be anything but a stupid idea; the anatomical arrangement of two of the same gender are certainly not conductive to what the Creator has in mind when He designed marriage in the beginning of time.
We also lose the ability to chose and implement true values suitable to the human race. Values are now imposed by the loudest and the boldest. The why we value pets over people (You can go to jail over animal abuse, but not abortion), blacks over whites, illegals over legals, affirmative action over merit. etc. etc. The only sins today are racism, sexism and environmentalism (cf. the first item in this essay).
Is there a solution to all this? Of course..go back to God in huge numbers. Will we? I doubt it. History tells us that no society on the slippery slope has EVER recovered because societies die by suicide. It as happened 21 time over the be centuries. The last 40 years of American education has produced people who do not and cannot think about anything worthwhile. They have no sense of history. Younger people have a sense of entitlement to be deemed the wisest among us while in reality,they know almost nothing of value to themselves or the country.
We have rejected God, but have set other gods in His place. Humans are wired to worship something or someone. We worship drugs, sex, electronic devices galore, sports to excess, political-correctness, one-sided “toleration”, physical fitness and on and on. We have changed the country so it is not same USA I grew up in.
I hate to pessimistic, but it’s better to be be realistic.
If you have a true relationship with the Creator, improve it; if you do not, think again.

Dabbling With Dogma

Several years ago, I volunteered to teach a religion class for adults. No one inquired as to whether or not I was qualified to teach the class – or even about my orthodoxy. I had volunteered and that was apparently sufficient qualification. Years later I read in a book that when the teacher of a class designed for prospective converts was asked about the dogma of Purgatory, she replied, “We don’t believe that anymore.” Apparently, once again, the fact of volunteering qualified her to teach converts.

It would be interesting to know just who she meant by “we” because Purgatory is a doctrine of the Church and always has been. Yet, some Catholics seem to think they have some divine right to declare some doctrines and morals as passé. If a particular doctrine fits their mindset, fine; if not, they ignore it. The problem is that Catholic doctrine and the moral code are not of human origin. A lawmaker can change his own laws, but not those of higher authority. The Supreme Court can declare abortion legal, but God does not agree. Thus, no human can decree that any official doctrine is defunct today. To do so is a direct challenge to divine authority and wisdom. No human or group of humans has the intelligence to debate or outthink God . . . although, nowadays, many will dispute this.

As noted above, Purgatory is very much a part of the Church’s teaching. There are references to it in both the Old and New Testaments. The Protestant Bible does not contain the books that refer to Purgatory, so they do not accept Purgatory. The entire month of November in the Church calendar is devoted to the souls in Purgatory who are awaiting their release into Heaven.

For that teacher to claim that belief in Purgatory is passé is rather risky because Purgatory affects so many people after death. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that the Church did in fact drop the doctrine of Purgatory. What are the implications? (Ideas do have consequences.)

Purgatory, in Catholic doctrine is a place where the dead who have not atoned sufficiently for their sins while on earth go to make up what is needed. Since God is a HOLY God, no one can be is Heaven who is not holy. That means, without any taint of past sin. Sin and Heaven are totally incompatible. (It is said that true martyrs and those who obtain a plenary indulgence at the moment of death may be exempted from this rule. )

Without Purgatory, there would be only Heaven and Hell as eternal destinations. That is unreasonable for a good God because some people may be sinners (we all are), but they do not deserve Hell. Human life consists of grades of existence. There is good, better and best. Report cards range from A to F. Manufactured goods often have different grades of the same product. Thus, for God to declare that at the point of death, one must be able to go right to heaven is just about impossible for the average human. To consign that person to Hell for relatively small sins would be cruel and not part of the divine nature.

I’ll bet that the teacher who denied Purgatory assumes that when she dies, she will find herself in Heaven forthwith. Since a heretic is also a sinner, according to her doctrinal idea, she must be sent to Hell. There are many people, like her, who pick and choose doctrines and fully expect that God is such a pushover that He can’t bear to send anyone Hell; therefore, everyone gets to Heaven – at least eventually. One reading of the words of Christ in the Gospels will dissuade you from that nonsense.

We are all aware that the broad Christian world is in a mess, most of it caused by picking and choosing what doctrines and moral laws to follow as individuals.

Thus, large numbers of Catholics do not attend Sunday Mass; large numbers use contraception; some support abortion. Many of those who do attend Church have no sense of reverence at all and act las though they are at a social event.

The problem is that while people may redesign God to suit themselves, God cannot be redesigned and His established rules do not change. To forget that we are merely creatures made by God, who is the Master of all, invites spiritual catastrophe. Once we die, there is no opportunity to repent or change ideas. The exam we call life is over, and grades are given out.

Searching For What Is Not Lost

I recently had a conversation with a lapsed Catholic who left the Church decades ago. In that time, he has dabbled in several Protestant sects, finding none of them to his ultimate satisfaction.  He told me that what they all amount to is a song and a sermon.  He is a senior citizens with severe health problems. When I suggested that he return to the Church, he demurred, saying that he will find God on his own.

My first question was, “Where will you look?” His response was that if God is there, he can be found.  True enough, but this really applies to those who have never known God and have become sin seekers of the divine.  It does not apply to those who rejected God, once having known him.  For the lapsed Catholic, God is not lost; the lapsed one is, and he needs to find his way back to God.  Since such a person is presumedly in a state of serious sin, it is not likely that God will grant him special favors (although He could.)  Moreover, two thousand years of Christianity have shown that not only is God not lost, but that He has revealed Himself to mankind.  If He has revealed Himself, He is not lost and needs to be found.  The sensible thing is to find out where He is now and go there with great haste.

Another question was, “What kind of God are you looking for?” In my experience, it seems that those who are “looking for God” always seem to find one that agrees with their values and moral code.  Modern man has made hobby of remaking God to suit himself.  The problem that is that it is not the true God regardless of how much you are satisfied with your god.  These homemade remodels usually demand nothing, applaud everything and, to be right in fashion, are not judmental about you.  If we do not have a relationship with the true God, any substitute is a false god and just as effective as no God . Our invented god is fool’s gold, alluring, but worthless.

The last question is , “How will you know if you have found God, and how will you evaluate Him?”  If you consider God to be of significant importance in your life, it is imperative that you find or return to the right one. It must be the God who can do for you what needs to be done to bring you to eternal life, the goal of every human being.  What criteria will you use to make the judgment?  Since you have, at one time, rejected the true God, your homemade god can do nothing for you because you are a human and have no control over eternity.  God has revealed Himself to us through the Sacred Scriptures, and Tradition (ex. the Church Fathers), and the Church.  He established and only these sources are the means to connect with the real God.  No other effort will work as well. While most religions have elements of truth, only the three sources mentioned above have all the truth in one place.

One who says he intends to find God is acknowledging he has lost God (who, by nature, can never be a a lost being).  Such people are often not amenable to rational arguments because reason will lead to reality and reality is out of favor with them at this time. But God is not limited by our naiveté and stupidity. His grace is all-powerful. Praying and sacrificing for the lost among our family and friends is the best way to help.  God is a master at bringing lost sheep home.

The Wanderers

In the long history of the human race, never have humans been as conflicted as they are today.  Technology has made the whole world accessible to almost anyone.  Yet, in spite of this new familiarity, there is hardly a section of the world not in some kind of turmoil from wars, terrorism, civil unrest, etc.  There is a widespread attitude of “What’s next?”.  Modern man is miserable and frustrated.  He does not know where he came from, why he is here, and where he is going.  In a word, he is alienated from himself, from people (often even his own family), his work, his civic responsibilities, his past, and his future.

The root cause of his problem is that he is first alienated from God, without whom life is meaningless.  Because he has rejected God, man has lost the standard of rational thinking and his ability to deal sensibly with his world and the world of others.  Without God, there can be no rational or moral standards beyond those made by the “movers and shakers” of society.  We know how well that has worked over the last 60 or so years.  What are the causes of this human upheaval?  How did modern man lose sight of what is so vitally necessary to his well-being?

The first cause is SIN . . . sin in the traditional sense of the Ten Commandments, not the politically-correct sins of racism, sexism, and homophobia to the exclusion of the Commandments.  Habits of serious sin break any connection we might have with God because He is a holy God, and He and sin are incompatible.  Sin alienates the sinner from God.  Those who never or rarely attend worship services, those having affairs, those promoting abortion,  the promiscuous, by their actions, have objectively separated themselves from God.  We saw the effects of sin in the story of Adam and Eve.  We cannot serve two masters, God and Devil.  We must choose by our lifestyle.

Some people sense instinctively that they are living immoral lives, and to make themselves feel better, they grasp at false teachings of the incompetent in order to be able to keep their pet sins.  For example, the false doctrine that there is no hell or if there is, it is not eternal.  Very comforting to the sinner and very false.  Then there is the common idea that all religions are pretty much the same, and all the sinner needs to do is find a religion that approves of his immoral life.  If one wishes to live the gay lifestyle, it is easy to find a church that will accommodate that wish, forgetting or ignoring the fact that no Church or no human being has any authority to veto a divine command.  (A human may announce a veto, but God does not ratify it.)

The ultimate purpose of human life, believe it or like it or not, is to be reunited with our Creator after death.  Our souls come from God, and we are meant to return to Him.  Habitual serious sin makes that impossible and makes life an ultimate failure.

Another cause of alienation is the CULTURE we live in.  In the story of Noah, we are told that God destroyed most of the human race because they were so immoral.  What does that say about us?  Those people did not have anywhere near the means to sin we have and which some use without a second thought.  The result has been chaos because sin, by its very nature, is irrational and unnatural.  To indulge in it habitually is to act abnormally.  “Right is right even if no one is right, and wrong is wrong even if everyone is wrong.”

The contemporary culture of the Western world is Godless and immoral.  The culture advocates sin; it applauds it; it invents new sins of which earlier people could not have conceived.  The chief movers of society show a disdain for God in the sense that they do not consider religion to be of great importance beyond a person’s private “hobby.”  The film and TV industries are always extending the range of vulgarity, and the internet generates a multi-billion dollar porn output.  The print media is seen as so biased that they have become a joke.  Fair reporting died long ago.  Democrats can do no wrong; Republicans can do no right.

Education at all levels is atheistic in practice.  Schools do not teach about moral right and wrong.  (One could wonder if there is a connection between that and the increasing disciplinary problem at all levels.)  The ACLU lies lurking somewhere to catch some child doing something religious.  (Their venom is aimed mainly and mostly at the Christian religion.)  We don’t want religion in school because someone . . . whoever that is . . . “might be offended.”  The irrational rationale is usually the so-called separation of Church and State, an idea found in neither the Declaration of Independence nor in the Constitution.  Our culture is awash in sin.  There is no charismatic voice to object to any of this.  Those few who do express opposition are vilified because those on the wrong side cannot justify their positions with any convincing arguments; it is easier and more effective to call your opponent names. Global warming, like evolution, has been declared a proven fact (neither one has actually), but to go counter to these prevailing orthodoxies is to risk at least ridicule, but never a counter-argument.

The reason is the culture does not believe in objective truth.  Truth is what the individual says it is, and that’s final.  Applied to morals, the result is moral chaos and cannot be other than that.  Humans devise laws because too many people cannot be relied on to use common sense.

It is not easy to resist a culture because it impinges on so many aspects of life.  It makes demands; it makes judgments; it censors.  But cultures come and go.  God is still God; Truth is still Truth; error is still error.  We will be judged by our attitude to Divine Truth, not cultural truth.  Modern man has allied himself with the culture, a totally selfish and false ally.

Modern man is a wanderer.  He has no guide, no map, no compass.  He has decided that he can walk through life using his own skills.  The result is a life of doubt, fear, uncertainty and apprehension about the future.  He wanders in his alienation.  He has no idea where he is going or where he should be going.  Unless he realizes his folly, he will wander right over the cliff.

Remember the lament of the unrepentant sinner: “The past has deceived me; the present torments, and the future terrifies me.”

The Bible – A Perspective

This essay is about the Bible, not about its content or it’s significance, but about the Bible as a book.  Modern Christians take the availability of the Bible for granted; we can buy any number of Bibles and versions of the Bible in any bookstore or on-line.  That has not always been the case, and this fact is what I want to delve into.

Christ Himself (God in human form) who set up the Christian Church did not leave any personal writings to His followers.  His charge to the Apostles was to preach the Gospel, not to write a book.  If Christ had considered any written material to be essential, He would have provided and enabled it to be accessed on a large scale as the Church grew.  He did not do this, and remember that He is a divine being who cannot make mistakes.

The Apostles spread Christianity by word of mouth.  In fact, only the Apostle John could possibly have read all the books of the Bible because he was still alive after all the New Testament books were written.  Only five of the Apostles wrote anything in the New Testament (Peter, Matthew, John, James, Jude).  The other Apostles did not feel obliged to write anything as far as we know.

In the early days of the Church, the laity did not have access to Bibles.  The Canon of the Bible was not settled until the fourth century.  When the Bible as we know it was completed, copies were few and far between because they had to be hand-copied and one can imagine how long it took to copy by hand the entire Bible.  Thus Bibles were nowhere as omnipresent as they are today.  Moreover, the vast majority of people could not read, especially the foreign language of the early Bible.  The clergy were sufficiently educated to be able to deal with the Bible, but it was the Church that was the center and focus of Christian life.  The attitude was to follow the Church and that would be more than sufficient.

The Bible itself was completed by the 90’s AD, that is, all the books of the New Testament were written by this time and were circulated privately.  But the Bible as a book was not compiled until the fourth century ( Council of Carthage in 397 was the first Council to publish a list of all the inspired books of the Bible) .  But even then, Bibles were still scarce.  

So it appears that the early Church did not consider reading the Bible to be essential to a member’s spiritual welfare based on Christ’s own example and His mandate.

Then in 1517, along came Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation which taught that the Bible ALONE is essential for salvation.  A few years later, printing was developed and Bibles became more available, always increasing in availability to the point  we have reached today.

With this in mind, there are some problems with the Protestant view of the Bible.

1. Luther dropped 11 books of the Bible for merely personal reasons. He referred to the Epistle of James as that “damned epistle” but was prevented by followers from dropping it!

2. Luther claimed that the Bible has all the spiritually essential information for the believer.  But nowhere does the Bible itself claim to be the SOLE source of religious truth.

3. If God had intended the Bible to be accorded the level of necessity claimed by Luther, why was it practically unavailable for centuries?  Luther further claimed that the individual could correctly interpret the Bible under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, but the Bible is not a do-it-yourself book; it is not self-explanatory.

4. Luther really had no choice but to put too much emphasis on a book because he rejected the idea of the teaching authority of the Catholic Church which was granted to it by Christ Himself under the protection of the Holy Spirit.

5. Christ’s legacy is the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.  Luther’s legacy is 30,000 Protestant sects, all claiming to be the true and best interpreters of the one Bible.

6. The evidence speaks for itself.  Protestants, regardless of personal sincerity, are in churches that lack the whole truth. It is certainly true that Protestants believe many of the same doctrines as do Catholics, but unfortunately, not all the doctrines, such as the Holy Eucharist, Purgatory, Communion of Saints, etc..

Please do not misread the above and think that I am denigrating the Bible and those who read it.  Far from it.  The Bible is inspired by God Himself.  Christ quoted from the Old Testament while on earth.  It is just that He did not make it essential to salvation.  Contrary to some common misconceptions, the Catholic Church has great respect for the Bible which it presents to its faithful daily in the Mass  through the scripture readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms and the Gospel which are then preached on.  The clergy, since the early centuries, have prayed daily as an obligation the Liturgy of the Hours which also consists of Old and New Testament readings and writings from the early Church Fathers.

In the last analysis, it is a historical fact that the Protestant Bible is the Catholic Bible reduced in size. In other words, the Protestants would have no Bible at all were it not for the Catholic Church.

Another Easter!

It’s a rare Catholic church that does not talk about the significance of Christmas on Christmas day and the significance of the Resurrection on Easter.  The reason is that both these feasts have momentous implication in the Christian religion. Easter is the paramount celebration of the Christian Church. Good Friday would have been forever in dispute if there had been no Easter.

St. Paul tells us that without the Resurrection, our faith and belief is useless because it would amount to little more than opinion. What would we have faith in? A corpse? A memory? A shaky hope? But, the Resurrection of Christ is God’s seal of approval on Christ and His Church.

No other religious founder is still alive. Some have known burial places; some do not. Some, like Ellen Gould White, founder of the Seventh Day Adventists, promised her followers that she would rise from the dead. They are still waiting. No religion even claims a founder who came back from the dead. Even Islam, the source of much religious absurdity, does not claim that Mohammed is still alive.

The Resurrection is not some myth or fable or tall story. It is a historical fact like any other authenticated fact of history. Christians should not think of the Resurrection as some pious sectarian tale, but a fact of history attested to by 500 witnesses, some of whom actually conversed with the risen Christ. Courts accept the testimony of two reliable witnesses. What of five hundred? Many of these were still living when Gospels and Epistles were written.

If Christ had not risen from the dead as He prophesied, His mission on earth would have been suspect and subject to two millennia of bickering, arguing, doubt, etc.  By rising from the grave by His own divine power, He affirmed Himself as God and Savior, making His teaching of divine origin and, therefore, not subject to change by human or group of humans.

Thus the Resurrection, by itself, affirms the truth of Christianity. All other religions, ‘ipso facto’, can be labeled ‘false’. Ah, yes, you say; what about the ‘sincere’ members of other religions. They may be sincere, but they are sincerely wrong. Sincerity does not affect truth. Truth does not arise in our minds, but in the real world.

After Christ died on the Cross, He could have brought Himself back to life and simply vanished from the tomb. Salvation would still be possible for man.Prayer would be possible.Liturgies would be possible.What would not be possible would freedom from doubt and anxiety, and centuries of skepticism. Humans want to have certitude about vitally important matters, and the Resurrection is a divine gift of certitude  about Christ and His Church. It is another example of divine love (commitment) for the benefit of us humans.

Man has conquered the heights of the heavens and the depths of the seas, but, even though some try, he cannot seem to conquer that six-foot hole. Not a single human has ever come back to life by his own power, and even those whom Christ raised from the dead in the Gospels died later and are still dead.

In this Easter-time, the world is in a mess. All of it is man-made.Nothing seems to be working. There is fear and dread of resurgent Islam. World economies are falling. There are wars, protests, insurrections all over.

Politicians have no answers or the wrong ones. Some Church leaders have rejected their God for human applause. Some feel like a man in a boat without oars heading for a waterfall.

But, God is unchanging. Easter tells us that God still cares about people and is committed to their well-being if they so desire. In a world of chaos and unbelief, the resurrected Christ calls to us and says, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy burdened and I will refresh you.”

Easter tells us that is a real possibility. Recall the words of St. Augustine, “Our hearts were made for Thee, O, God, and they will not rest until they rest in Thee.” The risen Christ is the ONLY answer to man’s problems. That is why he referred to Himself as “THE way, THE truth, and THE life.

The Semantics of Easter

Beginning in the 1960’s, a concerted effort was launched by influential clergy in the Vatican and their American allies to make radical changes in the Church. According to some, the changes have not enhanced the Church or the religious experience of the Catholic people.

The  most obvious was the complete overhaul of the Mass under the guidance of Archbishop Bugnini who worked in the Vatican. It was later discovered that he had been a secret member of the Masons, a group not well-disposed toward the Church. Bugnini’s goal, in his own words, was the make the Mass more acceptable to Protestants which is odd because Protestants do not even believe in the Mass in any form. The new Mass has been a subject of controversy ever since.

Another source of negative change were the  new Bible translations which too often actually altered the meaning of the original texts. One notable example concerns what used to be a familiar verse:”What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers (allows) the loss of his SOUL.” This is a warning from Christ Himself that the salvation of the soul is one’s most important need and goal. The contemporary wording is: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his LIFE?” Major difference. The idea that to become very wealthy and then die has no spiritual implications at all. To use a slang term…it’s a “tough break”, but little else. After all, everyone will “lose his life” at some time. The tragedy is not dying: it not being ready to die spiritually.

Another change for the worse is in the verse “My Father’s house is a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” The new reading is “My house is a house of prayer, but you have made it a place of business”. In the time of Christ, the Jews had to convert their Roman coins to Jewish coins for Temple use. Money-changing was, in itself, legitimate. However, the men were gouging the  Temple attendees by giving far less vale in Jewish money than for the Roman money they took in. Christ was not objecting to the business aspects, but to the almost extortionary exchange rates over which the people had no control.

An even more serious change occurs in the Easter narrative. It concerns to change from the active to the passive voice (Normally translations would not change the voice of verbs.) The active voice in grammar means that the subject of the sentence is doing something himself. Ex. The man opened he door. The passive voice means that the subject is being acted upon by someone/something else. The door was opened by the man. The door did not open itself. In my younger years, the Easter narrative always read: “Christ rose from the dead.”, “He is risen: which are in the active voice and means that Christ brought Himself back to life.

Nowadays the words are in the passive voice. Christ was raised from the dead.”God raised Him up.” The problem is that some might conclude that Christ did not raise Himself and had to be resurrected by some other power like Lazarus and widow’s son were raised by Christ.

If we begin to doubt the reality of the Resurrection, it will damage our faith and lead to doubt about other aspects of doctrine, especially ones we may not be much in favor of. Thus, it is very important that we understand that Christ as God brought Himself back to life. He did not need any help.

Is all this re-translation an effort to deny or denigrate the Person of Christ. I don’t know, but the history of the Church in U.S. Certainly suggests I might be so. If the faith of a Catholic is weakened or lost, there is no alternative. In the words of St. Peter, “Where shall we go, Lord, you have the words of eternal life.”

The Resurrection of Christ is the singular event in the history of mankind and of the Church. No has done it before or since. The Resurrection is a truly a historical event as any historical event you can name. It really happened and can be proved.

St. Paul tells us that if Christ did not rise from the dead, we are wasting our time with Christianity because, without the Resurrection, Christ is just another teacher of doctrine and morals, but no more significant than any other teacher.

In the Easter season, the Church often speaks of the “joy of Easter”. This joy is not a physical or emotional joy as it was at the first Easter. It is the happiness that arises in the mind because we KNOW that Christ rose from the dead as He said He would. It is the joy of confirmation that all that He said is true. It is the satisfaction of certitude that we are followers of the true God and our faith is not misplaced. It is the assurance that our efforts to lead a moral life amid a grossly immoral culture are not in vain.  It is the hope that the blessed eternity that Christ promised to those who are faithful will actually come to pas in due course.It is the consolation of knowing that our God who took on human flesh is still alive and always available to us.

Live accordingly.

“Resurrexit sicut dixit.”

“He has risen as He said.”

Alleluia!