Salvation, Grace, and Reconciliation

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The Sacrament of Reconciliation

  • The Church prior to the 1960s often spoke of Hell as being the punishment for sinning. However, even after the Vatican II council, the Church stressed its pastoral teaching on the goodness of Christ—both periods have failed to highlight our treasures in Heaven.
  • Who is going to Heaven?
  • How do you know?
  • Often we’re told that if we do good and are a good person that will qualify us for the reward of Heaven–This is not what the Catholic Church teaches. In fact, this teaching can be found in a heresy refuted by St. Augustine called Pelagianism.
  • We cannot get to Heaven by our own good actions.Jesus said, “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 [c]He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; 19 honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” 20 [d]The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect,[e]go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. 23 [f]Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
  • 25 [r]When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?”
  • 26 Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

 

We are given Salvation as a Free Act of God by Grace. ~Prima Gratia~  After God gives us Grace by our own Free Will we have a choice to cooperate with God or not.

What is Grace ? Can we achieve everlasting happiness without it? No. Again, this is the 5th century heresy known as Pelagianism. One of the fundamentals of this heresy is that Pelagius denied our Fall from God’s Grace and Original Sin.

According to St. Thomas Aquinas there are six different types of Grace, we’ll take a look at four of them:

Sanctifying Grace: Grace given by God to a person to make him Holy and to unite him to God as a participate in His divinity.

Gratuitous Grace: Grace given by God to a person to enable him to lead others toward God.

Cooperating Grace: Stregthens our will and gives us the ability to do good works, which comes from Free Will

Operating Grace: Grace that directly moves us to action.

God gave us Free Will so we must cooperate with Him to see Him in Heaven, subsequently because of our Free Will we can fall into Mortal Sin and cannot merit ourselves a restoration to grace. God must do this for us and he does through Apostolic succession with the Sacrament of Reconciliation:

Christ says to St. Peter, “18 [a]Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

What is Sin? The Catechism says:
V. THE GRAVITY OF SIN: MORTAL AND VENIAL SIN

1854 Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture,129 became part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience.

1855 Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him.

Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.

1856 Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us – that is, charity – necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation:

When the will sets itself upon something that is of its nature incompatible with the charity that orients man toward his ultimate end, then the sin is mortal by its very object . . . whether it contradicts the love of God, such as blasphemy or perjury, or the love of neighbor, such as homicide or adultery. . . . But when the sinner’s will is set upon something that of its nature involves a disorder, but is not opposed to the love of God and neighbor, such as thoughtless chatter or immoderate laughter and the like, such sins are venial.130

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”131

1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.”132 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart133 do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

How do we recognize ourselves as sinners? What if we don’t recognize ourselves as sinners?

Pope Francis says, “ I would advise them to ask for the grace of feeling like one!…even recognizing oneself as a sinner is a grace.”

The Gospel of Luke: How Christ’s Birth Fulfilled Prophecy.

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The beginning of the infancy Gospel of Luke is different than many stories. Instead of focusing on main characters of the story that Luke is telling, he begins with two characters of small importance to the overall theme Christ’s great sacrifice. Edward Sri explains, in his book Dawn of the Messiah: The Coming of Christ in Scripture, “Luke begins his Gospel like a good Shakespearean play: with a pair of minor characters who prepare the way for the lead roles to take the stage.”[1]

Of course, the two people are of some importance being the parents of John the Baptist—Zechariah and Elizabeth. Although the couple is not the main focus for Luke’s Gospel, Zechariah and Elizabeth play a vital role in laying the foundation of the importance of Christ’s birth to both the Jewish community and also humanity. Sri explains, “Zechariah and Elizabeth are a standout couple with high credentials in first-century Judaism.”[2] The couple both come from a priestly background, Zechariah being a priest and Elizabeth being a descendant of Aaron.[3]

Luke’s most impressive use of Old Testament typology within the narrative of Zechariah and Elizabeth is the annunciation of Zechariah. The imagery used by Luke is filled with references to Old Testament scripture that would express the importance of these events to their audience using as Sri explains “the last prophetic words of the Old Testament.”[4]

The typology in the beginning of Luke hinges on dialogue between the Angel of the Lord and Zechariah by the Holy of Holies. The Angels speaks to Zechariah and says:

6 And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God,

17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli′jah,
to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,
and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”[5]

The typology used by Luke is to reference the audience back to the book of Malachi and frame John the Baptist as the new Elijah to “prepare the way before me” for Christ’s birth.[6] Luke according to tradition being a fairly educated man and skilled writer used his knowledge and skill to highlight the importance of John the Baptist’s birth with Christ’s birth to connect it to Old Testament scripture to prove of prophecy being fulfilled. By examining Mal. 4: 5-6, one can see that Luke uses nearly identical language:

5 “Behold, I will send you Eli′jah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”[7]

After the Angel of the Lord makes his announcement to Zechariah before the Holy of Holies, in which it fell to Zechariah to offer incense in the temple:

8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty,9 according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.[8]

It’s important to note the honor of Zechariah for being selected for this opportunity, “Most priests were honored to burn incense only once in their lifetime, this was the crowning moment of Zechariah’s ministry.”[9]

He doesn’t believe the Angel of the Lord saying:

“How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechari′ah, and they wondered at his delay in the temple.22 And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he made signs to them and remained dumb. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.”[10]

Sri explains that “revealing his name was significant because the only time Gabriel is mentioned in the Old Testament (Dn 9:21)[11] is in the important visions given to the prophet Daniel.[12] Sri continues to explain that the typology between Zechariah’s visit with Gabriel and Daniel’s is abundant. For instance in Lk. 1:9, Zechariah mirrors the actions of Daniel in Dn. 9:20 by offering up incense. Gabriel also appears to both men in the evening, referenced in Dn. 9:21 and Lk. 1:10. Notwithstanding, the most significant typology of Luke during this part of his Gospel is Gabriel’s message of salvation for Israel:

Dn. 9: 23-24 RSV

23 At the beginning of your supplications a word went forth, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the word and understand the vision.

24 “Seventy weeks of years are decreed concerning your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. [13]

Lk. 1: 13-17 RSV

13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechari′ah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.

14 And you will have joy and gladness,
and many will rejoice at his birth;
15 for he will be great before the Lord,
and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink,
and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit,
even from his mother’s womb.
16 And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God,
17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli′jah,
to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,
and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”[14]

[1] Edward Sri, Dawn of the Messiah: The Coming of Christ in Scripture (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2005), 7.

[2] Ibid, 8.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 12.

[5] Lk. 1: 16-17 RSV

[6] Mal. 3:1 RSV

[7] Mal. 4: 5-6 RSV

[8] Lk. 1:8-11 RSV

[9] Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, The Gospel of Luke: Commentary, Notes & Study Questions (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012), 18.

[10] LK 1: 18-23 RSV

[11] 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. Dn. 9:21 RSV

[12] Sri, 14.

[13] Dn. 9: 23-24 RSV

[14] Lk. 1: 13-17 RSV

Dante and The Spiritual but Not Religious

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First published on newsforcatholics.info 

I am currently writing either a short story or what may be a full-length book. During my long working days, I’ve been listening to audio books, and the titles that I have been attempting to choose are Catholic Classics. Two of the titles that I have listened to during the past couple of weeks are commonly known by most folks: The Divine Comedy by Dante and Utopia by Thomas More. The titles have inspired me to combine the two elements of the story to form a modern update for our own period. I will be using the guided journey model of the Divine Comedy with the satire model from Thomas More explaining the beliefs of the Utopians. Of course, my version will be the product of our modern secular world, which at times isn’t far off from More’s satire warning. I am continually researching aspects of scripture, the books mentioned, and scientific advancements to include into the title. It appears my story will fall into the dystopia genre, although modeled after Utopia.

Notwithstanding, I wanted to talk about an early part of the Divine Comedy in the Inferno, or I should say prior to entering the gates of Hell. I believe it to resonate with many in our current society and how they view their own culture and morality.

Prior to when Dante and Virgil enter Hell, they encounter the spiritually neutral in Inferno Canto III: 22-69.

“Here sighs, complaints, and deep groans, sounded through the starless air, so that it made me weep at first. Many tongues, a terrible crying, words of sadness, accents of anger, voices deep and hoarse, with sounds of hands amongst them, making a turbulence that turns forever, in that air, stained, eternally, like sand spiraling in a whirlwind. And I, my head surrounded by horror, said: ‘Master, what is this I hear, and what race are these, that seem so overcome by suffering?’

And he to me: ‘This is the miserable mode in which those exist, who lived without praise, without blame. They are mixed in with the despised choir of angels, those not rebellious, not faithful to God, but for themselves. Heaven drove them out, to maintain its beauty, and deep Hell does not accept them, lest the evil have glory over them.’[1]

The audio account that I had listened to was a broadcast reproduction of sorts, and it gave a specific name to these race of souls. I imagine it to be something of the nature of “outlanders” or “outliers,” but no longer remember. I was very much struck by this part of the narrative because I felt it explained many in our current society. Many of us have heard the phrase, for instance, “I am spiritual, but not religious.” Of course what this means is that they have been convinced by the ideology that religious institutions such as churches are antiquated, to say the least.

Part of this ideology has been birthed by the so-called “enlightenment” and the philosophy of Classical Liberalism formed around the same period to govern. Many historians and popular culture for that matter have found it necessary to promote the myth of scientific revolution of leading us out of the Dark Ages of Christianity into an Enlightened state of “thinking for oneself.” Of course, this is the message that one who takes the middle road of saying, “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” and these folks would be included with those who Dante writes about in the Inferno.

People feel the need to liberated from institutions that are cast in a negative light by popular histories, and people feel the need to be liberated from institutions who promote a morality that is contrary to the mainstream hedonistic culture. Addressing the first issue, the best thing that Catholic, or any Christian can do is call out false narratives for what they are…false. Rodney Stark, a Lutheran, and professor at Baylor, writes about these false narratives in his book Bearing False Witness that continue to be retold about the Catholic Church, the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, the Enlightenment, and Protestant modernity. For example, Stark writes, “Incredibly, not only was there no “fall into “Dark Ages,” this was “one of the great innovative eras of mankind,” as technology was developed and put to into use’ one a scale no civilization had previously known.”[2]

The second point is addressed by today’s Gospel reading, Luke 12: 49-52:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Although I prefer Matthew’s version, Mt. 10: 34-39:

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;36 and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. 37 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.

By accepting the authority of Christ’s bride, the Church, we do become religious and we are required to be religious to be spiritual. By declaring our faith in Christ and submitting to the authority of his Bride, the Church, we will certainly create divisions amongst our fellow modern friends and relatives by honoring the morality that has been dictated by God, and rejecting the relative morality of our current society.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker has wrote on the topic, writing:

“Spiritual but not Religious?” This just means the person is too lazy to look beyond their adolescent bias. They are too lazy to learn what it means to be truly religious. They are too smug and shallow and immature to ever regard anything greater than themselves as greater than themselves.

Spiritual but not Religious”? They have dismissed religion before they have even seriously considered it or studied it, and even if they have had a chance to consider it, what kind of religion have they been offered to consider? The state of Christianity in the United States is so dire, I’m not surprised any kid with half a brain rejects it. The culture encourages passivity and being a spectator. No wonder they reject religion for religion requires commitment and hard work and wonder and fear and self sacrifice and guts.”[3]

Furthermore, Fr. Longenecker is right to equate this philosophy to the age old enemy of Christianity, Manichaeism. A Christian cannot be spiritual and not religious without falling into an age old heresy of the Church. Many feel that it is an ‘evolved’ state of being for modern man when in reality It falls into the realm of Gnosticism that always denied the physical aspects of the Church, its sacraments, and the words of Christ to St. Peter.

Pray for those who feel compelled to this philosophy for they will always be on the outside looking in as exemplified by Dante’s poem.

[1] Dante Alighieri. Trans. Kline, A.S. The Divine Comedy (Poetry in Translation) 2000, 18.

[2] Rodney Stark, Bearing False Witness ( West Conshohocken: Templeton Press) 2016, 76.

[3] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2012/01/spiritual-but-not-religious.html

The Eschatological Traditions Pt. 2

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I welcome those who have either caught the first part of the two-part series or those who visiting for the first time. The Eschatological traditions of the Catholic faith can seem overwhelming at first glance; however, a fantastic place to begin to understand what Catholics believe is found in an explanation of the faith by Michael Pennock in his book This is Our Faith. Pennock goes over every single element of the end times and explains it in a manner that can be understood by the laity.

The Resurrection of the Body

Pennock explains, “At death our souls will separate from our bodies which will decay.” (p.155) Our souls will meet God, but when Christ returns on a cloud, God will “grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls.” (CCC 997) Pennock writes, “Our Christian belief in the resurrection of the body contrasts sharply with many other religions that teach some type of nebulous spiritual form of existence in the afterlife. Christians belief gold that the whole person—body and soul—will survive death.” (p. 155) Pennock reminds Catholics that the Resurrection of the Body doctrine is core to Christian belief of respecting the human body, especially the defenseless (like unborn babies). (Ibid)

Of course, a natural question is what will be the state of our bodies? Will some be children? Will some be old? Pennock reminds us that “The most important quality of the resurrected body is immortality; we will never die again…We will never feel pain. Our bodies will shine brightly, reflecting the glory of the beatific vision, that is, “seeing God.”—like Moses.

St. Paul allows the best insight on the topic in his first letter to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 15:35-37, 42-44.

35 But some one will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain…

 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.

The Second Coming

In the first paragraph of Pennock’s description of the Second Coming, he highlights the second to last verse in the Bible, Revelation 22:20, which reads “Come Lord Jesus.” (p.153) It’s plea that many Christians have forgotten in their prayers in this modern temporal world. As humans, we look at the hostility of war, politics, famine, etc., and believe that somehow if we just put aside our differences we can make a paradise here on earth. However, only Christ can do so, and before he comes, our world will only decay further into ruin. Christ will come again at the Parousia, a day that Christians do not fear, and a day that only the Father knows the hour. The second coming of Christ, explained by Pennock, “will mark the time when God’s reign will be fully established on earth.” (p. 154) As the Apostle’s Creed confesses that during Christ’s seconding “from Thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

St. Paul gives a description of the event of the Second Coming and the Resurrection of Body in his letter to the Thessalonians; 1 Thes. 4:16-17 RSV:

16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; 17 then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. 

The Second Coming of Christ is intrinsically connected to both the Last Judgment and the Resurrection of the Body. In the CCC 1040 it declares, “The Last Judgment will come when Christ returns in glory. Only the Father knows the day and the hour; only he determines the moment of its coming. Then through his Son Jesus Christ he will pronounce the final word on all history.”

The Judgment

Our Judgment is broken into two judgments, the first being a particular judgment and the second being the general judgment, or also known as The Last Judgment. The Particular Judgment occurs immediately after our earthly death when we will appear before God. (p.152) During this judgment, God will decide whether we worthy of entering into Heaven. Pennock explains, “At death, our time of trial is over. The Particular Judgment will reveal us for what we are…either loving lives of service or lives of self-centeredness.” (Ibid) As noted by Pennock, If choose a life of love and service, this judgment is nothing fear, as there will be no surprise during the outcome of this judgment for we truly know in our hearts whether we have done God’s will or not. (p. 153)

The general judgment or the Final Judgment takes place during the end of time. God’s saving plan will be revealed to everyone who has every lived in the world. The Gospel of Matthew Chapter 25 gives a vivid account of this judgment where the Son of Man will separate the sheep from the goats. Pennock articulates that “The basis of this last or general judgment is simple: the love of God with our entire beings and our neighbor as ourselves.” (p, 153)

Mt. 25: 31-46 RSV

The Judgment of the Nations

31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The Eschatological Traditions pt. 1

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The Eschatological traditions of the Catholic faith can seem overwhelming at first glance; however, a fantastic place to begin to understand what Catholics believe is found in an explanation of the faith by Michael Pennock in his book This is Our Faith. Pennock goes over every single element of the end times and explains it in a manner that can be understood by the laity.

Heaven

Heaven, as described by Pennock, is the reward of “eternal life spent in union with God and all those who share in God’s life. (p.156) Those who die in God’s friendship, grace, and purified will share in this eternal life. Pennock explains that “Heaven is the name for this superabundant life in communion with the loving Triune God, the Blessed Mother, the angels, and saints. It is the community of all who fully incorporated into Christ.” As Pennock illustrates it is best described by the book of Revelation 21:4 RSV:

4 he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”

In Heaven, Christians will have the opportunity to experience what is known in Christian theology as beatific vision, a vision that will allow us to view God finally face-to-face. (p.157) Christians are reminded of this opportunity by Moses’ relationship with God in Exodus 34:29-35:

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tables of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 And when Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 And afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; 34 but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone; and Moses would put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Hell

The common belief of fire and brimstone of Hell is a false description of the actual place. However, it does describe the pain of what is truly Hell. Hell is the eternal separation from God, a reward for one who chooses themselves and rejects God’s love. A result that God allows not because he a malevolent dictator as New Atheism would like to portray him, but instead because he “respects human freedom, a freedom that can pridefully refuse God’s grace, love, and mercy…a person is free to reject that invitation through living a selfish, heartless, and unloving life. God respects that choice.” (p.159) In the parable of Lazarus is a very telling explanation of those who have chosen to reject God’s love, Lk 16:29-31 RSV

29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.’”

Purgatory

Church Doctrine teaches of the existence of Purgatory, which is the final purification and cleansing of our sins so that we can enter Heaven. Pennock explains, “We pass through the fire of God’s love which enables us to embrace completely the all-holy God with open hearts. Purgatory is necessary because, as the book of Revelation teaches, only a clean person can enter heaven.” (p. 157) The process of purification, or purgatory, is a process that is painful; however, the pain is rooted in a pain of letting go of our selfish attachments when passing into Heaven. (p.158) Furthermore, as explained by Pennock, it may be explained that “persons ‘burn’ with remorse because they are not yet one with God who is infinite goodness and love. This temporary separation from God due to our own actions on earth does bring suffering.” (p. 158)

The best scriptural evidence for purgatory is found in 2 Maccabees 12:41-45, a passage that encourages the living to pray for the dead, so they can be released from their sin. 2 Maccabees is a book that was ripped from the Canon of the Bible by the Protestant reformers due to its evidence of purgatory. In 1st century Judea, all books that were part of the deuterocanonical would have been considered canonical, even by Christ and the Apostles, as those during the era would use the Septuagint, which included the text.

41 So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; 42 and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. 43 He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. 44 For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45 But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.

A Prayer of Pope St. John Paul II

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During my fasting from blogging and reading City of Saints: A pilgrimage to John Paul II’s Krakow,  I composed a short prayer to pray for his intercession for current persecutions on Christians.

Pope St. John Paul II, I (we) ask you to intercede on the behalf of the charity of Christ and ask God to protect us against the wickedness of governments who have become instruments of Satan, attempting to ruin the souls of men and women.

I beseech thee, O Lord, to give us the strength to persevere on the rough waters of our instituted persecution until the Son, on a cloud, returns for the judgment of the living and the dead.

Amen.

How does the Holy Spirit help us live like Christ?

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This post is a continuation of a previous post, I’d suggest you begin here, although you’re welcome to read this post as a stand alone as well.

In Luke Chapter Six, Christ commands us to love the entire world, which means to even love our enemies. Christ in every way has embodied this command by speaking to the women at the well and forgiving those who had just crucified him

Lk 6: 27-36 RSV

27 “But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. 31 And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return;[b] and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

It’s very telling when Christ asks, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” It is, of course, very easy to love those who treat you very well. However, it is difficult to love those who scorn, mock, beat, and even kill you and the ones you love. However, we must pray for these people, we must still do good by them, even if they reject us because they deserve the dignity of everyone in humanity being created in the image of God.

I use to be fairly active politically, my collegiate career was spent studying the Federalist Papers, Case Law, and the Early American Republic. I would quote John Locke, Edmund Burke, et al. However, just recently I took some classes to help change my career and I sat next to a gentleman who was Russian Orthodox. We spent many months talking about politics until I concluded that ultimately my view of the Constitution, The Federalist Papers, the Enlightenment philosophers, and Classical Liberalism was more or less Idol worship and not faithful to my faith in Catholicism. I reviewed my life and saw how politics had grown divisions between friends and even family. So, I decided to pick up my Bible, I ended all of my history/political blogs, and I no longer make political statuses on Facebook, but I share the Word with everyone. One of my old college roommates asked me, “When did you become so Jesusy?” I said, “Well, I always believed in God, I figured, I needed to start acting like it.”

It’s natural to ask, How can we possibly love our enemies? We must ask, through prayer, for the Holy Spirit to intervene in our hearts and minds by providing the fruits and gifts of the Spirit to our soul. The Spirit will provide us with patience and self-control over anger, The Spirit by giving us peace and gentleness will allow our soul to be charitable and generous to those who persecute us. We only have to have faith and ask for the Spirit to intervene as the sanctifier.

Knowing the Holy Spirit is an Understanding of Grace and Mercy

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The Holy Spirit is the third, but equal, part of the Trinity that is the same substance as the Father and Son. It proceeds from the father and son to draw us closer to God. The Holy Spirit does this by transforming our lives with gifts that enable us to better serve God’s plan of salvation for the world. (Pennock, 73.) Michael Pennock explains in his book This Is Our Faith that “The Son and Holy Spirit have a joint, but distinct mission. It is Christ Jesus who is visible, the image of God; however, it is the Holy Spirit who reveals him to us.” (p.76) St. Augustine recognized the power of the Holy Spirit as he described it as the soul of the Church, as Christ gave the keys to Peter, he also sends the Holy Spirit as a guide for his Church, who would comfort us and teach us all throughout Salvation History. Pennock explains, “Finally, before the hour of his glory Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit…John’s Gospel gives the Holy Spirit center stage:” (Ibid)

“I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete to be with your for ever.” (Jn 14:16)

The Paraclete, The Holy Spirit, is a being that will give aid, help, and comfort to Christ’s Church as an advocate of the faithful. The Holy Spirits aids us by giving us both gifts and fruits of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit which are given to us, they can be found in Gal. 5:16-26 and CCC #1832 and are listed as Charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modest, self-control, and chastity. (CCC 1832) The best description of what all of these mean and how we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us is to help us follow Christ’s teaching in Matthew Chapter 25 and the Judgment of All Nations:

Christ says, “33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Mt. 25: 31-46)

What Christ tells us to do and the Spirit helps us to do is be charitable, generous, gentle, kind, and good, and what helps us to do this is by being faithful to God, patient with ourselves and those in the world, being modest, having self-control and chastity. We will be rewarded with the fruits of Joy and Peace by such work, and we the Charity of Christ will give those in the world Peace and Joy by showing these fruits by feeding the poor and clothing the naked. The Spirit compels us to join our local parish’s Prison Ministry and visit and bring the Gospel within those walls.

If we ever feel that we do not know how to properly give our fruits of the Spirit to the world or if we stray from them, The Holy Spirit also gives us the gifts of Wisdom and Understanding, Counsel and Might, and Knowledge and the Fear of the Lord.” (Is. 11:1-2 CCC #1831) The purpose is “to build up Christ’s body and to keep us from prideful self-glory.” (p. 81) Wisdom helps us to see the world from the point of view of God, and Understanding allows us to reflect properly on our faith. Counsel allows us to discern the truth that has revealed to us by the Church’s teachings and doctrines. Knowledge reveals to us that God is working in the world, and the Fear of the Lord acknowledges that Sin is real, and there will be justice served to those for disobedience to God. (p. 81-82)

The Holy Spirit is arguably the most active part of the Trinity in our life, and sadly, often the least understood of the Trinity. However, through a proper reading and instruction of the purpose of the Spirit as told by the doctrines of the Church and with prayer, our relationship with God can continue to grow.

 

Proslogion: Book discussion Ch. 8-11

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I am continuing with my analysis within Fariba’s awesome book discussion on St. Anselm’s Proslogion. In week two, which I am a bit late on supplying my analysis, the chapters that are examined are eight through sixteen. I will be examining chapters eight through eleven as St. Anselm explains how God can be both merciful and impassible.

I do enjoy St. Anselm’s examination on the topic of God being both merciful and impassible more than his examination of the existence of God. I do believe his ontological argument works better when attempting to understand an infinitely omniscient and all powerful being. In chapter eight, St. Anselm really just poses the question, “How can he be both merciful and impassible?” It’s interesting that I find St. Anselm’s response very simple, yet, complex to ponder. St. Anselm answers this question by stating, “ You are [merciful] according to our experience but are not [merciful] according to your experience.”[1] The short answer in explaining St. Anselm’s meaning is that God is simply a divine mystery. A deeper look into the theology of a merciful God that is supremely good is the understanding that humanity not being God cannot understand what is supremely good for humanity operates with the notion of natural rights created by God, but does not confine God. For if something existed that confined God, he would cease to be God. Furthermore, if humanity fully understood the mysteries of God, he would also cease to be God. So again, how is God both merciful and impassible? Many atheists challenge the idea of God because they view the world’s suffering and will not follow a God that allows the free will to commit such atrocities. Overall, this sentiment both St. Anselm’s posed question and the Atheist challenge reminds of the commonly asked question by nonbelievers, “Can an All Powerful God create an immovable rock?” The answer is “Yes, and Yes.” For God can create a rock that he cannot move, and yet, move it all the same because God is not confined to the understandings of humanity.

In chapter 9 of the Proslogion, the reader is met the basic question does a God of infinite goodness do evil by saving those who are evil or allowing evil to exist? St. Anselm writes, “Why, then, good God—good to those who are good to those who are evil—why do You save those who are evil, if [to do] this Is not just and if You do not do anything that is not just?[2] St. Anselm answers the question by stating that “You are also beneficent to those who are evil. For You would be less good if You were beneficent to none of those who are evil.”[3] The logic of St. Anselm here is convincing to me—unlike the logic of his argument for God—because God to be infinitely good must be a state of infinite goodness that is impassible for a supremely good being must good to all or they would be less good, or simply, not God.

In chapter 10-12, St. Anselm continues to develop the idea of how God can be merciful to those who are evil, and if by his will supply what humanity would believe is justice.  St. Anselm explains that in accordance with God’s justice that appears to contradict our own justice that when God spares those who are evil that “You are just in Yourself but are not just from our viewpoint.”[4] A servant of God cannot know His will unless it has been revealed to us through divine revelation, it is a sentiment explained throughout the Book of Job and Job’s conclusion to the events:

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.’
I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees thee;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”[5]

The servant of God must simply have faith and trust that although there is suffering and that evil has been given mercy when it appears it deserves justice. We do not have the ability to discern what is for the greater good, because if we did have the ability, God would not be God because he would not be greater in this aspect. In this regard, it is perhaps the best to understand St. Anselm’s argument for the existence of God as a prerequisite to understanding God’s nature as both merciful and impassible—both good and just towards evil.

[1]  Anselm of Canterbury, trans, by Jasper Hopkins and Herbert Richardson, The Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Anselm of Canterbury (Minneapolis: Arthur J. Benning Press, 2000), 97.

[2] Ibid, 98.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 100.

[5] Job 42:3-6 RSV

Proslogion-Book Discussion Answers-Ch. 1-7

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I invite everyone to participate in this book discussion hosted by Fariba, the author of Incarnational Catholic, She is producing a fine topic for us Catholics to discuss on St. Anselm’s Proslogion. I challenge everyone to challenge the text of St. Anselm’s when answering the questions that are posted by Fariba. Click Here, If you need them. Also, challenge my answers to Fariba’s questions. We’re promoting a discussion for a better understanding. I am certain that Fariba will object to some of my points, but through her objections I will gain a better understanding of St. Anselm’s message, this is the point of having these discussions.

— — ———- ———————————————————

My impressions, so far, of this work of St. Anselm, are negative, but I will admit these feelings are based on a first impression of reading the text. St. Anselm appears to be hiding a rather weak argument for the existence of God in a rather tortuous scholastic maze. The text is filled with an abundant supply of tautologies that for the vast majority of the time spent reading the text, St. Anselm is saying very little. I will agree with Fariba that Anselm does seem to be “frustrated that he does not know God the way he should.” However, although I do agree that he seems influenced by St. Augustine, it appears that Anselm got to only this portion of St. Augustine’s Confession, “You arouse him to take joy in praising you, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”[1] (Book 1 Ch. 1) This makes me conclude by his famous definition of theology, “But I yearn to understand some measure of Your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order to believe, but I believe in order to understand that he has failed to understand,”[2] St. Anselm does not have the same understand of the grace and of the mysteries given by God, which is fundamentally understood by St. Augustine throughout his Confessions. St. Anselm, would not make such a point, if he fully had vested belief in Christ’s words, “and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,[a] you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”[3]

However, St. Anselm by way of the text has concluded an existence of God; however, Anslem—as explained by Fariba—does appear to be upset by not understanding this distance from God and himself. He speaks of desolation and famine because of this exile that mankind must suffer away from God in exile. St. Anselm, perhaps, needs to fully reach the point of belief to understand the grace that God provides to properly reach the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the early part of the text in Chapter 1 of the Proslogion, it’s interesting that Fariba spoke of St. Anselm’s influence from St. Augustine’s On the Trinity because I felt like I was reading an influence from another text, On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius. It appears that St. Anselm is really driving home the fact in the early parts of the Proslogion that the existence of God, our exile, and our hunger from him all hinge on the importance of the Creation story. St. Anselm writes, “He lost the happiness for which he was made and found an unhappiness for which he was not made…Man then ate the bread-of-angels for which he now hungers; and now he eats the bread-of-sorrows…while, alas, remaining empty.”[4]

The strange divergence between the two text, and rather I would assert the same divergence that occurs between St. Anselm and St. Augustine, is that Anselm doesn’t appear to be persuaded by the argument that Mankind’s betrayal of sinning against the Father is sufficient for this exile. St. Anselm asks, “Why did he take away from us life and inflict death?”[5] I would say to this question it is answered when St. Athanasius writes, “3. For of His becoming Incarnate we were the object, and for our salvation He dealt so lovingly as to appear and be born even in a human body. 4. Thus, then, God has made man, and willed that he should abide in incorruption; but men, having despised and rejected the contemplation of God, and devised and contrived evil for themselves.”[6]

 St. Anselm asks, “Why did God take away?” St. Athanasius answers, “Mankind rejected God.”

In Chapter 3-7 of the Proslogion, one discovers St. Anselm’s argument for the existence of God after one wades through the tremendous amount of tautology to arrive at the argument. The basic argument is that “O Lord my God, You exist so truly that You cannot even be thought not to exist…For if any mind could think of something better than You, the creature would rise above the Creator and would sit in judgment over the Creator—something which is utterly absurd.”[7]

Frankly, I find Blaise Pascale’s argument of “wager” more convincing. St. Anselm’s argument is already laid on the foundation that a deity does exist, and that ontologically speaking if one were to argue that something is greater than God, that something would be God—and there goes the strawman. Perhaps, I feel this way because I know St. Thomas Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God, which St. Anselm did not have the pleasure to read. Fundamentally, one cannot assert the existence of God without proving that God existing is self-evident based on the cosmological argument rather than asserting a mere metaphysical acknowledgment that is ontologically speaking that God already exists and that there can be nothing greater. One must make clear that metaphysically there must be a First Cause before any such argument can be used: “If there is no First Cause, there is no second causes, or simply, nothing can cause itself to be.”[8]

[1] Augustine of Hippo, trans, by John K. Ryan, The Confessions (New York: Image, 2014), 1.

[2] Anselm of Canterbury, trans, by Jasper Hopkins and Herbert Richardson, The Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Anselm of Canterbury (Minneapolis: Arthur J. Benning Press, 2000), 93.

[3] Mt. 18:3 RSV

[4] Anselm of Canterbury, 91.

[5] Ibid.

[6] St. Athanasius On the Incarnation 4

[7] Anselm of Canterbury, 94.

[8] Peter Kreeft, Summa of the Summa ( San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990). 62.