Rotating Header Image

apologetics

5 Accusations Every Catholic Should Hear (At Least Once)!

 

Generally, when we deliver good news, we receive a positive response. Hearing something good usually makes people happy. Since the message of Jesus Christ is referred to as the “Good News”, it’s logical that sharing that message will result in the same joyful reaction…NOT! Those of us who try to share Christ’s message know all too well that we are often met with anger and resistance.

In reality, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. The words of Jesus in the Bible are very clear:

“You will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Matthew 10:22)

“If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of His household” (Matthew 10:25)

“But take heed to yourselves; for they will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony to them.” (Mark13:9)

When it comes to evangelization, rejection is nothing new. The prophets, Saints and even Jesus all experienced their fair share of rejection. The important lesson for us is to remember that just because someone doesn’t want to hear the truth doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t deliver it. When commissioning the Apostles, Jesus instructed them to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe ALL that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) The Church extends this mission to all baptized Catholics and, like the Apostles, we are called to share the FULL truth, not just the “fun stuff” with those around us.

As you might imagine, I’ve heard my share of insults and accusations. Over the years, I have noticed a pattern and here is a list of the 5 most common charges that I’ve heard. If you share your faith regularly, there’s a good chance you’ll be hearing some of these as well. To help you prepare, I’ve come up responses that will help you to counter the attack:

1. Judge Not And You Will Not Be Judged (Luke 6:37) – Although it’s used frequently, this one doesn’t stand up to the logic test. Think about it for a minute – if you’re telling me that we shouldn’t make moral judgments on someone’s behavior, how can you accuse me of being judgmental? Aren’t you judging me? Obviously, this isn’t what Jesus meant when He made this statement. Looking at His words in context gives us a clearer picture of the true meaning. Just prior to this statement, the Lord stressed the need for us to be merciful to others, as the Father is merciful to us (Luke 6:32-36). If pointing out someone’s sinful behavior in order to save them from potential damnation isn’t merciful, I don’t know what is! He then tells a parable about the “blind leading the blind” and cautions against attempting to remove the speck from our brother’s eye before removing the plank from our own (Luke 6:39-42). In other words, don’t try to point out your brother’s minor faults before correcting your own major defects. Note that Jesus doesn’t say “do not correct your brother”, but says instead “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:42)

2. Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast The First Stone (John 8:7) – A rough translation of this accusation (according to those who use it) is “if you’re a sinner too, you can’t comment on my behavior”. Is Jesus telling us that we can never point out someone’s wrongdoing as long as we have sins? Not at all! In fact he recommends “if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” (Matthew 18:15). Given that, what does Jesus mean when he talks about casting the first stone? Once again, let’s look at the facts. The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus, not for a legitimate reason, but rather to “test Him that they might have some charge to bring against Him”. (John 8:6) By looking at St. John’s words, we see that these individuals weren’t looking for justice, but rather for a way to trap Jesus! By responding with the familiar line “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7), Christ stopped them in their tracks and highlighted their hypocritical behavior. Finally, proving it really is acceptable to lovingly urge someone to stay out of trouble, the Lord’s parting words to the woman were “do not sin again”. (John 8:11)

3. What Right Do You Have To Tell Me That? – Usually paired with “you’re not a priest” or “I’m Catholic too and I don’t see anything wrong with it”, this statement focuses on the messenger and not the message. People don’t like to be told that their behavior is sinful, especially when they’re having a lot of fun. Catholics REALLY hate this because for many years they’ve gotten used to leaving their faith in Church and don’t expect to be challenged by one of their peers. It’s not as bad when it comes from a priest or deacon, because “it’s their job to say things like that”. In reality, every baptized Catholic is called to share in the prophetic ministry of Christ. This requires us to preach a message of repentance at times. Two of the spiritual works of mercy are “admonish the sinner” and “instruct the ignorant”. Note that there is no disclaimer stating that these works of mercy are only to be exercised by priests and religious. If we see someone (especially a close friend or family member) doing something seriously wrong, it is our duty to charitably let them know. If they were unaware that it’s wrong, then we are “instructing the ignorant”. If they are aware, then we are “admonishing the sinner”. If we don’t say anything, we could be held accountable. In any of these cases, we just might be saving a soul!

4. Don’t Try To Force Your Beliefs On Me! – Taken at face value, the Church would agree with this statement. The Vatican II document Dignitatus Humanae states that “It is one of the major tenets of Catholic doctrine that man’s response to God in faith must be free: no one therefore is to be forced to embrace the Christian faith against his own will.” The problem with this accusation, however, is that it usually doesn’t mean that one is being forced to believe in something against their will. It really means “I don’t want to hear what the Church has to say”. While we certainly shouldn’t “force” our beliefs on others, we shouldn’t remain silent either. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul is very clear about the need for evangelization:

But how are men to call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14)

For too long, Catholics have been apathetic about evangelization. We have gotten used to not venturing out of our comfort zones. If we believe (as we should) that the Catholic Church possesses the fullness of truth, then we should be anxious to share the truth with others.

5. The Catholic Church Is Corrupt – Unlike the previous four accusations (which are personal attacks), this one shifts the focus to the Church and uses a broad brush approach to discredit any and all of her teachings. Although easy to refute, this accusation needs to be treated with much sensitivity. Generally this charge refers to the clergy abuse scandal which has shaken the faith of many Catholics. Pointing out the small number of priests involved doesn’t usually diffuse the argument, as the very idea of coverups and disgraceful behavior by men of God and those in authority is repulsive. The key to responding to this accusation can actually be found in the Bible. The first thing to remember is that the Church was founded by Christ and will not be “going away” (Matthew 16:18). Secondly, Jesus chose twelve Apostles as the leaders of His Church. Our bishops are the successors of these Apostles. Two of the twelve betrayed the Lord (Peter and Judas) and all but one (John) deserted Him at the crucifixion. Since He was God, Jesus knew in advance what these men would do and He chose them anyway. As a result, we can see an example of less then desirable behavior among the earliest priests and leaders of the Church. The Church on earth is made up of sinners, but that doesn’t take away the fact that she was founded by Our Lord as the vehicle necessary for our salvation. Never discount the Lord’s ability to “write straight with crooked lines”.

If you’ve been accused of any these things – Congratulations! You’re probably doing a good job of spreading the Gospel. If you haven’t heard them, keep spreading the “Good News” and you will. Although we’re called to be charitable, we’re also called to help advance God’s Kingdom by sharing the truth. Don’t become frustrated when people attack you for doing so. Just be patient, keep planting seeds and let God take it from there!

What do you think? Did I miss any accusations? Which ones have you heard and how did you respond? Let me know!

“If you’re not a thorn in somebody’s side, you’re not doing Christianity right.” (Mother Angelica)

Don’t Be Afraid To “Cross The Line” For Jesus!

 

“There was a preacher once who was saying to the congregation, ‘It is wrong to steal horses.’ The congregation answered, ‘Amen,amen.’ ‘It is wrong to steal cows.’ ‘Amen, Amen!’ Then he said, ‘It is wrong to steal chickens.’ And someone shouted back, ‘Now he is meddling.’ Up until that point, conscience was not touched.” (Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen)

I recently wrote a blog post about the need for Catholics to take action against some of President Obama’s policies, mainly his health care plan and the HHS mandate. My analysis was clear and to the point – there are provisions in this plan that oppose Catholic teaching and, following the lead of our bishops, we must speak out and take action. While I expected some opposition (mainly from non-Catholics), I wasn’t prepared for what I received…FROM CATHOLICS!

Here’s a sample…

For the first time, a health care plan addresses the lack of health coverage for 60 million Americans who had been up to now left to die on the side of the road until the Good Samaritan bill was passed.

OK, not bad…some editorializing, but still respectful. Things start to go downhill with the next response…

I don’t think that our religion should have anything to do with politics. That is what is so great about our religion, it is the one true church but we aren’t taught to force our religion on people. If we did we would be looked at just as the Protestant church is. The Supreme Court ruling does go against some of the church’s teachings, but it is also for many of the teachings. Let’s not forget that 6 of the justices are Catholic.

A little more direct, but not really nasty. Then I got this one…

Certainly, everyone is entitled to their opinion but I find it improper for Gary Zimak to have the gall to think he speaks for all Catholics. This man is not a Bishop, Priest, or even a Brother for the Church. From where does his authority spring forth? I am wary of any person who speaks or writes in the name of God and doesn’t use Scripture…Yes…abortion is wrong. Yes…its even murder. However, Barack Obama is not a supporter of abortion! Some people do support it and use it as an after-the-fact form of birth control. That is murder. But then others, like Obama simply say that government will not regulate it by making it against the law.

This gentlemen finishes his comments with…

The conservative right (which I would never call religious) are the ones who DO NOT CARE ABOUT THE POOR as Jesus did. They love money, not God or their fellow man. Zimak derided the recent Supreme Court decision. Why? He is a rich white man! He doesn’t care about how the needy are finally getting health care reform that will help the poor and middle class! I am disgusted by those who would use Catholicism to further their own personal agenda. Those are the people Jesus called “Vipers!”

As a Catholic evangelist, I often write and say things that are met with resistance. As long as I stick to generalities (“God loves us”, “We can all be a little nicer”, “Prayer is effective”, etc.), then everyone is happy and nobody gets offended. However, the minute I start to challenge people’s beliefs or practices, the negative comments begin to flow. A few years ago, I wrote an article, “Ten Facts Most Catholics Don’t Know (But Should)”. For the most part, it was very well received. However, when one diocesan newspaper picked it up, the readers went crazy! My assertions on the all male priesthood, the Bible being compiled by the Catholic Church and all salvation taking place through the Church were met with the following comments…

“I wonder if Mr. Zimak realizes who his audience is. Some American Catholics are critical thinkers.”

“It is with dismay that I read the article by Gary Zimak in the guest commentary. He purports to be the founder of Following The Truth ministries. I am doubly troubled that you him as an authority of sorts. May I please know the authority by which this lay apostolate says he speaks for the Roman Catholic Church regarding women priests? What in fact are his credentials for representing the Vatican in any way?”

“We were rather startled by the guest commentary by Gary Zimak in the July 30th issue. We think that Mr. Zimak is a questionable source at best…As for No Salvation Outside of the Church, perhaps someone should explain the teachings of Vatican II to Mr. Zimak. He seems to have stopped his belief in Catholic teachings at the Council of Trent.”

“Then there was Gary Zimak’s statement that “Women will never be priests”. (Gary, didn’t your mother tell you ‘never say never?)”

“I wondered what you had in mind when selecting the piece for publication. It provided no new insights, but instead the same old worn out points that are often made by some finger-shaking, pre-Vatican II conservative ‘traditional’ Roman Catholics…Certainly, the piece did not contain any new, enlightened points of view that would pique the interest of forward looking, contemporary Christians searching for new understanding.”

And my personal favorite…

“Today I read ‘Ten Facts Most Catholics Don’t Know’ with the smirking picture of the author…”

Our Catholic Church teaches that we MUST evangelize. This requires us to charitably share the truth with others. Depending on just how much of the truth we share, however, we’re eventually going to be met with resistance. It happened to the prophets, it happened to the Apostles and it happened to Jesus. Our Lord warns of this with His chilling words:

“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53)

As Catholics, we must be willing to speak the truth, even if it makes someone angry. We live in a world that is filled with darkness. Many people do not want to learn the truth because it is in direct conflict with a sinful and selfish lifestyle. While the world may not WANT to hear the truth, the world NEEDS to hear the truth and it is our responsibility to proclaim it. A close friend (and excellent writer), Shane Kapler, wrote an excellent article in which he discusses the “Caricature Jesus”. In Shane’s words…

We prefer an imaginary Jesus, who forgives our failings but makes no demands. The imaginary Jesus never gets upset – unless it’s at religious bullies, and they’ve got it coming, don’t they? He came to relieve suffering (because pain, not separation from God, is the ultimate evil) and to teach us that if we’ll just be “tolerant” enough of everyone else’s opinion (translation = truth does not exist in fact; truth is what we individually believe it to be), peace will finally come.

Unfortunately, despite some people wanting to believe otherwise, the teachings of Jesus Christ as presented through His Church are very concrete and real. They cannot, and should not, be watered down or ignored simply to avoid conflict. As Catholics we have the duty to speak the truth, even if it means “crossing the line”. Jesus warned us of the hatred that we’d experience, but He also promised a great reward…

You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22)

Today’s Guest Blogger…Saint Athanasius!

 

Sometimes Catholics are accused of being “non Biblical”. We are chastised by some of our fellow Christians who believe that the Bible (as interpreted by the individual believer) is the SOLE rule of faith for Christians. I’m honored to have a guest blogger today. Saint Athanasius (296 – 373 A.D.), one of the early Church Fathers and bishop and Doctor of the Church will provide an answer in support of the Catholic position that the Word of God is transmitted by Sacred Scripture AND Sacred Tradition:

“The very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, was preached by the apostles and was preserved by the Fathers. On this was the Church founded, and if anyone departs from this, he neither is, nor any longer ought to be called a Christian.” (Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church)

Thank you, Saint Athanasius, for reminding us that Sola Scriptura (the Bible alone) was never practiced by the early Church . Happy feast day and please pray for us!

Got A Minute?

 
Can you spare 60 seconds each day for a little spiritual “pep talk”?  Join me each day for a “Moment Of Truth with Gary Zimak” as I share some thoughts with you.  Together, we’ll continue our journey on the road that will one day lead to ETERNAL LIFE!

Moment Of Truth with Gary Zimak 1-24-12 (mp3)

Why Everyone Should Be Catholic!

Disclaimer: If you’re expecting a long, detailed theological dissertation, let me apologize in advance.  Being somewhat of a simple minded person, I’m going to present a basic reason why I believe everyone should be Catholic.   On a very broad level, everyone should be Catholic because the Catholic Church contains the fullness of truth.  However, since this can be a little abstract, I’m going to offer a reason that is a little easier to grasp. 

One of the great things about being a Catholic is our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  Just to make sure that everyone understands me, let me elaborate a bit.  In the Eucharist, what looks like a round piece of bread (or a wafer) and what appears to be wine is actually Jesus.  You got it, it’s REALLY Him – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity!  It’s not a representation, it’s not some sort of spiritual presence, but it is actually Jesus Christ.  As a member of the Catholic Church, I get to pray before Him and receive Him every day!  If your “fluff meter” is going off, I suggest you back up and read this last paragraph again.  I wasn’t speaking figuratively and I wasn’t referring to anything abstract.  As a Catholic, I take Jesus at His word (John 6:22-71) and believe that He is fully present in the Eucharist.  It’s Him!

This past Saturday night, as I do each week, I visited the local adoration chapel and prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Before doing so, I put out a notice on Facebook asking for prayer requests.  As usual, I got a few responses, but most ignored the offer (By the way, don’t tell anyone,  but even though many of my Facebook friends ignore the invitation, I pray for them anyway.  After all, what kind of friend would I be if I saw Jesus face to face and didn’t put in a good word for them?).  Interestingly enough, one person replied with a “thanks, but no thanks” indicating that he’ll talk to Jesus Himself.  While that is strongly encouraged and definitely possible, I replied that unless you’re Catholic and believe in the Real Presence, you’re passing up meeting the Lord in person and settling for a “phone call” or “email”  instead.  As expected, he disagreed and made a comment about tolerance and love.  We did agree to pray for each other, but I got the feeling that I should write some more.

As baptized Catholics, we are all called to evangelize (sorry, fellow Catholics, but it’s true!) and that means sharing the “Good News” of our Faith with others.  Unfortunately, some people don’t want to hear what we have to say.  There’s no getting around this.  It happened to the prophets and it even happened to Jesus.  As Catholics, we believe that we have the fullness of truth and that our Church was founded by Christ (Matthew 16:18).  Why wouldn’t we want to share that truth with others, especially if it gives them a chance to TRULY meet Jesus?  Again, no “phone calls”, “letters” or “emails”, I’m talking about a chance to REALLY meet HIM!  I would have to be a real jerk to keep that to myself! 

My statement that “everyone should be Catholic” doesn’t mean that I think I’m better than anyone or part of an exclusive club.  Rather, it means that I’ve found the “pearl of great price” and I want to share it with others.  In other words,  I’d like to invite everyone to become a member of the Church founded by Christ.  In the meantime, if you’re not a Catholic and you don’t want to be, you better believe that I’ll be tolerant of your beliefs.  In fact, I’ll be happy to pray for you and ask you to pray for me. We can even discuss the beliefs that we share in common.  And when I visit Jesus each week, I’m still going to put in a good word for you. 

If you decide that you want to meet the Lord in person, contact your local Catholic parish or send me an email (gary@followingthetruth.com).

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Catholics Make (And How To Avoid Them)

There are many different approaches to living the Catholic Faith.  Some people prefer more traditional devotions such as novenas and formal prayer while others choose to speak to Jesus using spontaneous prayer.  Some like the Charismatic movement while others pray in silence.  As long as your approach is faithful to Church teaching and brings you closer to Christ, it really is a matter of personal choice. 

However, over the course of my life as a Cradle Catholic, I’ve discovered 5 big mistakes that will definitely hurt your faith.  I have personally made most of these mistakes and the results were not pretty.  Instead of getting closer to Christ (and being a good example for others), I ended up heading in the wrong direction.  In order to spare you some agony, I present my list of the 5  biggest mistakes Catholics make and how to avoid them.

1. Checking The Box– “What do you mean I’m not a good Catholic?  I go to Mass on Sunday!”  This was my philosophy for most of my life.  I went to Mass every week and thought that I was fulfilling my duties as a Catholic.  After all, there are tons of Catholics who don’t even go to Mass!  Unfortunately, even though I was physically going to church and saying the prayers, my mind was a thousand miles away.

Those of you who are married, in a relationship, or have close friends realize that speaking to a person once a week doesn’t help to build a close relationship.  If you want to get closer to someone, you need to speak with them often.  The same principle applies to our relationship with Christ.  If all we do is show up for Mass each week, we’re never going to REALLY know Him.  This situation becomes even worse when we don’t even pay attention at Mass.  If we want to become good friends with Jesus, we must talk to Him (in prayer) frequently.  We should listen to Him speak through the Bible and we should encounter Him in the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession as often as we can.

2. “My Faith Is A Personal Matter” – “I can’t impose my personal beliefs on others.”  Sometimes known as “religious indifference”, this is rooted in the belief that one religion is as good as the next.  People who fall into this trap believe that our religious beliefs are personal and shouldn’t be “forced” on others.  While we shouldn’t force our beliefs on others, we should “always be ready to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15) and be willing to “preach the gospel to all nations” (Mk 13:10).  Before He ascended into Heaven, Jesus instructed the Apostles:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”  (Mt 28:19)

In other words, what one believes really DOES matter!  Jesus instructed the Apostles to teach ALL that He commanded, not just some things.  Our Lord founded the Catholic Church (Mt 16:18-20) as the vehicle for our salvation.  The Church has the fullness of truth and her teachings should be shared with others.  As proof of this, St. Paul tells us that “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tm 2:4).  It is our job as Catholics to share in this mission and to share the “Good News” with those whom we encounter in our daily lives. 

3. The “Do It Yourself” Approach–  “I don’t believe in medals and novenas.  That’s a bunch of superstition.  Saying the rosary is for old people.  I speak directly to God!”  Does that sound familiar?  If you want to ensure that your faith never gets any stronger, the best way to do that is to ignore the Blessed Mother, the intercession of the saints, devotions, approved apparitions, sacramentals (such as the scapular, medals and holy water) and try to do it all by yourself. 

The Church gives us sacramentals and devotions to help us get to Heaven.  The same can be said for approved (please note that I say “approved”!) apparitions of Our Lady and Our Lord.  If we try to do it all by ourselves, we’re going to fail.  Why?  Because we’re human and that makes us prone to laziness, love of comfort and doing the wrong thing.  Not exactly the qualities that will help one attain eternal life!  If we avail ourselves of some Divine assistance, however, all things are possible.

For many years I chose to ignore approved Marian apparitions, as I thought they were an unnecessary distraction.  I now realize that this wasn’t too bright on my part.  If the Church rules that certain appearances of the Blessed Mother are worthy of belief, why would I choose to ignore her message?  If I really wanted to get closer to the Lord and be a better Catholic, shouldn’t I listen to her advice?  It really makes sense to me now and I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this powerful gift.   

Another form of this mistake is forgetting to ask for help.  I once told my spiritual director that I was trying to stop worrying and trust God more.  I mentioned how hard I was trying, but without much success.  He replied, “Did you ask God for help?”  I was speechless because I honestly never thought of doing that!  Don’t try to become a better person on your own.  Ask the saints to intercede for you and ask the Lord for some extra grace.  You’ll be amazed at the results! 

4. Ignorance Is Bliss – “What I don’t know won’t hurt me”.  If we don’t take the time to learn the teachings of the Church, it’s almost certain that we’re going to be going against God’s will.  How can we truly obey the Lord’s commandments if we don’t know them?  Proponents of this brand of Catholicism go through life practicing contraception, downloading music illegally, missing Mass on Holy Days of Obligation, drinking to excess, etc.  The trouble with this approach is that we’re not doing what Jesus wants us to do. 

As Catholics, we are blessed to have the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).  This book provides an excellent summary of what Catholics believe.  Sadly, many Catholics have never looked at this great resource.  One of the most eye opening sections involves the explanation of “Thou Shall Not Kill” (CCC 2258 – 2330).  Aside from the obvious meaning, the Church expands the commandment to cover respect for the souls of others (avoid setting a bad example that may lead others astray), proper attention to our health (gluttony, excessive use of alcohol or tobacco and even speeding can be grave sins!) and the preservation of peace (be on guard against anger and verbal abuse).

Not only can this mistake cause damage to your spiritual well being, it can even afect your salvation!  As Catholics, we are responsible for the education of our conscience.  While, objectively speaking, God will not hold us accountable for what we don’t know, we are expected to make an attempt to learn what the Church teaches.  According to the Catechism:

This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man “takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.”  In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits. (CCC 1791)

5. The “Either-Or”  Fallacy – Either you know the facts and follow the laws of the Catholic Church or you do nice things for people.  We can’t deny Communion to anyone because Jesus dined with sinners, not just those who were holy.  The Mass MUST be in Latin because that’s the way things were done years ago when Catholics “cared about their faith”.  Those who fall into this line of thinking are making the false assumption that in order to be a good Catholic you must either follow the rules OR be a good person.  In reality, we must do BOTH!

Throughout His public ministry, Jesus made it clear that we must worship Him with our hearts as well as our lips.  In the Sermon on the Mount, He warned against rattling off “empty” prayers:

In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. (Mt 6:7)

Unfortunately, many individuals incorrectly interpret this as a condemnation of formal prayer or, worse yet, as a dismissal of the need for any law or rules.  That viewpoint completely ignores the words of Jesus who says just the opposite!

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.  Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:17-19)

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn 14:15)

In order to live our Catholic Faith, we first need to understand the rules.  Once we understand the rules and expectations of being a Catholic, we have to live them.  The “either-or” fallacy just doesn’t “cut it”.  In order to be a good Catholic, we must do both!

So there you have it …My list of the 5 biggest mistakes that Catholics make and how to avoid them.  What do you think? Agree? disagree?  Did I miss any?  Let me know…

Now It Makes Sense!

Over the past several days, I’ve been discussing how the Bible can be used to support the argument that the Catholic Church is the one, true Church established by Christ.  We started our journey by looking at the fact that God wants everyone to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth.  In my last post, I examined Jesus’ instruction that we must eat His Body and drink His Blood in order to acheive eternal life.  This command greatly confused His disciples and caused many of them to scatter.  It wasn’t until the Last Supper that it all became clear.

Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you (Lk 22:19-20).

Now the words about eating His Body make sense and thankfully it has nothing to do with cannibalism!  Our Lord didn’t say that “this REPRESENTS my Body” or “this SYMBOLIZES my Body”.  He said, “This IS my Body”.   Is there a church that believes that Our Lord’s Body can actually exist under the appearance of bread and that follows His command to “do this in memory of me”?  This sounds like the Catholic Mass…and, come to think of it, the Catholic Church fits all of the other scriptural requirements, but it can’t really be “the Church”, can it? 

Although some folks literally “stand on their head” to explain away all of the Bible passages that support Catholic doctrine, the evidence is clear.  If you are Catholic, you can take comfort in the fact that our beliefs are totally in harmony with the Bible.  If you are not Catholic, I invite you to compare the teachings of your church to God’s Word contained in Scripture.  Look at the passages we discussed, meditate upon them and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to “the truth”.  A careful and honest study of Scripture has brought many people into the Catholic Church.  If you would like to learn more about becoming Catholic, please contact your local Catholic parish or email me.

The Most Important Words Jesus NEVER Said

Ordinarily, when we look at the public ministry of Jesus, we focus on His words.  His parables, commands and sayings provide us with the guidelines needed to live good Christian lives.  In one case, however, what Jesus didn’t say is of equal or greater importance than what He did say.  Over the past few days, I’ve been looking at some Scripture passages supporting the Catholic Church as the one, true Church.  Today, let’s look at the Lord’s Bread of Life discourse, where He gave an astonishing teaching, using a combination of words and silence.

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him (Jn 6:53-66).

Jesus said that eating His flesh and drinking His blood is necessary in order to have eternal life.  This created quite a stir among His disciples, as evidenced by their comment about it being a “hard saying”.  Throughout the ages, many who don’t believe in the Catholic teaching of the Real Presence, have argued that Jesus wasn’t speaking literally.  They feel that He was just speaking figuratively.  If that’s the case, why are His words difficult to accept?  They are difficult to accept because everyone standing there that day knew that Jesus was speaking literally and really meant what He said.  It didn’t make sense to them.  How could they eat His Body and drink His Blood?  As further proof that Jesus really meant what He said, Scripture tells us that many of His disciples walked away, returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him! 

If Jesus was only speaking figuratively, wouldn’t it make sense for Him to call them back and clear up the misunderstanding?  Instead, He said…

NOTHING! 

Why?  Because He meant exactly what He said previously.

Next:  The “difficult” words of Jesus suddenly make sense as He celebrates the Last Supper (Luke 22:19-20).

How Can A Person Be Born Again?

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit(Jn 3:1-5).

In yesterday’s segment of our Biblical journey to the one, true Church, we looked at the Great Commission, when Jesus directed the Apostles to make disciples of all the nations through baptism and teaching.  I discussed the fact that we’re now looking for a Church that baptizes its members.  While many churches fall into that category, it is often treated as a symbolic act and not deemed necessary for salvation.  Looking at the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus, however, makes it very difficult to draw that conclusion.  Based on our evidence so far, it really appears that the Church established by Christ will view baptism as a requirement for salvation.

How did the first Christians feel about this?  When we look at the writings of the early Church Fathers, we see much support for the necessity of baptism:

“Without baptism, salvation is attainable by none.” (Tertullian)

“If any man does not receive baptism, he does not have salvation.” (St. Cyril of Jerusalem)

“[According to] apostolic tradition . . . the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal. This is the witness of Scripture too” (St. Augustine)

So far, the Catholic Church is very much in the running and her position will grow stronger as we look at the next few passages.  In my next post, we’ll discuss one of Jesus’ most difficult teachings which is also one of His greatest gifts.

Tomorrow: The Bread of Life Discourse (John 6:48-66)

The Great Commission And The Importance Of Baptism

Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  (Mt 28:18-20).

Although we now know that Jesus founded a Church and that this Church is the guardian of truth, we still don’t know the identity of that Church.  With thousands of Christian churches to choose from, where do we begin?  Fortunately, by looking at some more clues we can narrow down our list of choices.

In today’s passage, known as the Great Commission, Jesus instructs the Apostles to carry on His work of making disciples.  The Lord is clear when He lists the way that this should be done:

1.  Through baptism.

2. By teaching the future disciples to observe all that Jesus has commanded.

Jesus’ mention of baptism as a requirement for discipleship is an important clue when trying to find the one, true Church.  In fact, in Saint Mark’s version of the Great Commission, he adds emphasis to the importance of baptism with the words, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk 16:16).  While many Christian churches baptize their members, not all of them consider baptism to be a sacrament and necessary for salvation.  Our list of potential churches has just gotten A LOT smaller!

Tomorrow: Jesus confirms that baptism is necessary for salvation (John 3:1-5)