40 Reasons to Come Home – Reason # 27 – Christ’s Prayer

Reason 27 – The Prayer of Christ. The scene is the Last Supper and Jesus is praying. At two critical moments his prayer focuses on unity. He prays to his Father in these words: And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.  (John 17:11). So, central to Jesus prayer that fateful night of the last supper was that we have unity.

But how would this unity come to be? Is Jesus just praying for a kind of moral unity where we are all nice to each other and “get along” ??  As you might suspect, Jesus has a little more in mind than a mere moral unity. He actually has a plan as to how this unity will come to pass. It is Luke’s account of the Last Supper where this plan is spelled out most clearly. In a sadly comical moment in the Last Supper a debate broke out among them as to who was the greatest! (cf Luke22:24). Imagine, Jesus knows this is his Last Supper and that he will die the next day and he has to endure this sort thing.  He goes on to teach the Apostles that authority is for service, not greatness and personal power. And then, in the midst of all this competition and division Jesus announces his plan for unity. He turns to Peter, calling him by his personal name, Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:31-32).  Jesus warns that the devil would try to divide (“sift”) the twelve and the Church. What is Jesus’ solution? He will pray for Simon Peter and through his prayer for Simon Peter, the Church will be strengthened in its unity. Please pay attention here, Jesus’ plan to unify his Church is to pray for one man, Peter, and through that one man strengthen his Church in unity against the devil who seeks to divide it.  Note that Jesus is not unaware of Peter’s weakness for he refers to it! Peter would have to turn back after his three-fold denial. But it is not Peter’s human strength that is to be the source of unity but, rather, Christ PRAYER for Peter that will unite the Church. Peter strengthens unity in the Church because of Christ’s prayer for him personally.

Down through the many centuries Christ Jesus has unified his Church by praying for Peter and his successors, the Popes. We follow Christ plan for unity only by staying united to Peter and his successors. Every other path breaks away from Christ’s plan and divides the Church. There is an old Latin teaching: Ubi Petrus ibi Ecclesia (Where Peter is, there is the Church). In the Nicene Creed one of the four marks of the Church is that it is “one” (I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church…). But as I have tried to show you, we cannot fulfill Christ’s prayer and plan for unity if we are not one with the Pope. Only the Roman Catholic Church fulfills Christ’s prayer and plan for unity. Every denomination and individual who refuses unity with Peter’s successor, the Pope, exists apart from Christ’s plan for unity.

How does all this amount to a reason for coming home? Well let me ask you, “Do you want to fulfill Christ’s prayer for unity?” He prays that we all be one. This is an explicit prayer he made to his Father at his Last Supper. He laid out the plan. Do you want to be part of his plan for unity? Then come home. We cannot have unity without you. Neither can you have unity without  us and without Peter’s successor. In the end the only way we can answer and fulfill Christ’s prayer is to be together in one Church, with Peter’s successor the Pope as the head of that Church. The devil wants to divide you and me. But Jesus is praying for the Pope, and through those prayers alone can we ever hope to have true unity. I invite you to consider fulfilling Christ’s prayer and plan by coming home to Catholic Church which he founded and unites through his prayer for the Pope.

40 Reasons to Come Home – Reason # 26 – This Really IS Home

Reason # 26 – This Really is Home–  One of the bewildering aspects of Christianity is all the many different denominations that exist. They all claim to be authentically Christian and read the Bible accurately but all of them have differences that cannot simply be ignored. Now the truth cannot come in different versions. If one denomination says, “The Eucharist is the Body of Christ”  and the other says, “It is not, it is only a symbol” , both cannot be right.  How to sort all of this out?  Which of these many denominations, saying many different things, speaks for Christ?

Well, would it matter to you if I said that only one of the contenders was actually founded by Jesus Christ? You see, the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ. Of all the Christian denominations only the Roman Catholic Church goes back to the time of Jesus Christ and was directly founded by Him. (I will say here too that the Eastern Orthodox Churches also stretch back to the time of Jesus and the Apostles so one may argue that they too have antiquity on their side but, I will point out in another post, they do not have unity with Peter, an essential quality of the Church Jesus founded.) The many other Christian “Protestant” denominations are actually fairly new and were founded by men, not  Jesus. Martin Luther founded the Lutheran denomination, John Calvin the Presbyterians, KIng Henry VIII founded the Anglican (Episcopalian) denomination and so forth. Even the oldest of these denominations goes back only to the mid 1500’s. That means that the Catholic Church existed for more than 1500 years before any of the Protestant denominations came to be. Generally these denominations are called “Protestant” because they were “protesting” some teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Martin Luther for example left the Church for what he considered to be very good reasons but the fact remains that he left the Church founded by Jesus to set up his own operation. Others did the same. After many of these denominations were underway, they began to divide off from each other so that, ,these days, there are many forms of Baptists, different Synods of Lutherans and so forth. All of them 500 years old or much less (Many Pentecostal denominations are less than 100 years old). Some argue today (perhaps with a bit if exaggeration) that there are almost 30,000 different Protestant denominations.  

OK, so here’s the choice, A Church more than 2000 years old founded by Jesus himself or a denomination founded by man and rather a new operation at that. But before you answer let me also tell you that in founding his Church Jesus made some promises to the Church: That it would be founded on Peter, that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt 16:18ff) that Jesus would be with it all days until the end of the world (Matt 28:20), that he would anoint the Apostles with the Holy Spirit so that they would remember everything he told them (Jn 16:13), that he would give them and their successors authority to forgive sin(Jn 20:23), to bind and loose (Matt 16:19) and teach with authority such that whoever heard them would be hearing him (Luke 10:16), and that he would lead his Church to all the truth (Jn 16:13).

My point is finally this, If you are going to come home it is here, the Catholic Church. The one Church founded by Jesus Christ. The one Church that stretches back to Jesus himself and received powerful promises from Jesus. The one Church that cannot teach error for then the promise of Jesus that “the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church” and that he would “be with it all days till the end of the world, ” those promises of Christ would not hold firm. I did not say the Church was sinless (I know that because I am in it 🙂 ) but the Church cannot formally propose error for our belief.  The Church may not always live the truth perfectly, but the Church teaches the truth perfectly by Christ’s own promises. This is home. This is the Church Jesus founded and secured by his promises. Come home, it’s right here.

Here is a video that explains how one man, a Protestant Minister found his way home through some of things we’ve discussed:

How Alex Jones Found Truth in the Catholic Church

                                            Alex Jones is a former Pentecostal Minister who found his way to the Catholic Church. It wasn’t easy for im to become a Catholic since he had a lot to loose. But he could not resist the Call of the Lord and the Church is now blesed to have him as a member and and effective Evangelizer. In These Videos of his conversion story he describes how, through his reading of the Fathers of the Church, he was struck at how Catholic the early Church was.

The Rest of the talk can be found here:
Part 4

Part 5

God does not love us because we are good but because He is good.

 People stay away from the Church for many reasons. There are some who struggle with sins and a sense of unworthiness. Why would God be calling me? I am a sinner and I am not even sure I can give up my sin. If you are among those who may stay away for this reason, I wonder if you might consider watching this video. It is the end of a talk by Christopher Cuddy, a covert to Catholicism. He ponders our unworthiness to have received this call from Christ and encourages us to simply accept God’s love for us. God does not love us because we are good, we can only be good because God first loves us.

Christopher Cuddy is a convert to Catholicism from Evangelical Protestantism

He is the co-editor of I CHOOSE GOD: STORIES FROM YOUNG CATHOLICS and co-author of SWORD OF THE SPIRIT: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ST. PAUL.

40 Reasons to Come Home – Reason # 25 Don’t Block Your Blessings!

 

Reason # 25 – Don’t block your Blessings!  There are just some things you can’t get unless you come to Church. Some folks say they can pray at home just fine. Maybe so, but that’s not all we do or get at Church. Obviously you can’t receive Holy Communion at home and Jesus warns that you need it: “Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and Drink his Blood, you do not have life in you.” (Jn 6:53). We’ve already discussed that earlier.

But it is also true that you cannot get the other blessings of the Mass at home alone. For example, at the beginning of Mass the priest prays a prayer of forgiveness of sin after we call to mind our sins. This forgives venial sins only but don’t tell me that isn’t a blessing. At several points in the Mass the Priest, speaking in the person of Christ says, “The Lord be with you.” Guess what that means?! It means the Lord is with us who are gathered. These sorts of greetings by the priest are not just empty words, they convey and bestow a reality. Standing at the Altar the priest, once again acting in the person of Christ says, “This is my Body…this is my Blood.” Guess what happens? Jesus becomes sacramentally and perfectly present. When the Priest lifts up the sacred Host and Chalice, guess who you see? That’s right, it’s Jesus. Try that at home. At the end of the Mass, the priest says, “May almighty God bless you: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Guess what happens? God actually blesses you. Again, these are more than ritual words. They actually convey what they announce.

  There are many other blessings at Mass: there is fellowship. I know how much I count on my parishioners to bless me, encourage me and correct me. Many parishes (like mine) also  have great choirs. Many parishes (like mine) have great preaching 🙂 !  Good company, good teaching, great blessings and the greatest of all: Holy Communion.

Now don’t block your blessings. Come and go with me to my Father’s House. The following video is a bit grainy but you’ll enjoy this invitation anyway.

Mary – The Ark of the New Covenant

There is a teaching presented in the New Testament that Mary is the Ark of the (new) Covenant. Recall what the Ark of Covenant was in the Old Testament. It was a box of Acacia wood, covered  in gold. (See photo at right of a replica).  Inside it were placed: the two tablets on which God inscribed the Ten Commandments. Also in it was the staff of Aaron, and a vile of the Manna. More importantly, in this box, this ark, dwelt the very Presence of God in Israel. God mysteriously dwelt within, much as is the case today in our understanding of the tabernacle in our Catholic Churches. Incredibly however the Ark was lost when the Babylonians destroyed the temple and Jerusalem in 587 BC. It was never found again. Or was it? There is a scene in the New Testament, the Book of Revelation where it is rediscovered:

Rev 11:19ff Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.

Note that the Ark is seen. It has been found! John then seems to say nothing more of it. Or does he? He goes on to describe a beautiful woman who gives birth to a child who can be non other than Jesus. Thus the woman is Mary. A compelling case can be made that John has not shifted his attention away from the Ark of the Covenant but is in fact still describing it when he describes Mary. It makes sense that Mary would be described as the Ark of Covenant for she, like the Ark of old carries the very presence of God (Jesus) in her womb. She carries the presence of God in Israel every bit as much as did the ancient Ark. In fact she does so even more perfectly.

If this were the only place in the New Testament where Mary is described in this way, the whole interpretation might be dismissed as fanciful. Nevertheless Luke also describes Mary in this way (see next page) which helps give reinforcement to the idea that John here also intends for us to link Mary with the Ark of the Covenant.

St. Luke presents the tradition that Mary is the Ark of the Covenant by presenting a series of parallelisms. In other words he takes what was said of the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament and re-presents it but as applied to Mary. Observe the two texts in parallel columns below: (Note especially the bold texts)
 

 

 

(2 Sam 6:1-20) David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. {2} And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baalejudah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim. {3} And they carried the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart {4} with the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark. {5} And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. {6} And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. {7} And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there because he put forth his hand to the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God. {8} And David was angry because the LORD had broken forth upon Uzzah; and that place is called Perezuzzah, to this day. {9} And David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” {10} So David was not willing to take the ark of the LORD into the city of David; but David took it aside to the house of Obededom the Gittite. {11} And the ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months; and the LORD blessed Obededom and all his household. {12} And it was told King David, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obededom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom to the city of David with rejoicing; {13} and when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. {14} And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. {15} So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the horn…

 

 (Luke 1:39-47,56) In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, {40} and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. {41} And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit {42} and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! {43} And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? {44} For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. {45} And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” {46} And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, {47} and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.

 

 

 Note the following similarities between the Ancient Ark of the Covenant and Mary’s Visit:

  1. David Arose and went…Mary arose and went
  2. David went from Baal up to Judah…Mary went from Nazareth up to the Hill country of Judah
  3. David says How can the Ark of the Lord come to me…Elizabeth says Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?
  4. David Dances before the ark…John the Baptist leaps (dances) for Joy in the womb of his mother.
  5. The text in 2 Sam 6 describe the cries of the people which accompany the ark…Luke describes the cry of Elizabeth for Joy.

All these similarities paint of picture. Luke wants us to recall a story of the Ancient Ark of the Covenant now retold in the context of a visit of Mary, the Mother of God. What the Ark of the Covenant was in the Old Testament (that which carried the presence of God in Israel) Mary is now in the New Covenant. The teaching is inescapable. Luke and the Holy Spirit want us to understand that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. The Ark has been found an it is Mother Mary. Note too an important contrast. When David brought the Ark up to Jerusalem there was great fear mixed in with the joy. In the new story however as Mary carries Jesus in her womb, mercy is front and center and there is only joy.

Mary – The New Eve

annunciation

So here w on the feast of the Annunciation. Pay attention now, there are only 9 months till Christmas! Today we celebrate the beginning of the incarnation, that moment when, Mary having accepted God’s plan her, conceives Jesus in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. Eve said no to God but Mary said yes.

Mother Mary is more than a Christmas ornament or a sentimental side bar in salvation. She is integral to God’s plan. She is the New Eve, the Woman prophesied in Gen 3:15 when God cursed Satan and said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head while you strike at his heal.” Where Eve said no, Mary said yes. We got into trouble through a man (Adam), a woman (Eve) and a tree. But God beats Satan at his own game and rescues us by a Man (Jesus) a Woman (Mary) and the tree of the cross. No wonder Mary is at the foot of the Cross with Jesus, without her the picture would be incomplete. The Latin Fathers of the Church used a word play to illustrate all of this. Eve’s name is Latin is Eva. Well, what is Eva backwards? AVE! The first word Gabriel said to Mary: Ave gratia plena (Hail, full of grace). Mary, by God’s grace reverses Eve’s sinful choice.  She is the new Eve, but a different kind or Eve. Praise the Lord.

The following are not really videos, they are audio recordings with Scott Hahn if you wish to listen to more on this topic