Category Archives: St. Paul

God. Not God. These are the Only Choices!

“The strength of the soul consists in its faculties, passions and desires, all of which are governed by the will. Now when these faculties, passions and desires are directed by the will toward God, and turned away from all that is not God, then the strength of the soul is kept for God, and thus the soul is able to love God with all its strength.”

— St. John of the Cross, p. 259 of “Ascent of Mt. Carmel.”

Not everyone is going to heaven.  Let’s get that out of the way.  And, there are probably people who are going to hell who, at this moment, don’t think that it is possible for them.  After all, they were baptized and received their First Holy Communion (especially if they are Catholic) or they have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior (if they are Protestant.)  It’s not enough, though.

We have to make the choice to act like we are baptized or Jesus is our Savior every single minute of our existence on this life.

Dr. Italy likens this to a door.  On one side is Jesus (who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and the only way to the Father) and on the other is not-Jesus.  The idea is at the end of our life the door will close and depending upon which side of the door we are standing when it slams shut and locks will determine where we spend eternity.

I don’t know about you, but I tremble when I think about it.  St. Paul told us that we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  Pretty scary words.  I mean, have you read Matthew, Chapter 5 and 25?  We all fall short of the beatitudes.  Oh, and by the way, the door is narrow that leads to heaven.  More complications.

And, yet, there is so much hope if (and this is a big “if”) we trust Jesus.  Trust Him in everything, everyday.  Put our daily lives into His loving Hands.  Sometimes, I feel like the woman with the hemorrhage and I touch the hem of His garment and hold on for dear life.  Everyday, we make the choice for God because we don’t know when that door is going to shut.

Choose wisely, friends.

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What’s the Difference?

There was a little dust-up about a Michael Voris video that I shared called “Do Non-Catholics Go to Heaven?” I thought it was an interesting take on the question especially since we have been hearing so many unorthodox things from priests like the good Reverend R. Barron that we can have a reasonable hope that no one goes to hell.

In my immediate family that includes brothers, sister, their children, and grandchildren and my children and grandchildren—all who were baptized in the Catholic faith—there are only a handful that still attend Mass and believe in their faith and this handful includes my husband and myself.

This hurts me in my soul, because, as we believe, and that video pointed out, in order to get into heaven one has to be in the state of grace (no unrepentant, un-forgiven mortal sins) when one dies. Of course, there is an act of perfect contrition but I am going to say that an act of perfect contrition is probably beyond my feeble attempts because of pride so I need the Sacrament of Reconciliation or as those of us, who aren’t PC, call it, Confession; Just like I need all the sacraments that Jesus gave us as a means to sanctifying grace which we all need to get into heaven. Only the Catholic Church has these sacraments instituted by Christ to give grace. To me, it’s simple to say that I want everything I can have in my arsenal to get to heaven when I die.

I also believe that with God all things are possible so I pray each day for all of my family to return to the faith of their baptism and for some of my grandchildren to actually be baptized. Do I say anything to them personally about my fears? Do I tell them that I cry tears over their apostasy? No, I just love them where they are and pray for their reversion. Of course, I make no apologies for my Catholic Faith and don’t compromise my faith for their sake, so, of course, there are liable to be a few “dust-ups” when I post something that is hard for them to read or hear.

So, a good Protestant friend asked “what is the difference between a faithful Catholic and a faithful Christian?” I’m not sure she is serious about it or if it was meant as a “gotcha” question, so I’m not sure if I will answer it or not. I’ll probably find out first why she asked the question. However, there are some things that I will say.

We believe in Purgatory. We believe that there is a place where we have to be refined like gold in order to enter heaven and be in a Holy God’s presence. Now, no one can judge the individual soul just like I don’t judge my family’s individual souls, however I have a real problem with assuming that all my Protestant brothers and sisters are automatically with Jesus when they die. Sorry, we can only know who is in heaven when the Church has declared them saints. So I continue to pray for them as if they weren’t and are in Purgatory instead. My husband always kids me about how much I pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. I tell him that I am building an army of saints in heaven to pray for me so that I might avoid Purgatory all together.

We believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist. We believe that it isn’t only Scripture (Sola Scriptura) but Scripture and Apostolic Tradition passed down from the Apostles to the Catholic Church. We believe that faith without works is dead. No Sola Fides for us. We take to heart Matthew 25 and the Sermon on the Mount. We want to be numbered among those who gave our Lord drink when He was thirsty, food when He was hungry, visited Him when He was in prison. . .you know the rest. No, our works don’t “save us.”   We boast in Christ and Him crucified just like Paul but we also believe like James, show me your works and I will show you your faith.

These are just some of the differences between a Protestant Christian and a Catholic Christian.

However with great blessings come great responsibilities! I believe that it will go worse for Catholics who had the faith and fell from it than those who never had the faith to begin with. That is why I pray for all my family to return to the One True Faith before they die.

Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

May all the Faithful Departed through the Mercy of God, rest in peace!

 

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Transmitting the Faith

41.  The transmission of faith occurs first and foremost in baptism.

As St. Paul says, “we were buried with Him by baptism into death. . .”  We are meant to become a new creation and God’s adopted children through baptism so that we “might walk in the newness of life.”  (Rom 6:4)

Baptism is something we receive.  It is both a teaching to be professed and a specific way of life that “sets us on the path to goodness.”Baptism helps us to understand that faith must be received by entering into the Church (ecclesial communion) which transmits the gift of faith from God.

42.  From the outset our journey of faith beginning in Baptism is revealed.  First Baptism is bestowed by invoking the Trinity.

Our new identity as a brother/sister to Christ is clearly seen by our immersion in water.

Water is at once a symbol of death, inviting us to pass through self-conversion to a new and greater identity, and ka symbol of life, of a womb in which we are reborn by following Christ in His new life.

Baptism should change us profoundly.  It changes our relationships, our place in the universe, and opens us to living in Communion with the Trinity.

To appreciate this link between baptism and faith, we can recall a text of the prophet Isaiah, which was associated with baptism in early Christian literature: “Their refuge will be the fortresses of rocks. . .their water assured” (Is 33:16.)

The waters of baptism flow with the power of Jesus’ love.  He is faithful and trustworthy, so we can trust our faith.

43.  This passage speaks of the importance and meaning of infant baptism.  This is a beautifully written passage well worth reading in Papa Francis’ own words.

Parents are called, as Saint Augustine once said, not only to bring children into the world but also to bring them to God, so that through Baptism they can be reborn as children of God and receive the gift of faith.

44.  As important as Baptism is, the sacramental nature of faith finds its highest expression in the Eucharist.

In the Eucharist we find the intersection of faith’s two dimensions.  On the one hand, there is the dimension of history:  the Eucharist is an act of remembrance, a making present of the mystery in which the past, as an event of death and resurrection, demonstrates its ability to open up a future, to foreshadow ultimate fulfillment. . .On the other hand, we also find the dimension which leads from the visible world to the invisible.

Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.  Christ becomes present to us and moves us body and soul to our fulfillment in His Father.

45.  In the celebration of the sacraments the Church hands down her memory especially through the profession of faith.

We are speaking about the Creed here.  The Creed has a Trinitarian structure.  When we recite the Creed we are stating the the core and inmost secret of all reality is the divine communion of the three Persons in One God.

We are taken through all the mysteries of Jesus’ life and finally, we are taken up, as it were, into the Truth that we are professing.  Reciting the Creed truthfully and thoughtfully should change us, too.

All the truths in which we believe point to the mystery of the new life of faith as a journey of communion with the living God.

Two other essential elements in the faithful transmission of the faith are the Lord’s prayer and the 10 commandments.

The Decalogue is not a set of negative commands, but concrete directions for emerging from the desert of the selfish and self-enclosed ego in order to enter into dialogue with God, to be embraced by His mercy and then to bring that mercy to others.

This path of gratitude to faith receives new light when we study Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  (There is a complete study of the Sermon on the Mount on this blog.)  

So the four elements around which the Church’s catechesis is structured are the Creed, the Sacraments, the Decalogue, and prayer (especially how Jesus taught us to pray.)  This is our storehouse of memory of faith that the Church is empowered by apostolic succession to pass down through history.

47.  “there is one body and one Spirit. . .one faith” (Eph 4: 4-5)

Genuine love, after the fashion of God’s love, ultimately requires truth, and the shared contemplation of the truth which is Jesus Christ enables love to become deep and enduring.  This is also the great joy of faith: a unity of vision in one body and one spirit.  Saint Leo the Great could say, “If faith is not one, then it is not faith.”

Faith is One!  First, it is one because of the oneness of the God Who is known and confessed.  Second, Faith is one because it is directed to the one Lord; to the life of Christ.  Finally, it is one because it is shared by the whole Church which is one body and one Spirit.

48.  Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity.  Precisely because all the articles of faith are interconnected, to deny one of them, even of those that seem least important, is tantamount to distorting the whole.

49.  The Lord gave His Church the gift of apostolic succession.  It is through this that the continuity of the faith is ensured.  The Church depends upon the faithfulness of the Magisterium chosen by the Lord.

In Saint Paul’s farewell discourse to the elders of Ephesus at Miletus, which Saint Luke recounts for us in the Acts of the Apostles, he testifies that he had carried out the task which the Lord had entrusted to him of “declaring the whole counsel of God” (acts 10:27.)

Thanks to the Magisterium of the Church, this “counsel” is preserved in all its integrity and joy for us.  Praise the Lord!

 

So ends Chapter Three of Lumen Fidei.  We will take up Chapter Four, next week.  Hope you all are staying with me through this study as we approach the end of this glorious Year of Faith.

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The Dialogue Between Faith and Reason

32.  Blessed John Paul II in Fides et Ratio showed us how faith and reason strengthen each other.  When we discover the light of Christ’s love, we realize that every time we have loved, that instance contained a ray of Christ’s light.  This leads us to see how all love is meant to share in the self-gift of Jesus.  “In this circular movement, the light of faith illumines all our human relationships, which can then be lived in union with the gentle love of Christ.”

33.  St. Augustine studies Greek philosophy and accepted its insistence that being “in the light” demanded sight but not hearing.  Augustine came to appreciate that God is light and this was the beginning of his turning away from his sinfulness.  But the personal God of the bible who is able to speak to us appeared to Augustine as he read the 13th chapter of Romans.  However, St. Augustine did not refect light and sight, but integrated hearing with sight.  He spoke of “the word which shines forth within.”   “Yet, our longing for the vision of the whole, and not merely of fragments of history, remains and will be fulfilled in the end, when, as St. Augustine says, we will see and we will love.  Not because we will be able to possess all the light, which will always be inexhaustible, but because we will enter wholly into that light.”

34.  (This is well worth reading the whole thing for yourself.)  However to points from this paragraph:  1.  “Faith is not intransigent, but grows in respectful coexistence with others.  One who believes may not be presumptuous, on the contrary, truth leads to humility. . . Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey; it enables witness and dialogue with all.”   2.  “By stimulating wonder before the profound mystery of  creation, faith broadens the horizons of reason to shed greater light on the world which discloses itself to scientific investigation.”

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The Ecclesial Form of Faith

22.  Once the Christian is conformed to Christ in love, his life becomes an ecclesial existence; live in and with the Church.  We see ourselves in the mirror that is Christ and just as Christ gathers all believers to Himself, so we come to see ourselves as in an important relationship with all other believers.  As St. Paul tells the Romans, all who believe in Christ make up one body.  We are one, but we don’t lose our individuality.  We become the best of ourselves when we serve others.  Faith is necessarily ecclesial.  Faith that is separate from the Church cannot find its equilibrium; it cannot sustain itself.  Faith is no private matter.  As St. Paul puts it:  “one believes with the heart. . .and confesses with the lips.”  Faith must be proclaimed.  For “how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without a preacher?”   When faith operates in the Body of Christ (the Church), we become part of the Church’s life throughout history until the end of time.  “For those who have been transfored in this way, a new way of seeing opens up, faith becomes light for their eyes.

 

So, now we are finished with Chapter One.  Monday, we will begin Chapter Two.  Hope you are enjoying this.  I am!

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Salvation by Faith

19.  When we accept the gift of faith, we become a new being as a child of God.  This relationship with our “Abba, Father” Becomes the core of our experience.  When Paul debated the issue of salvation with the Pharisees, he rejects the attitude that we are justified by our own works.  When we live so as to not recognize that all goodness comes from God; when we want to be the source of our righteousness, we soon find ourselves cut-off from the Lord and from others.  “Once I think that by turning away from God I will find myself, my life begins to fall apart. . .Salvation by faith means recognizing the primacy of God’s gift of grace.”

20.  Faith gives us a new way of seeing things.  This way is centered on Christ.  In the Old Testament, Moses tells the Israelites in Dt. 30: 11-14 that God’s command is not too high and not too far away.  In Rom. 10: 6-7, St. Paul interprets the nearness of “God’s word in terms of Christ’s presence in the Christian. . .Faith knows that God has drawn close to use, that Christ has been given to us a great gift which inwardly transforms us, dwells within us, and thus bestows on us the light that illumines the origin and the end of life.”

21.  Those who believe are different because kthey have opened their hearts to a love that transforms.  As a Christian, we can see with Jesus’ eyes; we can share His mind; and we can share in His Sonship, because we share in His love which is the Holy Spirit.  “Without being conformed to Him in love, without the presence of the Spirit, it is impossible to confess Him as Lord.”

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Faith and Works–Paul vs. James?

Consider the following quotations.

Romans 3: 28  “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of law.”

James 2: 24  “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

It might appear that St. James and St. Paul are contradicting each other.  However, if we go below the surface and examine these statements in their proper contexts, we discover that they are not in disagreement at all.  Since they are addressing different pastoral situations in the early church, they draw attention to different aspects of the common doctrine on faith and works.  (As an aside, the words “faith alone” only appear in James; never in Paul.)

FAITH

St. Paul:  He is speaking of the faith that leads to Baptism; the faith of the convert.

St. James:  He is talking about the faith of a professing Christian.

The point:  Paul and James discuss the role of justifying faith in two different contexts; namely before and after the believer is incorporated into Christ by Baptism.

WORKS

St. Paul:  In Romans 3: 28, he is specifically speaking about works of the Mosaic Law.  His point is that no one can earn or merit the free gift of grace by obedience to the Torah.

St. James:  In Jas 1: 27; 2: 15-16, he is affirming works of mercy by those already established in grace.

The point:  Paul denies the saving power of Mosaic works performed on the strength of human nature, while James affirms the value of Christian works performed by the grace and power supplied by Jesus Christ.

JUSTIFICATION

St. Paul:  According to him, our initial justification is in Christ; that critical moment when God makes the believer righteous by an infusion of His Spirit and life.

St. James:  He talks about works of Christian obedience undertaken in response to the grace of Christ:  believers who put their faith into action and want to live the gospel in practical and charitable ways.

The point:  This teaching of James is in full harmony with the teaching of Paul. (Rom 2: 13; 6: 12-19)

Let’s stop here so everyone can read James 2: 14-26 in our own Bibles.

James the Less

James the Less wrote the first Catholic Epistle

Next time:  Celebrating Faith

Meditation:  Use 1 Cor 13: 4-7 as a starting point to make an examination of conscience.  To make the passage more personal, substitute “I am. . .” for the words “Love is. . .”

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