11 June, 2009

Who is Immanuel?

Isaiah actually refers to two historical figures when he prophesizes of the coming of Immanuel. He foresees the turmoil and the challenges of Israel because of their infidelity to God. He is offering hope at a desperate time in history for the deliverance of Israel out of Babylon. This is recorded in Isa 7:14 where a remnant will survive the persecution and a Messiah will come to deliver them as their Lord and King. He says that his name will be Emmanuel.

The first sign is the birth of the son of Ahaz which will become the King Hezekiah which fulfills the prophecy of Nathan and preserves the Davidic line which remains Israel’s hope. But, there is obviously something more being spoken of in His prophecy than just the historical facts of a delivering king of the people out of bondage. There is more than the historical and here the symbolism takes on more importance with the name Immanuel which means God among us. Beyond Hezekiah there is the prophecy of a Messianic King that fulfills the epitome of the Davidic dynasty and the hope if Israel in the man-God Jesus Christ. Isaiah further explains this in Isa 9:6 where we learn that He will be born of a virgin as the Church understands the Ark of the New Covenant and will be the Anointed "Wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" and surely the Christ. His virtues speak of His authority and teaching but most of all to His obedience to God as the Savior of the world in Isa 49.

In Isa 53:3-5"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our' iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed" Reading this leaves all doubt as to Jesus being the fulfillment of the Prophesies of Isaiah and confirms that Jesus was indeed “God with us”.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

09 June, 2009

Resisting His will and His Church

Truly an example of the truth of Scriptures says one of the most basic things about our relation with our creator; it is the fact that He has endowed everyone with an innate knowledge of His will. In the OT and in the NT we learn of God’s preparation of our souls to receive him when the Scriptures speak of the law being written on the hearts of each of us, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, Baptist, Jehovah Witness, Church of Christ and Mormon. It does not matter. Even the animist in the deepest rain forest knows of God and is drawn to His will. Missionaries will tell you of the common phenomenon of those who they come to minister to and preach the Gospel to these people of them being miraculously prepared to receive His Word and do His will. This law on our hearts is a portal where we can receive Him through the Holy Spirit and the forum from which our spirit can receive His Spirit. This is why the Orthodox speak of knowing where the Church is but not where it is not. This is why the Catholic Church speaks of salvation from outside the Church, but not without the Church and Christ being possible including the different ways the Spirit of God comes into ones life through Baptism. One cannot escape the Spirit of God drawing him to His Church for eternity anymore than one can live by escaping oxygen to animate their flesh in the world. Doing God’s will is what we are created to do and through His Word and the Church, we know that His will is that we be one and come to Him as children, just as we are into His Church, wherever and however that knowledge reaches our soul.

It seems that for many of us who are Christians that there are stages that the Holy Spirit takes us through. In my apologetics work I see this time and time again and I even experienced it in my own long journey home to the Catholic Church. It seems that for many that they have an abiding love for our Savior and a fire to do His will which defies being quenched. This hunger or burning desire cannot be satiated in that we always desire more of God, more of His love, more of His knowledge and more of His grace in our lives. This is not a selfish hunger or desire but one of doing His will by His Spirit being one with ours. It is this desire to do His will that makes us wanting when we are not in communion with His Church for the fullness of understanding His Word, for the fullness of worship and the fullness of His presence in our life. It is a completeness of our Spiritual journey safe in the bosom of His Church from the lies and deceit of the world from the angel of darkness.

As the Spirit draws us to His Church by bringing us ever closer, our spirit cooperates with the Spirit of God and we become angry in our flesh and lash out at the destiny of God’s will which is His Church. There comes a struggle from within where we resist this calling. We may go through a period where we struggle to deny the teachings of the Church, searching the Scriptures to find contradictions and our itching ears may seek out and find those who reinforce our hatred for the Church for others this search is more private but just as intense. Having no success at proving the Church false with Scriptures and realizing that what we started by our search to reinforce our doubts of his Church has instead only made us question our own beliefs. This makes us even angrier, for many of us this means abandoning beliefs that we have held our whole lives which are the beliefs of our ancestors which is very frightening. This is hard teaching by the Spirit which we struggle to accept or to deny.

Reflecting on this I think of those in the first century who came to the Church from diverse backgrounds both Jew and Gentile that must have faced the same struggles. Indeed the Scriptures give us the example of Saul’s conversion experience where a man filled with hatred was humbled by the miraculous might and love of God on the road to Damascus. Did he love God any less as a Pharisaical Jew or just more truly as a Christian coming within God’s will? I believe his love remained the same but that on that road to Damascus he came into the fullness of God’s will in his life. Here, in St. Paul, we have the example one of the Church’s most ardent persecutors becoming its most faithful and prolific missionary and changing the world by doing God’s will, not in hatred for another but in the love he found in His conversion. God worked through him in inspiration to add to His Word and bring into understanding the New Covenant to the world.

When we fail in our personal efforts to reinforce our desire for the Church to be false by studying Scriptures we then turn to history of the early Church and study the teaching of the fathers and the proclamations of the Church councils. Surely, we think, this will prove that our suspicions of Christ’s Church are true. These are the men, some of whom were trained by the disciples of our Lord, who were closest to the incarnate Word. But to our dismay we instead find that studying their teaching and their beliefs still points to the veracity of the Church. Some during this process may even suggest that Christ’s Church became apostate later but then at some point we are forced by the Spirit , if we are so blessed by His grace, to reflect on Christ’s promises to His Church which reveals that our desire to find apostasy can only be false, if we embrace the truth of His Word. For, it is not His Word that denies His Church, as some would claim, but instead that convicts our spirit of the Church’s veracity. For a time we may become even more angry and start to pray about what we have learned and ask for God’s guidance to the truth expecting God to show us what we have missed or overlooked in our study that will convict us once and for all of the apostasy of the Church and the falseness of the Church’s teaching. Instead, for those with ears to hear and a continuing desire through God’s grace we go through the most humbling experience of our lives where we must come to reality that through our pridefulness that we have remained for so long in denial of the truth and God’s will that we unite with His Church.

I think that this process is the culmination of the prayer that so many of us made to God when we were called and convicted into His service, whether layman or clergy. It was a prayer for Him to use us for His glory, for so many of us after our conversion become apologists and reach out to others to encourage others to study the Scriptures and the history of the Church and be empathetic to what the Bible reveals about the faith of the first Christians, which were Catholic in every sense of the word and Word.

Catholics only love their enemies but one may observe that the hatred only moves in one direction and probably occurs for at least two reasons. For those still on their journey home they are waiting for their personal epiphany as was received by St. Paul but I am reminded of what Jesus said to St. Thomas:

(Joh 20:29 DRB) Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen and have believed.

For some that epiphany will indeed come when Christ will stand before us and allow us to put our fingers within His wounds and will be blessed. Others of us come to Him as children, surrendering completely to Him and are blessed to release our pridefulness and with humbleness, accept His truth, His promises and His Church.

Why does hatred only move in one direction, for me it is because I see those hating the Church as being on the same journey as I? I was once where they were, thinking I hated the Church when in fact I was fighting against the Spirit moving in my life. I failed to recognize that I was being blessed. In the process I have learned more than anything else that it is impossible to love God and His Church and at the same time to hate those who despise His Church. Perhaps it is the fullness of faith, of worship or practice but most probably the exercise of His greatest commandment to love for all humanity for as He loves us we are to love others. The greatest expression of this love and the fruit of our conversion is the antithesis of our flesh which is to love our enemies. For, it is written, the Christian is to love even those who hate His Church. May the Lord bless us all?

In Christ,
Fr. Joseph

It's OK to pray to saints?

First of all it is disingenuous to state that the practice of praying for each other has no biblical foundation, we are instructed in Scripture to have a prayer life for others as it is part of God’s commandment to love one another.

(2Co 5:8 DRB) But we are confident and have a good will to be absent rather from the body and to be present with the Lord.

The Catholic Church does not teach that it is absolutely necessary for one to ask for the intercession of saints for salvation. The Church does teach that prayer to God is necessary for salvation for all believers. For a Catholic it would be wrong to ignore the liturgical worship offered to God at feast days for the saints and the prayers asking for their intercession.

The Communion of Saints is a dogma of the ancient Church and is recorded in the apostles Creed. It simply states that the faithful because of their relationship with Christ are alive even after the death of their flesh and worship with us. To us the Church is made up of the Church militant who represents all those believers living out their hope in the flesh.

(Phi 2:12 DRB) Wherefore, my dearly beloved, (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but much more now in my absence) with fear and trembling work out your salvation.

(Phi 2:13 DRB) For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will.

It consists of the Church Suffering who are those who are temporarily in need of further purgation from sin so that they may enjoy the presence of God.

(2Ma 12:46 DRB) It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.

Lastly, the Communion of the Saints consists of those who have won the race:

(Phi 3:14 DRB) I press towards the mark, to the prize of the supernal vocation of God in Christ Jesus.

Their immortal souls are in heaven in God’s presence:

(Rev 5:8 DRB) And when he had opened the book, the four living creatures and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

The universal stream connecting all of God’s creation is His love, which we take on in our baptism into our journey towards sanctification. This is not an emotional but a desire placed in us by the Spirit of God that endures as a desire for those other than ourselves and this love extends even to our enemies. This is truly a love that comes only from God and is a foreign concept and nonsense to those who have not received God’s salvific grace. This desire within our souls does not end with the death of our flesh but continues into eternity where the saints through their intercession in prayer encourage us in our race and assist us to endure unto our union with God.

I think that some people of faith, who do not understand the Communion of Saints, somehow believe that asking saints to pray for us is detracting from our love or our trust in God. In truth it is impossible, if we truly love as God commands and has given us the grace to understand, not to pray to those whom we love and in turn we expect them to return that same love to us by praying for us and presenting our prayers to God.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

Is Infant Baptism biblical?

The Church from the beginning has practiced the Baptism of children. The reasons are very clear in Scriptures.

(Joh 3:5 DRB) Jesus answered: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

To the first Christians that baptized their children it was understood by them that Baptism is the doorway to salvation. St. Peter said the following:

(1Pe 3:18 DRB) Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust: that he might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit,

(1Pe 3:19 DRB) In which also coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison:

(1Pe 3:20 DRB) Which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building: wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water.

(1Pe 3:21 DRB) Whereunto baptism, being of the like form, now saveth you also: not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but, the examination of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The effects of Baptism are the regeneration of the soul (born again), eradication of original sin and actual sin and its effects on the soul. A baby does not have actual sin but does have original sin. Through Baptism we become members of the Body of Christ, of which St. Paul says the following:

(2Co 5:17 DRB) If then any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away. Behold all things are made new.

(1Co 3:16 DRB) Know you not that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Baptism is the sacramental doorway into the Church:

(Mat 28:19 DRB) Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.

The Bible teaches that everyone should be Baptized:

(Act 2:38 DRB) But Peter said to them: Do penance: and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins. And you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

(Act 2:39 DRB) For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call.

(Act 2:40 DRB) And with very many other words did he testify and exhort them, saying: Save yourselves from this perverse generation.

(Act 2:41 DRB) They therefore that received his word were baptized: and there were added in that day about three thousand souls.

(Act 2:42 DRB) And they were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles and in the communication of the breaking of bread and in prayers.

St. Peter at Pentecost said to the adults to repent but did not exclude children from Baptism, instead saying that everyone should receive the Holy Spirit not just those of age to repent. He said it is “to you and to your children”. That is why people in the early Church brought even their smallest children to be baptized as do parents today.

There is no necessity to repent for children to be Baptized according to Scriptures. The command to repent is not binding on infants nor to mentally incapacitated people as the intent of repentance is not to exclude those incapable of such an act. They are not to be condemned because of their lack of ability to repent. Certainly the same understanding should apply as we understand St. Paul’s statement in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 where St. Paul says that someone who does not work does not eat. Are we to deny children or the mentally handicapped sustenance? Certainly they should not, nor should they be denied eternal life.

The Old Testament required circumcision at eight days old as a sign of the covenant of God. The child had no knowledge of why he was being circumcised yet the parents brought the son to the synagogue to have this done. God accepted the child into the covenant for what the parents had done just as He accepts the Baptism when the parents present their child to be baptized. The Scriptures tell us clearly that Baptism replaced circumcision:

(Col 2:11 DRB) In whom also you are circumcised with circumcision not made by hand in despoiling of the body of the flesh: but in the circumcision of Christ.

(Col 2:12 DRB) Buried with him in baptism: in whom also you are risen again by the faith of the operation of God who hath raised him up from the dead.

We must remember what Christ said when there were those who attempted to forbid the children from coming to Him:

(Luk 18:15 DRB) And they brought unto him also infants, that he might touch them. Which when the disciples saw, they rebuked them.

Luk 18:16 DRB) But Jesus, calling them together, said: Suffer children to come to me and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

(Luk 18:17 DRB) Amen, I say to you: Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a child shall not enter into it.

Can there be any doubt by a proper understanding of Scripture that children should be baptized? Certainly a complete understanding of the Scriptural verses shows clearly that children have the same need for Baptism as adults and that they should not be held away from this act by their parents or the Church lest they put the child in grave danger and the parents and/or Church are disobedient to the spirit of the teaching of Jesus and the apostles.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

What about Sacred Traditions?

One must be very careful in pronouncing that practices are “man-made” without a careful study of the Church in the first few centuries. Since the Church is the Church established by Christ with himself as the cornerstone and the disciples as the 12 foundation stones the Church and practices were established and the teaching passed on from disciple to disciple through apostolic succession. Therefore, one cannot say that because the Bible does not state specifically the practices that they were not established by the disciples. After all, the Scriptures are not a guidebook for Christian practice but a guidebook for faith. The Church referred to the authority of the bishops long before the NT Scriptures were canonized and were always a supplement to what was taught by oral means and by letter. Each person receiving the authority of the apostles did so as a disciple of that person. An example is St. Ignatius who was the 3rd bishop of Antioch and the disciple of both St. Peter and St. John along with his friend St. Polycarp. He was also good friends with St. Barnabas and St. Luke. St. Barnabas was a part of the 70 who were sent by our Lord. The Church was guided by this authority alone until the Bible became a part of Sacred Tradition in the early 5th century.

Human beings are created with a physical, mortal body and a spiritual, immortal soul. Actual grace comes to us in many ways from God. One of those ways is through sacramentals. One of the forms of sacramentals is ceremony or ritual. The way the sacramentals are celebrated, their cultural and ritual practices, are of great importance. Time, energy, and care should be executed when sacraments are being administered, since they are encounters with divinity. Sacred ceremonies and rituals, like the holy sacrifice of the Mass, exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, etc., help believers transcend this earthly plane and contemplate heaven. Devotion and novenas to saints and their corresponding rituals are also important to the Christian on the pilgrimage of faith to heaven.

Rituals and their symbolisms are also important since human beings are tangible people. We are a body and soul composite. The soul needs the body to bring information to the intellect through the five senses. Your mind would not know what hot or cold meant unless you first experienced these sensations in your body. We worship God not only with our minds, but also with our bodies. In fact, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the rituals in the ceremonies convey our deepest sentiments to God through words, actions and gestures. During religious ceremonies, Catholics make the sign of the cross and bless themselves with holy water; they genuflect before the real presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle; they are inspired by a holy image; they light candles to communicate their prayers. Symbols and rituals are important in Catholic worship, devotion and spiritual life.

We praise God through the five senses. Sight…. a beautiful church with stained glass windows, frescos, paintings and statues…. tells a story of faith to a person. Touch…. The sign of peace, kneeling, genuflecting, the striking of the breast at the confiteor, and sprinkling of holy water…. conveys the sacred action of the prayers. Smell…. Incense and candles burning…. transports a person to another world: the God; the fragrant smell is a pleasing symbol of our offering to God. Through taste, in the reception of the Holy Communion, we have the foretaste of the heavenly banquet that Christ has prepared for us. Finally there is sound, not only from preaching of the Word and recitation of prayers, but also in the singing of liturgical music. St. Augustine, the fourth century bishop and doctor of the Church said, ”singing is praying twice”.

Jesus Christ is the Word that existed for all eternity and then took flesh. His sacred humanity elevated ours. Therefore, when we worship God through our senses of our human bodies, we proclaim the Incarnation to a sinful world and ourselves.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

What about Sola Scriptura?

By the end of the first century the Church was formed around the bishop who represented the Church in apostolic succession. The great commission was well underway and had extended to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. In scriptures we see St. Paul in his epistles telling the Church to respect the Sacred Traditions handed to them coming from both written sources and oral ones. Even the written sources were delivered orally as transcripts were very rare and few people were literate. There was not widespread distribution of what we consider today to be inspired Scripture as decided at the African Synods by the Church in the late fourth and early fifth centuries. Throughout the first sixteen centuries of the Church there was never any question that the authority of truth rested in the Church as the “regula fidei” where all teaching was and is measured by Sacred Tradition not by the Bible alone, especially when interpreted outside of its source the Church. To orthodox Christians this would be considered ridiculous as well as arrogant considering the church never wrote the Bible to be a sole source of faith, morals and practice and one author even reminded those who would approach its use in such a way as to consider it the only source that it is incomplete as far as teaching and that Christ taught much more than what it contained. In fact, it warns that it contains only a small part of Christ’s teaching, but the faithful need not fear because the Church was sent the Holy Spirit that leads the Church to all truths.

Obviously, because there are those who have rejected orthodox Christianity some lack the fullness of truth that is contained in the Episcopal structure of Christ’s Church. They lack the fullness of worship by not having the corporeal Christ present in their worship. They lack the fullness of faith by not receiving His Body and Blood that the Bible and Sacred Tradition say is necessary for eternal life. The Church is led by men as the enduring Church and not by a book easily misinterpreted and its teaching turned into the traditions and doctrines of men by those through eisegesis use it to support their desires of the flesh very often exhibited by their hatred for the Church and hatred for the most sacred of gifts to humanity His Body and Blood of the Eucharist. These misinterpretations also cause them to have animosity for each other with the same source, the Bible being used to justify schisms which are usually not so much the result of theological disagreements so much as pridefulness and deceit which are no gifts of the Spirit but attributes of the flesh that inhibit our process of sanctification that leads to final salvation. Perhaps this is why Jesus said as a prophetic statement, that unless we eat of His Body and drink His blood we have no life in us. Perhaps this is why the Bible teaches that it is not enough to cry “Lord, Lord” as some of those who do will hear at their judgment that Christ never knew them and be thrown into the lake of fire.

Christ did not teach that we are to gather around a book of Scriptures to find the truth but that the truth is found in the Church that gathers around the bishop. God was not the author of division as has occurred with those who have abandoned the Church for their private interpretations of Scripture into tens of thousands of exponentially increasing schisms without end. God is a God of unity where He prayed His prayer before His arrest and crucifixion that we all be one. He is not a God that can only be found in the pages of a Book but who is found in His Church and where His corporeal presence is given to His Church as He promised so that we may endure to eternal life and His Church may endure until He comes again. It is His Church where the truth resides and it is the place where we find the ”bulwark and ground of the truth”, there is no other.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

Understanding Scriptures?

The hermeneutic principal I see used by non Catholics time and time again is the proof text method. In almost all cases that is a methodology that results in eisegesis and not exegesis.

The proof text model employed in interpretation ignores context and results in simply an anthology of verses that support unorthodox doctrines like soul sleep and to a lesser extent Sola Scriptura. Ignored is the fact that without their context they have no meaning. In other words, one takes a theme to support and search for verses with certain key words that epigrammatically coincide with the doctrine and not for their contextual contribution to understanding. Consequently, as we see in this use of Scriptures, there is an allegorization as an adjustment to the plain meaning within context creating a usage of the text foreign to its intended meaning. This almost always results in eisegesis.

Systematic theology deals with the teaching of the Bible as a whole body of work instead of individual books or individual verses. This is why one should consider not just those verses which support one’s views but how one deals with those that are contradictory to one’s teaching or understanding. Can the doctrine one believes pass the test or scrutiny of a systematic study of the doctrine?

There seems to be an evolution of Catholic hermeneutics. It started with the Alexandrian school and is apparent in the writings of St. Titus Flavius Clement. He believed that the Scriptures hid the sense, and that the holy mysteries and prophesies were hidden in parables. Origen was a disciple of St. Clement and coined the threefold sense of Scripture: corporeal, psychical and the spiritual in his work “On First Principles”. This was the first written work on hermeneutics.

Around the end of the third century there was the Antiochian school founded by Lucian of Samosata or Diodorus. It produced two of the greatest theologians of the Church, Theodore of Mopsuestia and John Chrysostom. This school expands the teaching of the Alexandrian school to include “theoria” which comes from a Greek word meaning “to see”. This method of interpretation contended that the spiritual sense is inseparable from the literal sense. There was a concern in this school of being overly literalistic or going too far in allegory as to lose the plain meaning of the Scripture. To the Antiochians Scripture had only one meaning which possessed the attributes of literal, spiritual, historical and typological. They believed that the aim of exegesis involved spiritual as well as doctrinal enlightenment in conjunction with historical and philological facts.

The third school in the patristic period was the Western School which had elements of the two previous schools. This school included St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. Ambrose and St. Hilary. Most of what we know of this school is contained in St. Augustine’s work”De Doctrina Christiana”. St. Augustine introduced the idea of “regula fidei” or the rule of faith which are the collection of doctrines of the Church. The proper use of the regula fidei presupposes that the meaning of Scripture has already been decided sufficiently in order to recognize that the passage does belong to the doctrine being used as a “rule of faith’ to measure it. Otherwise St. Augustine said that there was an enormous chance of eisegesis. Eventually in the Western school there were four terms that won out in their hermeneutical approach which were: literal, allegorical, tropological, and analogical. This was illustrated in John Cassian’s “Conferences:

Jerusalem literally means city of the Jews, allegorically Jerusalem means Church, tropologically Jerusalem is the soul, and anagogically Jerusalem is our heavenly home. He emphasized that the literal sense is always the precedent in interpretation.

Personally, I do not have a problem with the grammatico-historical method of exegesis but I use what is called the Syntactical-Theological method by Walter Kaiser, Jr., which combines systematic theology with biblical exegesis. When Walter Kaiser coined the name of this methodology he said, “ Because the Bible purports to be the Word from God the task of locating meaning is not finished until one apprehends the purpose, scope, or reason (indeed, the theology) for which the text was written.”

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

Did Jesus condemn all traditions?

Did Jesus really speak against all traditions or was His statement about traditions condemning a specific source and kind. Certainly, He was speaking of the traditions of the Pharisees But how does that teaching apply to other traditions such as Sacred Traditions. Let us actually look at the Scriptures that apply to our discussion which are about Sacred Tradition.

St. Paul speaking of oral Tradition: (1Co 11:2 DRB) Now I praise you, brethren, that in all things you are mindful of me and keep my ordinances as I have delivered them to you.

This is St. Paul speaking about both oral and written Sacred Traditions. In his teaching notice he makes no distinction between the oral and the written Sacred Traditions. 2Th 2:15 DRB) (2:14) Therefore, brethren, stand fast: and hold the traditions, which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle.

Here St. Paul is also speaking of both the written and the oral Traditions without distinction as to which is more authoritative (Phi 4:9 DRB) The things which you have both learned and received and heard and seen in me, these do ye: and the God of peace shall be with you.

Here St. Paul is teaching that we should not associate with people who deny the authority of Sacred Tradition (2Th 3:6 DRB) And we charge you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly and not according to the tradition which they have received of us.

Here St. Peter supports what St. Paul has been teaching about (1Pe 1:25 DRB) But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel hath been preached unto you.

Here is what St. Irenaeus had to say:

St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 180 AD):

"So forceful are these arguments that no one should henceforth seek the truth from any other source since it would be simple to get it from the Church ....On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the things pertaining to the Church with utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of truth ..For how should it be if the Apostles themselves had not left us writing? Would it be necessary [in that case] to follow the course of Tradition which they handed down to those whom they committed the Churches?" (Against the Heresies 3:4:1)

"Though none others know we the disposition of our salvation, than those through whom the Gospel came to us, first heralding it, then by the will of God delivering us the Scriptures, which were to be the foundation and pillar of our faith. ...But when the heretics use Scriptures, as if they were wrong and not authoritative, and variable, and the truth could not be extracted from them by those who were ignorant of tradition. And when we challenge them in turn with that tradition, which is from the apostles, which is guarded by the succession of presbyters in the churches, they oppose themselves to tradition, saying they are wiser, not only than those presbyters but even than the Apostles! The Tradition of the apostles manifested, on the contrary, in the whole world, is open in every church to all who seeks the truth ...And since it is a long matter in a work like this to enumerate these successions, we will confute them by pointing to the tradition of the greatest and most ancient and universally-known Church founded and constituted at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, a tradition which she has had and a faith which she proclaims to all men from those apostles." (Against the Heresies 3:1-3)

"It comes to this, therefore, these men do not consent to either Scripture nor tradition." (Against the Heresies 3:2:2).

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

Do Catholics understand God's Word differently from Protestants

The approach to authority is very different in the ancient Church than in the modernist Protestant church. The Catholic Church follows the “Word of God alone” while the Protestant ecclesiastical groups follow Sola Scriptura which states that only God’s written word is authoritative. The latter is a sixteenth century man made doctrine designed to destroy the unity of the Church and fragments the entire body of Christ by exponentially increasing schisms caused by accepting only part of God’s word by the Protestants. Sola Scriptura is not a doctrine for a better understanding of the Logos but instead is designed to circumvent the legitimate authority of the Church given by Christ.

It is the belief of the ancient Church that is the Magisterium of the Church that has the authority given by Christ to expound on, recognize and guard the Word of God. The Word of God is not only the written Scriptures but all that is handed to the Church by the Holy Spirit. In so doing and carrying out her responsibility the Church is the true servant of the Word.

God’s people have never been Sola Scriptura advocates. In Jesus’ day the orthodox Jews were not, nor were Jesus or the apostles. The continuation Sola Verbum Dei is a theological continuation of God’s Word from the Old Covenant to the New. The only ones who believed in anything resembling Sola Scriptura were the Sadducees who were the theological liberals of their day. We know that the first century Christians did not believe in Sola Scriptura by the teaching of St. Paul in Holy writ:

(2Th 2:15 DRB) (2:14) Therefore, brethren, stand fast: and hold the traditions, which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle.

The Church teaches that the Word of God is the Logos:

(Joh 1:1 DRB) In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God.

(Joh 1:2 DRB) The same was in the beginning with God.

(Joh 1:3 DRB) All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made.

(Joh 1:4 DRB) In him was life: and the life was the light of men.

So the question among Christians should not be what is the Word but instead how is the Word revealed to man. To the Protestant the Word is only revealed in written form called Sola Scriptura. To the Catholic Christian the word has a much broader meaning and is revealed to man in more than a written form where men were inspired to reveal God’s Word. Catholics believe that inspiration is not only personal as with the biblical writers but is also revealed to and through the Church such as in the Ecumenical Councils and through the authority exercised through the Church to recognize, guard, interpret and teach the Word. The Church throughout history has faithfully exercised her authority to guard the word of God against the attacks of heresies, such as Sola Scriptura.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

How influential were Pagans to Christianity and Christ's Church

I think that it is important to acknowledge that these attacks are against all Christians and not just Catholics, although they attack Catholicism in particular. Some seem to be suggesting that if it had not been for syncretism between pagan religions and Catholicism that all Christians would be Arians based on the information that some pagan religions had beliefs similar to Christian Trinitarian beliefs therefore the Trinity is wrong and Arius was right. If I was to list all of the pagan religions that believed in oneness as did Arius and his modern day heretical followers, would that prove that Arius was influenced by Pagans and thus heretical for his beliefs and practices? I pray all can see the folly of such arguments. Are we to accept such comparisons which persuade only by their volume those that are ignorant and not on the truthfulness and application of the comparisons but on the gullibility and prejudice of the hearer?

Other claims are not based on pagan religious practices but on Platonic philosophy. Certainly there was an influence of Greek philosophical thought in the early Church as the early Christians even in Jerusalem had contact with the diaspora Jews who were the early converts to Christianity. St. Paul was one of them. However, the argument for Hellenistic influence falls apart when one realizes that Jesus taught what would be understood to be Hellenistic influence if it was not for the realization that it was not only the Greek’s who taught similarly but also certain Jewish sects, particularly the Essenes. This is most prominent in the soteriological teaching of Jesus. In other words similarity does not necessarily mean “descended from”. One should pay particular attention to the fact that those who suppose the similarities to the mystery religions that invaded the Roman Empire three centuries before Christ from the East point out marked but superficial resemblances to Catholicism and many of those resemblances are shared by all Christians including the accusers. Reason would say that if Catholicism has more resemblances it is because Catholicism is a broader fullness of Christianity because of Catholicism’s direct origin from Christ and the apostles and long history of scholarship. In other words because of the broadness of the faith it is a bigger target for the Church’s detractors than would the truncated Christianity of the critics. So it would seem reasonable to say that if the Catholic Church has similarities to these mystery cults and that means that Catholicism is false the same standard should be used against Catholic critics and their truncated Christian sects who also share similarities.

The origin of most of this anti-Catholic propaganda comes from the book written by Alexander Hislop, called “Two Babylons” published in the mid nineteenth century. Another book written by Ralph Woodrow called ”Babylon Mystery Religion” is a revised and modernized version of Hislop’s book. Both of these books are simply lists of similarities of Roman, Babylonian and Egyptian religions to Christianity that these similarities imply descent. Church history makes such comparisons ridiculous but to the uninformed and uneducated in Church history with a predilection to be suspicious of Catholicism these accusations are believed by some. To the knowledgeable the similarities supposed are laughable but even though they are laughable and weak, people are still influenced.

Religious similarities are inevitable because God relates to all people regardless of their exposure to Christianity. The Scriptures tell us that the law is written on the hearts of all men, not just Christians or Jews. Men may respond to that law within their own cultures and try to make sense of the innate knowledge they possess creating their own religions. Mankind share similar desires and it should not seem unusual when they come to similar conclusions, not necessarily because of the influence of one on another but because of the influence of God. Could this not be why the Gospel when shared with others speaks to their spirit whether they are pagan or Jew and brings people to faith in Christ? Christianity is the culmination of religion and philosophy in the hearts and intellects of men taken as far as man is capable on his own and beyond. Christ brought all intellectual and philosophical concepts of God and His plan for mankind to a conclusion that rests in Him and His redemption on the Cross culminated by the fact that “He is risen” and that through Him death and sin no longer has a hold on us.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

Was Luther pleased with his new doctrine of Sola Scriptura?

Protestants claim that Scripture is the “supreme” rule of faith; it may surprise them that I do not disagree with that statement. What I do disagree with most strongly is when one says that it is the sole rule of faith as most modernist “Sola Scriptura” advocates claim. Note, I said modernist, as Martin Luther did not share the same view as many claiming “Sola Scriptura” do today, in regards to the Scriptural understanding. Luther believed that Biblical understanding is a partnership between the scholar and the lay person and that it was to be taught in community instead of each person believing themselves to be a theologian. Here is what Fr. Martin Luther said:

"This one will not hear of Baptism, and that one denies the sacrament, another puts a world between this and the last day: some teach that Christ is not God, some say this, some say that: there are as many sects and creeds as there are heads. No yokel is so rude but when he has dreams and fancies, he thinks himself inspired by the Holy Ghost and must be a prophet" De Wette III, 61. quoted in O'Hare, THE FACTS ABOUT LUTHER, 208.

"Noblemen, townsmen, peasants, all classes understand the Evangelium better than I or St. Paul; they are now wise and think themselves more learned than all the ministers." Walch XIV, 1360. quoted in O'Hare, Ibid, 209.

"We concede -- as we must -- that so much of what they [the Catholic Church] say is true: that the papacy has God's word and the office of the apostles, and that we have received Holy Scriptures, Baptism, the Sacrament, and the pulpit from them. What would we know of these if it were not for them?" Sermon on the gospel of St. John, chaps. 14 - 16 (1537), in vol. 24 of LUTHER'S WORKS, St. Louis, Mo.: Concordia, 1961, 304

By the time Fr. Martin Luther made these quotes Ulrich Zwingli had already “thrown the baby out with the bathwater” by denying the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, essentially forbidding Christ from protestant worship. There were already schisms and vile disagreements over the most basic of Christian beliefs and the identity of Christianity was changing by these reformers on the whims of eisegesical whimsy and exegetical error. The fact is that Luther’s lamentations were prophetic, realizing that the Church had maintained Sacred Tradition and that his movement was sliding down a slippery slope of apostasy in exponentially increasing proportions.

The truth is, as Vatican II states that sacred Tradition and Sacred Scriptures flow from the same wellspring, which is Christ, they are unified and culminate to the same end. If one wishes to follow biblical teaching about the “rule of faith”, it is Scripture and apostolic tradition as interpreted by the living teaching authority of the Church from which comes the oral teaching of Jesus and the apostles and the authority of interpretation given to the Church.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

Does a priests sinfulness effect the Sacraments?

Both Scriptures and the writings of the fathers support the knowledge that all men are tempted by the seduction of sin. Being ordained into the priesthood or bishopric does not guarantee that one will never fall away from the faith or never sin. If only the righteous are able to represent God then God would have no representatives worthy on earth.

Contrary opinions are similar to the teachings of the heresy of Donatism that stated that the sacraments administered by a priest in mortal sin are invalid and conveyed no grace to the recipient. Obviously, this is false teaching as no one could ever be assured of the grace as no one can be sure of the moral state of another. The fact is that the errors or sinfulness of a priest has no effect on the sacraments received as the priest is acting “in persona Christi” which means that Christ is acting through the priest, the priest being His hands and His mouth. In the case of an absolution the principal of “Ecclesia supplet” which grants one absolution regardless of whether the priest had valid authority to give absolution.

The sins of the flesh are seductive even to the most righteous among us. It is through God’s grace that we retain our “free will” and may sin and fall away from the faith. God did not base the authority or righteousness of the Church on the ability of men to remain free of sin but on His own divine righteousness shown to us on earth. This is a goal of which we have hope but no assurance except on Him who died for the atonement for us. It is His Holiness and His truth and not that of men that makes His Church the “bulwark and ground of the truth”.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

Is justification a legal act or a process?

Some say that justification is a legal act of God in which He declares the sinner to be worthy of heaven even though he continues to be a sinful creature. In this view of justification there is no internal renewal or real sanctification whether instant or through a lifelong process but simply an external application of the justice of Christ.

To Catholic Christians and many other Christians, justification is understood differently. We understand from Scriptures that justification is not the covering of sin but the eradication and the beginning of true sanctification and simultaneous renewal. The soul is transformed into goodness instead of being a sinful soul with sins covered by Christ’s blood. We see Scriptures saying that forgiveness results in a complete removal of sins. The only time the Bible mentions the covering of sin is in the context of one man’s sin being forgiven by another. One should note that we have no power to forgive another’s sin, therefore the context is that we do all we can and cover or overlook those sins against us. In relation to God and His removal of sin the Scriptures use quite different terminology such as “blot out”, “blotting out”, “clears away” and “takes away”.

Catholics see justification as a rebirth and supernatural life in a former sinner:

(Joh 3:5 DRB) Jesus answered: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

(Tit 3:5 DRB) Not by the works of justice which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us, by the laver of regeneration and renovation of the Holy Ghost.

That creates an inner renewal of the soul:

(Eph 4:23 DRB) And be renewed in spirit of your mind:

Resulting in complete sanctification:

(1Co 6:11 DRB) And such some of you were. But you are washed: but you are sanctified: but you are justified: in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God.

Through this glorious process initiated by God’s grace the soul becomes beautiful, holy and worthy of heaven where nothing unclean is allowed. It is not an ugly sinful soul hidden under the blood of Jesus but instead one sanctified by Him and created anew for His glory.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

How should we understand merit?

Initial salvation comes through the encouragement of the Holy Spirit bringing us to faith and sanctification. This grace given by God is unmerited and certainly not earned. Catholic teaching is that all works are not the result of our own efforts but are produced by His grace. At judgment God will see our works produced by His grace as meritorious. Through God and His grace working in our lives we earn our salvation. Catholic teaching in regards to merit is very similar if not identical to the Protestant monergistic view, meaning that all is of God, approach rather than a synergistic approach, some of God and some of us, as Catholics get accused. The actual view of Catholics is that God does all the work and we do all the work. Catholics give all the credit to God but also understand that their response to grace is deserving of merit.

The way I see it is that we respond to God’s promises He is obligated to fulfill a debt He has incurred through His promise. We through His grace put faith and trust in those promises. Since God promises us eternal life by our faith then He has created an obligation for Himself. It is God’s promise that makes it a merit and not our work because God represents to us justice and truth and by us responding to His commands through the Spirit He has created a debt deserved by crediting us with merit even though it is through Christ and the Holy Spirit that we responded to His commands and will.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

Is "Once Saved, Always Saved" supported by Scriptures?

Catholics believe that all of their works are produced by God. Once saved, always saved is a kind of lawless salvation where there is really no true sanctification but a covering up of a filthy sinful soul in the belief that it can sneak into heaven under the guise of holiness instead of actually having been sanctified and created anew. When one studies Scriptures, instead of using the Scriptures as a group of proof texts to support one’s fleshly desires, misunderstanding of God’s Word is less likely and false teaching is not promulgated. We should be more like the Bereans in not trusting those who are teaching us so that we will not fall for false teaching such as OSAS.

I know all the verses used to support lawless soteriology views. In view of contradictory Scripture how can a Calvinist support or justify their views. Allow me to illustrate what I mean with the following:

All through both Testaments of the Bible we are warned of the dangers of sin and that sin will separate us from eternity. The earliest verses making this point are as follows….

(Gen 2:16 DRB) And he commanded him, saying: Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat:

(Gen 2:17 DRB) But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.

If we examine verse 17 we see a striking similarity between hat Satan taught and what is taught by those teaching OSAS. They preach that we simply eat of the fruit of emotional ascension to faith for a moment in our lives and our consequent sins will not condemn us. Here is what the prophet Ezekiel says about a righteous man and see if it sounds like the righteous are guaranteed eternal security……

(Eze 3:20 DRB) Moreover if the just man shall turn away from his justice, and shall commit iniquity: I will lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die, because thou hast not given him warning: he shall die in his sin, and his justices which he hath done, shall not be remembered: but I will require his blood at thy hand.

(Eze 18:24 DRB) But if the just man turn himself away from his justice, and do iniquity according to all the abominations which the wicked man useth to work, shall he live? all his justices which he hath done, shall not be remembered: in the prevarication, by which he hath prevaricated, and in his sin, which he hath committed, in them he shall die.

The same teaching is repeated by St. Paul in His letter to the Romans lest one say that this prophecy only applies to the OC……

(Rom 8:13 DRB) For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live.

(Rom 6:16 DRB) Know you not that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are whom you obey, whether it be of sin unto death or of obedience unto justice.

St. Paul’s teaching is full of warnings against lawlessness and false security regarding our salvation as well as the teaching of St. James…….

(Gal 5:19 DRB) Now the works of the flesh are manifest: which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury,

(Gal 5:20 DRB) Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects,

(Gal 5:21 DRB) Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God.

(Gal 6:8 DRB) For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit of the spirit shall reap life everlasting.

(Gal 6:9 DRB) And in doing good, let us not fail. For in due time we shall reap, not failing.

(Jam 1:14 DRB) But every man is tempted by his own concupiscence, being drawn away and allured.

(Jam 1:15 DRB) Then, when concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin. But sin, when it is completed, begetteth death.

(Jam 1:16 DRB) Do not err, therefore, my dearest brethren.

We know that both St. Paul and St. James were speaking to and about believers as St. James confirms in the following verses lest there be any doubt….

(Jam 5:19 DRB) My brethren, if any of you err from the truth and one convert him:

(Jam 5:20 DRB) He must know that he who causeth a sinner to be converted from the error of his way shall save his soul from death and shall cover a multitude of sins.

Jesus taught of the necessity of keeping the Word and of the consequences of not keeping the Word once received…..

(Joh 8:51 DRB) Amen, amen, I say to you: If any man keep my word, he shall not see death for ever.

(Joh 11:25 DRB) Jesus said to her: I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, although he be dead, shall live:

(Joh 11:26 DRB) And every one that liveth and believeth in me shall not die for ever. Believest thou this?

(Luk 8:13 DRB) Now they upon the rock are they who when they hear receive the word with joy: and these have no roots: for they believe for a while and in time of temptation they fall away.

Now, those teaching the false doctrine of OSAS will defend their views with saying that those who continue in lawlessness never were saved to begin with and it was a false eternal security that they received. The Bible clearly contradicts such a belief because it states that those who fell away were believers……..

(Act 17:11 DRB) Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, who received the word with all eagerness, daily searching the scriptures, whether these things were so.

(Act 17:12 DRB) And many indeed of them believed: and of honourable women that were Gentiles and of men, not a few.

Even St. Paul recognized that the righteous were in danger of falling away when He said:

(1Co 9:27 DRB) But I chastise my body and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.

St. Paul clarified his view and teaching in the following ……

(Phi 2:12 DRB) Wherefore, my dearly beloved, (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but much more now in my absence) with fear and trembling work out your salvation.

Even in the salvation chair passage of John 3:16 and also John 11:25-26 we find that in the Greek that a continuing tense is used in the word believe which clearly shows that we must “continue to believe” and not a one time belief for eternal security.

Here are a few more verses that emphasize our continuing belief and sanctification and warnings that the faithful can and often do fall away…..

(Rev 3:2 DRB) Be watchful and strengthen the things that remain, which are ready to die. For I find not thy works full before my God.

(Rev 2:10 DRB) Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. Behold, the devil will cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried: and you shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death: and I will give thee the crown of life.

(Rev 2:11 DRB) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches: He that shall overcome shall not be hurt by the second death.

(1Jo 5:16 DRB) He that knoweth his brother to sin a sin which is not to death, let him ask: and life shall be given to him who sinneth not to death. There is a sin unto death. For that I say not that any man ask.

Obviously once saved always saved is an untenable theological position.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

What is the difference between sanctifying grace and habitual grace?

CCC2024 Sanctifying grace makes us "pleasing to God." Charisms, special graces of the Holy Spirit, are oriented to sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. God also acts through many actual graces, to be distinguished from habitual grace which is permanent in us.”

The difficulty in understanding the Catechism comes from the Catholic understanding of grace. Even Catholics are not fully in agreement on grace as to its many meanings and applications. Most of the current teaching on grace includes the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine. More modern discussion is theorized by Rahner, von Balthasar and Joseph Ratzinger as to the definition of grace and its application to the faithful. Some even have difficulty separating virtue from grace. It is not possible to get into the varied theories, because of the depth of this subject. Here are some of the things that Catholics do agree on:

1. Grace is a supernatural gift from God that is infused and not imputed as some Protestants teach.

2. Justification is a process not completed until judgment.

3. Sharing in the divine nature involves the indwelling of the Holy Spirit by one having received initial salvation.

4. At the moment of justification we are judged sanctified and entitled to eternal life.

5. Habitual grace is given that one may cooperate with God’s will as guided by the Holy Spirit and is a permanent relationship with the believer continuing until judgment. (If one fails and falls into mortal sin it is habitual grace that draws them back to restoration through repentance.)

6. Even though gifted with habitual grace one may choose not to cooperate with God’s grace and completely fall away from belief becoming estranged from God’s sanctifying grace.

7. The relationship entered into between the believer and God is a covenant relationship where God’s grace continues to effect one’s justification by drawing him to sanctity but that relationship can be irrevocably destroyed by mortal sin on the part of the believer which unless repented of and forgiven will eternally separate him from eternal life and make him worthy instead of eternal damnation.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

How important is being in God's will to salvation?

Living life in God's will is not a game and should not be approached ignorantly nor frivolously. It is being within His will that assures our salvation and not all the legalism one may attach to God's plan.

Many people seem to think that all they have to do is in a moment of emotion and/or reason ascent to recognition of Christ being their savior and their salvation to eternal life is assured. From that point forward it makes no difference that their life is changed and they will live differently. The only thing that has changed is that evil in their lives as displayed outwardly and lived inwardly no longer has an effect on their eternity as their one act of acceptance has made them immune to the actions of their sins at judgment and obligated God to accept them into His presence. Some will go so far as to say that one's sinfulness and evil has nothing to do with the value of their souls before God because even the most evil, sinful soul is covered rather than purified by Christ's atonement. It would appear that these people are saying that Christ's atonement is a method or sinister plan to allow sin in the presence of God draped in a covering of righteousness to conceal the evil within and that salvation is assured regardless of the state of their souls.

The question comes immediately to mind, how one can come to such conclusions considering the context of the body of Scriptures that contradict such a notion. I believe that it all comes down to one verse which is unique in all of Scripture that depicts Christ as a personal savior dependent on one’s inner conviction. All other Scriptures depict only salvation through the Church saying that He died for us, meaning the Church. St. Paul certainly taught this as he practiced seeking salvation through Christ's Church.

Here is the Scripture which through the eisegesis of some causes misunderstanding:

(Gal 2:20 DRB) And I live, now not I: but Christ liveth in me. And that I live now in the flesh: I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and delivered himself for me.

Some take this verse to mean that one need only repent and turn to God with the heart of a little child and their salvation is assured.

(Joh 3:3 DRB) Jesus answered and said to him: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Catholics see salvation quite differently than those who think that covering one’s sins is enough to enter the presence of God. We recognize that Christ has redeemed us on the cross and unlocked the gates of heaven and that redemption is not the same as salvation but instead a prelude to salvation. In order for us to receive salvation we must cooperate by being spiritually alive. Our soul cannot be in a natural state when we die to receive salvation and no covering of its sinfulness will be enough to hide what is beneath, a soul without the sanctifying grace cannot enter heaven. If, at death, the soul is sanctified then there is no doubt of heaven even if that soul needs to go to the purification of purgatory. Only souls that are indeed good and pleasing to God by being full of His sanctifying grace will merit heaven. It is the state of the soul at death that merits heaven and this fact emphasizes why we need God’s ongoing grace in our lives to persevere to the end.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

What can we do about original sin?

It was the first man and woman who brought sin into the world, Adam and Eve. The result of this original sin is that man is no longer immortal in the flesh but only the soul of man is immortal. It is because of this first sin that we may also sin for because of the sin of our original ancestor God’s plan has been circumvented and we no longer have the power over sin within ourselves. Because of this loss we are subject to the temptations of the flesh and have lost the intellectual ability to know God’s will or to receive His grace unless drawn to it by His Spirit.

Scripture is very plain as to the great loss this was to humanity and to God’s design for His creation:

(Psa 51:5 DRB) (51:7) For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me.

(Wis 2:23 DRB) For God created man incorruptible, and to the image of his own likeness he made him.

(Wis 2:24 DRB) But by the envy of the devil, death came into the world:

(Rom 5:12 DRB) Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world and by sin death: and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.

(1Co 15:21 DRB) For by a man came death: and by a man the resurrection of the dead.

(1Co 15:22 DRB) And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.

We also see from St. Paul’s writing that it is through the transgression of Adam that brings us “death through sin”. God also spoke through Isaiah:

(Isa 43:27 DRB) Thy first father sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me.

It is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we are saved through the Sacrament of Baptism from original sin.

(Act 2:37 DRB) Now when they had heard these things, they had compunction in their heart and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles: What shall we do, men and brethren?

(Act 2:38 DRB) But Peter said to them: Do penance: and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins. And you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

(Act 2:39 DRB) For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call.

(Act 2:40 DRB) And with very many other words did he testify and exhort them, saying: Save yourselves from this perverse generation.

(Act 2:41 DRB) They therefore that received his word were baptized: and there were added in that day about three thousand souls.

(1Pe 3:21 DRB) Whereunto baptism, being of the like form, now saveth you also: not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but, the examination of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

How important is apostolic succession as the mark of the true Church?

All authority was given to the apostles from Christ and at least some of that special authority is recorded in Scripture and is certainly attested to by the ante Nicene fathers.

There is no doubt that the apostles knew that their ministry would survive their death as it was needed to be a permanent living presence until the Parousia.

(Mat 28:20 DRB) Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.

Knowing their responsibility in preserving the teaching of Christ they ordained successors giving them the gift of the Spirit with Episcopal consecration:

(Act 1:8 DRB) But you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth.

(Act 2:4 DRB) And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost: and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak.

(Joh 20:22 DRB) When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost.

(Joh 20:23 DRB) Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.

(1Ti 4:14 DRB) Neglect not the grace that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with imposition of the hands of the priesthood.

(2Ti 1:6 DRB) For which cause I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace of God which is in thee by the imposition of my hands.

(2Ti 1:7 DRB) For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power and of love and of sobriety.

There is no doubt that “Apostolic Succession” is a historical fact. Scriptures, as well show clearly that Christ chose these apostles and commissioned them to establish and continue his work with his authority and they ordained successors. It is Apostolic Succession that is the link connecting the Church to Christ. It is the authority from Christ of the Episcopacy that brings so many knowledgeable people to return to the Catholic faith as I am a witness.

We see those who were ordained in apostolic succession fulfilling their ministry:

(Act 20:28 DRB) Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the Church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood.

(1Th 1:1 DRB) Paul and Sylvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians: in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.

(1Th 1:2 DRB) Grace be to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for you all: making a remembrance of you in our prayers without ceasing,

(1Th 1:3 DRB) Being mindful of the work of your faith and labour and charity: and of the enduring of the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ before God and our Father.

(1Th 1:4 DRB) Knowing, brethren, beloved of God, your election:

(1Th 1:5 DRB) For our gospel hath not been unto you in word only, but in power also: and in the Holy Ghost and in much fulness, as you know what manner of men we have been among you for your sakes.

(1Th 1:6 DRB) And you became followers of us and of the Lord: receiving the word in much tribulation, with joy of the Holy Ghost:

(1Th 1:7 DRB) So that you were made a pattern to all that believe in Macedonia and in Achaia.

1Th 1:8 DRB) For from you was spread abroad the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and in Achaia but also in every place: your faith which is towards God, is gone forth, so that we need not to speak any thing.

(1Th 1:9 DRB) For they themselves relate of us, what manner of entering in we had unto you: and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.

(1Th 1:10 DRB) And to wait for his Son from heaven (whom he raised up from the dead), Jesus, who hath delivered us from the wrath to come.

(2Ti 1:6 DRB) For which cause I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace of God which is in thee by the imposition of my hands.

(Tit 1:5 DRB) For this cause I left thee in Crete: that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting and shouldest ordain priests in every city, as I also appointed thee:

(Tit 1:6 DRB) If any be without crime, the husband of one wife. having faithful children, not accused of riot or unruly.

(Tit 1:7 DRB) For a bishop must be without crime, as the steward of God: not proud, not subject to anger, nor given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre:

(Tit 1:8 DRB) But given to hospitality, gentle, sober, just, holy, continent:

(Tit 1:9 DRB) Embracing that faithful word which is according to doctrine, that he may be able to exhort in sound doctrine and to convince the gainsayers.

(1Ti 4:14 DRB) Neglect not the grace that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with imposition of the hands of the priesthood.

(2Ti 1:6 DRB) For which cause I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace of God which is in thee by the imposition of my hands.

St. Paul goes on to instruct St. Timothy as to who is a qualified candidate for ordination:

(1Ti 3:1 DRB) A faithful saying: If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth good work.

(1Ti 3:2 DRB) It behoveth therefore a bishop to be blameless, the husband of one wife, sober, prudent, of good behaviour, chaste, given to hospitality, a teacher,

(1Ti 3:3 DRB) Not given to wine, no striker, but modest, not quarrelsome, not covetous, but

(1Ti 3:4 DRB) One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all chastity.

(1Ti 3:5 DRB) But if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?

(1Ti 3:6 DRB) Not a neophyte: lest, being puffed up with pride, he fall into the judgment of the devil.

(1Ti 3:7 DRB) Moreover, he must have a good testimony of them who are without: lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

(1Ti 5:22 DRB) Impose not hands lightly upon any man, neither be partaker of other men's sins. Keep thyself chaste.

We also find in the Scriptures that those in Apostolic Succession had particular and varied duties:

(1Co 12:27 DRB) Now you are the body of Christ and members of member.

(1Co 12:28 DRB) And God indeed hath set some in the church; first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly doctors: after that miracles: then the graces of healings, helps, governments, kinds of tongues, interpretations of speeches.

(1Co 12:29 DRB) Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all doctors?

(Eph 4:11 DRB) And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors:

(Eph 4:12 DRB) For the perfecting of the saints, for the word of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

We are further reminded of the foundation of the Church:

(Eph 2:19 DRB) Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners: but you are fellow citizens with the saints and the domestics of God,

(Eph 2:20 DRB) Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone:

This is only some of the Scriptures speaking of apostolic succession and the duties, need and authority of the office.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

Has the Church only elected the righteous and worthy as pope?

Catholics see the need for apostolic succession and the example of it in practice with the ordination of St. Matthias to replace Judas as one of the twelve. We know from Scriptures that this practice of ordination was carried on for those who were sent to preach the Gospel and to serve in the leadership of the Church. We know from a historical perspective that this practice was carried on until this day with unbroken succession that has been through the years recorded and protected. Some claim that there has been a loss of succession because of some leaders ordained into apostolic succession were evil men who committed evil after receiving their office or did not serve in righteousness.

It would seem that some are confusing the office of the bishop of Rome with apostolic succession. All bishops are ordained into apostolic succession and ordain priests to share in their authority. The continuation of the succeeding election of popes in the Western Church has nothing to do with apostolic succession. The fact is that for one to be elected as pope need not even be among those who share apostolic succession.

It is important for you to know that the Church does not claim nor has it ever claimed the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit guarantees the election of only righteous and worthy men to the pontificate. The Church does not deny that there have been those who were clearly not worthy of the papal office as even with this office God does not remove the gift of free will and through the seduction of sin some have fallen into sin and adopted the ways of the world. It is through Catholic faith and the teaching of the Church that we know that the Holy Spirit will always be victorious in guiding and supporting the Church through these times of evil and deception to the ultimate spiritual victory in Christ. We are always mindful of Christ’s promise to His Church and are encouraged in our faith that time and time again through history His promise has prevailed against the “gates of hell”.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

Does the Bible support Sunday worship?

One of the things that the Seventh Day Adventists fail to acknowledge is that the practice of worship on the first day of the week is as old as Christianity and was instituted by the Apostles. It is important to recognize that this is eisegesis on their part supporting instead of the Ten Commandments the teaching of their prophetess and founder Ellen Gould White. They would say that this practice, which is as old as Christianity, is a violation of God’s eternal decree. Let us go to Scriptures and see if the evidence is there to support their conclusions.

Let us look at the basis, other than Ms. White’s visions, that SDA’s have this belief and criticism of the orthodox belief in observing the first day of the week instead of the Sabbath. According to Scriptures this is the “perpetual covenant” that was given to man through all ages. Therefore according to history the Jew’s have observed the Sabbath in commemoration of our Lord’s rest after creation. These are the verses in regards to the pre-Christian practice:

(Exo 20:8 DRB) Remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day.

(Exo 20:9 DRB) Six days shalt thou labour, and shalt do all thy works.

(Exo 20:10 DRB) But on the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work on it, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy beast, nor the stranger that is within thy gates.

(Exo 31:16 DRB) Let the children of Israel keep the sabbath, and celebrate it in their generations. It is an everlasting covenant

(Exo 31:17 DRB) Between me and the children of Israel, and a perpetual sign. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and in the seventh he ceased from work.

(Exo 31:18 DRB) And the Lord, when he had ended these words in Mount Sinai, gave to Moses two stone tables of testimony, written with the finger of God.

(Deu 5:12 DRB) Observe the day of the sabbath, to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee.

(Gen 2:1 DRB) So the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the furniture of them.

(Gen 2:2 DRB) And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made: and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done.

(Gen 2:3 DRB) And he blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

(Gen 2:4 DRB) These are the generations of the heaven and the earth, when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the heaven and the earth:

(Gen 2:5 DRB) And every plant of the field before it sprung up in the earth, and every herb of the ground before it grew: for the Lord God had not rained upon the earth; and there was not a man to till the earth.

(Gen 2:6 DRB) But a spring rose out of the earth, watering all the surface of the earth.

(Gen 2:7 DRB) And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul.

(Gen 2:8 DRB) And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning: wherein he placed man whom he had formed.

(Gen 2:9 DRB) And the Lord God brought forth of the ground all manner of trees, fair to behold, and pleasant to eat of: the tree of life also in the midst of paradise: and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

(Gen 2:10 DRB) And a river went out of the place of pleasure to water paradise, which from thence is divided into four heads.

(Gen 2:11 DRB) The name of the one is Phison: that is it which compasseth all the land of Hevilath, where gold groweth.

(Gen 2:12 DRB) And the gold of that land is very good: there is found bdellium, and the onyx stone.

(Gen 2:13 DRB) And the name of the second river is Gehon: the same is it that compasseth all the land of Ethiopia.

(Gen 2:14 DRB) And the name of the third river is Tigris: the same passeth along by the Assyrians. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

(Gen 2:15 DRB) And the Lord God took man, and put him into the paradise of pleasure, to dress it, and to keep it.

(Gen 2:16 DRB) And he commanded him, saying: Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat:

(Gen 2:17 DRB) But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.

(Gen 2:18 DRB) And the Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself.

(Gen 2:19 DRB) And the Lord God having formed out of the ground all the beasts of the earth, and all the fowls of the air, brought them to Adam to see what he would call them: for whatsoever Adam called any living creature the same is its name.

(Gen 2:20 DRB) And Adam called all the beasts by their names, and all the fowls of the air, and all the cattle of the field: but for Adam there was not found a helper like himself.

(Gen 2:21 DRB) Then the Lord God cast a deep sleep upon Adam: and when he was fast asleep, he took one of his ribs, and filled up flesh for it.

(Gen 2:22 DRB) And the Lord God built the rib which he took from Adam into a woman: and brought her to Adam.

(Gen 2:23 DRB) And Adam said: This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.

(Gen 2:24 DRB) Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh.

(Gen 2:25 DRB) And they were both naked: to wit, Adam and his wife: and were not ashamed.

(Gen 3:1 DRB) Now the serpent was more subtle tha any of the beasts of the earth which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman: Why hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise?

There have been those who will say that the Catholic Church abandoned this commandment and practice but such a claim is incorrect. Instead the Church transferred the third commandment to observe the Sabbath to the first day of the week and called it the “Lord’s day” to commemorate the fact that it is through his resurrection that we become a “new creation” as is stated in the following verses:

(Act 20:7 DRB) And on the first day of the week, when we were assembled to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, being to depart on the morrow. And he continued his speech until midnight.

(1Co 16:2 DRB) On the first day of the week, let every one of you put apart with himself, laying up what it shall well please him: that when I come, the collections be not then to be made.

(2Co 5:17 DRB) If then any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away. Behold all things are made new.

(Gal 6:15 DRB) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision: but a new creature.

In about the year 60AD the Didache records and instructs the Christians to gather together on the “Lord’s Day”. Evidence from the Church fathers are in the writings of Justin Martyr around 155 AD to the Roman Emperor that stated that the liturgy of the Eucharist is celebrated on the first day of the week instead of the Sabbath.

There are principally two reasons that the Church transferred the observance of the third commandment to the first day of the week. First of all this is the day that Christ rose from the dead:

(Mat 28:1 DRB) And in the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre.

(Joh 20:1 DRB) And on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalen cometh early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre: and she saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

The second reason is that the Church wanted to make clear their separation from Pharisaical Judaism which included ritualistic animal sacrifices because the ultimate and final sacrifice had occurred to take away the sins of the world. Christ’s sacrifice had replaced the Passover lamb which was slain and eaten as a symbol of sacrifice for sin. In addition we see that Christians also rejected other rituals of the Jews such as the Kosher food laws and dietary restrictions imposed by the law of Moses. Nor does the Christian Church observe Passover or the feast days as the following verses show:

(Joh 1:29 DRB) The next day, John saw Jesus coming to him; and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who taketh away the sin of the world.

(Joh 1:36 DRB) And beholding Jesus walking, he saith: Behold the Lamb of God.

(Deu 12:15 DRB) But if thou desirest to eat, and the eating of flesh delight thee, kill, and eat according to the blessing of the Lord thy God, which he hath given thee, in thy cities: whether it be unclean, that is to say, having blemish or defect: or clean, that is to say, sound and without blemish, such as may be offered, as the roe, and the hart, shalt thou eat it:

(Deu 12:16 DRB) Only the blood thou shalt not eat, but thou shalt pour it out upon the earth as water.

(Deu 12:17 DRB) Thou mayst not eat in thy towns the tithes of thy corn, and thy wine, and thy oil, the firstborn of thy herds and thy cattle, nor any thing that thou vowest, and that thou wilt offer voluntarily, and the firstfruits of thy hands:

(Deu 12:18 DRB) But thou shalt eat them before the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose, thou and thy son and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and maidservant, and the Levite that dwelleth in thy cities: and thou shalt rejoice and be refreshed before the Lord thy God in all things, whereunto thou shalt put thy hand.

(Deu 12:19 DRB) Take heed thou forsake not the Levite all the time that thou livest in the land.

(Deu 12:20 DRB) When the Lord thy God shall have enlarged thy borders, as he hath spoken to thee, and thou wilt eat the flesh that thy soul desireth:

(Deu 12:21 DRB) And if the place which the Lord thy God shall choose, that his name should be there, be far off, thou shalt kill of thy herds and of thy flocks, as I have commanded thee, and shalt eat in thy towns, as it pleaseth thee.

(Deu 12:22 DRB) Even as the roe and the hart is eaten, so shalt thou eat them: both the clean and unclean shall eat of them alike.

(Deu 12:23 DRB) Only beware of this, that thou eat not the blood, for the blood is for the soul: and therefore thou must not eat the soul with the flesh:

(Deu 12:24 DRB) But thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water,

(Deu 12:25 DRB) That it may be well with thee and thy children after thee, when thou shalt do that which is pleasing in the sight of the Lord.

(Deu 12:26 DRB) But the things which thou hast sanctified and vowed to the Lord, thou shalt take, and shalt come to the place which the Lord shall choose:

(Deu 12:27 DRB) And shalt offer thy oblations, the flesh and the blood upon the altar of the Lord thy God: the blood of thy victims thou shalt pour on the altar: and the flesh thou thyself shalt eat.

(Deu 12:28 DRB) Observe and hear all the things that I command thee, that it may be well with thee and thy children after thee for ever, when thou shalt do what is good and pleasing in the sight of the Lord thy God.

(Deu 14:3 DRB) Eat not the things that are unclean.

(Deu 14:4 DRB) These are the beasts that you shall eat, the ox, and the sheep, and the goat,

(Deu 14:5 DRB) The hart and the roe, the buffle, the chamois, the pygarg, the wild goat, the camelopardalus.

(Deu 14:6 DRB) Every beast that divideth the hoof in two parts, and cheweth the cud, you shall eat.

(Deu 14:7 DRB) But of them that chew the cud, but divide not the hoof, you shall not eat, such as the camel, the hare, and the cherogril: because they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof, they shall be unclean to you.

(Deu 14:8 DRB) The swine also, because it divideth the hoof, but cheweth not the cud, shall be unclean, their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch.

(Deu 14:9 DRB) These shall you eat of all that abide in the waters: All that have fins and scales, you shall eat.

(Deu 14:10 DRB) Such as are without fins and scales, you shall not eat, because they are unclean.

(Deu 14:11 DRB) All birds that are clean you shall eat.

(Deu 14:12 DRB) The unclean eat not: to wit, the eagle, and the grype, and the osprey,

(Deu 14:13 DRB) The ringtail, and the vulture, and the kite according to their kind:

(Deu 14:14 DRB) And all of the raven's kind:

(Deu 14:15 DRB) And the ostrich, and the owl, and the larus, and the hawk according to its kind:

(Deu 14:16 DRB) The heron, and the swan, and the stork,

(Deu 14:17 DRB) And the cormorant, the porphirion, and the night crow,

(Deu 14:18 DRB) The bittern, and the charadrion, every one in their kind: the houp also and the bat.

(Deu 14:19 DRB) Every thing that creepeth, and hath little wings, shall be unclean, and shall not be eaten.

(Deu 14:20 DRB) All that is clean, you shall eat.

(Deu 14:21 DRB) But whatsoever is dead of itself, eat not thereof. Give it to the stranger, that is within thy gates, to eat, or sell it to him: because thou art the holy people of the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not boil a kid in the milk of his dam.

(Col 2:16 DRB) Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink or in respect of a festival day or of the new moon or of the sabbaths,

(Col 2:17 DRB) Which are a shadow of things to come: but the body is of Christ.

(Col 2:18 DRB) Let no man seduce you, willing in humility and religion of angels, walking in the things which he hath not seen, in vain puffed up by the sense of his flesh:

(Col 2:19 DRB) And not holding the head, from which the whole body, by joints and bands, being supplied with nourishment and compacted, groweth into the increase of God.

(Col 2:20 DRB) If then you be dead with Christ from the elements of this world, why do you yet decree as though living in the world?

(Col 2:21 DRB) Touch not: taste not: handle not.

(Col 2:22 DRB) Which all are unto destruction by the very use, according to the precepts and doctrines of men.

(Col 2:23 DRB) Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in superstition and humility, and not sparing the body; not in any honour to the filling of the flesh.

This was all done by the earliest Christians to witness to others the true meaning of the Sabbath which came to complete fruition in the New Covenant of Christ, in whom we find true rest.

(Mat 11:28 DRB) Come to me all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.

The Old Covenant Sabbath with its temple ceremonies and animal sacrifices was an imperfect prefiguration of Christ’s perfect fulfillment through His New Covenant. The Old Covenant practices were only a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary. As the Scriptures say once the perfect has come, the imperfect passed away. Just as Baptism replaced circumcision the Church saw the third commandment differently.

(Heb 8:5 DRB) Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things. As it was answered to Moses, when he was to finish the tabernacle: See (saith he) that thou make all things according to the pattern which was shewn thee on the mount.

(Heb 10:1 DRB) For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things, by the selfsame sacrifices which they offer continually every year, can never make the comers thereunto perfect.

The rituals of the Old Covenant are not binding on Christians according to St. Paul and he even rebuked Christians who continued with the Old covenant restrictions and ceremonies. In Christ, the demands and the observance of the Old Covenant demands and obligations of which the Sabbath are a part are no longer binding and have passed away, being replaced by the spiritual observance of the Sabbath of the New Covenant. One other thing, when the rich man asked what he must do to be saved Christ told him several commandments to follow and none were to keep holy the Sabbath.

(Gal 4:9 DRB) But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known by God: how turn you again to the weak and needy elements which you desire to serve again?

(Gal 4:10 DRB) You observe days and months and times, and years.

(Gal 4:11 DRB) I am afraid of you, lest perhaps I have laboured in vain among you.

(Col 2:16 DRB) Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink or in respect of a festival day or of the new moon or of the sabbaths,

(Col 2:17 DRB) Which are a shadow of things to come: but the body is of Christ.

(Mat 19:16 DRB) And behold one came and said to him: Good master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting?

(Mat 19:17 DRB) Who said to him: Why askest thou me concerning good? One is good, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

(Mat 19:18 DRB) He said to him: Which? And Jesus said: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness.

(Mat 19:19 DRB) Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

(Mat 19:20 DRB) The young man saith to him: All these have I kept from my youth, what is yet wanting to me?

(Mat 19:21 DRB) Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

(Mat 19:22 DRB) And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions.

Now, I have been told by our critics that the Catholic Church has no authority to change the third commandment but as I have pointed out Christ gave that authority as well as the teaching authority:

(Mat 18:18 DRB) Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.

(Luk 10:16 DRB) He that heareth you heareth me: and he that despiseth you despiseth me: and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.

(Mat 28:18 DRB) And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.

(Mat 28:19 DRB) Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.

(Mat 28:20 DRB) Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.

Jesus made it very clear that He is the Lord of the Sabbath Day and stated that the day was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, that being true it would logically follow that the Church shares that authority as was said to Peter when He passed the keys:

(Mar 2:28 DRB) Therefore the Son of man is Lord of the sabbath also.

(Luk 6:5 DRB) And he said to them: The Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

(Mar 2:27 DRB) And he said to them: The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.

(Mat 10:40 DRB) He that receiveth you, receiveth me: and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me.

(Mat 16:19 DRB) And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

(Mat 18:18 DRB) Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.

(Mat 18:19 DRB) Again I say to you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning anything whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven.

(Mat 18:20 DRB) For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Thee are other parallels in Church authority other than the observance of the Sabbath from the last until the first day of the week and in all cases it does not represent an abandonment of the law as Church critics would suggest but is rather a fulfillment of the law in a more perfect manner. We must remember what Christ said:

(Mat 5:17 DRB) Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

(Mat 5:18 DRB) For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

Is father an acceptable title for clergy?

From the early Church we find that clergy were addressed as father. There are those with little knowledge of history or hermeneutical discipline such as understanding Scriptures within context, who believe that the Bible prohibits one from calling a priest father. The words they rely on come directly from Christ:

(Mat 23:9 DRB) And call none your father upon earth; for one is your father, who is in heaven.

Keeping the verse in context let us look at the verse preceding this verse:

(Mat 23:8 DRB) But be not you called Rabbi. For one is your master: and all you are brethren.

Rabbi means teacher and the Latin word for teacher is doctor so anyone using these terms as well are violating the literal interpretation of the text.

Let us look at the verse after verse 9:

(Mat 23:10 DRB) Neither be ye called masters: for one is your master, Christ.

There is no way that the interpretation could be correct if one reads and understands the Matthew passage in context. He is clearly teaching that one should not look to any human authority as our teacher, father, master, doctor or other titles of respect but instead give to God those things that are reserved for Him. Do you also refuse to call people doctor, teacher, professor, mister, or master? All of these are forbidden as well if we are to accept a literal understanding.

Context also requires that we investigate what the other Scriptures say as well as the understanding of these words by those who followed Christ. There are many instances where the writers of the New Testament contradict a literal understanding of not calling a man father, teacher or master. Consider the following verses:

(Act 5:34 DRB) But one in the council rising up, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, respected by all the people, commanded the men to be put forth a little while.

(Col 4:1 DRB) Masters, do to your servants that which is just and equal: knowing that you also have a master in heaven.

(2Ti 1:11 DRB) Wherein I am appointed a preacher and an apostle and teacher of the Gentiles.

Let us examine the statements of St. Stephen to see if he understood Christ to be speaking literally….In is soliloquy (Acts Chapter 7) before the Sanhedrin before his stoning to martyrdom he used the term father in referring to Abraham Isaac and Jacob as fathers and also to his Israelite ancestors as fathers.

St. John the beloved disciple also did not understand Christ to be teaching literally as we can see in the following verses:

(1Jn 2:13 DRB) I write unto you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one.

(1Jn 2:14 DRB) I write unto you, babes, because you have known the Father. I write unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.

(1Jn 2:15 DRB) Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him.

(1Jn 2:16 DRB) For all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life, which is not of the Father but is of the world.

St. Paul also had a different understanding of Christ’s words than the literalists:

(1Co 4:14 DRB) I write not these things to confound you: but I admonish you as my dearest children.

(1Co 4:15 DRB) For if you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, by the gospel, I have begotten you.

(1Co 4:16 DRB) Wherefore, I beseech you, be ye followers of me as I also am of Christ.

St. Paul was speaking of the fact that he is called to shepherd the flock as are all priests. We not only give birth to the Christian through Baptism but also nourish the faithful with the Holy Eucharist and God’s Word. We care for them and bind their spiritual wounds through the delivery of the Sacraments. It is no wonder that we are called father as we care for our Church family as a father cares for his own family.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph