Sacraments–the Saving Signs–‘living windows’ to Glory

PRAYER OF CLOSING RITES, 30TH SUNDAY MASS IN ORDINARY TIME (OCT. 27)

PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION
May your Sacraments, O Lord, we pray,
perfect in us what lies within them,
that what we now celebrate in signs
we may one day possess in truth.
Through Christ our Lord.

SENDING PRAYER
Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.
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We prayed today that we let the Presence of Jesus, meeting us here in a special way in Holy Eucharist at Mass, to help us in our ongoing call to become conformed to Him in every way. Faith without works is dead (James 5), so we wish to keep in a Faith that goes to Jesus’ over and over to be our wellspring of salvation (Heb. 5:9-10). Jesus asked us to live in submission to His perfecting our lives (“Be perfect-ed, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”) and to cooperative with the Baptism of New Life He has put into us. As we prayed in the Eucharistic Prayer, “Lord, You are the fountain of holiness, let Your Spirit come…” to bless us.
The prayer near dismissal said:”…perfect in us what lies within (these Sacraments received)… that what we now celebrate in signs
we may one day possess in truth. Through Christ our Lord.” “Amen.”

We have so much left to progress in the faith. It is no time to rest on our laurels. We have areas of life to give to the Lord for His righteousness to live within us; we have parts of our life needing to be shared to the world as the Christ of Living Hope for others to see. We come to Mass for renewal, and then for re-sending us on mission to the world.

The Lord has come in Sign/Sacrament, as known particularly in Baptism and Eucharist and Confirmation (the initiation Sacraments).
He comes to bring eternal life into us and to reach a needy world with His love.

Jesus also is the High Priest of All The Sacraments: He is the Sign/Sacrament of the Most High. In His own perfect life among us, and mediator for our way to Heaven, He has accomplished the work needed for us now to receive and apply for becoming holy.
“and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek” ( Hebrews 5:9-10 )

The Collect Prayer today prays that we can live the three theological virtues, and that especially show to people how we love the Ways of the Lord, and in obeying them, for He loves us so.
====================================================================THE COLLECT PRAYER OF THIS 30TH SUNDAY

COLLECT
Almighty ever-living God,
increase our faith, hope and charity,
and make us love what you command,
so that we may merit what you promise.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Pope Francis said in Rio to the Youth-Young Adult Rally:
“It is your life that Jesus wants to enter with His word, with His presence. Please, let Christ and His word enter your life, blossom and grow. I am sure that you don’t want to be duped by a false freedom, always at the beck and call of momentary fashions and fads. I know that you are aiming high, at long-lasting decisions which will make your lives meaningful. Jesus is capable of letting you do this: He is ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6). Let’s trust in him. Let’s make Him our guide!

Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup! He offers us the possibility of a fulfilled and fruitful life; He also offers us a future with Him, an endless future, eternal life. But He asks us to train, ‘to get in shape’, so that we can face every situation in life undaunted, bearing witness to our faith. How do we get in shape? By talking with Him: by prayer, which is our daily conversation with God, who always listens to us. By the sacraments, which make his life grow within us and conform us to Christ.

By loving one another, learning to listen, to understand, to forgive, to be accepting and to help others, everybody, with no one excluded or ostracized. Dear young people, be true ‘athletes of Christ’!

High Anxiety?! Not!

Philippians 4:6a counsels us: “Have no anxiety at all.” Say, what?! Is that possible? In a world like today, a lot of folks are high strung.
“High Anxiety!” This was a title of a comedic song by Mel Brooks in the 1977 film of the same name. I recall in it that Brooks played Dr. Richard Thorndyke who arrives as new administrator of the Psychoneurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous (!) where he discovers some suspicious goings-on. The film has a all-star cast of comedians.

Here’s how the theme song went:
High Anxiety — whenever you’re near, High Anxiety — it’s you that I fear.
My heart’s afraid to fly, it’s crashed before. But then you take my hand, and my heart starts to soar Once more!
High Anxiety — it’s always the same. High Anxiety — it’s you that I blame.
It’s very clear to me, I’ve got to give in! High Anxiety– (and remember, kids, be good to your folks – they’ve been good to you) You Win!

St. Paul says, instead, to try to never give in to anxiety—to not be its slaves. “Have no anxiety at all.” Do we need to be slaves to anxiety? Not according to St. Paul. He advises how to overcome anxiety, writing in Philippians 4:6b-8, that “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” He continues, “Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:6-8).

From these verses, Paul gives a few steps to overcome anxiety: Pray and give thanks — Whatever you’re anxious about, present it to the Lord, as in other words, stop trying to control it or to figure it out on your own. In quiet prayer, surrender it to Jesus. Do this in an attitude of thanks—as, truly—God is already working on the situation. We need not coax God’s help; we can thank Him of His already working for our good to make all things work out (ref: Romans 8:28). We can be grateful of this to God. He is willing to work with us, and is already started to help us. So, what are we anxious about? Isn’t prayer and thanksgiving being used for the situation?
Receive God’s peace and let it guard your heart — Once we’ve surrendered our anxiety to the Lord and have given thanks to him, then let us receive the Lord’s peace and claim it as the guardian of you heart. Let his peace, not your anxiety, rule your heart. This takes a willing surrender of ourselves. We need to let the Lord’s indwelling show us peace and calm.
Focus your heart and mind on “These things” — God has given us the power to choose our focus. If we’re anxious, then we’re focusing on things that might make us anxious. Instead, ponder truth, honor, justice, purity, loveliness, excellence. If one is focusing on “these things,” anxiety will decrease and peace will increase.
Anxiety is a powerful emotion, but it may rob us of experiencing the peace of God in the present moment. It can take us away from the reality that God has partnered Himself to us in Christ. So, keep a guard on your worries, and “cast your cares upon the Lord, for He does care for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7)

This research done by another; passed on by me.

Apologetics Question L (purgatory?)

ANOTHER APOLOGETICS QUESTION:

DO YOU KNOW HOW TO ANSWER THIS ONE?

Is there a purgatory? I don’t believe so. I am going straight to Heaven in Jesus’ Name.”

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Answer——–
I was told that PUGATORY was an exit off the Garden State Parkway, so you might ask a Jersey person about its existence there–HEY, just joking!

Purgatory is more of a process than a place.

Purgatory is a belief of some value for Christian life. It encourages the pursuit of holiness, rather than giving opportunity for the believer to expect all reward from God without our own responsibility to walk in faith. The Beatitudes open the whole Sermon on the Mount by providing what the Lord’s disciple should do, so that the kingdom of heaven might be theirs, that “their reward be great in heaven.” So while the Bible does not mention the exact word of “purgatory,” it mentions in many places the difference it will make for the believer to pursue holiness and be in strong practice of faith. Those who are poor in spirit, who care and mourn and comfort others, those who are peace-making, those who really hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are willing to be persecuted for the sake of Jesus’ Name— (examples of the Beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5) theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Some still will claim that since “purgatory” does not exist as a word in Scripture, it is wrong to believe in it. This is a failure to understand Scripture. After all, we shall see the Trinity when we reach Heaven, and the word “Trinity” also is not a word in the Bible.

People are surprised to learn how the faithful Jews awaiting the Messiah in the two centuries before Christ had a sense of purgatory. As they began to believe in the resurrection (that is, except for the Sadduccee party of Jews), they now were willing to die in martyrdom for the faith (ex. the Hannakkuh story, the Masada story, the capture of Jerusalem story). They saw that heroic faith is rewarded, while timid or tepid actions will face a judgment from God, even while the Jew still was promised the afterlife.

Let’s use an Old Testament Bible verse to examine this.
In 2 Maccabees 12:46, it says: “Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from sin.” Here the Jew is praying for a person who died with unfinished business with God, with fears still in them, with reluctant faith. These people would need prayers, so the brave Jewish persons living the faith on earth could send them intercessions.
That was revolutionary for the Hebrew faith.

The Old Testament shows a progress in the Jewish faith/revelation. Here in the Maccabbean period they turned the corner to finally accept resurrection from the dead and a life hereafter, helping them become reading for what the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, would come to teach and preach. Jesus taught the Resurrection. Jesus taught the pursuit of holiness (e.g. “be perfect(ed), as your Heavenly Father is perfect” from the same Sermon on the Mount).
Jesus not only taught sacrifice (“take up your cross and follow Me”) but He also became The Sacrifice, to make all sacrifices worthwhile for humanity.

Yet even in the end of the Old Testament revelation, this was the Word for Heaven. Suffering love is involved in salvation. It brings a great blessing. God inspires such living from His own.

In Chapter 12 of Second Maccabees we read Scriptural proof for Purgatory and evidence that the Jews had sacrifices offered for those of their brothers who had lost their lives in battle. That the Jews prayed for the dead shows that they believed in a place where they could be helped (which we now call purgatory) and that the prayers of their living brothers and sisters could help them in that place. This is closely related to the Catholic doctrine of the communion of saints.

Of course, if a person will be brought into Heaven right away, as God did for poor Lazarus (Parable of the Rich Man), introducing him right away to great comfort “in the bosom of Abraham,” well, good for that person. Lazarus had suffered so much on earth that one can see the purifation process had been already at work, as the poor man had trust in God.

As for us, we don’t get to tell God whether we need purification or not, or whether we go straight to Heaven. We may need a lot of washing of our unrepentance or uncooperative spirit. I know a lot of Christians who have a higher opinion of themselves than they ought to have, the sins they are overlooking are pretty obvious ones to others’ view of them.

1 Cor3:10-15 shows us how our lives are indeed a work in progress.
“Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble— each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

Yes, it is nice to know the above person will be saved into Heaven, and indeed in Jesus’ Name and Power, but some work sounds like it needs to be burned up and lost to him, as a temporal passion of the flesh, but not of God and the eternal.

Now the verse in 1st Cor. 3 is not establishing a place called Purgatory, but it is to mean that we can be motivated to keep growing in Christ and obeying Him and serving Him and being conformed to Him, because there WILL be reward for such a work of faith! Of course so. We know that our dark works and rebellion to Christ in areas of sin will be tested in fire. Only that which is in Christ will last. We know that. So, what if we are carrying a lot of carnal living in our walk (1 Cor. 1-4), it will have to be changed and cleansed, noone is getting into Heaven without the right clothes on! Remember Jesus and His parable about a person at the wedding feast without the proper garment on?
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There are no t-shirts on at this wedding feast!
Look at that amazing dress that the bride of the Lord has on!
Like the righteous deeds of the saints. Revelations 19:8

Well, God has a testing and purifying work to be done on us, as I know that every Christian, upon their death, still has work to be done in making them completely holy. (Mary gets an exception.) Purgation, or the purifying work of God to get us fit for Heaven, is what we Catholics are talking about. It will make a difference if people chose to be very holy or barely holy in their lives. Some will arrive to God very conformed to Christ, while others will be a little recognizable to Christ, but with some perfection needed in areas where they were disobedient or disinterested in God.

THERE IT IS ——- SOME EXAMPLES OF CHALLENGING QUESTIONS TO THE FAITH— THEY ARE JUST A TINY FEW OUT OF THE WORLD OF APOLOGETICS.

DO YOU HAVE ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS OUT THERE THAT PEOPLE ARE POSING? WHAT IF KNOWING AND GIVING AN ANSWER IN TRUTH COULD HELP BRING A PERSON TO SALVATION IN CHRIST?! WOULD IT BE WORTHWHILE TO KNOW SOME APOLOGETICS?

After all the serious Spiritual blogs, a Joke Page by me

You can tell that fall is here. The leaves are changing faster* than the quarterbacks for the Cleveland Browns.
*falling faster?

This football season seems to have many stories about the Washington Redskins being told to change their name, as it “offends” some people. So Daniel Snyder has taken it seriously under consideration, saying: ‘Well, we could call them the Maryland Redskins if “Washington” bothers so many. After all, we actually play in Maryland…’

The Redskins are losing more games than most expected this year, as too many local fans had far too high expectations for them, so I think there is a great replacement name for them: The Tailspins.

President Obama has even weighed in, on the ‘offensive team name’ issue, saying he thinks the Washington Redskins should change their name. That has caused the Washington Wizards NBA basketball team to be worried that the president might publicly recommend to them that they change their sport. 🙂 (They had a poor record last year, not playing basketball too well…. the Wizards used to be the Washington Bullets, but went non-offensive a few years ago from the “Bullets”—to a name that I thought had some real controversy if misunderstood in Washington neighborhoods: Wizards? Was that so politically correct in Washington?! Oh, they meant Magicians of Basketball wizards. Ok! I get it.)

It’s World Series time. To get to the Red Sox’ Fenway Park in Boston, Washington fans who are considering the trip up, they are being told that they should take the fast Acela trains of the Northeast Amtrak lines. Amtrak says: “Like the Red Sox pitches of Jon Lester, the train up to Boston from D.C. should average about 95 m.p.h. We’ll get you there quick.” Trouble is, some fans are concerned that, like Lester’s pitches, they may come into Boston so quickly, and get hit out of the park back to D.C. for a home run as fast! Like some Jon Lester 95 mph throws.”

Things people did during the Government Shut-Down: 1. Learn how to use their smart phone or ipad for the first time. 2. Get around to reading Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” 3. Watch TV and see all the rerun episodes of Mad Men. 4. Go to the beach in its off-season and metal detector sweep for coins or lost items each day. 5. Clean out their very messy garage . (“I forgot I had a working car in there,” said some guy. “it was surrouded in clutter, then after some cleaning, I found it.”) 6. Watch CNN all day for breaking news for the shutdown’s end 7. Call the 700 Club Dial a Prayer for daily help 8. Paint the inside of the house (even though it was done as late as last year).

I still get the newspaper delivered and read it. Yet circulation of newspapers has fallen to all-time lows. They say newspapers are becoming obsolete. I’ll tell you how bad it’s getting: I visited that someone’s house, who was painting their living room, and they had ipads and notebooks all spread across the carpet to catch any falling paint.

Under a law that dates back to the 1960s, the Amish are exempt from most federal safety-net programs, and that includes Obamacare. Amish communities actually insure themselves, which is good, because I really depend on them to make my gooseberry jam.

How many priests does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: None, for at least 5 years, for we now have the energy, efficient CFL 30,00-hours bulbs at our parishes!
Tungsten Filament popping–out; Fluorescence and couch sitting—in.

“Keeping Up With the Kardashians” has been on tv for eight seasons or so. Somehow it has brought in many viewers. We Catholics are finally learning. EWTN has a new show coming out called “Keeping Up with the Katholics.”

Happily, the new pope seems to getting serious air-time and popular coverage by the media. With his engaging ways, I guess we Catholics are “pope-u-lar” again right now!

The Vatican announced that an approved miracle (and many prayer intercessions) has given past pope John Paul II the path for sainthood in April; whereupon New Orleans Saints Catholic quarterback Drew Brees says that ‘maybe many Hail Mary passes and a miracle catch or two can land his team in January’s Super Bowl. It can be a really great year for the Saints, ‘eh?!’

The elevation of Blessed John Paul II to sainthood in April was happy news for a local sign-maker. In DC, for instance, near Catholic University, new signs will be needed for the Blessed John Paul II Center, the Blessed John Paul II Seminary, and the Blessed John Paul II Family Studies Institute. The signmaker said:”Upon getting the new sign contract, I must say that this is a blessed, er, saintly day for me!”

A Catholic said to me, “Although I attend another parish, you should know that I have come over here and listened to your homilies on and off.” I said, “How do you like them?” She said: “Off.”

A cardinal made a comment at the Vatican that Jesus was the first person to tweet. The cardinal said that like Twitter messages, Jesus’ messages were brief and full of meaning. Brief I get, but when has there been a Twitter message full of meaning?
The cardinal believes Jesus used tweets before everyone else, with simple phrases made up of fewer than 45 characters like “Love one another.” Yet he had only 12 followers at first. Yet it all caught on. He has millions upon millions now.

The CDC says its graphic anti-smoking TV ads have helped over 200,000 people to quit. Not quit smoking, quit watching television.

The fact of the matter is that we are not getting smarter. Our phones are getting smarter. They do everything for us, which we used to do. I say: “Call home.” And it does it for me. I don’t even press any numbers now. I don’t even know my home phone number anymore. My cell phone deals with knowing that. Phones in the old days were very dumb. What could they do but ring?! Now, we are the dumb ones, I guess. We just need to keep the smart phones charged. That’s all we need to know anymore.

So the Red Sox are in the World Series… Singer Neil Diamond, now 97 9?), is ecstatic. He probably will be asked to sing “live” in at least four games for the ‘Sawks’ home games, for good luck. Sweet Caroline, never seemed so good, so good, so good, so good. (Hint: They play that song at every home game at Fenway.)
Who will throw out the first pitch at the game tonight? Babe Ruth says he’s unavailable. (Did you know that he won 2 games as a pitcher for the 1918 Boston Red Sox? You can look it up!)

NASA was sending chocolate to astronauts on the International Space Station, did you hear that? I guess it makes sense — I mean, it’s not like those guys have to watch their weight. “Nope, zero gravity, still zero pounds.”

There’s a new movie out called “Gravity” played by George Clooney and some cute actress who are marooned out in orbit. I don’t know what the film is about, but I can guess how it ends: George Clooney dumps her to go find a new girlfriend.

I am told that dark chocolate is ok for a person’s health, but not other kinds. So what I do now is eat all my chocolate in the dark.

With that—- I take my bag of Hershey’s Kisses with Almonds onto my dark porch for snacktime. (This was supposed to be some kids Halloween candy, but tough luck, I am hungry.)

Apologetics Question K (A Master’s “Church” Plan?)

“You are telling me that Christ Jesus had a Plan all along for a Church? And, that Catholics say that they are that same Church today?”

ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF A CASE TO PRESENT A CATHOLIC ANSWER TO——-
You are telling me that Christ’ had a plan for “the Church?”

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Answer——-
Yes. We believe it. Jesus left behind His ministry- Rom13:1-4.

All of the apostles were Bishops of The Church 1Tim3; Ti 1:7; 1Pt2:25; Phil1:1; 1Tim5:17; Heb13:17; Jn15:16; and Acts20:28.

The NT was written by Bishops of “The Church”, and their successors, as they put together an authentic account of Christ Jesus’ life. They were inspired to do so by God.

Jesus imparted on these apostles His Authority. In Matthew 10:1, it says: “Jesus gathered his twelve disciples and gave them authority (exousian | ἐξουσίαν | acc sg fem) over unclean spirits so that they could drive them out and heal every kind of disease and sickness.” Or in 2 Corinthians 10.8, St. Paul says “For even if I boast about it, and more than that, about the authority (exousias | ἐξουσίας | gen sg fem) which the Lord gave us for building you up and not for tearing you down, I will not be ashamed.”
This power Jesus gave to apostles for the going forth versus darkness, as Luke 9:1-2 says that “One day Jesus called together his twelve apostles and gave them power and authority (exousia) to cast out demons and to heal all diseases. Then he sent them out to announce the coming of the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (The “exousia” Jesus confers on his apostles is the same “exousia” His heavenly Father conferred on Him: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” says John, 20: 21. As well does Matthew’s gospel end with the power commission: “Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given complete authority (exousia) in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’.”

No new-fangled, self-appointed assembly today is “The Church”, rather, offshoots of The one and only Church.

Jesus did appoint a church in the start.
The NT “came from” The Church. The Church also compiled, finalized and ratified The Bible and named the Bible “The Bible”. This was in 397AD. What was going on for the first 400 yrs with no Bible? The Church helped spread the Word. The Bible was getting out orally to others. We are the ones holding Jesus message, even better than Bibles. As Scripture itself says of Christian humankind; ” But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God, and not of us.” 2 Cor. 4:7

Apologetics Question J (Why priests? Why just not go only to God?)

ANOTHER APOLOGETICS CHALLENGE. HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER?

How can priests hear Confessions? I thought only God forgives man?

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Right, God alone forgives sins. Jesus stood on the earth and claimed that authority, and so many religious people stood against Him and belittled Him and wanted to stone Him. Yet Jesus did have the authority, these Pharisees were just missing everything that was happening directly in their presence.

Jesus stands among us today and wants to deliver people from their sins. He uses His Church to bring people to this healing. (Much like the four persons who carried the paralytic in, who would be forgiven.) Jesus showed that He wanted apostles and disciples to assist Him in His Mission. He would not give away the Divine right to forgive sins, but He did tell some apostles that they could absolve in His Name and work power in His Name. Jesus was the Power, but they could be the agent or vehicle. Jesus told His apostles: “whose sins you forgive will be forgiven. Whose sins you retain will be RETAINED” Jn20:23. How do you forgive or retain a sin? Paul, a Bishop explained, “The words of RECONCILIATION have been given to ‘US’..” 2Cor5:18-20. Who is “us”? Himself and the other apostles as well as the ministers whom they ordained. These are the “words” of absolution. The priest today, in this Catholic tradition, does not say “I forgive you”, but rather says, “I absolve you.” As St. Paul described, “we are acting as ambassadors of reconciliation.” Priests represent the power, but the Power shared is of Christ. We are binding and loosing the sin.

Jesus is doing the forgiving. He has given His ministers the ability to bind & loose the sins. Jn20:23 What a gift Jesus gave for the Church to deal with her sins! Christians still sin, but how are they to live with that sin, or deal with it, or get out of its clutches? He gave a way. So few use it! Shame on them. Christ the Reconciler is moving among us, in His established Church. Who wants to repent and have a healing?!

The prophets moved among Israel and Judah, preaching a message of repentance and their urgent need to act humbly before God. The downfall of both halfs of the Holy Land was in their not willing to repent and turn from their sins.
2 Chronicles 7:14 might be one of the more remembered appeals:
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Could God be saying the same to His Catholics, “If my people, which are called by my name…. and heal them,” ?

Apologetics Question I (A Church without a Bible in the people’s hands?! Mustn’t it be a Bible-centered Church?)

“Wait a minute, are Catholics saying they lived without the Bible and claim they began a Church without it?! But the Bible says that–”
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Answer—-
Jesus said: ” Noone can come to the Father but by Me.”*

Salvation is in Jesus, not the Bible.
It’s an important distinction.

Just as Christianity doesn’t save; only Christ Jesus does.

So who Catholics are longing for is the experience of Jesus, the One Who Saves. As we have the Bible, and as we have Christianity, these are the means to Jesus.
The bible verse of John 14:6* was important for the Church to pass on. The Church herself has been the instrument for salvation, and the gathered people assembled for Sacraments and for Community and Service. Yet Jesus is the experience of God.

We read the Bible to be with the Lord. We go to Mass and Holy Communion to be with the Lord as the Blessed Eucharist-Bread. We receive Him; His life in us in Word and Sacrament brings us holiness. Life with God is holy.

Jesus was communicated in the early Church in a Word that was shared in the Church (not a Bible to read). The apostles said “Something which is known which we carefully watched, this is
Who we proclaim to you.” As Paul explained in his visit to Athens, he was preaching about meeting God, Who was unknown, but now to be known in Jesus, the Risen Lord. In Acts 17:23>31 “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for `In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your poets have said, `For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.”

This is the Story of an Apostle Looking to Establish A Church. While he succeeded not in Athens, the Greeks did accept Christ Alive in Thessalonika and Corinth. My point is–it was Jesus in the Word and Sacrament going forth in His Church that established His believing people on earth. Experiencing Jesus was the key. In this case in Greece, Paul was the witness. He was the apostle bringing the true Gospel, as empowered by Jesus. He was bringing the word of faith, the Good News, and the liturgy, and prayers, and early traditions of the Faith to the Greek people. He had no Bible in his hands, nor bibles to pass out to people.

The Bible wasn’t written down until many years after Jesus left the earth in The Ascension. Jesus ascended in c. 33-34AD. The 1st gospels, in book form, did not come for years after that. It was an oral bible and a LIVED PRACTICE of the followers of Christ in the Church’s start. We call that Catholic Tradition. This way of being a Christian is still half of our equation. We are a baptized people for Christ. As in the beginning, we still have the tradition of breaking bread (Eucharist) and of sharing all things (community)—and for reaching out to the poor and doing other works of mercy that Christ taught us to do. We are being Church (or being the people of God).

From Pentecost on, we were a people forming in a new kingdom on earth, the Kingdom of God. It included Tradition and Word. In the communication of the Word in the Church, it was the early Church’s practice for gathering– and someone with authority and identity to Jesus’ Apostles would offer the Teachings of Christ to be heard by all. They were not reading from a text. They were passing on the message faithfully by mouth.

You were relying ON a church, not a book then. Yet all the stories of the Church gathered in prayer were about Jesus and what He imparted to them. The Church began living in the power of Jesus and His Spirit.

According to Fundamentalist Christianity today, they act like all that really wasn’t “church” then, since we didn’t have the bible in the middle of it all. Well, we did have the Word, but it first was in the Alive Person giving life to the church, Jesus Christ, The middle of it all was Jesus (not a paper book). Jesus remains our “Living Word.” Later in history comes the Holy Book. The first apostles and evangelists and leaders would have had some very valuable scrolls and various letters to use, so to know the Good News, yet the valued witness to the Word was the orthodox leader of God, the successor to the apostle (after the first ones went Home).

Yet the Scriptures were very important to the Church, that is why she labored so hard to get them into written form. This was of great strategic imporance as the Church progressed and the original eyewitnesses/storytellers of faith were dying off. Disciples of the apostles took this task as quite serious of faithful transmission of the Word.
So I am not saying we are saved without the Bible, but I am saying that in God’s Word we are saved. It is why the Church made it a priority to take her lived Word and get down in writing what she was sharing that was bringing people into new life in Christ.

Eventually, the church at Antioch (where they first were called Christians) was established by the early to mid 40s AD with Bishop, priests, and deacons. (1Tim3; Phil1:1; 1Pt2:5, 9). It was with such persons that the collections of Jesus’ words and teachings and all the apostles’ teachings and practices were agreed upon for belief, as a Church decided on it. They would have to eventually decide on what the books of inspiration would be to follow, and so came the first official Bible. It was agreed upon and confirmed by the Church (much later on) in special councils of its apostles. Eventually the growing Christian church had one agreed Bible, both with accounts of the New Covenant, and with an agreed Old Testament collection to make for a 73 book Bible.

Eventually, a saint named Jerome helped translate the Bible into the Latin language for worldwide distribution and understanding. The Church’s leadership took upon herself to help promote the Word and help in its proper understanding. The Church claims that it was under the Inspiration of the Lord Himself that this work of compiling the Sacred Scriptures was done. As God had assisted Israel in her Sacred Word, now He had helped the Church to have her Sacred Text. This was called a work of Inspiration.
They were a Church with a Bible, as well as community and care for the poor and much more.

It is under the Inspiration of the Lord Himself that we have the Bible. It came from the real Church that He started. It was the valued collections of faith accounts and stories and letters of the Lord Himself and the Apostles. This testimony, first told in oral form, then went to written form, and it is very reliable.

Last weekend the Church proclaimed the message of 1st Timothy chapter 3 which is the explanation on Bible inspiration. It is an important teaching on how the God’s Word, then “the Bible” has been valued from the start, and how the Church had to use the Word correctly. They didn’t want abuse of Jesus’ teachings and of the other Scriptures.

As for the earlier question then, how then could there be a church without a Bible? Well, she had Christ the Living Word and Living Bread. She had the Holy Spirit. She had a relationship going on with God that was understood to be the True God’s saving love with His people, as broken through to us by One Lord Jesus Christ. The Church came together to tell The Story— really HIS Story of Love from Heaven. Today a Catholic hymn is sung saying that same truth: “We come to tell our story, we come to break the Bread, we come to know our rising from the dead.” Hawaiian Hymn

This whole process of going from a persecuted Church without a written Bible canon on scrolls was our history until the end of the Roman Empire era. After the Peace of Constantine, Christianity wa allowed to exist openly in many places it had been persecuted. The formation of the Canon/The Bible’s books was in motion now. Up to then, it was a shared faith, not a Bible book reading Christianity. And, few could read through that early period of history in the Church. It was not like today where people have more access to the Bible, even on phone apps now. There was little “written” down , NT-wise in the start of the Church.
See Jesus’ words in Mt16:17-19. Paul’s words in 2Cor10:8; 2Thes2:15; 1Tim3:15.

Christ began His authoritative “Church” and it was then the apostles’ role to oversee the authoritative word on knowing Jesus,and eventually seeing the putting of the Bible together.

Nowadays, we encourage Bible reading, and ask for persons to use the Church for interpretation or confirmation of what God is saying through the Bible. It is our shared tool for knowing Him.

Fundamentalists and Catholics can find some common ground in this area of the Bible.
We Catholics do like the fundamentalist’s basic idea of Christianity that it is all about accepting Jesus. That would totally agree with our Saints, such as Patrick or Augustine or Frances de Sales. We all need to stop at the Cross.
We also think that Bible reading and praying is a daily blessing that a Christian should have, whether Catholic, Fundamentalist or whatever type.
We think that the fundamentalists see the problem of divisive intrpretation of the Sacred Scriptures. They would appreciate how Catholics have an authority and a final say on how the Church member is to understand a bible verse or chapter (or especially how not to terribly misinterpret a verse or chapter). Leaving the Bible’s message for any personal interpretation whatsoever is a sure recipe for divided believers.

Apologetics Question H (A Catholic understanding of Scripture and how we apply it to our faith journey Home)

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“How does a Catholic understanding of Scripture differ from a Fundamentalist understanding of it? I am fundamentalist, I am told, and I am taught that Catholics don’t put the Bible first.”

Answer to the question—
Fundamentalism in Christianity is somewhat new, but it mostly is a bible alone view of salvation. To sum it up: The words in the Bible from Jesus Himself save you. You must read and consent to them for an immediate “got saved” experience.
This trend or track in Christianity doesn’t put much trust in any organized Christian religion, or in the leadership of people in a church. Only the Bible is to be trusted. The main tasks of the church in fundamentalist circles is just to have the preacher or Bible study leader help a person to a sinner’s prayer to accept Jesus as their personal Savior.

Things like Church history, Sacred Liturgy, and Social Justice are not so importance with a Fundamentalist. Only the Bible is fundamental in living Jesus.

The problem or difference that Catholics have is that the Church or Christianity did not start from a bunch of people walking around with Bibles and getting saved. The message of salvation was passed on from people to people (not by pages or papyri) and the lived experience of Christianity in community and with love and works of mercy and mutual respect was the early story of Christianity. We were not a Bible alone people. Christian life was the focus. Jesus was a Person Who we declared and share as the Living Savior. He was Lord of the Church, not just Lord as proclaimed in our Holy Book. Fundamentalists see it quite differently. It is almost an escape plan of salvation for them; it is a new life to be put into practice on earth for us. Kingdom life starts here on Earth, and the Church is an embodiment of the Lord. That’s a Catholic perspective. Fundamentalists gaze to Heaven’s first moment being as away from earth, and hopes for Jesus’ Return can’t be asked for too soon.

This is a simplication, but Catholicism has a lived view of Scripture, as people have had 20 centuries of Church History and a whole worldwide experience of which to invite the Lord into our hearts and minds and actions. Catholicism is equally interested in the start of a person’s life of faith, but then it also has much interest in promoting one’s Christian faith into aspects of life such as in work, education, service, works of love and mercy, and so much more. It is to be wedded to science as its complimentary partner; the Word is to inspire the love of a husband and wife to share intimately and grow a family and a home for God with them. We Catholics are to infiltrate all of society with the Kingdom Come message. We are not only living for Heaven or an immanent rapture away from the world, but we are to practice faith, hope, and love on this world and in it. Man is not basically evil, so we read and apply Scripture in that way. Our judgment is based on one’s whole life lived, not on whether in one sinner’s prayer we tell to God will turn us into a Christian all fit for heaven. Our salvation is about a heart open to God, and a daily life open to God. We seek holiness in this earthly life. We see that it is done in works of cooperation with God. St. James wrote that “faith without works is dead.” That verse, and such ones in Matthew 25 of how we treat others in love will determine our judgment, it affects our reading of the Word. We think of St. Paul, who after such an amazing life of serving God, still says: “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling… Run the race to the finish life, being totally poured out to God like a libation.”

Fundamentalists seems to steer away from all these verses; they are more apt to take John 3:16 and apply that the line “whosoever believes will be saved” to mean that their agreement to be a believer settles their eternal life forever. Or the verse near it when Jesus says “you must be born again”–fundamentalists see that as a one-time moment to get saved. As long as you do it, your “in” with God. Catholics see that it is Jesus saying that our open surrender to Him will help us “become” Christians, being born-again onto the new existence of a cooperator with God, with whom all things are possible. Jesus lives within us, and He indeed saves us by that indwelling too, yet the one prayed prayer alone is not the focus, but rather it will be the life that will be open to Jesus all along, willing to grow so much further in God’s life. We Catholics are urged to become saints or saintly. We grow in sanctification. We are pilgrims heading on to get Home much like the journeying Exodus people of Jewish Scripture, needing faith and movement to our destiny of the New Jerusalem.

So, let us get past the misconception that the first Christians were walking around with Bibles in their hands to have a Bible alone salvation. Nor that this easy salvation approach was Christianity through the ages. It was not.

A Bible alone salvation is not traditional, historical Christianity. It is somewhat of a faith short-cut not to be encouraged to be taken. It may be too light or shallow to be transformative in Christ. In His famous parable, Jesus speaks of four soils that we can get planted in. Three are not any good.
We think that the Church He inaugurated has learned what soil will receive the Seed of Christ. Jesus actually promised the Church that He would help her have the good soil, with promise of the Holy Spirit for the Church to be the embodiment of Christ to the earth, of “Him living in us, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

Today, a Fundamentalist doesn’t ask: What does the Church teach, and what does the Bible say? They just say: skip the Church, what does the Bible say?
AS IF “it” was the formula for Christianity all along. As IF people just turned to the Bible for direction, found an interpretation and direction from God that they liked, and went on the way. But it’s just not the case.
The people of God followed a Church from the start. From the Church came forth the Scriptures and how to live by them. All the Church had in its early ages was the oral teachings of the apostles and key disciples, so to follow Jesus’ Way, and they had the assembly of the Church to pray and serve one another and care for the poor, and spread the Good News and win new believers.
We have been a people that are on encounter with God. He is the Word; He also is Love. He is God asking us to be children and call Him “Abba.” He wants a child-like trust from us to learn how to truly be human. There are many lessons in being human that are in the Christian faith. Jesus was God living in the human life. Now Jesus wants to live in the world through the human vessel who is you and me. Together we share Christ’ being lived in Humanity in a people: “Christ’ Body, the Church” as Corinthians put it.

Apologetics Question G (When was the Bible written? How ‘reliable’ is it?)

Our next blog with an apologetics kind of question… How would you answer it?

When was the Bible written down, and is it reliable?
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Answer——–
The Old Testament (OT) was written over a long period from Moses’ time up to the Wisdom book writers into the last century before Christ came. A council at Jamnia (about 30 years after Christ’ death) pretty much help to establish the list of OT books that we have. It was a Jewish approved list that we adopted. These OT books were not translated from Hebrew to Latin fully until St. Jerome did it, in the 3rd century of Christianity. Yet the Jewish scrolls/papyri were in circulation still back then in the 1st-3rd centuries. Historically, the first books of Scripture were the 5 books of Moses, the Torah, from Genesis through Deuteronomy. The final OT books were the Greek-written Hebrew books (e.g. Wisdom, Sirach, 1,2 Maccabees) making the list of the OT as 46 books. The Law and the Prophets (and the Writings) were how the OT was put into categories. The Law as the first half, from Patriarchs to Judges and Kings leading the Chosen People Israel. The Prophets as the second half, from after the split of the kingdom to Israel/Judah and its various prophetic figures to re-direct the Chosen People back to God. (The 3rd optional category of Writings defines the books of writings, like Poem-songs like the Psalms or Esther/Judith stories, or wisdom literature like Proverbs, Job or Song of Songs.) Jesus spoke mainly of the Law and the Prophets.

Later, Reformation Protestants took out all the Greek books from the Bible, making their Bible OT as 39 books. It eliminated a lot of wisdom literature and faith stories of the exile/post-exile time of the Chosen People.

Catholics still have kept the Old Testament (Hebrew Testament, as we call it now) as a number of 46 books. More non-Catholic Bibles are adding in the Greek books now into their Bibles, calling it the “Apocrypha.”

The New Testament was in an oral form in the years and decades after the Church was started at Pentecost. It was put into writing within a timespan between 50 AD and 100 AD. The Gospels are the key works of the NT. All know John’s gospel was the last one done (approx. 90ad); the other three of Luke, Mark and Matthew were compiled earlier with comparable stories, just in different perspectives. John’s is a theological work about the Church being underway awhile and understanding her Savior and Lord, interpreting Jesus’ message for Christian living ahead. After the Gospels, there was Luke’s continuing story of the Church underway, his Acts of the Apostles, then comes the unknown authored Hebrews, then mostly letter works by Paul and John, and also epistles like from James and Peter, and Apocalypse to end the 27 books, and it seems to have been written last, under a period of much Church persecution. 1st Thess was the first epistle, but Matthew or Mark’s gospel was the first written NT book.

The writing of the books were in an authorative name, though disciples working with the apostles could have been involved in the composition into written form. Then the NT Scriptures went through another phase called the redaction process.

The Canon (or what is called the official list of the Bible) was not determined until the Church came through the persecution of the Roman Empire. The first person known with certainty to apply the term canon to the Sacred Scriptures was St. Athanasius, about 350A.D. Then St. Jerome helped put the Bible Canon all in Latin, in a work called the Vulgate Bible. He had to translate from Greek and Hebrew; Jesus spoke Aramaic tongue in the verbal Good News He gave. Official Church councils determined the Bible for good. The Council of Carthage (397) was the first Council to publish a list of all the inspired books of the Bible. The Council of Florence repeated the canon of the Bible, and it was restated much later in time at the Council of Trent.

All of this process of preserving Jesus’ message and ministry remembrance, and the apostles teachings, was done by the first Church. Peter was its head; Paul was their man on the Gentile Mission front. Mark helped write a gospel in the influence of Peter, and of partly Paul’s influence. Matthew wrote the Jewish gospel. Luke wrote the Gentile Gospel, with some influence from Mary, we think. John the apostle was the other key apostle in the Word getting written and getting out. He wrote independently; and as the last apostle eyewitness, the NT closes with his passing. Nothing is to be added on afterwards.

Later, as the Church kept growing and maturing, she still maintained the serious ministry of preserving and proclaiming the Sacred Scriptures. Her exercise of this ministry has led to much reliability of the Scriptures. She had many scribes to pain-stakingly write the texts down exactly, with Church authority closes watching over the process to be faithful and exact. Some Scripture makers added caligraphy and illustrations to the Bible, as one Book Of Kells (on display famously in an Ireland museum) has lasted 17 centuries, of a faithful rendering of the Scriptures.

Another verification of the reliability of the Bible today has been found in archealogical works, which find old manuscripts and parchments of Bibles of long ago times, and they compare with what we have as our passed on Bible of today. So, it hasn’t been messed with. It has been put into several approved versions of language and translation style, but it is the same Holy Word and message.
The Good News remains, truly, the Good News.

The Catholic Church affirms that all texts of the Bible are divinely inspired and teach “solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.” (Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 11)

The NT is reliable for one’s faith to know Jesus Christ and His coming and what His followers are expected to practice. The Bible is a faith book, not a science or history book. While it is literature, the Church sees it far more than just another holy book. It is God’s Word to us, about Jesus’ personal coming.
We believe Jesus is the Divine Son of God Who was the One speaking to the Israelites and leading them, via His Spirit too, to a true revelation that was leading a people to the Coming of an Anointed One (Christ) of God. The two testaments are connected. The OT is inspired by God.

The Bible is an instrument to know God; as it speaks of other person’s encounter with God. We are invited to know God personally and communally, as it is the Bible’s purpose to proclaim the Lord. It is a Gift in the Church; the Bible used in all our Masses, with a cycle in the Church calendar for a thorough coverage of all the Bible books, so that people coming to Mass can hear much of the Word proclaimed to them.

As last Sunday’s epistle proclaimed: much is summed up in these words “…you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 1 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2nd Timothy 3:15b-17

Apologetics Question F (No, we are not a Bible-alone Christianity.)

Next Challenge.

Wasn’t/isn’t the Bible alone the foundation for the Church since its beginning? Why didn’t people just read their Bible alone from the start? Why can’t they just do that today?
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Answer—–
First of all, the approach of a Bible Alone Christian faith has one big, initial problem. The Bible itself doesn’t teach the Bible Alone faith anywhere in its pages. That’s an eye-opener there!

Next, one should understand the Bible IN the Church, as from the beginning. The Word was first the Person of Jesus. The Catholic Faith has since forth celebrated the Living Person of Jesus as Who/What brings us together. He comes among the community to be celebrated, as In Sacrament. He also comes to the community as Word (Scripture). The Church had to rely on apostles for that Scripture to be faithfully told, recorded, passed on and confirmed. The Bible just didn’t come in completed form for printing back then (like an airdrop or something of papyri from Heaven). The Bible was the oral message of a lived experience of Jesus of the apostles and evangelists, and the Church’s leaders also helped for the communication and interpretation of that message. So, you needed a Church for the gathering of believers. You needed a Church first for the Bible to come about.

Those who put the Word over the Church today (whom we call fundamentalists) just have missed the whole manner of Christ meeting us. God came in a Person, not a Book. People experienced Him, the Lord walked with them, and He was Word and Sacrament and Love and Action with them. The Bible was written by the Church. It recorded His life (as best that could be shortly written down) and the rest of the New Testament was the story of Jesus being lived and taught among them. It jelled with all other aspects of faith.
Equally, The Mass was institued by Christ and immediately lived out in the Church. The community of believers was gathered by Jesus, empowered by the Spirit, and it too has been living in service and good deeds and holy action ever since. She had her holy traditions that complimented the Word.
The goal of the Word and Sacrament was that the hearts of persons were being filled with Christ Presence, and a Whole Body of Believers were forming under Christ Her Head was the central Mystery. The Bible served this end. The Word was part of the assembly. We are the Church forming. This is the Goal.
The Bible is our great help to form, and it comes from the experience of people in faith. Knowing the Bible has been important to the Flock, as so was the prayer, the shared love, the care for the poor, and so many other aspects of being God’s children. The Church is all that.
The Church was called to be the living witness of Christ in them, so to BE the Word in personal living. This is so much the story of Acts in the Bible, or of the hoped for community that John was writing to help come about in his epistles and the Book of Revelation.
The Church is based on a Person–Jesus Christ. He walked with disciples, not just passing them written down words but actually living amongst them and speaking with them and teaching them and doing all sort of deeds with them. The Faith was the Word and Actions of People with Jesus. The Faith is a Living Response of a Community to Jesus, as it was in the beginning.
The Church recognized that she was to live in Jesus Christ. It was more than just a set of instructions dropped down to them in the Bible. Some people treat the Bible as if its the center. Rather, it is a great wonderful tool for us to know Jesus and become His own. The Body of Christ is the center of things, Who are joined to Christ Jesus, Who is the Lord and Center of Everything.
The Word and Sacrament had a special relationship to each other even in the parting moments of Jesus’ Risen time with His followers. He broke open the Word on the Road to Emmaus, as well as Broke the Bread (Eucharist) with them.