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.

Lector Bible

In South Carolina at least, Catholics must know their faith Biblically to be best equipped to be New Evangelizers: you know, talkin' 'bout ya faith ta people dat ain't Cat'lic. So that means you, Mr. Palmetto Lector, should have a Bible. I mean you should have one you will read. And mark up. And highlight. And make your own.

When I first started reading the Bible regularly, I used a plain hardbound copy of the NAB. But because it was hardbound, I wouldn't mark it up. I kept telling myself to get over it: it was my book, I could mark it up however I liked. I finally forced myself: I highlighted something. I felt like a vandal.

So I bought a cheap paperback version of the same Bible. Highlighted something...that seems ok. Highlighted something else...uh-huh. Added some margin notes...I feel good! This works!

Over the next few years I colored and tagged that cheapie like a graffiti artist. But eventually that Bible became so globbed with stickytabs, highlights, underlines, paperclips and margin notes that it was unmanageable for speaking from. As Frederick the Great said, "Wer alles verteidigen will, verteidigt nichts/ Who would defend everything defends nothing." If everything is eventually highlighted, then nothing is highlighted. Besides, I had internalized most of what I had been marking up. So three years ago I gave that copy to my son Michael, and bought another copy, same as the old one:

Still manageable. When it's not, I'll pass it on and start again.

Catholics in general, and Lectors in particular, who want to study the Bible are rightly advised to own a Bible that they are comfortable reading. I know everyone does not love the NAB, but one thing in its favor is that the readings we hear at Mass come from the NAB. So that's what I use.


P.S. Little quiz for ya! See handwritten note Shekhinah > Cherubim > Mary>. What's that got to do with the 'Signs and Wonders of the Apostles' in Acts 5? (Click image for a bigger jpeg.)

Record Your Stuff!

I have a digital recorder. It's been much more useful than I had imagined. If you're a Lector you want one too, even if you don't know it yet.

In catechism class in 2010 I was using an all-new, no-textbook-in-class curriculum which I had developed during the summer. I decided to record all the classes so I could compare each lesson plan to the reality in the classroom. Within a day or so after a given class, I'd listen to the recording, and mark on the lesson plan what needed review, what I'd missed, etc. For a public speaker it's invaluable.

Oddly enough, it never occurred to me to use the thing to record FGOs until last month. What was I thinking?

Benefits for the Lector:

1. You can send me an mp3 file and I can post a link to it here. Be famous! Or anonymous! Either way is OK!

2. The recorder can do basic editing of the files. It's easy to trim irrelevant stuff from the beginning or the end if you don't turn it on and off at the right moments. You can also do all kinds of editing with free software; I use WavePad Sound Editor on my mp3s.

3. It names each new file with the date all by itself.

4. Since FGOs are so short, you can probably put a lifetime's worth of them on the recorder with no worries about running out of memory.

And the best thing about recording your FGOs:

5. To listen to yourself speak is a great way to refine your skills! Get fired up! Be your own audience! Yeah, I know you'll sound weird to yourself at first; don't worry, you'll get over it. Within a year you'll be thinking,"Wow- I sound good."

Snips & Snails & Kunarion Tales

Like I said earlier, catechism class generates a lot of my FGO material. Here's another recounting from class, which I then told to the Knights as an FGO. Sometimes I actually say what happened in class, or ask questions like I do in class; other times I just repackage the class material to fit the time constraints of a given meeting. In the following example, if time were short I might stick to the story and the Greek/English translation; time permitting I'd add the bits about the triple request, intercession, and other translations. BTW, there's no whiteboard in the room where we have our business meetings; but if there were, I'd use it the same as I do in class.


During a catechism class on Jesus' intercessory miracles (Cana, Jairus' daughter, the Centurion's servant, etc.), a student asked about the miracle where Jesus calls a woman a dog. I gave an off-the-cuff answer I wasn't satisfied with, said I'd come back next week with something better.

Here's the story from Matt 15: 21-28:

"And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon." 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying after us." 24 He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." 26 And he answered, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 27 She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." 28* Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly."

Because she's a pagan Canaanite it's no surprise that she's indirectly compared to a dog. And not in a nice, faithful Fido way, but like this: "Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you." But as we'll see, sometimes a dog is not a dog.

 Here's how it worked in class:

"Hey, daughter, remember last week you asked about the woman that Jesus called a dog. That's a great story I've never covered in class before, but let's look at it now before we get into the lesson plan.

Here we go: "And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon." The story starts with Jesus getting out of Judea for a while because he had been aggravating the scribes and Pharisees. Sidon is also where Elijah fled after he aggravated King Ahab. You may remember he stayed in Zarephath. Tell me about it. He made food for the woman! Yes, her flour and oil didn't run out; why? Cause she was nice to him! Yes; God favored her with miracles because of her charity, even though she was a...pagan! Yes. And remember Jesus aggravated people at the synagogue in Nazareth when he reminded them about Elijah working miracles for the pagan widow in Zarephath instead of helping Chosen People during the drought.

"And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon." 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying after us." They don't want a pagan woman hanging around. But Jesus says, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Who are these lost sheep? Jews! Yes. But is Jesus telling her he won't help? No. Right. He's just saying that helping her isn't his job. At the wedding in Cana what did Mary tell Jesus? They have no wine. Yes, and Jesus said...why is that my problem? Yes, time has not yet come. Yes, good. Is Jesus saying he won't help? No. Right. He's not being mean or uncooperative in either case...I think he's just giving people a chance to show their faith more clearly for the benefit of the people around them.

"But [the Canaanite woman] came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." Is she giving up? No! Right. But Jesus said "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." Who are the children? Well...people's kids? Umm, that's not a bad guess; the children are God's sons and daughters...his family...the Jews! Yes. And the dogs? Pagans! Yes, like...the woman! Yes. If we say "throw it to the dogs" or "work like a dog" or "live like a dog" is it good? No it's bad. Yes, we don't mean a happy family dog, a pet. We mean a rough dog, one that has a hard life. As Jesus said on another occasion: "Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you." Yikes! So Jesus says the kids get the bread, not "the dogs."

Do y'all know what swine are? Pigs? Yes, just checking. Pigs and dogs were unclean, like pagans.

The word dog shows up 41 times in the English Bible; pretty often. And what language was the New Testament written in? Greek! Yes. The Greek word for dog is kuon [on the board] (κυων). Almost every time an English Bible says dog, the Greeks say kuon. But when Jesus says "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs," the Greek word is kunarion [on the board] (κυναριον). Now in English if we want to call a dog [otb], we'd say, "here, dog." But if it were a little dog, we'd, doggie! Yes, doggie [otb]. To add an -ie or a -y does what to an English word? It makes it little! Yes. Well in Greek, -arion does the same thing. So if kuon, yes, then kunarion means...doggie!  Yes. Can it mean puppy? Yes, puppy is ok too. We might also say lapdog. What's that? A little dog that sits on your lap? Yes. Hey somebody dígame, cómo se llama "dog" en español? Perro [otb]. Yes. Some Spanish Bibles say perrillo [otb] in this story, what that mean? Puppy! Yes. the -illo suffix means...little! Yes.

So what Jesus says to the woman is, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the doggies, the pups." I think the apostles expected Jesus to refer to the woman as a kuon, a dog. That was a common way for Jews to describe pagans. But instead, Jesus says "doggie," which is kind of affectionate; how you'd call a pet, an animal member of your family.  Jesus is showing the apostles that even though he was sent to the Jews, he can include "all peoples" in his work, as Isaiah used to say.

Now, has Jesus rejected the woman this time? I don't think so. Right. The woman now says, "even the doggies eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." What's she mean? That she just wants a little bit of help? Yes. She's not a greedy dog, but a harmless little...puppy!  Yes, who's happy to have what the children leave behind. She knows "the Master" will give them more food than they can eat. And how many times has she asked Jesus for a little help? Umm...three times!'s a contract! Good thinking; in this case it's not so much a contract as it is her firm demonstration of faith. How many times do you think she's willing to ask Jesus to heal her daughter? As many times as it takes! Yes, but three times is enough. And Jesus says, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly. I bet the apostles were thinking, "Wow, this is like when Elijah fled to Sidon and brought the pagan widow's dead son back to life."

Tell me: did the Canaanite woman's daughter have faith? We don't know. Jairus' daughter? Don't know! Centurion's servant? Don't know! Paralyzed man? Don't know! The wedding party at Cana? Don't know! Right. Jesus did those people a favor because other people of faith asked for them. What's that called? Intercession! Yes. And remind me who intercedes when a baby is baptized? The parents! And does Jesus do the parents a favor? Yes! Right!

Y'all are smart children!

[I don't cover the following in 6th-grade, but for those who must know: Greek kuon κυων is related to the Latin canis via the Indo-European stem kwon. And a quick tour of other Bibles show the "dogs" to be catelli (Latin), cagnolini (Italian), cachorrinhos (Portuguese), petits chiens (French), små hunder (Norwegian), and щенята (Ukranian): not dogs, but doggies.]

I encourage all Lectors to buy a cheap NAB Bible. Then when you prepare an FGO (like this one), highlight what you're going to read, and stickytab those pages. Read those bits straight from the Bible when you deliver the FGO: that is, it's better for your audience if you use the Bible than read a printout of the relevant passages. Plus, over time your Bible will accumulate highlights such that you can flip through, see a highlighted verse, and remember what  you said about it. This will gradually give you a comprehensive grasp of Scripture based on your own active engagement with it.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Abstaining from Meat

Here's another FGO that was based on a catechism class discussion:

My eldest son doesn't eat meat. That includes fish & eggs. I don't remember about dairy products. Anyway, he's not preachy about it, but his quiet example makes me think periodically about the moral dimensions of eating animals, especially during Lent.

I generally assume that our existence, Creation, is the product of God's thought. God thinks the universe, so it is. So we all inhabit God's brain, to put it in physical human terms. And in the Beginning, there was no Sin, and things were in perfect harmony in God's head. But then there was the Fall, and Sin. Consider Sin as the opposite of God, yet existing within his head. Its effects wouldn't be confined to the individual sinner (as we know from practical experience); it could mess up, distort, warp, pervert any other aspects of Creation that it touched. Just to cut this short, St. Paul observed that the wages of Sin is Death, and any universe that includes me dying (dying? dying! ) is obviously screwed-up.

Anyway, back to eating meat, which is related to the Fall.

First notice how much meat Adam & Eve got to eat in the wonderful Garden:

In Genesis, God said,

"Behold, I have given you every herb-bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree-yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat."

Apparently, dominion over animals didn't extend to eating them.

Later, after the Fall when Sin entered the world, Noah kept the animals alive during the Flood. When they left the Ark, God said,

"Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things."

I suppose this is a sort of debt the animals owe to Noah: having saved the animals, and by extension all their descendants, Noah and his descendants are allowed to eat them....although this preceding passage doesn't make it sound like that's especially ok with God:

"And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered."

Which sounds awful. Yet in a sin-wrecked world God allows it. Apparently some things are conditionally tolerated by God after the Fall that would never have been acceptable in the Garden; which is hardly the same as saying they are good, or blessed, or even condoned.

Of course, we're allowed to still eat fish on Friday...but I regard the no-meat stricture as the Church's way to nudge us toward a Garden worldview instead of a post-Fall one.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Getting Ideas

I teach 6th-grade Catechism, and get some of my FGO ideas from the classroom. When I do, I usually preface the topic with something about how it came up in class, like so:

"When we cover Confession in Wednesday Night Sunday School, a child will always ask if a priest can tell the cops if someone confesses to a murder. I say of course not; and that leads to the idea that the priest forgets your sins. And then someone will ask: but what if he doesn't forget? 

To answer this I first refer to these gracious verses:

Is 43:25 "I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins."

Jer 31:34 "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

Heb 8:12 "For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more."

(They're highlighted in my Bible, but I'll just paraphrase them if time is short.)

This does beg the question: how does an omniscient God not remember something? Well, isn't it in the nature of a loving parent to not remember? Those verses remind me of my father's memory of my several-thousand-or-so, umm, childhood misbehaviors: 

"Hey remember that time that I...."
" don't think I remember that."
"Yeah, but it was like thus and so, and..."
"Uh-huh...I just don't much remember you being bad."
"That's probably just as well."

And it's the same with my kids...were they bad? I suppose...yeah, if I put my mind to it they were bad some. Well, not really bad; they were just kids, learning to be good...I don't remember that much about it. Not remembering your child's sins isn't a matter of deleting the data from your brain, making them irrecoverable; it just means the forgiving parent no longer pays any attention to them, and is not going to ever pay any attention to them.

And if God will remember our sins no more, then the priest, acting in persona Christi, would also not remember them, at least in a sacramental sense. That is, even if the priest through his human frailty does remember our sins, he may act only as though he does not remember them, in the same way that God does not remember them.

Thus the Seal of the Confessional."

I Never Noticed

Here's a short FGO I presented a few months ago:

"I just noticed in Palm Sunday's Gospel reading from Luke, that at the Last Supper Jesus didn't eat or drink after the words of Consecration:

"And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. 15* And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; 16* for I tell you I shall not eat it * until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." 17* And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves; 18* for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." 19* And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 20 And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood."

Nor in Matthew: 

  "When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples... Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; 28* for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."
Nor in Mark:
"And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." 23* And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24* And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, * which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the 
kingdom of God."  
Having thought about this for several minutes (!), I believe this points to Transubstantiation. If Jesus were speaking symbolically when he said "This is my body...this is my blood," then why not share in the eating and drinking along with the Apostles? If nothing else, it would clarify that this bread and wine were no different from any they had consumed earlier in the evening; lest anyone erroneously suppose Jesus was speaking literally on this night, and also the day after the Loaves and Fishes miracle (John 6). 
On the other hand, if Jesus had indeed transformed the elements into his own flesh and blood, then it would be appropriate that he not partake in consuming himself.

Time to Get Fired Up!

Hey y'all, I'm Brother Christian LeBlanc at Council 13112, St. Mary's in Greenville, SC. Welcome to the South Carolina Knights of Columbus Clearinghouse for All Things for the Good of the Order. I anticipate this blog will be a collaborative effort among the Lectors of the Knights of Columbus of South Carolina (and beyond!) to share and improve our 'For the Good of the Order' presentations given at our monthly business meetings. To that end we'll be posting texts, notes, or outlines of our FGOs, plus links to mp3 recordings of them as well.

To kick things off, here's the text of one of Brother Jason Rhoad's (Council 8123 in Hartsville) recent FGOs:


"A friend of mine I went to high school with, grew up to become a Baptist preacher. Recently he stepped down as pastor of his church and it got me to thinking about the notion of being sent. You see, his old church will now go through the same process it went through before he got there. They will go about searching for acceptable candidates and will eventually hire someone to be their new preacher. There has always been something not quite right to me about the sheep choosing their shepherd. How is it supposed to work? Let’s take a look.

Romans 10:14-15

“But how are men to call upon him in who 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? And how can men preach unless they are sent?”

From the beginning, the Church has always understood the necessity of being sent. In fact, the term “Apostle” means, “one who is sent”. Christ came and chose twelve Apostles. He sent them forth with His mission. They in turn sent others. To this day, the Catholic faithful worldwide are sent priests by their bishops.

All Catholic priests and bishops trace their ordination back to the Apostles. To make sure that the Apostles’ teachings would be passed down after their deaths, Paul told Timothy, “What you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). Here, Paul refers to the first three generations of apostolic succession – his own generation, Timothy’s generation, and the generation Timothy will teach.

Why is all this important? Well, if followed to its logical conclusion, it leads to some very uncomfortable realities for non-Catholic clergy. What makes an ordination valid? We have already seen that preachers must be “sent” (Rom 10:14-15). In the Catholic Church, we can see an unbroken line of succession, through the laying on of hands, from Christ, to the Apostles, to their successors, down to the present day. What happens if someone outside of this chain of authority decides to send himself? Is it valid? By what authority does he send himself?

The answer usually given is, “God sent me”. While I cannot be the judge of claims of those who profess such, I can see how simply making such a claim can be made by anyone to justify almost anything. In the Catholic Church, we don’t have to rely on someone’s subjective “feeling” that they have been sent. A feeling that may or may not be from a valid encounter with God.  We can see objectively that a priest has indeed been validly sent. How? Let’s go back to the question of what makes an ordination valid. Only someone validly ordained can validly ordain someone else. Christ ordained the Apostles. They ordained others, who ordained others, etc. etc. down to the present day. In all Protestant faiths, if a minister were to trace his or her ordination, he would eventually have to admit that at some point, their denomination was started by someone who broke away from the authority of the Apostles and ordained himself. By what authority could that be done? Who “sent” that person?

This really goes to the heart of discovering the one true faith of the Catholic Church. Some Protestant ministers may be able to trace their ordination back 500 years to the Reformation. Some may only be able to trace their ordination back a much shorter time when they ordained themselves. But only in the Catholic (and Orthodox) Church can we see the lineage all the way back to the Apostles – those who were the original ones sent by Christ, and given His authority to send others.

I’m sure my friend’s old church will hire themselves a new preacher soon and will continue on without much thought of valid ordinations, apostolic succession, or the consideration that the sheep just hired a new shepherd."


Y'all feel free to borrow from what we post here; if you do, please post a comment, ask a constructive question, let us know how an FGO was received in your council, etc. Let us know your name and council while you're at it. Help us to prepare our Brother Knights to vigorously participate in the New Evangelization. I ain't kiddin'!  Get fired up!