Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Die Schutzmantel Madonna

Audio of the FGO at the December 12 Business Meeting of Council 13112.

Audio material is drawn from this post; and this one.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Holy Souls

November 2013 FGO by Bro. Jason Rhoad:
 
 
The month of November is dedicated to the holy souls in purgatory, so I thought it would a great time to go over what the Church teaches about this doctrine. It is safe to say that purgatory is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and most often challenged teachings of the Church. Even among Catholics, it is a source of confusion.

 
Let us begin by explaining what it is not. Purgatory is not a second chance. It is not somewhere we can go after we die that gives us a second chance to be saved. At the moment of our death, we will face our particular judgment and we will know immediately what our eternal destination will be. Purgatory is also not an eternal third place where people go who are not good enough to go to heaven, but not bad enough to go to hell. At the end of time when Christ returns and time gives way to eternity, purgatory will no longer exist. Only heaven and hell will remain.

 
So what is purgatory then? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it this way "purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven," which is experienced by those who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified" (CCC 1030). This purification is necessary because scripture teaches us in Rev 21:27 that nothing unclean shall enter heaven. Yet we know that we are all sinners and sin is incompatible with heaven. Therefore we must be perfectly purified after death, but before entering heaven. The Church gives the term purgatory (from the root word purge) to explain this process of being purified after death.

 
One of the common objections against this teaching is that the Catholic Church invented the doctrine later on. The only trouble with that is that the objectors can’t agree on just when that occurred. In fact, any date that is proposed for its invention can be debunked by pointing to evidence of its teaching earlier than the proposed date. It is true that the term “purgatory” may not have appeared right away, but that has no bearing on the belief that is behind the term. The Church was teaching about final purification after death and the need to pray for the dead before the word purgatory came to be used to describe this reality. Nor does the fact that the word is not in the bible have any bearing on whether or not the teaching is present there. For instance, the words bible, trinity, and incarnation are not in the bible either. But all Christians agree that their underlying truths are all there, even if better words to describe those truths weren’t used until later.

 
The fact of the matter is that prayers for the dead go back to the earliest of Christian times. The writings in the catacombs of Rome dating to the 1st and 2nd centuries clearly show that the early Christians were employing this practice. If the deceased were in heaven, they would need no prayers and if they were in hell, no prayers could help them. All throughout the early centuries of Christianity, we see evidence of this teaching. For instance, in the 4th century, we see St. Monica asking her son Augustine to offer masses for her soul once she dies.

 
Another key piece of evidence that this teaching goes back to the earliest of Christian times is the fact that at no point do we ever see protests against it. We know that the early church and the church throughout the centuries certainly challenged new teachings. They wanted do know if a teaching was something that was believed by their ancestors or if it was made up later on. Was this something handed down from the Apostles? Surely purgatory would have been considered a big time change if it had not been believed from the beginning. Yet, we see no protests. It was not uncommon for councils to be called to settle disputes like this. But we see absolutely no evidence of dispute at all.

 
But what about the bible? Is purgatory scriptural? This can actually lead to a larger discussion about the fact that nowhere in the bible does it say that everything to be believed and practice has to be explicitly taught in the pages of scripture. But even so, the answer is yes, purgatory is indeed scriptural. In Mt 12:32 Jesus refers to the sinner who will not be forgiven in this age or in the age to come. This implies that one can be freed from the consequences of their sins after death. Also in Mt 5:26, Jesus refers to the sinner who will not be released until he has paid the last penny. Perhaps a clearer reference to this reality comes from Paul in 1 Cor 3:15. Here we see Paul describing the day of judgment and how ones works are tried after their death. What happens to the righteous man if his works don’t pass muster? “He will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” This loss can’t refer to hell because no one is saved there. And he can’t be in heaven because there is no suffering (fire) there. So where is this man? The Catholic doctrine of purgatory is the only thing that explains this passage.

 
We know too that belief in prayers for the dead pre-dates Christianity. The Jews also practiced this before the time of Christ. We see in 2 Maccabees 12:43-45 a direct approval of prayer for the dead: “"In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the dead to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.”

 
This verse so clearly teaches the doctrine of purgatory that at the time of the reformation, the reformers removed this book of the bible from their version of scriptures in order to avoid believing in the doctrine. It is clear that purgatory was a teaching that has its roots in the OT and was believed in from the earliest of Christian times. The Catholic Church did not add this teaching at some point in its history. Rather, it was the Protestants who changed on this doctrine that had always been believed by Christians and by Jews before them. So armed with this knowledge, let us not forget our brothers and sisters in purgatory. The church triumphant in heaven, the church suffering in purgatory, and the church militant here on earth are all one church. We should always then, especially during the month of November, remember the holy souls in purgatory in our prayers and in our acts of penance. One day, if we persevere and leave this world in God’s friendship, it will be us who will want and need the prayers of those still on earth to aid in our purification. So let us never cease to offer ours for those there now.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Lazarus and the Rich Man . . . and us

October FGO by Bro. Jason Rhoad of Council 8123 in Hartsville.

A recent Sunday Gospel reading told the story of Lazarus and the rich man. We are all familiar with it. Lazarus was the poor man who was lying by the door of the rich man. The rich man ate well each day, while Lazarus would have been happy to get the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Lazarus dies and is carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham. When the rich man dies, he is in torment. We then see an exchange between the rich man and Abraham where the rich man pleads for mercy and then asks for help for his brothers so they don’t end up where he is.

 There is so much in this Gospel passage. What I want to focus on is perhaps one of the main and most obvious (but perhaps most overlooked) lessons in the story. That is simply that both men died. In fact, the line that struck me the most was “the rich man also died and was buried”. It is almost an afterthought, spoken in a very matter of fact way by Jesus after he had just told what happened to Lazarus when he died. The point that is made here is that no matter what, we all die, and then comes the judgment. It doesn’t matter if we eat sumptuously each day and dress in fine linens, or if we are poor and eat scraps, we all die. One of the formulas used on Ash Wednesday helps us to keep this fact in the front of our minds, “remember man that thou art dust, and to dust you shall return”.

I’m reminded of a story from the life of St. Thomas More, the great English martyr from the 16th century. He refused to sign the oath acknowledging King Henry VIII as the head of the Church in England. He was arrested and put in the tower of London. While imprisoned, the Chancellor Thomas Cromwell came to visit Thomas to try to convince him to sign the oath. He did so for political reasons, not because he had any interest in saving Thomas’ life. Cromwell knew how well respected More was in England and that if he would sign the oath, many in England who had reservations about the King’s newly self-ordained position would likely capitulate. Cromwell was the opposite of Thomas More. He had lied and manipulated his way to his position as Chancellor. More refuses to sign the oath of course and as a last ditch plea Cromwell tells him how foolish he is because this will cost him his life. Thomas then tells Cromwell, “the only difference between you and I, is I’ll die today, and you tomorrow”.

 To me, that this is the central message of this Gospel passage. No one gets out alive. We will all die and face judgment. Even if we are blessed with 100 years of life on this earth, it’s nothing. That is like a blink of an eye in the context of eternity. Jesus clearly teaches us in this parable that how we treat our fellow man, not how much or how little we have, has much to do with our eternal destination. This flies in the face of the message the world sends us in today’s culture. The message that says, “he who dies with the most toys wins.” Jesus clearly shows us in this parable that that is simply not the case.

 Shifting gears just a little, I always like to try to tie in Church teaching when I can. We can see in this passage some evidence in support of a doctrinal teaching of the Church concerning purgatory. We assume that Lazarus is in heaven and the rich man is in hell. But is that necessarily the case? Can souls in hell communicate w/ those in heaven? No. Yet we see the rich man conversing with Abraham. Perhaps Lazarus and Abraham are not in heaven, experiencing the beatific vision, because Christ has not yet died, opening the gates of heaven. The righteous were sometimes referred to as being “in the bosom of Abraham”, just as Jesus refers Lazarus as being in this passage. But there is still no evidence that those in hell could talk to those in the bosom of Abraham. So is it possible the rich man is somewhere other than hell? There is no Church teaching on this, so I don’t want to give the impression that the Church uses this passage as support for its teaching on purgatory, but the rich man does something rather interesting that may be a clue that he is not in hell. He makes intercession for his brothers who are still alive. Can someone who is in hell intercede on behalf of others? No. So is it possible then, that the rich man is in purgatory? We can’t say for sure, but we can say that there must be a 3rd place. Communication can’t take place between heaven and hell, so therefore there must be a “place” or state of being in the afterlife that is neither heaven nor hell. That is clearly demonstrated in this parable from Jesus.

This is one of my favorite Gospel passages. It is so rich with lessons for us. I’d encourage you to go back and read it again to see what may be waiting there for you to discover. I love the last line, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.” How many people today remain unconvinced, even though someone did rise from the dead? One day we too will rise from the dead and our resurrected bodies will join our souls in heaven or in hell. We have Moses and prophets. We have more than that as well. We have Jesus and His Apostles and all the saints throughout the ages. So we have even less excuse than the rich man. So pray then that we might persevere to the end and when our time comes we be carried by angels to join with Lazarus in the Kingdom of heaven.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Catholics on the Road to Emmaus

FGO from 13112 Business Meeting on October 8, 2013. It's based on this article, although the content is adjusted for time and an adult audience.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Abel, Abraham, Melchizedek

"Be pleased to look upon these offerings with a serene and kindly countenance, and to accept them, as you were pleased to accept the gifts of your servant Abel the just, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the offering of your high priest Melchizedek, a holy sacrifice, a spotless victim."

FGO from the September 10, 2013 business meeting.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Winning the Right to Be Heard

September FGO by Bro. Jason Rhoad:

There is an old and familiar quote attributed to the great saint Francis of Assisi: "Evangelize always, and when necessary, use words." Whether or not he actually ever said that, the meaning is clear. We are to live our lives in a way that reflects Christ to others. Put another way, our actions should speak louder than our words. That way, when the time comes for us to use words, people will have a reason to listen to what it is we have to say.

Throughout the past 2000 years, missionaries have traveled all over the world doing just that. They didn’t just get off the boat in some foreign land and begin expounding upon the finer points of the Immaculate Conception. Rather, countless Jesuits, Franciscans, and Dominicans wanted to bring to those who had never heard it, the simple truth of the Gospel. That is, that God exists and He sent His son Jesus Christ to earth to die for our sins that we might spend eternity with Him in heaven. But in order to be able to deliver even that synthesis of the Gospel, first they had to win the right to be heard. How did they do it?

In many times and places, when strangers showed up it was usually not good news. Typically new people showed up to do things like take the resources from the place, to rape, pillage, and plunder, or to outright take over a new land. So you can imagine that often times, those attempting to spread the truth to new lands were not always met with open arms. Most of the religious order priests who would be part of the missionary contingent would have taken the traditional vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Why is that important? Because over time, it would help to calm the fears of the native population. Are they here for our women? Well no, they have taken vows of chastity. Are they here to take our resources? Well no, they have taken a vow of poverty. Are they here to take us over? No, these men have themselves vowed obedience to others, so they must not be interested in power. So why are they here? Over time, the missionaries won the right to be heard. They lived their lives in a way that eventually lead the natives to stop being threatened by their presence and then ultimately open to the message they had come to deliver. This was not easy of course. It often took many years and history is littered with examples of those who paid the ultimate price while trying to bring the Gospel to others. But ultimately their success is born out. People from all over the world have become Christians and joined the Catholic Church because of their witness. In fact, places like Africa and Asia are now increasingly repaying the favor to the west by sending us priests.

Essentially nothing has changed. If we want to bring others to Christ, we have to live our lives in a way that wins us the right to be heard. Even the best logic won’t stand up if we don’t imitate Christ in our daily lives. We may not have to travel to the ends of the earth anymore, but there are plenty of people on our own block (and indeed in our own homes) who need to light of Christ.

One modern day example is an incident involving Mother Teresa. She was invited to speak to a group of students and faculty at Harvard University. Harvard is not unlike many other institutions of higher learning these days in that it is not always friendly and open to certain traditional points of view concerning morality. But Mother Teresa spoke for over an hour, focusing largely on the evil and injustice of abortion and how a country as great as America could not remain so blind to this horrific scourge on society. At the end of her talk, she received a standing ovation. You see, her reputation preceded her. By the way she lived, she had won the right to be heard. And who knows, she may have even changed a few minds that day.

Now that may seem like an extreme example, but living a life of holiness is what we are all called to. With God’s grace, we can do it. And when He leads us to share our witness with others, to help them come home to Christ and His Church, the lives that we lead can win us the right to be heard as well. Evangelize always, and when necessary use words. When it is necessary to use words, those words will carry much more weight if the people we are talking to know that they aren’t just words, but are words backed by lives lived in the cooperation of God’s grace. This doesn’t mean that we have to be perfect before we can share our faith with others. Just that we humbly and joyfully try to be the people God calls us to be. If we genuinely do that, God will do the rest.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Are You Saved?



 FGO by Brother Jason Rhoad:

Chances are, you have been asked that question at some point in your life. If not, chances are real good that you will be asked. But the real question is: Do you have a good answer to the question? Typically, the questioner has a somewhat different view of salvation as compared to what the Catholic Church as always taught. Usually what they really mean, is “don’t you wish you had an absolute assurance of salvation?

As with most Protestant teachings, we have to be careful not to paint with too broad of a brush. There is quite a range of views about salvation out there. That in itself is a bit telling. Often times in my discussions with people, the notion that all Christians agree on the essentials comes up. I usually respond with something like this. “Do you consider salvation an essential?” I then proceed to point out that there is terrible disagreement among Christians on the topic of salvation. What do we have to do to get it? Can we lose it once we have it? Is faith alone all that is required? Does baptism have anything to do with it? As you might suspect, there are as many answers to these questions as there are denominations. I mention all this just to point out that this topic is not unlike any number of others that divide Christians. But I want to focus on a particular viewpoint on salvation that is quite popular in this part of the country. That is, Once Saved Always Saved.

Two major pillars of the Protestant Reformation are Sola Scriptura (The Bible Alone is the sole rule of faith) and Sola Fide (Salvation is by faith alone). It is an offshoot of this second pillar that we will examine here. According to the OSAS teaching, once a person accepts Christ as their personal Lord and savior, they then have an absolute assurance that when they die, they will go to heaven. They may well lead a good and holy life after accepting Christ, but it is not a condition for salvation. Indeed nothing they do, no sin they commit, can ever undo their salvation, even if they want it to. The thinking goes like this: There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, therefore there is nothing we can do to lose it. That sounds reasonable enough, until we take a closer look.

We would agree that there is nothing we can do to merit salvation. We are saved by God’s grace, which is a free, unmerited gift. There is nothing we can do to earn it. There is no criteria like, if you do this many good deeds, etc. you go to heaven. Only Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the cross and the grace that flows from it is enough to be able to reconcile man to God. But it in no way follows that once we receive an unmerited gift that we have to keep that gift forever. Our free will is still intact and we can choose to do any number of things with a gift given to us. We can give it back, misplace it, destroy it, give it to someone else, take it back to the store, etc. We can even forfeit something we are given by later displeasing the one who gave it. For instance, when someone has been given a special position but is later stripped of the position due to mismanagement.

What about when we turn to scripture? We find there Adam and Eve, who received God’s grace as unmerited as any of us. But they most definitely did do something to demerit that grace. Through their disobedience, they lost the grace they had been given. So while it sounds nice to say that since we did nothing to get it we can do nothing to lose it, it simply does not hold up scrutiny.

Elsewhere in scripture, there is the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke chapter 15. The Prodigal Son was in his father’s house, and the father in the parable is representative of God the Father. Then, the Prodigal Son leaves his father’s house and goes and lives a sinful life. In the end, though, he repents and returns to his father. After he comes back, the father says this of him in verse 24: “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

To be dead is to be unsaved, and to be alive is to be saved. Notice very carefully, though, that the father says the son is alive “again.” In other words, the son was alive, or saved, when he was in his father’s house at the beginning of the parable; was “dead,” or unsaved, when he left his father’s house and lived in sin; then was alive again, saved again, when he repented and returned to his father’s house. Alive, dead, alive again. Saved, unsaved, saved again.

These are merely two of many examples from scripture that point out the fallacy of OSAS. The argument can be furthered via practical example. Take for instance, someone who professes Christ as his savior at age 14. For ten years, lives an exemplary Christian life. He then gets married and starts a family. Eventually though, he begins to grow lukewarm. He succumbs to temptation and cheats on his wife. He stops going to church and eventually comes to believe that God doesn’t even exist. Does a decision he made at one point in his youth trump every other decision he ever makes? A typical response to this is that the person was never really saved in the 1st place. To which I answer, what kind of assurance is that? He thought he was. What if he’d have died during the 10 year period following his salvation experience before falling away? If he was never really saved, would he have gone to hell, even though he thought he was saved?

I once asked a Baptist friend of mine, are there people who think they are saved but are really not? He said yes. I said, are you one of those people? Oh no, he said, I know I’m saved. See a problem here?

So what does the Church teach concerning salvation? Simply put, if we persevere to the end, and die in a state of grace, we will go to heaven. If we die in a state of mortal sin, we will go to hell. And we leave the judging to Christ. We do not judge ourselves. Paul puts it best in 1 Cor 4:4, “I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not there justified. It is the Lord who judges me. In 1 Cor 9:27, Paul admits that even he could fall away. “I pummel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified.”

I have heard and read of many occasions where Catholics were talked into leaving their faith because the Church does not teach an absolute assurance of salvation. I can certainly sympathize. I wish the Protestant doctrine of once saved always saved were true. But unfortunately, it simply isn’t. That doesn’t mean that we are to go around terrified of whether or not we will get to heaven. Indeed we can be assured that if we remain in God’s grace, He will be true to His promises. Furthermore, Christ gave us the sacraments, particularly reconciliation, to impart in a visible and real way, His grace upon us. But as scripture, practicality, and the constant 2000 year authoritative teaching of the Church informs us, more is asked of us than a one time acceptance of Christ. So as Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Excerpt from July 2013 GK Workshop

About 5 minutes from my Lector lecture, very much like a typical one of my FGOs. It's a version of something I do in Catechism class, covered here.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Selecting a Lector

This Saturday at the GK Workshop I'll be talking to GKs & DGKs about who in a council might make a good lector. At the end of my presentations I'll ask the attendees to visit this post when they get home. So if you current Lectors have anything to add, please put it in a comment. If you comment before Friday July 26 I may work it into my Saturday pitch.  

I'll be including the following:

To start, what is a Lector? Here's good general definition of the Lector's job:

"The lector provides both educational and entertaining programs to the council. He is responsible for the ‘Good of the Order’ portion of council meetings. In order to provide members with informative and educational programs, he must be knowledgeable and aware of all council programming."

I agree with this job description; but for South Carolina Lectors I would rephrase it to:

"The lector provides both educational and entertaining programs to the council. He is responsible for the ‘Good of the Order’ portion of council meetings. His goal is to prepare his Brother Knights for the New Evangelization. That is, to help them know Catholicism well-enough to explain it to non-Catholics."

A good potential lector would likely have some of these characteristics:

-is orthodox.

-is actively interested in Catholicism, does more than go to Mass on Sunday.

-goes to Confession.

-prays regularly.

-is a convert.

-is a deacon.

-reads regularly to deepen his faith.

-is evangelistic, likes to talk about God.

-is a catechist or helps with RCIA or Adult Ed, Bible study, etc.

-reads the Bible.

-speaks well to an audience.

-is self-motivating.

I would say giving one lecture a month is fine. If a council wants two a month it might consider having two brothers be co-lectors. If I were starting from scratch I might find two-a-month to be burdensome. If the Lector has trouble generating topics, he might take requests from the council members, or borrow from the talks already posted here at the blog.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Detachment

July 2013 FGO by the tireless Brother Jason Rhoad:
 

Our family recently went on a summer vacation. It is always nice to be able to take a few days and unwind from all the day to day normal activities and responsibilities of life that come with both parents working and raising four children. I am very thankful to be able to do it, realizing that I am blessed to have the opportunity to enjoy the down time. This time, like most vacations, I caught myself wishing that it could be like this all the time. “Why do I have to spend 51 weeks of the year trying to beat the rat race and only really be able to enjoy myself for this one week?”, I wondered. And providentially it led to this month’s topic – detachment. You see, I was attached to what I perceived to be good. That is, the feeling I got from being on vacation. Eating ice cream every day, going down to the beach, to the pool, watching the kids enjoy themselves, etc. Now don’t misunderstand, there is nothing inherently wrong with any of this. The danger is being attached to it and dependent upon it for happiness. I used my vacation as an example of this, but we become attached in all kinds of ways.

 

The Church uses the language of attachment in her teachings as well. She refers to the need to be free from the attachment to sin in order to receive a plenary indulgence for instance. Father Robert Barron in his very fine documentary series “Catholicism” spends considerable time teaching on the need for becoming detached from the things of this world in order to be free to be attached to the things of the Kingdom of God. Fr. Barron goes through the beatitudes to explain how Jesus was teaching us on the Sermon on the Mount, how to become detached from some of the things that bring us down in the spiritual life: power, pleasure, honor, and wealth. Again, not that these things are necessarily bad in and of themselves, but how the attachment to them can lead us away from God, while detachment from them leads us closer to God. Blessed are the meek, blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are those who are persecuted for Jesus’ sake. Fr. Barron then goes on to explain how Jesus ultimately fulfills this message and practices what he preached by suffering and dying on the cross. There we see Jesus totally detached from power, pleasure, honor, and wealth. Power: He is nailed to a cross and can barely move. Pleasure: He is at the height of physical pain. Honor: He has been stripped naked and is hanging on a cross like a common criminal for all to see. Wealth: He has no physical possessions. One of the paradoxes of the cross is this. Free from attachment to the things of the world, the things that the world says will bring us happiness; Jesus is free to be attached to the will of the Father. So as we gaze upon a crucifix, we are beholding a truly happy man. And as we will see, it is only doing the will of God that brings true happiness.

 

Our culture sells us lies all the time. All too often, we buy them. One of the biggest lies going is that pleasure and happiness are the same thing. We are constantly being told that this or that thing will make us happy. Not in as many words maybe, but pay attention to how things are advertised. A particular brand of sneakers makes the person in the ad “happy”. The right kind of car makes the driver “happy”. And on and on it goes. What they are trying to sell us is that the moment of pleasure we get when we buy the product, will produce lasting happiness. Therein lies the lie. Matthew Kelly, in a talk he gives to candidates preparing for Confirmation, tells them that pleasure cannot be sustained past the activity producing it, but that happiness is lasting, even after the activity is over. Take eating for example. Eating brings us pleasure. But pleasure only lasts as long as the activity producing it. That explains why we don’t stop eating. But once we’re done gorging ourselves, we realize that we shouldn’t have done that. We usually feel horrible and have some level of regret. But what about when we exercise? Long after we go for a run/walk, or hit the gym, etc., we feel good that we had the discipline to do that. We know we are better off for having done it and so the happiness has lasted longer than the activity that produced it. And so it is in the spiritual life. Being attached to wealth, power, honor, and pleasure in the end only leave us feeling unfulfilled. The great St. Augustine referred to it as the God hole. Each of us has a void within us. We try to fill it with things of the world. But no matter how much we put in there, it is never enough. We are never satisfied. It leaves us necessarily unfulfilled. That’s because the only thing that brings true happiness is filling that void with the thing it was made to be filled with – the will of God. Once we become detached from the things of the world and become attached to the things of God, we go from pleasure (which is only temporary and leaves us unfulfilled) to true happiness, which is both lasting and fulfilling, and is what we were created for in the first place. “Our hearts are restless O Lord, until they rest in thee”, Augustine tells us.

I just wanted to make one final note about the Church’s teaching on purgatory and how it applies to this topic. As you may have figured out by now, it is not so easy to detach ourselves. We have concupiscence, or a downward tugging on us toward sin. It is a result of the fall. And at times in our lives, despite our best intentions, we may find ourselves attached to the wrong things. We may even die, not completely free from these attachments. We have no mortal sin on our souls and we have love for God in our heart, but we may still need to be purified or “purged” (thus the word “purgatory”) of the things that keep us from being fully attached to God. This purging occurs before we enter the fullness of heaven where there is no sin, no attachment to sin, and only love of God remains. So purgatory is the mercy of God. It allows us to become completely detached so that we can spend all eternity truly happy, experiencing what we were made for – union with God. At last, our hearts resting in thee.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pope Francis and Universal Salvation

June 2013 FGO by Brother Jason Rhoad:

Now this is going to come as a shock to all of you, but a couple of weeks ago, the media misrepresented the Catholic Church. I know, I know, that never happens, so there must be some mistake. Let’s take a look at what happened. In his first few months on the job, Pope Francis has definitely demonstrated his own style. On some level, I almost feel a little sorry for our holy father. His immediate two predecessors are hard acts to follow, to say the least. Pope John Paul II is widely regarded as among the best philosophers to ever be Pope while Benedict the XVI has been described as maybe the best theologian to have ever ascended to the chair of Peter. Following that up is no easy task. But so far, Francis is more than holding his own, even if his style is certainly different. I saw a great picture on Facebook the other day that seemed to capture the essence of our last 3 pontiffs. It was a picture of all 3 men and under each was a caption. Under John Paul II it read, “This is what we believe”. Under Benedict XVI it said “This is why believe it”. Under Francis it said “Now go live it”.

 
So what happend? Well, as part of his own style, Pope  Francis offers off the cuff homilies during his daily masses in a small chapel at the Vatican. One of those homilies a couple of weeks ago made some headlines. The homily was inspired by a passage from the Gospel reading for that day. It was from Mark 9:38-40 where the disciples tell Jesus that they tried to stop someone from driving out demons because he was not one of them. Jesus rebukes them saying: There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”

Here is an excerpt from that particular homily that caused the stir:

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

This ended up drawing attention from a couple of different fronts. The Huffington Post (That bastion of trustworthy news), ran a headline that said, “Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics”. Their piece suggested that the Pope was teaching some form of universal salvation. He wasn’t. His setting was a short homily at a mass, reflecting on the readings for the day where he could reasonably assume his audience already knew at least a little something about Catholic teaching and theology. He was not in an academic setting where his purpose was to expound upon the theological depths of the Catholic Church’s teaching on salvation. He was making a much simpler point. Simply that we are all redeemed by Christ’s work on the cross. Redeemed doesn’t equal each individual accepting that salvific work. Just because we are all redeemed doesn’t mean we are all saved. But because of our redemption, we are all called (and via the available grace are able) to do good.

What is interesting is that the normal media outlets who are usually very quick to disagree with Church teaching, and who seemingly go out of their way make the Church look as if its teachings are so out of touch with modern times, etc. were now all of a sudden ready to embrace what they thought the holy father was saying. They would love nothing more than for the Pope to be a teacher of the brand of liberalism that they love so much. So when they think that the Pope is teaching that all people are saved, they like that and now all of a sudden this Pope guy is someone who should be listened to! I think that speaks to the fact that a longing for God is in all of us. Those of us who choose to have a relationship with God know this well. But even for those who do not, they still feel in the deepest recesses of their very being, that tugging toward something greater. Of course they do. That is what we are created for, union with God. We reject Him in many ways through sin as we fall for the lies of the enemy who tells us all these things will make us happy. But acceptance of Him and what He wants for us is the only thing that makes us truly happy, because it is what we are made for. So when people think they hear the leader of Christians on earth say that we will all be with God, it makes sense that they would want to latch on to that. But they would do well to scratch the surface a little to see more clearly the fullness of faith that this Pope represents.

I also saw criticism from the other side of the spectrum from those who were upset because they saw this is a smoking gun that proved the Catholic Church teaches a doctrine of works righteousness. That is that we can earn salvation by our works, apart from faith in Jesus. I don’t have space to go into it here, but they are equally wrong. The Church does not now, nor has it ever taught that we are saved by our works alone. Every person who goes to heaven does so because of the saving work of Christ on the cross. Without it, no one could enter the kingdom of heaven. But to whom much is given, much is required and Christ clearly asks more of us that just our faith alone.

Clearly any Pope is in a unique and difficult position. Every word they utter is scrutinized by more people in the world than any other public figure. Understandably they must be careful with how they present their thoughts. But perhaps this Pope is not nearly as concerned about that aspect of the job as maybe some of the rest of us are. After all, his predecessor was an absolute wordsmith. And more than that, he was a man who anticipated how his words would be responded to by others and therefore carefully selected them so as to be not misunderstood. Even so, the media never missed a chance to twist his words into something far away from their meaning (think Regensburg address). Seeing that, Francis may have made a conscious decision to spend less time worrying about being misrepresented and more time doing the work to which he was called. Let us too brothers, do the work to which we were called.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Man For All Seasons

An FGO from Bro. Jason Rhoad's personal archive:

This month, I’m going to do something a little different and discuss the life of one of the great saints of the Church. The saint who will serve as the topic of this month’s discussion is Saint Thomas More of England. Thomas More is one of my favorite saints and is the name sake of my youngest child. As we will see, More exhibited heroic virtue and ultimately died a martyr for his faith.

Thomas More is perhaps the most well-known of the English martyrs (of which there were quite a few). First, let’s get a little background on the English Reformation. The English Reformation was altogether different than what was going on around the same time on continental Europe, what we commonly refer to as the Protestant Reformation. On the continent, men like Marin Luther were launching a protest against the Church based on perceived abuses and corruption within the Church, as well as doctrinal differences they had with various teachings of the Church. When the King of England first got word of this, he was furious. Henry VIII was a proud Catholic and was greatly dismayed at the thought of heretics dividing the Church. In fact, he was so disturbed, he wrote an apologetic titled “In Defense of the Seven Sacraments” in direct opposition to what the Reformers were doing. It was so well done (Thomas More himself had much influence on this work), that the Pope at the time gave Henry the title “Defender of the Faith”.

So how then, did the English Reformation come about? Henry VIII was married to Catherine of Aragon. She was Henry’s older brother’s widow. They were married for several years, but were never able to produce a male heir. This was near and dear to Henry, who desperately wanted a son to succeed him. Eventually Henry grew impatient and began to believe that God was punishing him for having taken his brother’s wife. In his mind, he rationalized that this was grounds for an annulment. This desire for an annulment was fueled by his taking to a lady in waiting, Ann Boleyn. As Henry grew more and more infatuated with Ann Boleyn, his desire to have his marriage annulled so that he could marry Ann became stronger and stronger. He petitioned Rome to have his marriage annulled. But Clement VII ruled that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was indeed valid and could not therefore grant a decree of nullity. This enraged Henry and he eventually declared that the Pope had no authority in the matter. He declared that he was the head of the Church in England, something that was his divine right as King, and that the Pope had no jurisdiction. In order to solidify his claim as head of the Church in England, he had Parliament pass a law that everyone in the Kingdom must take an oath that they acknowledged Henry the VIII as the supreme head of the Church in England. Here is where our hero comes in.

Thomas More was a great friend of the King. He served at court as the Lord Chancellor from 1529-1532. But as the King went down this road of rejecting papal authority, it was a place that More just couldn’t go. Initially More tried to quietly remove himself from the situation. He never publicly spoke against the King or his situation and wished to quietly disappear. He eventually was allowed to resign as Lord Chancellor, but Henry would not be satisfied until More took the oath. He believed that if others saw More, who was as important a figure in England as anyone, refuse to take the oath, that others may be emboldened to refuse also. More was eventually arrested for his lack of cooperation and placed in the famed tower of London to await trail. While in the tower, one of the King’s chief ministers, Thomas Cromwell, visited More many times, trying to convince him to take the oath. A scene from the Showtime series “The Tudors” depicted one of these visits. Seeing clearly that Cromwell was only serving his own interests, More reportedly told him, “The only difference between you and I is that I’ll die today, and you tomorrow.” While that may well be dramatic license on the part of the creators of the series, it speaks to what Thomas was about. He recognized that we would all meet our maker one day. Cromwell may indeed enjoy a few more years of worldly pleasure by being a scoundrel, but he too would ultimately have to answer to God. Thomas was reminding him that he would do so with a clear conscience.

More was eventually brought to trial. He valiantly defended himself, but as were many trials of the sort, the outcome was pre-determined. More was found guilty of treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Because of More’s steadfast refusal to acknowledge anyone other than the Pope as the supreme head of the Church, he wound up paying the ultimate price. The King ended up commuting More’s sentence to beheading. On the morning of his execution, it was reported that as he ascended the scaffold, the executioner was visibly upset. More was said to have comforted him and assured him of his and of God’s forgiveness. As was custom, the condemned was given the opportunity to offer a few last words. Thomas More spoke to the crowd saying, “Tell the King I died his good servant, but God’s first”.

The Church teaches, as did Jesus, that we are to be subject to lawful authority. We are to obey the laws by which we are governed. Thomas More reminds us though, that this principle does have limits. Whenever we are asked by our government to violate our conscience, we cannot comply. To do so would be a violation of God’s law, which always reigns supreme over man’s law. Whenever the two conflict, we must obey God, not man. This lesson that Thomas More teaches from 500 years ago proves to be timeless as it is applicable even in our own time with the recent attacks on religious liberty. “I died the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” May we all be able to say the same. St. Thomas More, martyr and patron of lawyers, civil servants, politicians, statesmen, and difficult marriages, pray for us.    

To learn more, read Supremacy and Survival, How Catholics Endured the English Reformation, by Stephanie Mann.

FGO 11 June 2013

Link to the audio of the FGO delivered on 11 June 2013 at Council 13112 at St. Mary's in Greenville SC.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Age Old Question

By Bro. Jason Rhoad
 
Why do bad things happen to good people? Or more broadly, why does God allow bad things period? Why does evil exist? With Easter upon us and having just exited another Lent and experienced the incredible events of Holy Week, I thought it would be a good time to examine the church’s teachings regarding this often pondered mystery.

We have to begin at the beginning, way back in the Garden of Eden. The book of Genesis, as we heard proclaimed at the Easter Vigil, begins with the story of creation. This is in fact, also the beginning of salvation history. The one common theme that we see in the story of creation is that “God saw how good it was”. So what does that tell us? God made everything, the heavens and the earth, the plants and the animals, and ultimately man himself, and it was all “Good”. Good as we know, is the opposite of evil. God’s creation was good. So what happened? As we all know so well, man fell. By their disobedience, Adam and Eve brought sin into the world. They were created “good”, but freely chose evil when they disobeyed God. And ever since then, man has been learning this very tough lesson – sin causes bad things to happen.

With sin came pain, suffering, and death. So we can clear up one common misunderstanding right away. That is, God does not cause evil. But God created mankind in a state of freedom. We are free to choose God or to reject Him. Therefore, by our freedom, we choose to sin. That choice, which is nothing less than turning away from God, naturally has negative consequences. Were it not for sin, we’d all still be in the garden. But as it is, we have to live with the consequences of our fallen nature. In this life, we will experience pain and suffering and ultimately death. There is simply no escaping it. So what are we to do then? What is our recourse concerning this inevitability?

Lucky for us, our God is an amazing God. He specializes in bringing good out of bad. The ultimate example of this is as close as the nearest crucifix. This lent, many of us participated in the devotion of the Stations of the Cross. We walked with Jesus and witnessed His sufferings that culminated with His crucifixion and His death. What could be worse? God Himself, the second person of the blessed trinity, took flesh and became man. And how did man repay Him? We killed Him. Deicide. Man killed God. That is the absolute worst evil that could ever possibly occur. Yet, what did God do? Out of that, He brought about the best possible thing that could ever happen – Redemption. Because of Christ’s death, man could now be redeemed. Our sins could be forgiven, and we could once again be united to God. Just a quick aside, notice how I said that the best example of how God brings good out of evil was as close as the nearest crucifix, not the nearest cross. One of the many unfortunate results of the split in Christianity is that many non-catholic traditions abandoned the use of the crucifix. For no other reason than because it was “too Catholic”. Instead they have only an empty cross (and unfortunately in many of the new mega church type settings, even the cross has been removed). An empty cross is void of meaning. It is simply an instrument of torture and death that was used at the time. But with Christ on the cross, we are reminded of just what our savior did for us. We are able to visualize His incredible love for us as we gaze upon the crucifix. And wrapped up in that crucifix is the answer to the age old question.

 Why does God allow pain and suffering in the world - To bring about a greater good. We may not always know what that greater good is. In some cases we may never know this side of heaven. But can be assured that somehow and some way, God allows it in order to bring about a greater good. In Colossians 1:24, Saint Paul says something quite curious. He says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.” In this verse, we see the root of the Church’s teaching on redemptive suffering. What was lacking in the sufferings of Christ? Was His suffering not sufficient enough, that Paul had to add his sufferings to that of Christ so that the Colossians could be saved? Of course not. Christ’s suffering was complete and sufficient for the salvation of all of mankind. But what it is lacking, as Paul tells us, is our suffering. God, in His infinite kindness and mercy, through Christ’s suffering and death has made salvation possible for all of mankind. And He allows us then, to unite our sufferings to that of Jesus, so that we may offer that suffering to the Father, just as Jesus did, for the salvation of our souls, that of others, and that of the holy souls in purgatory. In other words, our sufferings are not wasted if we offer them to God. He can take them and transform them into forces of redemption. So then, God gives us something to do with our suffering. As the church teaches, we are able to make meaning out of what can seem so meaningless. We know that to take up our cross is to suffer with Him, so that we might rise with Him. Saint Teresa of Avila once said, “God gives the biggest share of His cross to His best friends.” This doesn’t mean that we are to go out seeking pain and suffering. But when it inevitably comes our way, we can offer it up so that God can take it and use it for good.

Now I realize that all of this is so much easier to talk about in an academic sort of way than it is to apply in our own lives, especially when we are going through tough times.  And I pray that I not be put to the test. But as you gaze upon a crucifix, and really begin to contemplate the meaning of suffering, reflect on another of Saint Paul’s teachings – God said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12.9-10). That is the paradox of the crucifix and of our own lives. It is when we are weak that we are strong. When Christ looked His weakest, hanging lifeless on the cross, it was then that He was at the height of His power for He was accomplishing the salvation of the world. So too with us, thanks be to God. He is risen, indeed He is risen! Happy Easter!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

God Dwells

Here's the link to the audio file of tonight's For the Good of the Order (FGO). I trimmed the dross from the beginning and end with the WavePad Sound Editor I mentioned in this post.

It may be useful to compare it to the written text here at my catechism class blog.

I posted the article on April 23 in anticipation of using parts of it in my Catechism class the next day. The FGO audio was recorded today, May 14, with the hindsight of having used bits of the article in class. You'll notice that the audio generally follows the article, but it was delivered with notes: I believe a spoken delivery always beats reading from a text, even if some stuff gets left out. Besides, FGO always comes at the end of a meeting; the last thing adults want is to be read to for five minutes when they are antsy to go home.

BTW, my ideal time limit is, you guessed it, five minutes. This FGO ran to six....will aim to do better next month.

Y'all don't forget, if you send me an audio file of your FGO, I'll post it. Like JP2 said: Be Not Afraid!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Peter and Eliakim

Here's a quick Biblical reason why the Pope continues to exercise Peter’s authority:

In Isaiah 22, King Hezekiah has discovered that his household steward Shebna has been stealing money from the King. The obvious evidence is the pricey tomb Shebna has made for himself:

“What have you to do here and whom have you here, that you have hewn here a tomb for yourself, you who hew a tomb on the height, and carve a habitation for yourself in the rock?”

The King banishes his corrupt chief steward:

“Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you, and whirl you round and round, and throw you like a ball into a wide land; there you shall die, and there shall be your splendid chariots, you shame of your master's house.”

And makes a new one of Eliakim. He dresses him in the official clothes :

I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.”

And gives him the key to the Kingdom, the House of David:

 “And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open…and he will become a throne of honor to his father's house.”  Of course when Eliakim dies or falls out of royal favor, the King will get himself yet another prime minister- it’s not a one-time status unique to Eliakim.

Centuries later, Jesus borrows from this scene of a King authorizing his #1 official when he tells Peter:

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

So Peter is entrusted with the keys not to an earthly kingdom, but the Kingdom of Heaven. Like Eliakim, he will be a father, a papa, to the people. And being a key-holder, when Peter dies or retires a new prime minister will take his place.

Triple Assent

In preliterate cultures very little is written down. For example in Jesus’ day, covenants were formally entered into (or canceled) by agreeing (or negating) out loud three times in the presence of witnesses. This pattern of triple assent shows up repeatedly in the Bible.

Young Samuel ‘contracts’ to serve the LORD:

“…the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” And the LORD called again, “Samuel!” And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”
 
Young Elisha agrees to “take up the mantle” of Elijah:
 
“Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind…Elijah said to Elisha, “Tarry here, I pray you; for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. Elijah said to him, “Elisha, tarry here, I pray you; for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. …Then Elijah said to him, “Tarry here, I pray you; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “I will not leave you.”

Centuries later in the desert, Jesus three times rejected a covenant with the Devil. 

The Gospels don’t say if the apostles had a formal covenant with Jesus; but whatever deal they had was clearly canceled one Thursday night:
 
“[Jesus] said to them, “[R]emain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed. And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed. And again he came and found them sleeping. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”
 
But Peter’s singular status as the founding-stone of the Church, and key-holder of the Kingdom of Heaven required a personal renunciation:

“Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a maid came up to him, and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” And when he went out to the porch, another maid [said], “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the cock crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”

But after the Resurrection, and before the Ascension, Jesus re-established his covenant with Peter:
 
“This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
 
Jesus specifically contracted with Peter to take charge of his flock, his Church; and that authority is wielded until today by the man who sits in Peter’s Chair.

 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Trinity vs. Oneness


Jason Rhoad's FGO for May: 

A few months ago, I was invited by a friend to join a group on Facebook called “Spiritual Debates”. It is a place where people like me who are interested in discussing the things of God can go and make the case for our beliefs. Over the course of a few weeks and months, many different topics have been discussed. Topics ranging up and down the theological spectrum and as you might have figured, with great disagreement on most of it. It is in fact a microcosm of Christendom these days and an ultimate demonstration that Christianity struggles to be all it can be with so many voices competing for truth. It also highlights an age old truism that in order for something to work the way it was intended, somebody has got to be in charge.

Well, one of the topics that has had quite a bit of staying power on the forum is a debate that I had previously not given much thought to. It is a debate over the Trinity. I knew that Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses both denied the Trinity, but I was only vaguely aware of another group known as Oneness or “Jesus only Pentecostals”. Where the Latter Day Saints and JW’s tend to minimize who Jesus was in their denial of the Trinity, this group goes in the other direction. They believe that the person of Jesus is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and that they are not three distinct persons. There is only one person – Jesus.

As it turns out, “Spiritual Debates” makes for strange bedfellows. There are around 400 members in the group, and I am only aware of one Catholic other than me. So on most things I’ve chimed in on, about the only thing that the other members can agree on is that the Catholic guy is definitely wrong. But on this particular debate at least, my mainstream Protestant friends found themselves in full agreement with the Catholic guy. I watched them go back and forth with one another, making the case for their position, but it struck me that the Protestants who believed in the Trinity had no better argument for their belief than the Protestants who considered themselves Oneness. The best they could do was to argue their interpretation of what they thought the Bible taught. One guy argued that “no one could read the Bible and come up with anything other than belief in the Trinity”. Well obviously they can or we wouldn’t be having this debate. And thus is the state of Christendom. “I think the Bible means this” vs. “I think the Bible means that”.

After watching for a while, I posted several quotations from the early church fathers concerning the Trinity and ultimately the teachings of the council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. Both sides were unaware (for the most part) that this question had been settled centuries ago. I challenged the Oneness advocates to produce any evidence from Church history that would indicate that their position was the true historical position of the Christian faith. Of course no evidence came (because none exists) and all the Trinity believing Protestants who were engaged in the debate were quick to join forces with the Catholic to dispel the heresy.

But as the implications of where the evidence came from began to become clearer, my new friends were not so friendly anymore. It began to take them to a place that they did not want to go. You see their argument for the Trinity was no better than the other side’s argument for Jesus only. At the end of the day, neither side accepted any other authority other than their own interpretation of scripture. One side says “The Bible clearly teaches the Trinity” while the other side says “The Bible clearly teaches Oneness doctrine”. There is simply no way to settle the matter.

The Trinity is a revelation from God. It has been revealed to us. Though it is not contrary to reason, it is not something that can be come to by reason alone. So the question becomes, how was it revealed? Ultimately it is revealed through the teachings of Jesus, through the teaching authority of His Church. This revelation of the Trinity occurs similarly to another revelation in scripture that we read about in this week’s liturgy in Acts 15. There was a question about whether or not Gentiles had to first become Jews (and be circumcised) before being allowed to become Christians. Here we see the teaching authority of the Church at work. We see the leaders of the Church coming together to discuss and pray and be led by the Holy Spirit. It culminates in the first council of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem. There, the Church definitively teaches that no, the Gentiles did not have to become Jews first. This is the exercise of the teaching authority of the Church, given to it by Christ with His promise of the protection of the Holy Spirit to protect it from formally teaching error.

And so it is with the Trinity. When questions began to arise about the nature of Jesus, the leaders of the Church met, discussed, prayed, and exercised again the teaching authority of the Church at the Council of Nicaea declaring the revealed truth of the Trinity and of the nature of Jesus. But for my Protestant friends to acknowledge that without this teaching authority of the Church, their arguments for the Trinity basically boil down to “just because”, was a bridge too far. They could give no credit to the Catholic Church for settling this matter for the faithful because if they did, then what else does this teaching authority teach that I must also believe? And so it turns out that the Catholic Church just happened by chance to be right about this issue. It was right only because its teachings agree with the scriptural interpretations of the Protestants who believed in the Trinity, not the other way around. Let us be thankful brothers that we do not have to rely on our own sinful, fallen, fallible human interpretations of God’s word in order to determine eternal truth. After all, we may be wrong. Rather we follow the sure guide, holy mother Church, given to us by Christ, with His protection from teaching error so that we may know the truth on this matter and all others He has chosen to reveal.