A compelling video (even if the source of the video isn't that great).
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
The Catholic Church is like that family sometimes. We talk about being children of God, His sons and daughters, but we act in a completely dysfunctional way. It starts with the labels we give ourselves or others as being one kind of Catholic or another. These modern labels include:
- liberal Catholic
- conservative Catholic
- moderate Catholic
- progressive Catholic
- neo-conservative Catholic
- modernist Catholic
- traditional Catholic
The Church is too big to be caught up into such tribalism. We lose the mystery and make it a purely human enterprise. It also makes it easy to disregard others and keep them at arms' length, never truly trying to understand their perspective or loving them as brothers and sisters.
Now, that being said, I am not advocating for the doctrinal teachings of the Church to be up for grabs. If I do that, I make myself into a kind of uber-pope who gets to be the final say on doctrine. On the other hand - I also can't judge others when they struggle with a Church teaching, because I then make myself into another kind of uber-pope who gets to determine who is a "good" Catholic and who isn't.
We are free to disagree with another Catholic on how to fix immigration, how to best fight poverty, etc. But, we can't deny the right of every human being to live, the teaching that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, marriage can only be between one woman and one man, the preferential option for the poor, etc.
Yet, if someone else is struggling with one of these teachings of the Church, we also can't judge the state of their souls or their relationship with the Church.
Another caveat - that isn't to say we should be silent about what the doctrines of the Church are and are not. Choosing to love another person does not mean we necessarily accept what they believe. Still, in our disagreement we need to love others in order to bring them into a closer relationship with Jesus. Rarely is someone in an argument or fight willing to accept they are wrong. Love is the key.
If someone asks me if I am conservative or liberal (or any other label you want to use), I answer, "I am Catholic."
Furthermore, the problem with bickering and arguing among Catholics is the kind of witness it gives to those on the fringes of The Church or outside The Church. It speaks loudly to the rest of the world and it says - we are in a civil war! I stopped going to my friends' house because his family argued all the time. Why would someone want to go to a church where everyone was at each others' throats constantly?
Jesus wanted us to be one. He prayed for Unity in the Church. One in faith, hope, worship, love, Sacraments, service, etc. While we can't ever bring about unity by our own power or will, we can start where we have control, over our own thoughts and actions. We need to start truly loving others, not for the opinions they hold (right or wrong) or the affinity we have toward a group they identify with, but rather because we must do so if we are to truly be followers of Jesus.
How exactly are we to bring Good News to the world if we can't get away from a civil war?
Pray for unity. Start loving others. No matter what.
Time to start practicing what I preach...
Of course, Jesus says it even better:
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." -John 17:20-23
Monday, June 16, 2014
Many people go to Mass with the expectation that they are supposed to "get" a lot out of it. But, what you get out of Mass is dependent on what kind of changes you are willing to make in your efforts before, during and after Mass, because what you put into Mass determines what you get out of it.
Let me give you eight pointers that have helped me in the past:
1 - Properly prepare for Mass.
- Read and study the readings before you go to Mass, and then listen to them intently while The Word is proclaimed. You can find the Sunday readings here.
- Study the Church's teachings. The more you know about Christ and His Church, the more there is to love. - You can't love what you don't know.
- Go to Confession regularly. This will help prepare you spiritually.
- Pray daily. Without prayer you have no spiritual power!
- Dress appropriately. You are going to meet the King of Kings. Don't dress the same as you would for a lunch date, a party, or class. Make it special.
- Get there early and sit up front. Less distractions and more time for prayer before Mass.
- Once inside, don't talk or people-watch...pray.
- Don't expect to be entertained. It isn't as much about what God is doing for you, but what you are doing to worship God.
- Look for God in every part of the Mass.
- Don't let outside distractions disturb your internal peace.
- Find one nugget in the preaching to take home with you.
- Sing, even if your voice is bad.
- Respond and pray with gusto. Give it all to God and don't worry about others.
- Remember that during Mass isn't socializing time.
- Offer your pain, sufferings, joys and prayers to God.
- Are you open to letting God change you? If not, then you won’t be changed.
- Listen to the Word proclaimed and let it challenge you.
- Find something in the Homily and apply it for the week.
- Don’t just recite the Creed - proclaim it like you mean it and understand what you are proclaiming.
- If every Catholic tithed...think what we could accomplish in spreading the Gospel.
- Yes, it is our duty to support the Church. But, it does more for our own faith than it does for the Church.
- Most people "tip" not "tithe" - so be a tither, not a tipper.
- You are taking the Body, blood, soul, and divinity of GOD into you
- You are joining in heaven on earth
- You are becoming one with The Body of Christ
- Be reverent
- Realize that He is in everyone else that received Him as well.
- You are now empowered to evangelize (share the Good News of Christ) - which is what the Church exists for.
"If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy." -
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Q - As Aggie Catholics who are very present on social media sites such as Facebook, we often run into our brothers and sisters who may not have the same viewpoints as we do, or choose to publicly voice their dissent of the Church and her teachings. How as Catholics can we stand up for the Church while also respectfully educating those who post about misconceptions or issues they have on Facebook?
A - Thanks for the question. I don't think there is a perfect way to approach this subject, and I must admit that over the last 15 years I have made every mistake possible in evangelization online. That being said, there are some good principles I can offer.
10 Tips For Online Evangelists
1 - Be encouraging. We have to remember that most people in our culture are not active Christians who know and follow Christ. This means we have a lot of work to do. Encouraging someone to explore the faith, seek the truth, pray, etc are great ways to introduce them to Christ and His Church.
2 - Dialogue. Don't Argue. Fulton Sheen had the motto - "Win an argument. Lose a soul." I agree. If someone loses, they won't listen to what you said. Try presenting the truth, not beating someone up with it. Our job isn't to convince, it is to be faithful in announcing what it true in an attractive way.
3 - Re-read before posting it. Try to see if what you are writing could be taken the wrong way, sound defensive, be argumentative, etc. No need to be immediate in responding if it means you could hurt someone. You will drive someone off more quickly than bring them to Christ with one comment.
4 - Step away if things get too heated. Don't feel like you can't take a break or end a conversation if things aren't headed in a positive direction. If you can come back at a later time, then do so.
5 - Don't write anything you wouldn't say to someone face-to-face. People love to re-invent themselves on the internet. No need to be the internet tough-guy and beat someone up virtually. No good will come of it.
6 - Ask good questions. A great way to understand where someone is coming from and how you might help them is to ask questions. Furthermore, your partner in the discussion will have to think about what they believe and why if you ask good questions. Getting them to reflect is a great goal any way.
7 - Know who you are talking to. If you don't know your audience, then you don't know how to properly respond to them. Rarely should you quote the Bible to an atheist. Nor should you quote Vatican II to a Muslim. A rational non-faith-based argument works for most though - unless someone has asked a "where is it in the Bible" kind of answer.
8 - Be prepared to hear some far-out ideas and strange philosophies. Don't dismiss someone just because they don't think like you do. Every belief under the sun gets equal time on the internet. Be prepared for the absurd and irrational ones.
9 - Know that sarcasm, humor, irony, satire, etc may be misinterpreted online. I do this too often still. Nobody can see your facial expressions or know the real intent behind your posts. If it could be misinterpreted, then re-write it or don't post it.
10 - Don't be afraid to speak the truth, but do so with the right intentions. In all things charity. Remember what your goal is - to help others come closer to Christ, His Church, and the truth. So, offer up what is true, but do so convincingly, lovingly, and humbly.
I hope these help.
Friday, June 6, 2014
Q - Why can't non-Catholics receive Holy Communion? What if they say that they believe that it is the Body and Blood of Jesus like we do? What should we say to them?
A - Thanks for the question. There are several reasons that non-Catholics cannot receive Communion in the Catholic Church. But, first we must deal with some myths about this topic. It isn't a judgment about anyone's salvation nor is it about how sincere someone may believe in Christ.
Here is what the Catholic Church teaches about The Eucharist and why it is so important. From John 6:53-56.
"So Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him."This is the first teaching of Christ on the Eucharist. He clearly states (again and again in John 6) that the Eucharist is not just a symbol of his Body and Blood, but truly becomes his body and blood. Otherwise it would make no sense for his followers to understand him literally (John 6:41 & 6:52) and then walk away from him (John 6:66) without Jesus clearly explaining that he was speaking figuratively.
Then we have the last supper accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Here Christ clearly teaches that the bread and wine are transformed into his body and blood ("this IS my body" & "this IS my blood"). Taken along with Paul's admonition in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30:
"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill and some have died."It all adds up. The Catholic Church has consistently taught, through 2,000 years, that Christ is truly present - body, blood, soul, and divinity - in the Eucharist. For more on the Church's teaching on the Eucharist, read a previous post here.
Therefore, to receive him in Communion is an outward statement of our unity of faith. It says, in the action of the congregation, that we are united (communing together) to one another in believing in all the Catholic church believes, teaches, and confesses. Those who are not Catholic cannot make such a statement, because they are not fully in communion with us. So, for a non-Catholic to receive Communion is a counter-sign to the truth. It says outwardly "we are one", when we are not. It would be a lie, spoken through actions.
To receive the Eucharist does not only mean we believe in it, but in all that the Catholic Church holds to be true. It says with the body "I am Catholic and hold all that the Church teaches to be true as truth and I therefore unite myself to Jesus and all his Catholic Church, through the bonds made in the Eucharist."
A non-Catholic should be told exactly what we believe. Most do not share our belief in the Eucharist. If they don't, then they probably won't want to receive if explained as I did above. But, what if a non-Catholic says they share a belief in the Eucharist? I suggest you invite them to join us at Communion - but only after they enter the Church through Confirmation (and baptism if necessary). If one truly believes in the Eucharist, then the only place to receive it is in the Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Why wouldn't you join if you truly believe we have the Eucharist?
Furthermore, the Church limits communion to Catholics out of concern for their spiritual well-being. Paul tells us why in the 1 Cor. verse quoted above. To receive without discerning the body and blood, is to receive condemnation. This would put someone in spiritual danger and we do not want that for another!
The ancient Christians held to the same belief we do now. Here are a few examples:
"Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God....They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes" - Ignatius of Antioch, circa 110 AD.Lastly, the Church has no right to change the clear teaching of Christ. We must always be faithful to his teaching, even when others are offended (even when we are not trying to offend, sometimes it happens). We are not trying to be exclusive, but honest and faithful to Christ.
"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" Justin Martyr, circa 151 AD
Remember this, not all Catholics can receive Communion, but only those in full communion with the Church and those in the state of grace (no un-confessed mortal sins).
Here is the US Bishops statement on the issue that you can find on the back of most missalettes.
For CatholicsI hope this helps.
As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.
For our fellow Christians
We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ's prayer for us "that they may all be one" (Jn 17:21).
Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 § 4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 § 3).
For those not receiving Holy Communion
All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.
We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
There are many modern people who use a life coach to help them achieve certain goals. I believe Jesus can help us set some good goals as well. Sometimes He will challenge us with a statement and other times He asks us questions that may push us. Either way, we should listen to what He has to say.
Here is a sample of some of the things Jesus has to say to us today:
- "Come, follow me" -Mk 1:17
- "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me." -Jn 14:1
- "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." -Mt 5:42
- "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." -Mt 5:44-45
- "Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." -Lk 12:33-34
- "Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people." -Lk 5:10
- "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet." -Jn 13:14
- "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you." -Lk 6 37-38
- "You cannot serve both God and money" -Mt 6:24
- "Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life." -Jn 5:24
- "Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." -Mk 5:19
- "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." -Lk 7:50
- "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?" -Mt 6:25
- "In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." -Mt 7;12
- "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" Mt 7:15-16
- "Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand." -Mt 7:26
- "Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" -Mt 10:16
- "If any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them." -Mk 6:11
- "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." -Mt 10:28
- "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." -Mt 11:29
- "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?" -Mt 16:24-26
- "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s" -Mt 22:21
- "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." -Mt 22:37-39
- "Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come" -Mt24:42
- "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day." -Jn 6:54
- "If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them." -Lk 17:3-4
- "But what about you? Who do you say I am?" -Mk8:29
- "What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person." -Mk 7:20-23
- "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." -Mt 25:40
- "Take and eat; this is my body." -Mt 26:26
- "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." -Mt 28:19-20
- "Don’t be afraid; just believe." -Mk 5:36
- "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." -Lk 11:9-10
- "No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again" -Jn 3:3
- "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" -Jn 11:25-26
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Q - What if an individual interprets something from the Bible, but the Church says it is something else? does that make you wrong or what kind of room is their for personal interpretation?
A - Thanks for the question. The issues you address center on how we define freedom in personal interpretation and authority of interpretation. I would like to commend you first of all. Apparently you are reading your Bible and thinking deeply about it. This is a good thing. The Bible is the written revelation of God to humanity. We are able to know about God, about ourselves, our destiny, our salvation, and how to live because of it.
I believe every word written in Scripture is true, but this does not give us the authority to interpret the Bible however we like. We must have an infallible guide (who is led by the Holy Spirit), otherwise we cannot be certain that we have the truth.
The Bible itself says that interpretation is not to come from within alone:
Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God. -2 Peter 1:20-21It also says we need an authority to help us interpret the Bible correctly:
Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" He replied, "How can I, unless someone instructs me?" So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him. - Acts 8:30-31The Bible also says that some parts are hard to understand, as Peter says when writing about Paul's epistles:
And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, as our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, also wrote to you, speaking of these things as he does in all his letters. In them there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures. - 2 Peter 3:15-16The Bible is a collection of ancient texts with different audiences, authors, messages, literary styles, objectives, and styles. Led by the Holy Spirit, we have to study it intently and have a proper hermeneutic, that is, a proper way of interpreting the Bible. If we don't have this, then we can easily find ourselves committing interpretive errors and believing our own opinion in place of the truth of Scripture. While the Bible might be inerrant, we are not. If we were all inerrant in our individual interpretation of the Bible, then we wouldn't have any differences in doctrine within Christianity. As it is, God set up way to give His Church a guide (the Holy Spirit) so we can reliably interpret Scripture.
Therefore, while individuals can be in error - we can also be assured of being able to find the truth, where the Church teaches authoritatively on a particular Scripture passage. The authority of the Church is not over Scripture, but rather is the protector of it. It protects us from error and gives us the assurance of knowing the truth. Without this protection, the Church would be in doctrinal chaos.
Now, we all have freedom in applying the text to our own lives, within certain limits. If we are in direct opposition with the Church in interpretation of a text from Scripture, then we have to humbly ask who has the authority to correctly interpret the Bible? But, the Catholic Church doesn't have an official interpretation of every Biblical passage. That is because Biblical studies is a field that continues to develop and Scripture can have many layers of meaning (personal, communal, spiritual, literal, etc). Also, there is a freedom to interpret much of the Bible for ourselves, when not in opposition to doctrine.
So, the Church puts up minimal guidelines, as a path for us during our time in the Bible, and as long as we don't get outside of those we are okay.
Here is a Vatican document on interpretation of the bible. It says:
The Spirit is, assuredly, also given toIn other words, we cannot read the Bible as if it is just "our own". It does not belong to us, but God. Therefore, we must be obedient to the way God intends us to read it. It continues:
so that their hearts can "burn within them" (Lk. 24:32) as they pray and prayerfully study the Scripture within the context of their own personal lives. This is why the Second Vatican Council insisted that access to Scripture be facilitated in every possible way ( 22; 25). This kind of reading, it should be noted, is never completely private, for the believer always reads and interprets Scripture within the faith of the church and then brings back to the community the fruit of that reading for the enrichment of the common faith.
If, as noted above, the Scriptures belong to the entire church and are part of "the heritage of the faith," which all, pastors and faithful, "preserve, profess and put into practice in a communal effort," it nevertheless remains true that "responsibility for authentically interpreting the word of God, as transmitted by Scripture and tradition, has been entrusted solely to the living magisterium of the church, which exercises its authority in the name of Jesus Christ" ("Dei Verbum," 10).I think we ought to see the Church as a guide to interpreting Scripture, not a hindrance. If you look at Acts 15-16 you will see Paul and Barnabas going to the Church to solve a difference over interpretation and this is the way it should be. Not in conflict, but in humble dialogue with the Church.
For more on this, I recommend this article by Jimmy Akin. A sample:
The liberty of the Scripture interpreter remains extensive. Taking due consideration of the factors that influence proper exegesis, the Catholic Bible interpreter has the liberty to adopt any interpretation of a passage that is not excluded with certainty by other passages of Scripture, by the judgment of the magisterium, by the Church Fathers, or by the analogy of faith. That is a great deal of liberty, as only a few interpretations will be excluded with certainty by any of the four factors circumscribing the interpreter’s liberty.