Category Archives: Scripture
My husband and I have been doing a Bible study with a friend of ours over the past few months. It has been such a great experience to sit down together, break open and discuss the chapter we have been reading, have dinner, and even play a few board games after if time allows. The fun and fellowship has been an amazing way to build relationship with one another, but most importantly, with Our Lord.
I have been realizing through this journey that we have had so far, how my relationship with the Lord has deepened and how and continues to grow. Through doing this Bible study, the reality really hit me that if I do not take measures for my faith to grow, it will instead gradually die. It is extremely disheartening that I have seen this all too much within my own family and friends, but also within myself at times. When I am not spending time with the Lord and taking measures to grow in my faith, my faith is weaker, but it grows stronger the more time I spend with Him and learn. I have seen the same in my own family and friends. I have seen too many family members and friends go from just regular Sunday churchgoers, to occasional ones, to not at all. I have also seen family and friends pick and choose over time what they believe “as a Catholic” based on their personal feeling and opinion, rather than seeking to come to know, understand, and embrace what the Church teaches and why. Slowly, they become increasingly lukewarm and give up any semblance of living the Faith.
I can recall personally wrestling with different tenants of my faith, everything from the Eucharist, to Sacramental marriage between one man and one woman, to not condoning abortion, etc, however I came to trust our Lord, and the Church He established, knowing He left His Church with the fullness of truth. This is key, for how can we seek the truth in the Church if we do not even believe that Jesus left us with the truth? From there, I sought to understand why He taught what He did. We are not to accept faith blindly, and so with faith coupled with reason, I researched, and read, and prayed, and came to the knowledge, understanding, and deeply held belief in the tenants of the Faith.
Truth be told, it was and is not always easy to push into our faith and learn rather than choose to reject because we disagree. We have a responsibility as Catholics to know our faith, but also to live it and grow in it, and share it. We cannot do this if we do not know it, and especially if we do not know Our Lord, or trust Him.
There are so many ways in which our faith can be deepened and can grow, and I encourage you to try to work one of these into your life, or some of them. You can go to Adoration, read the Catechism or scripture and/or do a Bible Study. For these, Catholic Biblical commentaries are invaluable! I’ve listed some resources below. You can also read and be inspired by the writings of the Saints, or other good Catholic literature, also links listed below.
Jesus once shared with us, in the Gospel of Matthew, the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids:
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
The oil of which they speak is the oil of faith, and only our faith in the Lord, will count for us in the end. But where do we get this oil? We get it from taking measures to get to know our Lord, through the prayer and Sacraments, and through study of scripture and the writings of the Saints, and by their example which we read about. May we all take measures to know Our Lord. God wants to to be with Him, but as He tells us, we need to seek to know Him too.
Jesus showed up in my life at one of my darkest moments. As a young teenager, I felt like I was at rock bottom. My mother was pretty much dying, I had no father that was present in my life, I was at the bottom of the grade school food chain, and I hated God. Life sucked and I knew it. I thought about suicide and did not want to live anymore. It was in the midst of this darkness that Jesus came into my life in a real way and changed that (you can read that story here). The point is, I encountered the real and tangible love of Jesus Christ, and I began to get to know that same Jesus through prayer, through Sacred Scripture, lives of the Saints, and through the teachings of the Catholic Church. I was like a crack addict; I could not get enough of the Truth. Now pegged as a fanatic Jesus Freak, I did not even show up on the radar of the Grade School foodchain, but the difference was, I did not care anymore. I found out quite quickly, however, that I was very much alone in this faith.
The Jesus I encountered that changed my life was far different from the Jesus being peddled to us in our school religion classes. He looked even more different from the Jesus talked about in my Confirmation class. Why was “my Jesus” different than “their Jesus”? I could not understand why it was so different, when the Jesus I knew was the same as the Jesus the Saints had encountered. The Jesus of the Gospels was far different than the Jesus of my parish. This needed to be rectified and I took it upon myself to rectify it. Jesus was being misrepresented and I needed to set the record straight.
Looking back, I realize I made a lot of mistakes growing up in my faith, especially as a teenager. My naivete was only matched with the poor catechesis I was receiving from my parish and school. The type of Catholic faith I was trying to proclaim overcompensated for the lack of clear evangelization I was seeing. So my closet was filled with an arsenal of Christian t-shirts with super lame slogans, trying to encourage my classmates to start thinking about God. Armed with my WWJD bracelets and a crucifix around my neck, I thought I was doing a service to the Gospel. Looking back, though my attempts were sincere, I know my tactics needed work. Nevertheless, I was determined to reset the image people had created about Jesus in their minds. I still am, however my tactics have changed
Every attempt has been made to make Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, a fluffy feel-good spiritualist, especially in the wake of the abuses in the name of the Second Vatican Council. Thanks to hippies and psychedelic drugs we have things like the play Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. The world gobbled up this garbage like it was candy, and the image of the real Jesus has faded. Protestantism in its turn has also done a great disservice of painting a poor picture of what Jesus really looks like, however, as Catholics, you would think we would know better. It turns out, however, that what Protestantism began, modernist catholics have brought to an even greater low. On top of the Protestant Jesus who does not even see your sins, the modernist catholic Jesus does not even care if you worship Him at all. They place this friendly buddy Jesus on the same level as the Buddha or Muhammad. Jesus is made out to be this kind little lamb, with surfer hair and an english accent, who hugs peoples and gives them what they want. It drives me absolutely nuts, but I know it certainly is a tactic of the devil to deceive the world into thinking that Jesus has no real credibility and is certainly not God, who does God-like things like call people to conversion.
Last weekend, I attended a Christian Music Festival called Sonshine Festival, in Minnesota. If anyone knows me, they know I like music, and particularly hard music. Christian music has been a part of my life since my reversion. Christian music, however, can sometimes tend toward that feel-good spirituality that I absolutely abhor. Therefore, I found myself as a teen turning away from the mainstream Contemporary Christian Music, and listening to Christian metal, because I found in that genre a realism that I did not see in the mainstream. I was reminded of that fact during the recent festival I attended. Tommy Green, the lead singer of the Christian Hardcore band Sleeping Giant said something quite striking. He said before their set even began, “As I was walking over here to play tonight, I heard someone from the mainstage say, ‘You may think that we are rockstars, but Jesus is the rockstar here.’ A rockstar? GOD HELP US IF JESUS IS A ROCKSTAR!” He went on to say that, “Jesus is not a rockstar. He is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords…do not let them take away what is true about God!” Now, I do not fully support the protestant spirituality of Tommy Green, but he made a valid point that I wish the entire local church could hear.
If you look across the face of the Catholic Church right now, you will see that it is the converted and reverted who are making the real differences. It is those who have come into an encounter with Jesus Christ, and who continue to encounter Him. The world is looking for credible witnesses, not people who read from a textbook. The world is trying to re-write Jesus, and idle Christians stand by and watch the Lord of all Creation be stripped of His power and credibility, not simply because they are afraid, but because they do not know otherwise. All of the problems we see within the local church stem from catholics who do not have a real and healthy relationship with Jesus Christ. Ask any catholic who supports so-called “same-sex marriage” and the gay lifestyle if they spend a considerable amount of time in daily prayer, scripture, Eucharistic adoration and study of the Teachings of the Church. The answer will be a resounding “no”.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
Jesus knew when He asked the question to His disciples that the world did not know who He was. Peter, whose primacy is shown in this moment, speaks on behalf of the disciples when he exclaims that Jesus is the Messiah. What differentiated these Apostles from the rest of the world they were in? The Apostles were with Jesus and stuck by His side. They were His friends. In our culture today, it is not those whose names are followed by a bunch of letters, or even those who have received a higher ecclesiastical status, who can truly answer the question about who Jesus is. It is those who are united to Him in prayer and obedient to His commands and to the Church He established who can authentically say “I know the Lord”. Perhaps it is important for all of us to take stock of where we stand with Christ and ask the question, “Am I an authentic witness of the Gospel, or am I just going through the motions?” It is time for us as Catholics, the promised co-heirs of the kingdom, to begin to tear down, brick by brick, the false pictures that people have of Jesus and begin to proclaim with our actions and words, who Jesus really is. The New Evangelization will never take root until Jesus Christ is seated on the Throne, and we acknowledge Him for who He is, no matter how many committees or task forces are started. Jesus must be crowned King again if the Church ever wishes to see herself restored, bottom line.
+Mary, Queen and Star of the New Evangelization, help us to reveal the real Jesus to the world.+
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” ~ Brennan Manning
No one likes it when they encounter a hypocritical Christian. Many of us would agree with this quote, no matter what our faith is. As a Church-going Catholic, I certainly do. When I profess to believe what the Church teaches, and live my life contrary to that, whether it be internally or externally, it communicates something. It communicates that Jesus is not really who He says He is, because where my life should be changed because of Him, it isn’t.
When we live our faith, we demonstrate it in the works that we do. People know we are Christians by our love, or, at least they should. Real love is shown not in word, but in action. Real love is shown in the walk, not just the talk. We know this in our families, in our Churches, in our workplaces, in the people we meet on the street.
Many of us have heard the common protestant claim, contrary to what our Blessed Lord teaches us, that we are saved by “faith alone”, since our good works cannot save us. We as Catholics are often accused of believing that we have to earn Heaven by our good works alone. The truth is, as the quote by Brennan Manning so well communicates, faith and works cannot be separated, and when they are, the effects are devastating. It is right to say that we cannot earn Heaven as none of us deserve it. It is by the sacrifice of Christ alone that we have been granted access to eternity with God. Good works, however, are still necessary in order for us to be united with Christ and merit Heaven.
It is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given to us through Baptism, that has the power to justify us, which is to say, that it has the power to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ”. St. Paul tell us that “now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (emphasis mine).” It can be seen here that the Church understands that faith in Christ is necessary as the basis for our salvation.
What a beautiful gift! Through our Baptism, we are cleansed from original sin, and welcomed into the Covenental bond with our Lord, as an adopted son or daughter of God, with the rest of the Christian community. So begins God’s work in us, first through conversion, where we are commanded by Jesus to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” By God’s grace, we turn from our sin, and accept God’s forgiveness and righteousness (justice). The Council of Trent says that “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.“
The Catechism tells us that “justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent”. The Council of Trent also says that “when God touches man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight.”
We need God’s grace to change. It is this favor of the free, undeserved help that He gives to us to enable us to respond to his call to become “partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.” In other words, we need God’s grace to become holy, to become saints, for it is only the saints who are in Heaven. In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, he states, “I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness… But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.” St. Paul was clear on his understanding and teaching of what the Church taught. This has not changed. We receive eternal life if we become sanctified. This is our goal and this is the prize we are running the race to receive.
The grace we receive in Baptism is sanctifying grace and is the source of the work of our sanctification. The Catechism makes clear that “sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love. Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God’s call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God’s interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification.”
God has given us free will, and so we are freely able to cooperate with or choose not to cooperate with God’s graces for our sanctification. Our Blessed Lord said to us, “thus you will know them by their fruits.” It is by one’s “fruits” that we can see the working of God in their life. The fruits are what is seen in action, which are our good works. St. Augustine said in relation to God that “if at the end of your very good works . . . you rested on the seventh day, it was to foretell by the voice of your book that at the end of our works, which are indeed “very good” since you have given them to us, we shall also rest in you on the sabbath of eternal life.
A common claim that protestants make against Catholics is that good works are the “Works of the Law” that St. Paul tells us not to do, in an effort to support their claim that we are justified by “faith alone”. Dr. John Bergsma, a Professor of Sacred Scripture at Franciscan University of Steubenville, gave a talk regarding The Dead Sea Scrolls in which he shared some very important findings regarding the “Works of the Law”, spoken of in Scripture. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the caves of Qumran in the 1940’s. This was a very significant discovery, because therein were contained the oldest copies of many Old Testament Writings, dating back as early as 200 years before Christ. Dr. Bergsma related that there were three different groups of Jews at the time of the Apostles: the Saduccees, the Pharisees (which St. Paul was a part of), and the Essenes. The Qumranites were Essenes. In the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls, they found the scroll “Miqtsat Ma’asei ha-Torah” which translates to the “Precepts of the Works of the Law”. This was a letter from the Essenes to the Pharisees about ritual purity, and this was the only place in which was found the phrase “Works of the Law” outside of St. Paul’s Gospel.
The “Works of the Law” included instructions about ritual purity, including things such as the purity of liquids poured from one container to another, the impurity of bones and animal hides, the keeping of dogs outside of Jerusalem, keeping away from Gentiles, and keeping the Blind and Deaf out of the Temple since they were defiled. What many protestants do not realize, are that the “Works of the Law” are wholly different from good works, which our blessed Lord asks us to do. The works of mercy are charitable actions done for the aid of our neighbor in both spiritual and bodily needs. The spiritual works of mercy include instructing, advising, consoling, comforting, forgiving, and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy include feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead, as well as giving alms to the poor.
Our Lord says to us in scripture, that when we care for others, we care for Him. Whenever we encounter another, we have an opportunity to love, whether in word or deed, and in doing so, we are really loving our Lord. Our lives should point to God in all that we say and do. As Catholics, we hear at least weekly at Mass, the “great commission” to us. May we respond ever more fully, with our whole heart when we hear the command at the end of Mass, and truly go in peace, glorifying the Lord by our lives.
Well? Are you hardcore? How can we define a hardcore Catholic? Is there even such a thing? The term ‘Devout Catholic’ is defined differently for many people. For some, it is just the Catholic that always goes to Sunday Mass. For others, it is the Catholic that seems to have a deep spiritual life, but perhaps doesn’t really follow every little thing that the Church teaches.
Fulfilling our Sunday obligation is only part of being Catholic. We must also frequent the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist, pray daily, and assent to the teachings of Holy Mother Church. It is not enough to say “I am a devout Catholic” and think this is a synonym for being a Catholic that attends every Sunday mass. Attending Sunday Mass is an obligation that every Catholic has. Even the Pope has to attend Sunday Mass. Christmas and Easter are not the bare minimum requirements for being Catholic either.
When we look at the lives of the Saints, we see that their biographies do not only consist in attending Sunday mass. The Saints lived lives of heroic virtue, at the service of God and others. We can look at the lives of the desert fathers who committed their lives to prayer. We can look at the life of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and see how she devoted her life to charity and love towards those that were in most need of physical and (most importantly) spiritual nourishment. The lives of the Saints demonstrate an interior martyrdom which is a death to self and a desire to know and love Christ above all. To truly love Christ is to show the “least of these” the love of Christ in action.
Being a real Catholic is not about having a “holier than thou” disposition. Many times, the phrase “holier than thou” is said by those who feel intimidated or are offended when someone tries to help someone out of sin, even when done in charity. Sometimes they are right when they say we are being “holier than thou”. Oftentimes, when people of the world say this to us, it can make us feel like we have failed in evangelizing. If we are doing our best to love Christ and doing all that we possibly can to lead others closer to Him, then why is it received with such distaste among our family and friends? For many people, there is an internal moral crisis that prevents them from seeing things objectively. For others, however, I believe that they see a disconnect between our words and deeds. For some who do seek to live a life of virtue, they may still be shut down. Although it may not be easy for people to hear the truth, I believe that if our words are formed through prayer and said with humility and charity, our Blessed Lord will bless them in some way. The question is, how do we get through to those who do not wish to listen?
I think what it all comes down to is not to ask ourselves whether or not we are hardcore because this may create some kind of pride within ourselves. I think the real question we need to ask ourselves is this: Am I truly faithful to Christ, the Church He established, and do I live a life of service to others? Being Catholic is about loving Christ and devoted to the building of His Kingdom. It is about living life in truth and charity. It means trusting God enough to believe that His Holy Spirit is guiding His One True Church. Adherence to the teachings of the Church (and that means all of them), even if they challenge us, is key if we want to really enter into the fullness of a relationship with God. Being Catholic really comes down to making Christ the center of our lives, and encountering Him on a daily basis by making our entire life a sacrifice for Him and others. Along the way, frequenting the Sacrament of Confession and Holy Communion will keep us on the path when we stray and give us the strength we need the life the Christian life.
When we look at Mary, we can see the ultimate example of reverence and obedience. From her ‘Fiat’ to being with Christ in the last moments of His life on the Cross, she exemplifies what it means to be faithful. We must be obedient, just like Mary encouraged the servant at the Wedding at Cana and “Do whatever He tells you”. We must take up our crosses and follow Him daily. This Easter, we recognize in a particular way that Christ gave His very life for us. If we truly love Him, we will do the same, by laying down our lives for others.
“Each of you knows that the foundation of our faith is charity. Without it, our religion would crumble. We will never be truly Catholic unless we conform our entire lives to the two commandments that are the essence of the Catholic faith: to love the Lord, our God, with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves… With charity, we sow the seeds of that true peace which only our faith in Jesus Christ can give us by making us all brothers and sisters. I know that this way is steep, and difficult, and strewn with thorns, while at first glance the other path seems easier, more pleasant, and more satisfying. But the fact is, if we could look into the hearts of those who follow the perverse paths of this world, we would see that they lack the serenity that comes to those who have faced a thousand difficulties and who have renounced material pleasure to follow God’s law.” – Blessed Pierre Giorgio Frassati