Tag Archives: Christian

No Need To Pretend.

If you have children, you probably enjoy watching them play pretend. They can pretend to be or do all sorts of things. It’s likely that you also have occasionally had to step in and say, “That’s not nice, even to pretend.” There are some things that are inappropriate enough that even to pretend to do them is not acceptable.

The same holds true for adults. I suspect that, in general, most married people would not like the idea of their spouses taking another partner out on the dance floor and dancing in a way that simulates having sex. The idea of adultery is so abhorrent that even to pretend to do it is unacceptable, particularly in public.

There are certain movies, songs, and other forms of entertainment that are worth avoiding because what they portray is not good to take into one’s heart and mind. “It’s just pretend” doesn’t always justify indulging in something.

Catholics are often criticized for their belief that they are actually eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking the blood of Jesus. “How abominable! How gross! How blasphemous! It’s cannibalism! How can you believe such a horrible thing?” Many of these objections come from non-Catholic Christians. They believe that the Lord’s Supper is symbolic.

Now, if eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking the blood of Jesus is such an abomination, why would it be okay to even “pretend” to do it? Why does it suddenly become acceptable to pretend to be a cannibal? Is that what Jesus has commanded us to do? Jesus wants us to pretend that we are doing something abhorrent simply to remember him? That doesn’t make sense. Jesus only commands us to do good.

If Jesus only commands us to do good things, then eating his flesh and drinking his blood must be a good thing. There is no reason to “pretend” in order to escape committing an abomination because it isn’t an abomination to begin with. If you actually eat his flesh and drink his blood you are doing a good thing.

“How can this be?” That’s exactly what Mary asked the angel Gabriel when he told her she was going to be pregnant with the Messiah. Her response was “I believe you, but I’m curious as to how this is going to happen since I’m a consecrated virgin (“I know not man”). Gabriel told her the Holy Spirit would do it.

When we ask, “How can this be” we are echoing many of Jesus’ disciples who asked, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus never told them that it was only symbolic, or a metaphor. He told them it would be accomplished by the Spirit (my words are spirit and life). “Spirit” does not mean “symbolic.” Just as Mary actually, literally conceived Jesus in her womb by the power of the Spirit, Jesus gives us himself to physically consume by the power of the Spirit.

When many of his disciples left him, Jesus turned to the twelve and asked if they were going to leave him too. Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” This is much like Mary saying, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your will.” We don’t need to understand it in order to accept it.

When Jesus said, “The flesh is of no avail,” he was referring to people who try to figure it all out “in the flesh” or, without faith. He echoes the scripture which says “You are not in the spirit, but in the flesh.” Only God has the ability to raise the dead, control nature with a word, make the blind see and the deaf hear, etc. Only God can make a virgin conceive a child without involving a man. Only God can raise himself from the dead and make himself physically consumable to us without it being cannibalism or some kind of abomination.

There is no need to pretend to physically consume Jesus. He wants you to do it for real because he wants you and him to be that close to each other. The best way to remember someone is to actually be in their presence. Jesus commanded us to “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Catholics don’t “bite off a piece of Jesus.” We physically consume him in his entirety, body, blood, soul and divinity. There is no pretending. Only real faith in the Jesus. Come join us.

But, That Teaching Doesn’t Make Me Happy.

There is a common misconception that, if a teaching of the Church makes one uncomfortable, or somehow interferes with what one desires to do, it must be wrong. This is when many people turn on the Church and declare their right to “think for themselves.” How dare the Church “tell me what to do!” This is particularly true regarding sexual morality since the “sexual revolution.”

Partly, this behavior stems from a Western, individualistic mentality, but it also comes from the mistaken notion that being Christian is supposed to magically make one’s life “feel good.” Christianity certainly does bring joy. However, joy must not be confused with “happiness” or “always feeling good.” Joy is an abiding confidence that things will ultimately work out in this life or the next. “Happiness” depends on “happenings” and transient “feelings.” Happiness is a mood. Joy is a state of being.

Of course, there is much happiness to be found in living a genuine Christian life. But happiness is never guaranteed by Jesus. In fact, Jesus told his disciples that they would face persecution, even to the point of death. That does not sound very comfortable.

Jesus also said that unless we take up our cross and follow him, we cannot be his disciples. A cross is not a happy, comfortable thing. Just take a good, long look at a crucifix. That’s one reason we Catholics have crucifixes in our churches and in our homes. It reminds us of what Christ did for us, but it also reminds us of what Christ expects of us.

Can you be a Catholic Christian and also be happy? Of course! But, you also must be willing to accept your crosses. Doing so might not make you “feel happy.” The ultimate goal of Christianity is not to acquire happiness in this life. The goal of Christianity is getting to Heaven and bringing as many souls as possible along with you.

The teachings of the Church are there to serve the ultimate goal of Christianity. They are not designed just to make us feel good all the time. So, the next time you find yourself struggling with how difficult or “unfair” a certain Church teaching is, take a good, long look at a crucifix. Then, ask Jesus for the strength to pick up your cross and follow him. As wonderful as this life can often be, it can’t compare to where Jesus will ultimately take you. To follow his Church is to follow Jesus.

Why Confess To A Priest?

Since many second graders will soon be receiving their first Sacrament of Reconciliation, it seems like a good time to reflect on this awesome gift that Christ has given to his Church.

Jesus said to the apostles, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:23). Jesus has the authority to forgive sins because he is God. So, why did he empower the apostles (and their successors) with this authority? Why would God want people to tell their sins to men? God hears us. Why put some man in the middle?

In the Old Testament, people were supposed to tell their sins to a priest. However, the priests could only offer up animal sacrifices, which could never completely take away sin. In the New Testament, Jesus offered himself as the ultimate sacrifice which fully takes away sin. He fulfilled the Old Testament. “Fulfilling” does not mean “destroying.” Jesus did not abolish the Old Testament. Jesus completed the Old Testament. So, now when we confess to a priest, it is a complete, fulfilled sacramental cleansing of sin because it is based on the sacrifice of Christ, not the blood of bulls and goats.

That still doesn’t explain why God insists on having a man in the middle. People often ask, “Why not confess directly to God? Why go to a priest? Here are a few reasons:

  1. When we sin, we sin against God, the Church and our fellow human beings. So, it makes sense to apologize not only to God, but also to the Church and to a fellow human being. Confessing to a priest includes all three of these elements. Making amends with individuals we have wronged is, of course, important whenever possible. The priest will likely encourage such actions.

 

  1. Most people will admit that it is usually easier to apologize to God in the silence of one’s heart than it is to apologize out loud to another human being. Let’s face it; it’s very humbling to speak your sins out loud to another person and hear your own voice admitting what you did wrong. I see this frequently in counseling sessions with couples. It can be very difficult to say out loud to someone, “I’m sorry!” This is because apologizing is an act of vulnerability. Vulnerability is essential to intimacy. The Sacrament of Reconciliation helps us to be truly humble, vulnerable and intimately connected to God in our relationship with him. It’s harder to go to confession because it “keeps the relationship real” so to speak. You have to “put it all out there.” You can’t hide within the silence of your own thoughts.

 

  1. Can God hear you speak to him without a priest? Sure. But, can you hear God speak back to you? Of course, God can “speak to your heart” in many ways. However, God did not create you as only a “heart.” He also gave you a physical body with five senses. Assuming that all five senses are working properly, God expects you to use those senses in your relationship with him (as we do with each other). That’s why the sacraments incorporate the five senses. Through the priest, you get to use the ears God gave you to actually hear the words, “I absolve you of your sins.” Your spirit AND your body are involved as God intended. Jesus ascended to Heaven, but he still has a voice for us to hear. What a blessing!

 

  1. Imagine having a disease that is difficult to diagnose and treat. Your prayer to God may be, “Lord, please heal me of this disease!” Now, imagine that circumstances place you under the care of a doctor that just happens to have obscure knowledge and understanding of what ails you. The doctor performs a procedure that cures the disease. You are overjoyed and proclaim, “Thank you, Lord, for sending that doctor to me!”

Now, who cured your disease? Was it God, or was it the doctor? The answer is BOTH! So often, we see things from an either/or perspective when we should be looking at the both/and perspective. God cured the disease by sending a doctor that had the curative power. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is similar. We go to God for forgiveness. God provides a person to whom he has given the power to be his instrument (the priest). God and the priest work together because God wills it.

Rejecting the role of the priest in God’s forgiveness is similar to rejecting the role of a doctor in curing a disease. Because we are created as spiritual AND physical beings, it makes perfect sense to include both aspects of our being in a relationship with God. This is why Jesus gave us the sacraments. They are outward, physical connections to spiritual realities. God knows we need the sacraments because he created us!

 

For further reading on this topic:

https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/is-confession-in-scripture

 

Why A Manger?

With Advent upon us, we begin a period of reflection, repentance and expectation. We await the coming of the baby in the manger. It’s a good time to contemplate the significance of the manger. Of all the places that God could have directed Mary and Joseph to spend the night, why a stall with a manger?

We often hear that it was a place of poverty and lowliness. It was a humble beginning. The God of the universe condescended to low estate to meet us where we are in our infirmity. This, of course, is true, but there’s even more to it than that.

Flash forward to the Last Supper. Jesus takes bread and says, “This is my body. Take and eat.” (Matt 26:26) Rewind back to the Bread of Life discourse in John chapter six where Jesus says we must eat His flesh to have eternal life. His followers asked in horror, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Rewind just prior to that and we see Jesus feeding thousands with a few loaves of bread and a few fishes. Not only were the people fed, but there were baskets of food left over. There was no shortage. There was plenty for everyone. Then Jesus informs them they must eat His flesh. Miraculously, there will be plenty for everyone.

It all began in a manger. Jesus wasn’t placed on the ground on a bed of straw or a pile of wadded up cloth. There is a reason the manger was specifically mentioned and emphasized. A manger is a container for food. This baby would be food. Like the Passover lamb, He was meant to be sacrificed and eaten. So, He was placed in a food trough.

But, how can one, little baby be food for the entire world? We might as well ask, “How can this man make so much food from a few loaves and fishes?” or, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” With God, all things are possible.

Our role is not to completely understand this amazing reality. Our role is to take Jesus at His word. We can walk away from it disturbed (like many of His followers did in John 6). We can try to rationalize it away as merely a metaphor. Or, we can embrace it like Peter and say, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.”

This Advent, as Nativity scenes begin to pop up here and there, remember the purpose of a manger. Remember the loaves and fishes. Remember that Jesus said, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you.” (John 6:53) Remember that Jesus calls us to “take and eat” of Himself to sustain our eternal life.

Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart

On this Thanksgiving weekend, I’m reminded that the word “Eucharist” comes from the Greek “eucharista” and means “thanksgiving.”

There is no better way to give thanks to God than to participate in the greatest act of worship possible: the sacrifice of Jesus. There is no better way to “make our bodies living sacrifices” (Rom 12:1) than to unite them to Christ’s sacrifice by receiving Him in the Holy Eucharist.

All of our own acts of worship fall short. No matter how sincerely we sing or how eloquently and emotionally we praise Him, we can never match the perfection of Christ’s worship. No matter how much we devote our lives to serving God, we will always fall short of Christ’s perfect service. So, in His mercy, He makes a way for us to unite ourselves, body and soul, to His own, perfect sacrifice.

The priest says, “The Body of Christ,” and we say, “Amen.” We receive the glorified Jesus. We dwell in Him and He dwells in us (Jn 6:56). We become united to the perfect, eternal sacrifice that Christ, the High Priest continually offers before the Father.

As a dear friend of mine recently said, “It’s all about a relationship with Jesus.” Indeed, there is no closer relationship to Jesus than the Holy Eucharist. We accept Christ into our hearts, and we accept Christ into our bodies. That’s intimacy. You can’t get more personal than that in a relationship.

Thank God for His mercy, His grace and His real presence in the Holy Eucharist.

If You Believe…

If you believe that Jesus:

  • Came to Earth as The Word made flesh (i.e. God)
  • Created the world by speaking it into reality
  • Walked on water
  • Healed the blind, deaf, mute, lame, leprous
  • Controlled the weather
  • Changed water into wine
  • Fed thousands with a few loaves and a few fish
  • Was transfigured before His disciples very eyes
  • Raised the dead (including Himself)
  • Rose from the dead in a glorified, spiritual, physical body (1Cor 15:44-49, John 6:61-63)
  • Ascended into Heaven

If you believe all of that, then why not believe that Jesus actually changed bread into His body and wine into His blood? (Matt 26:26-28) He spoke it into reality. He’s God, after all.

“He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eats me, even he shall live by me.” (John 6:56-57)

There should be no reason to disbelieve any of His words in John 6, unless you are regarding them “in the flesh.”

“The flesh” will profit you nothing. (John 6:63, Rom 8)

“His flesh” profits you everything. He gave it for the life of the world (John 6:51)

The words of Jesus are “spirit” and “life,” not “symbol” or “metaphor.” (John 6:63)  “Spirit” is very real and very life-giving.

Believe it.

The Mail Carrier Shouldn’t Edit The Mail

There are certain disciplines, cultural practices and pastoral considerations of the Catholic Church that can and sometimes do change over time. The doctrines of the Church, however, cannot change. Truth does not become untruth.

The Apostles handed down (Tradition) that which was given to them by Christ. Some of it was written down, some of it was spoken and some of it was implicit (which is why an exhaustive list of the deposit of faith cannot be written down). The Holy Spirit guides the Church into all truth as promised by Christ. This means that the understanding of some doctrine develops over time.

The Church has the authority to be God’s “mail carrier.” In other words, the Church is tasked with the responsibility of delivering to the world God’s truth as given by Christ. The Church is not authorized to “edit God’s mail.” The Church cannot change the doctrine contained within the deposit of faith. Doctrines delivered to the world cannot be reversed or declared “no longer true.” In this respect, the Catholic Church claims less authority than Protestant churches.

Prior to 1930, all churches taught that artificial birth control is immoral. Today, the Catholic Church stands alone in teaching this truth. Even when many individual Catholics fail to obey the doctrine, the Church does not reverse the truth of the doctrine. That which is immoral does not become moral simply because society changes its views. Truth is not determined by vote.

Jesus Christ taught that divorce is wrong because it defies the bond that God designed between man and woman “from the beginning.” Unlike Protestant churches, the Catholic Church does not claim to have the authority to change this doctrine of Christ and allow divorce. Additionally, the Catholic Church cannot change the fact that God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman. Some Protestant churches claim the authority to alter God’s design for marriage. Nevertheless, authentic development of doctrine cannot declare a previously held truth “untrue.”

Jesus Christ ordained men to carry out certain priestly duties within the Church. The Catholic Church does not have the authority to ordain priestesses. This is not the patriarchal oppression of women or the “invention” of a New Testament priesthood under Constantine. It is part of the deposit of faith handed down by the Apostles.

The Catholic Church infallibly declared the canon of the Bible in the 300s. This reality stands to reason if one is to regard the Bible as infallible. As Dr. Peter Kreeft has said, “How can you squeeze infallible Bible ‘juice’ out of a fallible Catholic Church ‘orange’? The effect cannot be greater than its cause.” Protestantism removed some books from the canon of Scripture by its own authority in the 1500s. It declared “untrue” that which had already been declared true. If Martin Luther is a fallible man, how can anyone trust that his canon of Scripture is infallible? By reversing that which had already been declared true, Martin Luther, along with other reformers, claimed more infallible authority than even the Catholic Church.