There is a lot of good apologetics material out there. Apologetics is not the art of apologizing for Catholic teaching but rather is the science of explaing Catholic Teaching and defending it.
One teaching of the Catholic Church that is often attacked is that of the perpetual virginity of Mary, a teaching that goes back as far as we can remember in Catholic Tradition and Dogma. But Scripture does mention “brothers” of Jesus. What are we to do with all this? The following video answers the question. Pay attention it moves quickly but John Martignoni does a pretty good job of tackling the question in just about a minute.
In this week just before Holy Week we are reading from the 8th Chapter of John’s Gospel wherein Jesus enters into increasingly severe conflict with the temple leaders in Jerusalem. The conflict will ultimately end with Jesus death which we celebrate a week from this Friday.
I wonder if most Catholics today are ready for persecution. It probably doesn’t take a prophet to realize that, as the world around us goes increasingly insane and strays from God’s ways, we are more and more likely to experience persecution. The basic path seems to be this:
Biblically Based moral vision is set aside either as old fashioned or as merely “personal opinion.”
Tolerance is exulted as the only real virtue.
Insist that all behavior (except perceived intolerance) is to be tolerated.
Accuse anyone who questions newly sanctioned behaviors of being intolerant and thus worthy of increasing punishment. Call them names such as intolerant, reactionary, rigid, unkind, mean, hateful, etc. Generally incite personal dislike of those who hold to traditional biblical morality through such labeling.
Begin the process calling all perceived intolerance “hate crimes” and start exacting punishment. Start by removing tax exempt status, begin permitting lawsuits for failing to observe all forms of tolerance (Except tolerance of intolerance).
Exact more punitive measures such as jail time for those guilty of so-called “hate crime” or intolerance. Declare such people as dangerous since their “intolerance” may cause violence and thus call for their imprisonment.
As the world gets crazier such a process (which is already far along) does not seem so far-fetched. In Canada there are already clergy on trial for the “hate-crime” of opposing so-called “Gay marriage.” You can read more of that HEREand HERE. But there are several things to ponder about persecution:
Persecution is normative for the Christian. Jesus exemplifies this in his own life and also teaches: If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. (John 15:19ff)
Hence, the fact that we are persecuted does not mean we have done anything wrong. – Too many Christians are swayed by the anger of others into thinking that they have done or said something wrong or inappropriate. While not every tactic we might use is always appropriate, our message, even if delivered with appropriate means will often anger the world. Again, this DOES NOT mean we have done anything wrong.
Refuse to accept and internalize the labels. Just because some one calls you intolerant does not mean that you are. Further we should not be required to tolerate everything. Hence it is appropriate to strongly oppose, to refused to tolerate that which we consider wrong.
Courage– Preaching and living the faith in a world gone increasingly mad will require guts and persistence. We must re-examine our intense need to be liked by everyone and approved by all and prefer nothing to God and his truth.
So, as we see Jesus in the Gospels of this week go into the fray for our sakes, we must admire his courage and pray for similar strength and virtue. Things may get difficult in the years ahead. But listen again to Jesus: In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33).
I preach on this topic at this morning’s Mass. If you’d like to hear more you can listen here: Pondering Persecution (17 Minutes)
Here too is a video clip of John 8 that depicts the increasing opposition that was mounting against Jesus. It is from the Movie The Gospel of John.
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.
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: